My first day in Kenya is, thankfully, a relaxing Sunday. It’s been a non-stop few months for me and so just having this one day to settle it totally necessary!
My flight landed in Nairobi at 4:30am and immigration was quick. The immigration officer really made me though – I could hear other officers being friendly and making small talk but mine barely said a word and even stood up and walked off, leaving my passport on the desk! I stood there like a lemon for a while and then he said “I’m done with you” and kept walking!! To be fair it was still before 5am and he may not be a morning person.
Bag arrived without a hitch (hooray!) and then I went outside to find my taxi driver but had no luck. I was a bit gutted actually as it’s just so rare for me to be collected by someone with one of those name sheets. But hey.
I negotiated a lift with a tour operator called Charles, carefully checking his ID. The journey was quick and I was welcomed at Khweza Bed & Breakfast in no time. The staff wanted to let me stay in my room, even though it’s only booked from tonight. The guests were checking out early so I slept up on the rooftop terrace for two hours before George came to tell me he had made up my room.
And so I gratefully collapsed into bed until breakfast time on the terrace at 9am. I could hear some incredible singing from a nearby church as I drifted off. Finally some real sleep!
Breakfast was certainly worth waking up for. It’s cloudy but warm already.
I took the opportunity to re-sort my bags so that I could travel light during the day. Then, as I was heading out into the city, I asked about the cost of extending my stay for the full week as my room is really comfy.
I am staying in a Superior Double Room (it’s a B&B rather than a hostel) and the initial price was $46 (£36) per night so I only booked two nights to find my feet, but they are happy for me to pay $30 (£24) each night for the rest of the week. Nairobi isn’t particularly cheap and the included breakfast is really nice so it seems sensible not to move.
I opted to Uber to the Safaricom shop to buy my SIM card and alongside the familiar UberX option is ChapChap – just small cars that zip around the city. I was told not to expect luxury or any space, but it was absolutely fine! And it cost 160Ksh (Kenyan shillings, £1.25).
And another little quirky thing. In a huge city full of Safaricom shops, you just have to say “Safaricom in town” for people to know you mean this branch.
The waiting area is pretty immense. Really reminds me of both Chile and Argentina. There are over 40 tickets ahead of me in line, just in my category. But I’m in no hurry. The rule is not to ever be in a hurry.
The queue was pretty epic. It took quite a long time for the woman to be able to get the details she needed from my passport and her device crashed twice, but we got there!! And now I have 4G. For the cheapest package, I paid 1,050 Ksh (£8.16) for 4GB, 200 minutes and unlimited SMS for a month. I felt I should include phone calls rather than use data only because I don’t know what my plans for the week will require.
Seems very quick so far.
The banks are closed on Sunday so even getting to some ATMs isn’t straightforward. I found ones that only take visa so far. But larger stores and restaurants accept card so it’s not too bad.
I wanted to eat in a really local chicken place but they don’t take card, so for now I’m in a more upmarket cafe deli with soup and chips. Fancied salad but need to scope out the water sanitation before I can go for a salad! Lunch cost 920Ksh (£7.15), so fairly expensive compared to the chicken Plan A. But I’ve seen lots of similar options so I’m hopeful!
I checked online to see which banks don’t charge for foreign withdrawals and found that the best two are Equity and Ecobank which both accept visa, MasterCard and others. found an Equity Bank ATM and had absolutely no issues withdrawing with my Starling Bank card. Starling is an amazing account for travelling – check them out here.
Making the most of my balcony, I decided to sit and read in the afternoon sun. In the spirit of this journey being about learning, this book is about Quantum Computing. You can check it out on Amazon here.
And finally I headed to the only climbing gym in Nairobi (and the reason for selecting a B&B in the North of the city!). I took a ChapChap to Diamond Plaza (£1.71), and was absolutely taken aback by how much is going on in this part of the city.
As I was warned, it’s an absolute warren and thankfully when I looked it up, I found a tip to look for the casino entrance and take the nearest lift to the 6th floor. It was a relief to see Blue Sky as soon as I step out of the lift.
I paid the one-off climbing fee of 1,000Ksh and 400Ksh to hire shoes (£10.83 in total, cash or MPesa only).
There were quite a few bouldering routes in there, and lots of top rope routes too. Many of the bouldering routes didn’t have the difficulty at the bottom, so it was more of a guessing game than I expected but I had a good evening there.
Sunday hours were 2-7pm so I timed it to be there until closing and then headed for dinner. I’ve been recommended two Indian restaurants in the Diamond Plaza area. I opted for Hashimi BBQ for tonight, the other being Chowpaty, a vegetarian speciality restaurant.
It was already pretty busy at around 7 but it just kept on filling up. I ordered a kebab with a side of veg and a half portion of chips and it was definitely enough food for two people. The chips were “Pilipili” spice and were hot!!! I paid 1,500Ksh (£11.66) and they accepted card.
With a very full tummy I clambered back into a ChapChap and managed to get back to the B&B. It’s quite strange that the drivers don’t trust Uber to get the destination correct so you’ve got to be prepared to explain how to get there. But we made it. And I’m having a relaxing end to the evening. There’s a nice breeze up on the rooftop. I’m glad for a light hoody and some fleecy trousers.
It’s been a long but good day.
- 20. Trekking to the roof of AfricaFor the finale of this amazing journey to Africa, I joined a group and hiked up Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, and the highest free-standing peak in the world. It’s a 5,895m (19,341ft) high dormant volcano that springs up into three cones – Kibo, Mawenzi and Shira. Uhuru Peak is the highest summit … Continue reading 20. Trekking to the roof of Africa
- 19. Wrapping up my time with APOPO including a Full Cheek Friday FeastMy two weeks at APOPO has flown by. Today is my last day and so I’m feeling a little sad but it really has been amazing and I think I’ve made the most of it. I started today in Lily’s office as usual but we had a coffee and actually finally got round to completing … Continue reading 19. Wrapping up my time with APOPO including a Full Cheek Friday Feast
- 18 APOPO training, welfare, research and dataI was tired this morning after waking up to another rainy day. I started off by documenting all of the rats in the breeding kennels (which spelled completion of my Head Office rat audit!) and then I finished up adding the information to the master spreadsheet. Then I interviewed Pendo, a wonderful character at APOPO. … Continue reading 18 APOPO training, welfare, research and data
- 17 Early morning minefield training with the HeroRATs-in-trainingI am not a morning person, but my 5:50am alarm signalled the start of a great day and I quickly rolled out of bed and made it to the rat dormitories for 6am to see the rats* being loaded on to the rat bus. By 6:20am we hit the trail. *They attain the status HeroRAT … Continue reading 17 Early morning minefield training with the HeroRATs-in-training
- 16. Starting week two at APOPO making myself usefulI started off this new week at APOPO in Cindy’s office, catching up after my first week and also so that I could conduct her interview. It was a really nice one and I find her very down to earth and humble, so it’s an honour to have such a brilliant scientist spend her time … Continue reading 16. Starting week two at APOPO making myself useful