Tag Archives: kenya

Sleeping in a tent, sunrises and back to school.

 

What a lovely break! My trip to Kenya was a fabulous and inspiring time, the course both proved I was on the right track and at the same time educated and inspired me to go further in my teaching. It was the first face to face course I have taken and hopefully not the last. I think it is imperative that teachers develop professionally, especially if it gives us specific tools to help our students improve.

 

A startling coincidence and proof of a very small world found me at morning tea on the first day of the course. Sitting beside me was the author of an African blog that I read. You should too. She is a teacher,mother, wife, writer and musician and to top it all off a blogger too! And she has lived in Africa all her life. Check her out here.

 

And then I returned and was immediately swept off my feet and into a tent. Camping for two nights beside a most peaceful lake. I cannot stress enough how much I dislike sleeping in a tent. It is claustrophobic, uncomfortable and on this occasion freezing cold, forcing my entire body to cramp up in the position of one who is trying desperately hard to stay warm.

 

However, despite no sleep and fuming with the injustice of a night spent in a tent with fellow campers happily snoring all around me , I must admit that breakfast cooked over an open fire with the sun rising over a lake as still as a mirror is pure magic.  I had two sunrise breakfasts this weekend, and two nights of star gazing. With great company and happy children frolicking in the lake what more could a camper want? Other than a soft bed and a warm duvet.

 

Plus let me not fail to mention that our friends camp in style. We had sushi, Champagne and hot chocolate made from melted Ghiradelli chocolate squares. All well and good.

 

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The classroom is a safer place, perhaps.

So now I have written my four posts about the Kenayapalooza Road trip that was, and having been back for two weeks now and back at school for one it is starting to feel like it all happened some time ago. As a family we have decided that it will be some time before we embark on any long drives and have equally agreed on the necessity to get back to the beach ASAP ( by plane this time.)

I have been so fortunate to have crossed Kenya and seen what a diverse and beautiful country it is. I really adored Kenya, the people, the landscape the stunning vistas. It has a very different feel to Uganda; one I am still trying to put my finger on. Partly it holds the colonial influence of the British in a way that Uganda never has. There are the towns that still have some old world charm, all the little shops by the road side have taken the time and care to paint signs and colourfully announce their existence. There is less rubbish strewn by the side of the road, the roads are smooth and mainly pot hole free, things work efficiently, I spotted more than one post office. It is a place I’d like to go back to, a weekend in Nairobi would be especially sweet.

What never fails to amaze me is the variety of crazy things seen on the road. The trucks that bend under their ridiculous load; threatening to topple over us as we overtake. The buses that are painted in honour of a foot ball star or Jesus Christ, the sheepskin rugs and juicy carrots sold to happy passersby, the random street signs, the donkeys pulling a load seemingly impossible to manage. It is never dull, always colourful, often funny, sometimes terrifying.

 

How many chairs can you fit on a bicycle?

Do you think you could fit one more on top?

Please note that some of the sand bags had fallen off the back. A case of overly optimistic loading.

Hello Jesus!

Princess and the Pea?

Doing the Matoke Push and Pull.

 

The view is different now. I am once again looking at the bowed heads of students scratching out a story, or the raised hands of children eager to have a turn. The classroom might be a safer place but as I help these kids get ready for exams, be ready and set for what comes next I jump over each hurdle, one at a time. It is a crazy road out there; I’m hiding inside Camp Hormone for a while.

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Hot bath, Great Dane, Aussies in Distress but no Leopards.

We were greeted by a collection of cheerful dogs, ranging from Obelisk the magnificent Great Dane to Sock the Daschund puppy with one white foot. The children poured out of the cars and began to embrace and hop about with these fellow puppies, excited to use some of their pent up energy. The adults searched for beer and sorted out who would be sleeping where. The girls were all put into a little two story cottage with miniature deck poking through the leaves. We were shown to Acacia cottage. Kembu farm is a very special place.  It is owed and run by the Nightingale family who has lived on the farm for 5 generations. It is a working farm with cottages and camping, happy bar and campfire. On our second night there we were treated to homemade pizza cooked in the genuine pizza oven by Mr Nightingale and his sons. A true, welcoming family experience, it is the sort of place I could imagine staying happily for a whole week. Especially in Acacia Cottage.

Our cottage was like a story book house in the English Countryside. The walls were brick and adorned with old black and white family photos, the table, set with white linen and flowers faced the window which faced an ancient tree set upon a rolling lawn. It was the perfect space to sit and read. But best of all was the hot bath that I climbed into with some glee within minutes of arriving. It was a particularly relaxing place. So much so that we all decided to stay put and read the next morning. Then it was time to visit the famous Nakuru National Park.

