Thursday, 30 June 2011

Day 240 Kenya 30/06/2011, Nairobi. The Virgin Atlantic office, a lot of shopping and getting ready for the off.

We had a slower start this morning, got some washing done and then headed off to the Virgin Atlantic office. The office had been in touch yesterday informing us that there would be no problem with a refund, we just needed to give them Debbie's bank details. With the experiences we have had with banks lately, we decided it safest to take the details in person rather than sending them by email. Despite the problems we have had, we really can't fault the level of service we have received from Virgin. They have done their utmost to sort everything out.

With the promise of a refund within the next few days, we returned to the camp to find out how much we owed for our stay and then headed to the supermarket. We are now fully stocked for the road ahead, long may the well stocked shops continue.

Back at the camp we packed up our gear and I gave the bikes a final check over for the morning. Unfortunately one of our new self-sealing inner tubes has a faulty valve, so Debbie's bike will have to be equipped with a normal tube until I can get the valve repaired.

As well as packing, we ended up having to rescue one of the camp's resident tortoises who got himself tangled up in one of our guy ropes. It clearly didn't enjoy being picked up as it kept hissing at us, but eventually we got it free. Only for it to then head towards the inside of our tent. Another carry later and I deposited him safely out of harms way.


The day had been going well until we tried to get some money out to pay our bill. The first bank declined Debs' card and then accepted mine, only to keep me waiting for ages before handing the card back minus any money and a receipt. The bank was just about to close so we rushed in to make sure we hadn't been billed for the transactions. We have their assurances that the transactions didn't go through, so we will just have to keep our fingers crossed. Eventually at another ATM we got our cards to work, unfortunately only the Visa ones that we get charged on. It seems Kenya at least is not very Mastercard friendly.

It will be a few beers tonight and an early night. The busy streets of Nairobi beckon and our African cycling adventure begins anew.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Day 239 Kenya 29/06/2011, Nairobi. Giraffes and a vast amount of meat.

After spending most of our time so far running round sorting bikes and refunds, it was nice to get out and see something today. Especially as it is our six year anniversary, over two years of which have been spent travelling.

Having negotiated a reasonable price with a taxi driver, we headed off to see Debbie's second favourite wild animal, the giraffe.

At the 'Langata Giraffe breeding centre', you can see these magnificent animals in a semi wild environment. The highlight however is being able to feed them and marvel at their incredible gentleness and, albeit slimy, amazingly dexterous tongue. At the suggestion of one of the staff, Debs allowed a giraffe to take a food pellet from her lips. Resulting in a hilarious kiss from a giraffe. The site may have been small but it was well worth the visit.

MattDebs1879UKtoZA MattDebs1877UKtoZA

Returning to the camp, we spent the afternoon relaxing until it was time to head off to the restaurant 'Carnivore'. At least it would have been time to head off, if our taxi driver hadn't been over 30 minutes late. Fortunately the restaurant weren't bothered and we were soon seated and being plied with huge quantities of BBQ'd meat. The whole experience was a lot of fun. It could be said that the restaurant has probably lost some of its appeal since 2004 when the Kenyan government banned the sale of game meat. You can no longer dine on Zebra and wildebeest. Nevertheless we had a great time sampling what was on offer and generally making pigs of ourselves.

MattDebs1892UKtoZA MattDebs1895UKtoZA

Unfortunately having consumed so much meat, meant that sleeping was a little tricky. It will not go down as the best nights sleep we have ever had!

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Day 238 Kenya 28/06/2011, Wildebeest camp Nairobi. Resting and a trip to the supermarket.

Not much to report today aside from the weather getting warmer. After a slow start to the day we wandered down to a very well stocked supermarket. We picked up most of the basics that we will need for the road ahead and grabbed some food for dinner. We are unsure whether cooking is allowed on the site, but we are going to give it a go anyway.

A trip to a petrol station caused some hilarity when I explained that I wanted the petrol for cooking with. Possibly they thought that we just tipped the petrol over the top of the food and set fire to it! Nevertheless I returned to the camp with two full fuel bottles, so we should be fine for a week or so.

Back at the camp we spent a bit of time feeding the resident tortoise cabbage leaves, on the chance that he/she would pose for a photo. It is amazing how it seemed to know when a camera was pointed at it and disappeared back into its shell!

MattDebs1863UKtoZA MattDebs1862UKtoZA

A nice dinner and a few beers rounded off a lazy day. We are off to the Giraffe sanctuary tomorrow and then off to the famous Carnivore restaurant in the evening for a meat feast.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Day 237 Kenya 27/06/2011, Wildebeest camp Nairobi. Reunited with the bikes and an afternoon stroll to the Virgin Atlantic office.

Having slept well, despite the rain and stresses of the day before, we set about tracking down our bikes. After making several unanswered phone calls we were getting nowhere. Even getting in touch with Virgin Atlantic for a refund was proving difficult.

Eventually I got through to the Emirates baggage desk where I was informed that the bikes were there and would be soon on their way to us. Things were looking up, although we didn't want to celebrate too much until they were actually with us and in one piece.

True to Emirates' word the bikes arrived within an hour or so and I set about unpacking and getting them reassembled. Despite their extended journey they appear to have arrived unscathed so a sigh of relief was breathed all round.

MattDebs1859UKtoZA MattDebs1861UKtoZA

MattDebs1864UKtoZA MattDebs1865UKtoZA

All we needed to do now was claim our costs back and we would be back on track. A bit of internet research later and we discovered that the Virgin Atlantic city office was not far from the camp-site.

