A Visit to the Nairobi National Park

The Nairobi National Park is one of 54 national parks and game reserves within Kenya.

One of the best things about living in Nairobi is being able to visit the Nairobi National Park to hunt the wild animals with a camera. Its only a 30 minute drive from our place to the park and we often leave at 5.30am. The reason being is that it can take up to half an hour to get through the gate.

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The entry has gone totally cashless so you need to be prepared with either a credit card or Mpesa. For a foreigner it will cost you $43 USD entry, while a local is much cheaper. Be prepared to pay for your car as well.

We always take an esky/chilly bin/cooler box with us so we can snack after a few hours of being on safari. Also remember that there are only a couple of toilet stops within the park but there are toilets at the gate.

ant looking

A bonus of being inside the park is that you don’t have to lock the doors, you can keep the windows down and you don’t even have to wear your seatbelt. The park has speed limits and when you’re looking for animals the slower you go the better. The park is great if you’ve only got a few hours or a whole day to spare.

zebra drinking

These are wild animals. It’s not a zoo so be prepared to have maybe even up to an hour before spotting animals. It seems that you see lots and then nothing for a while. Make sure your radio is off or at least turned down. This is a great opportunity to detach from your phone and social media, breath in the fresh air and take your mind off work.

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The Nairobi National Park has a great variety of animals. You’ll see:

  • Hippo
  • Lion
  • Rhino
  • Antelope
  • Crocodile
  • Giraffe
  • Zebra

There’s also a huge variety of bird life to look at. Getting a good photo of them is a real challenge as the small, colorful ones flit around.

lion

Unfortunately last week we didn’t see the rhino that we’ve been following for the past 6 years. I was pretty disappointed, but we had guests with us who had another appointment. If it was just us, we would’ve kept looking for another couple of hours.

If you’re a visitor to the area, seeing the rail going through the park probably won’t shock you. However, if you’re a local, you’ll be horrified with how it has changed things. It’s been a year since we’ve been to the park and we were so shocked at how intruding it is on the wildlife. We could see the real difference human intervention had on the animals. It also threw us off in what direction to go because roads had been changed. We were so disappointed with the Kenyan Government because this was another stupid idea that they could’ve easily been changed.

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Be prepared for some really horrendous roads. One would think that keeping the roads in good condition in a national park would make sense – but then lots of things here don’t necessarily make sense. Another reason to go slow.

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While the other parks and reserves are much larger than the one in Nairobi, non are as close or convenient. I highly suggest you come on over and have a look for yourself.

eagle 2Interested in visiting? Drop us a line – thewildcreanberries@gmail.com

 

Why I Don’t Run Anymore

I have been running pretty much my whole life. I remember my dad kicking all 4 of us kids out the door to go running with him. He died when I was 14 and I think it was part of the grieving process that I just kept it up.

Throughout high school I entered races on sports day but I was never THAT good, especially the sprints. Doesn’t help when you have the New Zealand champion at the same school.

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I think I like running because it’s just me and my headphones out there. It’s a great way to shake things off, especially if you’re in a grump or trying to work things through in your head.

I took a break when my husband and kids came along. We were youth workers and threw ourselves into that 110%. New Zealand winters are wickedly cold and there is no incentive to go skating on black ice when you’re running. That’s the bonus of living in Kenya, you never get great highs and lows in the weather.

When we moved to Sydney, Australia, we lived close to the beach. There is nothing like the smell of salt water mixed with fresh air. It’s quite magical down by the ocean. You can have a really crappy day but head down to the beach and it all melts away. Most mornings I would get out for a run and then a quick walk on the beach.

I also like running because I like food. I’m not a piggy, I just appreciate food. However, as you get older, shedding the weight becomes a major challenge. Running on sand as well as up and down stairs gives you great thigh muscles. But, nothing ever came off the waist. Science tells us that something like 80% of weight loss is from the food we eat and only 20% from exercise. I’m not disciplined enough to go super healthy.

We’ve been living in Kenya for 5 years now. For the last couple of years it feels like I’ve been more out than in because of international travel. Mostly it’s for family stuff but also fundraising. Overall this year I’m 6 months in Kenya and 6 months overseas, with me being away for 6 weeks at a time.

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If only the place I went running was as good as this.

