We were able to sleep in that morning just a little bit. Our group met at breakfast, and discussed our plans for the day. The last thing I did before leaving Mountain Village was to buy a large bottle of water. I should have bought several more!
Our guide met us, and we got into our van for the ride to Nairobi. As much as I didn't want to leave this magnificent place, I knew it was time. I talked to Joyce, and she motioned that she was no longer enjoying herself. Larry and Teri were looking forward to returning home. Deep down, I wanted to as well, but it was mainly because I was still feeling a bit sick from time to time. Yet, I already knew this was not my last time here. I was sure, and still am, that I will visit East Africa many more times, and a career here is not out of the question!
We started out for Nairobi via the outskirts of Arusha. Since I had almost two rolls of film left, and didn't want any of it to be unexposed when I left the continent, I took lots of pictures on the way.
We passed a lot of what I had learned were banana plantations. (23:28,27)
I also got a picture of some typical housing. (23:26) Note the use of masonry for construction, and the extensive use of bond beams in concrete block structures. (The white lines on the further back building mark where the bond beams are. These would not be used in North American structures of the same type except, perhaps over the windows.) Note also the utility poles. The upper wires are power distribution, the thicker lower cables are for telephone.
I photographed a business block. (23:25) This could be a hotel, restaurant, grocery store, butcher shop, or any combination of these. (Or something else entirely!) Most of the businesses looked like this. Note the people standing around, and the animal just to the left of the window post. This also was very typical of much East Africa, especially in Tanzania. Notice also that the mode of dress was for the most part Western here.
I photographed a 'garden store' of some sort. (23:24) Note the numerous potted plants, and the piles of sticks apparently for sale. Note also the concrete curbs along the road to keep vehicles out of their yard!
One thing I saw many of was the frames of vehicles. Apparently, abandoned vehicles are stripped until there is nothing useful left, and what's left is allowed to rust away. Some of these frames look like they had been sitting there for years.
I photographed a housing block under construction. (23:23) Note the somewhat crude concrete blocks. Also note the bond beam poured all the way across the top of what's been completed, and a new row of blocks just starting on the left. It was common to see houses in various stages of construction, and it suggested that people would build their home a little at a time, as they could afford it.
As we left Arusha, we now came into Masai pastureland. This was also the area where the waters from the high slopes of Mt. Meru would drain to lower elevations. These rivers were often in impressive little canyons, so I made it my goal to get a good picture of one of these. Soon, we turned North onto hwy A104, the Trans-East-African Highway.
We were on the side of Mt. Meru that made it look like it had a rounded top (To the West of it.). I took a couple of pictures of the mountain. The lens flare were nice, but the pictures themselves weren't the best. (23:22,21) I did get one more picture in this series with a Masai and his cattle in the foreground. (This was not intentional; I discovered this later.) Although the harsh sun might be hiding the red color, it looks like this Masai is wearing the black robes they wear just before and after circumcision. (23:20) In the last photo of this series (23:19), you can just begin to see jaggedness in the top of Mt. Meru. This meant we were beginning to get North of the Mountain.
From time to time, we would come upon a patch of rolling land that had so many Masai warriors out grazing their cattle that there would be little red speckles visible everywhere on the yellow-brown land. These speckles stood out in stark contrast to the blacks, whites and browns of the thousands of head of cattle present, and the generally brown land. I did not get a good opportunity to take a picture of this. I did however, get a nice picture of a Masai village underneath a hill. (23:18)
I finally succeeded in getting a couple nice pictures of the drainage canyons I had been seeing. (23:17,16,14) These ghastly slashes added a kind of stark beauty to this rugged land.