Leaving the confines of the camp-site we ventured out for our first wander through the streets of Nairobi. We easily got to the location given to us by google maps, only to find out that the directions were wrong. We were on the right road just not at the correct end. With the assistance of some taxi drivers, who were a bit disappointed that we didn't go with them, we set off in the right direction. After a quick stop at a small supermarket where we once again checked our directions, we soon found ourselves outside the Landmark plaza.

The staff at the Virgin offices were very helpful and fingers crossed our money will be refunded shortly. It looks like we will definitely get the money back, we just don't know how long it will take. The main thing is that we are now logged on the system, which is all we can really do.

The walk back to the camp-site was slightly shorter than on the way out, although walking along the main Ngong road was less pleasant. Reaching the camp-site it was time for a beer, which was followed by several more. We spent the evening in the company of Chris and Dave, two medical students who were anxiously awaiting the results of their third year exams. We are glad to say that they both passed as we got caught up in the worried search for their results. It was two very relieved people that we shared another beer with, congratulations guys!

After all the worries, it is great to have everything pretty much sorted. We can now settle down and enjoy our few days in Nairobi before we head off towards the Tanzanian border.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Day 235 & 236 UK - Kenya 25-26/06/2011, LHR – Dubai – Nairobi. Farewells, free flights, a re-route via Dubai, upgrades and no bikes!

After bidding another fond farewell to friends and family we set off to the airport. Many thanks once again have to go to my father Paul for taking us. Thanks also to my little bro Adam for keeping us company, even though he was a bit surprised when he realised we weren't travelling from Stansted. I hope the extra few hours in the car weren't too bad!

The journey to the airport was the only normal part of what has turned out to be a bit of an adventure in itself. On arrival at the terminal we were met by some Virgin Atlantic staff telling us that they had oversold the flight and were looking to get 15 passengers to re-route via Dubai for some compensation. Not being in any great hurry we were interested, but obviously concerned for what this would mean regarding our bicycles. After assurances that our bikes would be checked all the way through to Nairobi and that transferring to a different carrier (Emirates) would not be a problem (remember this), we accepted the too good to turn down offer of free return tickets to anywhere in the world, bookable within 18 months. An added bonus was that we were also upgraded to premium economy on the Virgin flight!

Everything was going well, the flight in the bigger more comfortable seats was great and we arrived in Dubai in good spirits. With only a few hours until our next flight left, we headed to the Emirates desk to get our boarding passes. Finding the desk was a bit of a mission on its own but we eventually found it and happily went up to get our passes. From then on it all went a bit wrong. Emirates informed us that we had too much baggage and we would have to pay or take it up with Virgin Atlantic. Having been given the instructions to find Virgin's desk and be back at the Emirates desk to collect our passes within an hour, we hurried back through the airport.

Half an hour of our valuable time was wasted at a airport desk waiting for a phone call that never came, so with even less time we located the Virgin gate and finally got to speak to the duty manager. He was very apologetic saying that he had spoken to Emirates but they wouldn't budge. He told us that the only real option was to pay the excess and then claim it back from the Virgin office in Nairobi. We weren't very sure about this, but with time running out and a promise that our case would be emailed through to Nairobi, we rushed back to the Emirates desk. $350 later and we had our boarding passes and just made it to the gate with not much time to spare.

Our flight on Emirates was a relatively short 4.5 hours, but from our experience during the flight I would say that despite their excellent reputation we were not that impressed. The food was terrible and it was a very tired looking plane. Still we were on it and heading in the right direction.

We arrived on schedule in Nairobi and quickly got through immigration. Things were going well, it's just a shame that our bikes that we had paid extra money to ensure were on the plane didn't arrive!The staff at the Emirates baggage desk told us that they were arriving on the next flight and we could come back and pick them up. We insisted that they could deliver them to us and having filled in all the paperwork, we had no choice but to leave the airport. To add insult to injury the Virgin office was closed so we couldn't even claim back our costs! We can only hope that it all gets sorted in the next few days. Fortunately time is not something we are particularly short of.

Our journey from the airport to our camp-site was accompanied by torrential rain, which seemed strangely fitting to the day we had had. Pitching a tent when we got to the site was going to be a challenging and somewhat damp experience.

Wildebeest camp seems pretty good and we managed to get pitched despite the weather. A few beers and a nice meal ended a tiring and probably more stressful day than we needed. Still we made it to Kenya and with any luck so will the bikes, or it's going to be the world's shortest cycling tour!

Monday, 20 June 2011

Important Newsflash 2! 20/06/2011

It seems like our return home will be short lived. Despite enjoying the comforts of home we have realised that we are missing the bikes and the open road. Therefore we have decided that we will return to Africa to complete the journey sooner rather than later.

We will be flying to Nairobi, Kenya to restart our cycling adventure on June 25th 2011. Our proposed route is as follows: Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, possibly Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa – Capetown then along Garden Route and up to Johannesburg to fly home.

Through his friend, Jamie, Matt found work at a local joinery firm and has been working very hard since we got back, topping up the funds for part two of our adventure. Despite not always being the most exciting work, he has had a enjoyable time and would like to thank Ian, Roger, Bob and Adam for making me welcome. Cheers guys I will see you when I get back assuming Kenny is not right about the Mungiki tribe!

With Matt working, Debs put on her travel consultant hat and found a very good deal with Virgin Atlantic airlines, with the added bonus that they will fly the bikes for free!

Debs spent a very enjoyable week on her parent's narrow boat 'The Puzzler' in Ireland. They moved the boat to the Emerald Isle two months ago and are really enjoying life over there. On the way back to Norfolk, she stayed in Cambridge for a few days and had a great time catching up with old friends.

A positive note about being home is that we have had the tent zips repaired under warranty, hopefully they will last a bit longer this time.

Hope you enjoy following our continuing adventures towards South Africa.