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Our world Travel On 10th May 2007 I fled the UK on a journey around the world with a long list of places to go. Got as far as the Philippines where I met my wife. We got married on 11th May 2010 and are now sharing the experiences of travelling the world together

Kenya - Part 1

UNITED KINGDOM | Wednesday, 11 July 2007 | Views [3593] | Comments [1]

Mon 2nd July - Moving on day. Tomorrow another country. Mainly in the morning getting sorted and trying desperately to get rid of excess baggage. When I came to check out found another tax lurking around. So, you pay 12.5% service charge + 10% Sales tax + 2% city tax. 25% doesn't half make a difference to the bill! No real issues getting to cairo airport, but once there, chaos. Partly due to there being a major football match on and the whole of check-in was frozen solid. It was amazing that flights were scheduled and not the slightest bit of interest in putting passengers on them. I was in the queue for 1hr and moved three people. Once they realised that people were breaking out into warfare in panic they summoned bodies from everywhere to help. I was near the front when a major hoohah broke out and they tried to drag me into it. I burst out laughing which they didn't appreciate. I ended up shoving one guy to the back of the queue cos he was annoying everyone and thought cos he was local it allowed him to queue jump. Something I will not tolerate, especially after the hassle of getting that far.The madness continued for some time and baggage got checked in so ran to find some peace and quiet. Flight turned out ok. Nice company en-route with a guy Maik who was a linguistics lecturer at Nairobi university. Learned a lot about the kenyan languages and lots of useful travel tips for the area.

Never can sleep on planes. So much easier if I could. On landing, paid my $50 kenyan visa. Another occasion when they scowl a lot then give it to you anyway. Another currency to get to grips with now. The kenyan shilling. About 134 to the pound so no easy maths to work things out. 1200 Ksh for taxi into the city organised by tourist information and driven by the really friendly ube (pron oobee). Gave me a bit of sightseeing tour to get my bearings on the way there. Really appreciated at 5am or so - Not! Couldn't refuse his offer could I. Into hotel and straight to bed knackered.

Tues 3rd July - A few objectives today. Now prior to coming here, everyone said how much they didn't like Nairobi and how dangerous it was. To be honest, everywhere has its issues. You just have to be sensible . I found everyone really friendly. Yes they are poor but I felt safe by day. It makes sense to follow some basic advice - 1) don't go walking after dark on your own. 2) don't take photograph s as cameras make you stand out too much 3) dress down to blend in if possible. 4) Always leave your valuables in the hotel safety deposit box. 5) treat others as you want to be treated. If you are pleasant then they will return the pleasantries. So I pruned right down and went walkies. It surprised me how many telecoms shops there were. African music blasting out from shops as you pass. It's a wonderful sound and puts a spring in your step. The other piece of advice is to look confident and avoid eye contact if you don't want to be hassled. Without exception, everyone you look at will try to sell you a tour or his daughter or both! Basic sums 'white face=money'.

Stocked up on anti-malarials at less than quarter the uk price! Prescribed in the uk but over the counter here (doxycycline). Advised by the pharmasist to take 3 per day - the uk advice is 1 per day (100mg) otherwise you can go nuts. She obviously doesn't like the brits! All this done in the dark as we had a power cut. Normal for these parts.

Bought an african SIM from celtel for the princely sum of £1. Texts cost 7p. Brilliant. Subsequently found the same sim for 40p on the market. Oh well.

The highlight of the day was the masai market across the road from the hotel which happens most tuesdays so great timing. This was awesome. The quality of the crafts was superb. Bought a kenyan woven shirt for 700Ksh which I wore for dinner in the evening. Chuffed with it. This market was guaranteed to put a smile on any face if you have the right attitude. They hassle you a bit but nothing extreme. I sat down to chat with a few and they were great to talk to. Got them to explain some of their heritage - brill! Had some sugar cane to boost the energy. They just peel off the outer, cut it into chunks and then chew it. You get raw sucrose coming out. Just don't swallow the remaining pulp, spit it out. Very sweet and nice. Washed it down with a stoney tangawizi - a kind of ginger drink. Refreshing and not sweet. Actually made locally for coca cola. 30Ksh a bottle. A local guy Alexander attached himself to me at some stage and was really nice to talk to. Of course he wanted me to buy something from his stall, and his brother's stall, and his great uncle's...oh, and he also tried to sell me a young kenyan Girl. Am I attracting these people or what (refer back to morocco for details). I had to be polite of course and take a look at her. To be honest, preferred the massai blanket she was sat on.Time to exit Alexander's company and go back to the hotel for a pot of coffee and take stock of the morning. Met up with Rita who I had seen briefly at breakfast, a lady from

