Fran’s Kenya Diary – Sunday 8th January 2017
The African coast, around Libya/Egypt border, is almost exactly half way. There’s not much to see as it’s night the whole way, but the relief map on the flight tracker highlights the Ethiopian and Kenyan highlands and the rift valley beautifully. There’s quite a bit of turbulence around Abu Simbel. We reach the northern edge of Lake Turkana and so are now in Kenya. The flight level has been slowly rising through the flight from 37,000ft to 41,000ft. We land 40 minutes early, at 4:20am. The altitude is registering as 1625m as we taxi down the runway. The main part of the city is over 1800m, higher than the top café in the Swiss ski resort we visit every year. This means that although Nairobi is virtually on the equator, the typical temperatures are around 13 degrees C lower than at sea level. A large part of the country is on a huge volcanic dome, with the Rift Valley cutting through the centre that is full of lakes and volcanoes. The Rift Valley is not that deep, compared with the elevation of the dome, so even places on the floor of the valley such as Naivasha are at very high elevations.
The airport is very empty, no queues at immigration, so we’re through very promptly. The e-visas we got before we left are fine and we have to have our finger prints taken by some fancy gadget at the immigration desk. There’s no sign of Peter yet as we are so early, we manage to persuade the taxi drivers we really are being picked up. Then he appears out of the crowds and we have arrived.
Peter pays for his parking at some kiosk, which turns out to be a cunning plan to avoid the queues at the automatic parking barriers at the main exit. He has some back route out for those who have already paid their tickets. The traffic in Nairobi is horrendous these days. There are millions of destitute people living in slums, around 60% of the city’s population, meaning that the typical resident of Nairobi is a slum dweller. However, somewhere else there are clearly plenty of people who can afford cars. There are Chinese hoardings as we reach Mombasa Road – a manifestation of the main economic power in the country. Stuff here comes from the Far East or the Gulf. The roads are being developed quite rapidly. While this should in time be a good thing, there is extensive construction work underway which makes the traffic even worse than before it started – think Metrobus on steroids.
When we arrive at Peter’s house, everyone is still asleep. Julie will be taking the kids to church for the 8:30 service, but Peter will stay at home. We have a nap, we haven’t really slept at all on the flight, just dozed a bit. We wake up later and Julie and kids are home. We meet everyone, even Baraka the oldest of the children was only a bump last time we came. The kids seem to like their presents. There are also Sharlyne and Emmanuel living with Peter, assorted young adult relatives studying in Nairobi and helping out with the kids and chores.
Later in the afternoon we walk to the nearby Greenspan Mall for some groceries and to have a coffee at the Java Coffee House. There are security guards checking our bags as we enter the shopping centre and airport-style metal arches, something we are to see everywhere during the week. I imagine this is what Belfast was like in the 70s. We are to become experts on the entire Java network in Kenya in the next week as Peter appears to have shares in them. They have no carrot cake, which is a source of great disappointment to Peter. We go to the ATM to get enough cash for the trip to the village and have to mess about with multiple cards to get the whole lot. With an exchange rate of around 125 Ksh (Kenya shillings aka “bob” – one for the teenagers there) to the pound, you come away with wads of notes in a rather disturbing fashion.
We have dinner with Peter and Julie, everyone else has had their tea at other times and places. The children are remarkably useful, laying the table and generally being very helpful with things around the house. How does that happen? We have never managed to persuade our kids to do anything useful, though we have often thought it would be a good idea. We have to get up at the crack of dawn tomorrow to fly to Kisumu. We get a reply from Golda of the Golden Girls Foundation near Kisumu and arrange to meet her at 9 in Java Coffee House, Kisumu, next to Uchumi.