So, here we are again. There’s been an 8 month gap in updates due to James and I getting jobs, being grown ups and generally having much less fun. But now, the three of us are together again and it’s time to finish this circumnavigation of Africa. We hope.
James arrived in Nairobi before me, and was greeted at the hostel we left Stanley at as if he was a long lost friend. How dare we not call and say we’re coming! Cuddles all round. Do we need any help with the car? When’s the Missus getting here? Talk about feeling welcomed back. I arrived late one evening, to be met at the airport by Stanley and James. I must have felt like I was coming home as it came as a bit of a shock that I needed a visa – maybe I’m not quite as African as I think I am. Then again, I waited in the diplomats queue as it was shorter, so maybe I am. It was a joy to see Stanley again, who turned on no questions asked, having only been started once in our absence when a large tree threatened to fall on him. Thanks Karen Camp.
He needed a bit of work, but this had all been planned since the off. Nairobi is a hub of mechanics and tyre merchants and generally useful people and we had planned a long time ago, Stanley would get the works in Nairobi. The guys at the camp helped us find Jas, who quickly got the idea of what we wanted. Yes, I might have put the pressure on by explaining this is the final leg of our journey, and this is his last service, so if it all goes wrong now… He now has sparkling new (second hand) rear suspension, new bushes here, there and everywhere, and has been greased and oiled to within an inch of his life. He also had threadbare tyres so we organised to have two good and two bad – some things are bloody expensive in Africa – organised by Mickey, a Sikh man who runs the only tyre shop in Nairobi that has our tyres. After we were all set, he invited us to lunch at his temple. Being our first time at a Sikh temple, he talked us through the washing and the donation, and we were served lunch together. The principle is that every man should eat together, regardless of wealth, so everyone eats on the same level, the same food and donates a secret amount of money to pay for the lunches. Anyone is welcome to this, of any race, religion or sex, and the food was scrumptious. We took our extra tyre with us, and thought long and hard about carrying it with us to Egypt, but then the gardener said he needed it for a flower pot, so his needs won out.
There was another guest we got to know at Karen Camp, Pete, an ex-army man who had decided to give up his day job, and learn to be a safari ranger. His sole inspiration was Sir David Attenborough, and there we can completely relate. He had signed up to a years ranger training in South Africa, and was having his first experience of the bush in the Masai Mara. Well, barbeques were had, and dinners out and pleasant time was had by all.
We left Karen Camp with a heavy heart and made our way up to Mount Kenya, We stayed at a community campsite on the way and had the odd experience of staying at a campsite that seemed to have been designed by someone off their face on acid – with it’s giant replica of Mount Kenya, with rivers, ravines and peaks all inscribed on the centre piece of this resort. From here, we drove on to Samburu National Park. This was to be our last traditional national park in Africa, and we told ourselves it was to make sure Stanley was up for the job ahead, but actually, we just wanted our last glimpses of lions and elephants to get us through those long Cambridge evenings. The park is semi-arid, and because of this has a unique selection of wildlife, boasting the Samburu Seven – Somali ostrich, Reticulated giraffe, Grevy’s zebra, Generuk gazelle, Vulterine Guinea Fowl, African warthog and Beisa Oryx, and we caught a glimpse of a few of these on the first day, but mostly it was a day of safari where you look forward to your beer at sunset. We made our camp, with a beautiful campfire, making the most of our earlier stop at a posh supermarket with all our goodies from Carrefour.
The next morning, we planned to get up early and get out and make up for our poor luck the day before. We got up and started putting the tent away when a troop of baboons came through, and eyed us in the way only a baboon spying tourists hoarding a car full of food can. We chortled to ourselves – we are not beginners at the art of monkey hustling. We were wrong. Very, very wrong. One ran straight at me whilst I tried to brush my teeth with the door open. I shouted for James for back up as she failed to back off, despite throwing half my bottle of water and half a tube of toothpaste at her. James got the catapult, which we had carelessly not got out before, and she ran off. We laughed again – others would have been toppled by her, but not us. We started a one door open policy, with one guard. James climbed onto the roof to shut the tent, and the door that would normally fall shut on its own, remained open for a fraction of a second too long. Ten baboons, in unison, bolted to the car, with the alpha male at the lead as he jumped through the door and sat on the passenger seat. The door then firmly shut. His troop gathered round screaming at us and the car as their leader had somehow fallen for this trap and was stuck inside. I was of little use as I was clutching bread and a piece of cheese, which does not have a calming effect on a troop of baboons. The door was surrounded, but James opened it as I went to the other side and screamed at the baboon to leave. They all disappeared and we were left holding our bread and cheese, with a large amount of baboon shit in and around the car.
After this rather startling start to the day, our morning was somewhat of a dud. Although we did see a lovely tortoise. When it came time for lunch, neither of us could quite deal with the idea of going back to the campsite and trying to make some food with the baboons. Luckily the Serena hotel was nearby and we hid out there, with their beautiful meals, guarded by local tribesman with catapults. I do wonder if maybe the monkeys and the Serena are in cahoots. I have visions of a banana per baboon, and they get to keep the spoils…
That evening, we headed to the campsite, and waited til nightfall to do anything. Unfortunately, so did our neighbours – 3 buses of students who had set up camp next to us with a large speaker system. Isn’t that why everyone goes to a national park? We were, as you can imagine, livid and I continue in my arguments with the Kenyan Wildlife Service. By the next day, we were both fed up and good to go, but thankfully, Samburu had a bit of a treat for our exit. We happened upon a few tourist cars gathered in one spot – always a good sign, and as we vied for position, we had a stoke of luck as a lioness stalked out of the bush right next to us. So much so that our photo was interrupted by me shouting at James to put up the window up. Beautiful.
The drive north was quite breathtaking, and a real change from the scenery we had seen around Kenya. The streets were lined with the Samburu people, who wear tens of necklaces and are always accessorised by a spear or a knife, as well as a small herd of cattle. They are strikingly beautiful, and I matched their level of staring at my pasty, white skin. The terrain is barren, to put in politely, and as you head further north it becomes more clearly volcanic with black rocks stretching as far the eye can see, with the mountainous country of Ethiopia just visible in the distance.
Kenya, the birthplace of mankind, really is a spectacular country. It has so much to offer, with such diversity from one side to the other. We’ve had quite a stop start time with it, but we both agree it won’t be long til we’re back.
We'd like to thank Ding.com for their continuing support of our trip!!!
Liz Jarman & James Nunan
Our trip from Essex to Cape Town & back again
Km travelled : 50818km
Countries visited: 30