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.