So when I lived in Dubai, one year my mum and dad or rather Aai and Baba as I call them we went for a fabulous Safari in East Africa. I had been inspired by my frined from a long time Chris Francis and his wife who went the year before and came back with hordes of videos on their handycam of sorts on mini dv tapes that we sat at their place near Lamcy Plaza and i said this must be done.
So the plan was I would set ff from Dubai and meet my folks in Nairobi and then we would go on a tour together to Lake Nakuru and Masai Mara, to see the big 5. To cut a long story short it was a great safari we saw all the big 5 , we cheetah’s chase down and make a kill everything was amazing. Unfortunately my brother couldnt make it, since he was caring for the dogs( we had 5 back then) at home ..
So the next year we planned to do the safari again this time with Deep and I. so everything was set, I booked it through a customised safari company called Suntrek Safaris and we would goto Mountain lodge , first then come back to Nairobi and thrn proceed to Masai Mara, and hopefully get to see the migration through the river.
Mountain lodge was great and we had a day to kill when we were back at the Hilton Nairobi waiting for the next day to go to the Mara.So through our company Suntrek i booked a day day trip deluxe of nairobi which included a trip t Sheldrick the animal orphange where we met delightful baby elephants and rhinos, followed by a trip to Giraffe Manor where we can hand feed the giraffes, a crocodile farm ,an ostrich farm where one tried to peck my toes .Luckily my red wing shoes saved me feet.What was going to come next was an overwhelming adventure which we never had thought would happen.
Since this was Deeps first trip out of india , naturally he was excited and was clicking photos on the 35 mm camera , like it was never going to end.
We finished the ostriches and were on our way to Nairobis most famous restaurant ” Carnvivore”, when we started passing Wilson Airport , Nairobis domestic airport. Now unbeknown to us, since 9-11 , British airways had cut all flights to Kenya and were restarting on that day, so there was heightened security around all airports.
Deep saw some red and yellow propellor kind of planes and wanted to photograph these. by this time i was fed up and said you go ahead and do it quickly , because we are already behind schedule. A few minutes later the driver got out to see what was happening an 5 minutes later i lost it and stormed out to see an airport police man with a big gun talking animatedly in Swahili to the driver. It turns out that photography around there isnt allowed and the guy wanted some baksheesh from the dirty foreigner tourists. I said ok i apologise but im not paying any money and if you want you can keep the film. so this goes on for sometime until there is a big truck coming up, and more policemen and more Swahili.
Then the three of us were sent to Langata which is the closest police station and apparently one with a ” reputation”.
The inspector there looks us over like were the scum from Waka Chaka land and interrogatedus, took our belongings and keep us in a room. Form here it got even more and more crazy. Then we were interrogated as a group and individually , to see if there are any inconsistencies in our story, which got very frustrating for us.
The drivers cousin brother is also at the same station and he informed the tour company, who in turn informed our uncles from a long distance who incidentally was working for USAID and an diplomat or some sort .
So by the time all these things had been worked out we had been put in a holding cell, with all our belongings taken away and a handwritten piece of paper given to us , with the warning, ( if we lose the piece of paper we dont get our stuff back) . The inspector wanted to know why i had the big swiss army knife with me and his eyes sparkled when he counted all the $$ in the wallet. we were also hobbled by being allowed to wear only 1 shoe/ boot so in case we broke through the walls we would not be able to run far or very fast.
The cell itself was wonderful , about 5 m x 2 m and 1 window 30 cm or so high up on the wall and a bunch of colourful folk inside who wanted to know what we were in for.with nt much to do we had to sit down on an ammonia scented floor ( God knows how many folk wouldve peed there).
Then in the evening we were summoned to the office where the tour companys people had gotten s some food ( but having used the toilet before ) i didnt want to get even close to there. Deep pleaded with the inspector for a better cell and the guy wanted to his palms greased which ” no way jose”, from me which peeved him off even more and he locked us away from the others in our own private cell. We were also able to talk with our uncle who said theat they would be able to do nothing until tht next day at the earliest , because there wasnt anyone to speak with .
We then went back to our cell to suffer in silence .Luckily our passports were safe in our hotel safe and I used to at time carry a miniaturised photocopy of mine in my wallet, but never the original.
The maybe at 10 pm we were woken up.I had decided to goto sleep because there was no point in sitting and worrying. Then go back to the desk and put on our shoes , but no belongings yet.
Then we have to go in the back of an army truck with three soldiers, by which time Deep says” now they are going to do an encounter with us and we are gone” . I said well if they do would be your fault i think for taking those stupid photos..or something along those lines.
Those army dudes kept taunting us saying hey you guys are from this and that and then we stopped at the petrol station and were asked to get down. Next we get into a car with some plainclothes guys and we drive to the Hilton and goto reception and upto our rooms.
The guy who took is in the car checks ur passports and then returns them and says ok , you can stay here now and come tomorrow to Langata and then the secret service office or whatever they have t collecect your stuff.
Pheww , was like a spy movie gone wrong . we then got a knock on our door and was the owners son Nish Lakhani. they had to pull a lot of strings to get us out but they did it. Thank you once again .
The advnture though had not ended until the safri was done and we were back at the airport to go back , me to Dubai and Deep to India.
At the airport , the immigration police guy tells me i dont have small pox vaccination so i cannot board the flight and by now i know what they are wanting , but im nt going to budge an inch. I said i need yellow fever vaccine and heres the boklet for that which says clearly i dont need the other. He says i can help you if you help me. i said no.. i can wait here at the ariport and u arrnage the vaccine for me , and ill just take the next flight to Dubai,…hehehe.. the dude decided i was to stubborn and the Emirates guys came to look for me and he said ohhh just get out of here..
Im waiting for the next chapter when i go the next time , with Viraaj and Ananya my kids and get them introduced to the wildlife outside the Mara river ..