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Maria Visconti January 24, 2011
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"GIRAFFE!" shouts one in our group less than 10 minutes from the international airport. We have just arrived in Nairobi, Kenya, and we look up in disbelief but it's true, there is a giraffe strutting not far off the main road, chock-a-block with traffic. Mercifully, there's a high fence between the giraffe and the road. We learn the Nairobi National Park, only 14 kilometres from the centre of town, is fenced on three sides. The Mbagathi River provides the fourth boundary. Welcome to Kenya, where wildlife is never far away - not even in Nairobi! We inquire discreetly about man-eating animals in there. Daniel Karira, Kenya's Tourist Board rep, says they are all mainly herbivores - with a few cheetahs, leopards and lions about. "Cool," we say and try to appear unconcerned. We are a group of Australian writers and cannot let the side down. We add - for good measure - that we have deadly snakes and spiders. "Speaking of herbivores, you can't say you've been to Nairobi until you go to Carnivore," Karira says. "Any vegetarians?""None," we reply. After a visit to the Sheldrick elephant orphanage, where baby pachyderms are reared by hand and fed knee-high bottles of SM26 Golden formula, we are ready to ingest some protein. Arriving at Carnivore, on the outskirts of town, the vegetarian's ultimate nightmare is the first thing we see: a huge flaming circle of hell about 10 metres in diameter where steel cuffs mounted on steel shafts, hold edible animal parts in bondage over the searing heat. Ostrich legs, venison, lamb, crocodile, beef sides, pork, chicken and turkey. Our table is nestled in a garden setting. There is even atmospheric, piped birdsong. A "bush doctor" brings us dawa (medicine): a powerful concoction of vodka, muddled limes and something else. Life is good.
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Craig, sitting next to me, remarks the chirping is very loud because the loudspeakers must be right behind us. We carry on shouting across the table but when the piped frogs/birds (we cannot tell) get too overwhelming, we ask the staff to turn the volume down. We don't give it another thought until someone across the table says, "What are those guys doing?" We look behind us and see three men in lab coats and rubber boots
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holding a torch in one hand and a spear in the other, poking at the grass. Daniel explains: "They are removing the frogs.""Which frogs?" we ask. "The ones making the noise; you've complained and the frogs are being removed." We cringe in horror. "Let them live, please! We didn't know they were real frogs, birds, whatever! We thought it was a jungle recording!" After several tonnes of meat skewered on Swahili swords, we signal we cannot eat any more, by way of the restaurant's traditional code: by toppling the white flag standing in the middle of our table. As we leave, we are asked where we are from. Craig and I, in unison and without hesitation, declare, "The US!" and skulk out. Australia's name is saved.
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1. Airline acted in excess, says ex-INXS singer after being ejected from Jetstar flight 2. Flight test: Air New Zealand 747 business premier...