A great help from Tanzanians to enter Kenya + Nairobi

21st of February, 2018.

               I had to walk more than I expected. Luckily, there is some traffic so when I reach a bridge, the cars have to slow down which is perfect for me! I pick-up stops and there are three men inside again. They look nice though and they are going to Kisumu, in Kenya.
              They are originally from Muanza, Tanzania, and they are travelling for work. Major it is a Marine Engineer with his helper and friend Ali and his older driver, now retired, a gentle man in his seventy’s.
              We pass through Jinja, an old port town, just near to the boarder.
              I am really hungry because I just had some pieces of pineapple back in Kampala. I am a bit ashamed of asking them to stop the car so I can by something to eat. But when I finally do (now I do not remember if it is before or after the border), Major gently stops the car and buy some Chapatis and sodas to everybody.
              At the boarder, everything it is quick and fine. The most organized boarder I’ve been until now. I am so afraid because I had spent one more day than than I supposed to in Uganda but everything ended up fine.
              Major is so surprised and pride at the same time about my travels. He kindest keep saying that if he and Ali tried to do that for one week they would die. They are really nice.
              In Kisumu, Major will meet a friend and we all go to have lunch together. He invites me and the place we go to it is very nice. It is the first time I eat a veggie curry with coconut milk. But as all the fancy places, the portion it is small and expensive.
              After lunch, they drop me in an area where the bus companies are. Since it is already five o’clock, the best decision, I figure, it is to take the an over night bus to Nairobi because then, once in there in the morning, I could just walk to exit of the town and keep my way to Tsavo.
              I stay in the place where the bus would leave the whole time. The girl who sold me the ticket is very nice. I walk away just to buy a soap. The dinner I have in one of the small shops just beside: some rice, beans, French fries and salad. I also get some donnuts in the same place because I could not find my cakes.
              Everything changes when I say ‘hi’ to Faith as soon as I get in the bus. She is very nice and enthusiastic but at the same time very different of me. She is from Kisumo but is living in Nairobi right now. She has a transport car and sometimes work with fashion, like a top model. When I ask her what she wants more she answered “be successful” . She like my way of travelling but also is very concerned about the hitchhiking. She also wants to travel a lot and to do it alone, although, she is a little scared to start. I give her a lot of advices and try to motivate her to do it. What she keeping repeat more it is how she could not live without her phone.
              Faith invite me to stay with her. I could sleep and take a rest for that day and then next morning I could leave better. At the end I decided stay for more one day and we would go for a walk in Nairobi.
              We watch “The Ghost and the Darkness” and she loves it!
              When we get on the public bus to town it is crazy. The volume of the music it is so loud and the whole bus is decorated with a ‘dance and DJ’ style. There is a big tv playing the horrible videoclips of semi naked women doing disgusting dances. I am, as usual, the only white person on board.
              Nairobi is not too different of the other capitals here in East Africa. It is busier and more expensive than the countryside. The only difference I notice is the dirt. It is kind of more dirty than the others. The parks are not well treated and the attractions, like Museums and Art Galleries are to expensive.
              We walk a lot and come back home a little tired. I have a not too good experience when I tried to buy some snack: I thought she and the guy who was selling them had said it was veggie samosa. I bought two and when we started to walk and I have my first bite, it was meat. So I decide to buy some pop corn to prepare back at home.
              After dinner, we start to watch “Silence of the Lambs” but she fell asleep.
              Next morning I wake up at six. Faith decides to walk with me until the matatos (the public buses, which are actually vans). I decide it would be the best option to take one to the end of the town. Unfortunately I have not make any research before so I was totally depending of informations. I thinking I was feeling that something would go wrong.
              The first matatu it is OK. I find the Mombasa Road easily. The problem it is after: I did my best to explain to everyone on the Gas Station where I needed to go: Exit of Nairobi, where it is empty, no people or cars or houses. For more than thirty minutes I try to get the best option, and at the end, I took the “wrong” bus.
              I just want to keep in Mombasa Road, and I am thinking that I should leave the matatu in some point and not even take the other one I supposed to. But then, you know, I start to think that I already paid for this one so let’s go until the end. I get concerned when we exit the Mombasa Road. I get even more concerned when the matatu stops and everybody gets out. We are in the last stop. I would not pay another matatu just to came back there. I already had paid. I just should go back in there. The problem is the guy from my matatu does not speak English and it is not interested at all in helping me. So I get nervous because he is refusing to help me and I could not control the tears. I am so mad at me for still be so sensible to that. How can I changed that? Another guy form another bus understood everything and said I should stop crying because he would help me. I get in a full bus and have to pass through everybody and get a sit on the back with my bags. Horrible. At least the ladies beside me are nice: a young one and an old one. The bus is going back way too much in the road and not stopping for me to leave. I cried a little more because of that. You see, I think the problem is also the other people around because as soon I got out of the bus I immediately stopped crying and keep moving.
              A few cars stop but they are not going as far as Tsavo. Finally a truck stops when I had not even made a sign. They are two men and I got a little concerned. But for some reason they looked muslins to me and I decide go with them.

Back to Tirana (this time for real)

Tuesday, 8th of September, 2020.

