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Sierra Leone News: Travelogue: Kenya the land of adventure

Boarding the flight at Lungi AirportOur journey to Kenya began on Sunday morning 2nd March. Traveling to Kenya from Freetown to Ghana and then Kenya was a bit stressful because of the long distance we had to cover criss-crossing from West Africa to East Africa on board Kenya Airways.
Actually, I had always wished to travel back to Kenya after spending a night there in 2010 whilst on transit from China to Dubai and then Kenya. At that time Kenya was in such a state of unrest, so I could not get what I wanted – especially to buy the Masai slippers (commonly called Kenya slippers in Sierra Leone) and move around. A journalist friend warned me that the country is not safe especially since I am a foreigner and I can’t speak their language. Finally I bought the slippers at the airport at a higher price than I expected.
There is no doubt that Kenya is still the primary focus of all adventure travel in Africa. It is one of the finest, and undoubtedly the most famous safari destination in the world.
Since I always dreamt of going back to that country because our office Accountant Fayia Tamba likes to watch Nat. Geo. Wild and most of the animals showed on that channel are from Kenya and South Africa. I developed an interest to either travel to Kenya or South Africa to see some of these wild animals.
When I got the invitation from IPAS Sierra Leone an International Non-Governmental Organisation working on Reproductive issues I could not deny the offer because of my desire to go to Kenya, even though there is a threat from the Al-Shabab militants.
We left Sierra Leone on the 2nd March and upon arrival at the Lungi International airport I was perplexed over the recent extension and beautification of the airport. When I was travelling to Accra, Ghana in June last year, the airport was still undergoing the beautification process, but what I saw on Sunday made me happy. The immigration process has been uplifted and the issue of bribing for your luggage not to be searched has swiftly been wiped away by technology.
Sitting at the departure lounge, I saw a man holding a dog walking around the airport so I asked one of the workers; he told me they are sniffer dogs. To my surprise the dogs are not big enough compared to the Sniffer dogs in the Medellin airport in Columbia. Going through the immigration process at the Medellin airport was the worst for me considering the rigid immigration process.
The Lungi airport can now be compared to the Kotoka airport in Accra. There are more lounges and restaurants to suit different class of people.
Waiting patiently for my other colleagues  Asmaa James of Radio Democracy and Sulaiman Bah of the Sierra Leone News Agency, I could not stop looking up, down, left and right and being lost in wonder.
Lost in wonder because the airport has completely changed and the facilities can now stand the test of time with other airports in the sub region. With the coming of the new airport at Mammah I know my country will be on the spotlight.
We left Sierra Leone at around 6pm on board KQ511- a two hour flight from Sierra Leone to Accra, before taking off for our 6 hours flight to Kenya on board the same flight. Bored with the long distance flight, and after taking supper I ordered a glass of Amarula with ice cubes to calm my stomach because of the too many turbulence on our way. I struggled with that for some minutes and before I could finish drinking the Amarula I was already fast asleep.
I woke up almost an hour towards landing at the Jomo Kenyatta airport and I immediately experienced some fear because of the recent bombing of the airport by Al-Shabab. This was in me until I went through the immigration process and them moved out of the airport to look for the hired taxi that will take us to Hilton Hotel.
Again it took us one hour thirty minutes to get to our hotel because of the traffic. On our way I slept off again and only woke up when we arrived at the hotel.
At the entrance of the hotel, we were screened and scanned before we were allowed to check-in.
After the checking-in process swipe card keys were handed over to us and Asmaa and I were put on the 11th floor whilst Sulaiman was sent to the 16th floor. We went to the elevator to go to our different rooms. When we entered the elevator we realised it is a talking elevator as it announces the floor number and then gives us direction as to which floor we are approaching and when to get out of the elevator.
Peeping through my window I could see clearly many important offices like Samsung, Kenya Commercial Bank, DHL office and many more. Kenya is beautiful and well planned, the streets are clean, but with huge traffic congestion.
So anxious about the security situation in Nairobi, we asked the hotel workers many questions as to where is the safest places we could go to buy food and then to do shopping when the need arise. We were cautioned and asked to move with our passport and our room swipe cards when we move around.
In the afternoon we went across the streets to buy lunch in a restaurant called Galitos. I was happy when I saw fried rice and chicken on the menu. Asmaa and I ordered for the fried rice with half chicken and a bottle of Fanta as our lunch. We went to my room to eat and when we tasted the rice it was not properly cooked. We had to eat only the chicken.
Later in the evening we went around with the help of a Sierra Leonean who had lived in Nairobi for the past 20 years. He took us to some shopping malls. Standing in front of a shopping mall, he told us we are about to pass through the Ambassador hotel that was attacked by the Al-Shabab. Asmaa gave me a quick look and I could see the fear in her eyes. We decided then to end the walk around and asked our guide to take us back to the hotel.
We went back to the hotel to strategize for our dinner. We went through the hotel menu and what was on offer was pizza. I told Asmaa I preferred rice or chips and chicken, but I had to make do with the pizza.
By Abibatu Kamara
Wednesday March 04, 2014

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