in between safaris

when we returned from our safari, our first stop was Sana Travel. we talked to the agent there and she wrote out a paper that she signed stating that the $380 that was unused for our safari (for ending 2 days early) would be applied to a new safari of our choice. we would just have to pay the difference since most safaris are over $380. since now we had signed receipts, we really didn’t expect there to possibly be any problems. unfortunately, we were wrong. very wrong.

8/22/05

most people who are familiar w/ lonely planet, know that they have forums on their website called “the thorntree”. this is one of the most important parts of the lonely planet website, since this is where everyone goes to chat, get advice, and ask questions to other travelers. well, i never before knew this, but this messageboard is actually named after the thorntree cafe in Nairobi. this cafe is legendary in it’s own right, and is a very popular meeting place for travelers in Kenya. in the middle of the courtyard, stands a large thorntree planted over 50 years ago, and people can ping message cards to the tree… the tree is a message board of its own!

so, we were excited to go check out the cafe, and sadly, we weren’t impressed. the guidebook had said that the cafe had recently undergone a sterile renovation, and it really showed. there definitely wasn’t anything all that exciting about it. also, the 60 year old thorntree had been dug up, and instead of it there was a new one, which was quite small. a bit of a letdown.
our main goal for that day was to get all of our safari questions figured out. we wanted to do a safari to Ngorongoro crater in Tanzania, but we planned to do this one without the help of Sana tours. the only other big thing we wanted to do was to climb Mt Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain in Africa. this is actually a very serious and difficult undertaking, and it takes 6 days to do (at least). Sana does a trip up the mountain for $630, so we decided to book it through them. we went through all the arrangements, but then all of a sudden, at the last minute, the woman said that she wasn’t sure if we would be able to apply all the $380 due to our next trip. huh? she said that the park fees for Masai Mara, had already been paid for us, and that we can not have that part refunded.

we told her that that couldn’t be right. we had been told over the phone, that we would get all *380* back. if we hadn’t been told that, we wouldn’t have come back 2 days early. plus, their company had already signed documents that we would get $380 back. it was unfair for them to go back on their word. she said that maybe it was all a misunderstanding, and she would check on it. we then left, wondering what would happen in the end…
that night, we decided to go out and celebrate joey’s birthday. we went to this Italian place that was recommended to us and it was hella good. my parents had sent me money to get birthday champagne, and this seemed like the perfect night to go for it… but i didn’t have the cash on me, and it’s not a great idea to walk the dark streets of Nairobi at night to use an ATM. well, the armed security guard from the restaurant ended up walking with me all the way to the ATM, watching over me, and then walking me back. how’s that for safety? back at the restaurant, we had the champagne, and we toasted to joey’s bday and to my belated bday. it was cool to get to celebrate.

after the restaurant, Caryn was tired and went back to the room, but joey and i decided to check out this club called Florida 2000, apparently the hottest club in town and nicknamed “the madhouse”! although the club was only like 2 blocks fro the hotel, we had two security guards from the hotel walk us over, and then they told us that they’d come back to fetch us later. heh, it really makes you feel like some VIP to have armed guard escorting you everywhere.

when we walked into the club, i walked up the stairs first, and literally within seconds of reaching the top step, i had a hooker literally rubbing up against me. yikes!! only after repeatedly telling her that i was uninterested and had a girlfriend, did she finally leave. phew! but i wasn’t safe for long. from the moment joey and i walked into the bar area, we were attacked nonstop. seriously, it seemed like this place was 80-90% hookers, and only like 10% other people. and these girls used crazy tactics just like the touts on the streets.

the touts on the streets will tell you “aww, who me? nahh! i don’t wanna sell you anything! I’m just giving you free information!! just practicing my English!!”.. but then you talk to them a bit, and right when you’re not expecting it, bam!! you get a sales pitch! well, same thing pretty much here. the girl comes up, starts talking. i interrupt with “not interested, i have a girlfriend”. girl looks sad and offended.. “girlfriend!! i don’t want anything like that! i just want to talk! i like to talk to foreigners! tell me, what do you think of Kenya!”. so warily, i start to just chat.. and everything is chill.. for a bit and then they start trying to bump and grind and whatnot and say shit like “your girlfriend’s not here! who cares. she wont know!!” yikes!!! so yeah, the club actually had potential to be really cool. drinks weren’t all that expensive, the music was alright, and LOUD. the place looked nice too. all the makings of a good night… but seriously the hookers wouldn’t leave us alone.. and then we made our escape… quickly trying to leave while random girls would literally jump out at us and try to grab us and keep us there… and then from out of nowhere… we were rescued! out of the crowd, the tall form of the armed guard from the hotel appeared. we sighed w/ relief, and followed him back to the hotel. phew!

when we got back to the hotel, we were surprised to hear that Sana tours had called. 4 times! and this is after midnight. they wanted us to call back no matter how late. uh-oh. we tried to call, but got no answer, so we went to bed.

8/23/05

early in the morning, our phone rings. the clerk tells us that someone from Sana tours is there to see us. crap. this couldn’t be good. the woman pulls us into a cafe to talk. she says that basically, the way things work is that all the park fees are paid in advance, and that since Sana already made the payment, they couldn’t refund us that part of the money. not only that, but she says we would have to pay for the food that was allegedly preordered for us. sheez. now this was utter bullshit. honestly, i kind of doubt the park thing. i think that Sana sends people to that park every single day, if we came home early, Sana could have sent someone else in our place and still used the park entrance fees even if they were paid. and as far as the food? that’s bullshit, if we checked out of the camp early, there’s no way we should have to pay for the food that we never got. well, then the girl started going into this story how, since it was her mistake, if we didn’t pay for the park fees etc, it would be taken out of her salary or she would be fired. *sigh*. what the hell do you say to that? the thing is, if it’s true, i would totally feel bad for her, but honestly, i don’t really think it’s true. so we asked to speak to a manager.

a couple hours later, we’re in Sana’s office. now, not only do they not want to reimburse us in the amount of park fees and food, but they also want to not refund us for the lodging. each time we talk to them, they keep chipping away at our $380. this is unbelievable. basically, the way i see it is this: if we would not be reimbursed for these things, we should have been told this right away. if we knew that, we wouldn’t have canceled our safari. but, since two people had told us we would be reimbursed, not to mention that we had signed papers from them, it was absurd that we couldn’t get our $380 back!! and.. it’s not like we were even asking for the $380 back!! we were just asking for it to be applied towards Kilimanjaro which costs $1260 for the two of us!! we were giving them over a thousand dollars worth of more business, and they couldn’t just stick to their promise.

after arguing for a long time, the manager said that she would call her boss, and we said we’d come back later. so basically, we spent all afternoon walking back and forth to Sana tours. when we came back, we argued w Sana some more. in the end, they agreed to give us back 240$ cash. so basically they stole $140 from us. i was SO pissed. how could they do this?? when we had *signed* papers from the stating that they would refund us $380. unbelievable. well, at least we were able to get the money back in cash, without having to do another tour with them. the last thing i would want is to trust those bastards to take us up Kilimanjaro!!

by then it was midday and we caught a bus to Arusha. arusha is in Tanzania, so we had to cross the border which was straightforward and quick. the ride to arusha was only like 6 hours, but we were still tired when we arrived. we went to this Chinese restaurant which was really good, and then crashed out.

*v

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