I’ve been on some pretty awful flights in my time. Hell, I’ve been on a 38 hour overland journey across the entire subcontinent of India with a less than happy stomach, but I think yesterday’s was probably my worst experience yet. Turkish Airlines turned out to be a bit of a shambles. With only a one hour gap in which to transfer from one plane to another in Istanbul, the first flight took off 40 minutes late, and we were assured, not at all convincingly, that the connection would be fine. It turns out that it was, just, mainly because of a short sprint through customs at the other end, during which they took every type of liquid we had with us (we brought it all the right side of security in Dublin, but apparently a second security check is necessary). Lucky we didn’t buy any expensive duty free.
Turkish Airlines have their planes kept at Turkish temperatures (i.e. sweaty), and the drinks are minimal, while I managed to find myself sat in front of a small, kicking and screaming child for the second six hours without anything more than a less-than-inspiring book for entertainment. Come 2am, when we landed in Nairobi, I was already shattered, but there was worse to come: our luggage hadn’t made our own running transfer in Istanbul, so we’re currently luggage-less in Nairobi. This could all have been relatively painless, but with a 45 minute queue at immigration, a still longer one to report the missing luggage (after a half hour wait to see if it turned up) and our hotel pick up having disappeared as we were running so late, it’s probably the worst travel to and introduction to a country I’ve ever had, simply because sheer disorganization at every moment made things so slow and painful. I can deal with long when I know it’s coming; it’s much more difficult when I don’t. Still, at least things could only get better.
We slept until two today, and then set about trying to rectify the situation. We’re stuck in Nairobi until our luggage turns up – there’s little point in heading out on safari or down south without the bags – so we spent our very first day in Kenya largely in a shopping mall, trying to buy a couple of sets of clothes. This proved to be a perfect chance to see the other sides the country: since leaving the airport, everyone’s been incredibly friendly, and the simple things can be absolutely fascinating. I particularly loved drinking milk out of a tiny plastic bag (how it’s sold in the supermarkets), and the entire city’s just so lush and leafy, despite the coating of orange clay dust that even the light rainy season hasn’t managed to clear. The shopping centre was full of model elephants and clearly very upmarket, but we managed to grab some affordable clothes so we could change out or our sweaty airline stuff, and the staff at the hotel – Khweza Bed and Breakfast in Ngara – have been great in trying to help us out. It’s not how we’d have chosen to spend our first day, particularly the lie in, but it has been surprisingly culturally enlightening.
I can see myself getting very into reading the local newspapers every day. Over dinner – with a 1 Euro large size Tusker beer (we’re resisting the extra strong 6.5% Guinness they make in Africa as being a touch uncultured given where we live, for the time being) Helena told me about the Ugandan papers, which were notoriously sex obsessed, and even had the headline in one issue ‘Sexy Girl Dies’, which has to be an award winner for most offensive headline ever published. Kenyan newspapers seem significantly more civilized, but they do address some entertaining issues, not least (from today’s Weekend Star) ‘Do men fall in love?’ The article talks about how relationships are widely criticized in Kenya as being false and pointless, and a lot of men look for two qualities in a woman they might marry: good housekeeping, and the ability to ‘pop out a lot of children’ (their words not mine). It’s like the culture of a bygone era.
We hope to get our luggage back tomorrow, but until we do it’s pretty difficult to plan on going anywhere. We’ve already extended our planned stayed in Nairobi itself by a day, and whether the luggage shows or not, we’ll be off to see sanctuaries for elephants and giraffe tomorrow, all being well. It is a real problem, though, if only because all of our malarone (anti-malaria drug) is in the suitcase, and we’ve already missed a day. We certainly can’t afford to replace it at more than 300 Euro for the two of us, so with any luck we’ll only have missed a day and everything will be back to normal tomorrow. If so, we’ll also be looking into our first real forays into the Kenyan wilds, or perhaps crossing the border to do something similar in Tanzania.
Very much ‘watch this space’.