After arriving in the darkness of night to an exotic place, I am always excited with anticipation for what the next morning will reveal. So, at the crack of dawn, I was up, filled with excitement. It is like removing a blindfold after being guided to a prize location. I was first struck by the coldness of the morning I had not anticipated in the tropics. I stood on my balcony overlooking the hotel grounds. There were flowers, exotic trees, grass, African-style buildings, a few mosquitoes that had just bitten me, and the house staff moving about the grounds but no animals. I had to strain just to see a bird, and it was rather ordinary. What a letdown. No wild beasts roaming and no monkeys in the tree, not even colorful birds.
We wandered the hotel to one of the seven restaurants and were stuck between CDC recommendations for food avoidance in Africa and a buffet that looked very inviting. The waiter was very understanding of our need for super-heated coffee with super-heated cream, unpeeled fruits with a sharp knife, and bread with no butter. I believe he had plenty of experience with travelers who thought every crumb of food in Africa was an invitation to an intestinal infection. We wandered the grounds for the next couple of hours. It was not exciting, with no animals or colorful birds, but it was spacious and well manicured, with beautiful pools and a very friendly staff.
At about 1pm, our driver, Uticus, arrived in the Land Cruiser and we headed through Nairobi toward the Karen Blixen house on the opposite side of the city. The two-lane highway was crowded with small minivans (Matatus) packed with commuters, with some hanging out the door. We shared the highway with overcrowded buses painted with all kinds of strange designs. We drove past lots of shacks selling all kinds of foods, household goods, clothing, car parts, and coffins. There were stagnant pools of mud, dirt, filth, squalor, shanty towns, and rundown apartments. In between were walled fortresses with rows of nice flats and nice cars. Here a military base, there a beautiful Hindu temple, and people waiting for buses, lingering, going through the garbage. The people looked poor but not ragged or desperate. We encountered several horrendous car accidents. And here and there I could see, below the hillsides, miles of tin roofed slums. It was depressing to see and added to my thoughts that perhaps CNN was accurate in their portrayal of Africa. We skirted the city just long enough for me to see the modern Nairobi skyline of high rises, some with very impressive architecture. Several miles later, we entered a forested area with beautiful gated colonial-style homes, with obviously wealthy Caucasian people in riding clothes on horseback. The area was very clean, the roadway nice, and gardens well manicured. We entered the grounds of the Karen Blixen home ("Out of Africa" fame). The home was small but interesting. We drove nearby to the Giraffe Center. This is a sanctuary for transplanted Rothschild Giraffe. It is an interesting place to get up close with these animals, but about as interesting as a zoo. However, it gave me an opportunity to try out various shooting techniques with my new camera.
We drove back to the hotel, passing the depressing slums, shanty towns, dirt, filth, and the debris of the locals’ reality.