I arrived at the airport in Nairobi sometime around 6pm. It took about 30 minutes to get thru all the formalities of immigration. I was hoping to be able to just buy a $20.00 transit visa since I was only going to be in the country for less than three days, but the immigration official was insistent that I pay the full $50.00 US. Oh well, it’s only money!
I had reservations at the hotel where the tour was going to start from. Getting there was a little interesting. Once I came out of the arrival area I was swamped with people waving “official” badges saying that they had taxi services for cheap. I talked to one person who insisted that he had a good taxi and could take me right to the hotel. I followed him out to his car in the parking lot, and quickly decided no way in hell. He had three or four friends hanging out by it, none of them looking particularly trustworthy. I told him hell no, and headed back inside where I finally found the tourist desk. They called a real taxi for me, and within 10 minutes I was headed to my hotel.
At the hotel there were a few people hanging out at the bar, but after being on an airplane and in airports for most of the past 48 hours, I just wanted to try to catch up on some sleep and maybe get over any lingering jet lag. The next morning I wandered up to breakfast and met some of the people who would be on the tour. Since we had a day to kill we decided to hire a driver and car to see some of the city. Our driver took us around Nairobi showing us both the affluence and the poverty all within just a few blocks of each other. Once he found out that I was American he insisted that we go to see the site of the former US embassy that was destroyed in a terrorist attack in 1998. This was the first public Al-Queda attack against the US, and killed 213 people. Unfortunately for the local people, most of them were Kenyans who just worked near the embassy. I remember the event happening, but like most Americans at the time didn’t really think anything of it. Seeing the ruins, and the memorial to those killed brought the reality of this home.
After a quick lunch we headed off to an animal orphanage sponsored by a trust fund left by a former warden of the Tsavo game park. Here the park takes in young animals whose parents had been killed by poachers or other accidents. It was my first experience with the local wildlife, and playing with the young elephants was quite a treat!
Later that evening we met more people from the trip and headed down to the bar. It was a great night, and I think we were all surprised at the quality of the local beer!