               My Workaway host in Tirana had asked me, weeks ago, for me to come and leave a few days later. The only change that made on my plans was, that I would add one or two more towns / places to visit. As I was first planning to cross from Montenegro to Albania, I wanted to visit this beautiful small town, in the mountains, called Theth. When I could not enter Bosnia and had to cross through Serbia and Kosovo, I replaced Theth for Kukes. It was more about what was in the way and I could easily reach than actually what was the best place. There is actually not such a thing as better places though. There always tourist places where everybody goes and less visited ones, that is all.
              This morning in Patok I allow myself to stay longer in my tent. I am in no rush, the place where I am does not represent a threat and I want for my tent to get dry, so I need to wait for the sun. While I am packing, a car came over and even though several metres from me, the guy starts a conversation. He seem friendly but I do not get why people always want to talk.
              I get to this crossroads which is a small commercial area. I could either hitchhike there or on the way to the highway. But since all the cars will basically leave from here and I know I cannot hitchhike in the highway itself, I remain there. Of course the few locals around there disagree with me. I bet they always think I am a kid, who just start doing some travels and know nothing of life. So they keep telling me (in no English) that nobody is going from there to Tirana. And I cannot explain to them in English what I just told you about the location.
              Finally, a men driving a taxi decides to take me for free to the highway. I think he would be going there anyway, looking for clients in the road, so he decides to be nice. We grab one client in the road but he does not charge that guy either. He drops me under a bridge, in the highway, but in this part it is not freaky dangerous with many cars on high speed. There is a man waiting under the bridge, hitchhiking kind of, and he says that is the best spot for it. I disagree because I see a gas station under one kilometre ahead. When I ask him where he is going, he says it is not far, just some hundred metres ahead. I tell him he should walk and I leave.
              I first get some water in the coffee shop at the gas station. Just after a few minutes a car stops. There are two men and the driver (a nice guy) tells me he is going just outside Tirana but I can grab a local bus for 40 Lekes and I will be in the centre. He tells me which bus to take and he drops me at the bus stop. He even try to give me 200 Lekes but since I have the 40 I will need for the bus in coins already I say thank you but I refuse.
              In Tirana, a guy dressed with an “official” vest, crosses the bus charging the people. The transportation is very cheap considering the size of the town. But then Albania itself it is a very cheap country to leave, at least to European and Balkans average. Of course that based in my opinion.
              From the last stop, at what I know now be the Skanderbeg square, I find the directions to Kavaja street, based in the position of the National History Museum and I walk towards Hostel Albania. It is not difficult at all to find it and I am there before midday, just as I had wrote to my host, C., two days ago.

My way to Kampala and its surprises…

20th of February, 2018.

               Next morning I am hoping to be picked up soon. Laugh. Suddenly a woman, believe me: a woman stops. She looks a little suspicious if should give me a lift or not but at the end she say: “Get in!”.
              To be honest and not ungrateful she is kind of rude and drives like crazy. But I would figure out why a few minutes later.
              We stop and there is another pick up waiting for us. Two men outside and one on the back seat. She say I should go with them because they will drop me in Kampala. I am a little suspicious now but I decide to take my chances.
              I go in front and the guys are also kind of serious and also drive like crazy. When we stop for something between breakfast and lunch, walking into the restaurant in a gas station, the young and very tall man, who remained on the car before, is walking in front of me now and when he sits at the table I look at his hands. At the same time he asks to the guard: “Can you take these out, please?” He is using handcuffs. I am travelling and would keep going for the next few hours with a prisoner. Of course I ask the driver what is going on and he tells me the guy is a Nigerian with an irregular situation in Uganda. At the end it is not that bad, right? The driver and the second man on the back are not actually police officers but immigration officers.
              I was hopping to get my picture in the Uganda Ecuador point this time but it did not happen. I did mention to the driver but I was sleeping all the way and I do not know if he forgot or what but we arrived in Kampala around two o’clock in the afternoon. They leave me on the Ministry of Transport and something and the driver give me ten thousand for dinner. I already had though that if he gave me something I would accept this time so I did it. It is very central Kampala. A Kampala that I had not seen the other time I was in Uganda. Reality it is a hard and contradictory word.
              Once in there, I get into a room and ask to use the phone to call Saidi. People are half of way to being nice. Saidi does not pick up and middle time one of the guards offer me to stay in his house. I do not fee like trusting him though. So when I go to another room to get some connection (I was hoping Saidi had sent me an mail) I ask to one of the women there if she knew it the guy and if I could trust on him. She answer me something that made sense: “It is weird, because here in Uganda we do not do that. It is not our culture to invite someone that we just met to stay in our home.”
              No answer from Saidi. I search for two things online: a place where I could get connection for longer (because they would close at 5.30 p.m.) and a second option where I could ask to make my camping. I find a Coffee nearby and a Rugby Club just after.
              At the Coffee, actually a library of old books, lovely well decorated in a beautiful garden place, I ask to use the wi-fi to a nice looking and slightly old Indian man. Unfortunately they are almost closing but he let me use anyway. No answer from Saidi. I decide to explain the situation to the man (he looked really nice) and ask to make my camping in his garden. He understand but say the decision does not belong to him but to his wife (how cute!) and he believes she will say no (how bad!). Middle time, I am playing with their lovely black Labrador. I even meet a nice girl who had already backpacking around Africa and had written a book about it.
              Before I leave (I presumed no camping would be made it), the nice man offers me to use his phone and try to call Saidi. He finally picks up and I talk quickly to not abuse of the kindness of the nice man. Saidi is still in Rwanda. Actually right now he is still in there. Laugh. So in front of me this time, realizing I already had not a place to stay for the night, the nice man asks his wife if she would like to have a backpacker for one night not in the garden but in the guest house. Her answer it is: “Not really.” This time I do not cry like that time near to Layounne, when another woman refused to help me. I just smile, shake their hands and leave. Now I am thinking – is that possible she did that to make me get stronger? Laugh. Laugh.
              Going to the Rugby Club, I see a police officer on the way. A woman. I decide not to suffer too much this time and walk to her and we talk. The Police Station is not far but she is just going home so I go over there alone.
              At the reception everything is fine but again the thing they keep repeating more it is “Do not worry: you are safe!” – Of what? I ask myself.
              The responsible for administration, unfortunately I cannot remember his name, it is a nice man, who use to do a lot of charity things and he keep repeating not just that but how he would help me. I would stay in one of the rooms.
              He drives me to a supermarket where I would buy my dinner. There is another man with us and they both pay me something to eat, some fruits and a orange juice.
              Back in the station I am dying to sleep so I eat very fast. I put it out my mattress in the floor and that is it. Next morning, very early again I would leave. Luckily the front road is just the one I need to be on for hitchhiking.

