Month: November 2013
Last view of Chania Falls before we leave Blue Post and Thika.
We drove uneventfully down the Thika Superhighway to Nairobi and reached our posh hotel (The Intercontinental). Having checked in and relaxed a little, we headed out to the Karen suburb of Nairobi to the Karen Blixen House, a museum to the famous Danish author of Out of Africa. (Traffic was awful, but we eventually got there).
You’re not allowed to take photos inside, but the grounds are also interesting. This is a Fordson tractor bought by Blixen in the 1920s.
Coffee beans – she tried to grow coffee here, but without much success.
Trees Karen brought from Durban, South Africa, in 1921.
A little bird on the agapanthus.
In the garden
Back of the house
Another bird in the hedge
Australian Flame Tree
Is it a tree, or is it a cactus?
Front of the house
After lunch we drive to Lang’ata following another strange load.
At teh Giraffe centre there are also wart hogs – with piglets.
Feeding the giraffes
Fourteen Falls on the Athi River
Above the falls
Oldonyo Sabuk NP entrance
Del Monte Pineapples
The nyama choma garden where we’d have sat last night had the power stayed on.
The view from the hotel roof.
We then set off on the road down the east side of Mount Kenya. Unlike the Nyeri-Nanyuki-Meru road, which climbs and falls in long sweeps, this road is quite twisty as it crossed the many rivers running off the mountain. Exposed to the monsoon rains, it’s lush and green, jungle meeting shambas.
We stopped at a stall to buy mangoes
One of the many rivers
Coffee growing on the hillside.
Amazing loads are transported on two wheels.
Tea growing on another hillside
We were lucky and got several glimpses of Mount Kenya, even seeing the snow near the summit.
At Embu the jungle and hills stopped, and gave way to flatter land where rice seems to be the main crop.
Another wide load
Drying rice in the sun
Selling rice by the roadside
Apart from overshooting the turn, we reached our hotel at Thika easily enough. Blue Post Hotel is famous (it is mentioned in Elspeth Huxley’s Flame Trees of Thika) and sits above Chania Falls.
Another stream tumbles into the Chania Rover.
Our room is towards the left of this block, looking over the grounds with glimpses of Chania Falls (and we can hear the water falling!)
A gospel choir are here making a video
The Thika Falls, on the Thika River, the rivers merge nearby.
Two sunbirds on a branch (one with its lunch)
An ibis (I think)
Looking up the Thika River
A banana flower
Many stately trees line the riverbanks
A monitor lizard taking the sun on the far bank
It’s quite jungle-like alongside the river.
And so, back to our suite for tea.
Start of the day at Treetops.
After a leisurely breakfast we were driven back to Outspan, getting a good view of Mount Kenya on the way.
We took tea and coffee on the terrace, waiting to meet the manager ( a friend of Joe’s)
We explored the flowers in the gardens.
Doing yesterday’s blog words
Sadly, the manager could not get away to see us and we had to hit the road. We had an easy and scenic drive through Nanyuki (crossing back into the North) around the west and north of Mount Kenya (lost in clouds). Not far before the road splits to Isiolo and Meru we stopped for lunch, watching a small plane spraying the crops.
Then the clouds descended and enveloped us/
And then on to Meru through pouring rain. We eventually found a hotel that seemed OK and checked in, and crossed the road to the museum. This had interesting information on the Meru people, local geography, and local animals.
Snake sleeping in tree
A kiimeru hut
The living Mugwe
The historic museum building.
We then walked to Nakumatt -and the heavens opened.
An umbrella – on a motorbike? (A previous motorbike had 5 people and an umbrella!)
Aganpanthus in the Outspan garden at breakfast.
Mount Kenya viewed from the terrace – digitally enhanced, but only to remove the haze (honest!)
Flowers on a huge cactus
An ibis at the KWS offices where we bought our tickets for the park.
A young buffalo
Nice yellow flowers
Big buffalo tries to hide
Salty rock – you can just see the marks where the animal scrape it with their teeth.
Heading up – the park is in three levels (tropical forest, bamboo, and moorland)
Out on the moorland
Despite the gloomy weather the vies were good
Something like a teasel
“Fur” hangs on the trees
The Chania river
A sole hill on the moorlands
The next fall –
Queen’s Cave below the falls
A female reed buck
Amos, our driver, named her “Imelda”
View from lunch
LEOPARD! (I know, it focused on the tree, but I don;t care!)
