Kenya Day 6
June 6th, 2010
*All information valid on the date of writing. Please check for the latest with other sources*
Continued from Kenya – Day 5
Morning began with someone pounding at the door calling out ‘wake up call for Mt Kenya’ and I was the only one who got up at 6 am to witness this ethereal spectacle from my window, as the sun gently rose behind the mountain, still lightly covered by mist but bright enough to present a reasonably clear view. I hastened to take pictures for posterity and not a moment too soon, since the clouds decided to rapidly gather their ranks with renewed vigor and obscure all further view, as if making good their earlier lapse.
Well pleased with my nimbleness, I proceeded to wake up the others as we had yet another journey to embark on, albeit our last one for the trip.
Off to the restaurant for our last meal there and a Champagne breakfast it was. Accompanied by both the alcoholic and non alcoholic versions, the rest of the breakfast was again a vast spread of the usual paraphernalia that I looked at with very little interest (I was rather spoiled by now :-), with some of the items on menu being served at our table by waiters who took our orders unlike the earlier hotels where it was entirely self service. We had v2’s food packed up since he was completely unable to eat at that hour (and people who know v2 well, will appreciate the wisdom in that decision :-).
All packed and set to go. Newton meeting us in the lobby, making sure we were up and we were off to the TLC again. Bidding goodbye to the serene Serena, we embarked on the last drive of our journey, back to Nairobi. It was 8.30 am and we had a drive of approximately 200kms/3 hours ahead of us. We could have left a bit later too but I had a date to keep with Nairobi’s supermarket, yeah I had not forgotten 🙂 and therefore I had requested Newton to leave early.
Relatively uneventful and largely comfortable, our journey took us through Nyeri, the home town of the current president of Kenya , Mwai Kibaki . At this point I realized that the name of every place that I had come across so far, had begun with the letter N and N’consequential as this fact may be, I nevertheless have this inexplicable urge to mention it 🙂
We drove on (only to have that theory busted), to the town of Karatina, with the famous Karatina market, which is the largest open air market in Eastern Africa selling farm produce.
Our first break was at 9.30 am and around 10.30 we were passing through Thika, which is the prime pineapple growing region of Kenya. We drove past rows upon rows of pineapple plants growing in vast plantations on either side of the road. Vendors sat along the roadside, displaying heaps of the fruit and I regretted not being able to carry some back home with me, for here they are exceedingly sweet and luscious, owing their quality no doubt to the highly fertile land. Of course all the land in Kenya is highly fertile.
Almost near Nairobi we made another stop at the Africana gift shop, a shop that sells authentic and high quality curios etc and also has near life size animals in wood and metal, for sale. Apparently the owner also takes care of the shipping of the large items to any country and all the customer has to do is pay here and provide the address and the item is sent … sometimes reaching even before the buyer 🙂
We arrived at the outskirts of Nairobi by 11 am and our arrival into the heart of city would have been much quicker if not for the road widening that was taking place on the highway. The construction and resultant traffic brought back nostalgic memories of forgotten Bangalore 🙂 and as we crawled at the pace of the traffic around us, the aura of the holiday slowly provided gaps for reality to seep in.
We made a quick call to Usha to tell her that all was well and the kind lady, bless her soul, reminded me to make sure I did not miss my final round shopping. What would we women do without other women 🙂
We were in the vicinity of Hotel Boulevard by 11.30 am and Newton estimated that the 45 min drive to the airport would take 2 hours due to heavy traffic, no doubt in an attempt to dissuade me from spending too much time at the supermarket. Yeah by now we had got to know each other well 🙂
However his ominous predictions failed to come true and we were at the Capital Center Mall by 12 pm. Despite Usha having been insistent that we shop at Nakumatt Mega, the branch on the way to the airport, Newton found it more convenient to stop at the Capital Center Mall, that housed the Uchumi Supermarket, assuring us that there was not much difference between the two.
The Capital Center, like Nairobi’s numerous malls, has a variety of shops, restaurants, banks and all the usual mall masala and is a good place to pass time. Here we were met by Mike who had received us on the first day remember? Yeah I had almost forgotten and stared at him for a few seconds before he worriedly reintroduced himself :-). Well, that was not all I had forgotten. The feedback form that I was to fill was lying somewhere deep down in our bags. Promising to do the needful right away, a vigilant Newton hovering around me to see that I did not forget again, I proceeded to answer the questions asked, marking against all the columns that said ‘Very good’ 🙂 A comment putting in a good word (more than a good word actually) for Newton and my feedback was complete. Mike collected it and promised to meet us later at the airport.
