kenya: preparation

By any stretch of the imagination it's not an easy holiday to prepare for. For your inoculations alone you are required to get to grips with Latin medical terms, deadlines, potent combinations of live viruses and have biceps of steel. But in the midst of all this you can be forgiven for forgetting the dangers of Malaria and Yellow Fever when, upon your annual travel trip to Boots you purchase a combination of drugs that would make your eyes and your wallet grimace. Suddenly, dysentery, the requirement for clean syringes, blood giving sets and devising plans for smuggling inordinate amounts of paracetamol out of the country become a priority.

As you survey the spare bed, awash with green t-shirts of every shade (x8), cream shorts (x3), film rolls (x50) and the rebellion that is the pink t-shirt (1, for traveling in), it vaguely begins to sink in just how much of today's life is superfluous. Here you are embarking on a 2 week culture shock and your life for the next 15 days is void of colour, any modern means of communication or beauty products and you are somehow going to live out of this one rucksack! As you start to whittle down the non - essentials (the extra pair of long beige pants, the spare socks and the fleece) and pack the essentials: favorite teddies (x2), 2 weeks supply of cereal breakfast bars (x20), floppy hats (x2) bikinis (x2) and trainer socks (well there are just some things a woman can do without, and that's compromising tan lines!) it still doesn't dawn on you just how unprepared you really are for what this holiday will throw at you. It's not difficult to guess what items I later discovered I really should have left behind and those I really could have done with taking.

African reality still doesn't set in en-route at 40000 feet. Enjoying the modern snobbery that is extra leg room, footrests, unlimited bottles of red wine, and interactive quizzes in the seat backs, BA's World Traveller Plus served to ease us gently into an eight and a half hour flight to Nairobi. Resting my alcohol dazed mind against the seat back, the trials and tribulations of modern corporate life that just 12 hours ago weres having a visible threat on my sanity and health, become a memory banished.

But doesn't every holiday start out like this? The need to escape routine and modernity, responsibilities and bills will, at some point in our life, beckon us all to spend 4 months wages in one go on the "holiday of a lifetime," and we do so, hoping that this time it really will leave its mark beyond the first day back at work, that it really will make a difference. Only the extremely lucky will enjoy such an incredible privilege - and here's how we become two of them……………….

Our departure to Kenya occurred 8 months after its conception, in February 2004. Unlike birth, it took a hell of a lot of discussion and thought in its planning - cost, protocol, itinerary, all took a pummelling in the weeks preceding the final deadline. Yes, it cost a lot of money (although, for two weeks holiday, 10% of combined salary still seems fair to me). But as I kept reminding Marie, a 10-day 'venture' into the heart of Africa isn't a holiday; it really is the trip of a lifetime. And the justification was simple: we live in Western civilization, and could die tomorrow. I read of a boatsman in Norway who ran Orca whale safaris recently, who replied to the idea of snorkelling alongside them, 'There's no rush'. That may be in Norway, but this is in the here and now. Anything is possible, and that's why we explore.

As a six footer, my main concern was not the inoculations or the packing, but the flight. Yes, it's only eight and a half hours, but combined with the connecting flights both ways and travel between each end, it ends up being an intensive journey that needs to be made comfortable purely for the sake of maintaining good health throughout the rest of the holiday. I have a habit of contracting stomach bugs from every holiday I venture on, so starting out on a good note was imperative; we upgraded to World Traveller Plus instantly. (Not really; I did, it took some week of persuasion and a cramped EasyJet flight to Belfast to illustrate to Marie quite graphically what the problem was).

There is actually little luxurious about World Traveller Plus, it is simply a far more enjoyable seat to be in. There is much talk about DVT being caused by narrow leg room; I would postulate that that's one problem - the second is that people are so afraid of asking people they don't know, in their rows of 3-4 people, to get up out of their slumber to have a walk around, that they instead just sit there and suffer. This problem is immensely relieved when choosing seats in WTP for a couple, where the seat configuration is a 2-4-2. The extra room around the whole seat is wonderful, as is the smaller cabin with less noise and more personal service, but with recognition to the awful flight back, it really is the freedom to move which makes for a happy flight. Hopefully the new Airbus will be able to build on this ideal.

However, eight and a half hours ends up being nothing in this circumstance, and particularly with a daytime flight, you end up in the middle of Kenya feeling nowhere near as stressed as you would've done had you gone to work. And that, after all, is the point.