Today was our very last day of transit on our East African trip. It was a happy and sad moment all at the same time. We were happy that we would only see one more public transit option, but sad because they are always interesting, if not painful, days.
We took our time waking up this morning and had a leisurely breakfast in the restaurant before packing up our bags in the tent. Took some last pictures of camp and the young acacia tree between our tent and the outhouses that I kept walking in to. Very painful tree. Then we donned our packs upon our backs and hiked up and out of Fisherman’s camp to the road. We waited on the edge of the road for about 5 minutes and sure enough a matatu came along heading to Naivasha town and we got in. We were able to snag the seats in the front of the back seats and had good space to lean our bags against the seats in front of us, sitting on the engine cover essentially. The ride into town was uneventful and we enjoyed the time looking around at local life and the scenery.
Once dropped off at the “bus station” we decided we needed to get some more money since we knew the bank here worked. So ignoring all the touts trying to put us on another matatu, we walked a few blocks over to the bank and got some more cash. Then we came back to the station and I headed into the grocery store, which kind of looked like one back home, and picked up some water. Once back outside we tried to find a certain Kenyan who had told us he had a matatu going to Nairobi. It was supposedly leaving ten minutes after we had arrived, maybe it did, but we never found the guy again.
Instead, someone came up to us and asked us where we were going, this was expected and so we went with it. We said Nairobi and he said to follow him. So we did, around the corner and up the street about a half a block. According to him this separate parking lot/station is solely for matatus going to Nairobi. I doubt that is actually true, but regardless there were some signs on top of vans saying Nairobi and that is typically a good sign. He led us to a ticket “booth”, where we purchased some tickets, but didn’t get our change. Apparently we would get it on the matatu, and many locals reassured us this was the case. We were not overly happy about that. Our helpful friend wanted some change for his services but we told him that we had none until we got our change back from the tickets, which was true. I did have big bank bills, but that wasn’t going to happen. This guy really wanted his few “bob” so a few minutes later he took it upon himself to get the ticket lady to give us our change, through much heated discussion it appeared. Then Lindsay was able to give him what he was asking for. He earned it this time.
We ended up already standing right next to the matatu we were going to take so Lindsay got in with our bags, grabbed the good seats up front and waited while I went searching for food as it was about lunch time and who knows when the bus will actually leave and even worse if and when it will arrive in Nairobi. Turns out Lindsay had started up a conversation with the woman just outside her window who was also conveniently selling the Mombassa doughnut things. So we bought quite a few from her, through the window, knowing they were tasty. We had great seats in this bus, but, it was pretty much empty. We knew that meant we could be sitting for hours waiting to go. But, about 10 minutes in the bus filled up. Great. We’re going to go. Nope. 5 minutes later everybody got out of the bus and moved to another one that was out in front of our current one. Since we were the last to figure out we were moving buses we of course got in the new one last. Now we’re crushed in the back seats with our bags sitting on top of us. Thank god the trip was only a few hours long.
So the bus left promptly after that, which all things considered only took maybe 20 minutes from the time we bought tickets. Not bad, even if the seats were. We road all cramped down the highway back into the city we started this whole journey in, the mass that is Nairobi, Kenya. Lindsay had a chat with a woman we were squeezed next to and learned about her son off at school and other such tidbits. Very nice woman and after our short, in African transit standards, journey she helped us in Nairobi. We arrived into the bus station of Nairobi, which is huge and crazy and encompasses many blocks. We were parked on a side street and as the driver backed into a spot to park we were in our only car accident in all of our African trip. He didn’t look to his left enough and ran the front of the van into a giant coach bus trying to go past us. I didn’t even notice, Lindsay had to point out we had just made contact with the bigger bus.
Once out of the matatu our new friend, name has escaped me, offered to take us to the taxis so we could get out of downtown and to the “suburb” where the next accommodations for us were. We walked with her through downtown Nairobi, dodging people, traffic, and whatever else came along. Glad she was with us as we really had no idea where to go. We did manage to walk through the chaos so that when we did catch a cab it was free of the traffic, to an extent, so we could get going. She took us to a cab, tried to negotiate a good price for us, that didn’t work so well, but we ended up going with this guy anyways since we were there and eager to get to our final destination. In the cab, I was able to pull out the guidebook and actually figure out where we were. We also got to check out downtown Nairobi, in daylight this time, from the relative safety and comfort of the taxi. I would like to come back to do some shopping and exploring down here, but it probably won’t fit in the schedule.
