December 2012 saw my return to Africa - this time to Kenya for a 5 week trip, again with Re-using IT.
On December 6th 2012 my latest African adventure started, this time to Kenya, East Africa. My previous adventure had been to Sierra Leone, West Africa, so was looking forward to seeing another part of the Dark Continent and what the differences would be between the 2. A shipment of 90 PC’s had already been flown out and had cleared customs a few weeks previously – now it was the turn of the Reusing IT team of Alan Tansey and myself to fly out and set-up the computers in country.
I left Edinburgh at 3.45pm, with my brother acting as chauffeur, and collected the 2nd member of the party who I would be travelling with, Alan. The drive to Glasgow airport included a detour to Stirling services to collect a projector that had been donated by YouTrain for the school in Nyeri, Kenya where most of the computers were going to be being used, other sites had been identified by Alan McCain, Re-using IT’s man on the ground, with 1 specific site having already been chosen by Alan as confirmed recipients’ of some of the computers. As there are now 2 Alan’s on the Reusing IT team the Alan I flew out with is being called Al – to hopefully prevent any confusion over the 2 Alan’s!!
The flight departed on-time at 8.45pm from a cold and snowy Glasgow bound for Dubai, where there would be a 2 hour wait before the connecting flight for Nairobi left. As this was the 1st time I had been on a plane in over 10 years it was going to be interesting to see what flying was like (my previous adventure had been a joint project with Reusing IT and a charity called Mercy Ships, so I had been fortunate enough to sail from the UK to Sierra Leone via various others countries). The Dubai flight was aboard an Airbus A340-300 (for anyone interested) and landed at 0730 local time (45 minutes ahead of schedule), onboard the seating was comfortable with reasonable legroom (although the seat in front of mine had an in-flight entertainment box – so meant that there was not the full amount of legroom there could have been) food provided was tasty (but portion size wasn’t great – could have done with a slightly bigger portion) and in-flight entertainment was varied (wide selection of movies, games, an interactive map showing the flight’s path and 2 cameras showing a “pilot’s” view and a downward view).
On arrival at Dubai there was a 2 hour wait for the next flight, so had time to look around the airport – unfortunately there was no outside viewing area (though it is probably too hot most of the time so wouldn’t get used much), overall impression of Dubai International was that the airport is well maintained and regularly cleaned. For any keen shopper there is a wide range of duty free, selling everything from bags to electronic goods (Ipad’s, mobile phones etc), to buy anything (either duty free or food\drink) does require local currency, Dirham, (which neither Al or me realised but there were several foreign exchange booths doted around so easy enough to convert pounds). After getting a drink and something to eat headed over to our next departure gate to await boarding call.
The Nairobi flight was aboard an Airbus A340-500. Due to the plane having been delayed at its previous departure point this flight was delayed by 20 minutes and ended up landing an hour late at Nairobi. This flight was less comfortable than the previous flight, mainly due to the seat being too high (my feet “dangled” when sitting properly making sitting uncomfortable, possibly due to lifejacket under-seat), onboard food and entertainment were the same as 1st flight (the 1st sight of Kenya being from 40,000 feet looking down from the camera on the plane!!!!).
On arrival at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International we disembarked and headed for customs and immigration to sort out the visa (which cost £30 and payment was accepted in pounds). Getting the visa required filling in a third form (we had been given 2 on the flight) and being fingerprinted and photographed (which is done using a computerised system). Once the visa was sorted and passport suitably stamped it was onto baggage reclaim and customs, after reclaiming our luggage we headed for the customs counter where I was asked for the form I had filled in on the plane and asked if I had anything to declare (I replied no) – I was then waved through with neither the form or luggage being given even a cursory inspection (Al had the same experience – we could have brought anything in and no-one would have been any the wiser, though there were 2 dogs sniffing bags as there were moved onto the carousel so drugs/explosives may have been discovered. On passing through to the arrivals hall there was no sign of Alan – we ended up having to wait 30 minutes for Alan, who had had car trouble and had to send someone (the shipping agent used to clear the computers through customs as it turned out) to let us now about the delay.
After meeting up with Alan and Eunice (Alan’s Kenyan born wife) our next challenge was leaving the airport car park, which took a while as the attendant took the parking card before we reached the barrier, put it in the booth next to the barrier and left it there until Alan asked how long we were going to be waiting. We were now going to find out what the traffic on Kenyans road was like. The driving ability of Kenyans is only slightly less insane than I remember Sierra Leone, but still atrocious – no lane discipline, dangerous overtaking (when not safe, on bends etc) – most drivers unlikely to have even a basic level of training. The drive took about 3 hours (safely arriving at 1715GMT, total journey time was [approximately] 25hrs 30mins door-to-door), with the last part done in the dark which is highly risky (and which Alan does not normally do due to the hazards – including no road markings, motorcycles with lights off, donkey carts on road, cars coming round bends with high beam on leaving you momentarily blinded [thus unable to see any upcoming hazards]) and drunks lying on road), we were nearly hit by another car that swerved to avoid a goat on the road and wasn’t seen by the other driver until the last minute!!! The 1 truly bizarre thing about Kenyan roads is the speed humps – they’re everywhere, including on the main motorway out of Nairobi, some double as a pedestrian crossing and none are marked (so easy to hit too fast if you don’t see them) – and considering most roads are in such bad condition you couldn’t drive at the speed limit even if you wanted!!!
