Kim Smith


Kim Smith

I am in my second year as a VSO volunteer in Ethiopia. Last year I worked as a Higher Diploma Leader at Robe Teachers' College; this year I am back in Robe but working in the Cluster Coordinating Unit - supporting teachers in local elementary schools. For more information about VSO, visit

Africa » Tanzania » North » Serengeti National Park March 28th 2009

I had been having a difficult time in Tanzania. To the point that I considered cancelling the safari that I had booked onto. It was only because Donna, who runs Maasai Wanderings (the company I had chosen because they support local communities), had been so helpful that I even got as far as Arusha. After 18 hours on a bus that went from Musoma via Nairobi (a border crossing at 4am is never fun) and only 2 hours sleep, the aggressive, persistent, ubiquitous touts of Arusha were unbearable. I had thought, indeed expected, to see plenty of wildlife on a safari, but not as much, as close, or as easily as we did. Day 1: The first giraffe The Maasai Wanderings vehicle with Doto (our guide/driver), Elias (our cook) and Matthew (the other person booked onto ... read more
The first of many giraffes
Lion in the night

Africa » Uganda » Northern Region March 10th 2009

It may not be everyone's idea of fun, but my birthday this year was perfect ... for me! We had asked at the taxi park the previous day about the frequency of minibuses to get to Budong Central Forest Reserve as we wanted to walk 'The Royal Mile' (which is supposed to be excellent bird watching). Why did we believe people who were keen not to disappoint? In the end, having explored different options, and after some hard bargaining by me (I haggled to reduce the price by 1000 shillings each - a total saving of a US dollar), we hired two boda-boda motorcyle taxis. The drivers assured us that they knew the place. The ride, itself, was fun, apart from the clinging red dust thrown up by the dirt road passing through huge sugarcane plantations. ... read more
Waiting to hitch a ride
Wathing he Mzungus
Local girls

Africa » Uganda » Northern Region » Murchison Falls NP March 9th 2009

En route from Burundi, we stopped for one night in Kigali. The following morning was when I went to the Memorial Centre and then had lunch alone, feeling like chopped liver (New York slang). We then arranged a lift back to Kabale, in Uganda, with Milton, who delivers Ugandan newspapers to Kigali daily. For an additional fee, he took us straight to the Overland Camp at Lake Bunyoni. A gorgeous place! The safari tent rooms are erected on wooden platforms with stunning views over the lake. We walked to the local school and 'commune' where travellers volunteer through the House of Edirisa in Kabale. The school was impressive for the painted wall charts on the outside walls - I have seen this in many countries where there are few resources, but this is the first time ... read more
Lake Bunyoni
Lake Bunyoni
Lake Bunyoni

Africa » Burundi » West » Bujumbura March 3rd 2009

When I first planned to travel in East Africa on my way home from Ethiopia, I thought I might go to Burundi. Then, various people and the security warnings in my (admittedly old) guide book put me off. However, Barry was heading there and as we were both enjoying the company, I decided to go too. Like Rwanda, Burundi is very green, but imediately seemed less cultivated. Burundi was a real surprise. Arriving in Bujumbura (the capital) after an easy border crossing, I felt slightly edgy - after all I'd heard so much about the dangers. In reality, the greatest danger we encountered was trying to cross the road. The traffic here is chaotic, especially after Kigali. The Saga Residence Hotel was beautiful and the rooms spacious, but the menu limited, so for the next two ... read more
Burundian countryside
Stanley- Livingstone
Stanley- Livingstone

Africa » Rwanda » Ville de Kigali » Kigali March 3rd 2009

"This chapter is a bitter part of our lives, but one we must remember for those we lost and for the sake of the future." Quote from the Kigali Memorial Centre Sadly, the main thing that most people associate with Rwanda is the 1994 genocide. Rwanda is a beautiful country with a sense of healing and worth a visit. Much of the countryside is cultivated, which is to be expected in a country with one of the highest population densities. Terraces climb hillsides, allowing crops to be grown on even the highest slopes. But, the genocide is part of the story of Rwanda. I had decided not to visit the Kigali Memorial Centre before travelling around Rwanda, feeling that I wanted to see the country without a shadow. Instead, I went there on my return to ... read more
Nyamata Genocide Memorial
Nyamata Genocide Memorial
Nyamata Genocide Memorial

