Kenya


08 November 2009 - Eldoret - added by Steve

It's looking like we're going to have to apply for permanent residence soon... we can't seem to leave this place! There have been mixed reasons for this – on one hand we've had a lot of repairs to do to the truck, keeping us detained while undertaken, while on the other we've met such fantastic people here, been invited all over the place and visited amazing sights, so that we've been criss-crossing the country from the moment we arrived!

Some of the highlights have been spending some time relaxing on the coast with Roxy's mum, who flew out to join us for a week, seeing the river crossings during the annual Wildebeest migration, and meeting local Mzungus (white people) who have taken us to beautiful places.

One of our stops was the popular coastal town of Malindi. Unfortunately I don't rate it very highly, when compared to some of the other beaches we've seen on our travels, although I think this had something to do with the season. During part of the year the Kenyan coast is inundated with washed up seaweed, and yes, that time of the year includes the end of September, when we were there! An interesting thing we found is that for some reason Malindi has become the premier tourist destination in Africa for Italians... no one could tell us why! One good thing this has brought about is the best pizza we've had on the trip so far, what a treat, although on the other hand most of the locals in Malindi can only speak Italian as a second language, leaving us poor English speakers high and dry! How self-important we English speakers are, assuming everyone must speak English to us... I think it was a good lesson in humility for us, but that didn't make life any easier! Nonetheless we did have a marvellous time there with Deidre (Roxy's mum), as we had managed to find a magnificent self-catering cottage, and then were able to bargain the price down to make it affordable, allowing us to pretend to be royalty living in the lap of luxury! The owner's mother is a landscape artist, and she had transformed the garden into a tropical paradise, and in true colonial style we had 2 maids, a butler and a cook... no-one said it would be easy in Africa!



For the most part we just relaxed like crazy and ate like kings. After losing a fair amount of weight on the trip thus far, and loving the fact we're healthy and trim, I fear we may have just taken a few steps back... our waist-line attests to this sad turn of events! That said, we did manage to squeeze a few more active things into our busy relaxing schedule, which included a great day out snorkelling (but then having a massive seafood feast on a sandbar off the coast, negating any positive health effects!)



We also managed to squeeze in a visit to the enigmatic Gede Ruins. The ruins are hidden amongst a coastal forest and are a vast complex of palaces, mosques, houses and other buildings. Gede was occupied from some time in the 13th century to the 17th century, was clearly quite prosperous (as attested to by the things excavations have uncovered, such as glass beads, glazed pottery and even porcelain from as far afield as China), yet no records have been found of it in historical texts, so little of its history is known. Strange that such a large and obviously influential city could have existed and yet not appear in history at all!a



Upon our return to Nairobi the excess didn't stop. Thanks to the hard bargaining skills Roxy has picked up over the last year, for Deidre's last night in Kenya we stayed at the sumptuous Ngong House. Rox managed to negotiate a US$450 discount per person! Hard to believe, but true! More hard to believe is that they even let us riff-raff in at all! Ngong House has beautiful treehouses built amongst the native bush, and we were treated to a night in style before Deidre left and we returned to the normality of our trip...

...if normal can be called partying to dawn at Kenya's inaugral earthdance festival! earthdance is a dance festival held on the same night in over 70 locations worldwide, in the name of world peace. We took Songololo along, and when we'd  finally had enough we disappeared inside for some much needed sleep. When we awoke everyone had disappeared, ours was the only vehicle left apart from the fire-engine and ambulance!

When we'd recovered from our sleep deprivation (we're definitely getting too old for that kind of crazy partying!), to our dismay we found that a design flaw in Songololo's bathroom had led to the entire bathroom floor becoming sodden and then rotten over the last year of our travels! Luckily good quality wood is cheap here in Kenya, and we were able to completely rebuild the bathroom floor with some beautiful mahogany planks, and it's looking better than ever! The work was undertaken at the magnificent Jungle Junction campsite in Nairobi, which has free WiFi and the owner Chris has a fully kitted workshop from which we were able to borrow a few tools, making the week spent rebuilding a lot easier for both me and Roxy than if we were stuck in the middle of the bush somewhere!

At earthdance was an English guy we'd met called Gwili. He's in Kenya doing conservation work in the Chyulu Hills, a Masai area between the Tsavo and Amboseli National Parks, and had invited us down to the Chyulus to visit. Well, when you get an offer to spend a week in the bush for free, you think long and hard before turning it down... for us it took all of 5 seconds to accept his offer! While the scenery was incredible, Kenya is suffering from the worst drought in 60 years at the moment, and nowhere have we seen the evidence more prolifically than in the Chyulus. It seems everywhere we looked there was another carcass, yet another victim of the drought.

