Our Journey to The Farm

And so the long awaited journey begins. We had been in quarantine and lockdown in the UK for a month and were now on our way to Kenya. We stayed at Heathrow the night before our flight and anxiously scanned our phones regularly for any last minute changes. We slept well and  the next morning went to check in.  We were unable to check  in on line for this particular flight and therefore could not complete the necessary COVID form for Kenya, as we did not have a seat number, but were prepared to complete it once we had arrived at the gate. However, upon check-in at the BA desk they required the QR code provided by Kenyan immigration. We explained that we had been unable to do on-line check in and could not complete the form and get the code until we had a seat number. The agent advised that we could have just completed the form with any seat number…. Which surely defeated the object of completing the form as it was to trace you (via your seat number) should anyone on the flight be COVID positive??? After some confusion as to where the QR Code was sent, the form said by email, but it actually was just downloaded to the phone, and so had to hunt for it, we finally off loaded our bags and headed to the gate. Nothing was open at the airport and we hoped we didn’t need cash at the other end, although we had dollars and pounds, but no Kenyan Shillings. There were only 60 people on board and it was a lovely, quiet, new plane and we took off on time and sat back and enjoyed the 8 hour flight.

We arrived on time in Nairobi, 9.30pm and had to take a bus to the terminal. There, we were directed to make three lines, have our QR codes ready on our phones and our COVID negative test results at hand. It was a slow process and with only one young girl to check everyone, some of the passengers were becoming a little frustrated and the lines started to turn into a mob. Luckily we were through quickly and on to immigration. With all the traveling Marcel and I have done over the years, we have encountered many immigration staff and have yet to meet a friendly one! You would think that they would be all smiles, welcoming you to the country etc. but we scarcely remember any one of them that have been welcoming. This was no different here. The two young ladies who were behind the screens, with masks looked us up and down, definitely not smiling behind their masks and asked how many months we wanted on our visa. I offered 6 months and was duly stared down and grunted at… 3 months is fine! She stamped my passport like she was tenderizing meat and handed back my passport . I moved on and waited for Marcel who was at the next desk, clearly having a difficult time. The agent only wanted to give him 1 month on his visa! I waved mine and said I had 3 months and he needed to be with me for 3 months. She scowled and once again stamped his passport so hard I thought the desk would break.

Security was tight, with our hand luggage being scanned and we successfully found our luggage. Our driver met us outside. A very pleasant young lady (seems all the women do the work!) who led us to the car, with all our bags and drove us the 2 miles to the hotel. At the hotel, the car doors were opened, the inside checked, along with the trunk, and the sniffer dogs came and gave us the all clear to proceed through the gate to the hotel. Our room was luxurious, and if I had known what was to come I would have languished in the hot shower for much longer than I did! We ordered room service and slipped into bed, anticipating tomorrows 4 hour drive to The Farm.

After an outdoor breakfast, we waited for our driver on the rooftop terrace overlooking Nairobi National Park, and watched as giraffes, antelope and zebras grazed in the hot morning sun. Our driver, Wilfred, arrived on time and we loaded the car and set off. We left the airport area and skirted the city of Nairobi, planning on coming back to see the modern city. As we traveled through the outskirts, we saw that the road was the only thing paved, no sidewalk, just the dark red Kenyan soil. Cows, pedestrians and motorcycles all shared the same space, coming and going, dodging each other with surprising dexterity. The whole area alongside the road, for almost all the way to Timau, our nearest town, was lined with stalls selling fruits and vegetables, rice, pots, pans, charcoal, timber, and even beds and sofas, all sitting in the grass or on the soil! Imagine the contents of Home Depot laid out along the side of SR 64, each department having its own plot of land from which to sell its wares. As we came upon busier areas, speed bumps across the road slowed us down and vendors came close to sell whatever they could. Water, nuts, fruit, bags, flip flops… the choice was endless. If we needed to stop to buy anything, all we needed to do was ask the drive to pull over. Eager to get to our destination we declined to make any purchases.  I mentioned to Marcel that there was a lot of building work going on as many small blocks of apartments looked like they were still being built. After many miles we realized the blocks that the buildings were made of were left bare on three sides of the buildings, only the façade being finished. All the blocks were handmade, and we often saw them being made alongside the highway. All the way along the road, which was only two lanes, one each way, we saw people walking. The small villages were quite far apart and we wondered where all these people were going to and coming from. There were ‘bus stops’ and it seemed that if you wanted a lift anywhere, you just stood at the side of the road and when one of the numerous minibuses came along, you waved them down to see if there was space. There were no turn offs that we saw, just the one road so the minibuses only had a straight road to navigate, there and back, wherever ‘there’ was. We saw men tending to their cows, children playing, women walking with bundles, donkeys pulling carts of wood, charcoal and anything that needed to be transported, all along the highway with cars rushing past. The road was busy and it was a case of pulling out to see if something was coming – if not, the driver floored the accelerator and overtook, swerving back in at the last minute. We did have to close our eyes a couple of times and gripped the seat on many occasions. We did get pulled over by the police, who seemed to be stopping people and asking for money. Our driver did not seem to like that idea and got out of the car and spent a good 20 minutes talking to the policeman. We sat and waited, watching as trucks were pulled over, and small notes exchanged. The driver finally got back in the car, looking stormy faced! We kept quiet and didn’t ask any questions…he was not happy. We drew close to Mount Kenya, the surrounding area being lush and green, but the summit was cloaked in heavy cloud, but we would get to see that every day for the next six months.

We finally made the turn onto a dirt track towards The Farm. The road was deeply rutted and we bounced hard for about a 20-minute drive – it was exhausting! At last, iron gates announced our arrival at the farm, and after having our temperature taken, we were allowed through the gates. We were greeted by a young Kenyan bearing hot towels and passion fruit juice to drink, and another young lady took our bags and whisked them off. Finally, after many months of wondering if we would ever get here we had arrived. The weather was bright and sunny but the air was cooling off in the late afternoon as we were at an elevation of over 6000 feet. We were thirsty so downed our drinks and headed off towards our accommodation.

 

More to come….

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