P.S.: The photograph is from Imena Arts Centre, in Kigali.

Patok

Monday, 7th of September, 2020.

               The ride from the highway to Patok it is much longer than Google Maps showed me. I am glad that this nice man driving me decides to give me a lift all the way to Patok, even though he is going back to the highway after.
              The man is from Kosovo and unfortunately I have no idea where I put the paper he gave me with his name and number. We stop to have a coffee at this crazy restaurant called “Universal”. Crazy because it has the symbol of the movie company, Universal, in the top of the building. While we are drinking the coffee, he calls his cousin, who leaves in Switzerland and can speak English. This cousin knows a few Brazilian people and even lived in Brazil for a while. We talk for a while and he translate to me from his cousin that, if I am ever in Kosovo again and need anything, I can just give him a call. Damn it, I have no idea where have I put his contact…
              In Patok, I decide to walk an walk, as much as I can and until I find a good spot with a great view to enjoy plus to find the best place to take photos of the traditional buildings inside the lagoon during the sunset.
              When I am looking outside of one restaurant, a waiter come along to talk to me and he say if I need anything I can just come back and they can help me. Very nice, thank you very much!
              Outside another restaurant a little further, I take some photos and even though I believe it is a great view, there is no shaded place where I can stay and the sun is super strong. So with the intention to explore more the area, I ask at the restaurant if I can leave my backpack for a few hours while I go for a walk. The young man with whom I talk is very polite and he says there is no problem. Unfortunately, when I walk just a bit further, I realize that there is no much more where to walk to. Apparently there are just some abandoned buildings ahead and the area itself does not look very attractive.

              I go back and after choosing the traditional buildings I like the most plus after looking at the sun and analyzing where it will be the best shot for the sunset, I take my backpack and head back to the beginning of the lagoon. There is an abandoned building, I mean, a building which was in construction and now looks abandoned, which provides a great shade, a good view and it is very close to the buildings from where I want to shoot. So I make my headquarters. I eat and lie down there for the whole afternoon. It is a very chill day for Lei.
              When the sun comes down I start to walk to my shooting spot. I want to make sure I will have a nice angle after waiting the whole day for these photos. The buildings I chose are behind an hotel which is closed. I think, for what I can see inside, that they ran out of business. The traditional buildings are also abandoned and I am not sure what they used to be, if private rooms, like a hotel, or just a place to eat… For a moment I think about spending the night in one of them, but then I see some clothes around and I assume that might be someone living there or something so I give up of the idea.
              While I am shooting, a fisherman comes in his boat. He speaks good English and tells me have lived in London for a while. I ask him to take a photo of me too even though I took plenty already. He leaves after some minutes and even knowing that I have to go, I do not want to. The view of the sunset from there it is absolutely amazing! Really beautiful! But I have to find a place where I can camp while there is still some light in the horizon.
              There are a few open fields beside the road but most of them I cannot reach because there is a water gap in between them and the road. When I finally get to one with and entrance, I go in. There are houses not so far but is almost dark already and I am tired. I settle my camping and I hear some noises around the water. Probably just some small animal.

Crazy Kisoro moments

19th of February, 2018.

              At the boarder everything it is fine. I am actually having some trouble to remember what happened because it was so quickly and easy.
              I start to walk and I have to be honest when I say that I am not that happy to be back in Uganda.
              I walk more than I want because I am looking for a better place to hitchhike. A pick-up pass but then come back. It is full with three soldiers. I get a little scared to come in and they are also only going until to Kisoro, but I decide take my chances. Who knows what would happened if I had not, it is always like that.
              They leave me in the wrong road. I do not know if it is on purpose or not. I told them I was going to Kampala. They drop me out in the road to Congo. After I walk a lot and wait for a while, a guy stop and tell me I am in the wrong way. He is driving a company car that later I would figure out be a kind of Organization one, which is helping some refugees.
              I come the whole way back until the right road. There, I wait for some hours until start to rain and I have to hide. Over two hours waiting and I started to run to the road from the shelter when I could see some car at distance.
              Some people are sharing the shelter with from me time to time. And also some good company of chickens and roosters. More than one person come and ask me if I am OK. They are curious, but also seem truly worried about me.
              At some point, the same guy who gave me the right information earlier stops again. The car is now full of refugees who he is driving to a camp. He tells me he will be back soon because he would go to Kampala that night, around three in the morning, so I could go with him. He tells me to wait for him there. I am still waiting.
              Middle time, a little before getting dark, two kids and a military man stop and we start to talk. They are trying to help. Then, a student who had passed before and asked if I was OK, now is back and approach also to talk and try to help. In a few minutes there are some ten people around me and I get very touch in how they are worried about me.
              I explain the situation and what had happened with the refugees guy and they are very upset with him. At the end, we decide I should walk until the Police Station and ask to them to make my camping in there. They keep repeating that Kisoro it is not a safe place to make camping.
              At the Police Station they always make a storm in a water glass. And I never will understand why they are always so rude with the locals. They have this goal to say to the tourist “You are safe now”. Why I was not before? After talking with almost a hundred different people, they let me put my tent in there. I say goodbye to my new friends Joaquim, Bridge and the others and finished my camping.
              The head leader captain ask to another captain to escort me to a Coffee where I could have dinner as his guest. It is a small place with an European air, called Supa’s House. The owner, Patra, is a lovely lady who offer me to stay in one of the free rooms she has in the Guest House. The name of the place it is a mix of her daughter name, Suzanne, and hers. She started working in there but after some time became the owner. She is really nice and kind and probably one of the rare women in Uganda who was actually that friendly with me. Thank you so much, Patra!
              I came back to the Police Station to take my tent and my stuff. While I am waiting for the captain to come back (he went to his house to change), another policeman ask me if I could help him to full fill his dream: get married with a white person. I do not know what is wrong with those people who believe we are some kind of gods. Please, people, stop acting like that. We are nothing. We are all the same. Nobody is better than no one. Wake up!
              Back to Supa’s House, I eat and go to sleep. Next morning I would leave around seven and try to reach Kampala.

