Road To The Safari: My First 24 hours in Kenya

Plumes of dirt… this is what I remember most on the road that was to lead to our safari. We had only been in Kenya 24 hours…

I had landed in Nairobi an hour ahead of my friend and face timed her as soon as I landed. I didn’t have to deal with the foul traces of jet lag since I had left around midnight the night before and it was already 10 am and sunny in Nairobi. I met with our host and guide for the week, Phannuel, and we all hopped in an Uber to our air BnB for the night. There was a sign in the baggage claim that stated “Uber in Swahili is just…Uber”. I though that was clever, sarcastic and surprisingly helpful…how I attempt to be most times but just end up being sarcastic. I don’t care how much you’ve traveled, the idea of landing in a country where a language is spoken not of your own tongue can cause a bit of anxiety, so realizing that I could at least have access to Uber, was a relief.

Uber gets around…

Uber was great, Nairobi traffic not so much.

We got lunch down the street at a Java House which I quickly noticed was a popular franchise all over Kenya. Now over the past year, i’ve developed a horrid (and sometimes depressing) intolerance for lactose BUT the milkshakes at Java House gave Chic-Fil-A a run for their money every single time! I was holding out on dairy until midway through the trip but Phannuel was always ordering milkshakes that looked so good (to die for). So, with temptation at my nose I risked it all…on more than one occasion and ordered milkshake after milkshake.

I regret nothing.

A “Matatu” public transportation bus giving me all my Atlanta vibes

The next morning we would begin our trek to a 3 day safari

and the plumes of dirt were endless. I was surprised at how windy Kenya was.

We would pass a young boy with a traditional fabric wrapped over his shoulders with a long slender stick in one hand. Then it was the herds of calves and sheep…then another young boy and the cycle continued.

I thought, these children have already gained independence far beyond my 20 something years. Looking around the Serengeti like plains on either side of the road, you could see mountains in the far distance that were a grayish, blue in the shadow of the sun. I thought to myself “how far along this road towards my safari did you have to walk just to herd these animals to a place with ample food?”

The vastness of the surroundings kept my eyes peeled to the windows, finally burning from jet lag but not wanting to miss an ounce of Mama Africa.

We passed by women with babies swaddled into their backs, and I imagined the dexterity put into tying the knots to secure the infants. There was at one point, baboons that lay refuge on either side of the road and I imagined what would a person do if they so happen to come across them on a walk? We stopped at a lookout point that I learned was only a minuscule part of the Great Rift Valley.

A perfect shot overlooking the Great Rift Valley

Nancy, a shopper keeper there asked where we were from and replying “the U.S” she then helped us imagine that our ancestors were from Ghana or Nigeria and without cerebrating told us “Karibu”, Welcome.

Endless wildebeast in every direction. Cue scenes from “The Lion King”

I felt free. More free than I’ve felt in a long time. More free than I’ve felt in any other place to date. We passed Maasai women who dangled their bracelets and souvenirs through our windows as we stopped at simple wooden gates (more like road blocks)…the only concrete indication we were riding further and further into Safari territory. Some children would run along and wave while some held out their hands hoping to receive money. We arrived to a community of sorts, single level homes with zinc roofs and concrete slabs to hold them down. Surprisingly also, many homes we passed were traditionally made with sticks and some sort of sod and long, slender sticks peeking out between the sod. People were scattered everywhere walking what seemed to me, long distances across the plains, casually enjoying their Sunday afternoon.

There were 3 establishments we were to stop at. The first was a gorgeous lodge set up with glass ceiling to floor windows. The second more casual. We were anxious to see what the third and final lodging area would look like and were terrified to find tents. Nothing between Mama Africa and I but a zipper and mesh windows. And as if things couldn’t become more exotic, a monkey jumped unto the roof of our neighbor’s tent a mere 10 feet away…then unto ours. The sound of their heavy bodies hitting the tarp kept me on edge. “Would one jump on my head when I walk out?” Or better yet “his ass was probably waiting for me at the door.”

I spy with my little eye, a monkey

Do you consider this “glamping”?

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