Nairobi: hot topic today, in light of the terrorist attack in a mall where my husband and I shopped for shoes just a few weeks ago. But I don’t want to talk about that. I want to talk about how much we enjoyed the city, sans terrorist attacks (which I sadly remind you, could happen anywhere). We enjoyed Nairobi, particularly our one, brief night at Wildebeest Eco Camp. Even though we did not get a warm shower, not even close.
We landed at approximately 12:30am, which is typical for travelers coming from North America. We had flown through Washington D.C., Brussels (a painfully boring airport), and Rwanda, in order to get to Nairobi a mere 39 hours after leaving home. Our driver was waiting for us outside the terminal, something that we rarely experienced traveling in South or Central America (where if it is too late at night or your driver needed a snack, he would leave you stranded). Filled with the adrenaline of landing somewhere new and so utterly foreign, we barely felt the exhaustion which threatened to pour into the cracks in our travel-worn bodies.
Our driver took us immediately to Wildebeest Eco Camp. Of course, our arrival and drive were in complete darkness. I kept peering out the windows like a kid peeking into a Christmas present. Oh how I wanted to catch my first glimpse of East Africa! It was only of billboards and other lit signs.
Wildebeest is off a main road, but in the darkness it seemed like we were headed into the middle of nowhere. When the guard opened the gate and the porter greeted us, I could barely contain my excitement. He led us to our tented cabin. (Side note: I tried to explain a tented cabin to my grandma, and it was like explaining a coconut to an Eskimo. Anyway, it is what it sounds like: a sturdy, canvas tent that had windows and zips shut. It is set up permanently, with beds and a trash can, like a sparsely decorated cabin. Each bed has its own mosquito net. There may or may not be a rug on the wooden floor.) If you find yourself in Nairobi, even for 5 hours, I recommend this as a comfortable budget stay and somewhere that makes you feel like, “Wheeeeeee! I’m in Kenya!”
First we doused ourselves in insect repellant, then wiped our faces with the refreshing wipes every traveler learns to carry in her purse. After brushing our teeth with water we were apparently not supposed to touch with our fingers let alone put in our mouths (but remarkably, we turned out ok, like most children of the ’80’s), we fell asleep, our minds reaching with itching desire for the five hours of continuous sleep we hoped to get before leaving the next day. Peace.
In the morning, Justin walked the quarter mile from our tent to the showers to take his icy morning shower. On the way, a mosquito gave him a giant bit, his only bite in Kenya. I stayed cuddled under my thin layer of dirt, which I believe shielded me from the insects, the contaminated water, everything. The giant spider guarding the path lamp outside our front flap, proudly sitting in his throne of a web, was enough to keep me inside.
The sun barely peeked over the horizon as we left Wildebeest Eco Camp. Rarely do I get to see the muted shades of the early morning, bed-lover that I am. It looked like the entire world is coming into focus. We could see the outline of play equipment and other tents as we pulled our suitcases out the front flap. I imagined the happy campers, resting blissfully before another day exploring Nairobi (as long as the rumble of our wheels along the stones didn’t wake them). It took hardly any imagination to picture the swings swaying to and fro, squeaking and whining from the children who just abandoned them so they could run to their next adventure. I hoped the families brave enough to take their young children on such an outstanding adventure appreciated the thoughtful touch of play equipment at the eco camp. The air was chilly, much more so than I expected of East Africa (which I believed, probably stereotypically, to be universally hot). The orchids bloomed in the trees, bravely standing up to the dawn, proclaiming they can be exquisite even in just-off-grey shades of light. I made Justin take a picture of them just to capture the light, and perhaps the moment, of our first morning in Nairobi, Kenya, East Africa, other side of the globe.