So I’ve decided for the rest of the year that I won’t go running. I’ve found it pretty impossible to go running when I’m on the road. Most of my friends who travel for work stay at hotels that have a gym. Me, I stay on people’s sofas or spare room. While I do find that going out for a run is a good way to get a lay of the land, I am the worst when it comes to directions. Also, because I move from one town to another after a few days and spend at least the first week trying to get over jetlag it’s near impossible to get into a routine.

Instead of running which I can’t sustain when I’m on the road, I’m power walking. It’s easier on the knees and it looks just as good as my ‘granny shuffle’. It doesn’t build as much muscle but I’m compensating by doing some exercises like situps and squats. So my ‘plan’ when I’m travelling is to at least walk three times a week for 30 minutes, which is what I do when I’m at home. At least that way I’m getting some form of exercise.

Will I ever go back to running? I hope so. I’ve finally found a better route that has less people walking on it and less potholes or a footpath. There’s no sewerage filled streams to run over and lots of trees. My running shoes are more than 5 years old so will pick up a spare pair I have in New Zealand and hopefully get back into it. I can’t see myself entering into any 15km ‘funruns’ but I can see myself enjoying the great outdoors.

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My typical running gear. This was in NZ when I tried walking on the beach as my exercise.

I’ll be 49 in a few months but I’m not going to let that nor my environment dictate my health to me. I hope to get back to running, I really do like it and at the same time I hate it because it’s such hard work. But then, I do like eating a lot!

 

 

 

The Tourist v The Resident

We often get short term visitors here in Kenya, some for just a night, others for a week. Not many come for a couple of weeks as they’re usually passing through on their way to another country. We always go out of our way for visitors, but I think they assume that’s how it always is. For our last visitor we bought bacon but I don’t think he has a clue that we only buy bacon once or twice a year – it’s way out of our budget.

We’ve been living here for 5 years and before that travelling back and forth for another 5. The longer we are the more interesting observations we’ve made.

 

Clothing

Tourists like to wear khaki coloured shorts or shirts. Naturally, when they go out on safari, this is the chosen colour. They also wear funny looking sandals. Too often, we see people wearing inappropriate clothing – like super short/tight shorts – it doesn’t leave much to the imagination.

As a resident, you know to wear covered in shoes because its so dusty and the ground dirty. I’m always jealous of Africa women because they can get away with brightly coloured clothes. Me, I’m just emerging into florals. Khaki is only for safaris that’s for sure. Unfortunately we are seeing more locals wear shorter clothing but nowhere near what we see in the West – thankfully.

tourist

 

Photos

Yep, you can spot the tourists as they all hang their cameras around their necks. They whip out a camera and take a billion and one shots – without asking the person. They are happy to shove a camera in the face of a stranger and snap away and then wonder why the person asks for money.

As a local you learn pretty fast that you don’t win friends that way. No one likes having their photo taken without permission. It’s also not safe to walk around with a camera. Nothing says ‘steal from me’ than a camera on your body.

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Security

I feel afraid for people when I see them walking around as it gets dark. It starts getting dark at 6.45pm and pitch dark by 7pm, it happens that fast – every day. I also see people on the back of motorbike taxis with no helmet or safety gear. It’s not like you can grow another head or anything!

Our daughter Liz travels lots of places on the back of a bike, but only if she wears a bright protective jacket and she has her own helmet. Once, her driver skidded on mud while he was taking a short cut and she ended up on the ground. It totally shook her up but reinforced the need for safety gear. We try not to drive long distances when its dark, there’s just too many people who walk around and vehicles without any lights to make it worth it. You have to have a plan if you want to last long term here. That includes not walking around when it starts getting dark. There’s been way to many muggings for that.

bike

Money

Tipping isn’t compulsory here but when you get good service, it’s appreciated. Our biggest note is 1,000 shillings, equivalent to $10USD. At one meal out with some visitors someone dropped in a whole 1,000 shillings, against our protests. For him it was nothing, but for us we could see the ongoing issues with it. The waiter was impressed because he was getting a great amount, but then it reinforces the thought ‘all foreigners are wealthy and we ‘poor Africans’ should be looked after’.

