Tsavo Conservancy

It’s been a couple of years since we’ve been to a wildlife park that has elephants in it, and I really wanted to get away this Christmas to see them. Elephants eat a lot of food (100-300kg’s) and drink lots of water (190litres) and not all parks can cater for them. They also have routes that they follow.

sign

So, off we went to a place called the Tsavo Conservancy.

camp-sign

In theory it should take 6 hours to drive there from Nairobi, but with trucks going ridiculously slow (think 40km’s per hour) and traffic thick because of the holidays it took us 7 hours. It’s an easy drive and the road is in pretty good condition until just after Voi, where it’s advisable to fill up on petrol.

cheetah-licking

We stayed at a place called Rukinga, one of 7 ranches that form the Tsavo Conservancy. Cara, my contact there gave very clear directions (which is unusual here). We signed in at the gate and kept following the directions to the camp. I said we’d get there at 3.30pm and we did.

hornbill-staring

What surprised me the most was the quietness. After being in a noisy city the quiet was almost deafening. I was also surprised that there were very few people around. I assumed because it was coming up to Christmas that the place would be overflowing with visitors. There was just the three of us and a group of eleven people from Nairobi. It was ironic that the group actually lived in the same suburb we do. The next day a family of three from Germany were going to join the camp.

ele-eating

Rukinga is split into three areas. There’s the tenting and self catering area. There’s Nduvo House which is a two story building with three huge bedrooms, it’s own kitchen and a couple of open space lounges. That’s where the large group were staying.

And then there was our area.

There are bandas which either have bunk beds in them or like ours, a two room with a bathroom in between. There’s an outdoor eating area as well as a bar and an open area for the lounge. Unfortunately there’s no pool, which, with the sweltering weather would’ve been appreciated. However, we would’ve had to fight the elephants for it had there been one.

camp-grounds

One of the things we quickly discovered is that the wifi that was advertised, did not exist. I was bummed out because we really wanted to Skype the kids on Christmas Day.

nduvo-lounge

Our time there was spent on early morning and late afternoon safaris. The best thing we had done was to pay for a jeep and driver to go on the three drives. There was also a guide who was on the lookout for animals. One the first afternoon we were there we drove ourselves and saw – nothing. The guides know the habits of the animals, their feeding and watering grounds, as well as how to get good photographs.

I hate it when drivers become impatient and want to get on to the next animal ‘fix’. We like to watch, observe and get a million and one photos. Sometimes you just need to enjoy the beauty in front of you through real eyes and not just a lens. Our guides were fantastic.

guides

I do have to say that the meals provided were really basic, but we figured it out before we left. We didn’t go hungry, but the meals weren’t flash. Our Christmas lunch was spaghetti and tomato puree. Not anything to rave about. However, there was always fruit at the end of every meal, and the mangoes were to die for.

While having no wifi at the camp, we managed to find it when on safari. We even managed to call the kids in New Zealand on their Christmas morning, which was great.

But I guess that’s what getting away is really about. Getting away from all the hassles of daily life, getting connected to the world and not a device, take a break to breathe.

If you visit the Tsavo Conservancy I suggest a couple of things:

  1. Take a book, games and cards.
  2. Definitely pay for a safari guide and driver – you can see much more from their vehicles.

evening-hills-3

The staff at the Conservancy were of some of the highest I’ve experienced. They went out of their way to make sure our stay was the best one possible. We liked it so much, that we’ve decided to return in April.

Why not take a weekend out from the city and visit the Tsavo Conservancy, it might just do you some good.

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!!

Why Kenya

I always get amazed on what draws people to come to Kenya to work or volunteer. Everyone has a story and I try and get them to tell me.

Some come to escape from their former life. Others to get themselves up the ladder of success in business. Some found that this was the only way to get to see this part of the world.

And then there’s me.

Food is an important medium for connecting.

Food is an important medium for connecting.

When I was in Standard 4, at about 10 years of age, we did a study – The Manyatta of Kenya.

I’m 46 years old. In ‘my day’ very few people travelled internationally. I remember one friend whose entire family went to Disneyland and they brought back a huge (and I mean huge) Winnie the Pooh. Another friend went to The Netherlands. But that was about it. I remember the same year that a plane full of tourists from New Zealand flew to Antarctica and them all perishing on a mountain there.

