When you announce that you’re off on vacation to Africa, for reasons unfathomable, it is most commonly assumed that you’re heading to either South Africa or Kenya. There happen to be 58 countries (recognized by the United Nations) on the dark continent; I’m sure you’ve heard of Djibouti and Burkina Faso, no?! The one that I chose was Tanzania, to gaze upon the endless plains of the Serengeti.
We touched down at Mwanza international airport on a Precision Air chartered flight, grazing the surface of Lake of Lake Victoria. And here’s what you shouldn’t be doing.
1. Don’t forget to get your yellow fever shot
There is no cure for yellow fever. This is the only vaccine declared mandatory by the WHO while travelling to Africa. It takes 10 days for the vaccine to take effect, but a single dose offers protection for more than 10years. It’s only administered at certain government institutions on specific days and times.
2. Don’t underestimate the power of the American Dollar
“I’m sorry ma’am, but you will be required to go directly to the local hospital and stay there till your vaccine is effective.” A fifty dollar bill crosses hands. “Yellow fever!?….what vaccine#$@!” A little more of George Washington here and there and you can smuggle pretty much anything you want in here. Not that we advocate any such behavior, just being informative.
In fact, you might not even have to. The baggage scanning device was actually out of service when we were leaving!
3. Don’t close your mind. We still live in a beautiful world with beautiful people.
Two young, very good looking, attractive women (!)walking down the street, exploring the town by ourselves. “Mambo!” says a passing stranger. We walk a little faster. “Jambo!” another one, flashing pearly whites and all. Having lived in Delhi the last couple of years, the automatic reaction was to panic and assume the worst. Till that moment, I truly believed I was an open minded person.
It turned out they were actually just being friendly. In the course of my visit, a random stranger helped me my buy fabric and another one wrapped it around my head into a quintessential African turban.
4. Don’t (read DO NOT) eat Indian food
Unless you’re old and you have digestion issues. You will find samosas and chapattis around every corner, you don’t want to be that looser. Absolute must eats
Mishkaki = beef satay with African spices and the juiciest pineapple chunks on the planet.
Ugali = big huge idli, of varying size and shape, made from cornmeal. It’s the local staple in these parts, found everywhere and enjoyed with a good curry or if you’re poor, watery stew.
Kuku Paka = luscious chicken curry cooked with coconut milk. Try the meat and fish versions too.
Grilled meat of all (sometimes unknown) origin.
5. Don’t drink Budweiser
Or Foster’s or Heineken or Corona. Unless you’ll start sprouting boils and puking blood without your daily dose. Try the local Tusker (available everywhere, literally literally everywhere), Serengeti and Kilimanjaro beer instead. There’s also Amarula, and African wine is pretty good too.
6. Don’t under estimate the Movies
In the interiors, much like the interiors of India, the poverty stoops to unseen levels. So yeah, a gallon of fuel is valued more than your life. And guns, somehow, make their way even to those places that electricity has not managed to reach. The cotton factories in the villages are powered by fuel, probably the most dangerous place to be in.
7. Don’t romanticize everything
Bike taxi’s are hugely popular. A moonlight ride with a tall, dark, (arguably) handsome stranger in a foreign land! Sounds all alluring and right out of Mills & Boon. Not too sure about ‘after dark’, but they’re safe enough when the sun shines.
8. Don’t show off your long flowing tresses
Corn rows are purely functional; no seriously, they don’t do ‘em cuz they look good, they do it because that’s the only way to manage it.
9. Don wear sunscreen in public
That’s just racist people!
10. Don fall in love with a Masai guy
Check out my previous post for the whole scoop on Masai men!