Due to the lack of time during our final weeks in Germany, we only had a vague idea of where we wanted to go and what we wanted to do after Nairobi. Most of our planning and research were done in March when we first decided to include Kenya as one of our destinations. Now, we had to define our route for the next 3 weeks for which we had rented a 4×4 car with a rooftop tent to explore the country. So we had to reach out to campsite to find suitable accommodation for the next nights.
In Nairobi we also spent some time setting up our financials tracking app (we use TravelSpend) to be able to monitor our budget. We know that Kenya is going to be significantly exceed our budget. Yes, it is expensive to travel here, even if you are just camping. Just the car alone costs us about 120 USD per day (excl. gas) and the entrances to national parks are not cheap either. Therefore, it’s crucial for us to ensure that we don’t end our time in Kenya with a too big gap in our budget.
We would lie if we would say that we have enjoyed the best time of our life from day one. There are many reasons why the start has been bumpy – and we even cannot say what all the implicit reasons were. But it took us a few days to get into our flow and start loving Kenya.
Feeling worn out: Probably the most important factor influencing our mood was that we were still exhausted from all the stress we had in the last month. Our energy levels were down and we noticed that we were not too excited to explore Nairobi and would rather sleep.
Rumbling in the tummy: Also, one of the biggest challenges – which is the most usual one – has been that Jens has had some stomach issues. We believe it was the lamb burger from the very first evening in Nairobi that was probably not cooked well. He was truly struggling for many days. Our first aid kit helped a bit and luckily it passed soon.
Higher and higher: Another reason why we may have been feeling down is the altitude. Nairobi lies at an elevation of 1600m and Nanyuki (our next destination) at an elevation of 2000m. Although we have not felt the altitude sickness directly, Laura noticed that she had to drink a lot more than usual to keep away headaches. This was also one of the reasons why we had a rather slow start with little activities planned to get used to the altitude.
Baby it’s cold outside: Surprisingly, the temperatures here seem to feel colder than in Germany. Although during the day it is about 21-23 degrees, we had to wear much more clothes than usually. And as the sun sets at about 6.30 pm the evenings get chilly fast. The cold has been mostly impacting Laura’s wellbeing as she is rather sensitive about it (yes, despite being an Estonian). It was quite OK in Nairobi but then came the nights in the tent. During nighttime the temperature drops to 10 degrees. We knew it was going to be cold based on our experience in Namibia. But the difference to Namibia is that this tent has no sleeping bags but only a blanket. And this difference is a pretty big one. So we are wearing as many layers as we can. Jens does not seem to care too much. Laura, though, wears warm underwear, jeans, two pairs of socks, a warm hoodie and a jacket on top. It took about 5 nights until Laura finally started to acclimatise and is not feeling cold every night anymore.
Hashtag activism: Besides that, as you can imagine, Kenya is having hard times currently. So, there was an opposition rally in Nairobi (and other towns) on the third day we were in Kenya. Luckily, it was our Uber driver who was making us aware of that and suggested to take another route back to our Airbnb to be safe. It was mostly Laura who was getting a bit worried, seeing the videos online and knowing that they are demonstrating just in the next district. It was a relatively peaceful rally on that day, but still she felt less safe in Nairobi from that moment and wanted to leave the city. After a few days, as we were already in the rural areas, the demonstrations continued and several people got killed by the police. Without wanting to get any more political here, we just end this point by saying that in general we definitely feel safe traveling through Kenya.
Stop looking for something else: What we think, also has impacted our first impressions of Kenya, is that we were comparing it with Namibia too much. We had fell in love with Namibia – it’s endless stunning landscape, it’s wildlife at every corner. Kenya is totally different though. The influences of German colonization are still very strongly recognizable in Namibia (e.g., most of the lodges and campsites are still owned by German successors). This means the standards there are naturally a bit higher than here in Kenya. For example, as we finally got our 4×4 it was not in the best shape. The car as well the tent stank pretty badly (a bottle of air freshener helped luckily). Also, the car key just broke into pieces in Jens’ hands so we had tape it up to be able to use it at all… And the zippers of the tent were broken… The battery connection was loose… One of the chairs ripped… But there are no problems that cannot be solved. Especially when you have so lovely and helpful people around you!
As said, there have been so many different factors – less significant and greater – influencing our mood at the beginning our our travels. However, we definitely wanted to give Kenya a chance and let it convince us of its beauty. And it did not take long until we started loving this country. It was the Kenyan people who opened our hearts. Absolutely everyone here (maybe except the police) is so nice and welcoming. They put all their efforts into ensuring we are having the best time here and want to come back. For example, at the first campsite, for campsite, they brought us a washing basin to do our dishes, built up a tent to give shades from the sun and made fire every evening. And what is the greatest about the experience, is that all Kenyans speak so good English. It makes it so much easier to connect with locals, get to know what lightens up their eyes and what keeps them from sleeping at night. I think there has been no other country, where we have spent so much time with locals. It has definitely made our experience more authentic which we love.
There are so many stories still we want to tell. We have finally arrived at our final destination in Kenya, north to Mombasa, where have planned to catch up with all the writing ;). So stay tuned.