At one point along the road, you could look down into the rift valley. This was a stunning view. You can almost see to the other side! (23:15)
We were now well North of Mt. Meru. Although the light still could have been better, this mountain was starting to look more and more impressive. (23:13)
I was trying to get a picture of Mt. Kilimanjaro, but instead got this acacia tree. (23:12) This is actually one of the better pictures I got of acacia trees, although it is blurred by motion. A few seconds later, I had better luck, and caught 'kili'. Because I had the wrong filter, the mountain is just barely visible in the center of the picture. It was more visible in reality. (23:11)
Here's the acacia photo I really wanted. Although we were nowhere near the Athi plains at the time, (We cross them just South of Nairobi) here is what they might have looked like to Colonel Patterson as he built the Uganda Railway in 1898. (23:10)
As we approached the border with Kenya, Mt. Longido approached us on our right hand side. Although this mountain is nowhere near the size of Meru or Kilimanjaro, it is very impressive because it is so close to the road. As we passed it, it changed appearance several times; it's summit is actually sort of a thick, flat tablet of rock. I took a series of photographs as we passed by. (23:9,8,7,6,5. 23:8 is actually a picture of the mountain's accessory hills.)
We then saw an animal that was not exactly native to East Africa: camels! These were quite possibly used for camelback safaris that are beginning to be popular, especially in Kenya. They also may be beasts of burden. (23:4)
As we neared Namanga, we got one last good look at Mt. Kilimanjaro. I took a series of photos; a couple turned out fairly nice. (23:3-1, 24:36) Again, having the right filter would have helped.
Just before arriving in Namanga, I got what I believe is a picture of Mt. Orok, which is just West of Namanga. (24:35)
Passing through Namanga was just the opposite of what we had done when we had come into Tanzania. First, we stopped at the Tanzania Customs office. This was straightforward, just as entering the country had been.
As usual, we were mobbed with peddlers trying to sell us souvenirs. There was one souvenir I wanted, but had no money left for; a Masai copper/brass bracelet like Larry now had. I had no US dollars left. I borrowed one from Larry, and was able to obtain a bracelet just as we were leaving the customs office. The one I got was not nearly as nice in workmanship as Larry's but it definitely looks handmade. (Larry's is so nicely made that it is possible that it was machine-made.) I love it; I wear it to this day (Late May 1999). I traded larry a British 1 pound coin for the dollar he gave me. He considered this more than fair, as a pound is worth about $1.40 US.
We now stopped and exchanged vehicles. Our Kenyan driver was the same fellow we had when we arrived in Kenya what seemed like a long time ago! We crossed the border into Kenya (I really hated to leave Tanzania!) and stopped at the Kenyan Customs office. For some reason, this office was really busy, and we had to wait in line for a while before we could get our passports stamped. But, as usual, there was no problem when it came our turn, and we were now safely in Kenya.
We stopped at the same curio shop in Namanga that we had stopped at on the way to Tanzania. After a great deal of looking and a little negotiating, I ended up buying an impressive rosewood lion which is about 18 inches long nose-to-tail. I also purchased a small lion-face hanging for the wall. Although they balked at first, they accepted my credit card, and I paid 660 Kenyan Shillings (About $110. By the time I got the credit card bill, the exchange rate had changed, and I paid only $102.50 or something like that!) My treasures were sort of wrapped in a box and tied with string. The box was not quite the right size for the oddly-shaped piece, and it ended up looking rather weird when distorted to accommodate it. Although awkward, it would have to do for transit. Eventually, I stuffed a sock between the end of the box and the lion's nose to cushion it better.
After everyone had made their souvenir purchases, we were back on the road. Before long, we were passing through the Masai villages that were along hwy A104. In Kenya, these villages had electric power and a few nice buildings. (24:34) However, the mainstay of the towns, like everywhere else in East Africa, was small business. Not many homes were visible.
As we got further into Kenya, we started to see more sisal plants. (24:33) These sisal plants are not native. They were imported by the Germans as a cash crop. There is a native sisal plant (called Oldapi), but it is apparently not as suitable for fiber.
I did see the signs for Amboseli Game reserve, but it just sort of came and went. Perhaps, a few gazelles were seen in the vicinity.
I got a couple of photos of what I think are the Maparasha Hills, Just North of Ambolseli. (24:32,31) As we headed North, the mountains and hills generally got less impressive.
We passed some rather fancy buses with holographic lettering on them. Turns out they are long distance public transport here in East Africa. They are often luxurious, air conditioned and equipped with TV's and VCR's to show movies. Njau remembers seeing part of 'The Lion King' on one of these buses. However, we now came upon one that was off the road. The passengers were milling around waiting for some relief to show up. No one appeared hurt. We also encountered a safari-type vehicle off the road on that stretch of highway, a few miles later. Again, nobody appeared hurt, but it looked like the vehicle would need extensive repair.