This park is small, and is set around a lake famous for its flamingo population. It is also renowned for its Rhinos and leopards. I have now been on a considerable number of game drives and have been fortunate to see everything from Cheetahs to Hyenas, Rhinos to Lions, elephants to Giraffes and Zebra. The only animal that has evaded my beady eye is the leopard. Nakuru has the densest leopard population in Kenya so I felt certain it would be my lucky day. It was not to be. And it has now become a standing joke amongst Kampala friends who see these fabulous cats within minutes of their Murchison Falls drives. Instead I did see Rhinos and towards the end of the drive an Australian, standing in a bright red t-shirt behind his white car waving furiously with his arms to get our attention. Our friend had run out of diesel and how lucky he was that we were there, and even luckier to find a safari vehicle with strong rope to lend us so we could pull him out. It all could have been a lot worse. I did think for a moment that perhaps that would be the moment a leopard would come out and greet us, but gratefully it was not to be. The running out of diesel story meant that we were delayed leaving the park and therefore had to drive like a bat out of hell through the dark to return to Kembu farm. It was the one and only time we drove at night the entire trip and thankfully  only for 20 minutes. Driving at night in Africa is to be avoided; having had experiences involving scary cows, pot holes, bikes and sadly a crossing dog, I do not say this lightly. Our last night in Kenya and it was Pizza, a cuddle with the Great Dane and a hot bath before bed. We had an early start the next morning and at least 9 hours before we reached home.

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Leaving the beach, meeting some Swedes and driving to Nakuru.

Leaving the beach is always hard. My family belong to the tribe of beach bums: for us the ocean is our world. While some in our group described themselves as “Mountain Men” and kept a wide berth from the salt water, we couldn’t stay out of it. We climbed back into the car with skin that smelt of sea, sand and SPF 15. We wanted to keep the scent, the stickiness and the dried sea salt as long as possible. As we drove away from the coast our car was quickly making promises to return (by plane) as soon as possible.

The chief planner of our trip had made the fool hardy decision to drive straight from the coast to Nakuru. Even an optimist could not imagine reaching Nakuru in less than 13 hours and there was a general agreement within the group that such a drive would simply crack us all up. So we decided to stop back in Tsavo to break up the journey, this time about 20 mins from Voi Gate, between East and West Tsavo. We found a little lodge run by a Swiss woman that was a perfect stop over for the night.

Sagala Lodge is a small but sweet, neat and tidy lodge with 20 bandas and a swimming pool set in front of a Baobab tree. We arrived at 4.30 and quickly jumped into the pool. We knew we would be back in the car at 7.30 am so we just needed a quiet yet energetic few hours to stretch and play.  The highlight of Sagala lodge for me was the Swedish couple I met. I noticed a Defender parked behind our banda with a tent  that protruded from the roof, ladders, food cooking on a small kitchen that seemed to be built into the side of the car; it looked like some serious campers on a serious journey. Turns out they were some intrepid Swedes, a couple with two small girls, (4 and 6) who were driving from Stockholm to Capetown. There I was feeling like a rock star on our 11 day road trip across Kenya but within minutes of meeting this small family I felt like a bug on their wind screen. Two continents, 20 countries, 9 months! With two little girls. Amazing. I quickly took Trooper and Princess over to meet them as there is great value in meeting such individuals who embody bravery, determination and a true adventurous spirit. It all goes without saying that they must be incredibly patient, organized and nice to each other.

At the moment they are somewhere near Mount Kenya and will be arriving in Uganda sometime this month. Their blog can be found here.

The drive to Nakuru took 9 hours. We had to cross through the centre of Nairobi which had us straining our necks to see the capital city. We have never actually been to Nairobi, yet, so this was our first impression. Pavements! Tall buildings! Parks! Traffic! For the half an hour that we drove across down town Nairobi I had the sense that we were in a serious city, plumped with self importance and age.

Between Nairobi and Naivasha the route takes cars past one of the most extraordinary viewpoints. There is a look out where one has the opportunity to stand and gaze across the rift valley, over the Masai Mara towards Tanzania. On the outbound journey towards the coast we had driven past at great speed while with rubber necks we had strained to see the awe inspiring view. I promised myself that on our return we would pause for a moment or two and admire the view. Really, what type of traveller would drive past that?  It seems we were the only ones with that idea and ended up stopping alone. Not everyone in the group was on the same page in this respect and this can be a source of stress in a large group. Particularly when one car is lambasted for holding the others back by a meagre 10 minutes.

It was a tired and tense group that descended in Nakuru. But when we saw the divine little place we would be spending the next two nights our spirits began to lift.