And then there was me.

The War Cemetery is one of the tidiest places in Nairobi.

The War Cemetery is one of the tidiest places in Nairobi.

We didn’t own a car until we inherited money from a grandparent passing. I remember travelling out of town once or twice.

Over my teens I had grown up reading adventures of people who had travelled through China, Africa, South America and India. But I’d never been there.

At the top of Mt Kilimanjaro, Tanzania.

At the top of Mt Kilimanjaro, Tanzania.

The first time I travelled internationally was when Pete went to college in Australia for 3 months, so we packed up and headed for the Sunshine Coast. Our girls were 8 weeks and a year old, I was 22.

A couple of years later we went to India for a few weeks, left the babies behind and had a blast. We would’ve been happy to move there but things didn’t pan out that way.

As the years went by we hosted plenty of international development workers or missionaries, many who worked in Africa. We threw (not literally) our girls out of their beds for our visitors. The girls thought it was cool, they didn’t know any different. I home schooled them for 6 years and integrated a lot of history, country information and cultural teaching.

You can't come to Africa and be in a hurry.

You can’t come to Africa and be in a hurry.

Then life took a turn.

We moved to Sydney, Australia where we’d never been before. Set up a new life, and it was great. That was 2002.

In 2007 I had the opportunity to travel to Kenya to graduate my students. I emailed a Kiwi friend of ours who we hadn’t seen for a few years and met up with them. It was great seeing their work with streetboys. I returned home for only a few weeks and then had to go to Ghana for a seminar. Ghana was so different to Kenya. East and West are like chalk and cheese.

Pete being walked down Mt Kilimanjaro with a broken leg.

Pete being walked down Mt Kilimanjaro with a broken leg.

In 2009 Pete and I decided that we wanted our girls to have a bigger world view. We wanted to show them that not all of the world was white, English speaking and middle class. So, we took them to Africa, specifically Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania. Our youngest daughter DID NOT want to go. She had just finished her last year at high school and decided she ‘wanted to work’ we told her she had the rest of her life to work, and she was coming.

Pete was flown to Nairobi to receive top class medical care.

Pete was flown to Nairobi to receive top class medical care.

For a year we saved, sacrificed and made budget. A couple of other young people came with us some of the way. It was a cheap trip – buses, backpackers and motorbikes. We had a blast (most of the time). After 8 weeks we returned home tired but changed.

titanic

Han & Jules on Lake Victoria

In 2010 Pete and I went to Hawaii to drop Hannah off at school. It was there that we decided to move out Sydney, we were bored. The answer was either Hawaii or Kenya. I LOVE Hawaii, love, love, love it. But we thought ‘what the heck, what have we got to lose by going to Kenya?’

In 2011, Pete, Liz and I returned to Africa with the specific thought of ‘Could we really live here and what could we do?’ This time for another 2 months but it was to Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania (Climb Mount Kilimanjaro). Pete broke his leg on the mountain, so he stayed back in Nairobi and Liz and I went throughout Uganda checking in on our projects. The change in plans gave us a longer time to see if Kenya would be our new home or not. We’d travelled through lots of countries but there was something pulling us back to Kenya.

Nairobi is bustling with small businesses.

Nairobi is bustling with small businesses.

Nairobi was the most modern city we visited. We had people we knew there. It could give us easy access to other countries. We liked it. We liked it enough that we moved in 2012.

While there is lots of wildlife which is absolutely the coolest, it’s the amazing people that you get to meet. Those who struggle from day to day but keep a positive attitude. Those who are starting out in business and doing well. Expats who come here for some sort of experience.

The scenery is amazing.

The scenery is amazing.

Nairobi is made up mainly of Kenyans but there are representatives from pretty much every nationality on earth.

DSCF2031

And so are the people.

Kenya is never dull and boring. There’s always something to do and people to meet. There is a lot of history here (which I love). It’s diverse and interesting. You’re always learning something new. We’re close to our water projects and the communities we work with.

We could’ve gone anywhere in the world and it we would’ve been fine but we chose Kenya.

Actually, I think Kenya chose us.

Safari at the Nairobi National Park

Last Monday was Heroes Day here in Kenya, for us, that meant a day off. We haven’t been to a national park for the entire year. That is shameful considering we have 15 national parks and even more so conservancies in the country.