If we are just getting a coffee, we’ll give 50 shillings (65 cents), if it’s a meal, it will be 100 shillings ($1.30). If there’s a large group we’ll add another one hundred shillings. You have to think about the affect of what you do on the communities you work with.

 

So when you come, and we hope you do, please listen to us – we might just know a thing or two about the place, the culture, the people. This is their home, this is our home.

 

Peperuka

Peperuka – ‘to soar’ in Swahili.

I met the founder of this company a couple of years ago at a Christmas market in Nairobi. I had seen their tee shirts around town and was rapt to be able to get Liz a tee shirt that said ‘I love Nairobi’. The shirt has done her well but since Liz has lost weight, it’s time to downsize.

pillow

Wherever I go, I’m always grabbing business cards of interesting people, because you never know when you’ll need them. I’m constantly on the lookout for guest speakers at a program I’m involved in called The Girl Project. While my team does the majority of work, my role is to make sure there is an interesting speaker to inspire the girls. To say they are from disadvantaged situations is an understatement.

These students live in a 3 by 3 metre tin shack in the Kibera Slum. Their parents (mostly single mums) struggle to earn $5 a day. The girls often leave home at 5.30 in the morning for school and don’t get home until 7pm. We created The Girl Project not only to make sure they get sanitary products, but leadership and mentoring by Kenyan businesswomen.

Hence – Peperuka.

Why I love their work, is that they are proudly Kenyan – Africa is their home and want to show the inspirational side of it through design and clothing. I also like how they don’t compromise on quality. Too many times here I’ve seen second class quality on goods and it frustrates me, because it doesn’t have to be this way. I heard someone run a quote that went something along the lines of ‘We won’t see change until we as Kenyans stop accepting that we are worthy of only being second class’.

wangari

I agree. I’m always telling our students ‘if you want to be treated first class, you have to be thinking first class, cause our actions come out of our thoughts’.

Just last weekend we have the founder of Peperuka, Wangari and one of her team, Mary come and speak to our girls. I think it was the most impacting message the students had heard for a long time. It wasn’t just about the design and clothing industry, it was about lessons they had learnt in their own personal lives. Making the right choices can have a HUGE impact on our lives.

gp-mary

I wish people in the West could get a real picture of some of the amazing people we have here in Kenya. Unfortunately, good news doesn’t sell. I am privileged to be able to meet these people and I am proud to share about them.

When you see me this year, you’ll see me wearing some of the tee shirts made by Peperuka. I love their work and I think you should too!

White People!

A few weeks ago I was talking with someone back in our home country who was trying to help out a friend who was travelling to East Africa to volunteer for a couple of weeks. This person had been before, for a few months so had a small insight into some of the challenges visitors have. No matter what she said, the other person was ‘I know, I know’ even though they had no clue what they were letting themselves in for. My friend said in exasperation “White people!” (she is white herself).

I just laughed as those two words sums up the frustration many of us have with visitors.

 

It doesn’t matter how many books you read or movies you watch, you just ‘don’t get it’ until you spend some time here on the ground – and with an open mind.

tourist

 

We recently spent a day with some people from overseas who had been here a long time ago. No matter how many times we told them not to, they became happy snappers, wanting photos. I know it’s always exciting to be in a new place and try and capture as much as possible, but we and our team actually live here and have to do life with the people you’re wanting to photograph. Too many foreigners have come with their cameras, climbed out of their large safari vehicles, snapped some shots (without asking permission) and whizzed off again.

 

It makes people feel like they are animals in a zoo.

 

So here’s some tips for when you go to a new country, whether it’s developing or not:

  • Learn some of the local language, like greetings
  • Wear appropriate clothing
  • Ask before taking photos
  • Carry little cash on you
  • If you don’t like something (like the food) keep it to yourself and try not to show it on your face (out of respect for your hosts)
  • Don’t take your security for granted

 

When you’re in a new place, it’s not like home, it’s different, and different is good.

 

If you’re visiting for a short while, you’re a tourist. Even if you go somewhere for a couple of months, you’re still a tourist. Anything up to two years, and you’re still a visitor.