Today Alan took us on a tour round his property [a 3 bedroom house with a large garden, a traditional Kenyan cookhouse (think of a shed with a fire pit in the middle and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what this is like), storage shed, maid’s quarter, a shamba for the gardener\security boy (corrugated sheets with a sleeping area, storage area, drop toilet and washing area) and the rest used for farming including a large greenhouse], a quick look round Nyeri (the town where Alan is based and where St Mary’s school for boys [the school that are receiving most of the computers from the shipment] is located) with a stop at 1 of the mobile phone operator offices so Al could get himself a local SIM card for his phone (mine is locked to my network so won’t accept any other SIM) as this network charges 3shillings (£1 is equal to 138.44 Kenya Shillings) to call internationally. At Alan’s there is no washing machine (would be difficult to get parts and get repaired) so laundry has to be done by hand, the maid washes everything apart from underpants, but as I have a shower every evening I just wash my pants at the same time as I have my shower.
As security is an issue in Kenya Alan’s house has barred windows (upstairs and down) and both front and back doors have locks and bolts with porches, the porches have bar’s (but no glass) and gates, at night both porch gates are padlocked and both the doors are locked, bolted and padlocked. There is also a security door that, at night, is closed, locked and padlocked by the last person who goes to bed. A panic button is installed in Alan and Eunice’s bedroom so if someone does break in this can be pressed and will sound an alarm on the roof of the house.
|Main house||Maid’s quarters|
|View from the garden – buildings in front (l-r) storage shed, traditional Kenyan cookhouse and Shamba|
Today went shopping with Eunice and Al, saw 2 traditional markets (fruit\veg and clothing [most clothes 2nd hand from the UK]). Eunice gave Al and me a longer tour of Nyeri. Rained this afternoon!!
Today was the 1st day “on the job”. Went to St Mary’s to start setting-up the computers and to give Michael (St Mary’s IT teacher and who also does all the schools IT support) the projector from YouTrain. Michael absolutely delighted with the projector (he gave it a hug!!!) and, to start, with not convinced that a computer could be set-up in less than an hour using an image from an identical computer (but now is very keen to learn more about this). Spent the morning putting new Certificate of Authenticity stickers (which enables the charity to put a copy of Windows 7 Professional on the computer, most were shipped with XP when new) on to the 45 computers that the school originally wanted (now wanting 60+) and photographing each (in batches of 5) so that when I got back to the house I can transfer the old Certificate of Authenticity number onto a spreadsheet to be e-mailed back to the UK for the relevant person to send this information to Microsoft and get new activation codes (which doesn’t take long). After getting the stickers sorted out started installing the image onto each of the 45 computers (managed to get 29 done – hopefully get rest done tomorrow), this was interrupted by a power cut, which fortunately did not last long but meant a few had to be restarted (and also knocked out the Internet connection – which was running fine, with a decent speed, which [according to Alan] is unusual, but after the power cut had slowed down to be unusable) – hopefully tomorrow I can get this sent off, will just have to wait and see. When Eunice came back to the school (about 1pm) from shopping we all headed into town for lunch and then back to the house, where I got the Certificate of Authenticity numbers put into the spreadsheet ready for e-mailing back to the UK.
Today at St Mary’s where we finished off installing the image onto the rest of the 45 computers that are having new licenses installed, finished unpacking the rest of the computers and helped Michael with installing the wiring for the network (he is re-doing the wiring for the network). In an e-mail received from Alan before leaving for Kenya he let us know that the computers had cleared customs and had been delivered to the school, Michael and Alan then started unpacking some of the computers to see if they had survived shipping, some hadn’t (2 computers had badly dented cases, but still seemed to work), so when unpacking the rest we checked for any damage to the rest (found 1 computer with a dent and, the most common damage, the security loop on the back [part of which is a catch for opening the case] was damaged – partly metal, which had bent, and partly plastic, broken off – so not a major problem). When imaging the computer’s there have been a few that, after the imaging was completed, would not load into Windows – traced this to a setting in the BIOS (an operating system that allows you to adjust various settings before loading Windows). So far the only other problem we have come across is with the computer’s memory – some has had to be re-seated and 1 had a failed memory stick.