Lezhë and many good surprises!

Sunday, 6th of September, 2020.

               Luckily I am again in a very good hitchhiking spot. But my luck just gets better and better. First, this beautiful and wonderful lady stops for me. Evis is going to Tirana but she says she can drop me at Lezhë. She speaks great English and we have a good time until Lezhë. Unfortunately the ride is not long and in less than one hour I have to say goodbye to her. Evis drops me at the Lezha Monument, which I want to see before I go to the beach. Yeah, that is the plan: this time, instead of staying in town, I am going for a splash in the sea!
              I am still not sure if I will walk, hitchhike or take a public transport to the beach. Since the van it is incredibly cheap and gets me there earlier, I decided to take it. With backpack and everything! We wait until the van is full and we leave.
              Before the beach, a quick pause to use the bathroom in a fancy hotel and to wash my t-shirt. I also stop in a market to buy some snacks for lunch. Snacks because the money I have is not enough to buy stuff for a sandwich and I still need to grab the bus back to Lezhë.
              I completely forgot that it is Sunday so the beach is full! Damn it! Of course you have to pay for renting a chair, so I just find a spot in the sand. I ask this young girl, who is sunbathing, if she can just take a look on my bags while I go to “swim”. It is super hot weather but the water is quite cold. After a while I come back, dry at the sun a bit and go back for a last splash. Since it is too busy here, plus the sand and everything, I decide to, after taking a shower, I will find a quiet (and clean) place where I can sit down and eat.
              The showers are surrounded by this wooden wall for a bit of privacy. Worried about my backpacks, I ask this group of men, sitting in the first table near my stuff, if they can keep an eye in my bags just while I take a shower. They seen trustful and nice. After I get dressed and ready, one of them asks me if I drink beer. I answer yes. So they invite me for one. I accept. They are from Kosovo and work all together in the same company. It is a weekend vacation they are taking but soon they will be heading back. They pay me not one but two beers. We talk for a while and they all are very friendly and not for a moment insinuate anything bad. My biggest surprise it is two of them leave for a while and when they come back a few minutes later, they have this small bottle of brandy for me. It is a gift from all of them to me. I think it is very kind of them! When they leave I also decide to go. Which was stupidity because I should have stay in the good table with a nice view. Maybe I would have remember to take a picture of the beach, which I did not.
              I do not care about the time I am coming back to Lezhë. It is still super early and the only thing I need to do is check again the directions for a good place for camping and hitchhiking. The ones I have from before are quite confusing right now.
              I sit under a shade just across the street from the bus stop. I eat my snacks slowly. And then I decide to grab the bus because I do not want to be in a rush later.
              In Lezhë, I exchange five Euros to buy food and walk into Hotel Liss and ask the manager if I can use the wi-fi. I tell a little bit of my travel story and she also asks some questions. Even before I use the wi-fi, the wonderful manager Inida says that I could stay in one of their rooms for free because she is sure that the owner (a very generous man according to her) will insist on that. I kindly say thank you but refuse because I am fine. So at the coffee area I get my directions and I am ready to go. But when I come to say goodbye she tells me she already talk to the owner, he saw me on the cameras and he insist that I spend the night with them. What? Well, I do not see a reason to refuse that. It would be nice to have a real shower and a good night of sleep. So I accept.
              Inida brings me to a very nice room on the first floor and she even say she actually wanted to bring me to the 4th floor, where I can have a view, but I say it is not necessary. The room is of course much more than I can expect / want and I still cannot believe. I decide to go first to buy some food for breakfast and lunch to the next day and for my dinner tonight. And I can use my sandals instead of my boots, yay! Everything it is so calm and perfect. I now just regret I did not take my camera and went for a quick walk aside the river which crosses the town. Lezhë is quiet a nice town to visit and it has beautiful views.