All natural water sources in the area have long since dried up, and they have to bring in water for the animals daily from a pipeline 75kms away! However, thanks to this and their excellent anti-poaching team, there is still a prolific amount of game around, and we were lucky enough to see many buck, giraffe, elephants, hyaenas and even get close up to several cheetah!

The conservation project Gwili is involved in also contains the Ol Donyo Wuas lodge, an anti-poaching team and a horseback safari outfit. The anti-poaching team is breaking new ground in Kenya by using bloodhounds to aid in tracking.

While we were staying a film crew came in to film Bosco the bloodhound in action. Lodge guests can take part in a simulated tracking exercise, and we were asked to pretend to be guests for the film. I ran off into the bush, weaving and ducking under branches, and eventually hid up a tree. After a decent head start, Rox held onto Bosco's lead and encouraged him to start tracking me. He tore after me, dragging poor Roxy through all the thorn bushes I had ducked under, and before I even had a chance to catch my breath Bosco was jumping up the tree trunk! I was rumbled! Bosco is apparently making a huge difference, and poaching has been drastically reduced, which is fantastic news.

Coming down to Ol Donyo Wuas lodge one morning with Gwili, Rox and I walked into some guests who had just arrived at the lodge. Unbelievably it was some friends of ours, Ryan and Lise Wienand, who we last stayed with in Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania... how often on this trip have we been reminded how small the world really is?! One morning I was with Ryan down at the lodge's hide by their waterhole. The hide is not your classic hide we're used to in South Africa, rather just a barrier of logs between you and the animals. We were watching some elephants drink and they became aware of us. One elephant became quite aggressive and came right up to the barrier, but was prevented coming any closer. Being just a metre away from this huge elephant staring angrily at us made for an awesome encounter! I was also lucky enough to be invited on an out ride into the bush with the manager of the horseback safari outfit, which was an incredible experience. On horseback you are able to get so much closer to the game, and we were metres from all sorts of animals, including a mother cheetah with some of her cubs! On our last night Gwili took us up into the Chyulu Hills where we camped on a ridge overlooking the plains below. Sitting round the campfire with the sounds of the animals around us and the stars above us made us feel happy to be alive and privileged to be on a trip like this.



Before we knew it we'd stayed double the time we'd originally intended to. Unfortunately all good things must come to an end, and we had to pull ourselves away from the Chyulus and continue our adventure. Arriving back in Nairobi we met up with some South African's we'd met previously, and they had just returned from the Masai Mara where they'd witnessed the epic river crossings as the wildebeest start to migrate south. We'd decided not to go to the Mara as we'd heard the drought had caused the wildebeest to be scattered all over both the Serengeti and the Masai Mara, and the crossings weren't really happening. The beauty of travelling like we are is that we never have a fixed itinerary, so upon hearing this wasn't the case we decided this was an opportunity not to be missed and roared off to the Mara the very next morning. The South Africans had given us the GPS coordinates of a place where they'd managed to bush camp within the park boundaries, allowing them to arrive at the river early in the morning and get a prime position to wait for the crossings. Wild camping within the park is obviously strictly not allowed, but we decided to risk it and were well rewarded when the next morning we were first at the river. Soon the area was full of safari vehicles packed to the gunnels with tourists sitting in the hot sun waiting for the action to start. Meanwhile we were sitting in the back of Songololo having a cup of coffee and cooking breakfast, pure luxury! It takes quite some time for the wildebeest to get up the courage to cross, so 4 hours later there were some very hot and bored tourists waiting in their cars, while we were happily sitting in our lounge area gazing out the window or reading our books. Eventually the action did start, and over the course of the day we witnessed 2 crossings with the associated crocodile mayhem, what a spectacle to behold!



The Mara has millions of tracks all over the show, often leaving the park boundaries without passing through a gate. When leaving the Mara we found ourselves on one of these tracks, and emerged onto the road on the far side of the park gate without having paid our park fees! We felt both sneaky and guilty as we decided to leave without paying, but soon karma came back to bite us where it hurts. The roads to and from the Mara rank up in the worst 5 roads we've had the displeasure to drive on in the entirety of our trip thus far! 60 kms of jagged rocks leave both you and your vehicle jarred, and upon our return to Nairobi we had racked up a long list of damage – our rear propshaft had broken, the spare wheel mountings had come loose, our jerrycan rack had sheared and my wing mirror had broken! The US$150 we'd saved on sneaking out of the park without paying was spent, with interest, on fixing the damage caused by the bad roads getting there and back! We really can't complain about the state of the roads when we didn't pay, but it is abundantly clear that none of the park fees are spent on maintaining the roads anyway. In this I feel justified in some small way, although I do recognise what we did was wrong and don't encourage anyone to follow our lead!

