Miscellaneous Ramblings by Tony Clegg-Butt

Posted on August 22nd, 2011
Categories: News

Oh, dear!

The worst airport in the world is angry with TCB. In my last two columns I have had my say about the mess we, the travelling public, find it in. In brief, no parking (more on this later), no lights as in landing lights, dirty loos, over-the-top and unnecessary security checks, overcrowding and a general air of decay.

If you read the online blogs you will very soon learn from all and sundry that our international airport is not held in very high esteem. ‘The worst airport in Africa’ seems an apt overall description.

To  counter  this  perception, the  Kenya Airports Authority placed full-page advertisements in the local dailies mid-July, featuring four, count them four, African ‘Airport of the Year’ awards for our beleaguered Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA). I’m afraid that’s the final straw. Who can possibly believe any of these myriad of awards that seem to grace almost every company’s marketing strategy. Surely the proof of the pudding is in the eating. We’ve been, we’ve seen and we know it can’t possibly be true.

Who votes in these award-fests? Surely not you and I…

Two further power outages followed this chest beating; as in no runway lights, which apart from inconveniencing thousands of passengers, must be costing the airlines a small fortune. That’s three major power outages of consequence in a 30-day period. Something is very wrong at our premiere international airport.

Blaming everyone else and then telling yourself how good you are is not the answer.

Parking is virtually impossible 24/7 at JKIA, but there is a solution that seems to be a very well-kept secret. Within the airport’s perimeter fence, behind the Presidential flight pavilion, are two murram parking lots. The first is for taxis only; the second for – well now, that’s not clear. It says ‘staff’ car park, but no one seems to mind if you park there, and there is a pay booth who will take your money willingly. I can’t see how airport staff can afford to pay Kshs. 250/- per day anyway.

As you approach the airport stay in the right-hand lane as you head towards the arrivals building.  DO NOT enter the airport loop, but instead make a u-turn heading back the way you came. First slip road to the left, bear left around a traffic island, you’ll see all the yellow taxis in their lot on the right – next one along, tons of parking.

It’s a 10-minute ramble or less to the terminal buildings. Baggage trolleys are scarce, but once sourced usually from the nearest terminal, no worries on the paved sidewalk to the terminal buildings.

These are well-lit with a police presence. A courtesy bus would be nice, but that’s perhaps asking too much.

I keep being asked, what to do for a family day out from Nairobi. Going from personal experience I’d say the top two in my humble opinion are a day trip to Mt. Longonot in the Rift Valley and white water rafting at Sagana.

Mt. Longonot is a scenic and safe drive of no more than an hour and a half on good roads from Nairobi. The obvious goal is to hike up the extinct volcano caldera following a well-worn trail. If I can do it most others can; children seem to find it a doddle. Take a picnic lunch to the top with you and take the time to walk the rim of the crater. For those less energetic, you can rent mountain bikes and cycle around the base of the mountain or simply picnic near the ranger post. Park fees are reasonable for residents.

In late July, we rafted the Sagana River – wild water it was not, but I’m told reliably that it usually is; our current drought being the culprit. No previous experience required. If you are a serious adrenalin head this is not for you. That aside, it was excellent value, with a lot of care and attention to safety and your well-being on the river.

The best named rapid: Sphincter Flexor!

No wildlife on the river – the river is free of crocs and hippo, no matter what your guide tells you at the briefing.

The food for the price was surprisingly good, much better than I had expected. No more than an hour-or-so’s drive from Nairobi, along the presently under construction Thika superhighway. Buses leave early most days from the Sarit Centre returning late afternoon. Better still, stay overnight – brilliant fireside chat and mountain biking or bungee jumping before breakfast. I passed on the bungee jump but went on a 10-km bike ride (as I write this I am still suffering from the use of long dormant muscles). Well, at least I think that’s what’s causing all the aches and pains.

Click HERE for more info.

Next on my agenda the migration, then a 3-day trip down the Athi River – wildlife guaranteed.