Buffalo on a hill
Water buck (female)
The whole herd
A sole elephant – like in Araboku Sokoke, we saw lots of evidence but few animals!
A big wart hog
Back at Treetops, a sole male elephant was eating the mineral-rich soil
A pair of hyenas (we saw several more in the night, chewing on a carcass, but the light was too low)
Looking over the water hole at night
And so to bed in the Queen’s bed! A night of luxury 🙂
Lucy joined us briefly as we ate breakfast to say farewell, then rushed off to class. We were soon on the road, heading south east, descending into the Rift Valley to Nakuru, crossing into the souhern hemisphere near Mogotio. The highway was reasonably clear and we had a good run. At Nakuru we stopped to buy food for lunch, then headed up the road north east towards Nyahururu.
The road was awful, but the views were good as we climbed.
This is a tea-growing area, and we stopped by Lasit Tea Farm to view the crop.
The rolling hills.
Opposite the tea factory
An interesting flowering plant (a.k.a. weed)
We were soon crossing into the northern hemisphere again at Subukia.
Either side of the sign
We climbed up the Laikipia Escarpment to a viewpoint above Subukia. The signs suggested we had another brief visit to the southern hemisphere, but I’m not sure (and haven’t checked the GPS logs yet). Anyway, the view back over the rift valley were spectacular, and the hawkers not too troublesome!
From here the road took us to Nyahururu. Soon afterwards, the road quality improved dramatically and we had a smooth drive almost to Nyeri, crossing back into the southern hemisphere on the way. We diverted from the Highway to climb to Christ the King Major Seminary to visit Gabriel, from Mivumoni, who is in his second year here. But this is not Gabriel, just a toad sheltering from the rain.
The refectory, where we took chai and lunch.
One of 3 chapels, this is Theology’s chapel I think.
View from the top of the seminary’s farm – they produce most of their own food.
Gabriel’s school, Philosophy.
Philosophy school’s Chapel
Cabbages – we’d seen huge cabbages being loaded into trucks and for sale by the roadside.
The staff building (common room and refectory)
And then, via a rather mucky murram road, we reached the highway and Nyeri town, and located Outspan Hotel, where we are checked in and relaxing ahead of dinner. It’s cool but pleasant (pwani people, read that as BARIDI SANA).
Lucy joined us for an even heartier breakfast than yesterday, then we drove into town to Sacred Heart Cathedral for 10:30 Mass.
The hearty breakfast was necessary, as Mass started late and lasted well over 2 hours. The cathedral is large and full of people.
A stunning tree in the cathedral garden.
The rear of the cathedral.
From church we searched and found the famous creamery – and a cheesy photo!
Milk here still arrives in churns
And is manually poured into the tanks
As we stood outside the creamery eating Ice Cream, a big bird few low overhead.
From there, via Naiva’s supermarket, to Poa Place (“Cool Place”) which has a number of facilities, including a museum / animal park. The starlings were lying on the grass roofs of the huts.
Inside one of the Kalenjin huts
Gourds used to ferment milk to make mursik (like yoghurt with herbs). Lucy’s description doesn’t make one want to try it!
A cluster of huts
The animals include tortoises
Small antelope (duijker)
Lucy is not a great fan of snakes!
The Pokot’s first wife’s hut
Then a picnic in the garden, a little stroll, and back to the hotel for chai and dinner.
After a good sleep, a healthy breakfast and picking Lucy up, we headed towards Iten on the edge of the rift valley. There were some pleasant views on the way (and some amazingly bad “tarmac” road).
Iten is where many of Kenya’s long distance runners come from, and we saw runners and cyclists in training.
The gardens have many lovely flowers
The views are spectacular, but hard to capture on a hazy day
Maybe a panorama does better
The escarpment drops to a flatter area, then drops again towards the valley floor.
A crocodile sculpture
And his smaller cousin
We went on to Iten town, which had a massive market where we bought some lunch items
Down on the terrace, looking back at the escarpment
Looking down into the valley
Tarok Falls – we could have hiked in to the falls, but it’s a half day trip
A kind of starling
At our lunch stop, swarms of ladies descended on us trying to sell us their produce, but we already had most of what we need (but we did buy 3 mangoes for 20/-, that’s about 5p each. Lucy loved the water.
