A Travellerspoint blog


At long last

sunny 80 °F

Happy Post-Christmas all,

SO! For those who are still choosing to spend your valuable time reading this nonsense, let's get back to it.

I had finally decided to pick up stakes at Naivasha and move on to Nakuru. Once again, Lake Naivasha and Fisherman's Camp are beautiful places with more wildlife than you can shake a lens at and I highly recommend.
The drive to Nakuru was uneventful save for a savvy English speaking single mom next to me who received no small amount of amusement from the constant overt attention a white man gets while riding in a matatu. She got a good laugh when she learned a man had asked to buy him a soda and, having no small change, I gave him 200 expecting the left overs. Not only did I not get the left overs, he actually came back few minutes later and said "you bought me a soda! HAHAHAHAhahahaha"...and left. Two dollars is a small price to pay to have learned the "buy me a soda" scam...and to always have small change...lol

When I arrived in Nakuru I found all my hotels and hostels of choice were booked up. This is not uncommon during the holiday season in countries where the locals are able to travel as well as foreigners. Kenya is one of these. The receptionist at one was very helpful though and called me a mototaxi to take me around until we found a place. I ended up at the WaterBuck, a high end destination for middle and upper-class Kenyans it seems.
I was the scruffiest looking person there and I hope I did not take anything away from anyone's family vacation ;-) There was a pool, a swanky bar, loads of helpful security staff, an excellent restaurant and the bathroom was bigger than the bedroom. I didn't know what to do with myself. All this for $57 a night. Motel 6 prices. Not quite the highest I've ever paid for a room while traveling (London still takes the cake at 86 pounds) but close.
I befriended a night guard named Florence after she found me lost twice in the space of two hours and helped me back to my room. As I've mentioned to others, you can put me in the middle of a square mile winding market or the nonsense streets of Varanasi and I'll always find my way, but I'm like Marcus when it comes to easy things; I'd get lost in my own museum.

Last-last Sunday I walked around looking for a tour company to take me to Lake Nakuru NP. Pega Tours was in the Lonely Planted so I started, and ended, there. The company is owned and run by a man named Peter Getere, a non-stop businessman always looking for new connections. He set me up with a tour of Nakuru NP on Monday and talked me in to a three day safari in Masai Mara Wed-Fri. After learning where I was staying and that I was a backpacker he also offered up his home (he has an AirBnB) for 2000 a night, saving me over half. This included dinner and breakfast with his family (Irene, Rachel, Marvin, Kim,Kevin, Ian, T.J., and the housekeeper Esther) and a bed in a dorm, bathroom attached.

--side note--As I write now from the rooftop of my new guesthouse in Kisumu, with a view of Lake Victoria, the 1:00 prayers have started wafting over from a speaker at the mosque in town. Islam is the only religion I know of that can rather force a surrounding area to listen to benedictions, but I love it. It's just so authentic and otherwordly a sound. I kind of wish they were allowed to do so in the states but then I remember 5am prayers as well and waffle on the subject ;-)

Anyhoo, the price of admission to Lake Nakuru is normally $80, payable in dollars or shillings, but it was lowered for the Christmas season to $60. Yay! That never happens. I opted for the Monday full-day tour from 6:30 to 6:30 for $50. Normally I would have had up to six other people in the pop-top van but I lucked out and went solo. Yay again! Just me and James the driver/guide. As a money saving tip, pack your own lunch on this tour. The lodge they stop at mid-day is very expensive if they are not serving buffet. Which they weren't. I asked James to lunch with me (fairly unheard of I guess and he was kindly chided by the serving staff for sitting with the tourists) and the total bill was $60 for both. More than the tour...lol
What made it all worth is was a baboon event. We were sitting in an attached covered area outside enjoying the four-course meal when, within the space of maybe eight seconds, a large baboon slid down the post supporting the awning, jumped atop the table next to us, stuffed a bread roll in his mouth, grabbed another to go (to the screams of the original female owner), leapt down, three wheeled it to a table two to the right of us, repeated the process (to the screams of the original male owner), and bolted over the short wall separating us from nature. I just started breaking up laughing. It was an amazing snatch-and-grab operation and obviously had been planned. The execution was flawless...lol
My laughing seemed to let James know that it was okay to laugh and the blatantly stunned looks of the victims slowly gave way to nervous titters.
All this right in front of a sign that said "Please do not feed the baboons".
The waitress came to the first table and asked if they would like more bread. "Oh no! I think we're fine thank you!"... It was great.

