Compiled By: Working Class Wanderer- Kathryn Mann
Back when I booked my flights, to get the best fare possible I chose a return ticket with a 15 hour layover in London, essentially 7 PM Friday to 10 AM Saturday. My thoughts of what to do with this time ranged from seeing a play, checking out a sporting event, or finding my way to an excellent meal. What was out of the question was hanging around Heathrow Airport for the duration.
At Cape Maclear, among the group of people I met at Club Gecko was Eve, of London. When she heard of my long layover, she invited me to visit with her and friends, and to enjoy a bit of London night life. Provided with directions of tube lines to take from Heathrow to Brixton plus her phone number, I figured the night was covered.
At Eve’s abode, which she and six other share, she warns “It will be noisy, with lots of friends over”. Introductions are made among the din of conversation and music. A physician, accountant, event organizer, a youth social service worker, students working on master degrees in human rights and mental health, and much more provided conversation to fill a long evening. About mid-night we head for a club. I am into it, having a grand time. I dance and meet more people. I laughed when I finally noticed the name of the club was “Plan B”. How fitting was this? Frequently on this trip, by choice or necessity, ”Plan B” trumped whatever initial activity I had envisioned.
An essential requirement for travel or at least my type of travel is flexibility. Plan B becomes the norm as Plan A more often than not goes up in smoke. I started this trip with a flight into Cape Town and out of Nairobi. The goal, just get from one to the other while seeing as much as possible, with Victoria Falls and Zanzibar being two “must” sees. Along the way I would develop rudimentary plans that would come apart at the seams as fast as I made them. The last two weeks of the journey were two major occurrences where there was considerable distance between what I thought I was going to do and what I actually did.
Zanzibar – Beaches and Stone Town are the draws. That was my initial assessment from my sketchy research, photos and information provided by other travelers. I was looking forward to it all in particular because “Zanzibar” has been the black hole of geographical names to me for a couple decades. Indeed the long stretches of white sand beaches and warm Indian Ocean waters were enticing. Getting lost as I wandered the narrow streets and alleys of Stone Town proved to be an adventure in of and itself. Yet I got my greatest thrill when I rented a motor scooter with the intention of visiting more beaches and became enchanted with the interior of the island. Instead of seeing Zanzibar as a tourist destination I saw it as home to so many hard working people pushing carts, bundling palm fronds, gathering bundles of firewood, working fields, and kicking back in groups obviously engaged in humorous conversation as laughter rose from those assembled.
Mombasa – Mombasa, the port city of Kenya, it was here that I was to board the overnight train to Nairobi. There seems to be a love/hate relationship with the Iron Snake. It is described as either “a sociable way to avoid the rutted highway or a ratty, tatty overrated waste of time”. For me there was no question as it was to be the train for me. When I told my taxi driver, who was taking me from the airport to my hostel of choice, about this adventure he suggested we drop by the station, as it was on the way, to purchase the ticket. Fantastic. We pull up to a closed gate beyond which I see the sign indicating the ticket office. Inquiring of the guard when the office would open he let us know there would not be service until sometime in April….maybe. Plan A being literally derailed, the next choice was Plan Bus.
Next time in Kenya I will ride the snake. -Plan Branson
It would have been interesting to keep a tally of how often my plans changed. The times when my vision and reality were light years apart. How many times did a chance conversation turn ideas and/or information into a remarkable adventure.
In hindsight some things may have been done differently, but that is foolish talk. Planning, I think about it now and then tell myself that “next time” I will read the guide book before I board the flight. And yes some internet searching does seem like a good idea. “No way” is not my way. My mind stays open to the possibility, and yet it will be a whole new experience when this leopard changes his spots. Plan Branson has proved an ideal way to create adventure for this pup.