The airport is plain but serviceable, though very warm. I was too slow out the door and ended up near the back of the visa queue, At lease in Nairobi you get your visa at the same time as going through immigration control.
Once through, I was picked up by the arranged airport transfer and taken to my hotel. I was struck by how much Nairobi at night reminded me of Lagos. The bright billboards, the traffic, the many places offering signwriting; but most of all the air. Something about it said Africa and made me feel just a little homesick for Nigeria.
After rapid checking at the hotel, I dropped my bags off in the room and immediately found the bar for a nice cold Tusker beer on the veranda to watch the world go by and get my head into the holiday.
It was somewhat peculiar being there, at least in part because it had been so long since I’d last had a holiday that I’d forgotten what it is to decompress. I was still very conscious of work, but subconsciously glad the hotel did not have free wifi.
It was also because for the last three years I’d been going on holiday with the same associate, and we’d to hang out in Nairobi for a couple of days together before the tour started and I was now at a loose end because he’d been unable to come on tour.
I was asked by the barman where I was from. One of the things I’ve had pointed out to me is that Londoners, when asked what country they are from, almost always answer “London” rather than England. It is an interesting personality quirk from the inhabitants of the greatest city in the world. We can’t help but boast a little bit…
A final moment of African homesickness hit on my final beer when a power-cut plunged us all into darkness.
I woke early because the hotel starts cleaning early. Housekeeping tried to come in at 8:45 to clean my room. I was proud of how politely I asked them to leave. The shower was excellent, hot, and large. Looking back, I didn’t appreciate it as much as I should have.
I headed down to the restaurant for a large free breakfast. It was decent, bacon, sausage, eggs and very very good coffee.
At ten, I met the driver from the night before, who tried to railroad me into spending the day with him, which would have cost me $70.00 as well as the entrance fees for the various parks he was suggesting. It seemed very much on the expensive side, so I told him no, which seemed to surprise him.
I spent a while reading my book at the hotel bar until lunchtime when I sat down to a local chicken stew that was excellent.
Once up the following day, I showered and washed my clothes to ensure I had as much clean as possible with me on the safari and then headed into Nairobi Town.
I took very few photos, as once in the area, I felt very uncomfortable. I was already standing out, and adding an expensive camera like mine to the mix would have screamed “Rich Tourist, rob him”.
The first bank I attempted to withdraw money from declined my card. This made me extremely nervous, as I had very little cash at this point. The second was fine however and I breathed a very large sigh of relief.
From the bank, I started to explore and wandered around town. I was underwhelmed by Nairobi. There were crowded dirty shops and grungy cafes. A handful of nicer chains existed.
It was then I was scammed, which for a former resident of Lagos is hugely embarrassing! “Emmanuel” started chatting to me on the street telling me he was going to Reading university next September to complete his qualifications as a doctor. He walked with me, and we were chatting and ultimately we sat down at a fast-food café for a coffee, and then the story came out. I was, at this point a little suspicious, but his English was so excellent he claims of wanting to go to Reading seemed feasible. He claimed he’d come from Zimbabwe and had escaped a massacre and needed money to get to Rwanda. I gave him $20.00 as I’d enjoyed the conversation to that point and was not as skeptical as I should have been. I made it clear the twenty was all he was getting from me.
It was then that the “secret policeman” arrived. He wanted to talk to me and the dissident.
When dealing with con artists, it is important to do the unexpected. I, politely, got up and said “Apologies gentlemen, it is time for me to leave, pivoted smoothly to swing my camera bag onto my back, and walked away briskly. There was shock and silence behind me.
In a scam like this, depending on the authority of the police, they are prepared for people falling in line, as that is the normal response to authority, perhaps being indignant about being confronted but unsure of themselves because Kenya is not their home. They are also prepared to run if you call them on it. They were not prepared for a polite dismissal of their whole scheme.
Fed up with scammers, as Emmanuel wasn’t the only one to try, he was just the only one to be successful, I headed back to the hotel for lunch and a beer.
After lunch, I chilled out at the bar reading for a while. The only other people there were a pretty blond girl and her father. (or wildly age-inappropriate lover).
“Are you a Doctor?” the older gentleman asked the barman.
He had been served a glass of wine with a white residue at the bottom and had been told it was harmless. Never before had I encountered anyone who willingly drank wine from a box be so fussy about its quality.
After the entertainment, I went back to the pool for a nice swim and sunbathe before grabbing my book and journal and coming back to the bar for the evening.
I was greeted with:
“Ah! You are back! Welcome! The usual?”
One day at the hotel, and I already had a usual…
Whilst sitting at the bar, the heavens opened and my almost dry laundry became a real problem for the morning.
As alluded to, today there were mosquitoes at the bar. For the uninitiated in west African slang, Mosquitoes is a nickname for those girls who hang out at ex-pat or tourist bars looking for free drinks, cigarettes, or anything else. They’ll come back to your room if you are interested as well, though it will cost you. The name comes from the fact they will suck you dry if you let them. It is also a reminder, like mosquitoes, they may be contagious.
The ones that this bar tried their luck with a guy who bought all three of them beers for a few hours and then moved on to an old South African gent who had the last laugh as he’d paid his bar bill in advance so no freebies were coming.