You'll see the rest of the day in pictures for the most part. I don't know how many I will post given that all the animals, save the rhino's, were seen again in Masai Mara. If anyone looks the place up you'll need to subtract the Flamingos. Due to water levels rising over the last three-five years the shoreline they used to flock to is now submerged, including the original main entrance to the park. Thus the dead Acacia trees in the photos. Lake Nakuru is alkaline btw. So all the Flamingos have headed to Lake Bagoria. Much to the sadness of those in Nakuru who grew up with them and those who's livelihoods depended on tourists wanting to see them.

That night was spent back at the Waterbuck as I had already paid. I saw Florence one more time and gave her a Christmas tip and my pair of reading glasses. These seem to be hard to get here and, according to her, require an expensive prescription so forget the pens and candy if you come here. Just stock up on dollar store reading glasses of various strengths and you'll be a hero to many. She left very suddenly so I think she was either about to cry or she thought I was wanting something nefarious in return and was uncomfortable. I certainly hope it was the former.

I'll give everyone a break and continue with Masai Mara in the next installment.


Posted by sbinnell 13:12 Archived in Kenya Tagged nakuru Comments (0)

Hell and Heaven

Both are hot turns out.

The next day was off to Hell's Gate National Park. (Not just for Idahoans.)

The camp hires out scrappy mountain bikes for 700ksh a day so I took advantage of this over a guided bus. The entrance was supposed to be about 3 clicks down the road but I duly missed the sign and proceeded past it for about a half hour. You know Kenyan distances, 3km could be 20, I don't know. I finally asked farm gate attendant where on earth I was. She smiled and pointed back the other way, as I'd figured. The sign only faces one way you see...lol So I have that excuse. A ranger is stationed at the gate there and said he'd called to me but I didn't answer. I told him I didn't hear him. "Well I see you are a man who gets lost so let me get you a guide for Hell." "No no", I said, "I must do this alone. Just me and my bike. If I'm not back in four hours come get my body."

Another 2 clicks up a dusty bumpy road (just assume the rest of the trip that day was bumpy and dusty) is the real gate for ticketing and a wee gift shop with snacks, as I'd hoped. I'd brought no water or food. At the gate there was an irate German woman demanding her money back as her rented bike had broken down 5k in and she had to walk back. I had a talk with my bike after this and we came to an understanding.
After purchasing a small (should have gotten large) bottle of water and some peanuts I was off.

What a great experience to start. Just me and a bike immediately surrounded by striking landscapes, zebras, boars, buffalo. No limitations of a car or a guide. The park assures you that if you get injured by an animal you can sign a form and they will compensate your medical costs within the space of one to two months so really, what's to worry about.
I did not take a bunch of animal pictures. You folks have already seen zebras and buffalo but there are a couple in there. I mostly just enjoyed the ride.
About 6 clicks in, if you take the Gorge Road you come to a ranger station that offers self or guided tours of a sort of flood canyon. I opted for the hour and a half guided walk for once. I'm glad I did. My guide Peter (Masai name Lonana) was a hoot and when we got to the lip of the gorge where one climbs down to start he said "welcome to the Hell." You'll see him in a couple pics but I don't know that I'm posting one with his face come to think of it. Anyway he was very informative about the geology and the politics of the area.
Apparently this whole big region used to be a lot higher and sort of dome shaped. Then three plates decided to get together and all hell broke loose. Lake Naivasha, Nakuru and a few others used to be all one lake but the land caved in dramatically and they separated. Naivasha is fresh water and the rest, as I've been told, are alkaline.
Three volcanoes went off some time ago and the walls of the gorge are the deposits of that fallout. That's a lot of fallout. There are pumice rocks everywhere and obsidian littering the floor (yes Heidi I got you a piece of obsidian). It's just amazing walking through the area. Pictures don't do it justice. I've always wanted to walk through something like that but never made it to the areas in the U.S. Still time of course.
Oh, and for you Tomb Raider fans, apparently parts of Tomb Raider 2 were filmed here. I'd have to go back and watch again. There are still rock climbers anchors in spots where Laura had to do some stunts. At least this is what I saw and was told. I'll leave it to you for verification.
At one point Mr Masai asked if I wanted to detour into the bush. W'duh dude....yah. He said all I needed to do was climb a bit and pointed at a rather intimidating do-not-climb-me section of wall. I was, of course, in my flip flops. He looked at them and gave me a questioning look. I but the nice camera back in the pack, strapped up, got my bare pigs out and said "let's do this Pete." It was fun! Scary fun but fun. Things they don't let you do on guided tours in the U.S. No, it wasn't all that high...only enough break or sprain something given a fall but it impressed the next group that came along. Peter purposely waited for them so he could gloat you see ;-)
So we ambled through the bush, which consists of many small "bushy" trees with evil looking fruit that have massive thorns coming out of them much like the bark on an Acacia tree. We happened upon a small gathering of Zebras amidst the trees and Peter promptly hooted and scared them off while I was getting my camera out. "Lonana, we don't have zebras where I come from! I know they're like rats to you but if you could give me a minute before you scatter them I'd appreciate it"...lol
We had a good vantage point above the gorge to see the geo-industrial goings on. They're building many small steam turbines in the area, much to the demise of the local Masai. In all directions you can see spouts of excess steam shooting up. The benefit is electricity but other than that the locals see no remuneration or promised compensation for the land usage. Same same everywhere.

