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Escape From Kenya – Nomadic Backpacker Flees The Covid Lockdown In Africa

Out of Kenya but still Trevor’ed.

KLM Plane
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So I’ll get straight to the point: I am no longer in Naivasha | Kenya | Africa.

A spare seat on the KLM Nairobi to Amsterdam evac suddenly became available. I wasted no time in deliberating. I re-sent my details as requested, stating that my final destination was to be Belgrade. Serbia is one of the very few places open to itinerant backpackers like me still out there. This was June 22. The flight was scheduled for June 27.

Sarah at KLM sent me the confirmation within minutes and told me to call the KLM office in Nairobi. So the next morning I borrowed a phone and called. The ticket was emailed to me before the call was terminated! Such efficiency.

I found a driver, got a ‘permission to travel’ letter written up and had it stamped by the Naivasha PD. I was good to go.

I booked a Transavia, Amsterdam – Belgrade flight and a night in a cheap hostel.

The journey went like clockwork. Strict social distancing measures in place and functioning in all areas EXCEPT at the departure lounge pre-boarding. It was as if staying safe for three months was for nothing. In the departure lounge, I was technically no longer in Kenya and not yet aboard the KLM 580 plane suddenly that was surrounded by 400 Mzungus, many French families, most disregarding the #maskthefuckup rule.

The flight was full. Well, almost. I had an empty seat next to me. So please, KLM, while I am grateful that the Dutch government organised a much cheaper evac flight than Qatar and Kenya Airways, charging US$994 for a packed flight is taking the piss!

A rather rude cabin crew member told me, ‘well you chose to fly KLM’, when I expressed my horror at such a full flight. A much kinder cabin crew member tried to re-assure me with the ‘latest filter technology having been installed that took out 99% of any bugs’ spiel.

The flight had a strict #maskthefuckup except when eating rule, yet cabin crew had to remind many to actually put the damn things over their face and not wear it around their chins like some fashion accessory.

Amsterdam was as cold and grey at 5am as I remembered from my last time in Northern Europe. I went through immigration and sat outside to catch some fresh air.

Passengers on the Transavia flight were a little more well behaved than on the KLM flight, and at 3pm, an hour later than scheduled, we touched down in Belgrade.

So why did I decide to get out now when earlier I was so determined to ride out the storm?

I had been more than three months in Naivasha. The airport had been closed since March 25. Land borders were closed and there was a partial lockdown and most hotels had been closed.

I didn’t want to get stuck in Kenya for the duration. Period!

News out of South Africa was that tourism, that’s regular flights and land borders, weren’t going to resume until 2021. Six more possible months in Naivasha — please no — if President Kenyatta decided to follow suit.

The struggle to stay virus-free would be harder as time went on, as would my fear of ending up in a Kenyan hospital.

There was also the safety aspect. The rich white guy in the wrong place at the wrong time in a country of many hungry people. Desperate times call for desperate measures. The small lane by my guest house had already seen three stabbings since I had been in town. Locals forced to fish illegally have also ended up being dinner for hippos in the lake.

I have been in Belgrade for nine days now.

Yesterday, President Kenyatta addressed the nation again. The partial lockdown would be lifted. Hotels would reopen. Life could get back to normal. However, the curfew was going to be extended for another 30 days. This I had expected. The airport was going to reopen on August 1st to international flights. This I had not envisaged.

Do I regret my decision to leave? Yes and no. I could have explored Kenya for three weeks before getting a regular flight out. But it is widely foreseen that cases will rise with the lifting of the lockdown. Staying virus-free and out of hospital would be harder. The lifting of the lockdown has many caveats, and I predict sadly that the lockdown will be reintroduced as cases go though the roof.

Regarding the reopening of the JKIA airport on August 1st, I’ll believe it when I see it. Many times across the Corona-stricken world reopening dates have come and gone.

So that’s it for the Lockdown in Kenya series. But maybe there will be a new series, as the borders of North Macedonia closed two nights ago and now there are no land borders to neighboring countries open. On Saturday, Belgrade went back into ‘state of emergency’ mode. This dictates the wearing of masks when entering shops and on the bus. Hardly a big deal. Masking the fuck up is 2nd nature to me. The risk of a $200 fine makes you never forget. And I am glad, 99% of the people follow the rule!

But late last night a report was out that from 4pm Friday to 5am Monday, total curfew. This just gets worse!

Adios for the time being.

Read more of the ‘Stuck in Kenya’ series on Vagabond Journey:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

Follow my stories on Nomadic Backpacker and on Twitter @NomadicBackpac1.

Filed under: Epidemics, Kenya, Serbia

About the Author:

From a small town north of London, England. Earned my travel money as a waiter in Switzerland, as a courier, as a postman (mailman). Former mountain runner and road cyclist. Permanently on the road now, 95 countries and counting. Passion for long haul overland journeys. Blogs at Nomadic Backpacker. has written 7 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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Trevor Warman is currently in: Albania

6 comments… add one

Leave a Comment

  • sarahbb1 July 8, 2020, 1:26 pm

    Love that subber! Out of the frying pan into the fire so it seems.¡Cuidate! ¡Venga a España!

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  • Jack July 8, 2020, 3:35 pm

    Golly, I expected a story with shooting, running for your life and more.

    Just kidding.

    I’m glad you got out and I don’t think there is any use in second guessing your choice. You made a good decision based on the information you had at the time. I think what we do is highly dependent on how dangerous we think this thing is, how comfortable we are with risk, and more importantly, how we feel about other ancillary risk factors. The risks that come from an economic fallout could make some countries a tough go in the future. I know that if my family went to the Philippines, we would be a target if things got worse and if you die from Covid or you die from a gunshot, you are still dead.

    I like your phrase about masks. I was dealing with someone freaking out worrying they were going to die from Covid back in March. She was someone who liked to speed. I had to tell her that if she takes vitamins, washes her hands, and wears a mask, she has a lot higher chance of dying in her car than from Covid.

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    • Trevor Warman July 9, 2020, 1:48 pm

      Thanks Jack am a big advocate of wearing a mask to protect others more vulnerable than myself in the event i am asymptomatic ….

      Not free and easy here… so riots re possible weekend lockdown

      Countries visited 95
      Countries locked down in 2 and counting. Lol

      Am ok here but its getting warm . 32 deg C thats high 80s. I like low 70s lol

      Take care man and thanks for the comment

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      • Jack July 9, 2020, 3:29 pm

        Like the low 70s? You should look at Baja California next. As long as you don’t like rain, it has one of the best climates in the world. I love the Pacific side. I lived on and off there for 3 years. High temps in the winter are 65 to 70. Summer highs are mid 70’s. Want warmer any time of the year? Go to the Sea of Cortez side. Want colder in the winter? Head into the mountains if you are in the northern part and you can play in the snow.

        And Mexico is open right now 🙂

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