Inida, Tony and Lei

              When I come back I chat a bit more with Inida. She is truly an angel! At my room (laugh), I send an email to my future Workaway host in Tirana, telling him I am coming on the day after tomorrow; and I create two great reviews for these two hotels here in Albania where people were so wonderful to me, in Shkodër and here in Lezhë. I also make one for the camping where I staid for free in Shkodër, even that the manager over there was not so nice.
              I check out next morning not so early as usual, just after my breakfast in my room. Downstairs I finally meet the owner, Tony. He does not speak English but Inida does all the translation and he really seems like an honored man. We talk about his son, who is a great box fighter. Tony insist for me to take breakfast but I tell them I already ate in my room. Then he insists that I let the driver to bring me to Patok, my next destination. I say it is not necessary and show him my hitchhiking sign saying “Patok”. So after taking a photo together he offers me one last thing: 1000 Leke. Two notes of 500 to be precise. That is about 8 Euros I know now, so it is not that much in Euro but for me, right in my condition, it was too much and I refused many times. But he insist and would not take it back. I could buy a lot of food and even buy me a new earphones (finally!), after mine being broken for so long. Afterwards I accept the money and I know that for Tony it was not about the money at all, he just wanted to help.
              Walking to my hitchhike spot, a man stops me and start to talk with me in Italian. A lot of people in Albania speak Italian and German. I do not need to wait too long until somebody stops for me. Uhul, Patok come to mama.

La Locanda

2nd to 19th of February, 2018.

 

 

             Alberto Benvenuti. I could let this chapter just like this and would be enough. Should be. It is like try to define the Brazilian Portuguese world ‘saudade’. It is quite difficult. I will do my best.
              Alberto is an Italian guy who is living in Musanze for the last twelve years. He came in here as an NGO volunteer and was staying and staying. After own, work and help different places, for the last two years he is running this guest house called La Locanda.
              Our talk it last around fifteen minutes and it is enough to arrange everything. I would stay in one bedroom for the weekend and move it for a Cottage in the Sunday. There I would be able to cook and have my own place for the next two weeks. When he shows me the two places, I could not believed. It was that real? I came to Musanze with the intention of staying in a village school, probably in very simple / local installations and now I was front of this amazing and beautiful place, which looked for me as a fist class place. Alberto keeps showing me the whole place so naturally, that he probably did not understand why I was so surprised. About the work, we decide that until the end of the weekend, he would figure out in how I could help him. I agree in moving there that same night.
              Back in Saidi’s house I wait for him for a while. He is a little sad that I am moving that same night but of course he is also happy and decide to escort me there.
              When we are arriving, I group of tourists are also going there. Amon then, Michael.
              At the living room, something around twelve people are comfortably sitting in the couch, chatting happily. Me and Saidi are invited to join them for Michael. He makes a quickly introduction of myself and I start to talk with the gentleman just beside me. After a few minutes, Saidi decides to leave and I stay with them.
              That night the dinner it is pizza! And I keep not believing. I even order a beer! First time I drink the Mützig. My pizza it is mushroom flavor. Delicious! It is so good that I could eat two! Everybody remain sat, eating and talking without not care about anything. The guy who I was talking. Stephen, it is nice and funny. We are also talking with a nice girl called Susan. At some point I notice that most of them are here for work or business.
              Everybody starts to leave around nine o’clock but what keep me in there it is Jeff playing the guitar. But at some point I have to go to sleep and prepare myself for the next day.
              Next morning: breakfast. Fruits, mushroom, eggs, toast and a big Italian coffee. I am in paradise! Everyone who works over here is really nice: The cooks and the waiters Kevin and Kevin two, Theo, Platine, the sweet manager Michellin and all the housekeepers and gatekeepers too. But I have to say Kevin it is the closer one to me.
              Stephen is leaving that morning and it is so cute of him asking me if he could give me a hug. I feel sad that he has to leave already.
              At some point, me and Alberto sit to talk about my help. But first let’s talk more about him. He has a Nursery School, called L’Arc-en-ciel, which he is the founder and supporter of ten (with uniform, food, shoes and school materials) of the thirty four children they help. They keep looking for donors and children supporters, so they will be able to accept more kids. In the past, he helped a Centre to street kids, owned by a friend of him. When the Centre had to be closed, he took care, by himself, of three of the boys. Everything the boys needed, was supported by him. They were now in different boarding schools. I have the opportunity to meet two of them: wonderful smart kids, who want to prove their value and have stamped in them the mark of the street life. Now, the guest house is going well. Not just because it is a nice and peaceful place, but because Alberto is a great person who naturally attract friends and other good people so they are always talking about his place and suggesting to other friends so at the end it is a big ‘chain of the good’.
              We agree that I could help writing a document about the school, which they would send to possible donors. To do that, I would go to the school Monday morning with him what would allow me also take some new pictures. I would also help to find the correct doors for the few keys they have around it. Sounds funny, right? The last thing would be take pictures of the place to put in the website. At the beginning it was just that. And if he figure out something else, he would tell me. Alberto also gives me some pocket money that I supposed to use to buy fresh food since the grains, like rice and pasta, and the drinks, like tea, milk and coffee, he would bring it. At the end, when I went to the cottage next day, there was a lot of fruits and vegetables.
(below are photograhs of a wonderful group performing local dances for our guests)


