We had only moved into our new home 7 days before our first visitors arrived. Nick and Anna-Maria had been volunteering in a remote, understaffed hospital in Tanzania and after some sightseeing in Tanzania they arrived in Nairobi by bus to do another (unfortunately slightly shorter) volunteering stint at our place. Perfect timing as we could do with some help with some homely chores.
Nick is a pretty good mountaineer, so he was great for hanging up the curtains and lampshades whilst Anna is a great cook and bread maker so she was put to work in the kitchen, creating a whole range of breads, muesli, soups and dinners.
Luckily they stayed for 2 weeks, including two full weekends, giving us plenty of opportunity to explore the country with them as well as trying to loose a bit of weight from our stay at the Serena Hotel. We went running and mountain biking in Karura Forest, and within our compound we tested the gym, the pool, the sauna and even created our own training circuit. You are more than welcome to join us when you are here too.
One weekend we went for an early morning run on the lower slopes of Mt Kenya with the Swaras running club. It was a run-until-you-drop course, where you are picked up if you don’t want to (can’t) run anymore. The course was 56km and they had 3 cars doing the rounds, handing out water and fruit and picking up anybody who had had enough. A great way to test your endurance for sure! Jon, Jude and Anna all managed half a marathon and Nick got picked up around 28km. The course was picture perfect, through forests and remote villages, which at least distracted us from all the climbing.
We then went on to our camp site on the Laikipia Plateau in the Ngare Ndare Forest. An amazing private conservancy with the longest tree top walk in East Africa on their property. It was a rather damp and foggy arrival, but luckily the next morning we had a sunny day for a hike into the forest. After seeing a lot of birds and even huge skid marks (!) from elephants on the trail we actually saw a small family of elephants. It’s quite nerve wracking when you find yourself in their company without the protection of being in a car.
Continuing our active weekends we went to Hells Gate National Park to explore the gorge we hiked previously with Jon’s colleagues. This time we continued further down the gorge, determined to find some of the geysers we had heard about. Not deterred by the many large hyena foot prints we trudged on through the creek, giving up on dry feet after a while, and just as we were about to turn around as it was getting late we saw the clouds of steam wafting up from amongst the trees. We had found the bubbling mud and steam vents.
That night we camped in Hell’s Gate NP on one of the ridges overlooking the valley floor where a few herds of zebra and impala were on their way to a safe place for the night. We lit a fire and enjoyed our drinks watching the sun go down and the stars appear. Quite special.
The next day we did a small game drive before heading out to our next destination, the extinct volcano Longonot which dominates the Rift Valley. It’s another National Park, but here the main focus is on hiking to the summit, admiring the amazing crater and walking around the crater rim which makes a perfect circle. It’s a very dusty affair with amazing views, but unfortunately littered with plastic bottles. The first National Park we have seen where the littering was even worse than on the public roads. We picked up as many as we could carry, but had to leave hundreds. According to the rangers that was just the result of one weekend, as they head up in the week to remove them all…
After 2 weeks Nick and Anna went on to Rwanda and Uganda and we (use of the term ‘we’ now includes Evalyne, our house angel who does 99% of the work around here!) prepared the spare bedroom for our next visitor who would be arriving in 3 days.
The Serena Hotel in Nairobi is a 5-star hotel close to the centre. Whilst driving with Lara from Kuala Lumpur to London, we also stayed at the Serena in Tajikistan; in Khorog and in Dushanbe. When we were staying in the Serena in Tajikistan however, we camped in our roof top tent in the car park. This time we were actually going to stay in a room inside the Serena… We had already stayed in the Serena in Nairobi for a week during our familiarisation visit and this time it was going to be our home until we could move into our apartment.
The Serena has everything you need. It has a beautiful pool, a great gym with a lot of cardio equipment as well as weights and lots of classes. It has a spa, a sauna, a hairdresser, a shop, a bar and 2 restaurants.
The room had all the usual hotel items, including an enormous bed, but most importantly Simon gave us a fruit bowl and a jar of cookies every day…
And every morning when we walked into the breakfast area we received the standard greeting: “Welcome for breakfast”. Sometimes they would ask us if we wanted a table inside or outside, but mostly she would start walking to a table inside – we ate outside every day. Even after 4 weeks they still didn’t seem to recognise us.
It also had free wifi which worked most of the time. The interesting part was that the login details were your room number and your last name, which meant that any staff member with access to the reservation system could log in using our details. Fine if you have unlimited logins, not great if you only get 3. It took us more than 3 weeks to work out staff was using our logins, so we couldn’t log in, and it had in fact nothing to do with not logging out properly as they tried to tell us!
Five weeks later, after many visits to all the furniture stores in Nairobi, we had our critical items like a fridge, stove and bed delivered and we could move into our real home. When checking out on the final morning we were very surprised that the lady at reception all of a sudden recognised us and offered us a gift from the shop because we had stayed with them for so long…!
Now we have our own private outdoor table for breakfast on our balcony overlooking the stunning gardens, and occasionally one of us utters quietly “Welcome for breakfast…”.