There are three very distinct rock towers around the gorge. I assume they were pushed up during the volcanic activity. The Masai have a story about them. There was a Masai girl recently married. When a girl marries she is to carry a container of oil from her parents' village to her new husband's village, looking straight ahead, never turning back. Once she arrives she is free to do as she likes but the ritual must be adhered to first.
Well...this girl, while walking with her new husband and his father, turned back. The husband, seeking to warn her, looked back as well. The father, afraid for his son, did the same. They were all turned to stone for their transgression.
Sound familiar to anyone? ;-)

So the end of the tour brings you to a long steep climb with rope assistance (not the one pictured, that was towards the beginning). Here Peter said "now we return to heaven...and your bike".

I won't lie, I hadn't brought enough water and the peanut calories were used up by this point. The 6 clicks back to the gift shop were a bit of a struggle. I hadn't planned on a gorge excursion. But Mr. Miyagi took over and even managed a few shots. A giraffe...a heard of buffalo.
The buffalo shot was edgy. You know that feeling of being watched. Out of my frame was a big boy looking out for the heard. Ever since my encounter with a water buffalo in India I've a sort of fight or flight sense with bovines. I kindly put the camera away and scuttled as calmly as I could away down the road. There were two Kenyan men on bikes waiting for me (or waiting to see the gore show I don't know). "It's not good when you are alone." "I got that feeling, thanks." "When you are many they see you dimly. When you are alone they see you very well."
Noted. Me and cows.

The gift shop was reached and water was had. I waved to the ranger at the road and got back to camp. The bike did very well. 18k round trip not counting my overshoot. Not a bunch but it was hot people. When I got back to the restaurant they all started laughing at me. Turns out my sunscreen did not hold up and I was a walking beet. Even my hands got burned. My hands! Weird. I was happy to be the butt in return for some ice water. I'm healing nicely btw.

SO! Yesterday was fairly laid back. A few more pictures and vain attempts to post. But still a good day. Talked with a 60 year old German woman named Annamarie who seems to have lived a life straight out of a Fitzgerald or Hemingway novel. And continues to do so at that rate.

Today I THINK I'm off for the next place but no promises. I really should get going though. I'm thinking Nakaru next as it is a highly praised park and only a short 60k away. Which means I can leave whenever.

In summation the lake is gorgeous. The peeps are great. The food is tasty and the rates are reasonable. I highly recommend.

Cheers and thanks for reading.

Until next time.

Posted by sbinnell 23:45 Archived in Kenya Comments (0)

The last while part 2

Something something darkside.

Rewinding a little, the monkeys in the pics came through the camp as I was setting up this time. Whole tribe of em. Tribe? Family? Gaggle?
I do not know what type of monkey they are. Spider maybe? EDIT: They are Vervet Monkeys. Anyway they're the fearless, grabby, all your crap is my crap kind so leave nothing lying around you'd like to keep.

The ride back to Naivasha was fun. Takes about a half hour to make the 26k. I hopped on a bus and was charged 400ksh for a 100 ride. I smiled and said "white man prices eh?" The rest of the bus found this very enjoyable and proceeded to chide the money collector for about half the ride. He was looking very sheepish before they stopped but he never augmented the fee...lol

I jumped off right in front of a Safaricom (the Sprint of Kenya) and picked out a phone. My experience with phone usage in developing areas has always been love/hate, weighted heavily on the hate side but I'd had an email I'd needed to get sent that night at a certain time and I'd already had the Sim card Tim sold me. You see you can't register a sim card here without an international I.D. and a passport doesn't count. So basically you have to bribe a local to go in and use his/her I.D. It was the same in India. All this for a 100ksh sim card. Puke.