 

Please have respect for the local culture, take things slowly, and pretend youre back in school – it’s a great learning experience.

tourist-2

 

 

Not Quite What I Thought It Would Be Like

Yesterday we moved our belongings into an apartment. For the past 6 months we’ve been living out of suitcases while we went on a fundraising tour. Pretty much we were in a different bed every second night, so we got into a routine and where everything went. We had our ‘speaking clothes’, ‘casual wear’ and ‘travel clothes’. We knew where our toiletries would be and most importantly, where to find the hair brush.

Of course, after 6 months it did get a bit tedious but we were there for work so we made it the easiest for us.

So when we decided to return I was really looking forward to settling down and having a home to ourselves.

However, it hasn’t turned out so wonderful as I thought.

I thought finding an apartment would be easy. What I didn’t take into account was how prices for rent had risen since we’d been away. We were pretty specific on what we wanted. We needed a balcony for our BBQ (and I love sitting out there) and I wanted somewhere for my washing machine. I also wanted to drop how much we would pay per month because we hadn’t raised our personal income enough to spend more.

To find a place here you decide on the area you want to live in, then go from gate to gate and ask the guards if there is anything available. After a couple of fruitless days we employed the skills of two agents. I’d had other agents call me after I made some enquiries online but they all wanted $50 upfront for a commitment fee. At least these two guys wanted nothing (they got paid by the landlady).

We ended up with two options, none we were 100% happy about but we needed to find something this week. On the Friday we signed for the apartment and then discovered that the President announced a public holiday on Monday. Thankfully, the guy we’ve used before was able to bring together a team to work on the Monday anyway.

I’m used to moving so it was no big deal to do it for the umpteenth time.

What got me was when we started unpacking the 30 something boxes. I got so overwhelmed by the amount of stuff we had accumulated over 4 years. I was used to just a few clothes and here I was looking at more clothes than I ever saw. Then when I went to unpack the kitchenware I got annoyed with myself in how many plastic containers we had. Seriously, did we need that many containers? Did we need that many clothes and shoes?

I know after a few weeks I’ll adjust but right now I’m staring at my wardrobe and already deciding that if I don’t wear them in the next few months, I’ll pass them on to someone who actually needs them.

We do have to ask ourselves if we really NEED the amount of belongings we own. While travelling I’ve seen some people who have a whole room dedicated to just their shoes. Isn’t there a better investment in life than that?

Stuff disintegrates, but the investment we can make into the lives of people is what continues forever.

That’s where I’ll be making more of an investment in. What about you?

The Challenge of Exercising in Nairobi

Nairobi is not the easiest place to keep fit. There are lots of gyms popping up but there are very few places you can get out in the fresh air. We have Karura Forest which you can walk or run through, for us it’s a 30 minute drive away. If you’re into tennis there’s a number of courts to hire. Some people risk their lives biking. I think Nairobi has one actually hockey field but it’s under construction. We have the only ice skating rink in East Africa and costs $10 for a one hour session.

 

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My faithful runners have kept me going for 5 years

So there’s not a lack of variety of things to do, you just need to have the budget and time to drive to where you need to go. Liz plays soccer (we call it football here) on Saturday mornings and she’s just discovered volleyball on Friday nights.

For me I like to run.

I like getting out there as soon as the sun rises and it’s safe to be out there by myself. This means the earliest I can go is 7am. Because we’re close to the Equator the sun starts rising at 6.30am, every day and it’s pitch dark by 7pm.

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Normal 7am traffic

I’ve never been a fast runner, in fact it’s probably more jogging than running. I’ve dubbed it my ‘granny shuffle’.

It’s not exactly easy to run here though. Hundreds of people are walking on the side of the road to get to work. 85% of Nairobians rely on public transport. That means they walk as far as possible to reach a bus to take them to work. The average person spends 1 – 2 hours each way to work. That means I have to run in between people, and most don’t move over.

There are very little footpaths in our area. You simply walk on a dirt track on the side of the road. More footpaths are being built which is great, but not around us. I try and run on the road when it’s clear but with the condensed traffic it doesn’t happen much. Some idiot on a local building site decided to put the broken tiles and bricks into a shallow ditch that suffices as a path. It’s really dangerous whether you are walking or running. It’s easy to twist an ankle.

 

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The ‘footpath’

Buses are my biggest annoyance. The other morning there were 3 school buses outside our compound picking up school kids. The blocked the whole road and don’t care about pedestrians. Just up the road a bus pulled up in front of me and parked up on the only footpath we have. There’s plenty of private schools in the area and kids are picked up from 6am onwards. It’s sad to see the little preschoolers being picked up super early and then they get dropped off at 5pm.

