Thursday, 29 December 2016

Favourite moments of 2016

So, we're finally here, where so many are thankful to be - we are finally at the end of 2016. It's certainly been quite the year, and one where I wish Donald Trump would stay but when I enquired about this, apparently that isn't possible. Ridiculous.

Whilst the first world is about to be led by an orange bratty teenager with a wig and an attitude problem, the plan is to keep on keeping on because, well what other choice do we have? It might be better than we think, it might be a whole lot worse but there are so many great people out there doing so many great things that we have to focus on that - as Brendan Cox said 'It has become apparent that tolerance and tolerant societies are only as strong as their defenders. The need to defend tolerance and   fair play isn't someone else's problem.'

When I think back over the year personally, it's been pretty bloody fabulous so I thought I'd put together a list of my favourite moments for my own little noggin if anything, to look back on some day. It's been an absolute diamond so in no order whatsoever, here are my highlights...

1. Graduating with a first in BA Geography from University of Northumbria, Newcastle
Never expected to achieve a first but all that hard work was so incredibly worth it - thanks for everything, Northumbria.

2. Going on safari in the Maasai Mara
An experience I never thought I'd have on this trip but holy moly, what a time for the ole memory bank.

3. Climbing Table Mountain
Wanted to die half way up, moaned the entire time but absolutely sped to the bar at the top - one of, if not the best things I've done. Like ever.

4. Exploring the Kenyan coast with new (and now lifelong) friends
Spending time in complete and utter paradise with complete and utter legends. Also, bloody go to Diani Beach and Watamu, it's BEAUTIFUL yet empty.

5. Getting to know Johannesburg
Possibly my biggest learning curve on this trip was having Johannesburg prove all of my previous perceptions completely wrong - never judge a book by it's cover, hey?

6. The opportunity to work for an incredible charity in Nairobi
That moment where you get tipsy one night in Melbourne and book a flight to Nairobi not having the faintest idea what to expect, only to bump into a group of people who you end up living with for the next 3 months.... Had that before? Having the opportunity then to work for Marafiki Community International doing their marketing, social media and Christmas fundraising was an utter pleasure and a time I've learnt so much from.

7. Travelling down East Coast of Australia
It was a pretty quick trip but we managed to pack in a whole bunch - Port Macquarie in particular, is utter paradise.

8. Reaching the most southern point of the African continent & travelling the coast
From seeing real life penguins on a real life beach and stroking wild elephants, to toasting to life on a sunset cruise, the southern coast of South Africa is completely and utterly stunning and will always be one of the most incredible few weeks of my life.

9. Becoming an auntie 
A new little person who happens to be my niece entered the world in December 2016 by the name Millie Sophia - I'm so in love and I have to patiently wait until Spring to see her beautiful face.

10. Wine tasting in Stellenbosch
An entire day dedicated to drinking some of the best quality wines in the world in the stunning Stellenbosch area - as a particularly passionate wine enthusiast, I couldn't ask for more.

11. Returning to Cape Town
Because how else do you begin a new year but to spend the first 3 months living in Cape Town?

Okay 2017, I'm ready.

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Tuesday, 27 December 2016

10 things I've learnt this year whilst travelling

Well, hasn't 2016 been quite the year? It's certainly been an eventful one, with a couple of pretty big political shit storms thrown in for good measure and whilst it seems like a divisive and hateful rhetoric has won this time round, there are enough amazing, kind and loving people that can, and are turning the tide, right?

Admittedly, whilst politically it's been, in no uncertain terms, shocking, personally, 2016 has been one of the best of my life. I graduated from university with a first, found out I'd done so in Cape Town, where travelling with my BFF began and now seven months later, here I am writing this (with a brand new baby niece) from that very city because, we have a thing you see, me and CT. It's in the early stages and I don't want to jinx anything but, it's getting pretty serious...

Whilst talking to Rosie recently, in one of our countless DMCs we've had around the globe, we spoke about what we've learnt over the last seven and a half months and how actually, we've become much better versions of our selves. Now, I'm not about to write about how my gap yahhhhhhh changed my entire life and I'm going to live on a beach in Bali and only eat grass whilst doing yoga every day and writing a memoir because, you know, if I'm coming home with anything, it's a drinking problem and some holiday weight, but, it does change you, it has too, I suppose.