Memory, according to Alan, is the 1 thing that was the most common cause of the old computers failing, so advised Michael to purchase some fans. The computer lab, when we have been there, has been relatively comfortable but when you have 45 computers running and 55 (the average class size) pupil’s in the room I imagine that the room can get quite toasty!!! Michael responded to this that he would like to get more windows fitted – 1 wall has no windows, so can’t get a through draft and would see if it was possible to get some fans.
Our daily routine, Monday to Friday, seems to be settling into the following:
|Between 9-9.30||Leave for St Mary’s|
|9.30-10.00||Arrive St Mary’s and start working on computers|
|Between 1.00pm-2.00pm||Leave St Mary’s and head back to Alan’s for lunch|
|Rest of afternoon||Sit in the garden reading or inside watching documentary’s (Alan has satellite TV)|
|8.00-10.00||Read, watch TV, diary update, photo download (if any taken that day)|
|10.00||I usually go to bed about this time, everyone else goes at their own time|
The time at St Mary’s might not seem like much, only a few hours a day, but we do have 5 weeks to work on this project, have managed to install images on 45 of the 90 computers shipped (these are remaining at St Mary’s, our next task is to decide what to install on the rest) and, so far, everything is running smoothly (apart from power cuts – so far have had 3, 2 at Alan’s and 1 at St Mary’s [which interrupted some of the installations]. Power cuts can last anything from a few minutes to a few hours and is caused by 4th rate, as Alan describes it, equipment (the 1’s experienced so far have lasted less than an hour) and there has been 1 occasion were the water was cut-off – so the infrastructure is somewhat lacking!!!!!
|St Mary’s computer lab||Inside St Mary’s computer lab|
As today was a national holiday, though as most are self employed it is not observed by the majority, took the day off and drove up to Othaya, were Eunice was raised and whose mother and several members of her family still live on the family shamba (a traditional farm of about 3.5 acres), which is about 10 miles from Nyeri. The shamba is very basic – consists of, for want of a better description, a large wooden shed (though not as well put together) with a corrugated metal roof of 3 rooms (2 bedrooms and a living room with a concrete floor [traditionally would have been earth, Eunice paid to have a concrete floor and slightly larger hut built], a cookhouse and a drop toilet\wash block, there is no electricity (though for 35,000shillings [roughly £252.80] this could be fitted – but, as the family are mainly subsistence farmers, this is far above what they can afford) and, until a few years ago, no piped water. After we had returned to Alan’s house we had a thunder storm that started about 5pm and lasted about 30 minutes.
Eunice’s mother, who would be old enough to be drawing a state pension if she lived in the UK (Kenya has no state welfare system, only Government employees and teachers receive any pension – if they are lucky as it can take years before payments are started), cares for 3 of her grandchildren as the mother’s have had to travel to other parts of Kenya for work and still works a small part of the farm. 4 of her 10 surviving children (1 died a few years ago) live on the shamba, having built their own small hut, and have they’re share to farm – 2 have other, irregular, sources of income, 1 has a tractor that he uses for wood cutting (has a saw fitted on the back to help with cutting of the tree’s), another sits by the side of the road and repairs car tyres, if anyone stops (no tyres to be repaired=no money).
Today at St Mary’s Al started preparing a computer for imaging, to finish off the computers that currently have no operating system or software, it has been decided to use a copy of Windows 7 that Michael has, along with a Windows activator package he has sourced off the Internet (basically we are installing a pirate copy of Windows, which is the most common way that an Operating System is installed in Africa – could have used the image brought from the UK and had extra license’s shipped out but it was decided it would be easier to do it this way as there is no guarantee that the license’ could be lost in the post or the other recipients’ would be able to easily activate either online or by phone). Unfortunately this is going to take longer than normal (in the UK would be able to complete this in half a day [max], including downloading updates) – this morning the internet connection was not working properly (I managed to read and reply to 1 e-mail before it failed), Michael then disconnected all network connections to finish off the job he started on Tuesday, so even if the Internet had been working we would have had no connection.
The rest of the morning was spent installing further software on the computers that will be used in the computer lab for the pupils – additional Microsoft Office packages, as the license that Reusing IT can provide only installs Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote – Michael is wanting Access and Publisher as well, as these are modules in the ICDL, International Computer Driving License, training program that he may start using with the pupils and the other package is LANschool, which can be used to monitor what the pupils are looking at from another computer, either in the same room or another room, and carrying out a general tidy up (mainly getting all empty boxes in a pile and getting each work bench cleared so it has only the 3 computers that are on each and making sure that the cables are kept as tidy as possible to prevent cables being pulled when people are getting to a computer.