Between the traffic, dirt tracks and people it’s a real challenge to even want to get out there.

However, I’ve found a secret place.

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A 5 minute walk from our house is a gated community full of huge houses hidden behind large fences and security guards. Pete tells me there are a few politicians living there which explains the niceness of it all. Only residents can drive in there, there’s painted lines on the road and there are no potholes at all. In fact you don’t feel like you’re in Nairobi at all.

Running along there with the beautiful green trees, no noise (except the guard dogs) is just serene.

 

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The entrance into the gated community

Over the last couple of months of exercising there I’ve seen the regulars and spotted the new ones out there either walking or pounding the pavement. There’s even a small fitness group with a personal trainer that meets a few times a week.

 

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A little slice of heaven

We move out of our place at the end of the month and I often wonder if we will get an apartment in the same area when I return in September. If not, then I’m going to have to start finding a safe running area all over again. This one took me 2 years to find this one, I wonder how long it will take to find the next one.

 

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How red I get at the end of it all

It’s Going To Be An Interesting Year

2016 is in full swing. The schools are back here, Nairobi traffic has returned to its normal snail pace and for those who got away, their holiday is a mere memory.

Our Christmas was a non-event, we just ended up at a restaurant. Pete’s been  helping a mate, which means he was away from 6.30am until 8pm EVERY DAY, with the car. It has meant very long and lonely days when there’s nowhere to go and no car to get there.

Me – my computer and I spent lots of hours together getting ready for the year. Exciting, not.

I know I shouldn’t be complaining because it’s the only time in the whole year that I’ve had down time. But down time by yourself and all of your friends are out of town can be downright boring.

Now that Christmas and New Years is over I thought I would share on why this will be a very interesting year for us.

Our youngest daughter and her husband are expecting their first child (a girl) in March, however because she has gestational diabetes they may induce her early. I’ve been really honoured that she wants me in the delivery room with them. We’ve managed to scrap the funds together by selling off some old items and a friend gave us some money which meant I could get a ticket to New Zealand.

han

Liz has to return to Australia to keep getting her disability pension, but that’s not till the end of March. There’s no point in Pete staying behind by himself for months on end. We did that in 2014 for 7 weeks and it’s not much fun.

So we have a plan.

Pete will fly back with Liz and spend a week in Australia to meet up with some donors and help out an elderly couple of friends. If we can’t rent our apartment out we’ll put  our stuff in storage at our friends warehouse.

Because we’ll be gone until September.

What we’re going to do is take an absolute break in April. Usually when we go back we see our family for about one night. It’s shameful really but trying to catch up with everyone is near impossible.

For the next 8 weeks we will then be on the road speaking at schools, churches and Rotary Clubs. It’s also a great opportunity to meet with our personal supporters and try to raise more funds.

After NZ we pretty much do the same throughout Australia. At least New Zealand is small to get around, Australia takes a long time to get from A to B.

suitcase

I hope to be able to set up a charity in New Zealand and start a team there. We have lots of Kiwi connections and I believe we can really get something going well there.

We have a great team here in Nairobi. It’s all set up for them to take up the opportunity to show us what they’ve got.

I’m sure after 4 months on the road we’ll be glad to throw away the suitcases and head home to Kenya. I’m certainly not looking forward to our first winter in 4 years. But I am looking forward to raising funds for our projects.

Most of all I’m looking forward to seeing my daughter for the first time in 14 months and of course, cuddling our grand daughter.

I look forward to sharing our weekly updates with you. I hope if you are one of my readers that you’ll want to meet up with us while we’re in Australasia.

It will be weird though. When we went to the US last year everything was so foreign and I have a feeling that it will be the same when we head back home. So much has changed and so have we.

You can find our video announcement HERE

 

 

Things I only wish I could say on Facebook

Half the world are involved daily on social media sites. If I put these comments up on Facebook I think I might be persecuted and seen as small minded. People would think I’m picking on them, when all I’m doing is having a viewpoint. I thought I’d put my points on the blog just to get it out of my system.

So here goes.

