16/8/89

We spent most of the morning sussing out a cheap place to stay from tomorrow night as our paid up accommodation here at the 680 runs out tomorrow. We finally settled on the Iqbal¹ on Latina Road after looking at several other highly suspect looking places. You cannot book for the Iqbal so we have to be here at 8 a.m. to be sure of getting a room.

With somewhere to stay sorted out we went to the market and I bought a straw hat for K/SH 25 and a carved mask for KSH 50.  Linda bought a very nice pair of sandals from a street stall for 200. We had a drink at the Terrace Bar when we got back to the hotel and spent the afternoon relaxing in our room.  We had tea in the Simba Room.

¹The Iqbal hostel, colloquially known as the “Dog Bowl” was a famous, if somewhat squalid, hotel that was popular with backpackers travelling on a budget and none too fussy about the quality of their digs as long as they were cheap! 

My travel diary from our four month African overland in 1989.
Route map and budget for our trip. Again, this was compiled in our little attic room at The Woodman, a long way from Africa, but the place where we dreamed our African Dreams for four months as we worked hard and saved every penny we earned for our trip.

15/8/89

We went round to the Zaire Embassy and picked up our passports. The visas cost K/SH 160 each which is £5. I have got a dose of the shits so didn’t do much all day.

The following images are of a letter that I wrote to my brother, Joe Blakiston, from the 680 Hotel. I commenced writing it on August 15th and finally posted it on August 18th.

14/8/89

We got a fairly early and went out in search of the Zaire Embassy.  After three quarters of an hour of wandering we finally found it on the 12th floor of Electricity House.

To apply for our visas we had to fill in the same form four times each and supply them with 4 photos. Thus we were introduced to African bureaucracy.

We went to the African heritage cafe for lunch with Lynda then walked up to the Nairobi Snake Park. Here they have a display of about 30 varieties of snakes from all over the world ranging from the non-poisonous grass snake to the highly poisonous mamba and the non-poisonous but no less deadly python. There was also an aquarium and several species of crocodile on the display. 

From the snake park we went to the museum and spent an hour and a half there before returning to the hotel.

My travel diary from our four month African overland adventure in 1989.

The cover page of my diary, drawn in our room at The Woodman, the pub where we worked for four months prior to going to Africa.

17/7/89

CHRIS AND SANDY ARE GONE, YAY!!⁰

We spent the morning lazing around upstairs then packed up a bit of stuff and walked up to Paradise Park Zoo. We got in free because yesterday (Sunday) I had shorn their three sheep for them. The head zookeeper, Stephen “Frog” French, had picked us up in his little yellow van with three motley looking sheep crammed in the back, and we had driven to a farm over at Cuffley where there was a shearing plant (actually only an overhead dagging plant¹ but in surprisingly good order and sharp!)

They were easy shearing and it was good to do a bit after nearly a year away from a farm and Frog said we would come up to the zoo and look around for nought².

We spent 2 hours there looking at the animals with Frog telling us about them.  They have lions, camels, highland cattle, goats, donkeys, coati mundi, mountain lion, sheep, reindeer, Vietnamese pigs, a llama & other bits and pieces, all in spacious and we’ll set out cages.

After we left there we walked down to Hoddesdon through the back roads in the woods. We spent an hour and a half in the pub then Linda went to Family Planning for a new supply of pills and some advice on the effects of antibiotics on it. We had tea at Maggie’s Bar and got a taxi home.

⁰They moved on to manage another pub…and good riddance: they were lazy, good-for-nothings.

¹A dagging plant is a machine for removing dirty wool from a sheep’s rear. It consists of a suspended electric motor driving a hand-piece.

² Pronounced “nowt” and meaning “nothing.”

11/7/89

Because we had such a slack day yesterday we decided to go for a bike ride.  Linda’s bike had a flat tire so we pushed the bikes down to Broxbourne and got the tires pumped up (some prick had pinched the pump off my bike when I was in Slough last week) then we bought some rolls, pies and drinks and cycled down to the canal. We had lunch and fed a family of ducks then cycled along beside the calm, slow moving water until we came to a paddock of sheep across on the opposite side. They were grazing right to the water’s edge and as we watched them I remembered Grey’s Creek at Grampians¹ where I spent a lot of time sitting on the banks with the dogs beside me watching the sheep and cattle grazing and the deep, calm, clear water of the creek flowing past.

We followed the canal to Cheshunt and went up into the town centre and had a drink at the Rose and Crown then sat in the park and watched stupid poser school boys playing tennis.  After that, and at a loss for something to do, we went to the pictures. We got a bus to Waltham Cross and wandered around while we waited for the cinema to open at 5:40. The movie was Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and it was great. Non-stop action, funny, corny and great fun.

After the movie, we bussed back to Cheshunt and had a revolting tea of Super7² burgers then started home. My bike had a flat tire before we got out of Cheshunt so we ended up once again pushing our bikes for two hours to get home!

¹Grampians sheep station, in the South Island High Country, is where I had worked as a shepherd for four years.

² A convenience store chain.

3/7/89

I got up at 3:50 a.m. in order to go to work at Slough.  I biked down to the station and caught the 4:38 train to Liverpool Street.  It is beautiful at that time of day – cool and damp with ground fog hugging the base of the trees and creeping along the waterways.

I got the Circle Line to Paddington and a train out to Slough.  Went to Extra-staff and got sent to a job with a Welsh guy. After 2 hours of waiting in the sun for the truck we were supposed to be unloading to turn up, I rang to find out what the fuck was going on. “Sorry, we sent you to the wrong address.”  We ended up doing one and 1/2 hours work at another building site & the guy paid us 8 hours for it. Not bad. I spent the rest of the day watching TV at Bernie and Sue’s. Spent the night at the Bernie and Sue’s and spent Tuesday working at Fullers Transport opposite the Mars Factory¹, unloading bags of coconut from Sri Lanka and the Philippines and bloody heavy 140 lb sacks of cocoa beans from the Ivory Coast.  Went home in reverse order to the way I got out there.

¹The Mars Confectionery factory. The sacks of cocoa and coconut were being used to make Bounty Bars.