African Camp Fires eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 229 pages of information about African Camp Fires.

[5] The Government does much nowadays by means of tank cars.

XIV.

A town of contrasts.

It has been, as I have said, the fashion to speak of Nairobi as an ugly little town.  This was probably true when the first corrugated iron houses huddled unrelieved near the railway station.  It is not true now.  The lower part of town is well planted, and is always picturesque as long as its people are astir.  The white population have built in the wooded hills some charming bungalows surrounded by bright flowers or lost amid the trunks of great trees.  From the heights on which is Government House one can, with a glass, watch the game herds feeding on the plains.  Two clubs, with the usual games of golf, polo, tennis—­especially tennis—­football and cricket; a weekly hunt, with jackals instead of foxes; a bungalow town club on the slope of a hill; an electric light system; a race track; a rifle range; frilly parasols and the latest fluffiest summer toilettes from London and Paris—­I mention a few of the refinements of civilization that offer to the traveller some of the most piquant of contrasts.

For it must not be forgotten that Nairobi, in spite of these things—­due to the direct but slender thread of communication by railroad and ships—­is actually in the middle of an African wilderness—­is a black man’s town, as far as numbers go.[6]

The game feeds to its very outskirts, even wanders into the streets at night.[7] Lions may be heard roaring within a mile or so of town; and leopards occasionally at night come on the verandas of the outlying dwellings.  Naked savages from the jungle untouched by civilization in even the minutest particular wander the streets unabashed.

It is this constantly recurring, sharply drawn contrast that gives Nairobi its piquant charm.  As one sits on the broad hotel veranda a constantly varied pageant passes before him.  A daintily dressed, fresh-faced Englishwoman bobs by in a smart rickshaw drawn by two uniformed runners; a Kikuyu, anointed, curled, naked, brass adorned, teeters along, an expression of satisfaction on his face; a horseman, well appointed, trots briskly by followed by his loping syce; a string of skin-clad women, their heads fantastically shaved, heavily ornamented, lean forward under the burden of firewood for the market; a beautiful baby in a frilled perambulator is propelled by a tall, solemn, fine-looking black man in white robe and cap; the driver of a high cart tools his animal past a creaking, clumsy, two-wheeled wagon drawn by a pair of small humpbacked native oxen.  And so it goes, all day long, without end.  The public rickshaw boys just across the way chatter and game and quarrel and keep a watchful eye out for a possible patron on whom to charge vociferously and full tilt.  Two or three old-timers with white whiskers and red faces continue to slaughter thousands and thousands and thousands of lions from the depths of their easy chairs.

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African Camp Fires from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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