We hit Kenya with full speed. I am a little hesitant about returning and my edginess shows. (Uganda has been so pleasant and free of the daily corruption that exists here.) Anyhow, immigration goes smoothly, but customs lags, waiting for the road tax cashier to return from his lunch. After a couple of hard-boiled eggs, 2:00 PM rolls around, fees are paid and our gas parched car heads for the place of our friend at the TOTAL petrol station, Joseph of Bugoma. We fill up, and Joseph, who is not scheduled to work, coincidentally shows up and exclaims, “I am very, very happy to see you! Very, very happy.” We are invited to his house where we meet Milka, his wife (I am not doubting), the kids, neighbors, etc. We are given many hard-boiled eggs for our journey to Kakamega. Later, we leave, headed for the rain forest. After a hard rain, we arrive to the beautiful indigenous virgin forest. We are invited by Nick, a Moi University Ornithologist student. We make him a spicy spaghetti dinner, watch the Dutch/Croatian finals of the world cup and doze off.
The next morning, I walk by myself though the forest, beautiful, tranquil, and mysterious. Thoughts about my future running through my head. A sign, pointing left tells of a high place lookout ahead. As I traverse the hill, my thoughts become clearer — Eric and I should start a business together. A view of the valley below reveals itself, as I feel content and satisfied of my progress today.
I return to find Greg and the Todd’s stirring. Nick is going to take us on his favorite hike. I eat oranges and we head down the road in Breakfast. After several K’s, the road becomes more steep. Greg and I are atop, dodging the vicious acacias and other sharp foliage. A right turn, and Todd hits a termite mound. I lose my balance and fall off the top of the car. I’m okay, laughter and we proceed. A nice hike takes us through dense forest where we hear Colobus Monkeys, blue monkeys, & red tailed monkeys. We walk by a river and head back to the car. My turn to drive after a brief shit we zoom down the road, destination unknown. It starts to rain and a sign in the middle of the road reads “accident ahead.” Three minutes later, no accident, I pass under an overpass and head up hill. Suddenly the back wheels slide. I let off the gas. They continue skidding. A car is headed toward us so I brake. Bad move. The car 360 and is headed for the steep bank. The onward car misses us and I am luckily able to maneuver the car onto a perpendicular road. “Is everyone okay?” Suddenly, I look through the fogged mirror and I see a jackknifed truck head right for us. “Reverse, reverse!” are Todd’s words of wisdom. But of course the car is stalled, but the slope of the hill lets us coast away from the hellbound truck. The driver straightens out and everything is okay. “Let’s go back to the orphanage.”
At the orphanage, no one is around, but Jane and Kip Keino. We eat a wonderful dinner and watch the world cup finals: France vs. Brazil. France wins and it rains, rains, rains. Goodnight.
We awaken, unsimultaneously. I thought I was the last to rise but Todd’s door is still closed and Nicole is inside. Hmm. I wonder what the Todd’s are up to? Greg has been productive this morning as he has filled our parched containers with Eldoret’s finest well water. A brief breakfast with Jane and we shoot down the road. I get gas at Shell — only 1000/- and Nicole gets annoyed-but she simply doesn’t want to talk about it; but I am driving and it is okay because every gas station is fucked anyway and Nicole needs to come to grips with that reality. We take a small road, that dips and winds, and then rises through the Kenyan highlands. B53 or something see very little traffic and the few scattered potholes let me glide by with ease. Almost two hours pass when we hit a short cut tipped off to us by a gas station attendant in some Bovine Town. Anyway, this road turns out to be the second worst road in Kenya, and after some passenger says it 100 KMs more to Bogoria, I have a brief meltdown. I pull over to ask another guy who wants a ride and get some discontent from the others, just adding more heat to my melting. Anyway, I have a right, as a driver, to ask for directions. Anyway, Nic doesn’t know. So the guy assures us it is not 100 KM but just 12 more so we give him a shotgun ride. I am still on fire, as my fast and sporadic driving reveals my mental state. Anyhow, 150 potholes later, we drop the saint, and suddenly, as quick as it ended, we hit smooth tarmac again. We buy a melon and some honey from a road side kid and merchants and hit the gate entrance to Bogoria. “That will be US $10 + $2 Camping + 200/- for the car.”
“What, we thought…”
After some lighthearted fun bargaining, we pay 500/- for all. And we zoom toward the lake of 1 million lesser flamingoes-a pink lake. We offroad to the shore and I chase flamingoes everywhere-hundreds of them flying about, fleeing from their tempted, yet truly helpless enemy-me. Silly birds. We never do make it to the official campground, so a nice bush camp½ way marks the spot. The sunsets to a nice bowl of rice stir fry. I make a bet with Nicole that it won’t rain. And I sit, hoping it won’t rain, too happy-or just tranquil to want to fight my way into our flailing tent. Goodnight.