Just about 20 miles South of Nairobi, we reached the Athi Plains. This is a plain covered with endless acacia scrub. I took some pictures of it. (24:30,29,28) This brings to remembrance the adventures of Colonel Patterson and the Tsavo Maneaters as he built the Uganda Railway in 1898.
Remember all the missing sections on the road when we had driven to Tanzania? Well, they were doing something about it. We ran into a road paving crew that was using modern equipment to lay down all-new blacktop on the Trans-East-African Highway. They couldn't have started much after we had last been on the road; a considerable section of it had already been repaved. They appeared to be doing the job right. This paving job could be expected to last a while. We'll see next time I visit East Africa!
As we got closer to Nairobi, things became more and more civilized. We saw large buildings that belonged to large businesses, such as steel fabricators and agricultural product concerns. These were often of the same construction as small buildings: concrete blocks with bond beams. I don't recall seeing any large steel-framed metal sheds like you would find in the US. I somehow suspect that structural steel is very expensive in Kenya, and used only where absolutely necessary.
The church is alive and well in Kenya, and it is reported that the major religion there is Christianity. So, it was not unusual to see churches along the road. I took a picture of a nice church along the highway. (24:27) Note the Western architecture of the church itself, and the African architecture of the outbuildings.
The last wildlife photo (And the last wildlife I think we saw) was this group of Thomson's gazelles just outside of Nairobi. Gazelles were common around the city because of the game park just to the South of it. (24:26)
Construction practices in East Africa were modern and crude at the same time. I took this picture of a large commercial building under construction. (24:25) It is obviously being carefully and correctly built. Note that everything is nice and square. However, also note the extremely crude scaffolding of lashed-together sticks! Although it is probably stronger and safer than it looks, most construction workers in the US wouldn't be caught dead on scaffholding like that!
In any case, this was the last picture I took while in Africa.
As we got closer to Nairobi, and went near the airport, I looked for the Carnivore Restaurant. I did not see it. I never got my courage up high enough to ask our guide about it. I figured I would wait until we were at the hotel and then deal with getting there. I had enough money to pay for what I expected cab fare to be, and what I expected the meal to cost.
We drove into Nairobi, making an intentional detour through downtown to see the business district. One place we stopped at, at Teri's request, was the site of the US embassy. It had been blown up 6 months before by terrorists. There was now walls around the site as they worked to rebuild the embassy and the damaged buildings around it. We paused in a moment of reflection, and Teri took lots of pictures.
We finally got to the Norfolk Hotel just after lunchtime. Nobody wanted to do any of the optional activities (Except myself. I should have spoken up and could have done whatever I wanted to!), so we let the guide go, and we went to our rooms.
Now, how to get to the Carnivore Restaurant. It was listed in the phone book. But, I didn't want to make a call, because I had no small bills to pay for a phone call. I finally decided that getting to the restaurant was a futile thing. But, this simply got me frustrated. So, I went outside, left the hotel compound, and walked to the corner and back. All this way, and I couldn't get the last few miles! At long last, I talked to a taxi driver.
While talking to the taxi driver, I had a brilliant stroke of common sense. He knew where the Carnivore Restaurant was. (It is a very popular spot.) I then asked him the serving hours (This was the stroke of common sense.) After I deciphered his response, it worked out to 'lunch and dinner, but not in between'. So, there. No reason to even try to go until dinnertime. And the schedule of how we were to get to the airport made a dinnertime visit highly unworkable.
Now, fully convinced that there was no way I would get to the Carnivore Restaurant, I decided to try to visit the railroad museum, and perhaps learn something about the Tsavo Maneaters. This would also help get my mind off the Carnivore Restaurant failure.
I carefully studied the map, so I knew where the museum was. I put my watch in my pocket, and hid my money belt in an illogical place. I would have loved to have my camera, but I had to leave that behind, also. Street thieves are a very serious problem in Nairobi.
