The readers amongst you will know that the beloved country of Alan Paton’s novel was South Africa. Bloggers get poetic license so my beloved country is Kenya. Well it is on the same continent.
I don’t remember exactly when I first visited Kenya – maybe 1994. It was a birdwatching holiday. Just over 2 weeks. I had recently taken up birdwatching (or birding as we sophisticated types call it) as an antidote to working in what is pompously known as The City. The City was then synonymous with Loadsamoney as portrayed by Harry Enfield. (Wikipedia describes Loadsamoney as “an obnoxious character who constantly boasted about how much money he earned”. Which was great. Except I didn’t.) Back to Kenya. That trip almost killed my interest in birding. We saw 500 species in about 15 days and it was impossible to keep pace with the rate of new birds. I was throughly over-birded by the time I got home. I longed to look out of the kitchen window at the bird feeders and know the rarest candidate for the day was a Siskin. No more cisticolas please, we’re British. However the trip did kindle an interest in Africa that I have maintained to this day.
I have been back, solo rather than in a group – several times. Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Morocco, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia…… they have all thrilled me in different ways. I held a couple of work conferences in Africa and became involved with sponsoring boreholes in two countries. In Kenya we raised $25,000 to put a borehole in for a village, where otherwise the locals walked several kilometers a day just to fetch water. In Cameroon a similar sum for a similar purpose. In Kenya again we raised money for the Kikuyu eye hospital. Loadsamoney. But in a good sense.
Africa gives back a warmth and friendship that is as good as any place I have been. My African colleagues are the most generous of spirit you will find. At times your preconceptions of Africa can be destroyed in an instant. I knew Ethiopia only through the eyes of Bob Geldof. Famine. Yet I found a country as lush as any I had visited, growing the most wonderful coffee and with the spectacular scenery everywhere. A half decent infrastructure could make this a honey pot for tourists. Basic it was. We stayed at a “lodge”, which consisted of a series of caravans, which I suspect may have been put out for scrap by a site in Tenby some twenty years earlier. No running water. One bucket of cold water a day. You washed in it, you flushed the toilet with it and if there was anything left over you could do whatever else you wished to do with it. Just don’t drink it. The scenery at this site was simply breathtaking. Deep gorges, grassy plains stretching to the horizon, Scissor-tail kites here, caracals there…….. oh and did I mention the rather large and predictably hairy spider in my rucksack? A real bonus. Always, but always zip your bag up at night as you never know what might creep in. And don’t drink Ethiopian wine. To quote the Pythons, this is not a wine for drinking, this is a wine for laying down and avoiding. (Actual quote: “Of the sparkling wines, the most famous is Perth Pink. This is a bottle with a message in, and the message is ‘beware’. This is not a wine for drinking, this is a wine for laying down and avoiding.”)
Perhaps 15 years on the wine may have improved. Maybe the roads have been finished. Perchance you won’t get threatened with an AK47 for photographing the local tribesman. But for sure you will fall in love with the country.
Kenya is an easy first course for Africa beginners. The infrastructure is pretty good. The roads deteriorate as you drive further from Nairobi but there decent charter flights available between lodges. And the scenery is a great introduction to Africa. My image for today is from 2005. A landscape converted to black and white. The Thompson’s Falls at Nyahururu. 72m drop. The Angel Falls this is not but it impresses none the less.
And so to close, a big thank you to the 37 brave souls, who visited this blog yesterday. I hope you like a taste of Africa.