By Marisa Notier
The Notier Notes
Our Sunday Scoop
Unless a city has some particular draw for us, Tim and I try to avoid big metropolitan areas as much as we can. And since Nairobi is Kenya's capital city, and is known to be a congested industrial center famous for its slums and insane traffic, we were dead set on never going there.
But we also had some questions about visa extensions that needed to be answered, and no one in the Kenyan immigration offices were picking up their phones or responding to emails. We've learned that this is typical for Africa, and the best way to get things done is to show up in person.
Also, Nairobi has the only KTM dealership between South Africa and Egypt, and our bike's back brakes were getting soft. Some fresh brake fluid would surely make our motorcycle very happy.
So last Sunday, we headed off to Nairobi for a three day trip.
Because we didn't need any camping gear, we were able to pack light with just a back bag and a bunch of food. It felt very liberating to not have our panniers on the bike, and we could squeeze through traffic like never before. But I also realized that without our side bags, if the bike were to fall, my legs would be crushed. Kind of a scary thought. Personally, I prefer having the panniers on.
It was only a 3.5 hour ride from our home in Nanyuki to Nairobi, and we had beautiful weather and beautiful views of the countryside.
To avoid traffic, we booked an Airbnb on the outskirts of town by the airport, and I really appreciated the fact that by using Airbnb, we were able to live amongst the locals. You got to hear the children playing, the dogs barking, the TVs blaring, and the music pumping. You could definitely smell the spices of the neighbor's cooking, or the perfumes of the laundry hung out to dry. This was the real Africa, and I loved it.
When we first pulled up, a friendly gentleman came outside another apartment building to help us find where we were going (there are no addresses here), saying his daughter wanted to see what these two lost white people were doing. He seemed to know all the neighbors' names, and pointed us in the right direction. I could tell that this was definitely a tight-knit, lively community here, which made the experience of being in Nairobi even that much better.
The next day, we rode the bike to KTM, then took an Uber into the city (you can even hire motorcycle taxis called boda bodas on the Uber app).
Downtown Nairobi is glitzy with high-rise glass buildings of modern architecture. The streets are filled with lots of fancy businesspeople strutting around briskly in suits or heels, like they're late for their next meeting. It felt like a sunny and colorfully-African version of Chicago.
I remember once watching a documentary on poverty that said it's a shame that so many people around the world only think of Africa as a place where children look longingly at the camera with flies on their faces. They said that we are often missing this other side of Africa, one like downtown Nairobi, which is a bustling, beautiful city full of culture, innovation, entrepreneurialism, and modern-day luxuries.
So as I stood there on the street corner, looking up at the skyscrapers glittering in the equatorial sun, I reminded myself to keep this picture of Africa in my head.
One of my favorite things about Nairobi were the buses. These public buses are famous for being brightly colored and painted with whatever designs the bus owner wants. This often includes portraits of rappers such as Tupac, Snoop Dogg, Post Malone, or Rihanna and Beyoncé. But sometimes you'll see other weird, random things.
As far as Coronavirus went, Nairobi has strict mask-wearing rules in place, along with touch-free hand sanitizing stations and a mandatory temperature check at every door to every establishment. There's a nightly curfew in place, and restaurants have to be open to the elements, but that's easy to do here since the weather is so good.
It was a tiring day in Nairobi. Like most bureaucracy, the immigration office took way longer than we'd wanted, but we got done what we needed. And the KTM dealership did a fine job on our fresh new brakes. But at long last, we were able to get back to our cozy Airbnb and shower off all that city grime.
That evening, Tim and I were watching some TV when he went into the kitchen to grab the last of a bag of chips we'd opened earlier. He walked back into the living room with his hand in the bag when his face suddenly went white. He pulled his hand out, looked into the bag, then immediately started closing it up.
"What?" I asked.
"You don't want to know," he told me with total seriousness.
Of course, I insisted he tell me, and finally he confessed that inside the chip bag were two huge cockroaches, each about two inches long.
Yeah, he was right. I didn't want to know. All I could think of was thank God it wasn't me eating those chips.
Overall, our trip to Nairobi was a fun, interesting experience that I'm grateful for. Next week, I'll go over what African food is like.
Until then, have a great week!
It has almost been a full year since Tim released '2Up and Overloaded'. If you've read it, it would be fantastic if you left a review on Amazon by clicking here! Tim is trying to get a hundred reviews in the first year, which would surely boost his confidence while writing the next segment!
I also want to give a big shout out to our fellow motorcycle traveling friends Travis and Chantil at viajarmoto.com (they're currently in Montenegro!), and my good friends Terri and Jacqueline back in the States.
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