Camping in Kisumu

Actually it wasn’t Kisumu but Seme about an hour out of the city. The 8 hour drive was great until we got lost, in the dark, and the directions we had didn’t match what we could see. Then it became a 10 hour trip.

Seme (sem – aye) is right on the edge of Lake Victoria. It’s a very small village, up a long dirt road. Think of close to Uganda, just below the Equator and that’s where we were. It’s in the Nyanza District.

These students are in school for 11 hours each day. We got to spend an hour with them.

These students are in school for 11 hours each day. We got to spend an hour with them.

We were visiting some new friends who are helping with our visa requirements and are also putting up a childrens home. Pete has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to practical things but especially putting up buildings. Many people lose money in construction here because of dodgy builders who do a half decent job and never return.

How we got around Seme

How we got around Seme

While the weather in Seme was warm (29 degrees) we had to pass through rain and hail storms to get there. In fact we missed the turnoff from Kericho to Kisumu because we just couldn’t see anything, way too much hail.

From visits to other places I expected our hosts to live in a very small one bedroom house. Instead they had built a beautiful 3 bedroom, two storied place. On the second floor was an open walled meeting area which looked out over the lake. It was lovely.

The view from upstairs

The view from upstairs

Because we got there so late we slept in the house that night and pitched the tent the next morning. The weekend was full on with visiting families, filming for BeyondWater, giving out a health pack to a soon-to-be mother, playing games with the kids at church and even a community consultation forum. In between Pete was able to peg out the building on the land.

Lindah, our host, showing a soon to be mum how to use the things we had bought her.

Lindah, our host, showing a soon to be mum how to use the things we had bought her.

Sleeping in a tent is great. That is until your blow up bed unexpectantly goes down in the wee hours of the morning. And it’s not so great to discover that you’ve pitched the tent right next to the chicken coop where a rooster starts crowing at 4am. I can do without running water and electricity but a rooster…. He was lucky not to become dinner.

However, having a fire burning and everyone sitting around it having a good time is priceless. Last year we bought a bunch of fireworks but never lit them off in case the neighbours thought it was gunfire. So we took them to Seme and within 10 minutes they were all gone. I don’t know whether they just aren’t as good or when you’re small everything is bigger and better, but fireworks just aren’t as good as they used to be.

Teaching the kids 'River/Bank'.

Teaching the kids ‘River/Bank’.

At least in the country you can see the stars. There’s too many lights in the city. It’s quite noisy at night as the sound travels a really long way, especially when a lake is involved. It seemed someone up the road liked to party every night. In truth, it was probably miles away, but it still went all night. Of course, when it’s dark, it’s really dark. Our wonderful hosts are trying to organize solar power to their house because the electricity provider is making it impossible for the average person to afford to get it connected. We brought with us 3 small solar lamps which lit up their house (and our tent) wonderfully. Apparently since we left, they’ve invested into one and the kids love it.

The camera doesn't do justice to the sunsets we saw.

The camera doesn’t do justice to the sunsets we saw.

One thing I really noticed in Seme is that there’s this massive lake (Victoria) and it’s the only water supply for the area. It’s also very unclean. People bath in it, pollution comes from Kisumu onto the shores, it’s for drinking by humans and animals and for washing your clothes.

collecting 4

Lake Victoria is the biggest in Africa and it’s the largest tropical lake in the world. However, the people living around it have so many waterborne diseases. Thankfully our friends had a really good water filter.

When you live in this area you need a filter like this one.

When you live in this area you need a filter like this one.

Lack of clean water, no electricity, slow internet. If you’re fussy about any of these things, don’t go camping and don’t go to remote areas. When you’re there you find instead wonderful, hospitable people, young people hungry to learn, little children who love to laugh and communities who do it tough, but always with a smile.

With a face like this, why wouldn't you want to come back.

With a face like this, why wouldn’t you want to come back.

Our friends thought we had really gone bush by tenting at their place. We felt honoured and spoilt by everyone and can’t wait to return.