From saying goodbye to family and friends for a year, being rejected countless times for hospitality jobs in Australia and ending up hating the 'Aussie dream' that so many adore to fleeing Tanzania after less than 48 hours, it hasn't always been perfect but it's safe to say it's been one of the most inspiring, fulfilling, educational and truly incredible things I could ever has chosen to do.

Here are 10 things I've learnt this year whilst travelling...

1. Never let perceptions stop you from visiting a place
Prior to arriving in Johannesburg and Nairobi, I was a tad apprehensive about what they were going to be like and yet now, they are two of my favourite cities we have been too. I'll now never judge a place prior to visiting ever again.

2. Listening is sometimes more valuable than talking
Even if you're speaking to someone with the exact opposite opinions, ideas and views to yourself, it's interesting, and important, to listen and to understand, or at least try to understand, their point of view. What's the point in talking into an echo chamber? It'd be boring if we all thought the same.

3. Always take risks
Isn't it better to take a leap of faith, hope for the best and things turn out better than you could ever have expected rather than play it safe and always wonder 'what if'?

4. Trust people
It might be a scary world out there but the majority people are kind. Trust, especially when you're travelling, that people want to help you with directions, ensure you are okay or literally just chat about how your day is going. Trust their intentions - it's a sorry mind space to be constantly suspicious.

5. Take up space
You deserve to be heard and seen and listened too - take up space in the room, in the bar and hell, especially that dance floor.

6. Smile more!
Often when you smile at people, they smile in return. It makes you feel happier, look happier and you'll look at happier faces in return. So simple.

7. Self confidence isn't defined as arrogance
You can dig the way you look or that new hair style or be particularly proud of that classic line you just threw out to the crowds or be self assured of your point of view in a debate and not have to enter a pit of self loathing at 3am the same night. You can.

8. Red wine is the f**king devil
Why is it always the nights where you decide to have one glass of red wine as a 'nightcap' are the nights where you end up coming home at 7am with a bucket of fried chicken and proceed to believe you are dying for the next two days straight?

9. Travelling doesn't solve life's problems
Wherever you may go in the world, you're still going to meet people who rile you, you will still worry about the most utterly pointless things sometimes and yes, you'll still ask the question 'does my bum look big in this?' (Also, it doesn't.)

10. UK chocolate beats all chocolate, worldwide
It does and if you think doesn't we, unfortunately, cannot be friends.

Okay, now pass me a wine - let's toast to always learning and never being done.

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Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Dear Kenya...

Well Kenya, hasn't it been an experience. You weren’t even in my plans prior to arriving at Manchester Airport in early May and yet somehow, you’ve ended up becoming the place I’ve spent the longest time so far, the place I’ve learnt so much, the place that has restored my utter faith in humanity.

People who don't know you don’t say very nice things about you, you know. It’s like those bitchy girls in high school that just won’t quit saying mean things despite not knowing who you are or where you come from. You have incredible wildlife, they say having never stepped foot in the country, but aside from that it’s just so dangerous so see the big 5 and then scarper, because, you know, it’s Africa.

Now, no one is perfect so you have to forgive me just a little, although maybe I deserve a light slap on the wrist but upon boarding the flight from Sydney to Nairobi, I was apprehensive. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect and I don’t mean to repeat myself but, people aren't very nice about you and some seem to even take great pleasure in telling you horror stories they heard from Uncle Ron’s brother’s sister in law’s neighbour or articles they read in that lovely, non-bigoted newspaper that rhymes with the Haily Tale. It’s not that you believe them, but your brain can’t help just retain a tiny fragment of what you’ve been told - it’s human nature, after all.

So Rosie and I landed in Nairobi and we were immediately given a situation where we put our trust in people or we become those kind of tourists. The kind that shun any sort of interaction with anyone who doesn't look like them, the kind who see everything as a danger and everyone as a potential wrongdoer. Our ride from the airport hadn’t shown up and after standing outside for some time, a lady approached us asking us if we needed a ride and where we were staying. She told us to come this way, she would get us a ride so we looked at each other and nodded, followed her and within minutes, she had gotten us the ride we had previously organised. We had no proof this was our guy, but we were tired after almost 24 hours of travelling and we were thankful that someone had arrived to take us to a place we could sleep and this was the first of many situations in you, Kenya, where people would try their very best to help in any way they saw fit. It was quite the contrasting experience to what many believe occurs at Nairobi airport - and it wasn’t the first time we felt this. After a thirty minute drive, with our taxi driver pointing out different landmarks along the way, we arrived at our hostel. He left us with a statement that we’d come to hear many a time over the next few months, and one that we’ve really, truly felt - ‘Karibu Kenya’.

