Friday, 11 March 2011

Coco's Kenyan Adventure (part 2)

Our journey out of Nairobi took us through leafy suburbs and past many schools (which were strangely juxtapositioned by funeral parlours and driving schools!). The schoolchildren were immaculately dressed and were playing joyously - school is regarded as a privilege and the children appear to relish the opportunity to learn - a lesson for our own, perhaps. Slogans like "To read is to lead" appear outside schools and are testament to how important education is in this developing country.

We had been driving through a wooded area not unlike southern England for some time when we turned a corner and there before us lay the magnificent rift valley. This is how I remembered Kenya from our first trip  (Coco's Kenyan Adventure with child 2), flying out to our camp at Kichwa Tembo in the Mara over the valley where very few people live and the animals still reign.

As the road edged along the cliffs of valley, baboons ran out at intervals, fearless amongst the traffic. Finally making our way slowly down to Lake Naivasha, we pass dozens of greenhouses. This is a major flower-growing area, particularly for the supply of cut-roses to supermarkets in the UK. Nicholas showed us the refugee camps where Kenyans, dispossessed in the tribal wars between the Kikuyu and the Masai in 2008, are living. The memory of this is obviously fresh and recent actions from the Kenyan government suggest that there may be more unrest to come.

The lodge at Lake Naivasha was luxurious and the charming sloped huts were built in a sweeping arc around an area of grass and trees. It was raining when we arrived but we managed a short 'hippo walk' with our guide to see a pair of hippos in the lake, their snouts and ears appearing occasionally above the water.

We were advised not to walk in the grounds after dark as the hippos come up into the grounds and, as they are Africa's most dangerous animal, wandering unaccompanied at night when they are active is not advised. We were walked to and from dinner by a security guard and, on our return trip, he asked if we would like to see a hippo. We followed him into the dark and stopped a few feet from where an adult hippo was feeding unperturbed by our presence.

The next morning we were up and breakfasted ready for our 8.15am pick up to drive to our final destination, the Masai Mara. We waited for Nicholas, watching the monkeys feed. The black and white colobus monkeys looked splendid swinging from the trees like cossack tarzans!

Then, for the only time, Nicholas was late. As it turned out, he had malaria and was unable to continue - a serious reminder to keep taking our malaria pills. We were ushered into another mini-bus with a delightful Taiwanese couple (who were probably on their honeymoon) and told that a new driver from Nairobi would join us en route.

An hour and a half later, at one of the many stops for loos and shopping (it works like this: you have to go through the corrugated-iron shop full of wood-carved giraffes, jewellery, etc and persistent salesmen who make the average British car salesman look like an amateur, in order to get to the loos - which varied in health standards a lot!) James, our new driver arrived with a much better bus than our previous one (a lot less rattling and a working clutch - oh joy!). Indeed James didn't stop once to check we still had four wheels - yes, that really did occur on our first day!

We passed signposts to the Mara over an hour before we finally arrived at the game reserve. Driving across the plains, we had frequent sightings of Masai villages with their cow dung huts in a circle with the brush fence built around that. The road had deteriorated to a rutted track long before we finally reached the Reserve gates. From there it was another ten minutes to our lodge nestling on the hillside. Like the other lodges, the main buildings are conical-shaped with a high sloping roof. The sleeping accommodation was in the form of huts spread left and right of the swimming pool - ours being a good five minute walk away. Easy for child 4 and me but the undulating, uneven path was a bit of a hike for the coco.

To be continued...

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