Travelling to Kenya and my first day in Nairobi

I had managed to pack a months worth of stuff into one 65l rucksack and a small cross-body crochet day bag. Wearing faded brown combats, trainers, a loose tank top and khaki hoodie I definitely looked like a backpacker!

I love flying BA but this one was not up to their usual high standard. The plane took off almost an hour late and the AC system couldn’t cope – we had all been on board an hour and a half before it finally cooled down and I stopped sweating. Once it was a comfortable temperature I realised my TV didn’t show the movies option – I was relying on BA’s inflight entertainment for the 8 hour flight! I ate my burnt pasta whilst waiting for the TV resets to see if that worked. After two hours the flight attendant moved me to sit next to a begrudging lady who made it clear through body language and questioning she was not pleased to have me next to her. The lady then said she felt ill and needed to stretch out, another flight attendant found me a different seat but on further questioning it turned out the lady just had a headache, she refused medication and continued working, reading and editing pages of writing so I stayed where I was until the movie finished. Good timing as the back of the seat pinged loudly and popped out of place, just as the seatbelt sign came on and we went through a patch of turbulence. Rather uncomfortable and with an hour and a half left of the flight I moved back to my original (unbroken) seat and sat watching people move around the plane. I had noticed one of the girls I was next to had a cold but it seemed as though the other had also become ill, coughing frequently. She was scratching her head so ferociously in the same place I wondered if she might have nits. Lean away, lean away…

Due to a fire at Nairobi airport a few months back, we had to load onto a transfer bus to the arrivals terminal. I accidentally got punched hard in the nose by an airport steward who was pointing at the crowd behind me with his clenched fist gripping a walkie talkie – can today be over with yet?

After what seemed ages, I got my Kenya visa at 50 bucks. Their visas must be a great source of income since America can do a 1 year visa for $14 and this is only valid 90 days. A white guy in the queue advised me against going out to the giraffe centre on my own ‘because it’s just not safe’ and I’d see loads of giraffes later on anyway. ‘But what about the baby orphan elephants?’ I found myself thinking, I really wanted to see them.

Outside arrivals a row of hand written signs met me, and I spotted the small scrappy rectangle of orange paper with black marker letters spelling out the company name and my name. I’m not sure what I was expecting, maybe something more professional? I cut a lone figure in the middle of the car park waiting for Joshua, the local rep, to bring the van round – I wondered if he had left me he was gone so long.

It was about 20km to the hotel in Nairobi (I say hostel) and I noted they drive on the same side of the road as the UK and quite fast which I felt at home with.

Room 201 was basic, with two double bunks and a bathroom with a lovely hot shower. I had visions of having to wander down a corridor to access a bathroom so I was pleased for $25 cost.

Left on my own in the room, perched on the edge of the bed nearest the bedside table and lamp, I’ve never felt so alone as I did right then. I sat wondering what to do, feeling unsettled, wary and wanting friends and familiarity. I got ready for bed, deciding in an early night (well, early for the UK 3 hrs behind – it was gone midnight here) was best. Rucksack piled on the end of the bed, bag and contents next to my pillow and clothes and trainers stashed away for safe keeping in the bedside table, I began to wonder if I could cope with the situation I’d willingly dropped myself into. Having forgotten to ask about wifi, I felt cut off from everything I know. I looked out of the window and was surprised to realise it was raining. I clambered into a hard bed – do I need to put down the mosquito nets or not?

The next morning I had a lay in since I was not going to visit the Giraffe Centre and David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust on my own. Such a shame but the hotel had said it was unsafe to even just stand outside so there was no way I was going to attempt a day trip or visit the bureau de change around the corner.

I ate yesterday’s sandwich and snack bar, and bought Coke and water from the hotel (fortunately they take US dollars). I found a balcony I could sit on and watch the activities below me. Groups of young men hanging around, police directing traffic, beeping, conversations, and people walking up and down the rather dilapidated street going about their business. Men in the street looked up at me on the balcony as I sat thinking about the large amount of security staff the hotel had.

Orientation is at 5pm and I’m looking forward to meeting the rep, my fellow travellers and getting this adventure out of Nairobi and on the road!


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