A Travellerspoint blog

Nairobi

Itsa not so bad, not so bad a place.

sunny 20 °C

Having learnt a lot about short trip matatu fares over the past few days the voyage from the lake to Naivasha town cost one fifth of what we had paid in the opposite direction. Before jumping onto a Nairobi bound matatu we walked around town and took care of a few small things in the process.

Nairobi's reputation preceded itself so I decided to familiarise myself with our map of Nairobi before we arrived. Back in Naivasha we had made the decision to stay out in the suburb of Karen, primarily because I was asked to visit Karen Blixen's house by my uncle Bob, who as a 50 something, blokey, Australian farmer has an unhealthy obsession with "Out of Africa". The buses to Karen left from the opposite side of the city to where we arrived so we passed through the heart of the city on our way there. In the middle I felt like I was, for the first time since arriving in Africa 4 months earlier, in a developed city. The streets were clean, the buildings modern, there were pedestrian walkways and all varieties of luxury facilities. Despite having come to Africa because it was so different from Australia we were drawn in by one of the many cafes that appeared to be popular with the city's middle class.

After lunch we finished crossing the CBD and found a bus with a printed sign reading "Karen" in the window. We passed the Nairobi National Park before disembarking at my request about 1km too early. We walked down the wrong road for way too long before being turned away by a security at the gates of the university we had accidentally walked to. Jumping to my own defence only half the roads were actually marked on the map. I was tired and hot but after a little dummy spit and some soothing words from Dianne (these came after her first ones which where critical and precipitated my cranky crack) we walked back to the main road. This was the moment where we became familiar with the pimped out Nairobi matatu scene. The windows are tinted darker than Guinness but once the doors open you fall straight down the rabbit hole. The seats, roof and most other surfaces are covered chesterfield style, bling is draped from anything capable of hanging a chain, the sound system seems capable of making the car bounce and there is at least one TV screening DVDs of hip hop film clips. Even if you can understand the language you can't hear the conductor. Our "ghetto" ride dropped us at the Karen shopping centre where European chains like Mango gave away the fact that we had entered the wealthy, expat dominated part of the country.

It looked like a good sized walk to get to our chosen camp site but due to minimal public transport it was that or a taxi. The direct route was not marked on our map but we were sure that the two roads that looked like they came together off the map would do so. A couple of kilometres later we found that they didn't, well not that we could see. By the time that we got back to the shopping centre we had already walked close to double figures with our packs and opted for the first unnecessary taxi ride of our trip. The book had noted that the camp site was in a quite area but where we were dropped was the back of beyond not to mention expensive, so after all that we had been through to get there we left straight after knocking back an ice cold coke.

We where relatively near Karen Blixen's house so we lugged our bags for another few kilometres until we got there. We were met by an entry five times what we had expected so we didn't go inside but to see the grounds was free so I took a few photos for my uncle. For those that have seen Out of Africa it is weird to see this house in the outskirts of the capital city, her then acreage is now a suburb in its own right.

We caught a city bus from Karen Blixen's old driveway back to the main road. I shouldn't have been so surprised to see that even the local bus had a DVD player. After two more short hops we arrived at a more agreeable camp site. We pitched the tent, cleaned ourselves up, grabbed a beer and put on our best jeans and flip flops. After relaxing for a while and playing with the resident cats we took some matatus to a restaurant called "Carnivore". A fancy looking place renowned for serving mounds of meat and not much else. According to the guide book it had been voted into the top fifty restaurants in the world a few times in years gone. Unfortunately the real draw of the restaurant, exotic game meats, were off the menu. Still I ate no less than ten varieties of carne including ostrich and crocodile. In the middle of the table was a triple decker lazy susan which was burdened with a variety of small salads and a different sauce for each meat. By the time we had left I was bursting at the seams. It was a long walk back to the main road with me stopping every 50 metres to crouch down and hold back my vomit, at least I got more value from my dinner than Di. We made it back to camp just after 9pm, which, due to safety concerns we had been told was the cut-off time for walking and taking public transport.

The next morning we made our way to the main gates of Nairobi National Park. We had hoped to hitch a ride with some self-driven tourists but there were scarcely any in Kenya and certainly none where we were. We didnĀ“t take long to abandon the idea. Instead we opted to return on a Sunday when there was a free bus. As a subsitutute we visited the Nature Walk which was actually a poor zoo. We were shown around by an intern who seemed to know less than the signs and took the tour at her speed, not ours. The enclosures were shitty but there were some pretty unique animals inside including pigmy hippos, albino zebras and a white rhino. The guide was curt and a hinderance on our visit. We had probably not even finished half the circuit when she started to bring up money and tell us how rich we were. Despite all of this we gave her a tip which equates to half a days wages for a lot of Kenyans. She was dissapointed and angry, we felt confused and awkward. She looked like she may cry but not knowing what to do we walked away. Despite her show of emotion my guilt was running low, she was going to college, well fed and better dressed than the over 95% of Kenyans.

We caught the most bouncing matatu yet into downtown Nairobi. After booking some tickets for a night bus to Mombassa we dropped off our bags and lapped up civilisation.

Posted by jaredlking 02:52 Archived in Kenya Tagged backpacking

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