Blood Diamond-inspired trip motto: “T.I.A.” This is Africa —> “T.I.K.” This Kenya
After a brief layover in London, I arrived in Nairobi around 6:30am on a Saturday morning. I was greeted at the airport by my friends who were all bleary-eyed but still fairly hyper for so early in the morning. Everyone had arrived the day before and was partying all night until it was time to pick me up. We headed to the serviced apartment everyone was sharing, so everyone could nap briefly before touring Nairobi.
Our current group consisted of Natalya aka “Natasha”, Roza aka “Rosita”, Herman aka “Beast”, Mital aka “Boss”, Miraj aka “Mayor”, and Falgun aka “Pilot.” We cruised around the streets of Nairobi in our van aka “F17” with Pilot at the wheel. Along the roads, there were many people peddling various goods (including Obama paraphernalia, bunnies and puppies) to the cars stuck in traffic.
There seemed to be people spilling out from everywhere onto the streets, and cars had no chance to move anywhere. Some pedestrians were dressed in traditional tribal clothing while others donned Western clothing, which looked very dull in contrast to the vibrant colors of the traditional garb. As we drove past some slums, Mital told us to make sure all our windows were properly locked, as sometimes people would try to reach in to grab whatever they can.
Our first tourist destination was the Nairobi National Museum, which is located on Museum Hill, a 10 minute drive away from city centre. This is the flagship museum of the collective National Museums of Kenya. Initiated in 1910, the Nairobi National Museum contains 10 permanent exhibitions spread across two floors. My favorite exhibition was the Evolution exhibit, which contained the 1.6 million year old skeleton of “Turkana Boy”, the first early human that was discovered near Lake Turkana, Kenya. The museum also featured a beautiful photography collection of sepia-colored images of Kenyan tribal life, and a exhibit of many of Kenya’s native animals, which we would see live later on our safari!
Non-Resident Admission: 800Ksh (for Kenyans, admission is 100Ksh!)
After enjoying a pleasant lunch at the museum cafe, we headed to Uhuru Gardens, which were built in remembrance of Kenya’s struggle for independence. “Uhuru” ( “freedom” in Swahili) from British rule was granted to Kenya in 1963. The park features a lake, landscaped gardens, a large peace monument, and an assembly ground for political and religious gatherings.
After we finished our touristy agenda for the day, we were dropped off at the Westgate shopping mall where we babysat ourselves. Our local guides, Mital and Falgun had to attend to other business, so the four foreigners were herded to the mall to be “kept safe” in their absence.
Natalya, Roza, Herman, and I spent most of our time meandering through the modern mall complex. I enjoyed my first cup of Kenyan tea at Art Caffe while discussing all the Africa-centric books we were currently reading:
Me—I Dream of Africa by Kuki Gallman
Roza — Darkstar Safari: Overland from Cairo to Capetown by Paul Thoroux
Natalya — The Sign and the Seal: The Quest for the Lost Ark of the Covenant by Graham Hancock
Herman— Msafiri (Kenya Airways Travel Magazine)
One of the things that made me feel slightly unsettled was the presence of the riot police everywhere. Not that I had any personal encounters, but it was still hard to get used to seeing soldiers carrying rifles just strolling around the mall.
Later that night, we took a 46 minute flight from Nairobi to Mital’s hometown Mombasa, where we spent the next few days. The minute we stepped off the plane, we could smell the ocean. Mital’s dad picked us up at the airport and we headed to our accommodations at Travellers Beach Hotel located along the North Coast on Bamburi Beach.
It was midnight by the time we arrived at the hotel, and then we immediately headed out to the bars. We partied all night at Il Covo, which was essentially a huge Indian dance party. The Pussycat Dolls “Jai Ho! (You are My Destiny)” became our trip’s party anthem. We indulged in many Tuskers, which is a very popular Kenyan-brewed beer, and the boys showed off their favorite drinking activity of dropping on the floor and doing push/press-ups in the middle of the dance floor.
After leaving the bar around 4:30am, we decided to walk back to the hotel along the beach. The white sand was incredibly soft and cool under our feet, which felt amazing after our epic dance party.
Bed by 5am!
Lala salama, good night!