Weather today has been more like a good British summer – warm enough for shorts and t-shirt, but no real sun due to cloud cover.
Today carried on installing the extra software St Mary’s requires for the lab computers and finishing the image for the rest of the computers. The last part of the software installation for the image is downloading all Microsoft updates from the internet, in the UK an easy enough process, but not in Kenya. Started downloading the updates but by the time we wrapped up for the day had been running for over 2 hours and hadn’t reached 50%, so left it to run in the hope that there would be no power failure or Internet connection failure while the download was running, Michael was informed and asked to close down the computer when the update had completed – will find out tomorrow whether download and installation was successful or not. The other job completed today was unpacking all the monitors – these will be tested as we complete the rest of the computer’s and each PC is paired with a monitor.
In the afternoon went out to see Eunice’s small field, where she grows various crops – potatoes (some of which were picked while we were there), maize and beans were being grown when we visited. On the way back stopped at her brother’s road side “cafe” (which is almost directly opposite the turning for getting to Eunice’s field), while there a Presidential motorcade went past – the President had been at a graduation ceremony at a nearby university and is in the process of building a new home in the area, so assume he was going to inspect how construction was going.
Eunice’s brother’s road side “cafe” is made of rough timber with a dirt floor and would certainly fail a hygiene inspection if in the UK. There are 2 rooms – 1 for customers and a tiny kitchen behind, while we were there someone came in and ordered goats head – which was brought out on a wooden chopping board, cut up and served with salt on the side.
Today finished off unpacking the monitors, installing the updates and created the image for the rest of the computers and installed on 6 computers. 1 computer didn’t work – needed to reseat the memory, which solved that problem
Rest of the day spent on the garden reading and watched some of the DVD of Alan and Eunice’s wedding (didn’t see it all as football was on and the 2 Alan’s wanted to watch the match). Have discovered that my telephoto lens has developed a fault, any picture I take with it is blurry, gutted as haven’t yet done a safari – will just have to hope that any wildlife we see when we do the safari is close enough to get a decent shot with my wide angle.
Did nothing of interest yesterday – stayed at Alan’s and spent most of the time in the garden reading, also watched some TV.
Today at St Marys finished off imaging the computers (now just have to activate them all), started activating and adjusting a setting to allow the welcome screen to work as Michael requires the ability to set up different user accounts (thought this would be a setting under user accounts but no I had dig down into to the system and adjust a registry setting). Activating the computers ended up being a test of patience, there were very few that activated 1st time, most failed (the 2 main reasons being the “operation timed out” (basically the connection was too slow) and the other was a security problem (worked out that the problem was related to a system setting in the BIOS – date and clock has to match with Windows or you get the security message). In a previous update said that the computer lab had 45 computers, the actual number is going to be 27 for pupil use and 2-3 for the teacher (so a total of 29/30 in the computer lab – the rest will be distributed between a multimedia room and for use in administration). After returning to Alan’s copied the spreadsheet that has all the product keys (which are needed for activating Windows and Office) onto 4 pen drives, which I brought with me for imaging computers, so that I could copy and paste the activation codes into the necessary box, instead of typing each 1 in (quicker to copy and paste, as well as reducing the chance of mistyping).
This afternoon we were watching a documentary (weather is overcast and have had some rain – so no opportunity to work on the tan!!!!) when we heard a bang from outside – a truck had come off the road and, although didn’t roll, was a write off (axle completely bent and twisted out of shape), so that was excitement for today!!
Normally am woken up in the morning with the sun streaming in through the curtains – but not this morning, was woken up by the sound of rain falling. Was typical Scottish weather most of the day, rain on and off, finally stopped about mid-afternoon – though still warm enough for shorts and t-shirt.
Today at St Mary’s finished off activating the computers and getting the welcome screen activate, which took all the time. Solved the problem of the activation timing out – had to reset the network settings through command prompt.
Afternoon spent reading and playing computer games and evening watching documentaries. The truck that crashed yesterday is still were it crashed – it is being repaired “on-site”!!!
Below are photographs showing the damage that has been caused to 2 of the computers, as previously mentioned:
|Dent in the case:|
|How the security loop on the back on the back should look:|
|How quite a few now look:|
Thought today at St Mary’s was going to be fairly easy, all that was planned was to move 12 PC’s from the computer lab to the multimedia classroom. As with everything in life it didn’t go as planned, Alan phoned Michael to let him know we had arrived and a few minutes later Michael appeared to inform us that all computers (the new shipment and all the old 1’s) had to be moved to the multimedia classroom as brother Combi (the head of the school) had informed Michael that the computer lab was being included into the renovations that are going on at the school (some of the classrooms and walkways are being re-concreted, in the computer lab the renovations to be carried out are the floor to be re-done and, best of all for the computers, new windows are to be fitted (which will help with ventilation and, hopefully, keep the computer lab cooler. So started a hot and sweaty job moving all the computer equipment to the multimedia classroom, fortunately will not have to move it all back – once the work is done, hopefully before returning to the UK, will only need to move back the 30 computers required for the lab.
