It was the picture that did it. K. and I had decided that we must get away, to break the dreadful circle and mood that threatened to engulf us after a truly annus horribilis. In the crook of a tree, there lay a cat. With closed eyes and that satisfied look that indicated a full stomach, enough warmth, and not a care in the world. I decided that I wanted to stoke that cat, and pounced on the website shown in the advert.
Previously, we had discussed where we could go in January. Spain was in budget, but there is no guarantee of sunshine. Thailand has the sun – but out of budget, and out of Europe (for the travel insurance) and the flying time was too much. So where? Well, that damned cat, sorry lioness, decided it for us. Oblivious to the conscience screaming that Kenya is out of Europe, a ten hour flight, and definitely out of budget, we negotiated with ourselves and the bank balance. We robbed Peter and Paul. The people on the phone were so helpful. At five thirty one Saturday we had booked; and by the following Saturday the plane took off at six thirty. The intervening seven days were electric.
Monday morning saw frantic activity. I must have made three or four phone calls to get travel insurance. My GP’s surgery could not offer jabs quickly enough, so we went to a travel clinic in the Secret Garden and got some jabs and exemption certificates for others, plus the malaria tablets. We then started the quest for clothing for the tropics. Nowhere in Ashford and around could we buy cotton – in January. No surprise there then. Same problem with footwear, and sprays against mosquitoes (which we eventually found at the travel clinic place).
The holiday was far more than we could have hoped for. We sunbathed, swam, and above all we relaxed.
We watched the monkeys that came for tea an hour before dusk every night.
We went on safari too. We flew to a lodge which is close to Mount Kilimanjaro and stayed a night. The landing strip was primitive. Just two logs: arrivals and departures.
They hire the local Masai warriors as guards who had to clear the strip of cattle as we landed, and a family of baboons as we left.
We were close to a sanctuary owned by the tour operators, who kept out the main predators. So the only lions that we saw were three orphans. Their mother had been killed after she took a Masai cow. The photograph is of the male eating his evening meal – goat prepared by the keepers.
We had three game drives in the sanctuary, and got a real flavour of the bush. I would have liked a safari on a game reserve, but had been advised that against it.
The men and women from Kenya could not have been more welcoming and helpful. They even organised one of the poolside attendants to help steady me as I got into and out of the pool.
The crew of the inland flight help me board.
Back on the coast, we had a trip on the Indian Ocean watching Dolphins.
The crew of the boat help me board for a memorable trip on the ocean.
Would we go again – yes! – we are already planning where…
Gatwick airport was a nightmare. I had booked “wheelchair assistance”. Last summer at Heathrow, there was a desk just inside the door and I was shepherded around in a chair with no trouble. But at Gatwick there was no desk. In fact, the departure hall starts about 400 yards away from the kerbside along a moving belt. And the queues for check-in! At the desk, I asked about the wheelchair. “Oh you’ll find that at the reception desk just inside the departure lounge” which was after the security search (queue; “Take your shoes off please sir”), and after the passport line. In fact, we waived our tickets and jumped the queues (I can’t stand for very long), and although all the people on duty were kind and considerate, it had been a real ordeal getting from the kerb to the desk in the departure lounge. There, we registered and sat ourselves down for the cart that was to take us to the gate. While waiting, we noticed that other people arrived already on a cart. They had been picked up at the kerb. So we asked the cart drivers what was the deal. It seems that there are two ground handling companies working at Gatwick. One always picks up passengers from the kerb, and we were told that there is a phone just inside the entrance that can be used to whistle up the chariot. The second company are too cheap to offer that service, and only transfer passengers from the lounge to the gate. The airline that we traveled with had their contract with the cheap one – hence the need to walk and queue for about forty minutes.
Curiously, at Mombasa airport, there was no problem; neither arriving nor departing even though three large airliners arrived and left within 15 minutes with close to a thousand passengers. Well, not exactly no problem as I was in the chair which was being used by my “driver” as a battering ram to move people aside to let us through. The way he used the chair as a weapon, and the pitying looks I received had me very close to tears several times.
Skiing? – Spend the Kids Inheritance