21/8/89

DAY ONE  We had a wake up call at 7:30 & got up, packed the rest of our stuff then checked out of the hotel and walked up to the 680.

Being true to form, Kumuka kept us waiting there until Mike came in about 10:30 and told us where the truck was. We walked up Kenyatta Av to where “The Silver Fox”¹ was parked and stowed our stuff aboard. We then had another 2 hour wait during which time I put a new stereo into the truck. Finally at about 1:00 we were away. We called in to The Grosvenor Hotel to pick up Brian and an Israeli couple called Uri and Yaid.

 We bumped our way out of Nairobi along shocking roads and past appallingly squalid slums made of mud and corrugated iron amid a sea of mud. There was an endless stream of people walking along the road with bundles of sticks & and bits of old iron and donkeys pulling ramshackle carts.

It took us about an hour to clear Nairobi and then we were out into the country.

The whole of the Nairobi area is on a high, rolling plateau and as such is quite cool and lush. A lot of the land has been cleared of bush and been turned into productive horticultural land.

We had a minor break-down mid-afternoon which we fixed with wire and insulation tape, and about 6:00 we pulled off the road and made camp. A couple of Masai herdsmen stood and watched us with amusement as we pitched our tents and made tea which was grilled steaks and veges. After we had eaten and washed up, Linda, Mike, Fran and me did some rearranging in the truck. Went to bed about 10:00.

¹The Silver Fox was a converted, ex-German army, 4WD M.A.N. truck. It took its name from its driver, John “Scotty” Rattagen who was a grey-haired Scotsman who had spent many years driving overland tours in Asia and Africa.

Out in Africa. Preparing dinner on our first night on the road.

20/8/89

LINDA’S BIRTHDAY. This morning I got up early and went down to the reception desk and asked the Kenyan guy there to translate “Happy Birthday” into Swahili for me. He obliged with a big grin and wrote “KUSHALIWA KWEMA.” I gave Linda a card with that written in it and the Batik then we lay in bed and talked till 10:30.

Mucked round in our room all day and went out to The Carnivore¹ with 8 other trip members.

¹As its name might suggest, The Carnivore was a restaurant that specialised in meat!

19/8/89

After a fairly lazy get up we walked up to the 680 and after a lot of mucking around and signing things, got Linda’s camera back.

We had a ginger ale at the bar then went over to the African Heritage Café. We had lunch then stayed there until 4:30 listening to the African band that was playing. They were really good, with drums, bass, two guitars and between 2 and 6 singers on at various times. They were great dancers too, with natural rhythm and some of their moves were decidedly suggestive!

On the way back to the hotel I went to a curio shop & bought Linda’s birthday present – a Batik of a Masai warrior.

We had tea at the corner café then spent the evening relaxing in our room. Oh! One other thing. This morning we were lying awake just before dawn and we heard the cryers in the towers of the nearby mosk [sic], calling the town’s Muslims to prayer. A really eerie sound.

18/8/89

We got up late, about 10,30, after having been kept awake half the night by the racket from the bar next to the hotel.

We walked up to the centre of town, stopping on the way to get a box big enough to hold our souvenirs, some brown paper and some Sellotape. We found the Central Post Office on Haile Selassie Ave and went through the rigmarole of getting our stuff sighted by customs, weighed, wrapped and stamped. In the end it only cost us K/SH123 to send it all the way to N.Z. although is surface mail & it could take anything up to 6 months! Craig and Ian were also at the PO sending their souvenirs home.

After we had finished at the Post Office, we went to the Kenyan Cultural Centre, which is the highest building in Kenya, to see if we could go up on top for a look. We were told “NO”! So we went and had an Italian lunch at the Trattoria instead.

After lunch, feeling very full, we went round to the Kumuka office. Mike, our co-driver was there along with a couple of other guys who have done Kumuka trips. Mike is a nice guy and comes from Culverden¹. We yarned there for ½ an hour then went round to the 680 for a drink. Not much was happening there, so we went back to the hotel. When we got there, Linda discovered she had lost her camera. The only place it could be, we decided, was at the 680. I went back there and, yes, indeed, it had been found in the lobby the night before. She must have left it there when we met Lynda for drinks. Anyway, it was there, but it was locked in the safe so I couldn’t get it until tomorrow. No problem, at least it isn’t lost!

Went back with the good news and we spent the rest of the evening relaxing in our room.

