Saturday, June 14, 2008

African Adventure: Hello Kenya and the hassle with insurance and visas (April 27-28)

Current Location: Nairobi, Kenya
Highlights: Kenya, Applying for our Sudanese visas.
Upcoming: Safari in the Masai Mara, Island of Lamu, Flamingos on L. Bogoria, and a week in the bush with Masai worriers

Following on from our last thrilling episode, we crossed the Tanzanian border into Kenya, which although reasonably painless was expensive: US$40 for a 30 permit to bring on the vehicle, and US$80 for 60 days insurance. At the border we were harassed by people trying to sell insurance. Our first quote was 4500 KSH (Kenyan shillings = US$64 per month for very basic 3rd party). That's far to expensive I say, but come in, we can give you a discount, they reply. The next quite was 4000 KSH (US$57), but thats still
too expensive, I say, I'm going to shop around. Now remember we are at a border post, there are no shops, and all of the buildings, if you can call them that, are actually just small shacks rarely with brick walls. But there are no other places to buy insurance they say, Oh rubbish, I think, and go in search anyway while people continually try to sell you trinkets or ask to change money. I found another insurance agent and went through an identical ritual with over price in a shack more like a run down shed. As people have seen me walk up and down and ask about insurance, I hear a "pss" and a guy beckons me over. You can get PTA insurance on the Tanzanian side for a cheaper price, he whispers. So I wondered back across the border (unchallenged) and found the PTA insurance office and two men, both asleep with their shoes off and feet up. It turns out that this was "Yellow Card" insurance which we had been looking for and covers us in most south and east African countries. So I bought 60 days insurance for 60 000 TSH (Tanzanian Shillings = US$80). Insurance in hand, we set off for Nairobi.

After a 3 hour drive we arrived in Nairobi, a huge city compared to what we had been used to since South Africa, and found the Upper Hill Camp site where most overlanders tend to stay. Our first job was to apply for a Sudanese VISA. We met another group traveling up to the UK (two South African guys and two Norwegian women, more about these guys later) who had been issued VISAS, but they had told us of another South African guy who had been declined his visas, and remember Toms group, the billionaires group we met in Namibia who was also driving through Africa, well they were also all declined visas for Sudan. Despite a grim outlook, we found the Sudanese Embassy, filled out two forms, and were told to check back on Tuesday. Keep your fingers crossed for us.

We then decided to wonder into town and check out Nairobi as we had not been in a large city for quite some time. While walking past the Hilton Hotel (where I am right now very cheekily using their very fancy Residents Lounge) we were approached by two touts for a Safari Company called Planet Safari. We had been considering taking a safari into the Masai Mara National Park, so went back with them to the sales office. In the end we booked a three day safari into the Masai Mara. Now the cost of the safari verses going by ourselves is as follows: By ourselves with our own vehicle: US$25 each per day to enter the park, and US$10 each per night to camp, plus the cost of food and petrol. With the safari company we bargained them down to US$45 each per day and they would give us three nights free accommodation in their roof-top tented camp (literally tents pitched on the top of a 9 story building in down town Nairobi!) upon our return. We decided to leave on the Safari the next day (Saturday so we would arrive back on Monday, in time to go to the Sudanese Embassy to see if we got our visas on Tuesday).

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