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Pole to Pole

Day 95: Nairobi

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleIt seems to be an odd psychological and physiological fact that on a journey like this time off is trouble. The system, geared up to movement and rapid adjustment to changing conditions, is caught off-guard and may begin to wind down, thinking perhaps that it's all over. The adrenalin is switched off and all sorts of little ailments appear. I have the feeling that after five days' break in Nairobi all of us will be very glad to be on the move again. We all know that the only way back home is via the South Pole.

This morning I'm to be fitted for an outfit in advance of the next stage of our journey - an Abercrombie and Kent safari into the Masai Mara game reserve. I'm collected at the hotel by a London black cab. President Arap Moi was so impressed with them on a visit to Britain that he allowed them to be imported into Kenya free of duty, and there are now over 100 operating in Nairobi. I ask Michael Nqanga, my driver, if anything has ever gone wrong with his vehicle. 'Not exactly,' he replies, but doesn't elaborate.

Downtown Nairobi is compact and modern and not particularly beautiful. Bland concrete blocks are being superseded by bland aluminium and glass blocks. The reflecting walls of Lonrho's new headquarters dominate the skyline. If cranes and scaffolding are a sign of confidence then Nairobi appears to be doing well, though local people I have spoken to regard Moi's maintenance of a one-party state as a source of weakness and potential future chaos. Opposition is tightly muzzled, both by the imprisonment of its leaders and by restriction and censorship of the press.
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  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 95
  • Country/sea: Kenya
  • Place: Nairobi
  • Book page no: 204

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