Kenya

Kenya 6/17/06 - Arrival in Nairobi

We landed at Heathrow at around 6:15 a.m. We arrived at terminal 3 and had to take a bus to terminal 4. The bus was just leaving as we got to it, so our timing was perfect. We waited in a long security line. It was another sunny day in London, as always seems to be the case when we are flying in to the city, if only for a quick layover. Our gate hadn't been announced yet, so we sat in the central chairs near gate 6. We had realized on the plane that we had forgotten our trusty motion sickness medication. Not usually a problem in airplanes but possibly when spending hours in vehicles on very bumpy roads. I went into a W.H. Smith store to see if I could buy some. Their till system was down, so they sent me to another, larger W.H. Smith store. Their medicines were behind the counter and I waited in line for about 10 minutes. When I got to the counter, they said they don't carry motion sickness medication, so they pointed me down the concourse to the Boots Druggist, Ltd. I told the druggist what we needed it for and he sold me a pack of Kwell for 2.50 pounds (which I needed to charge on my Visa, as I had no British money). I met Craig back at the seats and we studied our Swahili phrasebook. Jambo = hello/how are you? Asante = Thank you. We also spent some time people-watching. You see people from so many different cultures in London. And you see airlines that you would never see in the United States. Our gate was announced at around 8:40 and we had to walk to the furthest possible gate (# 25) as Craig had predicted. It was quite a long haul. We got there and sat until the British Airways flight boarded at 9:30.

This flight had a 3-3-3 seating configuration and we were on the left-hand side. Craig had a window seat and I had an aisle seat but the plane was full and eventually someone was about to sit between us. I traded with the guy who was now very pleased to discover he would be in an aisle, instead of the middle seat for such a long flight. We were served juice and a chicken casserole with mushrooms, carrots, string beans, chicken, and little potatoes in a delicious sauce. We also had a roll and butter, salad with feta, a banana caramel "banoffee pie", and a Cadbury Time Out candy bar. We had seatback TV's and a selection of 12 movies. We chose "Tsotsi", a South African film about AIDS, gangs, and redemption. I don't want to say any more about it because I don't want to give anything away. The less you know the better. It was very moving. We were reminded of when we discovered "Whale Rider" on the flight back from New Zealand. Discovering international films while traveling is a lot of fun. Then we watched "The Big White" with Robin WIlliams and Holly Hunter. We had never heard of it, but it reminded us of "Fargo". It was pretty entertaining in an offbeat sort of way, but I was dozing off during it. Then we watched "Creature Comforts" and "Wallace and Gromit: A Close Shave." The flight attendants came around with tea and then twice with orange juice.

Because the sun was shining the shades were all closed. Occasionally taking a peek revealed a huge expanse of the Mediterranean. A little while later Craig had a great view of the Sahara and its masifs. It was all orange as far as the eye could see until it turned to bright blue sky. It almost looked like those photos from the moon. He tried taking a photo but it couldn't capture the details and scope of what the eye could see below us. Hours later Craig looked out the window and to his surpise the Sahara was still unfolding beneath us. You know how big it is from looking at maps and globes, but flying over it gave us an even more overwhelming impression of what it must be like when actually in it. It was very cool to fly over landscapes that we have never seen before. The excitement and enormity of this trip started to hit us. We watched "Tsotsi" again, this time without sound because the earphones were hurting our ears. But it was subtitled anyway, so we didn't need the sound. We were served a box lunch with a salt beef, gherkin, mustard, and mayo sandwich, Del Monte apple and grape bites, Walker's sultana and cherry cake, and a spring water. In a short time we received landing cards to fill out. Some people needed to fill out visa forms, but we had taken care of that ahead of time. We landed at around 8:45. As we hit the runway a little kid (2 or 3 years old) shouted out in an adorable child-like voice "Nairobi! Yay!" Our sentiments exactly. The flight was remarkably comfortable and didn't seem nearly as long as it was, but we were happy to be in Nairobi and finally getting started.

