Nairobi News Update - 6 September 2000

Greetings and salutations from Nairobi!

I have not yet got around to doing a general bush telegraph email but thought I would send you a quick message as we will probably be back on the road tomorrow or the next day and we may not be in email contact for a while. We arrived here late last week after having driven up the coast via Tanga and Mombasa. We did not spent too much time in Tanzania after leaving Dar as we felt that we needed to make some distance. We did however spend two nights at Tiwi beach just south of Mombasa and another night at Malindi about 80 km's north of it. Tiwi beach was really stunning and we had a good relax. We did another dive in Malindi and finally said goodbye to the Indian ocean. We will probably not see the ocean again until we hit the Mediterranean or Red Sea at the top of Africa.

From Mombasa we headed to Amboselli National Park on the Tanzanian/Kenyan border where we finally caught a glimpse of Kilimanjaro. Although we had climbed it, the cloud had always been too thick so we had never seen those postcard views. We were dying to see what it was that we had actually climbed and the views from the Kenyan side of the border are supposed to be the best. The view from Amboselli was indeed spectacular although it only lasted a couple of hours before the clouds came in and covered the mountain again. We saw stunning herds of elephants at Amboselli and were in fact woken up one morning by elephants walking on the outskirts of our campsite munching leaves. Gorgeous!

We have had a couple of administrative and beaurocratic hiccups in Kenya - the first that we have experienced on our trip so far. We entered Kenya at the Lunga Lunga border south of Mombasa. Obviously these border officials do not see many tourists and the immigration guy insisted that we needed visas and that they cost 50 US dollars each!! We almost choked - especially as we had contacted the Kenyan embassy in Pretoria who had told us that we did not need any. We could not tell if the guy was after a bribe or not so spent some time discussing the issue/arguing with him. Eventually he gave us a three day permit and told us to report in Mombassa to sort it out. When we got to Mombasa the officials there scoffed at the idea of us needing visas and gave us a 30 day visitors permit - at least we managed to save 100 dollars. The border officials also did not inform us that we needed a foreign vehicle permit - so we were blissfully unaware that we were driving around quite illegally. We only discovered that we needed one when we arrived here in Nairobi and almost got into trouble with a traffic cop. He, I think, was also after a hand out and kept asking us what we had brought him from South Africa. We just kept smiling at him and handing him copies of our documents. Eventually he let us go. So we have had to sort that out as well. We have also managed to get our Carnet (like a car passport) extended to include the Middle East as it looks like we will have to cross through there. Nairobi is a really big city and a real travellers meeting place. It definitely forms the barrier that separates the sheep from the goats - ie those that are heading back South and those that are pushing on all the way. As Nev puts it "there is a real air of excitement". We have met lots of people who are doing the same route that we are which is quite comforting - at least we are not the only nutcases.

We got our Ethiopian visas without too much fuss - only took 24 hours. We could not believe our luck. We did not have the same luck with the Sudanese visas though. We applied for them on Friday and were told that they have to send a message to Khartoum before they can grant the visas. We were told that it could take anything from 48 hours to one month or more. We went back to check yesterday and were told that there has been an order issued from Khartoum that no further tourist visas are to be granted at all. They gave us back our passports and told us there was nothing further they could do. The receptionist would also not let us speak to anyone in the consular section and could not give us a reason for the refusal. There are lots of other people here in the campsite who are wanting to do the same route that are also waiting for visas. We chatted to some of them yesterday and nobody else had been given the same story that we had. Some had been told that there were was no response yet and that they should keep checking. Its so inconsistent - the only consistent part is that nobody has been given a visa yet although everyone has been told something different. We do not even think that they sent out applications to Khartoum. Its very frustrating but anger/frustration seems to have little or no effect on these people. They told us that we could try from Addis Ababa which we will do. At least we can carry on till there now that we have our Ethiopian visas. We will be well and truly screwed if we cannot go into the Sudan though as it is one of our only options now that Egypt is out (they want a deposit of 100% of the value of our car - as if??), the Eritrean borders are closed and the DRC is a no go zone. Our only other option in to go from Ethiopia to Djibouti and try to ship our car out - we have heard though that Djibouti is the arm pit of Africa so we would like to avoid it. Its these beaurocratic and administrative hassles that really make travelling in Africa a pain. We are doing all sorts of work on the car as well. It seems like all the shock absorbers are buggered and they will cost a fortune to replace here. Nev has also been fixing a leak on one of our water tanks and we have to have our airconditioning looked at - it broke somewhere along the very bad road from Mombasa to Amboselli. It may be crucial to our sanity if we decide to go through the desert. We found a laundromat - clean towels - what bliss and have even managed to see a movie here - Mission Impossible 2. The choices were very limited. Going to the movies was quite an experience - the sound track was a bit stretched and dragged and we had to watch a documentary about the Kenyan Wildlife services before it started complete with an address by President Moi. There were also these very old fashioned aquafresh adverts - with a black family with huge cheesy smiles. Patrons were also warned not to put their feet on the seats or stick chewing gum under them. It was hilarious. We also had dinner at the Carnivore restaurant - its apparently world famous. They specialise in meat and offer all sorts of weird and wonderful things like crocodile, eland and zebra. They just keep bringing more and more we certainly got our meat quota in. There is no water in Nairobi at the moment as there is a very serious drought so our campsite does not have water. The water truck comes every couple of days - we are just happy that we are not paying a fortune to stay in a hotel. There are also power rationings so the electricity is out in most of the city for certain hours a day. Oh, and there is no sugar - some cartel has bought it all up and are artifically inflating the prices - needless to say the Kenyans are up in arms. We are quite keen to get out of here and head for the Masai Mara and Uganda. We find the big cities really quite draining. As we do not have to wait for Sudanese visas now we will probably hit the road tomorrow as our business here will be finished then.

We will head for Lake Naivasha and the Masai Mara which is on the way to Uganda. We will spend about 10 days in Uganda and will then head back through Kenya to Ethiopia - we need to enter Ethiopia within 30 days of the date that our visa was granted (31 Aug) I don't know what we will do if we don't get the Sudanese visas but everyone tells us that it will be easier from Addis so we will try there. Otherwise we will have to look at Djibouti.. We did manage to visit Karen Blixen's house over the weekend which was really interesting. Its been absorbed into the outer suburbs of Nairobi and is not really what we imagined. Its not really in the hills and the whole area is very dry. The house has been very well restored and looked after. There was also a huge African wedding going on in the garden (Karen's house seems to be the trendy spot for Nairobi society weddings) which was interesting to see. The bride was very buxom but dressed in a western white wedding gown. Lots of singing and ullulating. Have also found a huge supermarket that has absolutely everything including olive oil, balsamic vinegar and dijon mustard. Nev had to hold me back. We have stocked up with canned goods for the remainder of the trip as we have been told that there is not much fresh/canned stuff to be bought in Ethiopia or further north. We also found a good book shop so have stocked up on a few new and second hand books.

Next time I will get my act together and do a proper telegraph.

lots of love