Nairobi – Please Drive Carefully

As the plane began to descend, I felt my nerves return and was inexplicably unsettled by the fact that it was dark outside. Coming from mid summer in Britain, somehow I hadn’t considered that nightfall would be at 6 o’clock in Kenya. It crossed my mind that this would make my forthcoming camping trip a rather different experience to what I had imagined, and was thankful for having packed my torch! At customs, we had to sign various declarations that we were swine flu-symptom free – which inevitably brought on a coughing fit! – and over an hour later we emerged through Arrivals and stepped onto African soil. Immediately another myth was dispelled – it was downright cold!

I was relieved to spot a driver holding a sign for The Wildebeest Camp - my hostel - and I got into the taxi with a young French couple. The driver swiftly taught us an essential word – Jambo! Hello in Swahili – and then we sped off into the darkness of Nairobi. My abiding memory of this journey is the driving, which proved to be a good introduction to the anarchic situation on the roads in East Africa. The region has the highest number of fatal road accidents in the world and it is not difficult to see why. As we approached a major roundabout with cars criss-crossing haphazardly, some without headlights, five young men pushing a broken down jeep ploughed into the traffic to much hooting and shouting. A couple of days later, I was to see the aftermath of a horrendous head-on collision in the early hours of the morning, where a Mercedes had somehow ended up on the wrong side of the road and had smashed into a lorry coming the other way.

In fact, most of our journeys in the coming weeks would be marked by shockingly bad roads – some under construction as we drove on them! - overturned lorries, pedestrians walking into the road or refusing to move out of it, cyclists swerving into us – enough hazards even without jay-walking animals!

One of many crashes we saw en route

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