After spending a week fixing the damage we were finally able to continue. Another Kenyan settler we'd met at earthdance had invited us to visit him at Soysamburu, a conservancy area in the rift valley, and obviously we again readily accepted his offer. I've mentioned many times that on a journey like this we have been time and again pleasantly surprised by the hospitality of strangers, and yet again this is an example. I'd probably spoken to Doigie for all of an hour during earthdance, and here he was inviting us to stay at his house! We had a fantastic few nights staying with Doigie, going on game drives and walks through the bush, eating well, drinking too much and talking rubbish. Immediately following our stay with Doigie we stopped off in Nakuru at my great-aunt's house and again the hospitality was outstanding. You can imagine that on a trip like ours home comforts are sorely missed, so having the opportunity to kick back in a homely environment is relished!

We now find ourselves in Eldoret, a short hop and a skip away from Uganda and all it's treasures. We're staying in a magnificent campsite called Naiberi, probably one of the best campsites we've found in the whole of Africa. It overlooks the Naiberi river, has a beautiful swimming pool and a huge cave-like bar and restaurant. The owner, Raj, is a fantastic eccentric bloke, and we decided was the perfect recipient of a present we'd been thinking of giving someone. While in the Chyulus, Gwili had given us a huge bleached-white elephant femur. I'd been thinking of trying to get it back to England, but had realised I was playing with fire, and would probably face a big fine or worse if caught trying to take it over a border. So now our femur is sitting in Raj's bar, signed with our names... keep an eye out for it if you're ever there!



Comments:

1 .
Oh my gosh I have tears in my eyes, that is all just TOO beautiful! Flip guys you are just having the most incredible journey, one most people will never get the opportunity to take. Kenya is magnificent. cant wait for you oakes to get back already x Bobs
Bobs Babb - 11 Nov 2009, 10:30
2 .
Go you good things! sounds friggin awesome.
Sean - 11 Nov 2009, 11:26
3 .
Sounds great, Steve and Rox. More sh1t days in Africa! Travel Safe.
Doug & Elin - 11 Nov 2009, 14:55
4 .
Wow, that sounds incredible guys!!!
Mix - 12 Nov 2009, 0:24
5 .
Fantastic! Well done, but no sympathy for having to pay for Park fee jumping! Can't wait for the next one now! Good luck with gorilla waqtching. love fossils
Germaine - 12 Nov 2009, 2:46
6 .
M F 's !!! V jealous.
Al Vlok - 12 Nov 2009, 10:46
7 .
Cracking photos, Lori. Am excited to see the full set when you have them on a desk. Keep trucking.
Daz - 20 Nov 2009, 10:45
8 .
Wow guys, what an epic adventure! Amazing photos and descriptions of our incredible continent. Keep it up. xxx
Belinda - 27 Nov 2009, 4:35
9 .
Wow guys, what an epic adventure! Amazing photos and descriptions of our incredible continent. Keep it up. xxx
Belinda - 27 Nov 2009, 4:35
10 .
Congrats from an far away unknown follower. I'm from Brazil and found you by accident when searching for some unrelated thing on Yahoo. I'm glad i did! I read your entire journal at once and, again, found myself daydreaming of doing something even remotely close one day. Congratulations on your trip! Keep going (homesickness apart...)!! You guys now got a fan. It would be interesting to see pictures of you guys passport full with all the visas and stamps from this journey too. Do let me know if you ever come to Brazil to "relax" from your travels one day...
Fernão - 1 Dec 2009, 22:23
11 .
Hi! It's us the Americans, Angie and Brice, you met at Raj's bar in Naiberi. We are home in the states and have shared our stories with friends & family including meeting to two of you.We were impressed by your stamina & adventurous spirit. We hope you are safe and well. Cheers!
Angie - 17 Dec 2009, 15:21
12 .
Happy New Year to you both. Feel sure reading all your journal there must be a book at the end of this! Natalie is due to produce our second grandson, god willing, and start another new chapter in a week or two, here in Harpenden. My elder son, Alex, Natalie and Leo moved from Reading last September and it is wonderful to have them so close. We think of you often and pray you stay safe and well. Love Jonathan and Nicky
Jonathan and Nicky - 4 Jan 2010, 16:52
13 .
Friends, its Soysambu, NOT Soysamburu! You were obviously more wasted than I thought 'bro!
Doigy - 16 Mar 2010, 14:05
14 .
Aww i just read this im amazed and hmbled at the same time..this is mystical mystery turned into Reality..my bar my dream my hobby...yap the guy from Naiberi op you mates can come over soon ....youll still find me there doing my thing ..have a lovely time
Raj - 16 Jun 2010, 6:43

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