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Published: February 5th 2018
The finishing group
Our final safari day began with another six hour drive from the Masai Mara Reserve to Nairobi. The most telling event that can best describe the quality of the ride occurred about an hour outside of Nairobi when our truck finally pulled onto an actual paved highway - at this point, the entire group broke into one long applause. Later, we told our driver David, that the clapping and shouting was for him and the wonderful job he had done navigating the rough, dusty road. In reality, it was a sign of relief from all of us, that we had actually survived the ordeal.
We arrived at the Karen Camp and without a second thought, Monica and I paid an extra $36 for an upgrade. We needed hot showers and a chance to clean out our backpacks and repack our stuff. We all headed out that evening to the Talisman restaurant, one of the fanciest and most highly rated in all of Nairobi. It was crowded with a large contingent of caucasians - the only Africans we noticed were the drivers, servers and bartenders. A meal for two with a bottle of red wine cost us $90 - reasonable by
view from the Nomad
North American standards but expensive for Africa. Everyone except us it seemed were heading home. Chris, the arborist, and Laura, the nurse, were heading back to London. They had started in Capetown and been on this safari for 73 days. Andrew had also done a full 73 days and was now heading back to Australia to start med school. Christine, Rhoyce and Maddie were also heading back to Australia, while Jetta was flying back to Holland. Ethan was ticketed to return to the corporate world in Shanghai. Only Emma was staying on in Africa, heading to Madagascar. Our guide Chris and driver David told us that the entire safari for them was 83 days and that they now had a twelve day break before starting again. Aside from Emma, only Monica and I from the group were staying in Africa - eleven days in Mombasa followed by three weeks in Zanzibar.
The next day we headed to the Jomo Kenyatta Airport by taxi and were somewhat taken aback by the high level of security. Our cab was stopped by a kind of toll booth set up about a mile before the airport. We had to leave the
vehicle and walk through a scan and endure a patdown. Meanwhile the cab itself was being searched. Once at the airport, we had to go through two more full security checks. Wearing jeans, a t-shirt and my customary black hat, I noticed the security guards laughing and speaking Swahili as I went through. The only word I understood was 'cowboy'. Kenya, and Nairobi in particular, has been a target of Islamic extremists for some time now. Back in 1976, they allowed an Israeli squadron to land and refuel on their way to Uganda to rescue hostages. This was interpreted by Islamic extremists as a siding with the west and Israeli. The Ali-Shabaab Islamic force is situated just over the border in Somalia and they have claimed responsibility for numerous airport attacks as well as the blowing up of the US embassy in 1998 and the Westgate mall bombings in 2013. Both of these resulted in well over a hundred deaths. Hence, the high level of security at the airport is certainly well founded. It is only a one hour flight to Mombasa on the coast and we did this with Jambo Jet. Interesting fact - the plane was made by
We drove to our resort - the Villa Mandhari - only to find the place overrun with middle-aged Kenyans, mainly women, who were holding a large birthday celebration. All 24 flats were full and our reservation, made three months ago, was nowhere to be found. Monica pulled out the confirmation papers and the manager and her proceeded to call the booking agency. The Villa Mandari, it seems, has only been in operation for three months and their communications with booking agencies has not been established at an adequate level. After two hours of sitting in the dining room with our luggage and being passed from one booking agent to another, it was established that the mistake was not ours - after all we had already paid for six nights in advance - and that we would stay in a comparable resort close by for at least two nights. We were driven a mile or so to the Lotfa resort. I had to pay for these two nights up front with a promise from the booking agency that this money would be returned. They also gave us a hundred dollar hotel credit for our trouble. The Lotfa
view from the water
resort had nice flats - two bedrooms, two bathrooms with a full kitchen - however, the largest cockroaches I have ever seen appeared at night out of the shower and bathroom drains and this convinced us to return to the Villa Mandhari for our final four days. These roaches were about five or six inches long and a good two inches in width. They did not bother us but the sight of a dozen or so of these critters scurrying around whenever one turned on the bathroom light, was pretty scary.
The flats at the Villa Mandhari were also large, a huge living room and full kitchen with two bedrooms and three bathrooms. And no cockroaches!!!! The pool was right outside our door and was very large although it did not have a deep end. We spent most of our time at the beach - it was clean with endless white sand and blue water as far as the eye could see. Our daytime hangout was the Nomad - the restaurant/bar attached to the Sands Hotel. It was somewhat expensive however, the food was good and included excellent sushi and the view was almost hypnotic. We walked
from there along the beach for a mile or so, passing a restaurant called Forty Thieves. We continued on to a grocery store where we purchased food supplies and some excellent and relatively cheap red merlot. Driving back in a tuk-tuk, we passed the same restaurant on the opposite side, but the sign called it Ali-Babas. Fortunately, my memory of Arabian Knights' tales kicked in and I realized that the two were the same - Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. I read Monica a good part of the tale that night, including the chapter concerning the Thieve's cave and how it opened magically to the call of 'Open sesame'. On line, we discovered that the actual restaurant was in an underground cave. We investigated the next day and made reservations for dinner. It was quite magical - going underground into an actual cave with the roof open so one could gaze up at the stars.
Mombasa had proved to be quite a relaxing relief after our 23 day safari. It is very hot and humid on the coast - we hit the pool numerous times each day while hitting the AC button at night to make
sleeping more comfortable. It is a big difference for us to have someone actually come and clean our room and make up our beds each day instead of setting up and taking down our tent. It is a pleasure to sit at a table to eat instead of on a stool with your plate on your lap. Also wonderful to have access to the internet on a daily basis. And this is the way Monica planned it - to 'rough it' more or less on the safari at first and then finish in leisure and luxury. Most of our safari group started on the beaches in Zanzibar and then did the safari. Almost all wished they had reversed the order. After four nights we said good-bye to the people at Villa Mandhari. Over our final three days, the whole place had emptied out and we were the only ones staying there. It was great having the whole pool to ourselves. The only drawback at Mandhari was the speed of their kitchen. It often took two to three hours for them to prepare a meal, however, since we either ate elsewhere or prepared meals ourselves in our kitchen, the drawback was
Gazing at the Stars
view from inside Ali Baba's
minimal. We stayed here through the end of January, looking forward to five more days of leisure in Mombasa.
Tot: 2.344s; Tpl: 0.053s; cc: 11; qc: 58; dbt: 0.0436s; 2; m:saturn w:www (126.96.36.199); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.4mb