So I got my Zuri phone for $40 after much ado. All touch screen and interwebby and everything. Course it never works but that's always beside the point.

The ride back to camp was the proper 100 cost but to be fair it took four times longer. We all got out and switched matatus twice. I still don't understand this. I know they want them as crammed as they can possibly be so maybe if there's an empty seat or two on one he gets the short end of the stick and has to wait to fill again while we sardine ourselves into another one. Don't know.

I arrived back well after dark, got my drink on at the restaurant, got my email off by hand of God or the Devil and sacked out. This time I put my base layer on. One blanket beneath me and one on top. Better, but still needed further tweaking. Still quite chilly.
Luckily my mild misery was interrupted around 5am by slight terror. There came a noise from the lakeside that sounded something like a mix of a 40 foot high toad, a growling lion and a raspy buffalo in pain. And it was very very loud. It was calling to another farther off and they were converging. On my tent. Every couple minutes they'd call again and get closer. Better in that out I thought. Even a thin layer of tenting is better than nothing...lol I had the rain-fly on so I couldn't see anything. I kept reminding myself of the Howler Monkey Heidi and I had heard in Tikal. That was a terrible sound to hear. But it was just a monkey. So this must be too! Just a monkey, closer, just a monkey, next to me, just a monkey, on top of me! Yay, they're climbing the tree next to my tent! They have to be monkeys!! Back to sleep...ish.

When I stepped out of the tent around 8am I looked up to see the noisey culprits lazing in my tree. Colobus monkeys. Jeez and crackers.
If you've never heard one do look up some audio of their calls. It's otherwordly and disquieting in the wee hours if you don't know what they are...lol Every morning since the fear has been replaced by the desire to throw a shoe out the tent but it was fun while it lasted.

On to part three. So far so good!

Posted by sbinnell 23:20 Archived in Kenya Comments (0)

The last while part 1

Heading to naivasha



Let there be internet! I hope. We'll see if we can get this all done before the connection breaks at the little 3 computer cafe I found within walking distance of the camp. Kenya walking mind you. This is my third attempt.

Okay, so the last night in Nairobi was spent the same as the others. I bought all the boys downstairs some Smirnoff Black and a chicken dinner. I'll never forget the look on Jeremiah's face when I said "enjoy guys, I'm headed out tomorrow". He immediately stopped eating, a bit of chicken hanging out of his mouth, his face went crestfallen and he said "well...when are you coming back?". I had to chuckle. People get used to things very quickly it seems.

The matatu ride up to the lake was lovely. I nodded off for just a bit and when I woke up we were climbing through a cypress forest with little breaks for picnic areas. In my haze I thought I was back in Oregon. Meh....fir trees. Then I remembered they were African fir trees so it made it better ;-)
My first experience with the rift valley was a dramatic one. Much like that one turn on I84 when Mt. Hood just goes HERE I AM! We came to a crest on the hill and BEHOLD....the Rift Vally. Lake Naivasha in the distance and fertile valley floor flanked by cliffs and mountain slopes as far as the eye can see. No more cypress. They were replaced with Acacia, Fever trees, and all sorts of succulents. It's a strange and beautiful mix of flora here for sure.

As a side note about the ride up, there was a woman next to me who simply could not satisfy her fascination with my body hair. The kids in Raka were the same. She asked no permission, just started caressing my arm. Then leaned down and lifted my pant leg to see if the landscape was the same there and felt me up. I kindly stopped her at the chest area. Later she gave me one of her mini-plumbs so at least it was a dinner date. "You're very smart", she said. The kids said the same. Somehow "smart" translates to hairy-white-monkey-man or something, I guess.

The first night here was spent at Camp Connerlly's (probably spelled that wrong). There was a choice between this and Fisherman's Camp. Connerlly's was gorgeous of course and the picture of the hippo was taken there before I got my tent fully set up. The fever trees are amazing to look at and camp under. The vibe of the camp was a bit....snooty maybe. I witness the owner talking to his gate man and the conversation could have been out of a British Victorian era film. No one really said hi to me and there were big sings for No MUSIC and such. I figure if the preacher from Footloose ran a camp in Kenya it would probably feel about the same. Anyhoo, I rented a blanket for the night, took some pictures, ate in their restaurant and proceeded to freeze my ever-loving you-know-what's off that night...lol One blanket was not nearly the ticket. I haven't spent a night light that since I lost my backpack along a trail in Scotland and had to sleep next to a pond. Desert climate mate. Desert climate.
I got up super refreshed as you might imagine and asked a neighbor of the camp where Fisherman's was as I wanted to compare. I figured it would be a stretch but he just pointed about 500 meters away and said "on the other side of the fence". So I packed up and trundled off to the other side.

