Jambo from Nairobi
Trip Start Aug 21, 2009
52Trip End Nov 09, 2009
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We made it to Nairobi on time and better still, so did our luggage. We arrived on Saturday at 7 PM Nairobi time (Kenya is actually 9 hours ahead of Edmonton, not 10, so it was 10 AM Edmonton time when we arrived). Weather was a comfortable 20 C (68 F) on arrival. Even though Nairobi is just about on the equator, it rarely gets above 26 C (79 F), with lows generally around 12 C (54 F). This is due to its higher elevation. At 1660 m. (5450 ft.), it is almost 2.5 times higher in elevation than Edmonton which is at 668 m. (2190 ft.)
First impressions are always notable. The arrival in Nairobi was chaotic. The airport is small with very labour intensive and antiquated processes and few facilities – kind of like the Edmonton airport when it opened in the 1960s. It is overwhelmed and can not efficiently handle the number of visitors coming to Africa via Nairobi. Our flight with over 400 passengers, a lot of whom who are working with education facilities, churches or church groups, arrived at the same time as a flight from London's Heathrow airport and another from Dubai. There were already other flights from Johannesburg and Zanzibar being processed. That said, the staff were very polite, well spoken and helpful.
We also had several very postive impressions. We were having a few Tuskers, a local beer, by the pool last night and had a great conversation with the local waiter, a very nice gentlemen named Geoffrey. He was well versed in global economics and climate change, with what Kenya has done and still needs to do to improve its own situation in the area of climate change, environmentalism and recycling, the issues and people involved in US politics, and even has a relative that lives in Winnipeg (but we'll forgive him for that). Geoffrey is a good example of many of the people that we have met and to since our arrival -- well spoken, friendly and respectful, apparently well educated, very knowledgeable about global events and well dressed. Many people think that Africa is a backward and ignorant country but we are quickly finding out that in Nairobi at least, the reverse is true. Their problem is perhaps trying to catch up too quickly with the West and this too can cause problems of its own.
Today we had lunch at the famous Carnivore Restaurant. It is known for serving wild game – buffalo, giraffe, gazelle, impala, wildebeest, zebra, and crocodile – grilled over a charcoal fire. Waiters carry the sizzling meat to your table on long skewers and carve whatever you like onto the cast-ron platters that serve as plates. There are various sauces such as fruit salsa to enhance the taste buds. The house drink is called dawa, a Swahili word for “medicine” and it is a blend of vodka, honey and lime prepared by a smiling man in a poncho of colorful kikoi cloth. We had 15 diffferent meat dishes including ostrich meat balls and it was delicious. We've included the following photos of Rose having a turkey and Boyd having a portion of lamb sliced off.
We met the three others who will be traveling with us on the safari portion. You got to be kidding me . We travel half way around the world to end up traveling with people from just 300 km away. Yes, they are from Calgary – a couple and their 13-year old daughter, who live in the Mackenzie district. The Edmonton-Calgary rivalry is no doubt going to flourish.
The world shrinks even more. We met another group which is doing the same safari itinerary as ourselves except they will be staying solely in lodges whereas we are staying in a combination of lodges and permanent tented camps. This group of 6 is from Sherwood Park and Rose knows 2 of the people in that group (of course).
Nairobi, which means “cool water” in the language of the Masai, is the capital of Kenya and is a bustling city of almost 3 million people where colonial buildings mix with modern skyscrapers. On the way in from the Carnivore Restaurant we saw tin roofed shanties right across the street from a brand new gated community, really contrasting the difference in affluence among some of the locals. Yet they both seem to co-exist in harmony.
Nairobi has had a troubled past and crime has been on the rise such that the capital's moniker has become “Nairobbery” and these factors have contributed to constraining their development on a quicker pace. Tensions and fighting between rival tribal groups has also restrained Kenya's ability to move quicker in a progressive fashion. One such example is the violence that occurred over the 2007 election where supporters of the incumbent president's tribe, the Kikuyu, clashed with those of the opposition leader's Luo tribe over the fairness of the election. More than 1,000 people were killed and more than 60,000 people displaced in the ensuing violence.
There are more than 70 ethnic groups in Kenya that range from the Masai, Samburu, Kikuyu and Turkana tribes to the Arabs and Indians that settled more on the coast. Descendants of the first white settlers settled in and around Nairobi and the Kenya highlands. About 40% of the population in Nairobi is Kikuyu.
There is an old African proverb that goes like this:
Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up.
It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed.
Every morning a lion wakes up.
It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death.
It doesn't matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle.
When the sun comes up, you better start running.
Tomorrow, like the gazelle and the lion, when the sun comes up we are off and running on our safari.
Where I stayed