Kenya Part 1
June 23, 2014
I have had the best intentions to blog this as soon as I got back, but that didn't turn out the way I expected. I was lucky enough to be able to visit Kenya recently (Late May/ early June.) It was for work. It goes without saying that the opinions expressed in this blog are my own, and do not represent or reflect those of my employer.
My colleague and I arrived over an hour late at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi in the middle of the night. I paid $50 for a visa, and was fingerprinted and waved through. I was convinced that my checked bags would not make it, but they did. After grabbing some cash at one of the many ATMs on the way out, I managed to avoid the taxi touts, and we found the driver sent from the Wildebeest Eco Camp for an additional KSH2,500. The amount was added to the hotel bill when we checked out.
I was very glad we made this arrangement. Arriving bewildered, tired, jet lagged and disorientated in a foreign country does make one quite vulnerable. The driver fetched my colleague and I and shep herded us to his vehicle.
It was after midnight when we finally arrived, and I was shown to my tent. It was very comfortable, and I did have a midnight visitor - a very sweet white cat that tried to share my bed. I didn't want to be disloyal to Maddie, so I gently put my new feline friend outside.
I was woken up the next morning by the wonderful sounds... of birds.
The tent I stayed in was quite comfortable, and the breakfast provided on a gorgeous deck at the main house was very filling. It was very relaxing waking up to a lush verdant paradise, and the sound of birds.
This was my first trip to Kenya. Would it be anything like the place of my birth? Would it feel the same? Would it be at all familiar? The entire time I spent in Kenya I felt a strange sense of disorientation - as though I should feel "at home" but wasn't. My frame of reference - South Africa. The birds - some of them were the same, and then there would be a flash of the exotic and the unknown.
The next morning my colleague and I were met by our driver (pre arranged) and we made the drive north to Nanyuki. Nanyuki is about 92km from Nairobi. It had been so dark when I had arrived the night before, I was eager to get my first glimpse of Nairobi and the surroundings.
My first view of Nairobi...
My first impressions of Nairobi ? A large teeming city, and vibe that reminded me of Johannesburg.
The countryside as we headed north towards Nanyuki was verdant, and rolling. I was amazed to see vendors on the side of the roads selling seedlings. I finally managed to take a photo of these road side plant nurseries, but it was only outside Nanyuki that I got organized enough!
The photo above was taken on the way out of Nanyuki, but it is a nice example of the road side nurseries.
The condition of the roads once outside of Nairobi on the way to Nanyuki were in very good condition. Better than the condition of some roads here in Colorado! We had just enough time to take a photo of this tourist attraction: - the marker for the Equator. We were actually at the equator... I could feel the intensity of the sun's rays; I could feel my skin (even with the highest SPF that I could find) burning.
What I didn't realize was in fact that Nanyuki was cooler than where we ended up going. Context is an amazing thing.
The drive to Nanyuki from Nairobi was about 3 - 4 hours. There were a number of vehicles on the road - and the ever present Matatu's (mini bus taxis) and motor bikes. In Kenya motorists drive on the left side of the road, like South Africa. Overtaking where ever there is "space" happens more often than not. Drivers need nerves of steel, and so do the front seat passengers!
We ended up spending four nights in Nanyuki. I stayed at the Falcon Heights hotel. It was very comfortable. I enjoyed the breakfasts, and the gardens. The security was good, and our driver met us at the hotel each day.
Here is one of the photos of the Falcon Heights gardens...
I loved watching the birds.
We visited the Ol Pejeta Conservancy. This visit was part of work as we had a student class based there for a number of days. While we were there we managed to get a little bit of "sight seeing."
The Conservancy has all the big five, and it has the Jane Goodall Chimpanzee Sanctuary, and Barack the blind black rhino. On the way in to meet up with the student group that was already on site we managed to see this African Buffalo...
And a couple of Grants Gazelle (a species of Gazelle I have never seen before.)
We met up with the student group, travelled with them to an afternoon of rangeland assessment, and finished up with some lectures. I felt so envious of what these students were experiencing! After we said our good byes, we headed for the Jane Goodall Chimpanzee Rescue Sanctuary. On the way there we came across this herd of waterbuck and helmeted guinea fowls.
It was raining, and we could only see one chimp behind fence.
Occassionally we would see one chimp swinging and jumping around on one of the jungle gyms on the other side of the fence. At another part of the Conservancy, we were lead to Barack, the blind black rhino and allowed to feed him. It was surprisingly satisfying. I could feel the hot breath of the rhino as it breathed all over my hand, and munched on the hay I gave it.
View of Mt Kenya (in the clouds) from an abbreviated game drive in Ol Pejeta Conservancy.
Oddly enough I really battled to spot Mt Kenya. It is huge and quite impressive, although it spent most of the time hiding behind clouds.
One of the days we were at Nanyuki we accompanied one of professors to the School to meet with one of the students who was completing a scholarship provided by the Samburu Youth Education Fund. We met Isaiah, who showed us around the school. We met his teacher. Isaiah is head boy at the school.
Part 2 to follow...