2 giraffes 3 Because we’re residents and have an ID, we get in ridiculously cheap compared to tourists. Instead of paying $50 to get in, it only cost us $10.

baby zebra We packed snacks and hit the road by 7am. I love the traffic on public holidays and Sundays, where it’s pretty minimal. What takes us 15 minutes on a Sunday can take 2 hours during the week. Of course, we had to do the mandatory stopoff for gas. The last thing you want is to run out of petrol in the middle of nowhere.

billed bird Getting into a national park is no easy feat. First, you have to go through your car getting checked by security and they ask you where you are going (as if they’ll remember). Then you have to get a safari card from one office, get in your car, wait in line to go through the main gate and sign in your car. If there are lots of people it can take a good 30 minutes to get through.

in grass Once we were paid in, checked out and signed in, we were off. To be honest, I was quite sceptical about what animals we would see. We’ve been to some amazing parks in Kenya. Amboseli has a huge amount of elephants while Nakuru has a lot of water life and closeups of a variety of animals. We’ve even cycled through Hell’s Gate. We are so lucky to live in a country where you can see some amazing wildlife.

weird 2 The last time I went to the Nairobi National Park I didn’t see much as I was stuck in the back of a vehicle, so anything I saw had to be better than this. I had to say, I was super impressed by what I saw.

Yes, these are hippos.

Yes, these are hippos.

Sure there were plenty of buffaloes, wildebeest, zebras and gazelles. However, to see at least 8 giraffes and 2 massive rhinos. We didn’t see a lion but they haven’t seen them there for ages. We figured that the two huge humps in the lake were hippos. Hippos can stay under water for 30 minutes, but we didn’t hang around that long.

angry baboonI didn’t know there was a lake inside the park, but there is. There’s even some places you can go (for a fee) with an armed guard on a walk through a certain area. With baboons and the such around, you need a guard. We didn’t do it because we hate paying for a ‘service’ when they’re already getting paid.

Where we got stuck

Where we got stuck

Going around the lake was a highlight of my day. Not because of the amazing birdlife that is there but because we got stuck. There are stacks of people travelling around the park and we had just passed a Land Rover full of white people who we found out were Kenyans (they sounded British), they called themselves ‘Vanilla Gorillas’ and were well into their 70’s. They told us there was a small muddy part just ahead but we should be able to get through it. We got to the mudhole and I remember saying “Go around it” when Pete suddenly went straight through the middle of it and within seconds we were stuck like nobody’s business.

Our rescuers

Our rescuers

We weren’t going anywhere.

We weren't going anywhere

We weren’t going anywhere

Pete immediately jumped out to give it a push – it only got stuck further. Thankfully the white Kenyans returned and proceeded to pull us out. We had a tow rope in our car and when Pete got it out he realised that my gumboots were sitting there which he could’ve used.

pete washingMuddy footed, he returned to the car and we decided not to continue on that route. Instead, it was time for food.

It was great that we took picnic food with us because there’s the odd place you can take a break from sitting in your car and have a snack. After a couple of hours there’s nothing like a cup of tea and carrot cake (thanks Liz!).

bird on sign We’ve had a bit of rain lately, which is abnormal for this time of year. Thankfully, the road/dirt tracks were in good condition. It did belt down in the early afternoon which was handy to get the acquired mud off the car.

7 hours later we returned to the main gate. There, you have to sign your car out before you’re allowed to leave. 30 minutes later we were home, Pete a bit wet, but all of us very happy that we took the day out to enjoy the amazing world we get to live in. blue bird

Even if you don’t have wild animals living on your back doorstep, can I encourage you to get out there and get in tune with nature. Go for a walk, paddle in a lake, watch the wildlife and breathe in fresh air!!

If I Only Knew

We are fast approaching our second anniversary of serving in Kenya so I thought I’d write down a list of things I wish I’d known before we came. Of course, hindsight is an awesome thing, but if you ever consider moving this way for a short or long period of time, it might be good to know.

 1. Africa Is Not Cheap To Live In

It’s a myth that’s for sure. We did our budget in 2011 but by the time we got here in 2012 prices had skyrocketed. Most things have stabilised in price since the VAT (tax) of 16% was added. Locals have really struggled since then. We spent a lot of 2013 buying furniture for our place as money came in, with most things bought second hand or built at a roadside carpenters.