Denmark and spent an hour or so chatting about her experiences in mozambique and malawi plus lots of other stuff. Very interesting to talk with. She later joined me for dinner to carry on the conversation. Had tilapia fish which was nice with lemon, washed down with some nice red wine. She went off to bed early, so I went and chatted to a local girl Caroline about stuff. 29yrs old with a beauty products business. Good end to the evening. No sleep at all for over 36hrs so knackered. Tomorrow off to mombasa in the evening.

Wed 4th July - over breakfast chatted to a lady from Paris who was over for a conference on women and AIDS education. This is a prominent topic for obvious reasons and she was involved in a specific project in Cameroon. Lack of education in general being the major issue in Africa. Said she had lived in london for 2yrs and decided to leave the uk cos she thought the people weren't that friendly. Might have been the english /french thing, who knows as she was a really pleasant person.

Anyway, went walkies again to the Jevangee gardens close to the hotel. Sat on a funky shaped sprung metal seat there for an hour observing the rantings of some very animated eclesiastical style preachers who jump up and down alot (shame no photos). This is also the place where the local workers must come to escape the rat race on the streets (by the way they drive on the left here). Haven't seen a white face on the streets all morning, which makes me realise how I stick out, but feel safe anyway. Odd feeling sat here in that I wish I was with someone else, but I wouldn't have talked to half the people I have if I was. Have learnt a lot over past couple of months as a result.

Checked out of meridian later and got a taxi to the railway station. Forgot that it would be peak time in Nairobi. Traffic was chaos and was a bit worried that having had loads of time I was now going to be late. Anyway it came good in the end and got there in plenty of time. Found out that I next had to queue up in the ticket office to get a boarding pass, which tells you where you have been allocated. Now there were a number of us there and we were all told to stand in a particular line until 6pm when we would get our passes. 6pm came and went and I called to the guy behind the grille, are you sure we should be standing here. No, you should be over there. Flurry of curses, with him beaming from ear to ear as we all scrambled to another desk. His little joke I guess! Anyway, Coach 1224 compartment D. Given a ticket for 1st dinner sitting and waited on the platform. Chatted to a bunch of travellers whilst waiting. Guy from England working in Dar es salaam, gap year students, a couple of doctors from Bristol, pharmasist from New zealand working in Rwanda to name a few. Train arrived 20min before due to depart and a scramble to get our places. Had a compartment to myself so good. No lights so given a florescent torch. Great atmosphere with everyone chatting in the corridor. Departed bang on 7pm which was a surprise. Cosy little berth with water you couldn't drink, fan that didn't work, and as I said no lights. Well what would you expect for the 'Jambo Deluxe Rif valley train' !! Dinner called at 7:15pm sharp with a man beating some metal pipes. A bit like hidee hi. quite a buzzin' atmosphere whilst we had dinner. Sat with the doctors and pharmasist. Nice chat. Food ok to lose weight on (small measures, set menu) - 2 spoons of soup + tiny slither of fish + beef curry & rice + bread&butter pudding. Am I in kenya? Odd choice of food. Retired to cabins to find the magic fairies had been and made our beds up. All our torches failed after 1hr so spent the rest of evening with my headtorch on. Learnt that train was going to take 3 extra hours to get to mombasa as there had been a recent derailment due to the appalling state of the line when many were killed, so they were slowing the train down. Don't panic! Now going to take 15hrs! Arriving at 11:30am. Damn - due at embassy by noon so wasn't going to make it - all would later change anyway as will become clear. Now, the train takes 15hrs (Cost £28), a car takes about 6hrs max (say £8) and a plane takes under 1hr(cost £30). Given the choice which option would you take? Yes, the train...a lot more fun!

