Ahh…the ecstasy of flight! Once again we are in the skies, flying the second leg of our journey down to Nairobi and the start of our adventures in Africa.
The first leg of the trip began at 8 p.m. London time when we left England on KLM flight 128 bound for Amsterdam.
Bernie and Sue Farquhar dropped us off at Heathrow Terminal 4 in the late afternoon and after we checked our bags in, we wandered round the terminal, had a drink and bought some reading matter from the bookshop. We boarded the plane (a Boeing 727 I think) at about 7:40 and took off about 5 minutes late at 8:05. We circled over the huge stacks of the Mars factory, Slough, immediately after takeoff over the outskirts of London then climbed to our cruising altitude of 29,000 feet as we flew east over the darkening greens and browns of Southern England and out over the North Sea towards Holland.
Forty minutes later, after flying over several oil rigs in the North Sea, we touched down at Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam. With an unknown amount of time to wait for our connecting flight to Nairobi we bought some postcards for 50 Guilders and sat down to write them. Of course we had no sooner done that when our call to board came so we went and queued up for half an hour then boarded the Jumbo on which we would fly to Africa.
KLM Flight 519 took off on schedule at 11:53 p.m. and headed south over Europe bound for Nairobi then on to Johannesburg.
The flight was pretty routine, with two meals, a movie and not much else. I sat next to an old guy from Texas who, after retiring from the insurance business, had taken up breeding Brangus cattle. The flight took 9 hours.
Dawn came up when we were somewhere over the Sahara Desert. As far as the eye can see, and that is a long way at 29,000 feet, was flat, barren land broken only by low mountain ranges and the courses of muddy rivers. The whole expanse country was the same uniform light brown colour; the sky above it a lovely turquoise shade of blue. Even the rivers were brown and it was hard to tell if there was water in them or not, but I think they would be full as this is the wet season. Trees dotted the landscape below and there were few roads visible, although we did pass over a railway line. Only a couple of villages were visible by their corrugated iron roofs, but there would be more villages there that were invisible from that height.
We landed at Nairobi International Airport at 8:40 a.m. about 20 minutes early, disembarked and went through passport control. Security and facilities are far from the standard of European airports but no one seems to mind and one thing we did notice were the armed guards on the tarmac. We retrieved our packs and filled out our currency declarations in which everyone must declare how much money they have in an effort to combat the flourishing black market. We changed £20-00 pounds for 600 Kenyan shillings after we had gone through customs. The rate, well that is to say the official rate, is 30.50 K/SH to one pound.
A hustler got us a taxi into the city for 200 K/SH (34 shillings “cheaper” than the going rate) and the driver of the taxi, a beaten up and very old Datsun Crown, told us a few things about Nairobi and Mombasa on the way in. He also offered to take us to see some animals “for more money” but we politely refused. The outskirts of Nairobi are run down and shabby as is much of the central city. The roads, cracked and pot-holed, are packed with an array of old jalopies in varying states of decay, many of them years old. The trucks we passed on the Uhuru Highway on the way in were all old Leylands, Macks, Mercedes: probably cast-offs from European countries. The road rule appears to be “get through when you can” and there is much blaring of car horns. Every corner has a collection of people selling things.
We were dropped off at the 680¹ and checked in then went around to Kumuka². We met Scotty, our driver, and he told us all we needed to know about the trip and that due to a hold-up with the C.A.R³ visas we wouldn’t be leaving until the 20th so we have got quite a few days to kill in Nairobi.
We went to the market and spent half an hour there fending off vendors but still managed to be sold a bracelet each. Linda’s was 20 Kenyan shillings and I beat my one down to 15.
We wandered the streets for a while and went back to the hotel for a shower followed by tea on the balcony restaurant. Ee sampled the beer and while it is drinkable it isn’t nice by any means.
It was dark by 7 and we were in bed asleep by 8:30. So ended our first day in Africa.
¹The 680 Hotel was the hotel where we had booked to stay for the first few days that we were in Nairobi.
²Kumuka Africa was the tour company we were doing our overland trip with.
³The Central African Republic.