Welcome to Kenya.

You want to hear a funny story, Kenya? We were only meant to be visiting you for ten days - we were going on a safari in the Maasai Mara, wanted to visit the city of Nairobi, kiss a giraffe at the Giraffe Centre and then hop on a bus to travel on to Tanzania. Almost three months later, and here we are - we just couldn't resist you, could we.

Do you believe in whatever happens, happens for a reason? I do, and after my time here, I will never not. If we had gone on our safari as arranged, a day earlier than what we did, we wouldn’t have met a guy on our trip who would introduce us to the people we ended up living with, to the people we will call friends for a lifetime to come. With drinks flowing and a pack of cards to entertain us, we were introduced to volunteers at an organisation called Marafiki Community International and from that night onwards, our time in you, Kenya, became all the better.

Fast forward a short week of fun and a disaster trip to Tanzania (you warned us, I know, but we didn’t listen because neither of us like to be told what to do), we were back and as Take That would say, we were back for good. We were offered jobs at Marafiki, working as marketing and social media volunteers and that’s when, really, we got to know who you really were.

When people read about you online, there are a lot of things they say we can’t do because you’re not safe. We can’t ride matatus without a local, we shouldn’t spend a long time, or any time, in Nairobi city centre, we shouldn’t ever let go of our bags in public places - and I know you’re shouting at me in Swahili to not be so silly, but this scares some people, okay. They take it as gospel and they don't attempt to see for themselves what a place is truly like.

After visiting Johannesburg and loving it, both Rosie and I vowed to never judge a place before experiencing it properly, so we got to work in seeing the real you, and well, you’re a little tinker aren't you, reeling people in and making them never want to leave.

There are far too many instances whereby people looked out for us, helped us, or even just wanted to ask how we were, if we were okay, to simply say ‘Karibu’. One instance though, was when I realised that those people out there who keep trash talking you without giving you a chance, without even stepping one foot in you, simply have to stop. A couple of weeks ago, a group of six of us, a group of six young women, found ourselves in the city centre of Nairobi late at night. I know even you don't advise it, but Kenya, it wasn’t our fault, time just passed and chicken was calling our name, you know how it is. It wasn’t the most ideal situation but we booked an Uber and we stood waiting near the National Archives so yes, just sit down and stop flapping your arms about, we were in a brightly lit area, okay. We stood waiting a little longer, and a little longer after that, with the clock ticking towards 11pm and if I tell you that six different people came up to us to check we were okay, to ask if we needed any assistance or simply just to say hello, and wishing us a good evening, would you believe me? Each time the person said their farewells, we all turned to each other and smiled, and then as the fifth and sixth person went on their way, we vowed to each other to tell everyone we could what we had just experienced, to finally get out there a positive story about Nairobi.

Now this isn’t a fairytale, you and I both know it, Kenya - you have your problems and it can’t be denied. But if I tell you that you’ve taught me some of the most important lessons, in trust, in empathy, in gratitude, in openness, would you believe me? You have some of the friendliest, and kind people you could ever wish to meet, people who, after a pretty dark, hateful year in the world of politics have restored my complete and utter faith in humanity.

Finally, I must talk about those we’ve met here. Those who we’ve lived with, drank with, ate with, laughed with, danced with, those who have become the best of friends. Those who joined in when Rosie and I started randomly singing ‘Big Spender’ or ‘Supercalligifracilliousexpihalidocious’, those who became addicted to ‘full fat coke’ and actually calling it ‘full fat coke’ in public places, those who agreed we simply must go out at 11:30pm to get a full chicken from the local takeaway. More importantly though, it was those who we’d stay up until 3am talking about life, those who we laughed with until tears streamed down our faces and those who just clicked, you know when people just click. We all just clicked. It’s still pretty insane to think that none of us would’ve met if it hadn't have been for that final night on our safari and yet now, I couldn't imagine my time here without them.

It’s almost time to leave you now, and whilst I’m looking forward to the next chapter, I really don’t want to go. What am I going to do without chapatis and samosas, without hurtling down lanes on matatus with 14 people squashed inside, without dancing to ‘Bruk off your back’ every night we go out, without greeting everyone who walks past, basically, what am I going to do without you, Kenya?