Back near Iten
Then back to Eldoret for tea, then into town for dinner and football!
Today we went “on holiday” to visit the Kenyan highlands. A very early start to be at the airport by 06:30, then an easy flight to Nairobi, picked up our hire car, and we were off – into the Nairobi traffic jam.
Even though I’m used to Nairobi, there’s nothing you can do when the police are managing the traffic except take pictures of Maribou storks on lampposts.
Soon after leaving the city limits, the road becomes a single carriageway, with processions and manic overtaking the order of the day. There were stunning purple jacaranda trees along the road.
The mix of traffic was extensive!
After lunch in Nakuru there were more jacaranda trees, and more interesting sights on the road.
For my colleagues in Highways, this picture has to be captioned “Hey baby, you ain’t seen ruttin’ yet”.
Eventually we reached Eldoret and, after a few navigational challenges (until I realised I could use Google maps on my phone). Lucy welcomed us with gallons of hot tangawizi chai (ginger tea)
And now, having checked into our hotel (£25 B&B for 2, with secure parking) we are in Lucy’s little home and she is cooking while we try to stay awake after our long day!
For those who’ve been complaining about the Mombasa heat (Maggy), we’re here in long trousers and sweaters!
Today we joined Barnabas School for their end of school year Prize Giving.
Everyone gathered under the big mango tree
Parents were here early too
We seemed to be the guests of honour, Meld sitting with headteacher Harrison
Baby class line up to perform
Class 3 staged a play
Class 1 think
Some boys learn martial arts
Guests of Honour giving out the prizes
Staff watching proceedings
The parents got a briefing afterwards on uniform etc
Kwaherini until 2014!
Today was last day of term for the children (and staff) at Fumathoka school (next door) where Meld has been volunteering. Each class performed – Standard 1 talked about what they had learnt (quite impressive for age 7).
Other classes sang songs
There were prizes for the top results, most improved, best disciplined, cleanest, and they made us hand out some of the prizes!
Trying to look like we belonged in the important seats (the staff were all dressed in their finery)
The parents were there – but lots came late and missed their children being rewarded. Pwani time!
The standard 3 children were graduating from Lower Primary to Upper Primary.
Manny looks proud of his results
The church at Bomani sing the Gloria at Mass last Sunday:
Today Joyce and Mary were coming to teach us to cook pilau, Swahili style. But first, the pups needed a bigger enclosure.
Mary prepares the jiko, on which most cooking is done here (we have a gas cooker, but it’s more expensive to run than charcoal). And pilau, cooked properly, needs the jiko.
Joyce starts, pounding cumin, cinnamon and peppercorns with a pestle and mortar.
I was tasked to crush garlic to a paste with the pestle and mortar, adding tangawizi (ginger) too. Awesome smell = this is the way to prepare garlic!
Meanwhile Mary chopped tomatoes and Imelda chopped onions, then Joyce grated carrots onto the tomatoes.
Out on the jiko, nyama ya ng’ombe (beef) was boiling.
Now to cook the pilau: put a big sufuria on the jiko and add cooking oil. When hot, add the onions and stir from long range. When the onions are almost cooked, add the garlic and ginger paste.
Add the spices and meat and cook up.
Meanwhile, Meld and Mary picked over the rice.
Joyce added the tomatoes and carrots to the sufuria, covered and cooked until the tomatoes broke down.
Then she added water to the pot and boiled it up.
The rice, now washed, was added in handfuls to the soup in the sufuria.
The mix was covered and cooked for a while, then removed from the heat. Now comes the black art! The pot is covered with newspaper and the lid replaced. The hot charcoal is transferred from the jiko to the lid, and the whole lot is transferred back onto the jiko.
Gloria wears mum’s leso
Some time later, the heat has had its effect: the pilau has a crunchy top which is removed and discarded, and below is the sweetest pilau.
The pilau is served with kachumbari – a salad of sliced tomatoes, onions, cucumber, grated carrot, pili pili chillis and lemon juice.
