Arriving in Nairobi

November 24, 2019 in Kenya ⋅ ☁️ 16 °C

Whooooooosh. Another sweaty plane journey. I’m in Africa now. Woohoo.

The plane arrived in Nairobi airport at 4:30am, about 15mins late. Unfortunately, it was dark so I didn’t get to see much. The main Nairobi airport burned down several years ago. Foe info, see here. We disembarked and went through passport control and immigration at a temporary structure. It was so different from the antiseptic European ones. 

I was glad I got a visa before I left home as there were no queues and I was through in a jiffy. Those who hadn’t, had to fill in a long form and then queue up to get it checked and have their passport stamped. 

None of the immigratiom officers wore uniforms and they were laid back and friendly. My passport was stamped. I was in! 

I’m tired now but will write more later.

Nairobi Smiles and First Miles 

November 24, 2019 in Kenya ⋅ ⛅ 15 °C

Day 0 (before official start of trip) Sunday 24 Nov

Once my passport was stamped and the immigration officer nodded to the luggage area, I walked into Kenta and the official start of my journey into Africa. I felt that old familiar sense of fierce excitement I get in the pit of my belly when I arrive in a new country. I wanted to jump up, punch the air and shout F***, YES. Of course I didn’t. I’m naturally, or rather unnaturally, a shy person and hate to draw attention to myself. But I felt it.

I waited to collect my bags and wondered what would happen if they didn’t turn up. But they did and I went out to the public area, hoping to get a cup of coffee and a sim card for my phone. But there was no concourse or even shops. The airport is temporary while the new one is being built and looked like a carpark in a shopping centre in a poor part of town. But it worked!

I knew that my trip included being picked up by a car and driven to the place where I was staying, Karen Camp, a resort/game reserve at the outskirts of Nairobi. I was hoping the driver would turn up. I was a bit bedraggled by the long journey that I really hadn’t a plan B, if he didn’t. However, he did. I went to where people were holding up cards and spotted an Oasis Overland one. I went up to the guy holding it and before I had time to introduce myself, he asked 

“are you Brian” 

“I am” sez I. 

I had half intended to use Tom, my middle name and travel name, but decided to stick with Brian, on the spur of the moment. 

“My name is Smiley” said your man “I’m your driver”

Then he smiled and I understood why he was called Smiley. He had an open dazzling smile and an infectious laugh. I immediately liked him enormously. He was a small man of about 50 and looked like he had known some hard times. 

The journey to the camp took about 30mins and we chatted and laughed about lots of different subjects. He was very knowledgeable and imparted lots of factoids about Nairobi and places we were passing. I didn’t get much of a sense of Africa as it was dark at the time and seemed like anywhere else, really, except the roads were a bit more knackered.

We got to the camp and I checked in and crashed out. But not before I made sure my mosquito net was well tucked in and fit for purpose. There were a few holes in it and I fixed these with my magic Gorilla tape.

I got up at around 9am and went to the reception desk where I met one of the guys on my trip. We chatted for a few hours and then I went back to bed. I did this intermittently during the day, chatting and napping and then went to bed at 7:30pm and slept until 7:30 the next morning

The Safari Starts

November 25, 2019 in Kenya ⋅ ☁️ 17 °C

Nairobi to Lake Naivasha, Kenya

First day on the road. We had a meeting with group leaders and the rest of the group. Gemma is the tour leader and Often is the driver and also a tour leader. Gemma is English and Often is Kenyan. They showed us the layout of the van and where everything was as well as some overlander etiquette. 

We left Karen Camp in Nairobi after breakfast and hit the road. Maybe I should say that the road hit us. The roads are diabolical and full of potholes. The weather in Kenya, as indeed in most of Africa is recently unpredictable. We are in the Short Rains Season where it should rain for about an hour or so each day and then be sunny. Instead, it rained torrentially for about a week with landslides and road closures all over the country. Our road was partially washed out and I think there were some detours as well. The traffic literally crawled along and there were lots of huge potholes. We eventually reached the blockage where a main part of the road was washed away and there was fast flowing reddish-brown water everywhere. One we got past this point, after a few hours, we could go much faster. 

Before we did this, we stopped at a shopping resort to buy some provisions. We also had time to change money, have a coffee etc. The level of security was very strong. The entrance to the centre had security with bag scanning etc and so did the entrance to the shops themselves. Lots of cops around. I rambled around and went to have a coffee with a few of the guys in the group, new friends, Scott and Sam. The coffeeshop was no different to what you would get in Dublin or London or Paris or Copenhagen with the exception that all of the staff were black and the vast majority of customers were white or pinkish-beige with brown spots on, like myself. The staff were intensely polite and very helpful.

