Echidna Media Organization project S.N.A.L. (emo_snal) wrote,
Echidna Media Organization project S.N.A.L.
emo_snal

Kenya Kenya Kenya!

Sunday, November 2nd, 03:30am - I love the travel, but I hate checking into airports. It's always a hassle and things always go wrong.
   I had a 07:00am flight out of the Los Angeles airport, LAX, which I meant I had to be there at 05:00, which meant I needed to leave my house by 04:00 at the very latest (if this was later in the day and there'd be traffic, I'd have to give myself three hours to get there, fortunately I'd be on the road so early I wouldn't have to deal with that), which meant... I better start packing for my trip by 03:30!

   I kid I kid I was actually for once entirely packed the day before. The only thing I forgot was a pen. But I did have to wake up at 3:30.

   Booked a hotel for my arrival in Nairobi while en route to LAX, and arranged for them to pick me up. Arriving at the check-in kiosk at exactly 05:00, I swiped my credit card, in the machine, it identified my name, and... informed me "there are no flights on this day for this passenger."

   This was quite alarming, to say the least. Fortunately I never got out of the denial stage of shock and while staring at my ticket I saw in small print that while it was a United ticket (where I was trying to check-in, logically), it was actually operated by Air Canada.
   It took at least half an hour to get around to the other terminal, but I finally got there, swiped a card in the machine and.... "there's no flight for this passenger on this day."
   Stared at my ticket some more to decipher its secrets. Definitely said it was a ticket for this date from this airport. Manually inputed the confirmation number ... still nothing.

   Got the attendant's attention (now that most check-in is automated, airlines like to have just one or two attendants manning all 15 check ins, and its a mess when there's a lot of errors). Fortunately once she started typing things in she WAS able to find the ticket ::huge sigh of relief::. But then the printer jammed trying to print the ticket (!!).

   Got up to the metal detector to find they were only running one... and then it broke. Time to throw up the arms and exclaim "oh for the love!!!" ... in one's head. But they turned on another metal detector and I got through security... with 16 minutes remaining to catch my flight!


   Several hours later I was in Toronto. Only thing to report is that I had possibly the worst burger ever at this little burger joint in the airport. I had mistakenly wandered in, like a fly to a scented candle, because their sign looked a lot like the established burger place "Fat Burger," but it was actually "Fancy Burger" in the same color and font and if I'd bothered to look at its foursquare reviews I'd have known that it almost universally disgusted people. The place was so bad I was deeply offended it even exists. Praying upon poor unsuspected travelers like a carnivorous plant.

   On the long leg to Istanbul I was sitting next to a State Department Foreign Service Officer, which I was somewhat star struck about because that's my dream job. She was a year or so into her first posting (Istanbul), returning from a brief visit home.

   Ten hour layover in Istanbul. The Asli was good enough to come hang out with me, even though it was a three hours commute for her. It was fun getting to randomly spend some time with her.


   Flight from Istanbul to Nairobi was just something like seven hours, from 7pm to 3:25am, so I didn't expect to be fed. A US based airline would certainly look at that and say "oh they leave after dinner and before breakfast, we don't owe them nothing!" so I stuffed myself with terrible overpriced fried chicken at the Istanbul airport foodcourt and then the airline tried to feed me some morrocan style chicken that was pretty good for airline food, better than the crap I'd stuffed in my face in the foodcourt anyway! AND then of all things they tried to feed me breakfast an hour before we landed as well!
   Landed very early (02:30?), getting a visa on arrival didn't appear to take any longer than having your passport looked at does anyway, and I was out of there in ten minutes!

   Driver showed up a little closer to when he expected me. As soon as we left the gated airport compound there were zebras grazing off the median!!! Welcome to Kenya!!


   Was a bit alarmed to be informed that my travel companion had already arrived and was in the room already, since I didn't expect Doug until later in the day. Was sure some hoodlum was going to hit me over the head with a pipe when I opened the door but no it turned out to be him. Doug is a retired beekeeper I had met in Nigeria -- at which point he had just come from Ethiopia where he'd had numerous adventures (climbing volcanoes, visiting salt mines that can only be reached by camel, etC), and married an Ethiopian while he was at it. He'd called me earlier this year and asked if I knew of any potential adventures, to which I'd said "well, I'm going to Tanzania for a beekeeping conference," and the rest is history.