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Ol Pejeta

We thought we’d be clever and have a mid-week break instead of trying to battle traffic on the long weekend (Madaraka Day). I had always wanted to head up to the Mount Kenya region, where we’d never been, and so we settled on going to the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, just outside of Nanyuki.

cranes kissing

Their website is full of info but quite complicated to make bookings on. Eventually we got to book our tent site, which is something we have wanted to do for some time. Our tent hadn’t been used for over a year and we’ve got all of the accessories so all we had to do was to get food and get going.

perfect eagle

We were so surprised on how good the roads were heading out that way. We expected potholes all over the place and even though the website said it would take 3 hours to get there, we allowed for 4. We had only been as far as Sagana in the past and had stopped at a great resort/café.

Setting up our home

Setting up our home

In typical Kenyan style the resort only had half of the things on the menu, but at least it had decent toilets.

The trip was pretty non eventful except for being pulled up by a policeman for speeding 5km’s over the limit of 100kmph. Note that there are no speed signs, no speed radars and we were going up a very steep hill at about 90kmph. Here you don’t argue with the police. At first he demanded 10,000kshs about $120. We had two options, talk him down or go back to the same area the next day to face court and pay ‘a fee’. Corruption is a filthy thing and destroys the country. The officer knew we had no choice but to pay, in the end we got away with $30. We grumbled for the next hour because we knew we were only pulled up because we were white.

The weather started caving in as we got closer to the Mount Kenya National Park. Then it started raining – heavily.

Greys Zebras are endangered

Greys Zebras are endangered

Thankfully by the time we got to the conservancy it had cleared up, just in time for us to put our tent up.

Of course, we had to find the place we had booked. Simple instructions, go right, then left and follow through to you see the sign for the Ol Lerai campsite. We got there and saw a small rusted sign that said ‘campsite’. There was no water, firewood nor latrines as promised. Just a river and a really bad area for a tent. We were ticked, thinking we had spent a considerable amount of money (for us) for a dodgy site. After a few frantic calls to the managers we found out our actual site was through some trees and on a rough dirt track to the most amazing site. Sort of like a cul de sac made of dirt that was surrounded by a rushing river.

Morning neighbours

Morning neighbours

And there was a large family of elephants right beside us.

That night was spent erecting the tent, getting the fire going, cooking dinner and listening to the wildlife around us.

I have to say that Pete and I didn’t sleep much because elephants were trumpeting, I’m sure I heard a lion roaring and there were definitely warthogs outside our tent. Something spent a long time outside our tent chewing at a tree.

big horns

There was no way I was visiting the latrine in the middle of the night!

The next day we spent around 8 hours in the car looking at the wildlife. I had seen a lion and lioness about 20 metres from our tent on the other side of the river that morning and we knew it was going to be a good day of viewing. There are a lot more elephants here than what we thought.

The cool thing about camping is that we could call back to our site for lunch. Again to be greeted by elephants.

Baraka with one of his carers

Baraka with one of his carers

Today we also got to see Baraka, the blind black rhino. The poor guy got a cataract in one eye then went blind in the other from fighting. We also visited the Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary. It’s actually within the park and we found out that the whole area used to be called Sweetwaters. Chimpanzees are not native to Kenya and all of the 38 chimps they rescued had been in conflict, mistreated or abandoned. Someone had posted that it was like a zoo, but the area we saw was massive 250 acre enclosure. We were really impressed with it.

elephant hiding

We slept much better the next night because we were so exhausted.

One of the main reasons to come to Ol Pejeta was to see the world’s last remaining five northern white rhinos. It’s definitely worth paying for. They are guarded 24/7 and they also have their horns sawed off to dissuade poachers. There were also Greys Zebras who are endangered. Who would’ve thought that a zebra was on it’s last legs!

Max

Max

The bummer about camping is that you have to pack everything up. Mind you we had been really lucky with the weather as there had been no rain at all over our stay. The cool thing about camping is being right in the middle of wildlife. At night we would put marshmallows on a stick and heat them up.

The trip home was uneventful, except we had to lug the tent, sleeping bags, clothes and cooler box up 4 flights of stairs. In another week we head to Kisumu to do it all over again.

Amazing sunrises greeted us each day

Amazing sunrises greeted us each day

Camping is definitely the way to go. However, if you plan on doing it at Ol Pejeta, definitely hire a night guard, you might sleep better than what we did!

rhino 3

Easter in Kenya

A while ago we had decided to go away for the Easter Break. We were so busy leading up to it though, that we hadn’t actually planned anything. In the end, we decided to crash at a friends house in Nakuru, around 2 ½ hours drive away (on a good day).

