Monday we set out to do all of the big touristy things around Nairobi. Laura has hired a driver and van to cart us around for the next several days. Robert, the driver, arrives but then his van won't start. It sets us back a little, but soon he calls in a friend who takes us to our first destination: the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage. At Sheldrick they rescue baby elephants whose mothers have been killed or otherwise lost.So they have about 20 baby elephants and everyday between 11 and 12, you can watch baby elephants drink milk out of bottles and play in a mudhole.. The cuteness is nearly unbearable. Michele was about to hyperventilate and pass out squealing with glee.
After a nice lunch at a place called the Rusty Nail, our next stop was the Giraffe Center. Here, they feed and educate about the endangered Rothschild giraffe. Basically, you go there to have giraffes slobber all over you. They'll eat food out of your hand or if you put a food pellet between your lips the giraffes will give you a nice big smooch. Supposedly, their saliva is antiseptic so the whole thing is good for you.
Next stop: Nairobi National Park Animal Orphanage. Unlike the Sheldrick Elephant place, this “orphanage” seemed a lot more like a shady zoo. The “orphans” just seemed to a be a bunch of animals with no prospect of reintroduction. Since it butted up against the park, there seemed to be more wild monkeys trying to steal food than there were captive monkeys.
Things got really shady when our tour guide told us that we could bribe her and then pet a cheetah. She brought up the subject with us ( although we were kind of expecting), which made it all the more shady. After saying it would cost $500, she accepted about $15 each from Shan and Michele. The keepers gave the cheetah some meat and then Shan and Michele went in and pet the kitty. He didn't seem to notice.
After the “orphanage” we had a beer on a veranda overlooking part of the park. We had cold Tuskers while watching baboons, antelopes, and birds. It was sublime.
Next Robert drove us to dinner at a Nairobi institution: Carnivore. It works like a Brazilian buffet, where a guys with big skewers of meat walk around filling your plate with meat until you can't take anymore. At Carnivore, the meats keep getting stranger and stranger as you go on, Before 2004, they were heavy on the wild game meat, but laws were enacted to stop the serving of game meat in restaurants. Now, they served more and more “advanced” meats. We had:
Although it tasted good (except for the crocodile), it certainly wasn't good for our digestion, cholesterol, or vegetarian karma.
Tuesday, we started a little more low key with a visit to the National Museum of Kenya. We learned a little history, saw lots of stuffed animals, and learned about human evolution. The biggest attraction was the room of important pre-human hominid fossils that have been found in Kenya, including Turkana Boy, one of 2 nearly complete human ancestors that's ever been found. (Lucy is the other.)
After the museum, we went to a mall where a Maasai market happens every Tuesday. Westgate Center is a huge, modern mall that wouldn't feel out of place at home. We had lunch at a very European-feeling cafe and coffee shop, before hitting the market. I bought a painting of a circa 1590 map of Africa on cloth. I hate haggling, but I thought I did ok. They want 3500 Ksh for it and I paid 1800 (~$22).
After the mall, we went into downtown Nairobi. Laura needed to pick up the wedding ring from a jewelry store. Of course they weren't ready, so next we had to deliver the pickup slip to Kahenya's (Laura's fiance) uncle, since they wouldn't be ready until after we left town. That gave us an excuse to wander around downtown. Nairobi is, in a word, bustling. The sidewalks are crammed with people, spilling out into the streets. The streets are filled with cars, trucks, vans, motor cycles, and 3-wheel tuk-tuks, none of whom follows any sort of traffic law. Somehow,it all seems to work in a noisy harmony.
We stopped for a few beers at a place called Tacos Club, which had a logo strikingly similar to Taco Bell. Although by the time we left it was a lot more dance club than fast food.
We had a really good (and cheap) dinner at an Ethiopian place (Habesha).