Today took 2 computers to Kiahagu Secondary School, where they will be used for administration (this is Eunice’s old school). They had previously received 2 computers from a shipment that was sent out 3 years ago (1 of which Alan has brought back to his house as it has stopped working and he is going to see if he can fix it). After a meeting with the deputy head (the principal was ill), another member of staff and a member of the PTA and handing over the computers went to Eunice’s sister’s home for lunch.
|Handing over 2 computers at Kiahagu Secondary School|
On the way home got caught behind a large convoy of 4 transports moving, what Alan thinks, are crane silo’s (below are 2 photo’s of the convoy [1 also shows typical Kenyan driving!])
|Passing under power lines in Nyeri.|
|Typical Kenyan driving – it is obvious that you can’t get ahead of the convoy, but some drivers will just try and “muscle” in front of other cars (this is what the Toyota pick-up tried to do to us – which Alan wouldn’t allow and led to him yelling at the driver!!!!).|
Delivered 12 computers to KENWA (Kenya Network of Women with Aids), took 2 trips as Alan does not have a big vehicle. As we had to collect the computers from St Mary’s had a quick look at how renovation work was getting on in the computer lab – concrete for the floor was being laid and 3 holes have been cut in the wall for the new windows, so coming on nicely.
The computers delivered to KENWA are going to be distributed to 3 different sites and will be used for administration.
Well looks like the Maya got it wrong – the world hasn’t ended and we are all still here!!!! 🙂
On that note today was the day for a visit to Nanyuki and the equator. When we left weather was fine, by the time we arrived there was intermittent rain (some light and some heavy showers). When we arrived at the equator weather was dry but very overcast, by the time we had finished looking around the various souvenir shops (30 in all, 2 or 3 were closed) rain was on properly – just like being back in the UK!!!! When I say “souvenir shop” I use the term loosely, really just a row of ramshackle wooden sheds off the road at the equator, all selling, basically, identical items that the various owners had ”made” themselves.
I managed to spend virtually all the money I took with me today in the 1st 3 shops, after this the proprietors of all the others had me in to look and then tried to encourage me to buy something (even after being told I had no money left – I did but wanted to keep it in case I saw something I wanted later on in the day and, in most cases, didn’t have anything that I a] hadn’t already bought or b] wasn’t interested in buying), this led to most trying to barter the souvenirs they had for something I had (my hat, sunglasses, boots and backpack being the main items that they wanted)!!
After finishing looking around the souvenir shops it was decided to postpone photos of the equator until later (in the hope that the rain would cease). Next stop was NakuMatt, the biggest supermarket within 100Km (62.4miles), Nyeri is 60Km (37.8miles) from Nanyuki (which takes about 1 hour on roads which are nearly as good as 1’s in the UK, occasionally there is a need to swerve to avoid potholes and slam the brakes on when someone tries to overtake when it is quite clearly not safe – like I said just like in the UK!!!!). This supermarket sells pretty much everything – groceries on the ground floor, electrical\household goods\etc on the 2nd. The reason for this supermarket being where it is is because the main British military base in Kenya is based in Nanyuki, so serves the service personnel based in Kenya and various expat’s who work on the base or live in this area of Kenya. Lunch was at the Sportsman Arms Hotel & Restaurant, was buffet style and, apart from our party of 4, there was a small group of business men in for a conference. After lunch Alan gave us a tour of Nanyuki, then back to the equator for photo’s (as the weather was now dry, but still very overcast). The drive back was interrupted a few times by me wanting to stop for photos.
Al, Eunice and myself at the equator
Yesterday was a typical Sunday – stayed at Alan’s and spent most of the time in the garden reading, also watched some TV.
All quite on the computer front – computer lab still under renovation, so can’t finish off setting up the computers there (this maybe increased to 4 per desk rather than 3, will see what happens), computers are also being put in multimedia classroom (where all remaining computers are currently being stored) and office for administration purposes – but, as yet, how many are going to each has not been confirmed and I am unsure whether this will happen before or after our time in Kenya is up (hopefully before – the computer lab floor was being laid and holes had been cut for the windows when we were last there, so hopefully work will complete this week or beginning of next and we can get in and finish off before our time is up).
Some the day was spent going shopping as Al was wanting to get some more t-shirts (you can pick them up 2nd hand, some having been shipped over from the UK and still have the charity shop’s price tag on them) and needed to stock up on fruit. Rest of the day has been spent reading and watching documentary’s, some sun this morning but poured with rain (and some thunder) from about 1pm till around about 3pm.