 

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Two nights camping in Tsavo

Camping. I am not a camper, many of you might have realized this by now. I sort of wish I was, you know, the sort of person to embrace the whole sleeping in a tent, cooking over an open fire, brushing my teeth in the dark and spitting onto the ground. I wish I was that sort of girl, in some ways. Maybe if I had been raised a camper and pitched tents as a child, as my children now do I would not only love it but know what to do. As it is I am not in my element. But I am proud to say that I did it and survived it and threw myself whole heartedly into the experience. I know many people who would never leave the comfort of their 5 star lodges to camp within earshot of munching elephants and roaring lions and bouncing, barking baboons. But I did and while I would have preferred one rather than two nights, the whole camping thing was okay. It was part of the journey and made me feel rather hard core, really. I had a metaphorical hand patting my back most of the time and if I come across as a someone with more princess tendencies than I should have, well welcome to my world. This is who I am. The noises at night were freaky and the cooking and cleaning and finding supplies from the many bags and boxes was a trifle tiresome but when, sitting on my camping chair and reading my book under a tree, I looked up and saw an elephant walking through the camp site I felt the magic. These are not things that happen from the comfort of a lodge swimming pool.

Handsome Husband is convinced that he felt a trunk pressing through the thin walls of our tent and considering that in total we saw 6 elephants in our camp it is entirely possible. Or perhaps it was that last whisky by the camp fire?

On our first morning we crawled out of our tent at 6 am just as dawn was cracking through the clouds and went out on a pyjama safari. Since it was so early we were treated to a splendid animal showing. A tiny baby elephant still uncertain on his legs and cowering in the comfort of his mother’s trunk could be seen close to the path we drove on. Minutes later two cheeters, slinked past, the sun bouncing off their spots. We saw lions resting after a busy night hunting and a proud male lying beneath a tree surveying the view and his female pride walking below his lofty perch. We were the outsiders driving through their kingdom and I could have watched for hours.

When we got back to the camp for coffee and eggs cooked over an open fire we felt the thrill of being so close to wildness. And then we stopped to read, draw, chat and listen to the hot silence.

The drive to Watamu was long and hot and made slightly more painful by the hour we spent attending to the flat tire. But 6 hours later when we finally saw the sea we all whopped for joy and felt like mini heroes who had conquered the road.

The drive from start to finish took us through an extraordinary variety of landscapes, some lush and green, some hilly, some rocky and some dry and dusty. The coast was blisteringly hot, the palms were dusted with red dirt in places and only when we actually approached the beach did we feel the cool respite of a sea breeze.

At the end of this long road, non paved and thick with dust we had no idea what was in store. We expected a luxurious villa, complete with canapes by the pool for our New Year’s Eve dinner. We had high hopes of soft billowing mosquito nets in rooms over looking the sea, open showers and soft sand dipping into a turquoise sea. We were led to believe both by the gorgeous web site and the encouraging emails from the owner that we would be treated to a true 5 star experience. This would be the prize at the end of two days camping. This would be worth the many dollars we were spending on our three nights at the beach. This would literally be the golden pot at the end of the dusty road.

How wrong we were.

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Road trip stories

Well I am back and have survived the Let’s Cross Kenya in 11 days road trip. It will take more than one post to write about it, after all I did cross the breadth of Kenya, bathed in the Indian Ocean and then drove back to tell the tale. I am still processing it, feeling the weariness and sore bum of sitting in a car for endless hours. Having exhausted my ipod’s musical offerings, played I spy countless times and gripped the seat nervously through some hairy Kenyan roads I can safely say that I am ready to leave the long car trips on the shelf for some time.

In total we drove 2818 km. The longest drive was 12 hours, the shortest was 6. There were 4 cars in our little convoy and the battle wounds were mercifully few.

One flat tire, deep in Tsavo National Park. The boys leapt out of the car with glee and put their new sling shots to good use, shooting stones at giant termite hills.

One front left hand side light casing flew off into some trees, thankfully avoiding the injury it might have caused to a hapless passerby.

One episode of running out of gas in Nakuru National Park. Through some extraordinary good fortune disaster was avoided when a safari vehicle passed by and loaned some rope so that we could tow the unfortunate victims of optimistic gas usage.

None of the mishaps happened to our car. Our car was the Trooper Car of the trip, although we did have one scary near accident when, narrowly avoiding a truck left in the middle of the road we spun 180 degrees. There were some horrible flashbacks to the Flipped Car of 2009, but we quickly recovered, breathed in some dust and went on our merry but cautious way.

Road trips are an ordeal, an adventure, a brave undertaking, not for the faint hearted. Especially in Africa where anything can happen and often does. So I feel lucky to be back safe and sound and even luckier for the amazing sights seen along the way.

17 of us left Kampala before the sun rose on December 27th. We were 9 adults, the oldest being 72 and 8 children ranging from 6-15.  Our first stop was Naivasha where, with great relief we stiffly stepped out of our cars and were greeted by giraffes walking around the gardens of Sopa Lodge. The next morning with a guide to show us around we were fortunate to walk very closely beside these strange and glorious creatures. Oblivious to our presence, they just kept on chewing and looking for the choicest and highest leaf.

