Dear Diary – Laughter and Crocodiles

I have to wonder sometimes why we put ourselves through hell, why I chose to endure sky rocketing temperatures, no electricity, no water and a culture unlike anything I have previously experienced rather than staying at home in Ireland like most sane people my age?! How is it that we can endure such body ache, such frustration, such pain and keep coming back for more? We don’t just simply give up and go home, we get knocked down but by God do we get up again!

I’ve always disliked fish and have been somewhat allergic to it, but today suddenly I pushed this knowledge aside as Beth, Kerrie and I  scrambled our way up the back of a moving lorry, almost over flowing with foul-smelling fish. A lorry we had to cling on to for our dear lives as it sped across the Northern Kenyan desert, as we sat on the roof top at laughing at our lucky escape from the hellish weekend we had just had.

But let me rewind…

We set off to the beautiful Lake Turkana Fishing Lodge for the weekend, which after a 2 hour bus ride and 7km walk across the desert surrounded by about 100 kids, we discovered had shut down about 5 years earlier. Thanks a lot Lonely Planet!! We were ‘befriended’ by a guide who turned out to be a dirty, rotten, cheating, scoundrel! We had to sleep the night on the beach,exposed to all the elements and who knows what else, drink dirty water and had nothing to eat but fish.

We were cajoled into risking  life and limb by getting into a dodgy ‘boat’, which was in fact more like a tree trunk, in gale force winds in a lake inhabited by the highest concentration of Nile crocodiles in the World! After much stress over money with Thomas our ‘guide’, miles of walking in the desert heat without food nor water, and losing all our cameras as they were flung overboard into the swelling waters… after all this emotion and stress, what did we do when the trip was suddenly cancelled? We laughed. Because nothing else could possible go wrong at this stage. We were in hell. We could have cried but instead we laughed, it could never get worse than this…or so we thought!!

Suddenly we are ‘obliged’ to pay Thomas for a trip that was cancelled and he runs off with all our money leaving us penniless! What do we do? We laugh again. It will be ok, we can survive this. We set off across the shores of Lake Turkana, angry, thirsty, hungry and a little faint from the heat. All is good though, we will be ok, we always are.

As we waded waist deep in water backpacks raised above our head, attempting to cross the channel – all the local children start screaming at us. ‘Crocodile, crocodile!‘ -Fuck. I swear my heart has never pumped so fast in my life. I stood, my feet glued to the river bed, my eyes darting in every direction, thoughts rushing through my head. We need to get back quick. We have one hour to walk 7km in order to get last bus from Kalikol to Lodwar. So fuck the crocodiles we are crossing this channel! We wade, one foot after the other, heart pounding, across the crocodile infested river – knowing if we can make it through this we can make it through anything. I can remember thinking if I would prefer to lose an arm or a leg and decided upon an arm…a frightening thought to say the least.

4km later, totally lost and literally dying of thirst at this stage (but happy to be out of the water) when suddenly a 4 wheel drive jeep comes driving by. Oh my god what a feeling! “We’re saved. I knew we would make it!”, I said to the girls! The jeep slows down and the front seat passenger winds down her window, looks us up and down then shouts, “Bye Mzungos!(white people) See you in Lowdar” and off they speed! If only you could have seen the look on my face as I collapsed into the sand, anger and delirium taking over as motivation to keep going faded away.

But what choice did we have but to laugh it off, and keep on going. We eventually made it to Kalikol and I have never been so grateful to be handed an ice cold bottle of coke and a plate of hot chips. So what if we were sitting on top of shit, in some guys hen-house surrounded by goats an other animals?!

Minutes later we were back on are feet and in search of the last bus to Lodwar…which, yup you guessed it, had departed minutes earlier. With no money and classes to teach the next morning we were starting to panic a little. And then we saw the truck, like a knight in shining armour, full to the brim with fish, and with a big smiley driver who welcomed us to climb aboard…by scrambling up the back of the truck and falling onto the piles of smelly fish.

We were alive, we were homeward bound and all we could do was laugh at the absolutely disastrous weekend we had just had.

Only in Kenya!

  • The Boy!
    January 3, 2012 at 4:33 pm

    Hi Janet! I just nominated you for a versatile blogger award. More here

    • intrepidtraveller
      January 3, 2012 at 7:02 pm

      Wow cool, thanks! :)

  • ampcideas
    January 4, 2012 at 3:07 am

    Congratulations on getting back to Lodwar alive! Sounds like a hellish experience to go through, but it definitely makes for a great story!