As today was Christmas day went out to the Outspan hotel for a Christmas lunch – very nice. Apart from this a typical quite day (reading and watching documentary’s).
When I came down for breakfast Alan asked what else would like to do for the rest of the time we have in Kenya and had got out 2 guide books for Al and me to look through for ideas.
After breakfast Al and I had a look through the books, I had seen a few things that I was interested in – but when I asked Al if there was anything he had seen he responded that his sense of adventure had gone and that he would be happy to spend the next 2 weeks staying at Alan’s!!! Later Alan asked if there was anything we had seen, I mentioned a couple of national park’s that sounded interesting – his response to 1 was “that’s about 3 hours away” and the other “we could get you to Nairobi and arrange someone to take you from there”. Later on Alan and me drove into town to see if an Internet cafe was open (they were all shut) during the drive Alan suggested that I could go to Mombasa to work on the tan on the beach down there and that there were various options for getting a bus down to the coast – so am starting to get the feeling that I may not see much more of Kenya than I already have.
Hopefully renovations to the computer lab at St Mary’s will be finished soon so we can get back in there and finish off getting the computers set-up.
Spent these day’s at Alan’s. Saturday 29th went to Greenhills hotel for Dinner.
Went out to St Mary’s to see how renovation is getting on, floor is done and windows were just being finished off when we were there – hopefully can start getting computers back in towards the end of the week (although Alan reckons it will be after we have left before any computers go back, will just have to wait and see).
After St Mary’s picked up Eunice, who had been out getting 2 new tyres for the car, and then went to a local cafe for lunch while Eunice went off to get the tyres fitted, pick up her niece who had come down from Othaya to get new school shoes and go shopping. As Eunice was off with the car the 2 Alan’s and myself returned to Alan’s by matatu (Kenya equivalent of public transport – small minibus type vehicles that can hold up to 14 people).
Spent yesterday at Alan’s.
Today drove over to Nakuru (about 3 hours away), as tomorrow we plan to visit Lake Nakuru National Park. Road surface mixed – the usual potholes’ with a few sections that were so badly paved was like driving over a washboard. As we arrived in Nakuru the car started misfiring – so hoped we wouldn’t have any serious problem with it tomorrow.
We had planned to visit Thompson Falls on the way, but in the end we didn’t. When we arrived we asked how far\long it took to get to the falls and how difficult was the path (was it stairs, if so how many, was it wet etc) and couldn’t get a straight answer (only answer we could get was that it “didn’t take long”) and as Al has poor mobility didn’t want to risk the entry fee and not see the falls at all. That evening at the hotel (which had free Wi-Fi – so was able to get online with my phone) looked up the falls and discovered that it takes about 20 minutes to walk down and that there are no steps, but the path does get wet and slippery the closer to the falls you get – so the right decision was made not to go.
After booking into a hotel, which is in the centre of town, drove down to find the entrance to Lake Nakuru National Park, bought the tickets for the following day (Kenya has different prices depending on whether you are Kenyan citizen\ resident or a tourist – for this park the prices were 1,000Ksh [£7.14] for citizens\residents and 7,000Ksh [£50] for tourists) and then drove back into to town for lunch and a wander around before heading back to the hotel to relax and get dinner.
Best day I have had so far (apart from not having a telephoto lens). Went to Lake Nakuru National Park
After a fairly sleepless night – the hotel’s air-con was fairly basic (too warm open the window more, too cold close it) and a pub\nightclub that was open till about 1.30am (under law shouldn’t be any loud music played after 12am) was up at 5.40am (plan was to get up for 6am and breakfast at 6.30am, didn’t get breakfast till 7am) arrive at Lake Nakuru National Park at about 8.45.
The next 6 hours were spent driving around the park (although some of the roads by the lake were impassable due to flooding, so had to detour away from the lake – Alan had asked if it was possible to drive round the lake, without having to detour away and was told that there were no problems with any roads so was possible), seeing the wildlife (including monkeys, zebra, antelope, water buffalo, a lion and a white rhino) and taking lots of photographs’ (721 in total). Several times during our time in the park we got out of the car to get better angles for photographs which led to 2 interesting encounters with tour guides, the 1st warned that we were not supposed to leave our vehicles as the animals were dangerous and that the park rangers had permission to shoot anyone who did leave their vehicle and appeared to be worrying the animals, the 2nd park guide warned that we were not supposed to leave our vehicles as there could be lions and/or leopards’ around that could attack us and that there was a 10,000Ksh (approx £71.42) fine for leaving your vehicles – not sure whether either was true or not as neither guide were driving Kenya Wildlife Service official tour vehicles, there was no signage stating any do’s and don’ts and, when we bought our tickets, the person on the desk never said anything or provided a leaflet about what we where\weren’t allowed to do while in the park.
|While it was frustrating not having a telephoto lens some wildlife was close enough to be able to get good close shots like this.|
There were 2 viewpoints (out of Africa and Baboon cliff) both of which gave excellent views down onto Lake Nakuru and a wide vista over the surrounding countryside.