I can only say one thing, and it will never be enough, it never could be.

 But Kenya, Asante. Thank you.

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Saturday, 17 December 2016

Spending a weekend in Sydney

Sydney, Sydney, Sydney. It’s a city that has been talked about again and again, and of course, there’s some pretty great reasons as to why. If you’ve followed my travels over the past few months, you’ll know that Australia and I didn’t get on as well as most travellers do, we just didn’t seem to click y’know and after originally planning to spend at least a year there, it was quite the decision to instead book a flight to Nairobi after 6 weeks and just…go.

Sydney was always in our plans, and after leaving ourselves a couple of weeks to explore Australia as a tourist before boarding that flight to Kenya, those plans seemingly sped up just a tad. After flying from Melbourne to Brisbane and heading down the East Coast for 10 days, our final destination was Sydney and, really, if there was one thing that I could change about my time in Australia, it would be to have flown there first. Why? Because, you just know you’re in Australia when you arrive there. The Opera House, the Harbour Bridge - Sydney features the things that instantly spring to mind when you think of Australia (that is, after kangaroos of course). I just knew it would happen, we’d be in the final days of our time in Australia, we’d be getting psyched for a new adventure and then we’d fall in love with a city. Typical.

We only had four days in Sydney and after my two friends from Melbourne surprised us with a visit, we stayed two nights in Bondi with them and then headed into the city centre for our final two sleeps in Australia! I would absolutely love to say we completed the Bondi to Coogee walk but….we did approximately 30 minutes and then stopped for a drinks break…and 8 hours later had been on a pub crawl of Bondi. Let me pause here so that, oh yes, absolutely no one needs a moment to recover from shock.

I mean, aside from the drinking, we also, you guessed it, ate some pretty great food. One restaurant in particular, stands out by a long, long way and it goes by the name of Hurricane’s Grill & Bar Bondi Beach. At an infamous steakhouse, it really would have been rude not to order the rib platter - a trio of pork, lamb and beef - and it’s safe to say, it really did not disappoint and would come highly recommended.

Bondi’s beach and coastline is utterly stunning, and even for a place that is incredibly busy and there’s people quite literally everywhere you look, it still manages to somehow keep its laid back, chilled vibe and I liked that, I liked it a lot.

After a fun couple of days being shown around by our Aussie friends, it was time to say goodbye and head to the city. We had booked into Maze Backpackers however it’s safe to say it was the worst hostel we have ever been too and within an hour, we were gone. Thanks,!

Our new hotel, 57 Hotel, located in Surrey Hills and just a 5 minute walk from the inner city, was just a dream, so much so that, being the politics geeks that we are, we maybe spent half of one our last days drinking their amazing coffee in our room watching the US Presidential debates… The award for the least cool people in the world goes to…!

Of course, our final day was spent taking in the sights of Sydney, and honestly, the Harbour bridge and the Opera House really are spectacular to see in real life. It would’ve been very rude not to toast to our two months in Australia, another chapter of the trip coming to an end, so prosecco in the warm sunshine was ordered with the stunning views in front of us. I can’t say it was too bad of an afternoon.

Our final meal was at El Loco in Surrey Hills and whilst the food was great and very affordable, it’s the service at this place that stands out. My friend, Rosie, has a nut allergy and when she mentioned this to them while ordering, they were absolutely fantastic and even cleaned down the entire kitchen before starting to prepare our food. The decor is fun and bright, the staff are amazing and it really was a great place to end our time in the city.

Despite the working holiday visa experience not quite being the one for us, there are absolutely no regrets from our time in Australia. We visited some great places, met fabulous people and hey, everything happens for a reason.

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Sunday, 4 December 2016

20 amazing things to do in Cape Town

It’s been named as The Telegraph’s City of the Year for 2016, listed in hundreds of ‘places to visit’ articles and offers literally everything a destination could possibly give. Those who have walked along the bustling streets of the city, who have relaxed on the stunning beaches, who have sampled their internationally renowned wine, know why. They know why it’s increasing in popularity with every year, captivating tourists to want to return again and again. They know there’s something utterly mesmerising about the place, that you can’t point to one single thing that makes it so incredible, but that you can think of many which make you want to talk about it constantly to those who haven't had the pleasure of experiencing it yet.