  1. Girls – please cover up more!!

It’s not just because I’m a mother and I’m 46. Females don’t have to go around with a paper bag over themselves but seriously the amount of skin could be reduced somewhat.

Remember, once it’s out there on social media – it’s out there for good. Potential employers check out your page. The amount of skin and lack of clothing does nothing for the advancement of women, it actually cheapens our worth.

Modesty seems like a swear word these days. Objectification of women isn’t helped by the very same females that give men the feeling of ‘taste and see’.

Girls, it’s time to embrace your womanhood, but do it with style. We don’t need to see pretty much all of your skin except your nipples and downstairs. Have some respect for yourself.

  1. A like doesn’t actually change anything.

Just because you hit the ‘like’ button doesn’t mean you change anything, it’s just your opinion. What brings change is money to a cause that is already making a difference. It amazed me how Australians get up in arms about taking in more refugees but I wonder how many would personally open their homes to a total stranger?

In 1993, photographer Kevin Carter made a trip to Sudan, where he took a photo of a vulture preying upon an emaciated Sudanese toddler near the village of Ayod. Carter said he waited about 20 minutes, hoping that the vulture would spread its wings. It didn’t. Carter snapped the haunting photograph and chased the vulture away. Journalists in the Sudan were told not to touch the famine victims, because of the risk of transmitting disease, but Carter came under criticism for not helping the girl.

Carter eventually won the Pulitzer Prize for this photo, but he couldn’t enjoy it. “I’m really, really sorry I didn’t pick the child up,” he confided in a friend. Consumed with the violence he’d witnessed, and haunted by the questions as to the little girl’s fate, he committed suicide three months later.

kevin-carter-vulture

We need to get out of our ‘liking’ to doing something that brings about change.

  1. Those videos with ‘wow, I can’t believe this happened – are the most boring and annoying posts ever.

I know the words are used to get people to actually watch the videos, but how annoying are they? You go onto the video and they’re usually less than spectacular. It’s worse than being ‘poked’ and you know how bad that is! Maybe I’m a bit hard hearted but I probably only enjoy one in ten of those videos.

  1. Stop posting your hate for Muslims – that’s not the way to show your own faith of ‘love’.

People accuse Muslims of being radicals but from what I’ve seen on Facebook, the haters are just as radical. I have lots of Muslim neighbours, there are 5 Muslim girls at our project in Kenya, in the past my boss was a Muslim, albeit a bad one except when his father was around.

I despise it when people put up dumb posts that cheer when something happens to a person of another faith (e.g. the death of a Dubai prince) –  as if their race, religion or gender is superior. Or the super spiros who think that if a crane falls on a mosque killing people that it’s God’s judgment.

I thought there was going to be one Judgment Day, and we wouldn’t be the judge.

Just because we belong to another faith stream does not give us the right to spit out our hate towards another. I remember reading when Jesus said to ‘love your enemies’.

If you want to win people over, you don’t do it by pouring out hate on them.

  1. When people use others photos and claim them as their own

Grrr. I’ve had my own photos used without my permission and it’s infuriating. Today I was reading a post on an expat site here in Nairobi about a trip to the Amboseli National Park. The photos they used weren’t their own – they had the photographers watermark on them. Of course when I queried this they stopped responding to me and then they were cheeky enough to crop the photo and take the watermark off it. At least give credit where it’s due.

  1. Irresponsible Reporting

The job of the media is not to tell the truth but to sell a story. Often the initial ‘facts’ are then changed because it’s about getting out a story before anyone else does.

Here’s a video from the Huffington Post about the wrong information getting out about the tragedy of the Boston Bombing .

It’s also the wording that is used to attract the reader – like this story about suicide.

There is nothing beautiful about suicide at all. It is one of the leading causes of death for Australian men aged below 44, with men being four times more likely to die by suicide than women, and men use more violent means to end their lives.

The news is about sales and that is all.

  1. The stupid facials

In twenty years time imagine when people look at this generation and see all the stupid poses and facials. They’ll probably be thinking – man, what drugs were they on? Seriously, can’t we get photos of people with tongues in their mouths and not bending half way over? It’s like there’s a whole generation of people with injured backs.