We went through immigration and realized that we probably hadn't needed to spend the extra money for the visa service ahead of time. For $50 people were getting them quickly on the spot. We went to collect our luggage and then we went to the main waiting area. There were lots of people with names on signs, but we didn't see our names, even on a couple of Wildland Adventures signs. I saw a guy holding up a Wildland bumper sticker. I asked him who he was waiting for, and he said two Americans. He didn't know our names which left me slightly paranoid, but he did say that he was picking people up for a Maasailand Safari, and that we would be joined by the third person in the group tomorrow (which was our understanding as well). So we decided to take his word for it and go with the flow. He introduced himself as Lobo. Though he is a native Kenyan, his grandfather was Portuguese, and he was named "Wolf". Lobo worked for Nature Expeditions Africa, the local outfit which was running the Kenya leg of our trip. He welcomed us to Kenya and brought us out to the van, where we met Chris, the driver. We took a 20 minute drive to the Norfolk Hotel. Along the way, Lobo chatted with us and pointed out sights such as the park, etc. He said that one of Kenya's main industries is assembly (rather than manufacturing). The coffee grown here is good, and they produce around 2% of the world's coffee. Apparently some of it goes to the Logan airport in Boston as well.

When we arrived at the Norfolk we found it to be a very charming and impressive colonial hotel (built in 1904), with a doorman and the whole nine yards. The staff were immaculately dressed and well-mannered. Lobo told us to sit on a couch while he got our paperwork from the check-in desk. The lobby was dominated by a gorgeous flower arrangement of lilies and anthuriums. We filled out the paperwork and he submitted it and got us the key to room 613. Craig made a comment about needing to wear a hat to protect his head from the sun. Lobo said that in Kenya, they would call Craig's head "a little airstrip." We got a kick out of that. Lobo was very sweet and he explained that we would meet the third traveler in our group tomorrow, and Lobo would see us again on Monday. At this point we assumed that Lobo was our guide, but we were not entirely sure. Experience has shown us that the person who picks us up at the airport is not necessarily our guide. We said goodnight to Lobo, and the bellman brought our bags to our complimentary upgrade superior room. Lobo came running after us, because he had forgotten to give us our Nature Expeditions hats. It was a nice welcome gift.

We checked in to the room, which was gorgeous. It had two single beds, a TV, a safe, a minibar (though we never even looked inside), a desk, a dresser, bathrobes, and a bathroom with mahogany paneling that had both a bathtub and a shower. We freshened up and then went downstairs to the on-site Lord Delamere Terrace at 10:45. It technically closed at 11, but they were very accommodating and served us anyway. Craig ordered a Tusker Lager, which he had previously tried at the African Hut restaurant in Milwaukee, and I got a glass of the house white wine. We ordered a starter of calamari with tzatziki sauce. It was the best calamari we've ever had. So delicate and light! I got a shepherd's pie with lamb meat and potatoes and a small salad. Craig got pan-seared Naru Moru trout served on a bed of mushroom and green lentil ragout. Everything was delicious but my stomach was a little off from the jet lag and I couldn't finish my meal. I can usually count on Craig to take care of that though. There was a gecko on the wall of the restaurant. We hadn't known that they had geckos here. We noticed a couple of mosquitoes, and it turned out that they would be the last we would see until Arusha. It turned out that bugs really weren't going to be a problem on this trip.

Craig asked the waiter if taking a Tusker back to the room would be ok, and he was told it was "Very much ok." We charged the bill to our account and headed back to the room. I tried to take some night photos of the grounds, but our timing was off, because they turned off the spotlights and sprinklers just as I was trying to get photos. We got a few shots and then headed back to the room for good. Craig flipped through the channels while I wrote in the journal. We watched Al Jazeera for a while (just because we could) but it got old quickly since we had no idea what was going on. So we watched BBC news instead. We went to bed at 1:00 a.m. in our separate beds. We have never seen sheets more tightly tucked in than on these beds. I actually awoke in the middle of the night after having a dream where I was confined in a small space. It was good for a laugh afterwards. The beds were a little stiff, but they still felt great after so many hours on a plane. This would turn out to be quite a lengthy sleep.
Caravan tracks across the Sahara, as seen from the plane

Norfolk Hotel courtyard, Nairobi

Room 613, Norfolk Hotel, Nairobi

Norfolk Hotel, Nairobi

Stephanie sitting in one of the fancy chairs at the Norfolk

Craig relaxing with a Tusker after a long two days of travel

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