Eunice took us to meet the Jahazi Okoa support group, women (both HIV positive and negative) who work together to support each other (and others in a similar situation). They make a number of products for sale both for themselves and as a group. Baskets from waste plastic bags (strong and malleable):
They meet under a tree at Kiembeni hospital, but have no premises from which to work communally.
Another product is Virgin Coconut Oil (VCO), which is produced from coconuts, but not even the water goes to waste.
Grinding Coconuts for oil
VCO has many uses and health benefits (see http://www.care2.com/greenliving/the-amazing-health-benefits-of-virgin-coconut-oil.html)
The ground coconut is pressed then left in the sun to distil.
A basket in action
Another products is Aloe Vera soap
Other products are washing up liquid and paper jewelry.
Another fairly early start to get to Kikambala for 9am Mass, although of course it didn’t start at 9! Today was a harambee (fund raiser) for the choir who were here in their finery.
After Mass, the youth group met under the trees
I then went with Joe to another outstation, Bomani, a small church with a lovely feel to it.
The Gloria being sung
Choirmaster and baby
The church from outside
After lunch at Kikambala, we walked down to North Coast to swim,, Meld and I, Jacob, John (from Mivumoni) and Gillian and Natasha from Kikambala.
The water was as warm as a hot bath – you stepped in and hesitated in case it was too hot!
John and I, waswahili
Relaxing after the swim
We like this spot: it’s relaxed, you can sit and drink overlooking the ocean, and it’s not far to walk back!
It was high tide and there were fewer birds than at low tide the other day (when I didn’t take my camera) but this chap strolled along the water’s edge.
An early (but not as early as planned!) start for a trip north to the coastal forest park of Araboku Sokoke. Various forest views…
Trees for seed stock
Butterflies on elephant dung
The road we followed looking for the tree house
Having failed to find the tree house we turned back, stopped at the swamp, and as we took this photo Meld saw the treehouse behind me!
Birds around the swamp
Up the tree house
More dug, more butterflies
After lunch we went to Gede Ruins, and were greeted by monkeys
The ruins of the Swahili town are impressive. A fig tree grows through one of the mosques
This morning Ed and i visited a school in Mtwapa where 3 children sponsored through CLP attend. We talked to the headteacher about their progress, and met the 3 girls concerned. The girls, in KG1, Std 2 and Std 3, seemed happy at school.
After the school we went to a nearby hairdressers (a school of hairdressing) where another girls was supposed to be training, supported through CLP. It transpired she not been attending. Greater enquiry revealed that her father had taken much of the money intended for her to buy materials. CLP generally pay fees direct to the school to avoid such issues, but it’s not always practicable.
Meanwhile, Meld did another day at Fumathoka following her 2 days at Barnabas school. I’m sure she’ll write something about it soon!
Ed and I visited Sahajanand Special School in Mtwapa. They have almost 500 students with varying disabilities (physical, mental, autistic, epilepsy).
They are building a new school nearby, to accommodate 1,000 disabled children. This is the toilet block, running along behind the new dormitories, spacious and easy to clean (and well finished)
Ed with one of the board who is supervising construction
The first building of the special school
Plates stacked in the kitchen wall
Kids dancing to music videos, and posing
A German volunteer, Lena
Back home, Jacob’s friend, Angela, showing us how to grate coconut
The coconut was used to make coconut milk,then to flavour coconut rice, to accompany my chicken stew.
Past the inviting pools
Tp the beach – low tide
Lot of birds in the shallow water
The sun was going down…
We were invite to supper with lay missioner Coralis
Who showed us her book on years supporting the poorest in Mombasa. You can get it on Amazon – buy it!
We went into town with Joe and Jacob, and visited Bertina at the Lwanga Communications office – and even got a picture of her this time.
We had a long chat, well overdue, before Joe picked us again and we went to Pizza Inn for lunch. We then went round to the railway station to book our tickets back from Nairobi. It’s sadly rather decrepit (both the station and the railway, which is why it takes so long – the buses are much faster and reliable, but the railway is an experience!)
In the afternoon, Meld and I went up to Barnabas school again. The children were outside playing, and the headteacher lined them all up under a huge mango tree.
Meld found another girl called Imelda! (in uniform)
Teachers discussing problem children!
The school caters particularly for the poorer children, and has a great ambience, but seeing a few desks, broken plastic chairs, etc, their funding issues are apparent.