Not much to see as it was dark so went to bed. Slept no more than 3hrs the whole night on and off. When daylight came started to see small villages flanking the track and hoards of kids running to wave to the train...and beg. Most were hardly clothed and filthy. First stop Voi station. Was taking a photo of the sign When a lad, about 7yrs old, appeared in my viewfinder with his hands held out - holes in his shoes, rags for clothes. 'Give me money, give me your camera, give me your shirt....give me a pen!' it was the last bit that brings the tear to your eye!

The line is really bumpy with lots of remnants of repairs littering the embankments. Saw the derailed train later. There isn't much to distinguish between a scrap train and an operational one. They both look a mess. Lots of thought provoking sights en-route but no wildlife at all. That has moved, or been moved into Tsavo East to be protected against poachers. Loads of termite mounds visible.

Temperature was warming up as we neared mombasa and the mud huts gave way to more civilized forms of accommodation plus some industry.

Got to Mombasa on time and the taxi drivers were hammering on the windows before the train had even stopped. Haggled with one for 600Ksh (the locals here now use the old english term 'bob' so 600 bob). This was a bargain as it should have cost me 900bob. After getting to the right hotel after he took me to the wrong one! I had landed! The voyager beach resort is a fantastic 4 star - If you ever come to this area I would recommend it. On the shores of the indian ocean, white sand like icing sugar, palm trees, beautiful gardens immaculately maintained, monkeys running around, brightly coloured lizards everywhere. Very secure. Everyone falling over themselves to do everything for you. Nothing too much trouble and four pools plus superb food that changes nationality every day. The staff dress in theme costumes of the day at meal times and they have a theme band playing at the same time. Kenyan, lebanese, allsorts. As it's called the voyager, the site has a strong nautical theme. Your rooms are called cabins, and you are 'welcomed aboard' by reception. The manager is the captain. I paid £138 for 5 nights half board. Could have paid more for all inclusive but glad I didn't as will be revealed.

After check-in had an urgent call to make to the High Commission of India in mombasa that closes at 12:30 as I was due to get my Indian visa whilst I was here. Was assured it would only take 3 days - got the e-mail to prove it. They now told me it was going to take a week and wouldn't budge on that. Oh bum. So now have to find another plan for that. Will try Capetown in September. At least that's one less hassle for the next few days!

Being the first day on site, went for an explore. Some beautiful people around (some women so stunning it's bad for the health!). Forget going out anywhere, i'm staying around the pool for the next 5 days! Off with the sandals and onto the white beach to get some of that sand between my toes. Talked to a few locals along the way. Really friendly, all of them. Chatted to a gorgeous young girl (25)who turned out to be a masseuse. Yep, for 500bob I got myself an hour long oil massage in a thatched hut overlooking the indian ocean. Heaven! Prisca w Bichira was lovely so had a pleasant time. Forgot that tides come in quick here and got cut off from the route back to the hotel. Prisca walked me back to my hotel the long way and we made a date for a walk for the following day - it's a hard life as they say!

Dressed for dinner with a smile on my face. The most weird frog chorus on the way to dinner. Mealtimes here are an event as the choice is incredible. So many things I had never heard of, not just kenyan names for things we would call by another name. Manjwory, Bhinchi, ugali, mkunde, matoke, michicha, arrowroot - and beef stew! Accompanied by fresh coconut off the on-site palm trees as well as a few versions of passion fruit. Joined a group of girls from Ireland for dinner and spent a lot of the evening with them too. After dinner entertainment provided by an african acrobat group doing allsorts of things including fire eating, limbo dancing. Up until 3am chatting. Great night. Note...some folk can lead one away from the straight and narrow. Me innocent guv, honest...so, having placed an order for some marijuana for tomorrow night (No names mentioned)...I come to the issue raised earlier about the all inclusive option. The girls ordered my drinks all night - no skin off their nose as they say. Went to bed a bit sloshed.