After we finished at the park headed to Menengai crater, an extinct volcano crater that is now having geo-thermal power station’s built inside it, there are also Mau Mau caves that can be visited (though we didn’t as none of us were that interested in seeing them, the trek down would have been difficult for Al if we had been, a guide was required and it was late in the day about 3pm and wanted to get back to Nyeri before it got to dark). We had planned to see the crater yesterday, but Alan and Eunice had never been able to find it before (I had found directions on Google the previous night – which put us on the right track). After this we drove home arriving as the last of the light was fading.
Went out to check on progress at St Mary’s, computer lab is now being decorated and new windows still need glass fitted – so unlikely to be finished by the time we fly home. Found 2 of the computers in use in the staff room, so have at least seen 2 of the computers being used and have photographs.
Rest of the day spent reading in the garden, watching TV and starting to sort out yesterday’s safari photos.
At St Mary’s again today – this time to meet up with Michael to get some photographs of him and us with the computers and to give him a CD with a copy of the license numbers for the computers, some training material for Microsoft Office and some software that he would find useful. While there Michael asked if we were coming in Monday or Tuesday as the computer lab would be finished by then and we could get the computers set-up in there before we went, so that is the plan for Monday.
After St Mary’s went into town – the car needed a repair, Alan needed blank DVD’s and then went for lunch. Rest of the day spent sorting the rest of my safari photo’s and reading until we went out to the New Makuti Land hotel for dinner\drinks (although the sign says it is a hotel looked more like a bar\restaurant than a hotel, as couldn’t see any obvious signs of rooms for rent). While drinks service was fine the food service was the worst I had ever experienced – arrived about 7.30, ordered what we wanted and took hour and a half to arrive (it was only chicken and chips for us men)!!!!
Spent the morning copying 2 DVD’s that we borrowed off of Michael, Alan had tried to copy 1 of them yesterday by copying the contents to a folder on his computer and it failed, ended up having to use 2 computers to copy the 2 DVD’s – the 1st DVD was recognized by 1 of the computers but the 2nd was not so had to use the other computer Alan has, this also meant having to find a copy of the necessary software that is compatible with Windows 7 (the 1st package Alan tried to install failed due to incompatibility with the operating system and had some difficulty in uninstalling what had been installed, ended up needing to run system restore to remove the package) as the 2nd computer did not have any software for creating or copying disc’s.
Early afternoon had a rainstorm come in, heaviest downpour that we have had this trip – water blew into the porch at the front of the house and as I had opened the bigger of the 2 windows in my room water also came in there!!!
Went to St Mary’s today to finish off the computer lab, unfortunately after we had cleared out all the rubbish, dust and debris that was lying on the floor Alan (who had been scraping lumps of dried concrete off the floor) noticed that some parts of the floor had not been properly done, when tapping on the floor some parts sounded more hollow than others and some parts had already started to crack. After informing Michael of this he had the person in charge of the contract for the renovations come in to check and arrange for the faulty parts to be fixed. So there is no opportunity now to get any photographs’ of the computer lab finished, will just have to leave it to Alan to get the photos when work complete and send them over.
After a quick stop at KENWA to drop off a receipt for money received for the computers we had delivered earlier (now wanting 6 more – Alan informed them that once St Mary’ had made up their mind on how many they are wanting would let KENWA know what was left) and the supermarket was back to the house to spend the rest of day reading in the garden.
Yesterday at Alan’s doing the usual.
Today is our last day in Kenya; tonight at 11.45pm Al and I board a plane for home. There were also 2 1st’s for me today – more on them later.
So the day’s plan is to drive to Nairobi and spend the day looking around before going to the airport. After an early start, up at 6.40am, left to drive to Nairobi at 8 arrived Nairobi 10.15 and dropped Eunice off to do some shopping. We 3 men then went off for Alan to give us a guided tour of Nairobi, showing us various parts of the city, including a distant view of the biggest slum, Kibera. Then drop back into town so Alan could book the hotel for Eunice and himself, as it was going to be late when Al and I were dropped off at the airport and Alan does not want to drive in the dark, it was at this point I had my 2 1st’s – they were the 1st time I have driven an automatic and the 1st time I have driven in Africa, when we got to the hotel (which is in the centre of Nairobi) there was no parking spaces, so Alan double parked leaving the engine running with instructions for me to move the car in 1 of 2 instances, these being:
- A traffic warden appeared.
