African Massage and Other Assorted Adventures

On safari in Kenya & Tanzania

Ashley Peterson
Sep 3 · 5 min read
Image by 3282700 from Pixabay

I was pretty excited when a friend and I book a trip to Kenya and Tanzania. We were doing a group tour that included quite a bit of safari time. I’d been to Africa before, as I’d been to Egypt a few years earlier, but this was felt like my first real trip to Africa.

It was a low-budget trip that involved mostly camping. I’m not normally a fan of camping, but I figured it was worth it to be able to see all of the assorted critters. Hopefully the assorted critters roaming around would decide to remain outside the tents rather than come in for a snuggle.

It didn’t take long to get into the routine of putting up and taking down our tents, and washing and flapping the dishes after each meal (flapping the dishes in the air to dry them). Another thing we had to get used to was the “African massage”.

At the first group meeting when we began our trip in Nairobi, our guide cheerfully informed us that in Africa, there was no “Western tarmac”. There was some touch and go “African tarmac”, but most of the trip would involve no tarmac at all; instead, we would be treated to “African massage”.

I wrote in my journal that “I actually liked the African massage, except when it got too violent.” And it did get violent sometimes, but hey, just because massage is painful doesn’t mean it isn’t working, right?

How do you change a flat tire?

Photo by author

One morning our minibus got a flat tire. We all got out, and there seemed to be some puzzlement about what to do next. For some reason, that next step involved propping the wheel up on top of a rock. That was followed by a lot of standing about and staring.

The males in our group felt obligated to be manly and join in the standing about and staring, but we females had no such inclination.

Luckily, there were some giraffes nearby to get up close and personal with while the driver got things sorted so we could be on our way again.

How many men does it take to move a bus?

We had some more vehicular issues in Tanzania as we were heading out of a town after visiting an orphanage. During our visit, some sort of event had started up at a church along the single-lane road connecting the orphanage to the road out of town, and there were vehicles parked all along the sides of the dirt road.

At one point, our bus got wedged up against an SUV. This situation proved to be a major man magnet. I swear, after I took the photo below every able-bodied male in a 5-kilometre radius began to converge on our location to try to come up with a solution. Just like the flat tire situation, the males in our tour group felt compelled to join in the manly summit meeting, while the rest of us just stayed in the bus and wished we had some cold beer on hand.

It’s hard to tell if there was some deep thinking going on, or if the men were just basking in the glory of their assembled testosterone, because there was quite a bit of mingling without much of anything happening. After all, isn’t looking like you’re working on a problem just as manly as actually solving the problem?

At some point someone came up with the bright idea of lifting smaller vehicles out of the way. This was what separated the men from the boys, apparently; some of the onlookers began wandering off, while others leapt forward to tackle the feats of strength.

These manly wonders were enough to get us headed on our way again. Cold beer, here we come!

Photo by author

Next up: Bailing the cook out of jail

Our next stop after the bus hubbub was a village up in the hills within sight of Mount Kilimanjaro. During the night, someone stole a couple of pairs of hiking boots belonging to members of the group. When this was discovered in the morning, our hosts were very embarrassed and apologetic. This wasn’t the first time footwear had been stolen on the trip; but at least when animals stole some flip flops left outside at tent it was funny.

When we got back to the village after our morning trek, our host had tracked down both the boots and the thief. The thief was looking rather worse for the wear, and he was made to apologize, with assurances from our host that the man would be dealt with.

Well, apparently the dealing with involved some beating on. One of the star players in the beating was our diminutive cook who always had a broad grin on his face. That meant that on our way out of town, we had to stop at the police station to bail/bribe him out.

The lockup had an opening about a foot high just below the ceiling, fitted with bars. Word spread that a bus full of white people was parked outside, so the men inside were hauling themselves up and shouting at us. All I could think was damn, I wouldn’t want to be in a Tanzanian jail.

Our cook emerged as cheerful as ever though, but perhaps a bit sheepish.

Presumably our guide bailed/bribed him out; I wonder how it would go ever submitting that expense claim to the tour company!

Oh well, when you go to Africa you’ve got to be prepared to expect the unexpected!


Even the name Zanzibar sounds exotic. There was no camping involved in our time on Zanzibar, and that alone made it feel super classy.

I’m not good at classy.

This is my third travel post in a row writing about vomiting, but I can’t seem to leave it out because I’m just so darned talented at it.

We were heading out on a boat to go snorkelling. Beautiful, clear Indian Ocean — it was a little bit of paradise. The playful waves turned the little boat into a swirling vortex of nauseatingness. I soon began fouling the water with the contents of my stomach. Repeatedly.

We reached our snorkelling destination, and I thought maybe getting into the water would make me feel better. Nope. I bobbed about in my lifejacket vehemently wishing to die. Unfortunately, no such luck, so I hauled my ass back on the boat to vomit some more.

Despite some problems cropping up along the way, it was an amazing trip. The wildlife in that part of the world is truly spectacular.

And there’s something to be said for a tour company whose guide is willing to bribe his colleague out of jail. I left that part out of my online review, though; you never know who might get the wrong impression.

Writers On The Run

For those who love to travel, live for travel, and always have a story to tell.

Ashley Peterson

Written by

Mental health blogger, nurse, living with depression. Author of Making Sense of Psychiatric Diagnosis and Psych Meds Made Simple.

Writers On The Run

For those who love to travel, live for travel, and always have a story to tell.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade