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The Story So Far

07/26/06

  07:20:49 pm, by Nimble   , 838 words  
Categories: Travel

The Story So Far

We have finally made it to Nairobi! We took a few days in Dubai on the way over, for a break and to catch our breath (so as not to have to spend more than 24 hours on airplanes and in airports at once).

The flight to Heathrow from Calgary was nothing special, though I appreciated being able to eat my meal with my arms by my sides instead of suspended over it like the previous Air Canada flight. We should have brought more pieces of luggage. Should have taken the fact that the big bag was overweight as a sign that not everyone past the Canadian check-in was going to be so nice to us on this front.

Getting through Heathrow to terminal 3 was an utter maze. It seemed as though they had introduced some extra security measures in a heretofore unused corridor and were herding everything through it.

We waited for the plane to Dubai's emergency lighting system to be repaired - it took a couple of hours. There was a playmat there, a wonderful thing that the kids were playing on like mad. A sort of three-dimensional blocky plane with a couple of holes for "seats", and the kids were tumbling all over. I think our future children need one of these.

Got to witness personal video systems on a plane for the first time on the Heathrow->Dubai leg. Those are awesome, though our later Dubai->Nairobi system was less capable. You could pick your movies, play games (even against people in another seat), etc. on a little touch screen system in front of you.

Dubai was warm. In the area of 34-42 Celsius at all hours. We were glad for all the air conditioning about. Going for a wander, you almost break a sweat and then the sun hits you and it comes pouring out.

The zoo was a nice little spot, quite a few exotic animals, a great lot of squeaking and chirping grey parrots, and the exotic North American raccoon :) The snake house was air conditioned - a nice refuge - but only open certain hours. There were a lot of school groups coming through, including what looked like a karate school group (all outfits and different belt colours)

Went for a desert safari. The dune-busting component is fun, but I got quite queasy after a while. (45 minutes of racing a 4x4 over and around dunes and valleys) The Bedouin camp we went to after had food, henna, calligraphy, shisha smoking (we didn't partake, but it smelled a lot better than regular tobacco the way they did it), barbecued meats and belly dancing. Our driver, Hassan, was great - chatted with us informatively on the way there and back. One of the belly dancers hitched a ride with us on the way back (!) - turned out they also stayed at a Golden Sands Hotel Apartment.

The Golden Sands Hotel Apartments are a nice setup. Not too fancy, but a good layout, a kitchen, laundry, fridge and bathroom. Air conditioning too.

The Dubai airport was a bit frustrating to navigate all the way into where we needed to check in. They had insufficient signage, refused to allow our overweight bag on (had to pack it in a box and then run over to the shrink-wrapping machine), and the walk to the terminal was interminable. We were in a bit of a sour mood afterwards, but such is life in transit :)

Flying into Jomo Kenyatta Airport for Nairobi, it struck me how few buildings there were. Couldn't see Nairobi itself from the plane.

Our driver picked us up from the airport. Airport transfers are just really, really worth it. It's nice to come out and not wonder what the heck to do next :) Most of the people we met along the way were friendly. Most of them speak English. Most of them were pretty impressed at the chunks of Swahili I know. Cool.

Nairobi, at least the parts we have been through so far, seem a lot more primitive than I would have expected. It's like going through Changchun in China in 1990 (I'm sure you know what I mean :) )

We were going to go to the mall, but you take your life into your own hands crossing the street. Our own very friendly driver sped up when pedestrians were crossing the street. Maybe we will feel braver tomorrow.

One unexpected thing was that Nairobi... just smells good. You see such roughness and you expect lots of poo smells somehow, but the whole place smells of good food and/or flowers and/or something good. Don't know why.

There's a lot of plant life here that's just fantastic. There is an utterly huge (I mean something like 20 metres in diameter and half that high) branching cactus. There are hibiscus trees, huge crown-of-thorns, acacia, birds of paradise, and good ol' geraniums.

We are going to try to plan out tomorrow. Our safari starts the morning after that. I think some food (chakula) and sleep (kulala usingizi) are in order today.

Cheers, all.

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