Kenya – diary 2010-06-19 to 2010-06-29

2010-06-19 to 2010-06-29

Our time in Kenya was short but enjoyable, unfortunately Kirk and I have come to loath the hustle and bustle that big cities and major tourist attractions attract and with Kenya being marketed as a top safari destination for overseas travellers we were not going to be able to escape it.

We entered Kenya through the Malaba border post which was a main commercial port and full of trucks. Being a no-commercial vehicle we managed to speed our way through and for once we did not have to pay anything at customs or at immigration. South Africans get a free 30 day visa, courtesy of our old father Madiba, and foreign registered vehicles that are non commercial get free use of the roads. We were on our way but had to take it easy as the tar road had been severely rutted from the incessant use by the commercial trucks. Eldoret was our first stop of the day where we had a taste of our first Naukamatt Supermarket where we just couldn’t resist a quick browse. Being South African we always like to praise things that originate from home; Shoprite is one of those places that we are proud to call ‘South African’ but I am sorry to say that Naukamatt kicks Shoprite in all areas. We were in shopper’s heaven. The isles were packed with local and imported goodies at affordable prices and the most impressive isle was the dairy refrigerator. There was a huge selection and assortment of yoghurts, cheeses and milk products all produced in Kenya. After our fix of shopping we drove towards Lake Bogoria National Reserve. The drive was breathtaking as we headed up the escarpment to 2000m where we had sweeping views of the Kerio Valley, which make up the Great Rift Valley, as well as various different lakes and rivers. We eventually arrived at our destination just after 3pm where we enquired about the entry fees…$80 to visit a reserve that is a mere 107km2. We were interested in visiting this particular reserve as it had hot springs and geysers that were unique to this part of the Rift Valley and was a god indication of the geothermal activity taking place beneath the earth’s surface. After much negotiation and bargaining the warden allowed entry after paying residents’ fee…a huge discount. We drove slowly through the reserve and got our first glimpse of what they call the ‘Jewel of the Rift Valley’. Lake Bogoria is a shallow soda lake covering an area of 34kmwith a maximum depth of 9m. In recent years the lake achieved much fame as it became home to thousands and thousands of migrant pink flamingos who settled at this lake after their initial home, Lake Nakuru, suffered from a terrible drought. Lake Nakuru has since recovered from its ordeal but Bogoria is still the colour of pink as it is still in favour with the Lesser Flamingo that feed on the blue green algae commonly known as Spirullina. The eastern wall of the Rift Valley provided a picturesque backdrop to the contrast of colours from the grassland into the lake with a subtle pink outline. The main attraction, as I said before, was the modest hot springs and geysers. The water was piping hot and due to the influx of tourist was quite disappointing in that there was an enormous amount of litter spread throughout the hot spring area. People visit the reserve and think it a novelty to boil eggs and corn on the cob in the hot water springs; they then leave the egg shells, corn leaves and cobs lying on the ground forgetting that this is supposed to be a place of natural beauty. We were truly disappointed that Kenyan Wildlife Services had not yet put a stop to these ludicrous actions. We found our campsite for the evening under some enormous fig trees that provided so shelter from the rain. Kirk proceeded to make a fire so that we could have some dinner and we found our way into bed earlier than normal as the baboons were hiding in the bushes barking at each other and the rain had made us wet and damp and there was no shelter to sit under.

We were eager to get to the coast so that we could soak up the sun and enjoy the Kenyan coastline and so decided to push through to Nairobi and skip out any other National Parks. The 1st 80km were on severely eroded dirt roads that took us through rural villages where pastoral farming was the name of the game. The surrounding grazing plains did not look too promising as they were too severely eroded and barley harbouring any vegetation at all. As we moved away from the grazing areas we came upon this sizable Sisal plantation which stretched as far as the eye could see. At first we were uncertain what the cactus like plants were and thought them to be Aloe plants but were later told that they were the excellent cash crop of Sisal which is used to make rope, mats, baskets etc. We eventually emerged from this farming land onto a beautifully tarred road, the B4, which took us back into the Rift Mountains giving us panoramic views of Hells Gate National Park as well as several lakes. We climbed and climbed and climbed in altitude until we reached the High Altitude Running Club, home to all of those Olympic long distance runners. The viewpoints were impressive and we felt as though we were on top of the world. As we neared Nairobi the landscape changed from undulating hills and craggy mountains to concrete buildings and industry. Kenya was developed and built up showing signs of commerce and industry which was a change from the rest of 3rd world Africa. We arrived in Nairobi and navigated our way through the suburbs to find Jungle Junction where we spent the next 3 days.

