|Traveller Home Africa|
The plane landed five hours later - hard. It jolted me out of my sleep, making me instantly nauseous, forcing me to run to the back to boot in the plane's loo. The stewardesses kept telling me to get back in my seat as I was running past them to be sick. I voted to ignore them.
We deplaned and queued up for immigration, and it was then that I realized I was still quite drunk from the previous evening's activities. My drunken state was slowly turning into a hangover, so after immigration we shared a cab into town with Cameron and Tracey. I wasn't too drunk/hungover (or the gray area in between) to watch the country introduce itself to us as we made the twenty minute drive into the city center. I remember whizzing past a field covered in brown scrub grass, open for miles, with a couple of lone trees sitting right in the middle of it all. Plus, these were the kind of trees one pictures when one says Kenya - not just any old trees. The sun was slowly coming up over the land as we made our way into the downtown area. There were trees blooming with flowers, wide two land divided roads and big buildings. There was that definite British influence in everything, the street signs, the shops, I could actually feel the left over colonial influence in the country before we'd actually taken a walk around. Cameron and Tracey knew of a hotel, the Iqubar Hotel, so we checked in as well. I immediately went to sleep to try to race my incredible hangover; I wanted to be asleep before it hit me, and I could tell it was a lulu coming on.
I woke up a few hours later, a bit parched, so Rich fired up out handy portable water filter we'd brought for our tour. After a few liters of water we went for a walk through Nairobi. Nairobi is so modern; much more than I'd been expecting. The British influence is very predominant - the spelling, the road signs, just everything. We walked a bit and ended up at the main Immigration office, for we needed to get re-entry permits for the second time we'd be coming to Kenya in January. Immigration was a very long, slow process but we finally got our permits issued. The officer requested copies of our plane tickets so we had to go around the corner to get a photocopy made. Well the African have no idea how to form a line or act civil in any way, shape or form. It's every man for himself. The window where got photocopies was mobbed with locals, each fighting with one another to get to the front of the line. Rich dove into this chaos and emerged a little bruised, but he had the copies we needed. From immigration it was to the travel agent to have our tickets changed, for we were supposed to fly out that afternoon to Harare, Zimbabwe.
We walked around the city a bit, and boy did it feel different. For the first time I actually knew first hand what it was like for a black person to be alone in a room full of whites, for now it was exactly the opposite scenario with Rich and I in this huge African city. The only thing about this city is I didn't feel relaxed at all; the locals didn't seem too friendly to us.
There are many, many shops, cafes and hotels around the city. We ate in this cafeteria-type shop, the food which gave me diarrhea later. Back to the hotel where we caught a showing of whatever English movie was playing at the theater next door. It was one of those really good movies, so good that I don't remember the title, but Beverly D'Angelo was in it, and the sound was so bad that Rich and I had to practice our lip reading ability to keep up with the slow moving plot.
Slept in the hotel, but it was so loud that both of us kept being awakened by all the locals screaming out in the hallway. I remember at one point someone was jiggling the door handle and pushing on the door like they were really trying to break in. The hotel wasn't that nice at all - in face none of the toilets had toilet seats, not that I expected them to, but they were really disgusting to even hover near.
31st October 1992, Halloween, Nairobi, Kenya -
I'm sitting here on the porch of our lodge we've moved into for the next couple of days. It's sunny and I'm surrounded by loads of travelers. Our lodge has a huge open yard, and if you go looking for them you'll find chameleons on the branches of the bushes. Rich is doing his laundry and I'm just trying to relax. Let's see, what did we have to go through to get here . . .
We'd heard about a place called Ma Roche's out in one of the Nairobi suburbs which was supposed to be heaps better than the grubby old Iqubar Hotel. to get out there we were introduced to the Kenyan matatu, which is a van with benches in the back that runs a regular route through Nairobi. There are two workers - one who drives, and the other who smashes as many people into the back and collects the money for the ride. It only costs KSh 5 (US$.07) to go along one of the routes and they go virtually all over the city - you can get almost anywhere. Ma Roche is this well fed Polish woman who's got a house situated on a rather large plot of land. She's built a lodge, complete with porch out behind the main house, which is the dorm the wayward travelers all flop out in, If you've got a tent the huge back yard is your campground - there were quite a few tents around - the rule is that you can set it up anywhere you please. It was a really nice setup, plus now we were surrounded by tons of people who had been traveling through East Africa for so long - some of who have been at Ma Roche's for four months!
