I got up early the next morning, eager to experience this new place. We had the whole day to spend in Nairobi; the schedule was to take the shuttle bus the next day to the base of Kilimanjaro. A glance out the window revealed a swath of downtown Nairobi. There were many modern looking downtown buildings. Most looked 'western' (for lack of a better word), but some had an architecture more middle-eastern (or so it seemed to me). An interesting blend. I looked about for signs that things were different here.
680 hotel from the street
Excellent buffet breakfast
One sign was our breakfast. Included with our room was a free breakfast. And this was a pretty good breakfast, buffet-style, with quite good standard breakfast fare. The setting, however, was quite grand. The hotel had a very -- How shall I describe it -- almost colonial-style eating area. Very spacious, large, with huge completely open windows out onto the street. It was a bright morning, and we were seated right next to the windows. It all seemed a little too decadent. Especially given the families camped out in the median of the road outside! Or, at least, it looked like they were camped out there.
Today marked the first day of my course of 'Malarone' - an anti-malarial drug that I would be taking for the entire trip, and a week afterwards. Kenya and Tanzania were in the malarial zone, and so I needed to start taking the pills, once a day, with food. I could detect no discernable side-effects, fortunately.
Nairobi City Streets
After breakfast, we decided to spend some time walking around Nairobi, getting a feel for life outside. Heading out into the street, anxiously fingering at my camera gear, was interesting. Even though it was New Years' day, there were still a fairly large number of people about, and I could only imagine what the streets would be like normally. I got my first experiences with in-your-face soliciting, which amounted to strangers coming up and offering to take you on safari, or on a taxi ride somewhere, or maybe a bit of begging. But it really was not all that bad.
Pu wanted to explore Uhuru Park, a local park near the hotel. I remember reading in a guidebook that it was a place to be avoided, but I didn't want to be too much of a party pooper and it was the middle of a bright sunny day and well... I guess I'll follow along, play it by ear, and just be aware.
Lily pond in Uhuru Park
The park turned out to be rather scenic, although there was quite a bit of garbage strewn about. And there were a lot of people just sort of... I guess hanging out, you might say, in the park. Many of them were selling various sundry items - simple foodstuffs, pop, whatever. The other thing... was that we were clearly the minority. I don't think there were any other Caucasian/Asians in the whole park. Obviously most people read and heeded the guidebooks!!
Maybe it was because we were in a group of six, or maybe it was because it was New Years' day, or maybe it was because we were wary and careful, or maybe it isn't as bad as the guidebooks say. But, in any case, I was not bothered too much by being in the park, and we wandered around unmolested. I mean, I was slightly uncomfortable, more in the fear-of-the-unknown sense than anything else. We were stared at a lot, and that was a new experience for me. I felt like I stood out - a lot. We were approached a few times by local folks selling stuff, but we declined and were not really bothered that much. And, as I said earlier, the park was quite pretty. At the far end of it, the land rose and there was a nice panoramic view of downtown Nairobi. It really did feel both modern and exotic, and that, I felt, was a neat combination.
I noticed that the English language was very prominent, in fact even dominant, on most signage in the city. In Kenya especially (and in many areas of East Africa), english is the 'language of business', and is taught as a secondary language after the primary language of Kiswahili.
Maneuvering our way back into the city centre, we walked around some more, trying to see more of the flavour of the downtown. Certain areas were really quite run-down, even bordering on looking like demolition areas. And, next to these areas might be completely modern office buildings. As before, we stood out as outsiders and were always stared at. After stopping briefly at a local [tourist] market, strolling around downtown by talented buskers, and by angry-sounding rallies (couldn't understand the Kiswahili, but we think it was religious in nature), we stopped at an excellent little Italian restaurant just blocks from our hotel. I was quite impressed by the quality of the food. Prices were, after all conversions, slightly cheaper than the equivalent meal in Canada.
Caroline at a Nairobi restaurant
Loitering on Loita street
I spent the rest of the day relaxing, using the hotel's quite-good internet service to update my web page, and organizing and packing for the next days' bus ride to Moshi. Moshi is the town at the southern base of Kilimanjaro, and is where most people go before the start of their Kilimanjaro climb.
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