Big Brother’s African Brother #3: Leaving Home – Nairobi, Kenya
Day 1: 28 July 2002, 4:30 pm
Tom and Penny arrive in Nairobi, apprehensive about what lies ahead, but ready to meet their fellow truck mates.
(US $1 = 75 Ksh)
Nairobi, Kenya. Those very words evoke images of leisurely, luxurious
safaris, the big five (elephant, black rhino, leopard, buffalo, lion), savannah
plains, “Out of Africa”, the Maasai Mara and of course … mugging! Yes, in
my own mixed up world, I had convinced myself that as soon as I stepped out
of the airport, I was going to be mugged at knife point and that’s not just
the Lariam talking.
It did not help that for the last 10 days I had been on a crash diet – not
excellent preparation by anyone’s standards. It all started when I tried to
remove my diamond engagement ring. My finger swelled up to massive
proportions (like a pig’s trotter) and no amount of vaseline or soap would
And I knew why. I had been fattening myself up, safe in the knowledge that
I was going to lose weight in Africa. I had assumed that the food would be
bad but my cunning plan had backfired. The traditional staple food is ugali
(a stiff dough) or uji (porridge) made from maize meal, millet or sorghum
flour. It is eaten with a stew of beans, goat, beef, lamb or chicken.
Well, I’m off to catch my flight to Nairobi now and the M25 is absolutely
chocca due to an earlier accident, so let’s hope I don’t miss my flight.
29 July 2002, 10:00 pm
The reason for my growing paranoia about arriving in Nairobi was triggered
after reading Lonely Planet’s facts on Kenya:
‘rarely does one come across a country where such lawlessness is so
ingrained that it’s accepted as a part of life … indeed it could be argued
that the authorities are among the worst offenders’
So I was pleasantly surprised when we arrived at Jomo Kenyatta airport and
nothing happened at all. In fact it went so smoothly, I don’t know why I
worried myself to death over it. I had expected the airport to be as
disorganised, chaotic and dirty as Cairo airport, but the toilets were
gleaming, we only waited 15 mins to get our Kenyan visas ($50) and our bags
were waiting on the carousel. We strolled into the arrival hall and were
immediately asked if we wanted a taxi. We couldn’t be bothered to haggle so
it cost Ksh1500 to the centre of Nairobi.
The weather was a wonderful, cool 70F and we drove past vast plains of
scrubland dotted with stunted trees where the occasional shepherd herded his
cattle. Our taxi driver was a jolly fellow who obviously wanted to take us
on a tour. He pointed out the new U.S. embassy that was built after the
terrorist bombing in 1998 and the ramshackle Kenyan National Museum. We
declined the tour but chatted about Kenyan athletes in the Commonwealth
Games, David Beckham and Manchester United.
Nairobi itself has a shabby and derelict feel but is teeming with people all
trying to make a living. We arrived at Sirona Hotel and immediately noticed
the security on the gate. Our room had bars on the windows but was not
worth the $40 per night by any stretch of the imagination. There was no hot
water and yukky bedspreads.
We popped out down the road to send email from the Kenyan School of
Professional Studies, surrounded by wealthier Kenyan students. The fruit
here is gorgeous – we bought some bananas from the local street vendors and
tasted the most amazing mangoes and passionfruit. Fruit never tasted this
good back home.
That evening, we met most of the people on our trip and discovered that two
trucks would be running in parallel down of Victoria Falls.
Don’t send any hate mail, but we had already decided that we did not want to
be on the truck with the Aussie vet group (I have nothing against Aussies or
vets in general). They had all met during the foot and mouth crisis in the
U.K. and were very ‘cliquely’, continually sharing private jokes and
drinking as much beer as physically possible.
Everyone else seemed fine on first impression – most had done a lot of
travelling before and some had even done organised overland trips