 I’m talking about the home to Table Mountain - Cape Town. And here’s 20 amazing things to do in the Mother City…

1. Hike Table Mountain 
Perhaps the most popular, but definitely the most rewarding activity, hiking Table Mountain is one of the best things you could spend your time doing whilst in Cape Town. You can either take the Plattekip Gorge route which takes between 2-3 hours (from experience let me tell you, it’s steep) or the scenic Skeleton Route which takes between 4-5 hours and is much easier on the old thighs. 

2. Visit the penguins on Boulders Beach 
There aren't many times you’ll see over 100 penguins waddling around on a white sanded beach with the warm sun shining down. Some sit back and relax, some go for a dip in the sea and some pose for a photograph or three - it’s a sight not to be missed!

3. Take a walk along the canopy walkway above freetops of Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens

Named as one of the greatest botanical gardens in the world, the canopy walkway is an absolute must, with stunning views over the city of Cape Town and beyond.

4. Eat a whole lot at Neighbourgoods Market
The only place to be on a Saturday lunchtime is the Neighbourgood’s Market in the suburb of Woodstock. From luscious pork ribs and and tasty tacos, to fresh fruit smoothies and a whole lot of alcohol, you can be sure you’ll be very full on the return home.

5. Mini golf at Seapoint

After a relaxing stroll along Seapoint, have a little fun with a super cheap game of mini golf as you look out onto the seafront. 

6. Go wine and brandy tasting in Stellenbosch

If you’re a fellow wine lover like myself, it would practically be a crime to not get yourself on a day long wine tour. Starting at 10am, you are taken to four different wine estates, one brandy cellar and one brewery…it’s quite the day - you can be sure that hitting your pillow by 8pm is a certainty.

7. Paraglide over the city

If the thrill seeker in you is bursting to be let free, why not take a leap into the unknown, quite literally, and paraglide over the city centre of Cape Town.

8. Spend a Sunday afternoon at Mzoli’s 
It’s where people in the know spend their Sundays - partying in township Mzoli’s, is the place to be if you’re up for an afternoon of meat, music and a whole lot of alcohol.

9. Visit World of Birds and Monkey Jungle
Any animal lovers out there? It’s not just a trip to Kruger National Park where you are able to experience the wildlife in South Africa - head to World of Birds and Monkey Jungle for an exciting few hours!

10. Go on a (responsible) township tour

It would be wrong to go to Cape Town and not organise to go on a responsible township tour to really get a feel for the city and, perhaps, more generally, the country. From experience, I headed to Langa, the oldest township in Cape Town, and with a fantastic tour guide who lived there himself, would really recommend it.

11. Visit Robben Island

No visit to Cape Town is complete without a trip to Robben Island, the island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years. First, you are taken on a bus tour round the island itself, and then an ex-prisoner greets you at the gates of the prison and takes you around the buildings, giving fascinating insights into what it was like whilst also showing you the cell Nelson Mandela spent his time in prison in. 

12. Sing karaoke at Mitchell’s Brewery on Tuesdays 
If you’re up for a bit of fun and a few drinks, Mitchell’s Brewery at The Waterfront is the place to be. On a Tuesday evening, the microphone is set up, the song bible is released and the doors are opened to the budding Beyonces out there…and the not so budding too. Really fun, no one cares what anyone sounds like and almost no one is any good!

13. Go on a walking tour of Bo-Kaap 
You have perhaps seen people take photos with a brightly coloured house as the background in Cape Town and that house, most probably belongs to the district of Bo-Kaap. Bo-Kaap is a multi-cultural district, which became home to many muslims and freed slaves after the abolition of slavery. It is a diverse, multi-cultural and fascinating area in Cape Town and is definitely worth a visit.There is a free walking tour of Bo-Kaap available starting from the Green Market Square with Cape Town Free City Walking Tours and all they ask for at the end, is to tip the amount you believe the trip was worth.

14. Go to Museum Mile

Take a trip along Museum Mile and you will have a day filled with culture, history and diversity. Perhaps start at the Iziko South Africa Museum, then learn a little more about space at the Iziko Planetarium and don't fret, any art lovers out there, there is also the fantastic South African National Gallery, showcasing the very best of the country’s creative talents.

15. Visit Kalk Bay 

If sun, sea and a cocktail or three in a quiet fishing village just outside Cape Town sounds up your street, Kalk Bay is the place to be. With stunning views, a collection of interesting shops and a vast choice of eateries, a day at Kalk Bay is a day well spent.