           We go to the school as planed. It is a nice place which just need a little bit more of infrastructure. Grace, the director and left hand of Alberto (yeah, I do not agree with the term “right hand”, is prejudice) is a very kind woman and we talk a lot. After, while I am taking some pictures, I have some time with the kids. Nice and lovely ones. I am helping in the class of the smallest ones and Grace invites me to have lunch with them. During lunch time a big rain starts and I get stuck. Around two o’clock, somebody came to pick up Grace and she offers me a lift back.
              As soon as I could I write the document and prepare the pictures to send to Alberto. The pictures should wait until he could redecorated a little the bedrooms. And about the keys I should wait until we have a free guests day.
              Middle time, I talk with the incredible couple Rita and Jeff. They are from Canada and even not knowing anything about them, just looking the way they treat each other, you would love them. Alberto told them about my travel plan, so we just start to talk. Their story is lovely: they are now retired and are using their time to do an also kind of volunteer work, helping the families to create a sustainable way of farming. There is no money involved and their work is to put the hand on the shit. Jeff plays guitar and both drink wine and beers everyday. They look as they are still in love as they just met and look great together. Both so involved in what is going on in each country and in the world. Rita sounds so lovely when we talk about my travel and she tell me to be concerned. Jeff has an amazing speech about the money and how we would be better if the monetary system was gone. I am so relieve to hear that someone intelligent and with so much experience talks about the same idea as me. One day I heard them in a video call with the family back home, a birthday party, and they sounded lovely. I hope when I hit Canada they will be around so I can pass to say ‘hi’. If everything goes well, I already have four friends to visit in there.
              After I pack some natural soaps which Alberto had bought some time ago and put them to sell, Rita and Jeff give me another idea to help Alberto: the living room bathroom it is not decorated at all. It needs not only decoration but more light and some fresh smell. What started just with the bathroom, became a whole place redecoration. The living room itself, the cottage and the other bedrooms. Alberto has so many nice pictures and we ask to the carpenter to make some special frames, which I would paint, and we would redecorate Roma bedroom and the living room. I am so exciting working with decoration again, that I can almost not stop. If it is not for Alberto taking me for some coffee in town or having dinner out, I would stay all the time working.
              For the bathroom I repaint the mirror with also some Imigongo; I paint some old vases and fill with dried sticks to put in a small window; I paint an old frame and use parts of stick to create a small dry tree as “picture”; a vase and a shell holder, new painted, are decorating the sink; and of course the whole place it was filled with pieces of art about Africa. In the cottage I also used Africa arts and a Indian rug in the wall. I paint some furniture and the wardrobe and also some parts of the bathroom. I use one old window as frame for some bamboos and nature leaves and flowers from Africa, both dried and with a touch of gold tint, and another one to write “Coffee, Tea and Milk” with some seeds and put on the kitchen. Also in the kitchen I hung some wine bottles from the celling and beside I wrote a big “Bon Appetit!”. For last, I pant with different colors and decorated with gold lines, six old mugs and hung in the cupboard.
              So I am happy to be able to help Alberto and doing something that I really like; I am meeting some great people all the time; I am having great meals or cooking something that I like; I a having coffee every morning, beer and wine often and tea every night before go to sleep. Alberto even arranges a deal with two travel agencies to bring me with them for free to take pictures and then promote both of investments. I go to a beekeeping plus a small hiking and a cannon trip. And even in those two days, just for the morning and lunch time, while out, I missed him. He always makes me laugh.
              The two trips I go to it I did with a nice family from California, U.S. They are also travelling around the world: Audrey, Brian, Colin and Decker (twelve and nine years old) would spend over an year in the road visiting something around thirty countries. Really cool. The boys do not look spoiled for me at all, by the opposite, really nice, smart and adorable kids.

 

Canoeing
Bio Organic Gluten Free Beehive
Nun / Widow / Beekeeping suit



              I went to the school another day, this time alone. I got lost. I walk so much more than I needed. So stupid. I am trying to get in there at eight o’clock but just arrived passed nine. With the help of my great friend Saidi, I find the place and he is even giving me a lift to there. I wish I could have helped more Grace and the school. If I had more time…
              The frames and the living room look great! Alberto is so creative and full of ideas that as me he is putting all together at the same time. I am so happy every time he makes me a complement and even more when he mention he would like to leave me in there when he leaves for some holidays in Italy.
              On my last day we go out for a walk in the afternoon. Me, Alberto and John. We visit Theo (one of our cooks, who Alberto know and has helped since 2009) and have some beer and food in there; we try to visit Grace but unfortunately they are not at home and then we come back. I am invited to eat out for dinner. I accept. We go to the restaurant I think it is very beautiful from outside and then I figure out it is also amazing inside. I have a delicious Tiramissu for desert.
              I have to say goodbye that same night. The three of us would leave very early next morning: Alberto and John to Kigali and I to the boarder.
                The hug I receive from Alberto it is the best one in a long time.
              Next morning I decide to have my breakfast over there while I take some road directions. I left kind of sad because I wanted to stay more and I also wanted to do more and had helped Alberto to finished everything. I could not.
              I had just passed Saidi’s house when somebody pick me up and drive me until the boarder. I am happy because I have already left Rwanda so probably I would hit Kampala that same afternoon. I was so wrong…

 

Shkodër

Saturday, 5th of September, 2020.

              Last night I made my camping just nearby a big factory, a few blocks from the road, so it is not noisy. There are a few open fields around here, I entered one without gates, but still with fences. In the field just beside me, there was one man looking over one cow and one sheep. I considered to leave and not take the risk, but something stopped me.
              Next morning I am hitchhiking to Shkodër. It is a good spot and there are plenty of car coming but it takes a long time until someone stops. Spartak is going to Shkodër for work. He does not speak English but we have a good time. He offers me a coffee in this super cool restaurant at the river. The view is amazing and I have to say it is the best cappuccino I have in a long time.
              My plans are go to a separated part of the town, where apparently there is a nice view of the lake and the mountains. Spartak drops me in the way to the bridge which leads to this place. There is a beautiful walk aside the river, among trees and nice shades. It is a pity that there is no more benches. I cross the bridge Ura e Vjeter e Brunes and take my way to a restaurant called Arbri, where supposedly there is this nice view. On my way I pass through a U.S.A. flag upside down in the top of a house. The walk to the restaurant it is very pleasant itself. Of course I would have enjoyed much more if it was not for The Hulk. After a while, I spot far away the restaurant. I realize that, even if the view from there it is nice, it might not be too different from the one I would have right here, in these open fields along the river. I see a trail going into them so I take it. It is a hot day but luckily I find a place in the shade and sit down. I take my boots off and enjoy a long time for resting after my breakfast.




