This is the second post about our trip to Africa in March 2016. We spent two weeks in Uganda teaching in a village school, and then had just four days in Nairobi – but very full days!
Departure from Entebbe airport featured a very strange security check which we also endured at Nairobi on the way out. I’m still trying to figure out what its usefulness is. Basically, as you are driving into the airport, all the passengers need to leave the vehicle and go through a metal detector, then get back in the car and drive in to the car park or drop off zone. Maybe there will be the occasional terrorist who forgets to leave his bomb or gun in the car and gets caught, but it seems unlikely.
Anyway, with not too much of a delay at immigration, we were met in Nairobi by Nate and Joie for a ride across town to their beautiful home near Rosslyn Academy, where Nate works. A good sleep, and it was time to meet the family over breakfast. Will and Annie had grown, and Kajsa and Peter had appeared since we said farewell to them at Woodstock.
Our first day there was Sunday, so with it being Nate’s only free day, we were treated to a day out at Crescent Island Game Park – “where you walk with the animals”. And, indeed, we did – giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, gazelles and.. sheep. All in a beautiful mix of African savannah (complete with acacia trees) and open forest. Definitely a highlight. On the way we got great views of the Rift Valley from a road along the escarpment.
Day two, and a morning walk in the local Karuna forest. I guess not manycitieshavethis kind of wild area within their borders, with miles of forest paths and a pleasant double waterfall as a focal point. Big enough to get lost in, so we did, walking a bit further than planned and only just getting Kajsa to preschool in time for her afternoon session. I must confess, I fell asleep after lunch, and didn’t quite revive in time to go and watch the basketball match at Rosslyn – Dot filled in for me. It did give me a chance to finish editing my Uganda video, though, so I wasn’t completely lazy.
That evening we had a meal out at a local Ethiopian restaurant. Yummy.
Day three, Tuesday – time to hit the big city and find those markets. It’s about 10 kilometers from the Burchells’ house to the centre of town, but it took about an hour and a half to claw our way through the traffic – probably the worst I’ve seen anywhere, to be honest. We struck lucky and found a multi-storey car park at the InterContinental Hotel, right in the city centre, so that worked out well. From there it was a fifteen-minute walk to the Maasai Market, just by the bus station. (I mention that because no one seems very clear where it is on any particular day. So – Tuesday: bus station.) Of course, it was just what you’d expect, in a positive sort of way: plenty of wood carvings, painted soapstone dishes, beads, paintings and the ubiquitous tee shirts. (“I’m your boyfriend, not your ATM”; “Keep Calm – You’re Kenyan”.) We got some nice stuff to supplement what we bought at the Frickadellen in Uganda.
After that it was a snack in the Swahili Restaurant. I was tempted by matoke, but stuck with a masala omelette), and a quick flip round the indoor City Market before heading home.
Day four, Wednesday – glass factory, and a nice lunch. Joie was keen to keep the kids off school and visit the Kitengela Hot Glass factory on the other side of Nairobi, not far from the National Park. 36 kilometers, and Google maps laughingly estimates 1 hour 13 minutes (or 1 hour 09 minutes without traffic). After three hours we arrived. We lost about 25 minutes down an unmade road by missing a sign, but the rest of it was just a mixture of horrendous traffic and driving the last 5k or so over roads made up of dumped and levelled rocks (much too big to be called gravel).
Worth it, though: fantastic to watch the glass being blown and shaped in a huge, domed building, with a shaft of sunlight focusing down from the open chimney 50 feet above our heads, Magical. So we bought a couple of glasses for our Friday night wine treat – a great memory.
Utamaduni Craft Shop was in the same sort of area, and was highly recommended, so we went there for lunch. Good food, great setting, but the crafts were way more expensive than the market.
So that was it – four great days in Nairobi. Definitely a place we would return to, but the roads are a real downer – getting anywhere is a massive undertaking in terms both of time and the energy needed to crawl and dodge through the traffic. On the other hand, it’s beautifully temperate, sunny, and abounding in beautiful vegetation and birdlike. I think I could be persuaded to fly south for the winter.
And thanks to Nate and Joie for the great hospitality. You – and all our other Woodstock friends – are welcome to stay with us anytime. We don’t have a glass factory – but there’s a Shell refinery. And no wildlife park – but there’s Chester Zoo!