Thursday, 7 June 2007

Now we're in Nairobbery...

...but having a great time. I think essentially I'm a city person who quite likes the countryside - Nairobi has the things I've been missing, without realising it.
After our pricey Scandinavia experience, we decide to go downmarket for the trip from Moshi to Nairobi - and pay a mere 15,000 Tsh (about $NZ15 each) to the Spider bus line for the trip. It starts at 6.30am, with a minibus to nearby Arusha. Arusha is the gateway to the Serengeti and Ngorongoro national parks, and is a much bigger town than Moshi. Its conference centre is also hosting the UN Conference on Genocide in Rwanda - just another reminder, if we needed it, that we are in a most interesting part of the world.
Gunter, the Swiss cyclist we met in Zambia, recommended the Terminal Hotel to us, and we think it's a great place. While one would possibly turn up one's nose at it at home, it is clean, secure and spacious. Our room has two beds with sweet candlewick bedspreads, a full bathroom with room for us to hang our washing line (and hot water), a table where we can make breakfast, and a desk, plus two wardrobes. It's also surrounded by internet cafes, restaurants of all types, Nairobi Java coffee shop and with a supermarket over the road. Quite perfect.
It is possible that I'm beginning to look a little Kenyan - I have bought a couple of tops, some sandals, new knickers and am sporting a rather remarkable Kenyan haircut. I'm not sure that Mohammed had done much training on fine, straight hair and required a few timely instructions from me, so don't expect any photos any time soon.
Another reminder that we are in an interesting part of the world is an overheard conversation in Nairobi Java - two guys with strong east European accents are speaking with someone who looks Ethiopian, about starting a satellite TV station, renting relay stations and getting cameramen and journalists into Mogadishu to cover a conference. They have $70,000 and six days to do the job, and need to get it done. Not the sort of thing you'd come across in Wellington.

Max is under the tender care of Dr Mary Ndueti - who seems to be doing a good job. For possibly a third what it would cost at home he has had an initial examination, an x-ray, a peg implanted and a temporary tooth placed on it, and tomorrow morning at 7am (before Mary has to leave to go to a funeral up country) a better temporary tooth will be attached. We have decided to use the intervening time to go up to Mombasa, and then Malindi and Lamu, and are booked on the train tomorrow night. We're back in 10 days, when the finished crown will be ready.
After buying our train ticket, we decided to check out the Railway Museum. Definitely worth it. The Brits and the Germans both started major railway projects early in the 20th century - the Brits built theirs from Mombasa to Lake Victoria, in about three years - a prelude to serious spats in this part of Africa as part of WW1. The museum shows the astonishing profile of the railway line, with some stations at over 9000 feet, and tells the colourful story of the man-eating lions that developed a taste for the Indian coolies, brought over from India for the labouring work involved. Most of these Indians stayed, in either Kenya or Uganda, forming the basis of the Asian population visible (well in Kenya anyway, I can't speak for Uganda) to this day. In fact Kenya as a separate entity didn't even exist then, it was still referred to as British East Africa. The railways have had a patchy history, being at one stage Kenya Uganda Railways, then East Africa Railways, and ("since Idi Amin began misbehaving" - a direct quote from the museum guide) now Kenya Railways, though apparently there is some talk of amalgamating the services again. Unfortunately the lines have suffered from a century or so of neglect, and the trip we're taking to the coast, once a 12 hour journey, is now 16 hours. We have not been able to ascertain how long the trip from Nairobi to Lake Victoria takes...but probably longer than it should. Our trip though includes dinner, bed and breakfast, and I have fond imaginings that it will be like the Orient Express, with silver service and dressing for dinner (in my new knickers and sandals). We will see.

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