I set out on foot into downtown Nairobi, proceeding by way of University Way to the Uhuru Highway. I passed by the Nairobi Safari Club, an exclusive 'country club' for the rich and famous in Nairobi.
There were little or no sidewalks in most of Nairobi, even in downtown. This made walking challenging at times. I continued down the Uhuru Highway straight towards the Railway Museum. On the way, I saw the Holy Family Cathedral. (A modern structure.) I also saw quite a number of modern buildings belonging to the Government.
On the other side of the road was Central Park, a large public park that reminded me of it's namesake in New York City. There were lots of people in the park. There were also large statues there proclaiming important events in Kenya's history.
Just before reaching the railway station, I began to get very thirsty. I also began to get a bit dizzy. To make matters worse, I tripped on a stone, and slid down the side of a ditch, leaving me with a nice scrape on my hand. It wasn't serious, but for some reason it really hurt!
I looked into the fenced railway station compound. There were safari vehicles in the compound, so that must have been the museum. However, I couldn't find my way in. I walked down the streets on two sides, and couldn't find anything remotely resembling an entrance. I finally gave up in frustration (Thirst was driving me nuts!), and started back to the hotel. (I know now I would have had to walk around a large block to find the entrance; perhaps another half mile.)
On the way back, I took a different route, heading up parliament road. This route took me past all the main government buildings, such as parliament and the President's office.
I then walked past the cathedral. Even though it was open, I decided not to go in. I realized by now that I was dangerously dehydrated and needed to get back to the hotel as quickly as possible. I continued North on Koinange street, then to University Way, and then to Harry Thuku Rd., where the hotel is. At one point, some young kid with a bike figured out I was a tourist. At first he called out my name. I ignored him. A little later, he caught up with me and asked me for money. I told him I didn't have any. That sent him away. You do need to be careful in this town!
Another thing I tried to find was shipping tape. There were no stores of the type along this route that would likely have any. Besides, all I had was US dollars in medium bills. So much for that. (Despite not getting into the museum and being dehydrated, I rather enjoyed my foray into downtown Nairobi!)
I finally made it back to the hotel. First thing I did was drink the entire contents of the remaining water bottle I had left. I then took a shower and tried to cool down. As there were a lot of things I wouldn't need anymore for the trip, I rearranged everything for long distance travel.
Not finding the shipping tape meant that the box with the lion would be somewhat of a problem to transport. The box itself wasn't that sturdy, and the twine it was tied with did not make the best of a handle. But, the twine was better than nothing at all. I put the film bag in the lion box, as that would make it much easier to carry. I rearranged the twine to keep the box as secure as possible. But even now, the box was starting to fall apart.
I went to the bar and tried to buy water. After some frustrating dealings with the bartender, I finally got a medium-sized bottle of water, but paid $5 US for it. This is almost double what it would have cost anywhere else.
Since I hadn't had lunch, and dinner didn't look too promising, I decided to buy some candy and postcards at the hotel gift shop. After much confusion in my mind about exchange rates, I finally had everything straightened out. However, the gift shop wouldn't take US dollars. It was turning into a very frustrating afternoon!
I finally went to my room and took a long nap that lasted until checkout time.
Checkout time presented me with a problem. We needed to check out at 5 PM, but wouldn't be picked up to go to the airport until 7 PM. Larry and Teri wanted to eat dinner alone, and I didn't know what Joe and Joyce were up to. Food was very expensive at the Norfolk, and I had no Kenyan Shillings. (I knew even then I could exchange some money at the hotel cashier's office, but I wasn't even that hungry at that time.) So, I ended up sitting in the hotel courtyard for almost two hours doing crossword puzzles. I am really happy now that I had picked up that puzzle book in Gatwick!
Eventually, our group was together again, and our guide arrived to take us to the airport. I decided to be bold just one more time and discuss the possibility of visiting the Carnivore Restaurant. There still was no practical way to eat dinner there. So, this will be one thing that will have to wait until my next visit.
As it turned out, it was a good thing we left early for the airport. It was very busy there, and it took some long waiting-in-line to get things done.