Naivasha was also where we climbed down into Hell’s Gate, so named by the Masai who witnessed the deaths of many by volcanic eruptions and tumbling rocks and then scrambled back up to Heaven where we gave thanks to a truly heavenly view. It was a good hike through a gorge that felt at once prehistoric and out of this world. It holds some fame for being the place where Lara Croft: Tomb Raider was filmed. Now I suppose I should see that movie, having never had the pleasure.

I made full use of the buffet and rain shower at Sopa Lodge, knowing that the next day we would be on the road for two nights of camping. Yes, me in a tent. Filled with some trepidation and a small petulant sulk I endured the 8 hour drive trying to set all princess tendencies aside and get into the spirit of camping. Tsavo has more elephants than any National Park in Kenya and within minutes of arriving we saw them; covered in red dust, tossing their trunks in the air with anger as we drove too quickly past, hoping to set up camp before nightfall.

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The end of the year and the start of a long road trip

Two weekends ago I danced on a bar stool and didn’t fall off. It was fun, and rare and since it was  the closing night of what was a fabulous panto, had such a sense of celebration and relief about it. It was a dancing tonic; so much so that now it is my New Year’s Resolution to go out and dance a whole lot more. It is necessary to get out more, feel alive and grab a bar stool to dance upon now and again. I certainly don’t do that enough. So with thoughts of New Year’s resolutions it is time to wrap up 3limes for 2010 and take a short break. Of course it is always tempting to look back on the year in a sort of Top 100 moments flashback series but I won’t. The few highlights that spring to mind start with the extraordinary New year’s eve of last year, spent camping on the Delta in Murchison Falls. Then more trips spring to mind; Lamu, London, Amsterdam. I have been a lucky girl travel wise this year. On the home front the pictures that make me remember and smile tend to involve the girls. Princess on stage in the Sound of Music, both girls as mice in this years Pantomime, Trooper on the soccer field giving it all she has, Princess as Veruca Salt, singing her little heart out despite the fever she was fighting. They are good, happy, thriving,

 

We are heading out on a Road Trip Through Kenya in a few days; in my mind it will be the Road Trip to End All Road Trips. 17 people, 4 cars, 2400km, 5 stops. I will return with a survival tale and photos. I promise.

 

Until then it is time for 3limes to take a little holiday, freshen up and come back more inspired and ready to see things in a new light.

 

Happy Holidays to all.

 

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A bit more Lamu

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Lamu photo journals


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To paradise and back.

The drive back from the airport was strange, surreal. The loud markets with meat hanging from hooks, the bars blaring the match of the day, the smog, dust and horns bursting from cars trapped in a jam and the crowds thronging our car hoping to sell air time and newspapers contrasted so sharply with the silent beach paradise where I had woken that morning. I felt strangely calm in this confusion. I had woken by the ocean where the bluest sky kissed the lapis sea, where the sand was baking hot. Now I was back in the land of bodas and sidewalk roasted meat. I was coming back to earth, slowly but surely but I was carrying the sea inside of me. We all were.

It was hard to believe that for 9 days I had been on the edge of the world.

Luxury is never over rated. I have just spent 9 days on a beach at the tip of Lamu island in the Indian Island and the entire time I was caressed in the lap of luxury.

Lamu is a small island off the coast of Kenya, with one car and plentiful donkeys. Most people chose to stay at the delightful Shela beach where the famous Peponi Hotel is located but we stayed further afar on a beach over 20 kms from Lamu town. Few people ever visit this corner of Lamu where the beach is deserted and we only needed to share our sunset walk with ghost crabs. If the beach was too hot we lay on swinging beds and read in the shade while the children leapt in and out of the pool. Our evening meal was caught by fishermen and brought to our kitchen, our chef made us a cake each day and served it with afternoon tea and the only dilemma I toyed with was whether to have two slices or three.

One sunset we climbed the dunes behind the house where cushions were laid on a mat and we sipped drinks over looking a 180 degree view of the Indian Ocean. After the children arrived, having climbed the sandy hills on donkeys,  Samburo warriors arrived to dance for us as the sun slowly slipped away. Our last night we ate under the stars while lobster caught that day was grilled on a fire by our fabulous chef. Once dinner was over we lay on cushions beside the fire and star gazed until, sleepy from the heat of the day we walked barefoot back to the house.

I am a lucky girl and my inner princess was satisfied greatly by the 9 days I spent on Lamu. Best of all I was with my London family and my children frolicked with cousins all day long. My sister, who is more princess than I, lay beside me for hours each day, laughing and gasping over our perfectly good fortune.

I feel restored by these days spent by the sea. I have washed away the dust of Kampala, for a time and have nurtured my family, my soul and my mind.

It was magical. I long to return.


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