Tap, tap. Tap, tap. “Greg, it’s raining!”
“So, how did you like that rain last night?”
“It wasn’t rain, it was very heavy mist.”
The drive to Nairobi proceeds smoothly, minus a crazy Matatu accident where they are dragging bodies and putting them into other available pickups. The try to put some bloody bodies in our car but Todd guns it. We arrive in Nairobi and I am not as thrilled as I thought I would be returning to the truck stop otherwise known as Upper Hill Campground. But then two familiar faces run up — Maxine & Max — and my have they grown big from such little puppies. One beer later and we are on our way down the hill, and after sharing a grill cooked corn, we enter Nairobi central. We are discouraged to find that the exchange rate has dipped Ksh 3 to the dollar. A quick fish & chips and passion fruit juice and we are on our way to the weekly Tuesday Masai market (actually a bunch of local Nairobians selling African souvenir to tourists. Hundreds of people, hundreds of things. Well, I sucker out and buy the nicest boutique on the lot, a strand of jobsters, some nice serving spoon for my mom, and a new friend, my malachite egg.
Today nothing special really happened. After wandering around downtown Nairobi aimlessly, I lose my patience and walk back to Upper Hill alone. I must admit I felt a little uneasy walking back through Uhuru Park solo (due to its reputation as a theives’ haven) but no problems. I am such a sketcher sometimes, but then again, they don’t call it “Ni-robbery” for nothing. Nicole leaves tonight so I start drinking and Todd does too when he returns from the airport. Thank gosh we are leaving tomorrow is a later thought amongst the drunken slurs of overlanders at this camp on a hill.back to top
This segment involves the journey to the hot, dry lowlands of southern Kenya, to the Lake Magadi region. After a nice breakfast at “Hilltop Restuarant” of the usual—tomato and onion spinach scramble-we start the car and proceed to the largest Nakumatt—Nakumatt Mega. Greg stays in the car (his first mistake of the day.) Well, 27 aisles later, with Kate seemingly quite incommunicablee, we emerge from ex-pat heaven with a bill exceeding 10,000/-! ($166.00 US) Wew! We pack the car, while being bombarded by men selling Lingale Greatest Hits Vol. 4 and we are outta here.
Heading South, trying to find the Magadi Road, we are accosted by a roadside cop asking us “what our cargo is?” It was our first cop experience, and of course, since I had just purchased my first African spliff, it had to happen at this exact moment. Just my luck. Nothing major happens and we are waved on. Three Total gas stations later and we are winding down the never ending curves of Lake Magadi Road. The pedestrians and passerby’s are getting more and more decked out in their Masai drab. For some reason, I start to get pissed off at this point. I am not sure if it has anything to do with my stomach rumbles, increasing heat, or increasing impatience with Kenya, but my temper flares when we “pull over” and Greg gets in my way of a frantic search for some Kenyans Mixed Nuts. “Fuck you.” is the ultimate ending. My mood worsens as we round the barren, cried up soda Lake Magadi. I start to get more happy as we drive beyond the lake, past mud huts into Masai shepherd grasslands. We spot several zebra and our first (I think) hartebeest. Our journey culminates as we find the night’s campsite atop of a flat knoll overlooking the lake and opposite the soda factory.
We crack a bottle of wine and enjoy the challah like bread with Gouda and wine (so sophisticated.) Todd grills up the ostrich and chicken sausage. Greg mixes up some psuedo-guac the dregs of which he hands to me-only later to be tossed in the fire. I use the purchase of the day: our new wok-and stir up some fry: mushrooms, baby corn, onions, garlic, and collards with ginger and the final drop of red wine and soy sauce. I love my $5 Ethiopian special (stove) and our new wok. We drink some nasty warm pilsner and fall asleep on my new china mat, exposed to the elements under a partially cloudy African sky.
I have woken up to the sun rising stirs of Greg passing about. I open my eyes and a pebble mysteriously hits the retina of my right eye, scratching it in a painful bit. I decide it is way too early and go back to sleep.
Two hours later I am the last one up… so I decide to sleep longer, since I am already the last one to wake I might as well sleep a bit longer, but finally stumble out of bed. Kate is giving Todd a chapati making lesson and Greg continues to pace about. I decide that it is Brian time, so I read the Kenya history section of the Lonely Planet East Africa. A seem to get burnt on reading at the same place I stopped the last time I read the same section, interestingly enough it is where Kenya, in the 80’s and 90’s, is falling apart. Oh well. We eat more eggs. Hello cholesterol problems, pack up and drive back the way we came—the long way around the lake (long/scenic). We hit Magadi town and this where the adventure begins for me. I, in my search for a cold soda, encourage Todd over to the center of town, where there are fifty Masai people all decked out. We drink, I buy more collard greens, and ultimately succumb to the purchase of a beautiful Masai blanket (which I am now leaning on while writing this). We bail and begin the ascent back up to higher ground. Our goal—the Amboseli National Park.