Of course, income determines if something is expensive or not. Our budget is short by $1,000 a month, which is a lot when you aren’t allowed to earn money within the country. Our rent is half of what we paid in Sydney for something more than twice the size. We wanted a place where we could have people come and stay, relax and then go on their journey. We’ve had people from NZ, Australia, Germany, Switzerland, Canada, Ethiopia, USA and Norway stay with us. We love it and are grateful for the apartment we have to be able to do it. But our landlord put up the rent by $100 per month after being here for a year, so we’re looking at alternatives for next year.

 

Equivalent to $9,700AUD for a 2001 car

Equivalent to $9,700AUD for a 2001 car

 2. White = Rich

If you’re not Kenyan, you’re white, even if you’re not white. That means you must have money to burn. If you go to the markets on the side of the road, you will spend more time bargaining than what you want. This is why people go to the more expensive supermarkets because they just get tired of being hassled all the time. A friend of ours got his suit for his wedding made for $50. If Pete went, it would be 3 times more the price.

If we want furniture made at the roadside market we send a Kenyan there first for a price so we know what we should be paying. No matter how much you tell your colleagues that you don’t have much money, it doesn’t matter, because you will always have more than them. What people don’t see is the amount of money spent on the work you do – petrol, car costs, school equipment, feeding people or running programs.

I need to get me one of these!

I need to get me one of these!

3. You’ll Want To Go Home, Often

Sometimes you wonder if the obstacles are worth it, wasn’t it much less complicated back home? Well, yes it was. Kenya is not impossible to live in it’s just very complicated. As a friend said to us in our early days “Living in Africa will show you what capacity you have on the inside” and I happen to think he’s very right.

It was much easier living in Australia. If we wanted to earn more money, we’d go paint a house. We understood the language. You could walk the streets at night and no problem. There were parks to play in that were free. If you wanted to go to church you had a Saturday night, Sunday morning and a Sunday night to choose from. The ocean was a 4 minute walk from our place.

There’s probably twice in the last couple of years when I’ve thought “Stick this, I don’t need this hassle, I’m heading home”, but for Pete it’s been quite often. He asked me the other day why we were here again. My simple answer is that God knew we were big enough to handle it.

 

 4. Set Work Boundaries

We’ve got plenty of friends who work in the same area as us, but with different organisations. All of us have the same problem – we struggle with work boundaries. I’ve a friend who gets paid for 2 days a week but often works for 5 ‘because they’re in need’. Our phones will often go off at 10pm. We’ve had one weekend off in the last 2 months. I’ve calculated we’ve had 5 days of actual holidays in the last 2 years. When we’ve travelled out of town or overseas, it’s all to do with work. That is really dumb.

This year I decided to work at the office until 1pm, have lunch and then do the rest of my work from home. In essence I can work anywhere in the world but feel obliged to turn up to prove I’m actually working. Between now and when we fly out to Australia in November I’m even taking an hour out in the middle of the day to get some exercise and sunshine.

Next year I’m even thinking of rehashing my working conditions by spending less time in the office and more in the field with people.

Learn to turn it off

Learn to turn it off

 5. Sign A Contract

Too many people come with good intentions which get squished out and changed to be not what they came for. I’ve friends in another country who came to work with orphaned children then after 8 months were dumped because the organisation didn’t want to make necessary changes for improvement. Another family came to build a school but wasn’t allowed any input into the long term planning of it. Others were having to give a certain percentage of their support money for the ‘privilege of volunteering’. Make sure the requirements are written down and everyone understands the small print, who pays what and what is expected. For some reason we do this in the business world, but not in development work. Go figure?

 

6. Do Your Homework Before Coming

We had been to Kenya 3 times before moving here. Most times we came for 2 months and travelled to neighbouring countries as well. However, there is a BIG difference between visiting and living somewhere. How basic everyday things are run is a huge task to learn. It took us 6 weeks to even begin to figure out directions and where things were. Unfortunately, people who have lived somewhere for a long time take everything they’ve learnt for granted. I remember getting pulled across the coals because we didn’t visit a person in hospital enough. Apparently here you drop everything and race off to visit someone, you also take fruit or juice. No one told us about that, and we didn’t even know how to get to the hospital.

