I don’t know if I am getting old, but I was very nervous about this trip and I thought a woman travelling independently in Africa would be utterly insane. It doesn’t help when one of Sydney’s Sunday newspaper, travel section, listed Kenya and South Africa in the top 10, “unsafe”, tourist destinations. I therefore thought it wise to go with a reputable company and signed up for an Intrepid overland tour. That put me at ease a bit, but I was still pretty scared on getting from the airport in Nairobi to my hotel. I feared I might get mugged on the way. Gulp!!!
Prior to landing I had churned in my mind a million times, plan, “Get to hotel in one piece and not get mugged”. Hence, on clearing immigration at Nairobi airport, cue the Mission Impossible theme music. There was no sign of my luggage, so I dashed into the woman’s wash rooms to put on my money belt, with my passport hidden inside, safely around my waist.
Next step was to get my hands on some Kenyan Shillings. I had read the exchange rate was unfavourable at this side of customs, but being completely paranoid about getting mugged I exchanged $50 as I didn’t want to be waving my wallet around and attracting unwelcome attention beyond customs. Kenyan money safely stashed in my pocket, part 1 of plan “Get to hotel in one piece and not get mugged” successfully accomplished, I return to the luggage carousel. For the next half an hour I watched the same brown bag pass me a dozen times, thinking to myself bag please turn up, bag please turn up. In all my travel years my luggage has only gone AWOL once, but I always have that niggling worry whether my bags will decide to go off on their own little adventure. I was not happy until I saw my duffel bag.
Part 2 of my meticulous plan, find the yellow cab booth that I had read about on the Internet, which would lead me safely to my hotel. Before clearing customs I started to mentally prepare myself for the crazy onslaught behind the doors. However much you travel, the locals know you are new to a country and see you as easy prey. I started giving myself a pep talk about looking confident and to pretend I had done this a million times. However, when I walked through customs I found no one in arrivals, absolutely nada, where was everyone? I glance around to spot the mystical yellow cab booth right in front of me, relieved to see it was not just a legend of the internet.
This was too easy, I stroll up and book my ride for 2300 shillings. I paid at another booth to a jolly, large, black woman. Who could not trust someone with such a beautiful smile, so as she started pushing my trolley to the taxi I run behind her trying to keep up. Leaving the airport terminal to discover the missing people, all outside, all waving name signs.
My safety blanket from the masses, the jolly black woman, started chatting to a man and to whom she suddenly palms me off too. Putting my guard back up, I refuse to let him push my trolley and nervously followed him. My brain going into overdrive, hmmm maybe I shouldn’t have been such a tight arse and pre-booked my ride to the hotel. However, after a few more steps we eventually stop in front of a taxi. I look at it, screw up my face and realise it is not yellow and my heart sinks further when I realise I have no receipt. Feeling utterly stupid I say I have paid. The taxi driver looks at me with a big friendly smile and says I know. He throws my luggage into the boot and I jump into the front. Not as smoothly as the other 2, but part 3 accomplished.
The final stage of plan “getting to the hotel in one piece and not get mugged”, the taxi ride. I tuck my hand luggage by my feet and slam down the door lock. Wary that this is the most dangerous part of my journey, being out after dark, in Nairobi. However, soon all fear dispersed as I start chatting with my driver. After the jolly black woman and now a jollier taxi man, I thought to myself, I think I am going to enjoy Africa.
The taxi journey was pretty uneventful, thank goodness, with my driver pointing out a few sights and telling me of his love of the Man City football club. Around 9.30 I pull up to my hotel, in one piece. Fade out the mission impossible sound track.
I was relieved to reach my hotel safely and was contemplating abandoning tomorrow’s plan of not leaving the hotel. The unknown is scary and the human mind can sometimes work overtime, but I am so glad fear didn’t stop me as the real adventures in Africa begin tomorrow.