16. Take a trip to Observatory 
 Known as Cape Town’s bohemian suburb, in the art district locally known as ‘Obs’, you will find quirky restaurants, relaxed bars with live music, book shops and thrift shops to find the perfect fashion bargain. It’s shabby chic, it’s chilled out and it’s definitely worth a trip!

17. Go on the Cape Point tour 
One of the best day trips to do in Cape Town, the Cape Point tour will take you to see the sights of Hout Bay, Chapman’s Peak, Scarborough Beach, and then a small hike (don’t worry, you can also take in the sights from the comfort of the tour bus too) from the Cape of Good Hope to Cape Point, the most southern tip of the continent of Africa. The sights are incredible and personally, it was my favourite day of the six weeks I spent in Cape Town. 

18. Surf at Muizenburg beach

If surfing is your thing, there’s only one place you need to be, and that’s Muizenburg, a beach-side suburb of Cape Town. 

19. Have a laugh at Cape Town Comedy Club
Up for a laugh? Cape Town Comedy Club, which sits in the top 10 comedy clubs in the world, has live acts from Wednesday to Sunday every week of the year and you can be assured of a really great night out.

20. Watch the sunrise or sunset from Lions Head 
If you aren't fancying taking on Table Mountain, you might want to think about seeing the sights from the (smaller) mountain top of Lion’s Head. Named as one of the ‘must do’ hikes in Cape Town, particularly for full moon, from the top you will see the spectacular views of Table Mountain from one side, and the Atlantic Ocean from the other. Get your walking boots on!

 Cape Town is ready and waiting for you…so what are you waiting for?

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Thursday, 1 December 2016

10 things to do in Nairobi

Nairobi gets a terrible reputation generally, particularly in the Western media, with a very negative portrayal of the city presented pretty much constantly. Prior to arriving in Nairobi, I wasn't aware of a huge amount to get up to in the city aside from going on safari from there however after spending a few months here, there's so much to see and do so I thought I'd put together a list of 10 great things to get up to whilst here, in the capital of Kenya...

1. View the city skyline from the KICC rooftop

See the city from a whole new angle and visit the KICC which for just 400 shillings allows you to view Nairobi from up high on the rooftops - you won’t be disappointed. 

2. Eat at Carnivore 
For any meat lovers out there, Carnivore is an absolute must when visiting Nairobi. For around $30, it’s basically an all you can eat meat feast and from chicken legs and sausages to ostrich meatballs and bull testicle, the waiters will keep on bringing out food until you wave the white flag on your table and surrender. Food heaven, and a time your tummy certainly won’t forget in a hurry.

3. Kiss a giraffe at the Giraffe Centre 
It’s not everyday that you get the opportunity to be merely yards away from wild giraffes yet at the Giraffe Centre you even have the chance to feed and receive a little smooch of gratitude in return. Your entrance fee also goes towards providing conservation education for school children and the youth of Kenya so it’s an amazing experience for the memory bank whilst also responsibly visiting an attraction - bonus.

4. Visit the Karen Blixen Museum
 On the grounds whereby Karen Blixen lived, and the film based on her autobiography, 'Out of Africa' was shot, this museum takes you on a tour of the house she lived in as well as giving you an in-depth look into her incredibly interesting life.

5. Go for coffee and cake at The Mug
It wouldn’t be a post written by a British person if it didn’t involve hot beverages and coffee and whilst I know there is so much to see and do in Kenya, I simply had to include The Mug because holy moly, the cake at this place is out of this world. Plus, Kenya is famous for it's incredible coffee so really, it would be a crime to visit the country and not have at least 37, I mean really.

6. Shop at the Maasai Market

Haggling your way through the Maasai Market is pretty much a must do if you’re a rather big fan of shopping. From stunning printed trousers, dresses and bags, to wooden crafts, utensils and decorations, there really is something for everyone.

7. Go for a walk in Karura forest

Merely minutes from the city centre, is Karura forest, the perfect place for a peaceful walk on a Sunday afternoon. Depending on how active you feel will determine the route you take however even just an hours hiking will take you to the stunning waterfalls - a perfect place to take a photo or two and even maybe dip your toes in the lake.

8. Spend a day at Hell’s Gate 
As the ultimate inspiration to The Lion King, it will be difficult to spend a day at Hells’ Gate without humming the tune of Hakuna Matata the entire time, From walking and cycling, to swimming and sailing, Hell’s Gate is a day full of adventure…and one that is sure to test the old hamstrings out.