An important thing to look into is getting a visa, owning land and traffic laws. Everything here takes a l-o-n-g time and it’s never straight forward. Join expat blogs before you come so you get an idea of how things work. Get Swahili apps on your phone. Use Google maps to see how far things are in distance. Learn some history of the place.

 

 7. Clothes Are Expensive Here

Of course, if you want to, you can buy cheap clothes at the local market. The one closest to us to called the Toi Market. There you can buy second hand clothes, sometimes new ones, which come from overseas. Pete gets a pair of new jeans for $10, guys are lucky, they know their sizes and can get it off the rack. Ladies, not so much.

The clothes at the mall are way overpriced. These are either imported (and thus have large tax) or top of the line. I envy Kenyans, they don’t have to worry about skin tones, they’ve all just got brown skin. They can wear really bright clothes and look awesome!

When we return to Australia we’re buying up big time, especially in the sock and undies department. I think we might even go with empty suitcases.

toi  8. People Won’t Listen To You

The number of people who won’t listen to you if frustrating to the max. I mean, what do we know, we actually live here and know how the system works. Visitors have wasted so much money because they JUST WON’T LISTEN. One friend was told by his travel agent that he would have to pay $50 more for an English speaking taxi driver. What a load of rubbish, English is one of the national languages here. Of course, he decided to ignore all of our advice and ended up paying thousands of dollars more than he needed to. We’ve had others who didn’t want our help (thank you very much), decided to do things their way and paid way too much for a vehicle hire and didn’t get to see the areas they really needed to.

And that’s just the visitors.

When you’re trying to bring in different ways of doing things, people will predominantly resort back to their ways. The proof of the success of your teaching is if they put it into practise when you’re not around. If 50% of it is done, that is pretty impressive. We’ll be gone for 8 weeks and it will be interesting to see what the state of things will be on our return.

 

 9. You’ll Spend A Lot More Time On A Computer Than You Ever Thought

There were 2 things I didn’t want to do when we came to Kenya – fundraising and sit in front of a computer a lot. Guess what, I’ve ended up doing both. It’s a necessary evil. Today someone said to me that they haven’t seen a newsletter for a while (it’s been a month). Flip my lid, I’m on Facebook every day, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and weekly blogs but it still doesn’t cover everyone. There’s marketing material to be designed, videos to create (and they take ages), grants to write and complicated emails to answer. It’s not unusual for me to be on a computer 8 – 12 hours a day.

man 10. It Just Might Be One Of The Best Moves You’ve Ever Made

When Africa gets under your skin, there’s nothing you can do about it. Sure, not everyone should be here long term, in fact, most shouldn’t. Whether you come for a short or long time, all that matters is that you’re doing what you should be doing. If you come with a flexible attitude, don’t always compare it to your home country and be in an attitude of learning, then you should be fine. I called the first year ‘Going back to school’. Every day and even parts of a day were a lesson.

What you will be surprised at is the number of things happening across the country and especially in Nairobi. There’s music festivals, fun runs, street performers, fashion shows, expos, conferences and more. You will meet some amazing people, fruit abounds year round and you’ll never get bored. You’ll notice there are lots and lots of nationalities, wildlife you’ll only read of in books and have experiences your friends will envy.

Africa, Kenya are places that will change you for the better. You’ll get a bigger world view. You’ll miss it when you leave.

sunIf you plan on coming for at least 2 years can I highly suggest that you don’t do anything for at least a month or two. Get to know the place, the people, directions and get your home set up. We get so passionate about helping people, we can hinder things by rushing in too fast. When we got here some of our team members were leaving and we were expected to take up the slack. I’ve heard of it happening lots in many projects and the newbies either sink or swim. Most of the time we didn’t have a clue that was going on and I remember every few days we were saying to each other “I don’t have a clue what I’m doing, I hope we’re doing okay”.

What To Remember When Going to Hells

Last week Pete announced that we were going to have a day off – it was a miracle! We often work on weekends and sometimes the weeks get really long. I’d always wanted to go to Hells Gate so last Wednesday that’s exactly what we did.

closeup of pete

Easy riding when it’s downhill.