The day before we were to leave, the tragedy at the Garissa University happened. The loss of so many young people in a horrific act of violence put a damper on the whole country. What should’ve been one of the last long holiday before Christmas turned into a weekend of mourning. Watching it time and time again on TV was too much to bear.

One of the 10 rhinos we saw

One of the 10 rhinos we saw

We escaped to Nakuru at a slow and painful pace. I don’t know what public holidays do, but it brings out all of the idiots on the roads. It took two hours longer than normal to get there but we figured it was better to get there in one piece than not at all.

Janine and her team run Metro World Child here in Kenya. Each week they teach 52,000 children life skills. It was at Janines house that we crashed at. The whole idea was to pitch our tent in their large yard. That went down the toilet when it bucketed down with rain.

wet windscreen In fact it continued to rain for the rest of the weekend.

When it rains in Kenya, it’s not that nice gentle drizzle, it’s a downpour. The next morning we left just after six t go to the national park. The rain had cleared by then and the roads were really wet. We were only on the road for a few minutes when we saw two trucks and a car collide. To us it looked like a fatality.

Hyenas are mean looking things

Hyenas are mean looking things

Getting into the park seems to take forever because the systems are so slow. I was really looking forward to getting in because last time we were there we saw so much wildlife.

This time it was quite different.

The grass was the brownest I’ve ever seen. The place where there used to be a beautiful waterfall was dry as a bone. The animals were much harder to find than normal. We drove for 7hours and saw a lot, but they weren’t easy to find. We were stoked because we got to see 10 rhino, the most we’ve ever seen.

The one part of the park that did have water was invaded by zebras

The one part of the park that did have water was invaded by zebras

Once we returned home, Janine, our host had to go to the hospital. Here, you don’t go to a medical clinic, you wait for hours at a hospital. Janine had malaria a couple of weeks ago and just hadn’t recovered well. Pete and Liz took her tone of the many hospitals and they returned 4 long hours later. I had attempted to cook dinner, but the gas ran out after one batch of cooking chicken.

Yep, it was a long night for all.

To the horror of the locals we didn’t go to church on Sunday morning. Instead we headed to Java House for a celebration brunch and ate our way through the morning. I really didn’t think Liz could eat 2 massive pancakes, but she did.

The lake is so flooded that a road sign is now under water

The lake is so flooded that a road sign is now under water

We headed to Thomson Falls, a 90 minute drive away. The scenery was amazing as we headed up some of the steepest hills I’ve seen yet. We were told that the road was good – it wasn’t. Apparently that was a different road.

The valley

The valley

We passed bright green tea bushes and short stumpy coffee plants. We also passed a couple of times a sign that announced we had crossed the Equator. Pete wanted to stop and take a photograph, I said we’d get one on the way back down.

Bad move.

We got to Nyahuru to see Thomsons Falls. Little did we know that we had to pay $2.50 each to go and see it.

Thomsons Falls

Thomsons Falls

The waterfall was quite amazing. Brown but amazing.

It was only a moment before we were accosted by a local to come and have a look at her shop. Esther was her name, and no, we didn’t visit her store.

We could’ve gone down to the bottom of the falls but really we couldn’t be bothered. There were also lots of people there because it was a Sunday afternoon. A festival was going on at the lodge next to the falls where really bad country music was playing.

A track opposite to the falls, note the people looking from the top. They didn't want to pay the $2.50 to see it closer.

A track opposite to the falls, note the people looking from the top. They didn’t want to pay the $2.50 to see it closer.

We stopped in for a coffee before heading back to Nakuru. For some reason the road on this side was much better. The downside was that for the next 90 minutes it poured down so heavily that at times we couldn’t even see where we were going.

Liz at the Equator sign

Liz at the sign for the Rift Valley

We did get out of the car for 15 seconds to get a very wet photo by the Equator sign. A guy came up to us and wanted to know if we wanted to see the ‘water trick’. The trick is that you stand on one side of the Equator sign and the water goes down one way. You stand on the other side and the water goes the other way. It was pelting down so much there was no way we were going to stop for it.

At the top of the lookout

At the top of the lookout

The good thing about it raining is that we wouldn’t get picked up by the police, they were all hiding in a house.

Unlike the 7 police checks we passed on our 4 hour trip home the next day!!