Nairobi was a huge surprise to us. It was exceptionally developed and the only thing we had trouble with was deciding which shopping mall to visit and which Nakumatt to shop at. We did tend to do a few touristy things such as visit the Langata Giraffe Centre where they have a Rothschild Giraffe breeding programme. The giraffes are very tame and eat out of your hand as well as give you big sloppy kisses if you place the food pellet in your mouth and offer it to them.

We also visited the David Shedricks Animal orphanage where they work at rearing orphaned baby elephants and reintroducing them into the wild. These gentle giants were just too beautiful. They ranged from 3 months old to 18 months old and were very used to human contact. They came into the cordoned off area and charged for their bottles of milk. When those were finished they enjoyed a bit of social time which included a lot of bundles, spraying red soil on their heads and interacting with the visitors. It was a lovely experience and very cool to be up close and personal with these beautiful creatures.

Whilst in Nairobi, Kirk spotted a 1985 HJ47 Toyota Landcruiser at a second hand car dealer which he was seriously eying out. He was toying with the idea of buying it and driving it back to South Africa but with me being the voice of reason he decided to hold back, although it was constantly playing on his mind. On our last night in Nairobi we enjoyed a dinner at the Fernando’s home, South African ex pats, who live in Karen, a lovely residential suburb in Nairoboi.  We were treated to a wonderful dinner and the Bafana Bafana victory over France. 

We departed the following morning bound for Mombasa and the coastline. The drive took us along a road that divided Tsavo East and West National Park where zebra were seen grazing on the grass that lay right beside the highway. As we descended towards the coast the weather became warmer and warmer. It was a long drive that covered a fair amount of kilometres but we arrived in Mombasa in time to catch a ferry that would take us south of the city. Hundreds and hundreds of foot passengers waited patiently to boards the car ferry and when the cars and people were packed like sardines we eventually set sail and crossed the 100m section of harbour.

We arrived at Twiga Lodge on Tiwi Beach just before sunset and honed in on the restaurant to fix us some dinner as the long day of driving had left us drained and exhausted. We enjoyed a long lie in the following morning and when we eventually rose from our boudoir we were pleasantly surprised at what Tiwi Beach had to offer. Low tide revealed a huge reef that stretched from the shoreline to 100meteres and beyond. We took a long walk down the beach towards some rocky coves where we picked up shells and cowries that had washed up onto the sand. May, June and July are the monsoon months so rains were going to be plentiful and we experienced the full wrath of the torrential downpours which were intermittent with bright sunny spells of yellow sunshine. We thoroughly chilled out on the beach and enjoyed long walks that included massive cowry hunts. We found these coves which were full of empty cowry shells. If they still used these magnificent shells as money today we would have been very wealthy people. The beautiful thing about Twiga beach was that the vegetable and fish sellers would come to us in the morning and offer us their merchandise. This was often very cheap and of an excellent quality. We ordered a fresh red snapper and ½ a kg of prawns from one of the old fishermen and true to his word he delivered a beautiful sized fresh fish that afternoon along with some rather sad looking shrimps. Kirk and I enjoyed a delicious fish braai with savoury rice and garlic prawns.

