It has been far too long since I have posted a journal update. My standard excuse has been that since returning to a normal job that there is less noteworthy stories to share, but that is not strictly accurate. There have been plenty of small adventures and even the simple task of navigating through life in Los Angeles was not without its stories. Since I stopped sailing, I have gotten married, had five different jobs, and traveled to eleven different countries. This neglect would probably continue, but after Megan and I recently traveled to Kenya, several people have requested that I post pictures from the safari. Clearly, there is more demand for the photos of what we saw than for a wordy description, but it offers a useful opportunity to get back in the habit of posting regularly. This will be the first installment of a multipart posting about our trip to Africa. Hopefully, it will be followed by more pictures and another journal entry on our cross-country drive on Route 66. Hope you enjoy.
No African adventure can begin without a long voyage to reach the remote continent. Even from Europe it is an 11-hour flight, but tacking on the 10-hour leg from Los Angeles to London transforms an already daunting journey from inconvenient to abysmal. Our trip began early on the last day of January with an early morning and a rushed effort to move all of our belongings out of our rental property in Los Angeles. We do not have that many things and the moving company assured us that they could pack everything up and load it with plenty of time to spare for us to catch our 6:00 pm flight. The day was not without its challenges, but by 2:00 pm all of our belongings were loaded and we quickly met with our landlord to return the keys and hand over the apartment. With a fully loaded car, we met up with Megan’s sister who kindly dropped us off at the airport with plenty of time to spare before our flight.
The first leg of the trip was a dream. Flying from Los Angeles to London, we used points to get upgraded and enjoyed our spacious pods at the front of the plane. The 10 hours actually passed too quickly with a couple of decent meals, plenty of entertainment options, and a comfortable lie-flat seat to pass the time. Upon arrival at London Heathrow, we hauled our heavy carry-on bags between terminals and then spent the 7 hour layover in the business class lounge of Singapore Airlines. Without question, the highlight of the layover was being able to take a shower in the lounge. After 17 hours of travel, we felt refreshed and comfortable.
The good fortune was not to hold. Our next leg was on Ethiopia Airlines, a Star Alliance partner that is even worse than it sounds. Again, we used points to upgrade, but the business class section proved to be less than impressive. Despite being a 9-hour red-eye flight between London and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the loud, screeching music blaring when we boarded the plane continued for the duration of the flight. In addition to leaving the lights on the whole flight, the entire crew huddled just in front of us and cackled loudly throughout the night. Capping it off, from our uncomfortable seats, we saw several cockroaches scurry across the cabin floor prior to takeoff. Needless to say, it was a long 9 hours and we arrived in Ethiopia about as far from refreshed and comfortable as could be imagined.
After a couple of hours in the Addis Ababa, the last leg to Nairobi was relatively uneventful and the 2 hour flight passed quickly. Upon arrival in Nairobi, we completed some paperwork, purchased visas, and were met by the tour company who delivered us to our hotel. The hotel was a quaint, colonial building with about 6 rooms, although we appeared to be the only guests. We were greeted with a tropical drink that we sipped in a dark mahogany room while sitting on overstuffed leather couches. Exhausted, we were then led to our charming room that had French doors opening to a grassy area with a table and chairs. In an attempt to overcome jetlag, we walked the bucolic estate, returning to the room to find a chilled bottle of champagne waiting for us. We managed to enjoy a couple glasses of champagne on the patio before retiring for a much-needed nap.
Around 8:00 pm, we were awoken by a phone call asking when we would be taking dinner. We briefly considered skipping since we were tired and had brought snacks, but since we were the only guests we did not want to be rude by begging off. Promising to be down in 30 minutes, we roused ourselves, bathed, and got dressed. It proved to be a good decision. We were guided to a private candle-lit dining area next to a crackling fireplace with rose petals sprinkled around the table. Apparently, our itinerary had been booked as a honeymoon, so we were extended every romantic upgrade imaginable. This proved to be the case throughout our trip and greatly added to the experience, so we never felt it proper to correct people and let them know that we have been married for almost three years. The dinner was excellent with some of the best fresh bread we have ever had. The formal, four-course meal was an early Valentine’s Day dinner and was the best meal we had during our stay in Kenya.
Following the wonderful dinner, we returned to our room to find that it too had been covered in rose petals. We were slightly embarrassed that in our rush to get ready for dinner, we had left the room in disarray, so the rose petals were delicately scattered around our mess. After a great start to our trip, we quickly fell asleep and eagerly anticipated starting our safari.
Just a taste of what is to come … (click here for Part II – Into the Wild)