Sunday, October 28, 2012

Apartment and Safari

After a maddening couple weeks of house/apartment/townhouse hunting we finally found a place I think we'll call home for our time in Nairobi. Nairobi appears to be in a bit of a housing bubble so rental prices are fairly high.  It was very tough to find something with good security and relatively modern furnishings in our price range.  I must have looked at 20 to 25 different places. The winner is a 3 bedroom apartment in a complex of three buildings.  What is important is that there's a manicured garden surrounding the buildings.  All of the other apartments we saw did not have any green space - they were just surrounded by parking lots.  It seems a shame to be in such a beautiful country and not have some of that in your daily life (especially with two rambunctious kids who are used to being outside).  We also have a very nice swimming pool.  The other important criteria is that this complex is somewhat equidistant from Rhonda's work and the kids' schools.  A nice added bonus is that the apartment came furnished - the vast majority of other places we saw were not.  That is a big deal here since unfurnished means you don't even get a washing machine, fridge, or oven.  It was a big relief to not have to shop and lay out the cash for those appliances and for beds, dishes, pot pans, sofas, and every conceivable little thing.  There is even a big, huge flat panel TV - bigger than anything we had back home (sure would be nice to watch a football game on it but as I am writing this the Jets are losing 30 to 9 so maybe its better I don't!).  Of course there's a large negative, seems we are right over the water pump and there is an incessant high-pitched noise that is driving Rhonda and I half mad.  I have spoken with the caretaker but something tells me we'll have to get used to it or move.  We'll see.

Last week we got out of Nairobi for the first time.  The kids had off from school on alternate weeks so we took an extra day and made a long weekend.  Our first stop was a gorgeous lodge at the base of Mount Longonot, about an hour and half outside of Nairobi.  After a couple of wrong turns and getting stuck in deep sand on the track up to the lodge we were greeted like royalty with cold refreshments once we arrived.  Later in the afternoon the whole family went for a horseback ride and then, while the staff watched over Matthew and Ruby, Rhonda and I went for a longer ride with galloping zebras and gazelles - it was amazing.  We also loved the three yummy meals they served and very comfortable cottage we stayed in that looked out over to Lake Naivasha.

For Day #2 we drove up to Lake Nakuru.  This was going to be our first real safari experience as a family (Rhonda had been to the Mara last year) so we were very excited.  Right away, upon entering the park, the monkeys and baboons greeted us, even before we paid the entrance fee.  Now for an aside: one of the reasons we have not done too much yet as sightseers in Kenya is that the fees for the parks are exorbitant.  For instance we paid $80 per adult to enter ($40 for the kids).  Once we get our resident's visa the cost will be about 10% of that.  But we had already been in Kenya for two months so we were itching to see big game!  It didn't take long, we drove about 40 minutes or so and saw rhinos, buffaloes, antelopes, and even a glimpse of a lion. For this evening we stayed at the very disappointing, run-down Wildlife Club of Kenya Guesthouse in the park, shame on Lonely Planet for listing this place as a top pick - no hot showers, smelly fridge, and moldy kitchenware!  It was opposite of the night before, but at least there were zebra grazing right beside the accommodations.  No matter how bad this place was, the park made up for it.  Within 10 minutes of leaving the guesthouse and getting out on safari again we were surrounded by wildlife - first the buffaloes and then whole troops of baboons which were so fascinating to watch.
Our ultimate goal was to get back to where we saw the lions hanging out the day before.  And wow when we got back there, we got an eyeful.  It was awe-inspiring to see so many, 12 in all
After a quick visit to a waterfall in the south end of the park we passed back through the savanna with more zebras, warthogs and beautiful giraffes


All the more amazing is that all this fauna lives in this relatively small park which is right outside the fourth biggest city in Kenya. After a quick lunch of nyama choma (finally) we headed back to Nairobi.  The drive to and back from these two lakes was fascinating.  It was our first time driving outside of Nairobi and it was interesting to see life in the countryside. Lots of stalls selling everything from vegetables to woven baskets.  I was particularly looking forward to seeing the Rift Valley escarpment.  About 30 to 40 minutes after leaving Nairobi the road takes you past a viewpoint where the entire valley spreads out beneath you and the view must be for dozens of miles with mountains and lakes in the distance.  Sure was glad Rhonda was driving so I could soak it up.

This past weekend was more mellow.  Finally cleaned and organized the apartment a bit since we moved in. Shopped for some Halloween costumes for the kids - Matthew is very excited to be a cheetah and Ruby will be a very cute Supergirl. 
The drama continues with getting Ruby to school, I think I wrote earlier how the bus to pick her up came much too early (6:40am), so we found a nice family who lived very close to our old apartment who gave her a ride.  But now that we moved, it was getting very hectic to bring her back to that family.  Luckily we found another nice German School parent who lives fairly close to our new apartment.  So we visited that family this morning to introduce ourselves and see if we could make it work. 
During our conversations he mentioned a unique place to buy rugs, since that was going to be our next purchase and in the afternoon we headed over there.  Fascinating place.  All the rugs are made on site and you can even order any design, color, or size you want and weavers will make it for you.  So many options may not be a good thing though - we couldn't make a decision and left without buying anything - if anyone wants to chime in on opinions (design/color)- send Rhonda a note! 
dyed wool hanging to dry

1 comment:

  1. great apartment guys ... balcony & swimming pool. i think your living better than we ever did back in the city ...

    ps. schutz love your ding at Lonely Planet. funny ...

    give me some street shots with all the vendors ... and some traffic jams, human or mechanical !!