Half a Day in Nairobi Sans Suitcase

Thursday, April 13, 2023
Nairobi, Nairobi County, Kenya
Our day started early this morning. Our flight to Nairobi was scheduled for 9:10. We needed to be at the airport two hours early which meant a 6:45 departure from the hotel. We had reserved the hotel shuttle to take us to the airport, and we arrived on time. I was pleased to find that they no longer have a baggage search before allowing passengers to enter the terminal. That’s one less hassle.
The check-in agent with Kenya Airways was not efficient. He saw from our itinerary that we had an overnight layover in Nairobi, so without asking us, was going to check our bags all the way to Mauritius. We would want them for the night we will spend in Nairobi. I try always to double-check details like that, so I was able to ask him to check them only to Nairobi. He tore up the baggage tags and printed new ones. He put the first one on my suitcase and sent it off, then realized something was wrong. So he tore up the remaining baggage tag and printed new ones. He put one on Marjolaine’s suitcase and took the other through a door in the wall behind the counter to replace the tag on my suitcase. We didn’t like that, there was no way we could watch to make sure that things were done properly. Apparently, they weren’t, as we later learned.
We had some breakfast in the lounge and went through security just before boarding time. It was a clear, blue-sky day. I always enjoy walking the apron to a plane on such crisp east-African mornings.
The flight lasted a little over an hour. Formalities went quickly because now one must apply for a visa online before arriving. This is time-consuming and a hassle, but with this arrangement, there is little wait time on arrival. As we arrived at baggage claim we saw Marjolaine’s bag already on the carrousel. We waited for mine, but, you guessed it, it wasn’t there.
We walked the baggage service. The woman said that her screen showed it had arrived in Nairobi. She would send someone to look. We waited half an hour. The man came back empty handed. Now the agent said her screen showed it had not arrived. It was someplace else; the system didn’t show where. Uh oh. 
We have less than 24 hours in Nairobi. I have a change of clothes in my carryon, but not all the clothes I need for this trip. I gave the address of the hotel where we would be for the night and the address of the hotel where we’ll spend the first three nights in Mauritius.
I’ll be praying that it catches up with us soon.
We took the shuttle to our hotel in the airport zone, and dropped out bags. Then I arranged for a car and driver so we could use our half day well in Nairobi. I had the driver take us to a restaurant in the town of Karen. The road leading there skirts Nairobi National Park, the game park on the edge of the city. We saw several herds of impala right along the fence, and a few buffalo carcasses, probably dead from the recent drought. I was told that it had been raining now for a week, which was a relief for man and beast. The grass in the national park was green.
The small town is named for Baroness Karen Blixen, the author of Out of Africa (which is really a good read, by the way). She had a 6000-acre farm that ran from the Ngong Hills, which famously look like the knuckles on a fist, all the way to the edge of Nairobi. Her coffee factory eventually burned when nearby Masai tribesmen set fire to the dry grass, as they did each year, in preparation for the rains to come, and the fire engulfed her farm. This was the last straw for her already failing framing enterprise. 
Her lover Denys Finch Hatton had died in a plane crash just a few months earlier. She decided to move back to Denmark. She left property to her employees so they would have a place to stay, she had already started a school for their children, and the town of Karen was the result.
One of my favorite restaurants in East Africa is here, it’s called the Talisman, popular with tourists and with white highlanders. The food is international and excellent and the décor is inspired partly by the colonial period (some parts of the structure date from that time) but with a quirky, safari-tent ambiance. Marjolaine ordered seabass, and I had massaman beef curry (which originated in the southern Muslim part of Thailand, massaman is the Thais’ effort to say Musselman or Muslim). We were both happy with our meal but neither of us could finish, so we had the waiter box the leftovers so we could enjoy them for dinner.
Then we drove to the Karen Blixen Museum, located in her old farmhouse. Marjolaine had been here once, when our family came through in 2006, so 17 years ago. We have good memories of coming here as a family.
She wanted to see it again. I came often to Kenya by myself, when it was part of my responsibilities, which it was for a few years, and have brought visitors here many times, so I know it pretty well. 
Much of the original furniture is still inside and they have few of the costumes that Meryl Streep and Robert Redford wore in the film. It has been raining quite a lot lately in Nairobi over the last week. The staff had closed off the path leading to the coffee factory (the burning of which ended the viability of her farm), because it was muddy and slick, but it can normally be visited.
On the drive back to the airport, we stopped two places to look for postcards, but couldn’t find any. People don’t send postcards much anymore I suppose, they send selfies. We still like postcards, holding something in your hand that came from so far, still strikes a chord in our family. We’ll keep looking.
We going to make an early night of it, we hope because, if all goes as planned, we’ll be leaving the hotel at 05:00 in the morning for our flight to Mauritius.
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I’ve been following along on your journeys. Praying your luggage has arrived. Thank you for taking the time to share your adventures. Love to you both.

Tess Washington

Thank you for the memories & photos of your trip to-date! Its less hectic than the previous ones! Except for your missing luggage...this would be close to a perfect trip for you and Mrs. Meeker!


Thanks for the description of the Blixen farm and the great pictures. It seems like you have some flight improvements in being able to handle things in transit before landing, but the luggage...so sorry. We will be praying that your luggage catches up with you soon!


Praying for your luggage to turn up. You did not need that.