  1. When ignorant judgement calls are made

Ebola happened in West Africa, we live in the East. People we knew were freaking out because they thought we might get it. People decide not to come to Kenya because of what they’ve heard or think they heard in the media. There’s an attack at the coast, a 9 hour drive from our place and we get inundated with messages to see if we’re okay.

In 2013 one Australian died in Kenya. In Bali – 48. In fact an Australian dies every 9 days in Bali, yet we in Kenya are accused of it being a dangerous place to visit.

Most people think that Africa is one country and is all about war, poverty and famine. Every single person that comes here says the same thing ‘I never knew how good it would be’.

When people put up photos of a child outside a mud hut, there’s the assumption that it’s like that all over.

I know, because I get comments about it all of the time.

  1. Fuzzy photographs

This is one of the most annoying things I see on social media. In this day and age surely people can be putting up photos that are in focus. As a photographer it’s really annoying. You might as well not bother.

  1. Breakdown of the English language

My top peeve would be how people shorten a whole sentence with a new form of English that to me is just gross. Mainly it’s the Kiwis who are the worst at it.

Examples (from some of my favourite people):

  • you fullas lit up that syd I’m sure lolol was that the t rythms too sis
  • Nek minnit
  • you fellas vamoosed somewhere,it was good see youse
  • Hard owt at what he does best kuzzie
  • Should of sent sam to urz or uz could of come here lol
  • apologies in advanced for being dat guy
  • come and get your cuzzie to the gym to do some work aye
  • Love us all in rotoz
  • every1 breeze forgot to put family pass for 2adults and 4 kids its 60bux 4 debretts
  • churr bro

So there it goes, my top 10 things I’ve really wanted to say on Facebook but can’t. I use social media A LOT so it probably annoys me more than the normal person. I probably annoy you, feel free to share.

A Visit To The Aberdares

The Aberdare Ranges is a 160km long mountain range north of Nairobi. It’s only 135km from our place and was easily driven in 3 hours. We’ve wanted to go there for ages but never made the time for it.

Hills everywhere

Hills everywhere

This weekend we had the opportunity because there was a group that needed some advice on growing crops, greenhouse s and irrigation. That’s Pete’s department, as a farmer, he’s pretty good at it. He has a whole lot of knowledge that can help community groups improve their agricultural situation.

You can hear the river from your room.

You can hear the river from your room.

Our host Zack, from the Aberdare Cottages and Fishing Lodge. Invited us up for the night so we could spend as much time as possible talking with his team. We’ve never stayed at a lodge before because it’s way out of our budget.

Zack explaining about the region

Zack explaining about the region

We were quite impressed with the road getting there. It’s the last 12 kilometres that is a bit of a challenge. It’s murram road, most of us would call it a dirt road, but it’s actually murram. It’s not horrendous, but you want to take it slowly. There’s quite a bit of building going on up the road so there’s plenty of machinery and people to contend with. Zack had emailed directions, and they were easy to follow – and correct!

bedroom

One of the bedrooms in the self catered cottages

Zack wasn’t there when we arrived as he was in Nairobi for a meeting. I thought ‘here we go, we’ve just wasted 3 hours driving and he’s not going to turn up’. Moses, the staff member in charge made sure we had cold juice and hot face cloths to refresh while he checked on Zack’s progress. He would turn up later, meantime, Moses took us up to the greenhouse area so Pete could have a preliminary assessment of the situation.

Everything in this area is on a hill. There are very few flat parts, so be prepared to get those legs working. People who live there are amazing how they have terraced out their properties to grow crops.

Self catered cottages, right beside the river.

Self catered cottages, right beside the river.

I have to say, the staff have been trained really well at hospitality. Our bags were taken to our room, which was partly a tent backing onto a bathroom. There was a king sized bed as well as a single (for Liz). I couldn’t believe how many blankets were on the bed, I hadn’t seen that for 15 years when we lived in New Zealand. I knew it could get cold at night, but that cold?

While Pete did some homework on the place, Liz and I crashed or an hour before lunch. I was really pleased that the bed was comfortable but I was worried about the road noise we might experience at night as there was the only road in the village outside our room. I didn’t hear one vehicle that night, and I am the world’s lightest sleeper.

Lunch was a small buffet outside under the umbrellas. Apparently there were two other couple staying that weekend but at that stage it was just us.

