Monday, June 02, 2008


So here I am.... Night flight to Nairobi on Friday, arriving 5.30 on Saturday morning (3.30 UK body clock time). Needless to say I couldn't sleep on the flight in case one of the pilots died and I was needed to steer the plane safely over Egypt to land gently in the Red Sea to the applause of the terrified passengers.

Unfortunately this never happened, so I arrived at Nairobi to be greeted by the charming Boniface, my personal driver. I'd always wanted to be greeted at an airport by someone with my name spelled wrongly on a scrap of A4 so now I got my wish. Boniface dropped me off at the hotel Pan Afric after a hair-raising ride and I was ensconced by 7am, so I snoozed to BBC All Africa Radio, which plays the same head games on you in a semi-comatose state that the World Service does at 5am (try it, you might like it - or not).

After a quick shower I decided to walk in to town, much to the consternation of the hotel staff who earnestly advised against it and gave me a tepid farewell of "I hope we see you again".

It was pretty hassly, but nothing I can't cope with, and the hasslers were friendly enough. I saw very few women walking, specially solo, and the Kenyan roads are a bit of a free-for-all, though there's a bit of space given to the scampering pedestrians.

Popped into the museum on the way for a bit of local instruction and sniffed out a pavement bar for a couple of bottles of Tusker, and something promising vegeterian noodles in barbecue sauce, which turned out to be bits of pasta in a bland runny tomato and coriander juice topping, but it was reasonably filling and I was hungry.

I didn't want to get lost by wandering further, so decided to go back to the hotel, and hey, after 2 bottles of Tusker, I was crossing the road like a Kenyan.

Going for a dip in the hotel pool was a grave mistake as it was icy cold and I could feel my faculties shutting down after a length, but at least it was bracing. Becky my predecessor arrived at the hotel where we had a beer and chatted about work stuff, last minute questions etc, then she took me to a delightful Lebanese restaurant where we had the HUGEST veggie mezze, which she was kind enough to let me take the large remains of in several doggie bags for my trip.

Ghastly 5.30am start on Sunday, met by Boniface at 6.15 to take me to Wilson airport. I was disturbed by the rusted and crumbling signs for the various airlines departing from there, wondering if their planes were in as bad a condition and hoping I wasn't going to be on one of them. I needn't have worried - it was a sleek 20-seater twin prop which was blooming noisy and a bit wobbly, but that was all part of the fun. Thrillingly bouncy ride in and out of Lokichoggio airport for refuelling, then my first view coming into Rumbek was mud huts (tukuls) and people herding cattle, before landing at Rumbek airport, a red earth strip with some alarming potholes.

I was met at the airport by Terry and Tony, ensconced in my tent and ready to rock. The tents are pretty posh - like a cross between M*A*S*H and Glastonbury, but with MUCH nicer loos. There's a sleeping area at the front with chest of drawers-cum-desk and chair, and an ensuite loo and sink and shower area. There's a cheeky lizard who lives behind the sink who pops up from time to time to do a poo by the sink, then scoots off again.

Terry took Tony and me off round Rumbek town and the other local camps in the 4x4 after lunch, through deep puddles and across bumpy roads, which involved drinking a few beers at every stop. Tony and I are the only Brits so far, but I met people from about 10 other nationalities, as Rumbek is quite a hub for aid workers. I even met a couple of Sudanese people.

Started work 8.30ish today, and spent the day reading briefing docs and having meetings. I feel like I've settled in quickly and am going out to Leer (that's a place, NOT what I'm going to do!) and Malualkon this week and next to meet people at two of the radio stations, before we go to a conference near Mombassa in a couple of weeks. It's quite early to go out into the field but it's useful for me to see the stations first-hand before the conference, so it all makes sense.

It rained most of this afternoon so the mossies are out like bastards tonight, so I'm popping back to the bar for another quick beer. I thought it was raining again, but Terry's just come in the office and pointed out that the noise is giant moths fluttering against the windows, which apparently have invaded the camp - they're HUGE! Oh no - Tony's just come in and let one in, which he's stamped on on the floor....

More pics being added here:


apart from Tusker, what other beers are there? how do you get your blog onto the internet? I can't believe you're in deepest Africa - the nearest I've been is Algeria which was horrid (no beer!)

Ah! thankfully this is African Sudan, not Arab, so there's beer (ok, lager) to be had, most of it the wrong side of cold, and pretty nasty. Worst is Pilsner (yes, just 'Pilsner') from Kenya which tases like fizzy soap. Bell (Ugandan) is hoppier but still fizzy and not all that desirable.

Tusker in Kenyan but I didn't come across that in Sudan so far, though I had a 5.6% one yesterday called Nile which might have been tolerable if it hadn't been lukewarm.

It's quite funny in Kenya, as you have to ask for a cold beer as they seem to like it warm - ugh when it comes to lager!

Missing a decent pint of Harveys though...
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