Our flight was scheduled to depart at 5.45 pm , hence we would need to check in by 2.45 pm. A 10 minute drive to the airport from here would leave me with 2.5 hours to complete the shopping and lunch. Yeah my normally addled brain does the math well when important matters need computing 🙂 Since we had run out of local currency, K changed more dollars at a bank, while I began my survey of Uchumi . Greatly hindered by whining kids, whom I unfortunately could not dump anywhere and similarly hampered by unencouraging husband who was of the opinion that only a fool would shop abroad when India has everything, I did not have the ideal atmosphere to undergo my retail therapy.
Forsooth, I fearlessly forayed forth to find my fortunes, foraging for the finest finds, focussed on finishing my feat, fast and furiously and fruitfully (nothing like shopping in a hurry, to bring out the F words)!!!
Lucky enough to obtain the last few packets of Macademia nuts and some chocolates and baking ingredients, I wrapped up my hurried session, cleanly forgetting to buy K’s Kenyan tea and coffee. Sorry not my fault, I do not perform well under pressure 🙂
We visited the food court for lunch which we had at a fast food joint and had one of the most awful and horrible meals of my life. Maybe we picked the wrong place or maybe they were having a bad day but that was a really unpleasant way to end a holiday that had hitherto had provided us nothing but culinary bliss.
Due to all the hurrying, we were done by 1.45 pm, a whole hour before we needed to. However, for lack of anything else to do (I would have gladly returned to the shops of course), we went back to Newton who was waiting for us and by 2 pm we were at the airport, merely continuing to fulfill our destiny, namely landing up hours too early at airports.
Newton deposited our bags on the trolley and after exchanging email ids and with promises of returning back to Kenya, we thanked him for the wonderful time we had in his care and waved him goodbye. Check in and other formalities later, we were at the waiting area, browsing through the duty free shops for the next hundred hours. They felt like hundred especially since K refused to part with any more dollars and I was left to gaze at the shops empty handed. What a monster.
The time crawled (why does it race when I am on Facebook?) and though the flight status showed ‘on time’ something told me that we would not be and right I was. The waiting area was not air conditioned and the evening sun shone through the large glass panel, as we tried in vain to find a cooler area. The discomfort reminded me of the Frankfurt airport where the waiting area for flights leaving to India did not even have seats and the passengers were sitting around on their bags or the ground like in a railway station, ironically next to large displays of Aishwarya Rai modelling for L’Oreal. I don’t know if I am correct in my observation (and I hope I am not) but passengers to India are not given the same facilities and comforts as passengers flying to other destinations in many airports, as also is the case with the service on board. If I am right, then this is a shame. I will not rant here though but will revisit this grouse some other day.
Although the aircraft was ready and waiting, we were asked to board only at 5.30 pm and our relief slowly turned to suspicion as we showed no signs of departing in the near future. After having waited inside for over an hour, we were joined by more passengers rushing into the plane, straight from their Mombasa flight. Since their flight had been delayed, we had been made to wait for them inside the claustrophobic craft. Anyway, it was finally time to fly and so we did, with a prayer on our lips and the wings on our plane (oh how I do distort the idiom).
The return flight as I have indicated before, was worse than the earlier one. Complete with all the earlier inconveniences, we had the additional burden of bearing with noisy, unruly passengers. One group of 10 that had come from Mombasa, walked about as if they were in their own backyard, not allowing others to sleep and literally sat around chatting the whole night long. A bonfire would have completed this picture of bonhomie. And if this was bad, we had another man who had had several too many to drink, that fact not deterring from continuing to do so. Also having come all the way from Mombasa and no doubt having made the most of the alcohol on that flight, he proceeded to do justice to the wine list here, making a general nuisance of himself and disturbing his neighbors with his loud talk and louder cell phone music. The staff having slunk out of harm’s way, it was left to the other passengers to shush him and ironically it was the other noisy group that objected most strongly to his shenanigans, almost coming to blows. Some foul language later, they confiscated the phone from him. The steward finally made an appearance after being personally approached by a passenger and he took charge of the phone and gave the offender a warning. By then the man was so sozzled he was begging for a second meal, even offering to pay for it. The meal being of identical quality (or lack thereof) to the one we had on our earlier flight, one had to be really really drunk to want more. Well the spirit was willing but the flesh was not, so our friend shortly went to the already unpleasant washroom and threw up, or so we were told. You bet I took their word for it.
Sigh, did I say there was no entertainment on KQ flights?
The night that showed no signs of ending, however thankfully did and we landed in Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Airport at 3.30 am, over an hour later than scheduled.
Contd at Kenya Day – 7 the final part.