Safiri Salama-The Kenya story – Introduction-Part 3

Safiri Salama-The Kenya story – Introduction-Part 3

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Continued from – Safiri Salama-The Kenya story – Introduction-Part 2

May, 2010

Decisions decisions

Several people wanted to know why and how I chose to holiday in Kenya.

Africa to the best of my knowledge has been a less travelled land and not as popular a destination for us here in Bangalore (at least among the usual family holidayers), as the ‘done to death’  Far East or  Europe or  the USA. This is probably due to lack of publicity. The local papers do not sport frequent advertisements and travel packages promoting it as somewhere to go, as they do for the other places and nor have I known friends who have been there on holiday. There is also no direct flight (and I hope that someday soon there will be) which is a pity since Bangalore is closer by latitude to Nairobi than Mumbai)

Hence there was this curiosity to know what prompted my travel plans.

Well, the (rather late) realization that V1 would be beginning his college break on May 30th and V2 had his school starting on Jun 7th, triggered in me a sudden excitement and desire to try and work out a family holiday which we had not succeeded in enjoying since our trips over 5 yrs ago. V1’s board exams coupled with his college admissions had taken up the time that normally would have been occupied by a vacation and on the one holiday that we had in between, we had to leave him behind.

Hence I had the great urge to fill up this available week with the best holiday under the circumstances and finding a destination was the first hurdle to clamber over !!!
Decision making has always been difficult for me, whether it is something as simple as deciding which onion to pick off a pile or as complex as which country to pick off the globe, the agonizing is equally intense.
This far from endearing trait of mine I attribute with no doubt, to my existence in the suspended medium between the sun signs of Libra and Scorpio, the cusp that has been the bane of my life and of those affected 🙂
Born with the scales constantly swaying in front of my indecisive eyes, tortured by every choice, traumatized by every option, my Libran life has been a complex one.
It also does not help to have a husband and kids whose idea of a holiday is to sleep, eat, rinse, repeat and on most of our vacations we have resembled a funeral procession where I march ahead gaily like the bandmaster (we do have funeral bands) and the rest of the family follow like mourners who have been left out of the will.
Therefore I was on the look out for a place that we could ‘do’ in a week, preferably fly non stop from Bangalore and would have great weather, great shopping, a ‘no big deal’ visa procedure, something of interest for the hubby and kids, etc. Yeah my needs were simple.
I had almost decided on Bangkok when the Red Shirts decided to paint the town red … literally. My turning to Greece gave rise to political unrest. I thought of the ‘rest of Europe’ and lo there was volcanic ash. K urged me to desist before I annihilated the entire world.
Malaysia and Hong Kong are too hot said one travel agent. So is Srilanka said another.
‘Would you like to go from 35 to 45 o C’ ? asked a smart one, when I mentioned the Andamans.
‘Take me to a place that has Oxygen’ said a rhinitic (whine-itic ?) K, at the mention of Ladakh/Bhutan.
‘I just want to sleep. I haven’t slept for a month’ said V1, drooping with post exam exhaustion.
In frustration I turned to the google field and attempted to sift the wheat from the chaff, thus coming across a phone number of a travel agency that claimed it had a solution for my every travel need. Dialling connected me to the manager at the other end who in a few minutes went from absolute stranger to trusted adviser 🙂 and who patiently after several suggestions and recommendations finally presented me with Kenya, a place that he said matched all my expectations and more. His well planned out itinerary reassured the mind and filled the days at my disposal with accuracy.
Further research on the internet and information from friends of friends living in Nairobi, the aforementioned Ramu and Usha, who were most generous with their advice and time and enthusiasm, played a great part in convincing me that it was THE place to go and that is one decision I will never regret !!!
For those who are wondering whether I am afflicted by paranoia (I think persnickety would be more apt – now there’s a big word), I queried through this level of detail mainly because I came to hear of Nairobi as being a very unsafe place, somewhere where one (especially a tourist) could not venture out alone, where mugging and thieving were daily occurrences and the streets not safe enough to use with as much abandon as one would like to. Asking around, confirmed that these reports were indeed true but if one was sufficiently careful and followed all the safety guidelines, there would not be too much cause for fear. And barring one minor incident (ref Kenya Day 5), we were lucky to experience none of the above, mainly because we were well taken care of by our friends, tour operator and guide … and were very very obedient  🙂

And more decisions

Once I had decided on the place, I arrived at the next fork in my fork filled road, our travel route.
Nairobi, Kenya does not have a direct flight out of Bangalore and my options were to fly
Kenya Airways (KQ) via Mumbai  or ex Bangalore on Emirates via Dubai or Qatar Air via Doha or (I have heard) Air Arabia via Sharjah.
Flying via Mumbai would mean the shortest flying time (6 hrs from Mumbai to Nairobi) along with the best flight timings. KQ arriving early morning in Nairobi and on the return, departing to India in the evening, would give us the extra time that the other flights did not and time was a commodity we were short of, since we had to make it back to school on Mon the 7 th June.
Much hemming and hawing later, KQ became the chosen one.
People who have the time to spare and who are particular about flying straight out of Bangalore can opt for Qatar or Emirates though. There is not too much fare difference either.
I was advised to book all flights on the net, since that would work out more economical than booking through an agent.
Also, fares differ on different portals so it would be a good idea to check out more than one. I discovered just moments too late that I could have saved Rs 6000 had I booked elsewhere … kick kick self !!! Early booking gets you better rates too and once we had made up our mind there was no cause for delay. We booked our KQ flights out of Mumbai and Blr-Mum flights separately (that working out far better than booking them together).
KQ flies out to Nairobi at 3.10 AM with a reporting time of midnight so it would be better for those leaving from Blr (or elsewhere) to take into consideration delays and airport transfers in Mumbai and plan sufficient time between flights. We booked by the 6 pm Jet Konnect.
Likewise on our return, KQ had a scheduled arrival time of  2.10 am at Mumbai.  Not wanting to take chances, I had booked the Blr flight at 7.40 am, opting over earlier flights of 6 am and around. A decision that evoked multiple ‘Awwwws’  from the family (that I disregarded anyway) and one that I later felt thankful for. For Kenyan Airways, The Pride of Africa, did not really have much to be proud of when it came to punctuality (from my experience).

The Yellow Fever vaccine was next on the to do list. It is administered only on Wednesdays here, with prior appointment and we were lucky that V1 had his study holidays that week and thus could be available.

We had to carry our passports and our own disposable syringes. However syringes were provided to those who had failed to bring them.

Parking is available inside the premises (Bangaloreans will appreciate my urge to add this seemingly trivial bit of information)

The entire procedure is relatively simple and surprisingly well organised. A few forms to fill and a poke on the arm and we were good to go.  I do not think it took us more than an hour and the best part is it did not hurt 🙂

So, armed with our yellow cards that were handed out to us, we finally had nothing standing between us and our dreams, other than a few more days of May.

Continued at Safiri Salama-The Kenya story – Introduction-Part 4


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A food and travel enthusiast who plays with words
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