After spending 3 nights at Tiwi beach we decided to head up the coast to a place called Malindi, which supposedly had a strong historical Swahili presence as well as a huge Italian influence as this was the place that Italian mafia came to holiday. En-route we stopped in at the Gede Ruins which are one of the principal historical monuments of the coast. Hidden amongst the forest were a series of broken down houses, palaces and mosques. Some were in better condition that others and you could actually walk amongst the walls that were still erect and envisage the daily on-goings of this Swahili city. It has been recorded that Gede was established and actively trading by the 13th century as excavations have revealed Chinese porcelain and glass glazed earthenware that originated from Persia as well as other artefacts. The ruins were very atmospheric and we felt as if we had the place to ourselves as we explored the outer city walls and peered precariously down the deep wells.

After a little historic visit we continued to Malindi only to be disappointed by the extremities of the development that had taken place. The town itself was quite charming in that we sensed a true Swahili influence but as we explored the coastal section we were disillusioned by the fact that big hotel chains had dominated the coast and beach access was pretty limited. We had been spoilt by the beach at Tiwi Beach and were basing our expectations on that. We did a quick u-turn and drove back south to try and salvage our day tip and find an alternative place to camp for the evening. We stopped in at an eco lodge called Mida Community Camp which showed good promise in lines of what can be done so as not to destroy the ambience of the natural surroundings. The accommodation options were a little bit out of our budget and their camping facilities didn’t allow access for vehicles into the enclosed area so we decided to head back to our trusty Twiga Lodge.

Our decision to return to old faithful didn’t disappoint us. The weather had improved and we woke to blue sunny skies and what appeared to be a rainy free days ahead. Kirk and I took to the snorkelling pools where we found dozens of pumpkin shells (dead sea urchins) as well as a beautiful live cowry that had a shiny leopard coloured shell. We spent the next 2 days at Tiwi beach where we took a walk to Diani, a huge resort town that was over run by huge holiday resorts and many beach boys who tried their utmost to sell us curios, boat trip snorkelling trip or beach sand. We couldn’t escape fast enough and felt irritated that we couldn’t just take a stroll down the beach without being hounded every 5 minutes. The time had come for us to leave Tiwi beach and continue our journey south and explore some other parts of the Kenyan coastline. Shimoni was the next stop on our itinerary as it was the launching pad for all trips to Wasini Island and Kisite Marine National Park where we were hoping to do some diving. Upon arrival in the town of Shimoni we were pursued by 5 men on foot, who ran for at least 1 km, trying to sell us boat trips to the island. It was the low season and business had obviously been bad but to be hounded by these insistent ‘beach boys’ as they are affectionately known was just the last straw. We hadn’t even been given the opportunity to enquire about park fees and already we were being hassled. That made up our mind and we legged it out of there as fast as we could. It was still relatively early in the day and so we decided to head to the Kenyan/Tanzanian border where we could hopefully find a quiet beach somewhere and not be pestered by salesmen. We had saved some Kenyan Shillings to pay for accommodation for one night and so had to find something to spend it on. We popped into the local village called Lunga Lunga which was the last stop before we crossed the border and enquired about where we could find some Kikoi and Masai blankets and were directed to the town centre where they had ladies selling all kinds of materials and the merchandise we were looking for. For the 1st time since being in Kenya we were not ripped off. The ladies gave a fair price for the blankets and didn’t inflate the price because we were mzungus. We enjoyed a huge omelette chapatti as well as some battered potatoes from the local restaurant and reminded ourselves that this was the Africa that we came to visit! You can become so easily side tracked and lose the essence of what it is that you are looking for.

Tiwi Beach was definitely a highlight of our stay in Kenya as well as the days in Nairobi. It is always nice to experience a little bit of civilization during our travels of Africa and Nairobi was definitely the most developed 3rd world country we had visited.

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3 Responses to “Kenya – diary 2010-06-19 to 2010-06-29”

  • shane mc Says:

    What a winner place and the pics you have are amazing – Serg and family love hosting people and he said they really enjoyed having you there. He said he felt it the next morning though

    Cheers guys and keep well

  • Karel STROEBEL Says:

    Ah, we are reliving our experience through your eyes. I understand the emotion and frustration you feel.

  • Shamir Says:

    I expected a picture of Kirk tonguing a Giraffe and you didn’t disappoint.

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