The first culture shock that hit me when I arrived at the hostel was the security. We pulled up outside a massive fortified wooden gate where I expected to be dropped off, but we were driven through this and right into the hostel grounds. I was slightly taken aback to make out a high perimeter fence surrounding the whole place, and centry-like guards on the main gate. Clearly the security risk that I had heard so much about was very real.
On that first night, it was so cold that I wore virtually all the clothes I had brought with me including gloves to go to bed! In my room, the next African reality presented itself – the light switch didn’t work. The following morning it was explained to us that there is strict power and water rationing in force because Kenya is officially in drought. From Day One in Africa, hot showers and electricity became luxuries.
This was also my first experience of staying in a youth hostel, and definitely surpassed my expectations. It had nice facilities – especially given the circumstances beyond their control – and a friendly atmosphere, with everyone having recently arrived and seeking the company of like-minded fellow travellers. It proved easy to meet people, chatting over breakfast or in the dormitory. Even though I wouldn’t be doing much independent hostelling for another six weeks, after the end of my organised trip, it was a very promising start!