¹Culverden is a small farming town in North Canterbury on New Zealand’s South Island.

17/8/89

Today is the day we should have left on our trip but that wasn’t to be as I have said earlier.

The morning was cold grey and grizzly. I had a wake up call at 7 a.m. and went round to the Iqbal in the hope of getting a room but it was full up. I wandered around the wet and muddy streets for hour and a half and finally settled on a place called the Hotel Terminal. It was K/SH300 per night (£10) but that is a hell of a saving on the 680’s K/SH840 per night.  We packed our gear and checked out of the 680 and walked up to the hotel terminal on Moktar Daddah Street. It is safe and comfortable and although not as plush as the 680 it will do us.

We had lunch at the cafe on the corner, then relaxed in our room for an hour or so before we set off back to the 680 to see Lynda. She wasn’t there so we decided to go over to the Iqbal and see if Craig and Ian or Skip¹ were there.  On the street a guy came up to us with four carved animals for sale at K/SH300 for all four. After some hard bargaining we bought two of them, a giraffe and an impala for K/SH50. That’s quite a markdown. Another guy in approached us with a beautiful carved elephant he wanted K/SH180 for. Again some hard bargaining ensued and we got it for 40. Not a bad haul.

We found Craig and Ian at the Iqbal and we all want it over to the market. Those two really drive a hard bargain!! We had teas at the African Heritage Cafe then parted company and went to the 680.  Had a few drinks with Lynda then said our goodbyes to her as she is leaving on her trip tomorrow. Walked back to the Terminal and had tea at the corner café.

¹These three guys were members of our overland group. Ian and Craig were English; Skip (we never found out his real name) was Australian.

 

16/8/89

We spent most of the morning sussing out a cheap place to stay from tomorrow night as our paid up accommodation here at the 680 runs out tomorrow. We finally settled on the Iqbal¹ on Latina Road after looking at several other highly suspect looking places. You cannot book for the Iqbal so we have to be here at 8 a.m. to be sure of getting a room.

With somewhere to stay sorted out we went to the market and I bought a straw hat for K/SH 25 and a carved mask for KSH 50.  Linda bought a very nice pair of sandals from a street stall for 200. We had a drink at the Terrace Bar when we got back to the hotel and spent the afternoon relaxing in our room.  We had tea in the Simba Room.

¹The Iqbal hostel, colloquially known as the “Dog Bowl” was a famous, if somewhat squalid, hotel that was popular with backpackers travelling on a budget and none too fussy about the quality of their digs as long as they were cheap! 

My travel diary from our four month African overland in 1989.
Route map and budget for our trip. Again, this was compiled in our little attic room at The Woodman, a long way from Africa, but the place where we dreamed our African Dreams for four months as we worked hard and saved every penny we earned for our trip.

15/8/89

We went round to the Zaire Embassy and picked up our passports. The visas cost K/SH 160 each which is £5. I have got a dose of the shits so didn’t do much all day.

The following images are of a letter that I wrote to my brother, Joe Blakiston, from the 680 Hotel. I commenced writing it on August 15th and finally posted it on August 18th.

14/8/89

We got a fairly early and went out in search of the Zaire Embassy.  After three quarters of an hour of wandering we finally found it on the 12th floor of Electricity House.

To apply for our visas we had to fill in the same form four times each and supply them with 4 photos. Thus we were introduced to African bureaucracy.

We went to the African heritage cafe for lunch with Lynda then walked up to the Nairobi Snake Park. Here they have a display of about 30 varieties of snakes from all over the world ranging from the non-poisonous grass snake to the highly poisonous mamba and the non-poisonous but no less deadly python. There was also an aquarium and several species of crocodile on the display. 

From the snake park we went to the museum and spent an hour and a half there before returning to the hotel.

My travel diary from our four month African overland adventure in 1989.

The cover page of my diary, drawn in our room at The Woodman, the pub where we worked for four months prior to going to Africa.

13/8/89

We collected Lynda at about 9 a.m. and had breakfast in the restaurant.

We then walked up to the police station to check progress but all they could tell us was that the car had been reported stolen and it was obvious to us that the case was closed as far as they were concerned. One of the detectives roped us in to donating 20 K/SH in aid of his brother who is studying engineering in India.

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Receipt for our “donation” at the Nairobi Police Station.

