Life & Travels Afloat in our Moody
Nairobi is different! Flying in past the magnificent Mount Kilimanjaro from South Africa, you sort of expect something fairly similar to the cities there. Wrong! Nothing had quite prepared me for the drive from the airport. It was dark with a lot of traffic, no street lights, and pedestrians everywhere. Manic!
Daylight revealed further surprises. After a breakfast poolside business meeting, it was instant exposure to the insanity of the traffic. It seems that every motorist is certified to drive, and I don’t mean by driving tests……. Junctions are just opportunities to see who is the most determined, regardless of the direction of travel. Fortunately, thanks to the omnipresent congestion, it is all in exceedingly slow motion!
What an amazing mixture this city is. New office buildings next to tin shacks, hand-pulled carts next to top-end luxury cars, colonial era buildings and shopping malls. The city centre has the Stanley Hotel harking back to the days of leaving notes pinned to a thorn tree for other travellers, a haven of peace in the lively surroundings of the city buzz. And then there is the Muthaiga Club. What a splendid institution! This glorious relic of the past has adapted to the modern age by all sorts of means, but somehow retains its gentile atmosphere as both an aspiration for the arriviste and a rite of passage for the ex-pat. (No offense implied, I really would like to be invited back there, please!).
As in the Caribbean, (there is so much in common), the army of minibuses pervades every street. Here they are called ‘mutatu’, the name referring back to the days when every journey cost 3 shillings. Needless to say they are every bit as mechanically challenged as their South African counterparts, the only saving grace being that it is not easy to get up to any sort of terminal velocity in this city!
Of course the adrenaline junkies can pick a more extreme form of transport, the boda-boda. These are small motorcycle ‘taxis’, with riders who have apparently qualified for immortality, or so their riding would suggest. Hurtling for gaps less than the width of their machines, they are undoubtedly an instant cure for constipation for their passengers!
The roads are often lined with stalls of some sort or another. One street was full of metal-bashers making wheelbarrows and steel trunks (must be lots of boarding-school boys!). The wheelbarrows were of limited range, painted or galvanised, barrow wheel or old car wheel!
Great sign – City Gate Lodge Hotel & Butchery! Shades of Sweeney Todd, methinks 🙂
One very evident feature is security. Every building of any size has security checks on bags and scanners for people before you can enter. The appalling terrorist attack on the Westgate shopping mall together with other smaller incidents has cast a long shadow. The measures do not seem to be a cause for concern, even if a bleeping scanner fails to produce any reaction from the staff……….