14 – First Steps in Kenya

14 – First Steps in Kenya

We did not dilly-dally after crossing the border, we caught the first coach heading for Nairobi. Moyale is in the North of Kenya, whereas a lot of the interesting places to visit (including the capital) are in the South. We therefore spent our first day and night here crossing miles of barren land to get to the capital. It suddenly hit us that we were going to have to completely start afresh. A new country, culture, language, currency, food…everything would be different! Our first impressions of Kenya, therefore, tended to be comparisons with Ethiopia.

We took Moyale Star’s “Ferrari” coach to Nairobi 🚌
One of the many checkpoint controls along the way

Straight away we were struck by how developed Kenya was compared to Ethiopia. The huts in the desert even had solar panels on. The buildings here are not mid-construction. They are bigger, more modern and colourful.  Generally, they are surrounded by high walls, barbed wire and electric fences. The streets are wide and are often lined with large trees. On arrival, it felt a bit like we were in South Africa. More similarities with South Africa 1- Banks (e.g. Nedbank, Standard Chartered), 2- Shops (e.g. Mugg & Bean), 3- Products (e.g. Top deck Chocolate, Milo hot-chocolate), 4- The lack of pavements and pedestrians in certain areas.

Hello Nairobi!

We spent our first day in Nairobi shopping in a big mall, excited to find a whole range of products that were not in Addis-Ababa. There were basically all the same products as in Europe (except watercolour paper, which is why we went to the mall in the first place!) We passed many expatriates in the supermarket. Being there felt like an interruption in our travels.

Another big difference: there were no injeras! Kenyans seem to have a much more varied diet. They eat a lot of grilled meat (Nyama Choma) along with greens (e.g. kale and spinach), ugali (mealie-meal), beans, sweetcorn and other things. The Indian influence on Kenyan cuisine is noticeable (lots of chapattis, samosas and masala chips-yum!) Generally speaking, Kenyans have bigger builds than Ethiopians. We have seen numerous Kenyans wearing glasses, whereas we did not see one person wearing glasses the whole time we were in Ethiopia!

At our first pit-stop in Kenya, we quickly understood that tea is very popular. We asked for a coffee and they only had tea! They put their tea bags directly in hot milk and add a lot of sugar (sometimes too much!) Result: the tea here tastes like hot condensed milk! 😋

Our first Kenyan tea! ☕

Nairobi is known for its infernal traffic jams. Lots of Kenyans have their own car. Ethiopia on the other hand, has the world’s lowest rate of car ownership (according to a 2014 Deloitte report). There are also a lot of motorbikes here. Incidentally, motorbikes replace Bajajs as taxis here. Some motorbike drivers even have umbrellas attached to their bikes so they can circulate whatever the weather!

Motorbike taxis with umbrellas ☔

Our return to a more modern city was accompanied by higher prices and more frequent sightings of tourists. On one hand, this means we are less noticed therefore less harassed in the street, on the other hand we are no longer met with surprised locals, delighted to welcome us.

Our base in Nairobi (Ridgeway Park Hotel)
The cute kitties at the hotel

We spent a few days in Nairobi preparing the next stage of our trip. We then took a bus to the South West of Kenya. Our urban break was over, it was time to explore Kenya’s extraordinary nature.

2 Replies to “14 – First Steps in Kenya”

  1. Sounds like Kenyan tea might be an ‘acquired’ taste! Not sure I would fancy it. Sounds a bit like the ‘chai’ we had in India – more Indian influence?
    Do not bring any cats home (whatever Theresa might think!)
    Doesn’t look like you will starve there – was that really 1 meal for 2?
    Remarkable to see such dramatic differences in neighbouring countries.
    Thanks for the update and pictures, much appreciated 🙂 xxx

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