- A parking space appeared.
It was the 2nd of these 2 that happened so into the driver’s seat I hopped and parked the car in the freed up space (when we had arrived I had jokingly suggested I should have brought my driving license and I could have done some of the driving, which is why this happened). Al and I then split the cost of the parking ticket between us.
Once all this had be done it was off for lunch and a discussion on what to do next (neither Al or I were particularly interested in the museum), ended up spending most of the afternoon wandering around the streets of downtown Nairobi, looking in a few shops, finding an internet café to make sure that there had been no changes to the departure time of the flight, stopping off in a coffee shop for a drink and a cake, after all this the 2 Alan’s and myself spent the remainder of the afternoon in Jevanjee Gardens (next to the hotel Alan had booked) reading and watching the world go by until going back to the same coffee shop later for just a drink) and finally back to the hotel room for a short while until time to drive out to the airport.
The return flight
As it was pretty much the same as the trip down I won’t go into too much detail. All that has to be said about the flights was that the aircraft used for the return (Boeing 777-200 – Kenya-Dubai, Boeing 777-300ER – Dubai-Glasgow) were better than the 1’s used for the flight down (Airbus A340-300 – Glasgow-Dubai, Airbus A340-500-Dubai-Kenya).
The reason for my view on this is that the seating was more comfortable and the in-flight entertainment more flexible. While there was some similarities between the in-flight entertainment (both provided external cameras – birds eye looking own from the aircraft and pilots view – great for take-off\landing, and interactive flight path map and a selection of games) and games, the Airbus used a looping system for movies, whereby if you wanted to watch a particular film you had to wait for it to come back round, whereas on the Boeing there was a very extensive menu list, not just films but also documentary’s (nothing on air crash investigation [something watched quite a bit of at Alan’s] – which can be very interesting, but maybe not a 35,000-40,000 feet!!!) and you could select what you wanted to watch and when (I watched 1 film on the Kenya-Dubai and 2 on the Dubai-Glasgow).
Boarding the flight at Kenya was certainly an interesting experience – Al and myself had arrived in plenty of time (about 8.05pm for a 11.45pm departure –due to possible problems with traffic, took nearly an hour to get to the airport), after checking in and getting our luggage booked in we hung around departures until it was time to pass through the departure gate. It was at this point things started getting interesting, when on-board part of the information you get is about transfers (lets you know that passenger loading starts 45 minutes before departure and final call 20 minutes before the plane is due to leave), at Kenyatta International we received no 45 minute boarding warning, at 11.20pm the PA came on warning of final call for our flight so everyone who had already checked in got up and started heading for the boarding gate – much to the anxiety of the staff who needed to check boarding passes who requested everyone to sit back down – most didn’t (for those who may not fly\haven’t flown for a long time – normally, if done correctly, boarding follow’s the following procedure 1st\business class passengers, women with children and the elderly, then everyone else according to zone [A,B,C etc.]), well this flight was more a case of who’s at the front of the queue gets on 1st (even though the check-in staff are trying to follow protocol – after a fashion, it soon became clear that the zones were being called out randomly instead of in order and nobody could hear what was being called so were just showing there pass and going on-board – as I did) – as Alan would say typical Kenya, where nothing works properly!!!!. After all those who had arrived on time were boarded the captain came on and informed everyone that the flight was delayed as there were still passenger’s needing to get through check-in and as such would need time to be processed and bags loaded into the hold.
I am not sure exactly who much luggage actually went in the hold and how much was just treated as hand luggage – as while the final passengers (who were running late) were boarding many came on with more than 1 piece of hand luggage (in economy you are only allowed 1 piece unless with a small child they you can bring another with relevant for the child – nappy’s etc.) and most was oversized (this led to the cabin crew trying to fit everything into the overhead bins while still being able to close safely and securely.
Subsequently the flight was delayed by an hour and Al and I only had 1 hour, instead of 2, to get across from 1 end of Dubai International to the other to make our connection (we boarded after final call)!!!
Is there anything I would do differently? Is there anything I would have like to have done but didn’t?
The answer to both is yes:
What would I do differently?
If I could afford it – get my camera equipment serviced before a trip like this, to (hopefully) prevent any equipment failing when I get out there, as happened with the telephoto lens (which I missed on the safari).
Is there anything I would have like to have done but didn’t?
I did the 2 main things I wanted – getting to the equator and going on a safari. There are lots of other things I would have really liked to have done such as a road trip, taking in a few more parks\sights of Kenya. Or even got to see 1 more wildlife reserve – though looking back this trip worked out well as it has given me a better idea of the cost of things in Kenya and what, if any, issues would have to look at for a future trip and I didn’t completely blow my budget (which, if a road trip had been done for example, would have happened).