The usual story: finish packing by 11 or so, sleep, get up at 5, quick breakfast and out the door by 5:30, check in by 6, fly by 7. Over Charlotte to JFK. Charlotte was charming, JFK the usual irritation: bags came down the belt at literally one a minute; Elaine’s bag only came after a lady went around checking to see if we were sure that the bag was indeed checked to JFK. The train between the terminals had lousy signage so we go onto a train in the wrong direction at first. I'm going to do my utmost not to travel over New York in the future.
On the other hand, the man checking us in at Swiss Air was efficient and had a sense of humour: there was a line of counters behind him and it looked like we were seeing a mirror, except that we didn’t see ourselves, which Elaine remarked on. Him: “You guys must be vampires”.
The usual long flight across the Atlantic, dropping us off in Zurich a bit before 8. A very Swiss airport: very clean with lots of steel and glass. I had a coffee and a panini sandwich that far exceeded in quality anything we got and would get on any of the flights.
The flight from Zurich to Nairobi gave the first indications that we were heading for something new. First some islands off the Croatian coast that made us decide on our next vacation (Venice biennale, followed by sunning on a Croatian beach). Then the north African coast, which was yellow sand and continued in the same yellow vein for 3 hours. The clouds we noticed after a while were the first ones in 3 hours. No wonder it’s dry there. Clouds took over, and when they parted, again some hours later, there was actual green in the landscape.
The Nairobi airport did not feel unusual; say a bit like the Dallas airport before they reworked it a couple of years ago. We exchanged some dollars for Kenyan shillings, probably more than we subsequently would need, since everything can be paid for in dollars. The guy at the visa office couldn’t even quote us the price in KSH, so we gave him a 50 dollar bill. He didn’t inspect our shot records, which cost us several hundreds to acquire by going through a bunch of shots, some painful. Maybe we could have saved that money? No, wouldn’t have been a good idea, probably.
In the entry hall of the airport, just about everyone waiting carried a sign with a name. A friendly and courteous young man (he carried Elaine’s suitcase, not mine) from Somak, our safari company, took us to his van and we exited the airport, or rather tried to: one car before us took forever at the toll booth, and was subsequently pushed out of the way by its occupants. There was a bunch of scary and efficient looking security men in suits standing around. I think they would have been more efficient if they’d spread out a bit, but at least the two or three cars under their provenance were very safe.
We headed for the Holiday Inn Nairobi, a name that does not sound very inspiring but the place turned out to be beautiful. The corridors were arranged around two courtyards with interesting vegetation. And some extremely loud frogs in the pond. They sounded more like car alarms. No matter, we slept soundly despite them.