As a citizen of a country which suffered greatly under colonisation and fought against the colonisers for hundreds of years, I was disturbed and distressed to notice this and to also to recognise that, because of the colour of my skin, I would be classified as kin of the colonisers. I certainly don’t feel white but then, I’m obviously not black. But then I remember the harm done to Africa by the catholic church and the mainly Irish missionaries who blinded the people by religion while the colonists robbed them blind. 

Anyway, I digress, must be an old guy thing.

We arrived at the campsite, a lovely resort type camping site on the shores of Lake Naivasha, a lovely freshwater lake renowned for its size and the variety of birds and its hippos. The grass was lush and different to what I expected in Africa.

Pitched our tents for our first night under canvas, had a meal and hit the sack.

Lake Naivasha

November 26, 2019 in Kenya ⋅ ☁️ 15 °C

Lake Naivasha is a freshwater lake in Kenya, outside the town of Naivasha in Nakuru County, which lies north west of Nairobi. It is part of the Great Rift Valley. The name derives from the local Maasai name Nai’posha, meaning “rough water” because of the sudden storms which can arise.

A washout would be a good description of this day. It rained like hell for the first few days

Lake Nakuru Game Reserve.

November 27, 2019 in Kenya ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C

I remember as a young boy when there were days that seemed almost perfect, endless, sunny and constantly enjoyable where space and time seem to have shifted into a different dimension. Today was one of those days. 

We had breakfast at 6:15am and departed at 7am in special 4 wheel drive minibuses with liftable roofs so we could stand up and see the wildlife and be safe. Our driver was the son of Often, the Oasis Overland team member who is generally referred to, by people who have travelled with him, as a legend. I can now agree wholeheartedly with that assessment. His son is shaping out that way too. An extremely friendly and competent young man with great knowledge of the animals of Kenya and East Africa. Although I’m only a few days in the country, I’m really impressed by the unfailing friendliness and warm-heartedness of the people I have met so far.

Lake Nakuru is one of the Rift Valley soda lakes at an elevation of 1,754 m (5,755 ft) above sea level. It lies to the south of Nakuru, in the rift valley of Kenya and is protected by Lake Nakuru National Park.

Nakuru means “Dust or Dusty Place” in the  Maasai  language. 

It took about 45mins to get to the reserve but this was interesting in its own right. It was a great chance to get a sense of Kenya and how the people looked and seemed to live. When we arrived at the park, we just drove around different paths chosen by our driver guides who communicated with each other on CB radio to share information about where animals were spotted. We stopped for lunch by a waterfall for about 30mins and then hit the road again until it began to get dark. We were almost constantly in motion with very many stops to view animals and take photos. Apart from lunch and a few other times where we were escorted by rangers armed with AK47 rifles, we never left the minibus. It would be too dangerous.

One eerie stop was a tourist facility where the lake had risen and the place was deserted

Here are the animals we spotted:

Nakuru animals

  • Buffalo
  • Hyena
  • Rhino white
  • Rhino black
  • Thompsons gazelle
  • Impala
  • Eland
  • Water buck
  • Giraffe
  • Zebra
  • Grass snake
  • Mozambique spitting cobra
  • Water python
  • Baboon
  • Vervet monkey
  • Colobus monkey
  • Maribou stork
  • Flamingo
  • Warthog
  • Rainbow lizard
  • Rock hirax
  • White egret
  • Pelican
  • Jackal
  • Hippo
  • Secretary bird
  • King Fishers
  • Ducks
  • Eagle

Eldoret, Kenya in the Rift Valley

November 28, 2019 in Kenya ⋅ ⛅ 18 °C

Eldoret is a principal city in the Rift Valley region of Kenya and the fifth largest in the country. It also serves as the capital of Uasin Gishu County. Lying south of the Cherangani Hills, the local elevation varies from about 2100 metres at the airport to more than 2700 metres in nearby areas . The population was 289,380 in the 2009 census and it is currently the fastest growing town in Kenya with over 400,000 inhabitants in 2019. We really didn’t do very much here except the pitch out tents, cook a meal and chill before going to bed early for an early-ish start the next morning.

The campsite was very lush and had an old fashioned air about it. When we arrived, we were met by the matriarch and her assistants who welcomed us to the campsite, explained some rules and invited us to have tea and buscuits. Charming.

The biggest hassle here is not the snakes, scorptions, spiders not the hippos, Lions and other predators. No, it’s my head. To be more correct, it’s my developing system of organising all my stuff into manageable packs. It’s currently underdeveloped! This man’s that I’m constantly looking for stuff or misplacing stuff. A right pain in the arse. I’ve lost nothing yet though; not even my temper. I remember from my last overland trip that it took a week or so to get a handle on organising possessions into day, night, camping and truck packs. I’ll soon be there!

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