Hells Gate is one of the many national parks we have in Kenya. With our handy residents card we can get in to some of them for $5 while tourists pay $40. It’s the only park where you can jump on a bike and ride through the wildlife. There’s a dirt road which is in pretty good condition and you can literally just stop and make your way to the animals any time you like.

cliffs

Lots of cliffs around, somewhere up there are baboons.

If you’re into rock climbing there’s a point about 5 minutes ride from the gate on which to practise. The deal is you have to hire a professional to assist, and we’re not really into that type of thing anyway.

One of the few zebras that we could see up close.

One of the few zebras that we could see up close.

About 2km’s from the park entry just as you turn the corner there are guys waving you down to hire their bikes, we kept going. First thing to remember – hire your bike from these guys and not at the park. The park ones are crappy as. My gears wouldn’t change, the back tyre was half flat and Pete had to disengage the rear brakes because they were rubbing badly. His chain kept falling off and he couldn’t change the gears either. We didn’t notice these things until we were a few k’s up the road.

It's a pretty big place.

It’s a pretty big place.

You think the KWS (Kenya Wildlife Service) who manage all the national parks would maintain their bikes – oh, there’s no such thing as maintenance here! We called into the bike hire place outside the park and for the same price there were way better bikes.

Plenty of these at the entrance to the gorge.

Plenty of these at the entrance to the gorge.

Nairobi was wet when we left and we weren’t sure what the weather would be like in Naivasha where the park was. It was 2 hours away so it had to improve. We took raincoats anyway but didn’t need them. However it would’ve been good to take sunscreen – which we didn’t. While we did end up riding through a thunder storm (a bit scary) before that it was rather warm. At least we had a couple of litres of water – a must over here. I knew I was getting burnt but it all came out that night – my nose and forehead were as red as a beetroot. So while we take the antibacterial handwash with us I must remember to throw in one of the many sunscreen bottles we have in our cupboard.

Warthogs. We kept yelling out "You calling me a pig?" Pumba quote.

Warthogs. We kept yelling out “You calling me a pig?” Pumba quote.

Having a decent camera is important. There actually weren’t that many animals and they were all away from the road. Sure, we could get off our bikes and try to get up to them but these are wild animals and they ran as soon as we moved. There were lots of warthogs, a few zebras, gazelles, antelope and a few big birds. I was waiting to see some giraffes but these were a no go. It’s probably one time I’ve taken very few photos. Although I’ve got a zoom lens it’s still not big enough. One day I hope to invest into a big beast to capture better photos of these marvellous creatures.

Only here can you find a geothermal plant in a national park.

Only here can you find a geothermal plant in a national park.

Set aside your whole day to go to Hell’s Gate. I’d seen some amazing photos of The Gorge and really wanted to see it. We didn’t get to the park until 11am and with our detour to the camping ground (Pete wanted to suss it out) and crappy bikes we got to the gorge about 1pm. I could see the storm clouds starting to roll in. You can either take the 20 minute or 90 minute trek each way. While we could buy drinks at the rangers station you couldn’t buy lunch. We said no to the gorge, leaving it for next time (when we could drive in) when Liz would be with us. One of the great things about Kenya is that you can pretty much buy fruit and veges on the side of most roads. Pete had bought these really nice bananas so they kept us going all afternoon.

You can't climb this mesa - which locals call a volcanic plug.

You can’t climb this mesa – which locals call a volcanic plug.

Because I thought we’d be doing a lot more walking I wore my hiking boots from Mt Kilimanjaro. They were a slight overkill, I’m wearing sneakers next time. It’s the short rainy season here so I wasn’t sure how wet the ground was going to be. In fact things were pretty dry. We haven’t been bike riding for years so our butts were a bit sore for a couple of days afterwards. Pete more so than me because I wore my mountain shorts, his were way thicker. We both forgot hats (you don’t wear helmets here) and didn’t need a jacket (which stayed in the car anyway). Basically, go prepared for any type of weather, use toilets at the start of the park and go and have lots of fun.

Our bikes having a rest, they were tired.

Our bikes having a rest, they were tired.

Hell’s Gate is good if you want to get out of the city for the day and just meander along. There’s no rush and there’s certainly plenty of places around to stop for food afterwards.