On the way, while passing numerous tribespeople, Todd notions to the new engine noise—a high-rev clicking sound.
“Oh no. Blown engine!” is all that flashes through my head. Panic sets. Brian, straighten yourself out man. Think: “I am not worried; I am a bit concerned.” I wonder what the car’s new chuckles are all about. The noise is letting my mind run rampant. “The car is history! All my travel money will have to go pay for and I will have to go home. This is it—it’s over.” The sudden threat of premature departure pricks my body like stepping barefoot on an acacia thorn. Yet, at the same time,my love for Africa reaches a new high. I don’t ever want to leave this place. So I begin planning for my next trip (to the West) since this trip is going to be cut short. Maybe I am just tripping, but oh well, we’ll see. (At least I am going to make it to Yemen.)
Todd hesitantly pulls Breakfast over to let her rest a bit. We then continue on. The group decides to abort mission to Amboseli and instead head to cold, dreary, unsafe Nairobi thinking it wiser to perform a maintenance check than venture into the wild. (July in Nairobi is the wet and cold time of year.) Interestingly, though, as our altitude increases and as it becomes colder, the noises cease and the car becomes quiet and happy again—thank the heavens.
We make it back to the Upper Hill Campground in relative harmony and fall asleep.back to top
“I’m happy to say, I’m on my way, won’t be back for many a day.” This song rings through my mind as we head out of Nairobi for what I think will be our final time (for a long time). The noise in Breakfast has vanished and we are now officially on our way to Amboseli. A quick single egg and toast and toast with hashbrowns and we speed down the Mombassa Road. Several loops later we are headed toward Tanzania. (Amboseli bordering the Kenyan side of the two countries.) The road is beautiful. A nice contrast to the rest of the degrading Kenyan highway system. We reach the border and then head West on the Kenya side. Suddenly our hopes of smooth ridings are destroyed by a treacherous 71 K’s of utter hell. The road to the park begins and is shite. We finally do make it, thanks to Todd’s heroic efforts, and there doesn’t seem to be any animals, nor the classic Mt. Kilimanjaro backdrop. But suddenly, on the horizon, what’s that? A hyena (our first.) And then outta the blue, or gray is more like it, 30 big dots on the horizon… could they, are they? They are! Our first wild elephant encounter. Kate, more excited about previous donkey and HP Sauce sightings, just relaxes, but I am absolutely thrilled at the spectacle of seeing these giants. It finally gets dark and we get lost, but luckily, to our rescue, comes an ambitious Masai entrepreneur who shows us the way, sets up our camp, has dinner, and leaves with Kate’s fags, my pumus stone, and a few of Greg’s bits including his watch. I sit by the fire and write, relax, and then close does off. Zzzz.
Today was the most beautiful day. We rose, and our Masai friend was already back to greet us. Shantico, I think is his name, and he is busily folding and packing up our stuff while asking for tip assistance. Of course, we are reluctant to give him any, because we think he made off with Greg’s watch and torch. We eventually leave our friend and drive and see a lot of Masai folks and dust and suddenly we are in greener pasture and literally hundreds of zebra are passing by. Also, there are many gazelle, wildebeests, elephants, and one silly hippo who thinks he is an elephant. The highlight of the day comes when in the distance I spot what appears to be a mass herd of elephants. We are able to drive in between a herd of sixty elephants. They are all over, crossing the road in front of us, mother, baby, elders, and teenagers. There is one mud beast off to the right dumping mud all over himself, birds frolicking beneath the big guy. Two age-mates are tusking it out, and one does the legendary elephant sound. (Our first trumpet.) It is beautifully breathtaking. We stay with them for over an hour lodged in the middle of their group. They surround us and live life, oblivious to our fascinated stares. We later learn how dangerous it is to be surrounded by elephants, and in most areas of Africa is would have been suicide, but these elephants have been studies for years, and feel comfortable around humans.
We leave Amboseli completely satisfied and head for the customs where we pay $50 US for a Tanzania entry stamp. Looks like this is going to be an expensive one. We pass immigration and customs, but are delayed because Greg misplaces all the student cards, and momentarily loses his ability to speak, or function for that matter. He calms down, we locate our documents, pass into Tanzania, and are on our way to a grueling 100 K drive to Arusha. We arrive tired and hungry and feast intently on pizza and Safari Lager. What a day.
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