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Back to Kenya

April 27, 2017

Saturday 4th February 2017

We are sitting on the tarmac at Abu Dhabi waiting to roll, listening to the guttural tones of Arabic interspersed with a posh English accent alternately run through the safety briefing. We have four hours and fifty minutes in a tiny A320 to look forward to. The jump from Sydney was completely uneventful, assisted significantly by getting eight hours sleep. I managed to get the movie ‘Girl on a Train’ watching (average) while eating dinner, and a repast of lamb biryani w
hich I didn’t really need given we had eaten at Sydney airport (Salmon pizza) before we flew out.

Abu Dhabi is a sprawling complex, far exceeding what I saw here only 12 years ago. In 2005 Etihad was only two years old and the plans for this airport grand, but not realised. There are a vast number of aircraft lined up on the tarmac and a lot of engineering still underway on taxiways and terminal buildings. But it’s still new and functional and refreshingly unlike the Emirates facilities which have a ‘look at me’ feel to them.

We get way at 0900 as planned and lift above a hazy dun desert sand, climbing and turning steeply as the pilot points us south into the heart of Africa.

Nairobi is further south than most imagine and we have longer in the air than the map in my mind ever suggests. Interestingly, at altitude everyone closes the blinds. The light out there is dazzling but it seems everyone prefers the dim light of this tube. Or is it a factor of the screens on the seats? No one wants the screens to be washed out so down come the blinds. Read more

Mind How You Step

October 31, 2013

mkt290She has a round dark face that is more chipmunk cheeks than anything else, cheeks that prop up eyes that glitter with mischief. The narrow, high set benches means we squeeze in to sit down and she laughs at two tall guys struggling to fit in without knocking any else’s tea on the floor. She remembers us from last week and is clearly pleased we are there.  The floor is timber, old cement, broken tiles and earth so I have to watch where I step. There are no mozzies since the place is full of the sweet pine smoke that drifts in from the kitchen, semi detached out the back via a narrow laneway that clearly provides access to a larger street somewhere, as folk walk in this back door as often as they walk in the front door. She watches us sit and then giggles to her friend… Read more

Longonot – With or Without a Necklacing

October 21, 2013

Wlongonot290hile we eat our cornflakes as the sun comes up, and wonder where our colleagues are, at the end of the street two thieves stand among a crowd of excited neighbours and a collection of security guards. They are two of four the guards have caught. They are not running anywhere. To start with the crowd will make sure of that. But they are encumbered by two tyres dropped over them. You know, that South African legacy of ‘necklacing’ – fill the tyre with petrol and light it up, burning the trapped person alive. Read more

Hell’s Gate

October 13, 2013

HG290The day is clear and warm. On the lee of the escarpment and under the canopy of tall trees the humidity is a light flush on the forehead but no more. A perfect day no less. By the time we reach Naivasha, an hour out of town we have left the cosy climate of Nairobi and find ourselves in a different world, one that hints of drought and laced with flies and dust, small hot twisters and litter scampering ahead of squalling winds. The tress are now tall, flat topped acacias, their light coloured yellowish trunks lithe and pleasing lines against the arid backdrop. The country is gearing up for its second and minor wet season but the clouds that have piled up this morning have quickly burned away.  I dodge pedestrians, crawling matatus, oncoming overladen trucks and goods slowly wheeling to or from a market on a bicycle. Sometimes I can see the rider.  Read more

They Walk Among Us

October 6, 2013

nightclub290There is a creeping awareness this week that we Australians, for all our fretting about porous borders ( a lot of nonsense) have it just way too good. I have always known that of course. On one occasion my return to Australian soil after a precarious adventure was so emotional I wanted to do ‘a Pope’ – kiss the tarmac I was walking on when I finally arrived home.  But this is a bit different. Being resident here, even for a short period of time, makes me aware of a different sensibility. It’s the fact that your enemy might truly be walking the road with you. That the crawling vehicle might truly be doing a recce. If Australians have an enemy (and we don’t really have a sense of one) they are out there over the water somewhere, ill defined and with no malicious agenda.  Kenyans know they have an enemy, provoked by their intervention and ongoing military action in Somalia. And its an enemy that can simply walk here if they are resolved enough to do so. It seems some are.  Which makes these people wonder who in the checkout queue really is a friendly. Read more

Nairobi Brunch

September 29, 2013

cafe290It’s a quiet Sunday and after a slow start I decide to walk to the nearest shopping centre. A walk can only be a good thing after last nights festivities. The rest of the house is not stirring. The day is clear and burning hot, something I had not really noticed under the shade of our garden forest. Unlike my jogging foray I am the only traveller on the roadside goat track, the exception being the neighbour’s guards who are reclined on the verge, feet crossed and having lunch much in the fashion of a impressionist’s picnic. Except these lads are wearing overalls and gumboots. I say hello and wonder how they do it. Read more

Early Morning Jog in Nairobi

September 27, 2013

290Imagine a series of low rolling, heavily vegetated ridges radiating out from the city centre. They parallel each other as best they can but like spokes they are forced gradually apart. Roads run along the crown of each, houses sit off the road and then gardens and forest fill the gullied gaps. In many sections the forest comes to the roadside, houses being set quite a distance back. The soil is a heavy, rich red sticky loam that is infested on the road side by blocks of stone, small enough to run across, big enough to break an ankle on. In some cases big enough to have me prefer the bitumen and the traffic than the potential of a broken foot. Read more

Taxi Driver (Kenyan – in Kenya)

May 8, 2011

cab.jpgGood morning. Are you going up country?

Sure am. Not many who are doing that at this time of the morning.

He laughs.

True enough. Most are heading into the city at this time of the morning. We should have a clear run up the highway.

I hope this does not sound rude but I think your idea of a highway and mine are two very different things.

He laughs again. There is no offence. Even I agree these roads are terrible. I have driven all over this country and I have to agree, our roads are a disgrace.

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Would you Like Some Mud in Your Hair? Yes Please.

April 1, 2011

img_1382-version-2.jpgI have forgotten  how stifling a mozzie net is. If there is any puff of air out there it is obliterated by the net. At the end of a windy day there is no breeze and I lie in the open stripped right off (sorry sensitive reader) leaking more sweat than water drunk today, of that I am sure.

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Permission to Travel in the World’s Newest Country

March 28, 2011

For the first time in my life I have a certificate that says I am allowed to travel.  Everything up to now must have been illegal or fraudulent.  I have travelled under all sorts of labels in my time, some genuine, some creatively spurious but this is the first time I have worn the label “missionary”. I am not too sure what to make of that I have to confess. But if that is what is necessary for me to get into South Sudan then so be it.  I am as tall as any of the Dinkas I have met so far but perhaps if you are that tall there is no official recognition of such – I see they have shaved 14cm off me. For the duration of this trip I will be 170cm tall.  But the really neat thing about this certificate is the fact it is issued by the Government of Southern Sudan, the world’s newest country.  Now that is a real privilege and not to be understated.

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