During the early days in Africa, I wrote a little bit about Extreme Reading. Now I think it’s time to share another, less sought-after experience that I’ve grown accustomed to: Extreme Showering.
Anyone who has ever showered in the developing world knows that it’s hit-or-miss. I’ve had it pretty easy on this trip for the most part, but even so, my standards for a decent shower here have become drastically lower than they are at home. I’ve mostly adjusted to run-of-the-mill bad showers — cold water, or low water pressure, or sandy floors (though I feel lucky to say never all three at once). This post is dedicated to those showers that are more than just cold or drippy, those showers that, for better or worse, have made a lasting impression on me in the past four months and need to be commemorated and shared. Without further ado, I present My Ten* Best & Worst Showers (I don’t know about you, but I really needed a break from Safari Series…):
*Ten Best & Worst is really Seven Worst and Three Best. I know this is arbitrary, but I decided to preserve the integrity of the Lists rather than cutting or padding them to get to round numbers. Yes, I realize I am taking this way too seriously.
The Seven Worst Showers:**
**In case any of you are planning your own trips to these places, I should note that most of these hotels were beautiful and/or great value, and I would recommend them and stay at them again even if it meant reliving these showers.
#7 — Diani Marine Village, Diani Beach, Kenya. The shower used sea water. Indian Ocean: beautiful to look at; great to swim in; terrible at rinsing off the salt that stuck to you on the beach.
#6 — Gion Hotel, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The water had an oddly waxy feel. I’m pretty sure my hair was oilier post-shower than pre-shower — never a good sign.
#5 — Ai-Ais, Fish River Canyon, Namibia. The water came directly from the nearby hot springs, which sounds really cool and spa-y, but in fact means that the water is full of salt and minerals that crystallize on your skin and hair after you dry off. It took me fifteen minutes to get a comb through my hair post-shower and a jar of moisturizer before my skin returned to normal.
#4 — Yeha Hotel, Axum, Ethiopia. Handheld shower (no problem, I’m officially used to it) that didn’t reach above my shoulders (and I’m 5’4″ on a good day). Enough said.
#3 — Nungwi Inn, Nungwi, Zanzibar. The shower had two spouts — one at a normal height and one around knee-height, which you might use to wash the sand off of your feet. Water only came out of the bottom one, leaving the showerer with two options: attempt a squatting backbend to shower below knee-height, or fill a cup with water and dump it over yourself one cup-full at a a time.
#2 — Seronera Campsite, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. The entire bathroom / shower area reeked of mouse droppings. Our safari guides were horrified that I responded by not showering at all for the two nights we stayed there, but the less time I spent in there, the cleaner I felt.
And the #1 Worst Shower that I’ve Experienced So Far — New Palm Tree Hotel, Mombasa, Kenya. I think the appearance of live wires in the shower speaks for itself. I also generally prefer that my shower doesn’t need to come with (confusing) instructions about avoiding the risk of electrocution.
After looking at the list, I think it’s pretty clear what factors make a memorably bad shower for me — Poor water quality (5-7); Acrobatics necessary (3-4); Animal droppings present (2); May pose risk of death (1). I don’t think that wanting to avoid those four situations is asking too much.
On a more positive note, My Three Favorite Showers (Definitely in the Past Four Months, Possibly Ever in Life):
#3 — Ngorongoro Wildlife Lodge, Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania. When I really think about it objectively, there honestly was nothing that special about it. But it was hot, and the pressure was pretty good, and I hadn’t showered in the previous two nights (which is a nice way of saying three days), so I really loved it.
#2 — Westin Hotel, Cape Town, South Africa. I love Westins. I especially loved the Cape Town Westin. I would pretty much rank it among my favorite places in the world. Not because of the heavenly shower, but that certainly didn’t hurt. I’m sorry to sound like a Westin ad, but I seriously love them. Don’t even let me get started on the beds.
And my #1 Favorite Shower of All Time: Moremi Crossing, Okavango Delta, Botswana. Hot shower, great pressure, birds singing, under the sun (or stars) in the Okavango Delta. Shower paradise.
H.M.: Victoria Falls, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. Not the hotel; the Falls themselves. They are not technically (or actually in almost any sense) a shower, but feeling the water pound down on you is a pretty great experience, even if you do have to sacrifice your electronic devices in the process. And I don’t think anyone would bat an eye if you wore a bathing suit and brought some shampoo with you.