Day 1 - November 4th - (Yes transit took all of Nov 2nd AND 3rd!) This was mostly a recovery day. Doug somehow got to talking to someone from "Big Time Safaris" while I was having breakfast and we went to their office and they conveniently booked, not only a one day safari at the nearby Nairobi National Park, but they also booked our flights to and from Zanzibar for us and the hotel in Zanzibar. We were able to get really good rates on everything because not only is it the off season, but the ebola scare is scaring the bajeezes out of travelers (notwithstanding that that's like not visiting California because there's an outbreak in Boston). So now (as of this writing) we're living like kings in a swanky hotel courtesy of ebola scare!
   After that we just walked around downtown. My observations on Nairobi -- it seems more developed, less "third world" than other African cities I've been in. Much less trash. Traffic is just abysmal though.


Day 2 - November 5th - In the morning we went to the Honey Care Africa headquarters, which took about an hour to get to. It was in this bizarre surreal abandoned amusement park looking place. I guess for one week a year its a big exposition / fair thing and the rest of year its a bizarre abandoned fairgrounds. There were lots of buildings belonging to different agricultural enterprises. Some looked to still be in use, many looked like they were indeed just locked up most of the year. Monkeys scampered about on rooftops. It was a nice place. Quiet and shady. The occasional uniformed gun wielding guard relaxed on an abandoned porch. In one area the guards lazily supervised as prisoners in striped outfits cut the grass -- with machetes.

   Honey Care Africa Africa it turned out had two buildings, seemed to employ about 45 people. On the bottom floor they had extracting rooms, with administration on the second. In the other building they were making beehives. The organization runs thousands of hives throughout Kenya by having their professional beekeepers travel around visiting different farms that have beehives on them. Their supply-chain logistics were really impressive. Doug and I had a good talk with their head of field operations, a young guy from Canada. On the nineteenth of this month they'll have all their beekeepers together for training and since Doug and I will be back in town by then we'll meet with them too and see if we ahve anytihng to add.
   Additionally I was thinking these guys have really impressive logistic, and the beekeeping operation I visited in Mekelle, Ethiopia, and a similarly very impressive processing facility, so I'm going to put them two in contact and see if they can share eachother's secrets.

   Then we went to the Nairobi National Museum which had a lot of interesting displays about local culture and history. It was a nice little museum.
   Outside this rastifarian looking fella played a song for Doug on his traditional string instrument. It really wasn't very impressive. Afterwards of course he wanted payment and Doug offered to give him herbs. He accepted but I don't think we was expecting to get actual herbs ;D

   That evening I continued reading "The Forever War," which I just mention to make the additional comment that that book, in which time dilation causes the protagonist to be gone from Earth for hundreds years, can make one a bit lonely and depressed when read while far from home.


Day 3 - November 6th - Headed out at 9am on a Safari! Just Doug and I and the driver and a minivan sized 4x4 with a canopy that opened up out of the roof so you could stand at the middle seats and be head and shoulders above the vehicle.
   I had expected there to be more people on the safari but as we'd find again and again on this trip, the ebola scare has scared off most tourists. As a consequence we've had mostly empty tours and hotels and really good rates!
   I had also expected maybe we'd drive around for an hour and see a giraffe, drive around for another few hours and see an antelope, something like that. There were exotic animals around just about every corner!!! We saw heaps of giraffes, zebras, various kinds of antelope, ostriches, warthogs even three rhinoceroses, one baboon, and I scarcely dared hope for it, but we saw a lion! Just lounging there, we were able to drive right up to her!
   The Nairobi National Park, where we were, is literally just off the edge of town, so for example I got shots of the lion with skyscrapers in the background, which is both interesting and kind of a bother. Hard to feel like you're really out there in the bush when you can see the city right there. Starts to blur the line between actually being "on safari" and "I could just be at the San Diego Wild Animal Park."

   We went straight from the national park to the airport, which fortunately was on the same side of the city, bordering right on the park (probably hence why I saw zebras as soon as I left the airport), and we were off for Zanzibar!!

[To be continued! More painful airport check ins! Adventure in Zanzibar!]

Tags: africa, east africa 2014, kenya, travel, travelogues
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