Muuuuch better there. Friendly people. Nice staff. Same trees, same lake, same hippos. 300ksh less per night. 100 less for the blanket (I got two this time) and the guests included locals which is always a good sign. The only black folk at the other camp were behind the counters or watching the entrance. So I pitched m'tent, took a warm nap and headed back to Naivasha town to see about a phone.

Here's where I publish this in parts for fear of losing the connection.

Posted by sbinnell 22:49 Archived in Kenya Comments (0)

People Day

Day of People

Today was three celebrations in one. Jamhuri (Kenyan Independence Day), Timothy's birthday and his sister Jacqueline's birthday. Tim invited me to the village of Raka to spend the day with everyone (unnecessary but YAY! The only time you get unbridled access to pictures of kids!) . Everyone included Jackie, David, Ronnie, Dorphine, Melissa, Tim (left to right in the family photo) and a gaggle of neighbor children and friends.

Again it was great to get away from Downtown. They burnt a lot of plastic last night and this morning. Just fires in the alleys and such. I think they stop at burning tires but everything else is up in flames. Sickening smell after a while and when you blow your nose it's all black so that's nice. Much like Utah in January ;-) Sorry Heidi...lol

Raka is quite pretty. I think it probably surpassed "village" and went to Town a bit back but names stick. Within the last few years there has been an influx of foreigners looking either to retire or live outside of Nairobi while working. Mostly British and German. The picture of the concertina wire atop the wall is what separates the locals from the money folk. And we thought apartheid was dead...lol
We took a nice walk along the back streets of the newish estates and had some good talks about the development. On his side of town everyone said hello and welcome and how are you and smiled and waved. When I noted this Tim said he, like most, was taught by Grandma three things: Never pass someone by without saying hello, always say thank you, and always say sorry when you should. Immediately after he told me this an unhappy looking woman in the estates passed us by, made eye contact, disregarded us, watched her dog shit, didn't pick it up, and continued on her way. Everyone wants what they don't have and Tim is no exception but I tried to assure him that by and large everyone on his side of the wall was happier than most on the other side. Thus the concertina wire...lol
"Well Shen, some Kenyans are impolite and greedy. Some are very polite and gracious. The same can be said for every culture I think."
Yes Tim...indeed. And some cultures buy your land, push you out, build walls with ugly flesh shredding wire to protect against a non-existent threat and then hire the same people they pushed out to watch the gate at rates lower than their dog groomer (all respect to dog groomers). We had a good laugh and walked on. It was too pretty a day and it was nice to get back to his side of town.

Oh it also rained today so I can official sing along with Toto! And yes I thought that as soon as the first drop hit me. It's a thing.

As it is never polite to show up to a new host empty handed we stopped to do some grocery shopping. I'd asked for suggestions and ended up with a cart full of cooking oil, soap, toothbrushes, diapers, salt, sugar, maize flour, wheat flour etc...lol I told him that can all be from him and I'll happily take credit for some cake. I had them put Happy Birthday Jacky on one and Lazy Tim on the other. That went over well.

Before the cake Tim bought me a fish to eat which I made him share with himself and Melissa, and Jacky cooked up a nice meal of rice and beef. The women partition themselves off behind a curtain while the men eat. Frankly I'm bringing this back to the states. Why would I want to watch women eat? Dreadful really. Time for a change ;-) Once we were done it's their turn to dig in, also behind the curtain. Oddly the neighbor women were not confined to this. Maybe it's a host thing. I didn't ask.

The home was what you might picture. Mom and five kids in roughly 15x10, but they make it work very efficiently. The kids were a riot and singing Happy Birthday appears to be a worldwide thing. The only difference I saw was that each B-day honoree fed every adult guest by hand the first bite of cake. And then a ritualistic round of orange Fanta.

After making sure everyone had a picture taken of them that wanted one, and enjoying the kids giggling their pants off when I showed them themselves on the camera (they never tired of this), we headed back to Nairobi. It was a good day.

Tomorrow I'm off for Lake Naivasha...to live in a tent for a while and pad my budget that has been wholly but not regretfully disregarded these last few days.


Posted by sbinnell 09:56 Comments (2)

(Entries 11 - 15 of 17) « Page 1 2 [3] 4 »