We were in Africa, and hence the jay fay lived on this continent in abundance. Everyone in this lodge smoked tons, and sitting on the porch for all to use was the largest tupperware bowl, full of pot - the most I've ever seen anywhere. We had a smoke upon arrival; this hippie dude with long brown hair got us high then showed me around the grounds - specifically pointing out nine of the twenty chameleons that live in the garden, and the huge moth hanging out on the side of a tree.
Rich and I talked to the people staying there, and every single one of them had a story about being robbed in Nairobi or just in Kenya. Here's the abridged list Rich and I came up with in the airport waiting for our flight to Zimbabwe:
1. Nairobi - Blond girl (UK) - Robbed at knifepoint, twice. Threatened of being shot by man with gun.
2. Mombassa - White Guy 25yrs (approx) - 8:30 a.m. Mombassa train station, broad daylight, many people around. Six guys with knives take his pack, shoes & socks. Make him take down his pants so they could get his under the clothes money belt, in addition to the one tied around the traveler's upper thigh.
3. Kenyan/Ugandan Border - White Guy (ex-pat banana farmer in Uganda)- Shanghaied - He met some Kenyans who he went out for beer/food with. He ate with them, then doesn't remember anything else. Woke up 36 hours later in Nairobi (some 300 miles off); some of his stuff gone. Had a wicked five day drug hangover when I met him.
4. Nairobi - American couple - 5:00 a.m. Americans are Somali relief workers. Woman grabbed around the neck and dragged to the ground; thieves took all her stuff, and her husband's as well.
We learned from this Australian girl who had just arrived in Kenya to work in the Somalian relief camps, that the Australian High Commission was considering issuing a traveler's advisory for Australians traveling to Kenya. Australians go to every country in the world, and if their embassy thought about issuing a statement like that you know it's getting pretty bad.
1st November 1993, Nairobi, Kenya -
We decided to venture out of the compound today to have a look at Nairobi some more, but not without a larger group this time. The first time Rich and I went walking we were on our own, and when we began to wander into an area where we the people didn't seem as tolerant as they were on other street blocks I protested and told Rich I wouldn't go any farther. That was before we'd heard about the crime in "Nairobbery".
We'd met this American dude from Santa Monica who's been living at Ma Roche's for the past four months. He wanted to go see a matinee movie, then head over to the Modern Green Bar for a few beers after. The dude was huge, wore cowboy boots, and had the attitude to match. He also told us stories about him getting jumped and how the would-be thieves got nothing because he fought them off with his karate moves - O.K. a movie and a locals bar in Nairobi? Only as long as I was with this guy, who'd be an excellent bodyguard in the Green Bar.
Headed out with some other travelers and this Californian guy, then after the first run showing of "Weekend at Bernie's" the other travelers left and it was only Rich and I with the other Yank. We hung out in the cafe of the Thorntree Hotel where we met these two girls (Australian and Danish) who had just arrived in Nairobi and were about to start work in the Somalian relief/refugee camps here in Kenya. We invited them to the Green Bar, then we made the short walk to the place. I'd heard about this place - it's a locals bar and evidently people get rather messy and physical here, hence the huge rod iron cage surrounding the bar in the corner so absolutely no one from the customer side of the bar could touch or maul the bartender. To buy a beer you walk up there, stuff your money through the hole in the cage, then your beer appears, along with your change.
We went through the crowded room out the side door into a small outdoor seating area which was already full. Our American buddy introduced us to this Kenyan who was sitting with a group of people, singing and playing his acoustical guitar. They'd found out all four of us (with the American "local") had just arrived in Kenya, so they sang a few songs in Swahili welcoming us to their country. 'Jambo! Jambo!' (Welcome! Welcome!). It gave us a look at the Kenyan culture - if not just a brief glance. Everyone in the bar knew the songs, so they all joined in and sang along. It rather reminded me of the warm, welcome feeling the Scots have when you're with them in Britain.
We stayed for a couple of beers, but then the sun started to go down so we had to get in a matatu and be back at Ma Roche's before dark. NO white people are in downtown Nairobi after dark. Back to the lodge, then a quick 10 minute walk up the road from Ma's place there was a locals eatery where we had cabbage stew, amid all the flies that were sharing our table with us. Dinner, a wee smoke, then off to bed.