Fri 6th Jul - After breakfast had been booked in to do my pool review for my PADI certification so did that and passed with flying colours. Booked my first proper sea dives for tomoro. Excited about it. Sat and watched the monkeys for a while afterwards. Really cheeky. Had been sussed out as able to dance last night and had talked to the crew (aka animation team) a lot. Got roped into teaching them a salsa routine for one of their shows so enjoyed that in the afternoon. Went for my walk with Prisca to finish off a superb day. Watched the fishermen bringing in their catch in their dugouts. Got the lowdown from one of them on the breeds they caught and watched the women preparing one of the types for cooking - tilapia, char, octopus, etc

Now, I was sat having a drink at the lookout bar, when one of the most stunning women on the site asked me to take her photograph - I took my time! Hee hee.

African jazz band playing tonight after another superb dinner. Danced all night almost. Plucked up the courage to chat to another one of the cuties Lauri from Essex - gorgeous - shame about the essex girl accent! The illusion was shattered and she was here with her nan and would hardly leave side. I asked her nan if she minded - wooppee, she didn't so prised Lauri away for a while to dance...I like this place. Met up with another bunch after some more dancing and got free drinks again while we chatted til 2am. Forgot to mention...this marijuana stuff that had now been in my system for a few hours is fun! Nuff said and only wanted to try it once to see what it was like. Been there, done that now so never again....promise.

Sat 7th July - you don't get this happening too often....today's date is 07/07/07. Another event.

Now one of the irish ladies I was with last night thought it funny to ring my room at 7:25 this morning saying ' this is an emergency procedure please evacuate to the beach within the next 5 minutes'. She could have disguised her accent the soft sod. Could have done with the lay-in. Got my own back on her later. As a result, was shattered and missed the briefing for my first dive of the day due to late escape from breakfast. Made it up later. A minibus took us to the white sands hotel where the boat departed from and we had a full briefing on what we had to achieve today.

Well I was chuffed. Fantastic experience being surrounded by shoals of thousands of incredibly coloured fish in the Bamburi coral garden. 700 Ksh marine park entrance fee. Passed my first 2 dive tests, only 2 to go tommorow so booked a 7:30am start to go out on the reef. Nice lebanese dinner tonight. Feeling a bit stuffed lately. Too much food on offer here so need to slow down. Oh what the hell, will go on a diet next week!

There has been a big wedding here today with hundreds of guests and very idyllic setting. Laid on brilliant fireworks at 11pm and party on the beech. Great finish to the evening.

Sun 8th Jul - Early start to be ready for briefing at dive centre. Today was hopefully to be completion day for my PADI open water diving certificate. Met up with my instructor 'polar' and set off for the Dania reef at 8am. Just before set-off the skies opened and lashed it down for 10 mins solid. The seas were not too clever either. This was going to be interesting! All others on the boat were experienced but that doesn't matter. First dive was to 17m to do some skill tests and then explore for a while. Absolutely fantastic - swam amongst white tipped reef sharks, turtles (was copying there gliding motion at one stage - if only someone had a camera), gorgeous range of fish - only word for it is Awesome! Back on the boat for our 40min surface interval and some fruit...and the boat bobbing up and down that much, an exercise in projectile vomiting. Rain also driving quite hard at one stage. Anyway, back in the water for second dive and final tests then topped off with an explore. Round of applause from the boat members when told I had passed my tests and got my certificate. Whoopee! Back to dry land and back to bed as knackered. Had a shower first and couldn't stop swaying around as if I was still on the boat. Very disorientating.

Very chatty afternoon meeting lots of new people and discussing travel and stuff. A nice lady Caroline - great job as a convent manager. Lots of interest in possibly joining up for some other travels. Another lady who is a rep for kuoni with lots of useful advice for some of my future destinations. Got her e-mail if I need any further help. Chatted to a great guy, very wise advice when I told him about what I had been through recently. Great name..Barry White..got his business card. Rubbing shoulders with some famous names!

Acrobat show at the hotel in the evening followed by some dancing. Chatted at the bar til early hours of the morning. Nissed as a pute again - its bad this free drinks lark!

Mon 9th July - after breakfast hired a taxi and guide for the day. Cost 3500Ksh for driver (Dennis) and 1000Ksh for guide (Bougoi). Not cheap but ok.