Africa » Uganda » Western Region » Rwenzori Mountains February 16th 2009

Ruboni Community Camp nestles in the foothills of the Rwenzori Mountains in Western Uganda. The patio outside my banda gave beautiful views towards the mountain range. Ruboni is the starting point for trekking in the Rwenzoris - an activity I never had any intention of doing. All profits from the camp go to help support the community. It was, therefore, bad for the community, but good for me, that for the 3 nights I stayed there, I was the only guest. It was a peaceful haven, with stunning views, friendly staff, perhaps the best vegetarian food I have had in Uganda and a variety of guided walks. Whatever possessed me to do a walk labelled as a 'strenuous hill climb'? When I know that I do not enjoy hills! They didn't lie ... half way up ... read more
View from my banda
Horned chameleon and Enock
Drumming lesson

Africa » Uganda » Western Region » Kabale February 12th 2009

My first glimpse of mountain gorillas at Bwindi Impenetrable National Park made the high prices and the journey to get here so worthwhile. I’d left Masaka a week earlier by Post Bus, having failed (twice) to see Shoebills. The Post Buses literally carry post and passengers between post offices along a route. Unusually, or so I was told, the bus I was waiting for was over 2 hours late due to a breakdown. The time was filled by a Ugandan woman occasionally striking up conversation with me: it’s not the first time in my life that I have been asked, “Are you saved?” but I think it is the first time I’ve been asked, “To what tribe do you belong?” I had thought that I would stay for a couple of days in Kabale, but the ... read more
Watching us watching him
Coming through!

Africa » Uganda » Central Region » Masaka February 3rd 2009

Leaving Kampala, I stopped off in Entebbe for a couple of nights. Entebbe feels and looks like a seaside town, but with Maribou Storks drifting overhead rather than gulls. During the afternoon I walked around the botanical gardens and visited the Wildlife Centre - better than most zoos I have visited - where all the animals have been rescued. The following afternoon I took the ferry to the Ssese Islands. My guidebook doesn't mention this route, but luckily the friends I stayed with in Kampala had a different book. The ferry takes 3 hours. Arriving in Kalangala, I had planned to stay at a different resort, but was seduced into staying at the Hornbill Camp by a guy holding a sign as the ferry docked (Hornbill was my second choice anyway). I followed him along the ... read more
Botanical gardens

Africa » Uganda » Central Region January 28th 2009

Inevitably, having flown from Addis Ababa to Kampala, I am making comparisons. The main differences seem to be things that are missing: Fewer beggars, fewer shoe shines, and definitely less hassle. Kampala is a lovely place - small and compact. Finding my way around was helped, however, by the fact that Fiona and Steffen (friends I am staying with) gave me an orientation tour the day after I arrived. We visited the National Museum as part of the tour which was, as Steffen said in the comments book, 'interesting'. There is a mixed bag of exhibits and a small natural history section with animals missing from labelled diaramas. I loved it! There are few tourist sites in the capital, but just wandering around, especially in the market area is great fun. There is such a nice ... read more

Africa » Ethiopia » Addis Ababa Region » Addis Ababa January 25th 2009

My final week in Ethiopia was a busy one. It started with a party, held at my house, which was mainly in order to celebrate Hannah's (VSO from Robe) birthday. I had hired a band - which turned out to be a man with a mixer desk. But the music was good, which was the main thing. At least until the power went off! The 2 hours were filled by Jeremy playing the guitar and volunteers singing. The main concern of the whole evening was whether Hannah, the guest of honour, would actually arrive in time as she travelled from Robe that day - but she did in fact arrive before most guests. On Sunday, I went for a final 'jetwash' at the Filwuha hotel, with Hannah, Allie (VSO in Hossaina) Jane (VSO in Nekemte) and ... read more
Cutting the cake
During a power cut
Timkat at Janmeda

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