The stories and advice I heard from Meru regarding Nairobi ranged from “Don’t look at anyone in the street or they may decide to mug you,” to “Don’t even ask for directions,” to “People keep powdered drugs under their fingernails to drug you, drag you into an alley and take all your possessions.” Now, this may all be true, but what I saw today is a Nairobi that no one has yet described to me.
First, I went to a place called the Westgate Shopping Mall. If any of you know the mall in Novi, it’s exactly like that… except the Nakumatt (Wal-Mart-ish) is 4 stories high. It was clean, had marble floors, and had great customer service everywhere. I really felt like country mouse, coming from Meru. All the stores were expensive, and it was really big city life. There were a ton of non-Africans there, since it’s an expensive place. I kind of expected the foreigners, but it was still disconcerting. I also went to the Ya Ya Centre, which was much the same.
Then my taxi driver told me about an Ethiopian restaurant just around the corner from my hotel (the Methodist Guest House). Who knew? I’ve been there four times, and have never gone more than a 1/2 block for fear that I would get mugged. The food was AMAZING – better than World Market in Windsor, and only $6 for a meal that could have fed two or three people.
I saw a Korean woman at the Ethiopian restaurant who told me about a Korean restaurant that she and her guests were going to visit tonight. I tried to find it but couldn’t. She gave me her phone number and instructed me to call when I got back from Kilimanjaro so she could cook me Kimchi Chigae and Bibimbap. SCORE!!
The guy in the camping gear store at the Ya Ya Centre was really helpful in giving little hints to make my hike successful. Drink at least 3 litres of water with rehydration powder in the water; walk slowest on the 1st day to acclimate yourself best; carry as little as possible. He helped me to find my way to the chemist (pharmacist) downstairs so that I could get diamox for altitude sickness and the rehydration packets for my water. Luckily, there were two pharmacists at the Thiiri Centre before I left who gave me the thumbs up on the diamox or I wouldn’t have bought it. I did get hiking boots – they were over $200 (ouch!), but it was all that they had. Bummer. At least I have some kickin’, lightweight, waterproof boots. Hopefully these will last me for 20 years like the last pair did. (But the last pair were only $60.)
I walked for about 2 hours around that area of Nairobi, which is called Lavington. I found some friendly people who helped me find my way, but overall I kept to myself. I don’t think I’d walk around after dark, but the places I saw would all be fine during the day. At least I understand now why people would even want to live in this dirty, crowded, polluted place. I might even be excited to come back in the future (for the first time), especially if it involved eating again at that Ethiopian place…!