The first time we've had an indoor fire for about 15 years.

The first time we’ve had an indoor fire for about 15 years.

It didn’t take long to get a feel of the place. It’s not where you rush – you’re taking a breather out from the hectic life in Nairobi. You can do as little or as much as you want. The ideal is just to sit there, talk and enjoy your surroundings. The internet is on ‘E’ for enough so don’t expect to be uploading lots of videos. We found out afterwards that there is complimentary wifi but I think it’s a good opportunity to get off the Net and get connected with life again.

The cottages have a small verandah with chairs and a table to sit out on and relax. There are some cottages that are more like cabins but I quite like the idea of being in a tent – and in comfort. There’s no shortage of electricity and rooms have a couple of power points. I was really pleased to see there were hot water showers. I wish I’d taken my hair dryer but I didn’t know what we were walking into.

You certainly don’t come away from a lodge hungry. There was afternoon tea in one of the many community rooms on the property. There we got to meet the other couples and a nice verandah overlooking the valley. Zack had returned from Nairobi and the first thing he did was to greet all of his guests. To him, the lodge is an extension of himself. The property has been in his family for a number of generations. The rustic look comes from the trees that his grandfather planted. This is the only lodge in the area. There you can bring your own tent, use a cabin or just down the road they’ve built some self-serviced rooms right next to the river.

Looking at the river. The water was cold.

Looking at the river. The water was cold.

What I did like about Zack is that he’s a visionary. He wants to be able to use his property to teach the local community about different ways of farming, crops, business and education. He hires trained staff and gets them to work alongside locals to train.

I wouldn’t want the place to be packed out. With 11 cottages, when it’s full there would be at least 22 people. When we were there it was very intimate and peaceful. That’s the beauty of the place. It’s not an institution, it’s an invitation to tranquility.

Looking from the verandah where we had breakfast.

Looking from the verandah where we had breakfast.

That night the fires were lit, but it wasn’t as cold as I thought it would be. Who turns down a good fire while eating dinner? The meals were pretty good. Not over the top flash, but a buffet style, so you could eat as much as you wanted. I’m a coeliac and I was at peace knowing there was food from the garden I could eat. I don’t know if they serve alcoholic drinks because none of us there were into it, but the drinks came out cold and ice was on offer. Pete was happy as he could get a real coffee there.

When we returned to our cottage at night I was shocked (in a good way) that there were hot water bottles in our beds. I was a bit concerned because I had left our laptops and wallets on the bed. Of course, I checked the wallets and found all of the money there. Whew, that doesn’t happen everywhere.

The hills are alive with the view of tea

The hills are alive with the view of tea

In Nairobi I am attacked by mosquitoes at night – constantly. We have to use plug in mossie repellent things to keep them away. Due to the height of where we were staying, I could even walk outside at night and not get eaten. I really thought the 5 layers of blankets would be too hot – but it wasn’t. Liz said she was a bit warm but I’m a hot bod and it didn’t worry me. I did have to throw out the hot water bottle during the night – Pete kept his.

Breakfast was held outside on the verandah. I always take gluten free cereal with me because most restaurants can’t cater for my needs. I needn’t have worried. There was a full cooked breakfast available as well as cereals, juice, hot drinks, toast and fruit. Again, it was a chance just to relax. We were there at 9am, and the first to turn up. Again, don’t come here and be in a hurry.

Liz on the steps of our cottage

Liz on the steps of our cottage

Afterwards Zack invited us all for a guided hike. Too bad I was wearing black jeans, a black tee shirt, no sunscreen nor a hat. It had really warmed up and of course, I took no water. Fool! Zack gave us the history on the place and all he knew about tea. He showed us the self contained rooms which are literally metres away from the river.

Back for lunch (yes, we ate our way through the weekend) it was then time to head home.

My likes:

  • The staff went out of their way to make us comfortable
  • The quiet, relaxed atmosphere
  • Lots or little activities that could be done
  • Comfy beds

My dislikes:

  • We didn’t get to stay longer

We can’t wait to get back in a few months. Maybe you should take time out and spend a weekend at the Aberdares Cottages and Fishing Lodge. You won’t regret it.

You don't see a lot of wildlife here.

Wildlife includes lambs, eagles and rainbow trout.

Check them out HERE