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African Time

I relaxed in my room and then went to bed without hearing any of the noises from the parties downstairs. I woke up to a New Year's Day in another country (I seem to make a habit of this) and then caught a metered taxi to the airport earlier than I needed to try and secure another points upgraded ticket.

Upon arrival at the airport I went through customs quickly due to already having my ticket from the previous check-in and only carrying my camera backpack. I went up to the staff at the Etihad Lounge to see if I could arrange my upgrade and was pleasantly surprised to find that I was already allocated a complementary upgrade. Stoked and thinking what a way to start the New Year I proceeded to head into the lounge when the staff member informed me that a complimentary upgrade doesn’t include lounge entry. Ah ha who cares, I made my way to the coffee shop/restaurants and sat down to an awesome cappuccino whilst I called home and wished everyone a Happy New Year.

Soon it was time to go to my gate and board. Once again the flight and service was great. The same issue with the champagne and white wine being too warm was rectified with putting both on ice, once we were in the air.

I was fortunate to have secured the upgrade because all of the business class was full. It was an uneventful flight with the opportunity to sit and speak with an interesting man working with the UN in Sudan. His stories would make your toenails curl and it was a shame the flight was only five hours long. I could have listened to this guy talk for a super long-haul flight.

Once I arrived in Nairobi it was a quick trip through customs to get my visa. The benefit of business class meant I was one of the first in the line. After paying for a single entry visa (although I told them I was re-entering another two times within the next 3 weeks – it turned out alright) I went through to the baggage return and waited for my bag. This took longer than the whole visa/customs process and then headed out to find my driver who would take me to my hotel.

My driver was a lovely guy from AirCab who took great delight in driving in Nairobi on a day without traffic. I had researched enough to know that Nairobi traffic is notorious and was worried about my 2pm arrival and having to transfer to a city based hotel. Low and behold the drive to the hotel was not even 20 minutes, which was a pleasant surprise. The joy of arriving on a public holiday!

The Serena Hotel in downtown Nairobi is a pleasant but overpriced place to stay. The gardens and pool area offer a chance to relax whilst the chaos of the city is on your doorstep. Security is paramount at all times and I was strongly discouraged from leaving the hotel to go for a walk. Being a solo traveller I love arriving in a place, grabbing my bag/camera and heading out to see what is around me by foot. It is a great chance to see things that being in a car would not allow. I was finally told I could go for a 10 minute walk and if I didn’t return by 5pm then someone would be sent out to find me. The staff were obviously worried because of the public holiday and the fact that the normal street traffic was not around. The park opposite was very busy with locals enjoying the holiday but the hotel security were concerned that this was not the place to go to and especially not with a camera. I could understand their concern but it was frustrating to feel caged in the hotel and it’s surrounds. I went for a quick walk but it certainly didn’t endear me to Nairobi. I actually felt very uncomfortable, maybe due to the dire warnings from the Serena Hotel Staff or maybe due to the public holiday crowds, so I returned to the hotel and took refuge at the hotel pool and sampled some Kenyan beers.

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