Friday, March 5, 2010

On Leave In Kenya . . .

This was my first leave since arriving in Kenya. It was nice to have a little vacation and see some more of this beautiful country. I traveled to Pat Novak's site on the 26th of February. She is in Nguluni about 1 1/2 hours northeast of Nairobi. We toured around her small town and met her friends and work counterparts. It is so much greener than Makindu and unlike us, they have had good rains and a nice harvest. The next morning we traveled the back way north and west through Thika, the countryside was beautiful, lush and green with tea plantations and other crops. The road was a little rough but passable, the heavy rains would make it impossible to go that way, but we had good weather. Then on to our destination, Naivasha. This larger "city" sits on a large lake, Lake Naivasha. Unfortunately the lake has been in the news lately due to pollution from flower farms and others around the lake. So we did not try the fish for any meal. Sad, but they are focused on the problem and they will fix it. We stayed outside Naivasha, about a 30 minute matatu ride, at The Fish Eagle Inn - they offer dorms, hotel rooms and campsites. It was a great place. We stayed in a 4 person dorm. They had hot showers, what a TREAT!!! It was quiet and cool, good sleeping weather. The hippos come to the lake shore to eat very early each morning and each night. Birds are also plentiful - one large one with a wing span of 3 meters. We awoke early the next morning and headed off to climb Mt. Longonot, 2776 meters, in a National Park. It is a dormant volcano with a large steep crater rim. You climb to the crater rim then around the crater - there are some very steep and narrower places and we were very glad for no rain or the climb would have been impossible. Erosion is not the mountain's friend and you could see in some places where they are losing the battle. The climb was about 5 hours with beautiful views all around. The British Army was training on the crater and of course they were running as Pat and I were walking!! They were getting ready to return to Afghanistan, some for their third or fourth tour. We thanked them for their service. We could also see the IDP "refugee" camps (internally displaced persons)from the mountain - these are the Kenyans that were relocated after the political violence in 2007. We had great weather this day as it poured rain the night before . . . we were lucky with weather the whole trip. The next day we headed by matatu north thru Gilgil, O'Kalou to Nyahururu to see Thomson's Falls named after its founder. We stopped for chai and met Charles, a retired teacher and avid environmentalist whose son owns the restaurant. Charles was kind enough to act as a gracious and informative tour guide. It drizzled all day so we picked a good day to go here as much of the day was travel in matatus. The scenery was magnificent - Charles asked the driver to stop at the Rift Valley viewpoint for us on the way to Nakuru and he did - Charles was right, it is the BEST view of the Great Rift Valley - 50 miles wide. We traveled back through Nakuru for new and beautiful scenery then on to Naivasha and our dorm room. The next day we set off early again but as we were leaving the inn we were approached by a small, thin, aging, delightful, gray haired man named Peter. Peter is the chef at a small restaurant owned by a Tanzanian women just 100 meters up the road. He invited us to have dinner at his restaurant that night, asked us to choose what we wanted to eat then so he could be ready with the proper ingredients at dinner. We chose vegetables and told him we would come around 6 p.m. after our trip to Hell's Gate National Park. Off we journeyed to Hell's Gate. We walked and walked in Hell's Gate, we estimated around 27 kilometers, I think. The walk also included a steep gorge which is not passable when it rains - it didn't rain so the gorge was magnificent. It is Masai land - our guide was a nice young man hoping to earn enough money from guiding to go to the University to study medicine. It was a beautiful day and the scenery was great. It reminded us of the areas in Utah and Arizona - large beautiful rocks, trees and shrubs. We saw giraffe, warthogs, zebra, gazelles, many butterflies and birds - you know there are 900 species of butterflies in Africa!! We ran into the British Army again, this time repelling on the rocks. We befriended a couple of young female medical students from Holland staying next to us in the dorm and invited them to join us at Peter's place for dinner. They did and we had a nice time chatting together. Since they were a surprise to Peter, he fixed what he had for them. That being omelets with spicy potatoes - we shared the vegetables and omelets family style - the food was great. Pat and I had breakfast there the next morning. We were a little early and caught Peter in his bathrobe. The breakfast omelets were different but equally delicious. Then we headed back to Nairobi - I stayed in Nairobi (where I am writing this blog) for three nights, Pat went back to site then returned on Friday for a meeting. While in Nairobi I had a chance to spend many hours in the National Museum and botanical garden, which I had not seen. Pat and I toured the Kenyan Archives on Friday. Both were wonderful and I learned so much more about the history of Kenya. It was a good leave packed with good adventure, good company, new friends and lots of new learning.

Today is Saturday and I am headed back to Makindu. Refreshed and enthusiastic about what is to come next . . .

Have a great day and love to all!!


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