countin' the days

Monday, February 12, 2007

Can't Stop the Hustle

My new favorite quote for Africa. We saw it scrawled across a bright orange matatu in Kenya (old school Nissan multi-passenger vans that whip around the potholed roads and are the main form of public transport), and nothing could be more accurate. You really can't stop the hustle. Hustlers and touts come out of the woodwork here, seeking any and every possible way to take mzungu (that's us white folk travelers) money. My first serious encounter which the sketchiness, aside from the daily flood of dudes trying endlessly to sell crap you don't need (cashews, anyone?), was our Mt Kenya climb.

We were excited about scaling Mt Kenya for months leading up to this whole trip, and Joe spoke with a lot of people before finally settling on our tour organizer. We found two other cool people equally stoked on the climb, an American (living in Japan) and a Canadian, and got it together. After an 8-hour drive in circles around Kenya, we finally arrived at the mountain to find that our group would now include 6 more Czechs and their 10 porters, making our group size come out to a staggering... 25! Something we had never been told, nor would have ever agreed to.

Unfortunately this was only the beginning. The next few days of our trip involved endless amendments to our itinerary, and arguments with our guide who claimed to both have no money, and have no idea what was going on. We sadly began to realize that our trip consisted of more negotiating than hiking.

BUT...! The hiking was fantastic. We went too fast, all the way up and down in about 48 hours, but we did it. Our summit ascent began at 2am on our second full day after no sleep and hardly any food. I made it up to 15,700 feet, 200 meters short of the summit of Point Lenana, but altitude sickness took hold of my belly & my mind, and I couldn't keep pushing upward. It's still the highest I've ever been, and I'm proud of being able to make it that far... and the best part was, by skipping the socked-in summit, we caught the most spectacular sunrise I've ever seen! A glowing flourescent red ascending over the mountains, valleys, and clouds....incredible.

In the end, our trip got cut a day short and we all felt screwed from all sides by everyone. But we did it. Our tour operator came through with apologies, transportation off the mountain, and a speedy refund for our missed day. But we got hustled. Can't stop it.


josh k said...

Yeah, thats the name of the game there girl. But you have probably seen the worst of it. And now your skin is shiny with that "fuck you" gleen that is necessary to get by in the crazier tourists areas of Kenya.

Hopefully you move on and out of the tourist circuit now.


c said...

J and C
I'm sure your skin is gettin thicker. Way to stay strong, nonetheless you climbed a mountain higher than any one in the continental U.S. Good shit. Watch out for that ebola stufff too eh!
C and T