              Shkodër have a nice castle and I plan to go there. I search for it online and there was nothing said about an entrance fee so yay! Now, I do not remember exactly why but I need wi-fi. So I walk to almost near to the bridge which leeds out of town, I try in a Hotel but it is not working, so I walk a bit more and ask in this tiny coffee shop if I could use their wi-fi quickly. A very unpleasant old lady whispers something about wi-fi and that I have to order something. I get piss and leave the place saying that I was just asking for a bit of help. So I decide to walk all the way back to somewhere around the “exit” to the castle. I ask to use the wi-fi in the Kompleksi Arifi Hotel and the lovely lady at reception say that there is no problem and I can take my time. After that, I decide to ask to leave my backpack in another hotel (you know, just to not over asking the nice lady) so I can visit the castle in peace. At Blini Hotel I could not be more welcome. The manager, his son and the manager’s brother are super friendly and kind and say I can leave my bag there for as long as I need. I talk mostly with the manager, brother of the owner and he is a very nice man. They even offered me a refreshment local drink, something like beer with ice cream. Yummy! Soon enough I leave to the castle.
              I get there easy and in the way I pass through many fig trees. At the entrance of the caste a surprise: a gate with a cabin where you have to purchase your ticket. It is not much, 300 Leke, something like 2€, but of course I cannot pay. I decide to talk with the guard and quickly explain to him my situation. Without saying one word, he takes one ticket, give it to me and point up to the castle, with a smile in his face which says: “You can go!”. So nice of him! And as if it was not enough, he says (not in English but, you know, with gestures) that I can leave my backpack down there. I have my camera, computer and some small things, but just the computer waits a lot already so I decide to trust on him, so I grab just the camera and the water and leave the bag.
              The Rozafa Castle is incredibly beautiful! I really like! And it is huge! There are also pretty views from almost every part of the castle. You can get some really nice shots up there. But I am really fascinated of how much I like this Castle. I walk all over it, reading the information displayed around and try to take some nice photos. A really nice one of me it is a bit difficult because the best spot for it, does not really help single people with a timer. What I mean is, there is not a actually place where I can program the camera and run for a nice photo. But I am alright, the visit totally worth it. After a few hours I go back, grab my first backpack at the entrance, my second one at the hotel and walk towards the “free camping area”. On the way, I stop in a fancy restaurant / coffee shop to ask for some water, and for the first time in my travels (as I can recall) the guy actually offer to also full fill my small bottle, which I have in the other side pocket of my backpack. That means he truly wants to help.


             I first sit in a bench aside the river to rest while admire my last view of Shkodër. Something I realize here is how many elderly people they have. And how active they are. Most of them are going around in their bicycles, which is very nice. But of course some of them are just walking around. It is interesting how they like to sit together in the late afternoon to talk in a square bench. One of them does not join his “group” for a few minutes and decide to sit beside me to talk. He speaks little English but still enough. He is of course surprise by the fact I am from Brazil. Our conversation attracts some kids, who unfortunately are quiet rude. Not all of them, but most of them. They look like very poor kids and I feel sorry for them. But they also look happy, buying their candies in this small kiosk, from one of the older man.
              There are a few areas named as “free camping area” on Google Maps. The ones nearby, which I can walk to, are definitely not a option. They are completely abandoned, with a huge grass and garbage everywhere. Apart of the chickens, goats and dogs, of course.
              So instead of just crossing the bridge and keep walking out of town looking for a place, I decide to back a little, to the camping sign I saw back there, and check if they could help me a bit and let me spend the night for free.
              The first reaction of the lady I talk to it is not the best. She seems really surprised with my request and at some point she says something like: “You at least have to pay something…”. I am not begging for her to let me stay, you see, I am just asking if there is any possibility that she could help me and let me stay for free, if not, I will carry on. There is a small group of people by the pool (yeah, it is a quiet fancy place with hotel, restaurant and camping area) and she says she need to ask someone else. The answer is yes. She shows me where I can put my tent and that is it. I really want to pee but I have to wait until everybody leave, since they are all just in front of me. After which seems a long time waiting they finally leave. The lady say the gate opens around 8 a.m. so I do not need to rush too much. But next morning, before 8 o’clock, I am on my way.

Waiting for answers in Musanze…

29th of April, 2018. 