9. Wine and dine at Westlands
If you're a fan of a tipple or two, Westlands is the place for you. From restaurants and cafes to bars and clubs, there is something for everyone's tastes so don't miss out on a visit whilst you're in the city.

10. Look out over the Rift Valley
Stretching from Lebanon in the North to Mozambique in the South, the Rift Valley is a sight to behold, with views of Tanzania even able to be seen on a clear day.

How many have you ticked off the list so far?

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Friday, 25 November 2016

Visiting Diani Beach, Kenya

You think of paradise and images are conjured in your head of the Caribbean, the Maldives, maybe even Bali or Bora Bora. A place that almost certainly doesn't get put on the list is Kenya yet with it’s white sanded beaches, crystal blue waters and perhaps some of the friendliest people you could ever wish to meet, it really is a crying shame that their coastline is almost empty.

A couple of weeks ago, a group of us made the journey from Nairobi to Diani Beach, which, if you didn’t know, is a monster of a journey. Taking a night bus from Nairobi, we settled in for what was eventually, not too painful a ride as previously anticipated (although I could really have done without sitting in front of the only child on the entire coach who apparently, in his spare time enjoys kicking seats and pulling hair..) and 10 whole hours later, we arrived in Mombasa. Despite having a talent of being able to sleep anywhere and having perhaps gotten around 5/6 hours sleep, it’s safe to say it’s not the freshest I’ve ever felt…but the journey was not yet over.

To get to Diani Beach from Mombasa city centre, we caught another coach, which you have to dismount when you get to the ferry crossing as you must go over on foot. We then had the pleasure of walking through a fish market to find our coach which as you can imagine at 7am, smelt great and even though after another 20 minute ride, you’d think we had gotten there, you would be incorrect. To get to our hostel, we took a tuk tuk which is the cheapest and most popular way of getting round in the area and finally, after around 12 hours of travelling, we made it!

We decided to stay at Diani Backpackers after reading great reviews online and they really, truly were not wrong. Pretty much as soon as we arrived, we put our bags in our room and headed straight for the bar first, and then the pool. After six months of travelling, it’s safe to say that facility wise, this is by far the best hostel Rosie and I have stayed at, with a bar almost open 24 hours a day (although don’t worry, it’s quiet time after 12am), a great pool and outdoor area, extremely cheap restaurant options and clean dormitory rooms with a private bathroom and individual mosquito nets. The only downside would be the lack of air conditioning therefore it gets very warm at night however with the windows open, there’s a light breeze and it isn’t too much of an issue.

Diani Beach itself, is one of the most stunning coastlines I’ve ever seen, with the only beaches it compares to for me, being Barbados. With warm crystal blue waters, beautiful white sands and palm trees flowing in the (very much needed) breeze, it really is the most idyllic setting…and yet it was practically deserted. We heard so many stories from a range of people including Kenyans visiting the coast, business owners and those who live there, about the continuing struggle over the past few years of hotels and general tourism businesses to try and stay open due to the rapid decline of tourists in the wake of terrorism fears. It’s hard to believe that such a stunning place is pretty much deserted of visitors because whilst it is utter paradise, it is also a place that I felt completely safe in, with people always looking to help out, to offer advice or just simply want to chat.

From watching the sunset on the beach with a cider in hand and cooling off in the clear, luke warm sea to eating deliciously fresh seafood looking out over the white sands of Diani and perusing the beautiful local craft stalls, my time in Diani Beach was short but very, very sweet.

Key information: -

- We travelled from Nairobi to Mombasa with a company called Mombasa Raha. It cost 1000 shillings (approx £8/$10) and would highly recommend. Plenty of leg room, all seats reclined and pretty well organised. 

- We stayed at Diani Backpackers for 4 nights. In an eight bed dorm, it cost 1300 shillings per night (approx £10/$13) and the fourth night’s stay, you get for free. (I believe you also receive the 7th night free also). Could not recommend strongly enough, we loved it. 

- If you are staying at Diani Backpackers:

- There is a fresh seafood restaurant on the beach front which take 200 shillings off every main meal due to a partnership with the hostel.

- Forty Thieves is an infamous bar and restaurant and is mere minutes from the hostel - on a tuk tuk, it should cost 50 shillings and absolutely no more than 100.

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