Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Last days in Nairobi

We've grown fond of this city - it's provided everything that we've needed and has become comfortable and familiar. To prepare ourselves for what, in our minds, is the final leg of our six month journey, we mail some excess items and souvenirs to Max's brother Brian, in Madrid. A couple of cartons and packing materials are procured and the boxes securely wrapped, labelled, complete with string and yards of packing tape. We want to visit the Karen Blixen museum, 15km or so from town, so charter a taxi who can take us to the GPO en route. However, they don't accept parcels between 1 and 2, so we continue to Karen (the suburb named after the Danish writer), pleased that we can leave the packages in the taxi. The museum is essentially Karen Blixen's house, with furniture and some photos, and set in a few acres of beautiful lawn with large trees. It's very pleasant indeed, and yes we do buy the requisite copy of "Out of Africa".
We chatted to Alex our driver on the way back to town - and said the house looked lovely and it would be nice to live in. "Not for Kenyans," he replied, "we are social people". He also talked about the trial of Tom Cholmondeley, grandson of Lord Delamere (a contemporary of Baroness Blixen), for murder of a farm worker, and said that many of the English who lived in Nairobi were "very harsh".
Alex duly dropped us back at the GPO, with cartons, and we fronted up at Counter 15. There's a few minutes of intense discussion as it transpires that the Customs agent, who works out of this counter, required us to unwrap our boxes. Max somehow managed to persuade them that the contents were benign, but they insisted on squashing Ingrid's birthday present into a shoe box, which meant I was sent off to Seal Honey next door to buy more brown paper. Max meanwhile dealt with the many forms and the financial side of things. I was despatched again to get more money - even though we're sending the boxes by sea, it was still quite expensive; postage rates I guess have some sort of international benchmarking. It all took round about one exhausting hour. Definitely time for a drink after all that - and we headed to Kengeles around the corner in Koinange Street. We hadn't been here before, but it looked nice - a street front bar and an upstairs terrace restaurant. It was a great evening, with a live band playing cheesy covers and good food.
Francis at The Terminal had been doing some research for us, and told us that the bus to Isiolo left from Eastleigh (also known as Little Mogadishu) at 11. The suburb was about 8km from town and Maurice drove us to 8th St, where after asking a few locals, Bus Ways was found on a muddy street lined with ramshackle stalls. Our fare to Isiolo was 400 Ksh each for the 5-hour trip, a price which compared favourably to the 600Ksh Maurice charged us, and the 200Ksh we tip the boys to safely stow and watch our packs while we go off for coffee at a nearby cafe.
This part of town is very different from central Nairobi - a maze of tin roofed shacks, muddy and rocky paths, tiny stalls selling sweets and cigarettes, rather a lot of herbal pharmacists, and lots of small cafes selling chapati and chai.
Better get used to it...

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