We went to the African Heritage Cafe for a cup of tea then back to the hotel for an hour’s rest before Linda and I set off round to the Hilton where we had arranged to go on a 4 hour trip around Nairobi National Park.

We found Silas, the guy who is organising the trip, and watched with some trepidation while he and several others tried to put the door back onto the battered old Kombi van. It had fallen off when he slid it open!  We decided we wouldn’t get in the van until there were some other white people with us so we sat on the steps outside the Hilton watching the stupid tourists pass by.

Eventually, 5 other white people arrived and we set off chugging out of Nairobi and along the highway to the park. Once inside the park the driver slowly drove through the bush and out onto a ridge called Impala Point. The first animals we saw where a group of lovely sleek impala grazing right beside the track and unconcerned about us. The group was made up of about 20 females, several young, and a little way off, keeping his eye on things, was the buck with his ornate spiral antlers.  Further on, 3 buffalo stood chewing the cud and lazily slapping their long ears to ward off the flies. A giraffe stopped munching the top leaves of a tree long enough to give us a casual stare, then went about his business and the other tourists in the bus ooohed and arrred and clicked off their cameras.

As we drove around the many tracks that criss-cross the park, which must cover at least 30,000 acres, we saw herds of zebra, ostriches, more impala, ibex, a group of baboons and several more giraffes. Many of the trees were roosting places for the horrible, ungainly, but funny looking vultures. They are so ugly that you can’t help but like them.

We had to walk up one of the hills as the poor old Kombi couldn’t get up with us on board, then a little further on we stopped by a small river. We left the van and along with a horde of camera happy loopies¹ wandered along the banks of the river. Turtles were basking on rocks, logs and any other available space, and three hippos were submerged in a pool, only their ears eyes and nose is visible. A game warden pointed out a school of fish sliding slowly through the still water and it would have been a wonderfully quiet and peaceful place if it wasn’t for the crowd of tourists jabbering in four or five languages.

We left the stream and drove for another 20 minutes to the exit then back to Nairobi. At 7 we met Lynda for drinks and dinner in the hotel restaurant.

¹Loopies is a New Zealand slang term for tourists.

12/8/89

We didn’t get up until 1:30 p.m. today which was quite lazy but we do have 10 days to fill in so why not fill some of it in by sleeping late?

We went downstairs and deposited most of our trip money in the hotel safe and changed £50 into 1650 Kenyan shillings.  We met a girl from Christchurch in the lobby who is doing a 5 week Kumuka trip and arranged to meet her for a drink at 7 tonight. We went out and search of food and ran the gauntlet of many guys selling safaris. In the end, a polite, well-spoken Kenyan stopped us outside the Hilton and we arranged to come back there tomorrow and go on a half day trip to the Nairobi National Park. His name was Silas A. Wadhane and he has a business management degree and was a lot more polite and intelligent from most of the ratbags, friendly ratbags, yes, but ratbags nevertheless, that stand on the corners selling the same trips.

We had lunch of Kenyan food – sweet potatoes, arrowroot, mince, fish, and beans – then went back to the hotel.

We met Lynda for drinks at 7 as arranged then decided to go out for something to eat. That was when the trouble began. We were standing on the corner of Kenyatta Avenue and Muindi Mbinghu Street when a man came up to us, ripped Lynda’s handbag off, and ran to a waiting car. Lynda and I chased him and tried to stop him and several passersby came to our aid but the guy was big and very strong and he got the bag into the car which then took off. We still had hold of the man but we had to let go as the car gathered speed and we crashed to the pavement. The car was a yellow Toyota Corolla, registration number KQV 590. The bag had all of Lynda’s stuff in it: passport, t/cheques, money, air tickets, travel and hotel vouchers and vaccination certificate.

We went back to the hotel and after a lot of explaining got the police. They took us up to the police station where Lynda told her story four times to various officers. In the end a “detective” took a statement.

The activity and the station was quite interesting to say the least. A never-ending stream of people in plain clothes walked in and out of the cell area without question. The uniformed police all carried sidearms and many of them carried Armalite rifles, UZI submachine guns, and what I think we’re Stirling submachine guns.  They carry them quite openly and one guy talked to us with his UZI sitting on the table pointing straight at us!

It was a long drawn out process but we finally got the statement across and left the station.  We caught a taxi back to the 680 not wanting to risk walking. We went up to Lynda’s room and got a meal brought up then left her and went to our own room.