One day in Nairobi
October 11-13, 2014
Once the Captain turned on the seatbelt sign and announced our descent into Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, he also turned on the butterflies in our stomachs. In four short hours we had gone from the glitz and glamour of Dubai to the grit and chaos of Nairobi. We were nervous, but prepared. Not just for Nairobi, but the for the upcoming 26-day journey that would take us some 5,300 kilometres, mostly over land, mostly in tents, south to Cape Town.
Once we successfully purchased our Transit Visa for $20, despite a valiant effort on the officer’s part to charge us $50, we collected our bags and found an ATM. The currency is the Kenyan Schilling (Kshs) and 80 Kshs is equal to approximately $1 CAD. Jess (the accountant) withdrew 800 Kshs, thinking we were good to go. Obviously a miscalculation, because we weren’t getting very far on $10! Next we found our pre-arranged taxi and made our way north along the poorly lit road to the city and eventually to Hotel Boulevard, the starting point for G Adventures tours from Kenya, and our home for the next two nights.
Jessica’s Aunt Mary lives about a two-hour drive from Nairobi, so we were very much looking forward to meeting up with her and our cousin Mugambi for the day. We hired a taxi driver to take us to the Nairobi Giraffe Center where we got our first introduction to African wildlife, albeit not in the wild. We spent about an hour feeding giraffes, something we never had the opportunity to do growing up in Newfoundland.
Entry fees for the giraffe center differ for residents and non-residents; we paid 1000 Kshs each, or $13 CAD (residents pay 200 Kshs / $3 CAD). On the way back to the city we stopped at the Galleria Mall, one of the more modern malls in Nairobi, where we had lunch and picked up some last-minute supplies for our tour, including a bottle of Canadian Club whiskey. To our surprise, we found a health food store called Healthy U which had an abundance of gluten-free bars and other foods.
Traffic in Nairobi is an absolute nightmare. Police direct as best they can at major intersections, and from what we could see, traffic lights are just decorations. I would welcome the challenge of driving in Nairobi, but probably not on our first day. Traffic is so heavy that you can often sit in line at a single intersection for 40-60 minutes waiting to get through. Most drivers, including ours, would turn off the engine to save fuel, while locals come to your window selling everything from newspapers to fried goat meat to ice cream. We were happy we had our driver to take us around, except when he asked me how much our camera cost… this was our first introduction to a saying we used frequently throughout the trip; ‘TIA’, meaning ‘This is Africa’. Not to mention the suspicious thick black smoke that was billowing from the top of the Hilton Hotel… again, TIA.
We had an awesome day hanging out with Mary and Mugambi; a great way to spend our Canadian Thanksgiving! After saying our goodbyes, we turned our attention to our upcoming adventure. That evening we met members of our tour group for an introductory meeting, grabbed dinner (and a Tusker) and headed to bed before our 6:30 AM departure; the first of many early rises over the next 22 days. We would be arriving at the Tanzanian border by noon. Stay tuned.
Note: While we visited the Giraffe centre only, members of our tour group visited the giraffe centre as well as the Elephant Orphanage, so it is possible to do both in one day. Be sure to hire a driver for the day!
jess + trickett