    • intrepidtraveller
      January 6, 2012 at 12:24 am

      haha yes, it was hellish at times, but all’s well that ends well, eh? :)

  • natenanimous
    January 4, 2012 at 4:54 am

    What an amazing story! I’m glad everyone made it back in one piece, and without having to club any crocodiles.

    Your blog is very interesting, and I’m going to show it to a globe-trotting humanitarian friend of mine who I think would love to read it.

    • intrepidtraveller
      January 6, 2012 at 12:24 am

      Hey! Im glad you liked it! I think at the time we weren’t so impressed but looking back it really was an amazing adventure! Would love you to share my blog with a fellow humanitarian…Im always looking to make contacts! :)

  • wellsforzoe
    January 4, 2012 at 3:29 pm

    What a woman, way to go!!
    Of course you could be here in Ireland, freezing your ass off, listening to Joe Duffy and all the whinging B******* he can round up, complaining about virtually everything.
    You are in the right spot, doing the right (but mad) things, maybe with the exception of the smelly fish.
    Love the blog, keep them coming

    • intrepidtraveller
      January 6, 2012 at 12:23 am

      haha well believe it or not I’m actually in Ireland right now so do have to put up with all that stuff!! I am just getting around to updating my travel blog now…these posts are actually…shock shock horror…about 6 years old, as I wrote them as a innocent, naive and easy entertained 19 years old! :)

  • 12 NOMADS OF CHRISTMAS: Janet Newenham, Irish internationalist (10/12) « The Displaced Nation
    January 4, 2012 at 6:05 pm

    […] Follow my adventures around the world (blog) and @janetnewenham (Twitter handle) Most recent post: “Dear Diary — Laughter and Crocodiles” (January 3, […]

  • lrntn
    January 4, 2012 at 7:18 pm

    Wow… you are totally crazy — but in a good way :) Happy New Year!

    • intrepidtraveller
      January 6, 2012 at 12:21 am

      haha yea I guess I am a little crazy, but in a fun way, not a weird way! I hope! ;)

  • Sylver Blaque
    January 6, 2012 at 5:29 am

    Funny! I so know that laugh-to-keep-from-turning-homicidal-while-abroad feeling :)

    • intrepidtraveller
      January 6, 2012 at 5:40 am

      haha I guess all seasoned travelers have gone through that phase…boy I have gone through it so many times I don’t even want to think about it! I remember having to sleep in a brother…I swear in was a friggin brothel…while in ethiopia that had needles everywhere, and rats in the cupboard and used…ya u get the point. All I could do was laugh..better than crying!

  • Ekal Imana
    January 7, 2012 at 3:04 am

    I am from Turkana and it just upsets me to read nasty things written about Turkana. If you cannot stand the way people live in and travel in Turkana, just don’t go there, stay in Ireland. What you complain about is normal life in this part of the world. Instead of complaining about smelly fish, crocodiles, heat, sand, and what else, stay where these things do not occur and bug you. If you want to be considered an adventurer, you need to take whatever situation you find yourself in, in stride instead of being foul-mouthed about it. That is not being adventorous but obnoxious. Stay home!!

    • intrepidtraveller
      January 7, 2012 at 3:47 am

      Hi Ekal.
      I thank you for commenting as I really do appreciate the feedback, good and bad. All of these posts are from an old diary I found of mine from 5 years ago, and I guess they can be quite obnoxious. I was 19/20 at the time and considering other peoples cultures, beliefs and traditions were far from mt list of priorities. For that I apologize, as I do not with to hurt or insult anyone.
      I think if I was to go back now I would do everything differently, but back then it was always about the adventure. I never said I could not stand the way people in Turkana live, in fact I love it. Its exciting, friendly and different, I loved every minute of my time there. If I didn’t, I would not be writing about it 5 years later. I can’t wait to go back and visit again! I hope I did not offend.
      Happy new year!
      Janet. :)

      • Hannah Kane
        January 8, 2012 at 4:31 am

        Wow, Janet, that’s quite a story!

        While I think it’s important to be sensitive to different cultures, I also think it’s brave to post something you wrote when you were much younger. After all, one of the benefits of travel and adventure is that we change and grow from the experience.

        And for what it’s worth, I didn’t read this as a nasty statement about Turkana. In fact, it makes me want to go there!

      • intrepidtraveller
        January 8, 2012 at 8:02 pm

        You should try visit sometime, it is a truly great area of the world, and the people are so friendly (well except for the crooked guide but he was a bit special so we’ll leave him off the hook!)