I had to get up twice but both times got back to sleep ok. We were provided a torch so you can check you are not going to step or sit on any critters. The beds had great big thick covers which kept you nice and cozy, despite it getting increasingly cold in the desert once the sun goes down.
The sunrise over the sand dunes was stunning. After breakfast we went for a drive through the reserve, seeing herds of animals – quite a few busy eating their breakfast around troughs. The troughs are put in different places each day so the animals have to walk around looking for them.
Then back to the hotel to wait for the pick up to the airport an hour later. The guy from Arabian Adventures who picked us up spoke nonstop all the way to the airport. Nice guy, but I am pleased he wasn’t the guide for the overnight tour. Azeeze who was the overnight guide talked a bit but mainly in response to you asking him questions.
Azeeze was born in Dubai but is not an Emirati citizen, so will have to leave at 60. At this time, he will have to go to his home country of Bangladesh, even though he has never been there. He can speak the language and has relatives there. It seems a harsh system but I guess with Emirati citizens only making up 2 out of the current 9 million, it is a way to stay in control of their own country.
Once at the airport we quickly retrieved the bike boxes and despite it being a huge airport we only had to go up one floor to the check in. We got to the check-in in plenty of time but the check in person took 45 minutes to process us. We had had to pay excess baggage from NZ so he spent ages finding out if we had to pay it again from Dubai (we did). Despite Brett being able to take 12 kg more than me as he has silver status with Qantas, and the airlines being affiliated, this wasn’t showing up on the system: after 40 minutes he advised he couldn’t find this out but we could ring Qantas. At this stage we just wanted to make sure we could catch the plane!
So we said we just wanted to pay the excess. We were told to go over to the cashier and pay and they would give us the boarding passes. We lined up there, initially relieved just one couple were in front of us. However, they had a long argument about the amount they had to pay. Finally, we paid – ouch! But they would only issue Brett’s boarding pass, I had to go back to checking in.
One look at the line and I went straight back to the same person. I was surprised to see our bags and bikes still there, given he had said we didn’t need to come back again. By this time, I was getting stressed, as we still had Customs to get through and that line was so long it was back through the terminal! Thankfully the check in person took us through to the front of the line. We got to the boarding gate 15 min before they started boarding.
Getting onto the plane was interesting – our row (25) was full of other people. We enlisted the help of the flight attendant who moved the lady in the window seat, who it appeared had just decided to sit there in case in wasn’t booked. One guy was meant to be in the row in front. The other guy stands aside for us to get in, and I say to him – thinking he is the B seat passenger – that if he likes he can sit in the window seat, rather than in between Brett and me as we are A and C. He insists that he is in C which is where he is going to sit. Once again I enlist the help of the flight attendant, turns out he is actually 43 B (so he had his row AND his letter wrong!).
The plane was very full but luckily no one arrived to sit in B. The flight to Nairobi is 5 hours which seems short compared to the Sydney to Dubai.
There were a couple of big security looking men who kept switching places at the front of the cabin, surveying the plane, which was a bit unnerving. Unfortunately, they had moved away when I had my next interaction with Mr 43 B. He came back to get his overhead luggage, and as he opened the door to it a bag fell out onto me, giving me quite a fright. He then gave me an another fright by reaching over and patting me on the shoulder. As I get a fright, I jerk away and he starts telling me I am unwell. At which point I start saying quite loudly to get away from me. I was concerned he would come back, so I rang the bell for the flight attendant who came and advised she would get her supervisor to come and talk to me but they never did.
The only other drama on the flight was a woman collapsed a row over, but thankfully seemed to be ok and was helped to her feet after about 30 minutes and was taken into the business area.
We were worried that due to the late checking in of our bags and bikes they may not arrive in Nairobi with us. When we arrived, the airport was chaos. We had been blissfully unaware that there had been a strike and the police had become involved using tear gas etc. Ours was one of the first flights in. The airport is a stark contrast having come from Dubai were everything is on a huge scale.
Thankfully after 30 minutes our bags and bikes arrived and we then had to join the huge queue to go through Customs. There was one scanner and despite there being one line most of the locals go to the front, which then formed two lines with people still going straight to the front. With bike boxes you don’t have that much maneuverability, so we were stuck in a line that barely moved. It took two hours from the time we landed to getting outside of the airport.
Thankfully no sign of Mr 43 B, and even more thankfully the pick up from the Albatross Travel tour company was waiting patiently for us.
There was ongoing chaos outside the airport, people everywhere, and cars and vans trying to get into the very small pickup strip. We had to wait while the van came from the parking building which took about 15 minutes, then we had to walk far enough up the road so there was space to be picked up. Then we had problems fitting both bike boxes in the van. They both could not go in long ways or length ways, just when I was thinking we would have to get another vehicle they managed to get them both in by opening the roof of the van. Lucky the van had an opening roof as otherwise we would not have got the boxes inside.
It was from George and Walter that we learned all about the strike.
After the 4 to 6 lane, well lit streets of Dubai, Nairobi is very dark and the streets seem very narrow. The Wildebeest Eco Camp that we are staying at is 25 km away. Walter advises us that we are lucky that there is not much traffic, as it is now after 9 at night. In the morning the 25 km trip could take up to 2 hours.
We got to the camp which is surrounded by high walls with a security guard on the entrance. Walter is coming back to pick us up tomorrow to take us to the airport for the flight to to the Maasai Mara for the Safari. The local airport is 10 km away and the flight leaves at 10:30 but we have to be ready to be picked up by 8am as due to traffic it can take over an hour or more to get 10 km.
We put our bikes in the camp storage and were shown to our room. The restaurant was shut but we were told the bar is open till 10:30, where we can get a drink and a snack. As it was nearly 10 we decided to head there before a shower. We had heard a lot about how unsafe it is in Nairobi with theft, so we put our valuables in the safe before leaving the room.
When we got to the restaurant it turned out the available snacks consisted of bags of chippies. Luckily the bar tender, seeing our look of dismay, cooked us up something that looked and tasted like samosa. This was washed down with a tasteless lager. We were kept company by the resident dog and cat. The cat made itself at home on Brett’s knee and the dog made himself comfortable against my leg.
Back to the room where we still had to pack our bags for tomorrow. We are only able to take a carry-on bag on the plane. At this stage I discovered that I didn’t do my usual check of the hotel room before leaving Dubai, and have left one of my favorite tops plus my travel stockings hanging up in the wardrobe! Never mind, they will have travel stockings in Cape Town.
Wow what a start!. Here’s to the rest of the trip being of a more even keel.