Taxi driver took us through town and then back to the traffic circle we recognized from the night we got there. This time we went west from the circle and headed out towards Karen and the entrance to Nairobi National Park, which is pretty much in town. There was a large road construction project so we ended up getting stuck in traffic on this long stretch of red gravel road. Made note of this for the trip to the airport as it goes very, very slow. Finally free of the traffic we made it into the section of town where our lodging was, however our taxi driver was guessing where to go, (as always). We were looking at the map so we knew where to turn, but go figure he didn’t listen. We passed the turn and told him he needed to turn around. Another 7 blocks later we made it clearer that he needed to turn around and finally it was communicated, in English too, that he had passed the turn. Taxi man turned us around, we went back to the turn, took it this time and headed down a dirt “country” road (in the middle of the city) towards the Wildebeest Eco Camp. Eventually we found it, no thanks to their sign which is an 8×11 piece of paper. Very few taxi, and later picky-picky drivers, seem to know where it is.
Bags out of taxi and we entered our final sleeping destination. We’ll be here for two nights, and almost a third since the flight is at 11 pm at night. We headed to check in and found out what was available. The place is quite gorgeous. They’re still in the process of finishing it, but most of it looks great. It is a luxury tented camp with prices that fit the luxury label. Essentially western hotel prices to stay in a tent. The luxury tents have ensuites with showers and the garden tents are solely tents with a shared bathroom facility. The camp apparently just moved here in April 2012 so everything looks quite new. Time will tell if it is still a nice place in a few years when things have become weathered. Will they actually maintain it and keep it clean or will it end up like all the other camps around?
Turns out all that was left for the night was a garden tent, or a budget room. I checked out the garden tent and knew that was what Lindsay would love for our last two nights in Africa. I originally was interested in the luxury tents but none were available tonight, but one was free the next night. Deciding the garden tents were all the luxury we needed I told the host woman that we would like it for two nights. She said she would check and see if that was available and if not we could stay in the luxury tent the next night. I was hesitant since it is $75 ish dollars to stay a night in the luxury which is insane in Africa, so was hoping the garden tent was available for the two nights. I mention all of this because staff incompetence came back to haunt us on our last few nights.
We unpacked into our nice little garden safari tent. It was for sure the nicest tent, almost nicest room, we stayed in the entire trip. Queen sized bed with new bedding, clothes rack, tables, lamps, electricity, and even a safe. We felt spoiled and were going to enjoy it for the last 2 nights of our trip since we were tired. Only downfall is that the walls are thin. It is a tent after all, set up next to other tents.
The rest of the afternoon was spent, showering in the nice clean, hot, solar showers and having drinks at the different umbrella tables scattered around the camp in the garden spaces or up on the main deck overlooking the row of luxury tents. Group dinner came along and we gathered at the long table, reminiscent of safari camps from the movies, and enjoyed dinner. We were sitting across from two Aussies during dinner, Catherine and her best guy friend from childhood, the flamboyant Ashleigh . They were exactly like all other Aussies we’ve met travelling, so dinner was energetic and excitable with their company. They’re heading off on a long overland tour down to South Africa and I’m sure with them aboard it will be quite an exciting adventure. Hopefully we meet up with them somewhere again in the future.
When dinner was done Lindsay and I decided to double check on our plans for the next day. We went to the reception window and talked with the guy there. We made sure that we had our tent for the next two nights, he told us yes we did and not to worry. We had also earlier set up a tour of Kibera, a slum a little ways down the road, for the next morning. Our instructions were to meet our guide here at 10 am tomorrow morning for a long day of walking and touring in Kibera. Satisfied that all was taken care of and in order we headed to bed. (If you can’t tell I’m setting this up for problems later).
Bathrooms here are pretty much brand new and all of the shining white flush kind. Probably 2nd nicest facilities on the trip. Only two and a half days left and I can pull off not having used a squatty-potty for 5 weeks in Africa. It has become somewhat of a goal I’m trying to meet now since it just seems to keep working out.