First port of call the Akamba handicraft woodcarving workshops. This is where all of the local carving are made. Run by the Uchongaji Socco co-operative which comprises all of the workers on the site who buy shares in it. This place is awesome. Thousands of workers chipping away for 12hrs a day and others painting / finishing off with one short break during the day for lunch. They start at 18yrs old but used to be youger until the government imposed a free education systems from 3yrs to 18yrs. It is now a prisonable offence for an employer if caught with anyone under age. The workers only get paid when an Item gets sold and their unique number is on the bottom of each article. Mainly using rosewood, ebony and limewood. They also carve Soapstone. The level of skill is astonishing considering the basic tools they use. So impressed, I bought a couple of items. Just got to work out how to get them home now.

Next stop, the Sri Cutch Satsang Swaminarayan hindu temple. Really nice wall carvings of their 11 commandments (the 11th being an odd one - don't eat food prepared by someone else - don't know how that one is supposed to be adhered to?)

Off to the Baobab forest to see some really chunky trees upto 600yrs old. Will later be eating some of the fruit off these. The same forest contains the 'Neam' tree. Locally called the Magic tree. When the stem and leaves are boiled releases a chemical better known to us as 'quinine'. Was given some bark to chew..yuk! But great for the gut, protection against infection, tape worm etc. Horrible but most medicines are.

Now on to Fort Jesus, one of the most famous landmarks here. Built by the portugese and opened as a museum in 1960. This area had been occupied by many invaders as it was a strategic entry point into the african continent. Dutch in 1489, portugese in 1498, british from 1824. The british government built a palace here in 1897. In 1952 the famous tusks were erected on Moi avenue. Kenya's largest hotel is further down the same road, the metropole was built in 1928 and later re-named the castle royal.

Next the old town, where tourists normally aren't advised to go. Fortunately, I had protection with me as attacks have been frequent. This area is really poor. No roads, shanty town hovels. Food sellers with their produce spread out on the mud..how appetising. I'd get to try some safe stuff though. The earlier mentioned baobab fruit. Actually nuts with a sweet tasting outer that you chew off and spit out the stone. Not bad.

The old port is where the slaves were shipped in/out on the ship the Al Azeem which is still there after much refurbishment. Back to hotel to recover(on the way back, passed the old town bell that was used by the elders if an Important meeting had to be called)..bumped into one of the animation team I had got friendly with Sylvia and her brother Edgar (Feel like a song coming on....dr hook...sylvia's brother). He's a salsa teacher and i've got invited to a session In Nairobi at the weekend so looking forward to that.

Hotel laid on a very able version of the stage musical 'Cats' in the evening, followed by more dancing and a very pleasant evening chatting and dancing on the beach with the sound of waves in the background. Lovely finish to the day.

Tue 10th Jul - Time to move on this evening, so time to pack up. A few free screwdriver cocktails from favourite barman Alfred to quench the thirst before departure. Met prisca to say bye and chatted to some rastas on the beach.

Met a group of students from USA at the railway station who had just climbed kilimanjaro and been on safari. Sounded fun.

No lights on this train either, so torchlight again. At dinner sat with a dutch couple (one a GP,the other a plant propagator), who had hired a 4WD jeep to do their own safari, which I thought was brave as they had never done that before. Ended up losing parts of their vehicle and managed to get the masai to sort it for them. Now that's a story to tell. Also a professor & family from USA who teaches ethnic religious studies. It's amazing the diversity of people you meet whilst travelling.

Actually managed to get some sleep this time. Must have been tired or maybe it was the screwdrivers?

Got lulled into thinking we wouldn't arrive at Nairobi until 11:30, so when we arrived at 11am I wasn't ready..mad dash. Short taxi ride to Sirona hotel. Now, this a bit of a change to the voyager. Booked through hostel world so a comedown from the past days. That's travelling for you!

Tags: Sightseeing



Great read - as usual! Now you're in Kenya I'm jealous as it reminds me of times in Uganda - Talapia and matoke, fabulous! Watch out for the 'Tube stew' though - muddy grey water with rubbery bits of animals tubes sticking out of it - it tastes even worse that it looks. Have you posted any photos? Can only find the few from Italy - NEED PICCYS!!!!

All the best

  Dave Curtis Jul 12, 2007 10:01 PM

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