Friday, July 19, 2019
The blog is back! Or at least I think it is. I’m so rusty at it that I am having trouble figuring out how to operate all the features. I’m going to try to keep the posts shorter and sweeter.
We are heading back to Africa. We went to Tanzania six years ago, and I swore I would come back to this beautiful country and take in the safari experience again. Another bucket list item for me has been to see the mountain gorillas in Rwanda. It’s a trekking experience, and children under 15 are not permitted. Can you guess how old Genene is this year? You got it. She’s 15. I’m getting way ahead of myself. We aren’t to Rwanda yet!
We wanted to take in a little different safari experience this time, so we are headed to Kenya first.
We love to travel to the airport in style. No Uber or self-park for me! Our driver arrived on time, and we headed off to the airport. Because our safari has a number of small “puddle jumper” internal flights, our bags have to be soft-siders with no wheels, and there is a strict weight limit. We have been planning this for weeks, and the heaviest part of my bag is always the first aid kit. Ever since we got violently ill at a five star resort in Australia (of all places!), I have been a lunatic about packing anything that could possibly be needed in case of emergency. We weighed and packed and packed and weighed. I think we have a pretty good array of gear.
Our TSA precheck did not seem to save us much time today. Houston’s airport was very busy, but we had arrived in plenty of time so even though things were slow we were through security with a couple of hours to spare. I have to confess a guilty pleasure: I have started flying business class, and I love it. For years and years, I flew coach, and we arrived at our destinations properly worn out and flogged by hours and hours wandering around the airport and sitting in cramped seats. Last year, on the way to Paris, I finally made the leap. (I blame my law partner and friend Taylor Goodall, who encouraged me to start acting like an adult and flying business.). Anyway, I paid the money, and we flew to Paris like fancy people. It still makes me cringe a little because in my heart of hearts, I’m still that little Arkansas girl. My daddy would tan my hide if he knew how much money I spent to upgrade to business, but I’ve got to confess: it’s worth it. I have issues with my back, and it causes me some pain sometimes. Being able to lay down makes all the difference in the world on two different 8+ hour flights.
And so I am spoiled. Here I am flying business class on British Airways. Instead of hanging out in the main airport, we spent our time eating little sandwiches in the business lounge. I was helping myself to the red wine, and they had the bottles in these fancy little wire holders that keep them tilted at just the right angle. I’m such a hick that for some reason I thought I needed to take the wine bottle out of the holder to pour it, and I got my finger caught in between the wire and the wine bottle—an animal in a snare! The server saw my plight and explained that I could simply pour without pulling the whole bottle out of its holder—duh. You can take the girl out of Arkansas, but you can’t take the Arkansas out of the girl. Why the hell does a wine bottle need a holder anyway?
We hung out in the business lounge until the last possible second and then stepped right on board.We’re so fancy.
Although I love the service, I do not love the British Airways seats in business class. They are not as wide and comfortable as Air France, but more importantly, they have this odd configuration whereby the seats alternate which direction they face. So at the beginning of the flight when the partition is down, one of us had to face a total stranger. We stuck Greg in that seat. He’s friendly but direct. As soon as the flight safety demo was over, he raised the divider and were settled in.
Always take the champagne when it’s offered.
I couldn’t get comfortable on the flight. It was a litle too warm and that’s all it takes to ruin my sleep. Because we are traveling into a malaria zone, we are taking medicine to protect us, and that stuff makes me run hot anyway. It also makes my mind race, especially in the first few days of use. And so I catnapped and read, while Greg snored away. Genene slept some and cleaned out the photo files on her phone. I laugh when i think about how much we used to take with us just to keep her entertained. None of that is required anymore. As long as she is carrying her phone, she has all she needs, for good and for bad.
The first leg from Houston was roughly eight hours.
We nibbled snacks, watched tv, read and slept.
Saturday, July 20, 2019
I cannot remember whether I have ever been through Heathrow before, but it is a massive airport. We came in at Terminal 5 and immediately had to find the bus to take us to Terminal 3. We were probably on the bus for a good 7 minutes moving constantly. It was all pretty easy, and we found the business lounge and settled in. Our layover was about 3 hours, so we had plenty of time to snack, take our medicines, splash water on our faces, and get situated for the next leg, from London to Nairobi. Doesn’t it just sound so romantic?
Boarding was uneventful. We struck up a friendly conversation with our seat mate (after all, we have to look at her until the partition can be pulled up). She’s a teacher at an international school in Nairobi, and she told me a rumor that I hope, hope, hope is true. She said that many of her friends work as sarari guides, and she heard that last week, The Great Migration began in the Maisai Mara, our destination. It would be blind, dumb luck if our trip timing coincides with it. Fingers crossed!!
We arrived in Nairobi at about 9 PM on Saturday, their time. We walked down to the tarmac, rode a bus to the gate, and our guide was standing there to greet us, one of only three guides that had managed to get on “our” side of immigration. He walked fast and shuttled us up to the line labeled “diplomats.” This felt a little wrong to me, but I followed instructions. Our guide went around the other side to start collecting our bags. When it was our turn to go through immigration, our guide was nowhere to seen. The officer asked me point blank if I were a diplomat. I said, “No, but our guide told us to get in this line.” He gave a little shrug and let us on through! When we met back up with our guide I told him about the exchange, and he said, “You should have answered ‘yes’ to that question.” Heck, I don’t mind telling a little fib, but we all need to keep our stories straight. Besides, I’m not sure i can sell myself as a diplomat!
Our bags were already rolling around the carousel so we were out of there very quickly. A well appointed van was waiting for us, and we drove through the darkened city to the suburb of Karen, named for the Baroness Karen Blixen, who was famously portrayed by Meryl Streep in “Out of Africa.”
Our hotel, the House of Waine, is charming and beautiful. We each got a glass of fresh fruit smoothie. Food was brought to our room so that we can settle in. Alas, we will only lay our heads down here tonight. At 7:45 tomorrow morning, the bus comes again to take us to a smaller airport, where we will board a small plane and head into the countryside.
From the time we left our home in Houston until the time we set our bags down in Nairobi, 25 hours and 37 minutes had elapsed. We are beat!