Security was tight at the airport, but not draconian. The first thing we needed to have done, before we even checked in, was have our luggage pre-scanned for security. I am really glad now that I purchased the extra-heavy x-ray bag for the film! Unfortunately, I dropped my precious water bottle while doing this, and lost some of the water. The lid was cracked, and I had to drink what was left right there and then.
When we finally checked in, we were all in for an unexpected and pleasant surprise. The $20 US departure tax we had all heard so much about had been built into the cost of the ticket! This left us all with $20 more at a point in a trip where cash is often short. I was really happy of this, as my ticket had already been deeply discounted. I will certainly put British Airways high up on the list when planning my next visit!
I was able to check my main bag through to New York, so I wouldn't have to deal with carrying it along with the lion and the camera bag while in Gatwick.
I helped Joe and Joyce until they had been checked in. Then, we proceeded individually through customs control to the international departure terminal of the airport.
Just like Gatwick, there were numerous duty-free shops in the international departure terminal. The selection wasn't as great, but there were things you wouldn't find at Gatwick, like a quality meat grinder(!), or a stunning silver-and-gold lion! There was an equally stunning copper lion as well. I didn't even think of asking what these pieces would cost! They were about 16 inches long and about 8 inches high each. They were undoubtedly quite heavy.
I quickly learned that the duty-free shops would gladly take foreign currency. So, I bought a large bag of M and M's to help deal with not having a decent meal all day. (The restaurants in the terminal were all closed for some reason.) I also picked up a nice assortment of lion post cards for keepsakes. I thought of shopping for other souvenirs, but wisely decided not to.
The five of us sat together, so we could take turns watching each other's carry-on luggage. Therefore, each of us had ample opportunity to explore the airport without the encumbrance of our carry-on luggage.
Just like Gatwick, the check-in process for British Airways flights were very laid-back. We could do the final security and customs check at our leisure, even several hours before departure. We decided to wait until about an hour before departure to do this. Even then, we did this one at a time.
There was a moment of apprehension when my carry-on bags went through the x-ray machine. Both the film bag and the wood lion made odd signatures on the x-ray device. I was asked to identify what they were, but then they were let through with no further search.
The departure terminal was little more than a corral, just like the one at Gatwick. I was feeling just a bit queasy here, but dealt with it. I'm sure a lot of it was nerves.
Due to some heightened security concerns, it took a bit longer than planned to prepare the plane. But, finally, we were allowed to board, just after 11 PM local time. I said 'goodbye' to Joe and Joyce for the last time, as they would quickly transfer to Heathrow once in London. I would have one more good chance to see Larry and Teri, but I said 'goodbye' to them as well.
This flight was in another crowded 747-400. Although it wasn't completely full like the flight to Nairobi had been, it was still plenty full. Add to this the discomfort of the diarrhea, and the anticipation of ear problems, this would add up to make for an uncomfortable flight. Luckily, the cold I had left the US with had completely dissipated and there were no ear problems to speak of.
Soon, we were in position to take off. This was it. I was leaving Africa. I was leaving behind one of the most wonderful experiences I had ever had. I was leaving behind new friends and new places. I was leaving behind many pleasant memories. I was leaving behind 10,000+ lions! There is nothing else in the world quite like the great game parks of East Africa. Even though I was experiencing some minor discomfort, and a few trivial logistics problems, I didn't want to leave. I already knew that I had to come back!
The plane accelerated to takeoff speed, and soon we were in the air. The flight was at night, so there was nothing to see on the ground, even with a window seat. A layer of clouds made even the lights hard to see. I tried to get some sleep, but this proved difficult. Again, the crossword book was a real blessing!
I spent the next 9 seemingly endless hours either trying to sleep, or doing puzzles. I had to get out of my seat a couple of times to use the bathroom, something I have never done on an aircraft before. I was concerned in that my urinary volume was very low. I was much more dehydrated than I had realized. I took every advantage of getting something to drink that I could.
There was a movie that was also distracting me from trying to sleep. It was a silly spoof on detective movies. Even though I didn't listen to the sound track, I still laughed at the sight gags.
After what seemed like an eternity, we were given landing cards to fill out. Somehow, I was missed the first time around, and had to ask for one. We were on final approach as I finished filling it out.