              I write a little and have a cat shower. I take a nap so when Saidi come back I am sleeping. He wakes me up to have a Rolex as lunch with tea. He is such a nice guy!
              We decide I should try to get connection in a simple restaurant in town and check if Veronica have answered me.
              I do not know why but after we meet Celestine they decide that would be better if we go to this huge and weird Hotel, where the restaurant is in the back. They knew some of the people around so at least I got connection for free and they did not need order anything.
              No answers from Veronica. I decide to send an email to Michael, from the Gotillas Doctors, so he has my contact. I send it and close the computer. Luckily, Saidi tell me to turn on again and check if the email to both of them it has actually been sent. The one to Michael had returned with a error message: the email was invalid. So he makes me call Veronica and check if she had received hers. I am reluctant but I call her. She is very nice at the phone and tell me as soon as possible she would write me back.
              We leave the place and Celestine want to go out and drink something. Saidi order a Fanta and I am surprise when Celestine also orders one since last night we agreed to have a beer together. I already had ordered mine so we share that one and the next one. He also order some fried potatoes, which are really good.
              It is already night time when we go back home. We still have some dinner with tea. They say I could go to their work next morning where I could get some connection for the day. It sounds like a good plan.
              Next morning we leave the house around eight and Saidi’s boss is waiting for us with a car outside. He is a nice Chinese man who also (as weirdly most as the Chinese and Asian people I have been met) speaks a poor English.
              At the construction site I check my email and finally I have Veronica’s answer. She is very kind in how she say they could not take me as volunteer in the Fund. She also write some words of motivation and is pretty nice indicating me a friend of her who has a guest house and could need some help. Of course I am sad and my plan of going by myself to the mountains it is growing stronger. Even then I start to check the maps of the region.
              I meet the partner of Saidi’s boss. He is a funny Chinese guy, who also speak a poor English and is totally surprised about my travels. He keep repeating I am his heroin. He even bring me some red wine in the middle of the morning! I drank it.
              At lunch time we got to town to drive two clients and take the time to have lunch.
            Talking with Saidi, we decide that after work he will drop me at the guest house to talk with Veronica’s friend. We both are not too much optimist about what I could do there to help him but since I have nothing to loose, I should go.
              The location of the place it is easily accessible but once in there, in front where should be the place, we could not see any kind of sign or warn about the place. Luckily, two girls are coming and when I ask them about the place they confirm to be exactly there where we are. At the door, Saidi asks if the boss is in there. The answer is ‘yes’ and I walk in to meet him.

Kukes

Friday, 4th of September, 2020.

               Where the bus leaves me looks quite of a joke. It is at the edge of a cliff, but at the bottom part. So there is this very precarious metal stair that you have to climb up (in a what I can only presume it is a 85° inclination) to enter Kukes. There is this other boy coming also to town so he helps me with the small backpack. After the stairs, as if it was not enough, you climb up a hill for about 3 minutes.
              At the entrance of the town, I check my passport and realize there is no entrance stamp for Albania. I walk into the Police Station, just ahead of me, and talk with an officer about. He surprisingly asks me what is it that I want. I answer that I want to make sure that I enter in the country legally. He says I am in the system but there is just not a stamp, no need to worry. I carry on walking in town. I am here more for the nice views of the river, out of town. So I ask this guy, who is sitting outside of a travel agency, which direction should I take to get to this bridge, which I know it leads to Shkoder, my next destination. He walks with me for a while, but when I see this seats under a nice shade, I just tell him I need to eat but he can point me the way. He says straight and left. He was wrong.
              While I am having my breakfast, a few kids start disturbing me. Like passing many times in front of me and repeatedly saying “Hello!”. One little girl it is kind of cute though, and she speaks a great English! We talk for a few minutes. A few adults also stared at me a lot.
              I get on move, just stopping to buy some food for dinner. I take the wrong direction after that, but luckily I get it right, and I stop to ask for some water.
              Walking down to the bridge I realize I forgot to buy fruits for tomorrow morning. My plan now is just to get a lift to outside of town, anywhere in the middle of nowhere, so I do not need to worry about making my camping during daylight and I can rest through the afternoon. There is a beautiful point view behind this gas station in the middle of the road and I stay there for a few minutes. Down the road, a miracle: plenty of wild blackberries just ready to be enjoyed! Yay! Now I am glad I did not buy any fruit. I spend a long time collecting them and full fill my metal mug with it.
              The view from the bridge is also really nice. The color of the river it is a clean turquoise right now. Right after the bridge, a good spot for hitchhiking.
              I hold my “Shkodër” sign and in a few minutes a car stops. Two guy who ask me money for the ride. Laugh. The next car to stop is with Bera and Dina. They seem pretty cool and are going to Tirana, so they can drop me on the way to Shkodër.

Bera, Lei and Dina

              I tell them my plan and they say it is OK for them. Bera buy some drinks and gives me this quiet nice Fanta, the Exotic flavor. They are both from Pristina but are going to spend just a few hours in Tirana, have some sea food and go back in the evening. So they offer me to come with them. They say they can drop me still in the direction of Shkodër on their way back, I will just enjoy a few hours with them at the capital and have a nice meal. I accept of course!
              Dina just had a difficult time so that is also why they are going to Tirana to relax a bit. She is very young and much beautiful. In Tirana it is super hot. We have some fresh juice at arrival and Dina buys some shorts to refresh herself. While she is doing that, I am taking out my boots in the car, but carefully putting inside a plastic bag and placing in the back (because the smell it is not the better one). I also clean my feet briefly with some wet wipes and I put on some slippers. Much better!
              The stop in Tirana was basically that. And then we head to the coast, to a nice sea food restaurant. We are the only clients right now because apparently everybody else is at the beach. I order just a mushroom risotto but they both order a few different dishes. Me and Bera have a beer. At the end I am super fool! The restaurant it is just a few minutes from the sea and I was hoping that after lunch we would at least just take a look at it, but no.
              We are heading now to this “pigeon church” as people called. Apparently, this church was built several times but repeatedly destroyed. Until when sometime the pigeons started to rebuilt in this really high mountain, and at there nobody could destroy it again. The view from the top of the mountain is beautiful and the church is also pretty. Dina buy us all some candles and we supposed to light them and make one wish for each candle.
              On our way back, Bera buys some more drinks and chocolates plus my first 3 leche in Albania. They have this delicious dessert which is simply a cake drowned in a mix of three milks and covered in caramel. It is amazing! And this one I had with them, it was the best I would have in Albania.
              They drop me on the way to Shkodër, nearby where I can hitchhike next morning. Dina gives me one of her belts and say it is for me to remember her. I want to tell her I do not need anything to remember her but I do not want to hurt her feelings so I accept it.