Friday, November 23, 2007

Diary - Day 4

Wednesday 10th October
Up early, left late. The first night of bush camping was mixed for all with some apparently hardly sleeping at all. Myself and John had been treated to a further hour of guitar by Rogarty before turning in and we were all a little tired but ready to get trekking. After a breakfast of porridge and sausages (not together), we set off in the buses to drive half of the 50kms to Kitumbeine. Having stopped at our first sighting of giraffe we eventually stopped and began our trekking on sand and dust tracks. The journey was gentle and uneventful until we chance upon a herd of 8 or 10 giraffe that we watched for a considerable time. We then continued before reaching our lunch stop where we enjoyed freshly prepared salad and fruit. The morning walking had been tame so far but as the heat intensified the group became strung out along the path and stragglers were picked off. Two required the assistance of support buses but the rest were able to continue with brief but regular stops as we crossed the Rift valley floor where we were met with a short burst of rain that provided relief for some but gave increased humidity for the final 2km through the village and on to the campsite where we were greeted with a cold drink and flannel to sooth any aches and pains. There was a mixture of joy and relief and reaching our destination some 23km away – some suffering more than others.
Many trekkers took the opportunity of a shower before a dinner of chicken and vegetables. We sat briefly around the campfire with drinks before heading to bed and a restful if somewhat warm sleep.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Journal - Day 3

Tuesday 9th October
Breakfast this morning in the Safari hotel in Nairobi was freshly prepared omelette with peppers, onions and chillies, followed by fruit platter. After our vehicles arrived we loaded and finally made our torturous exit from the smog of the city and the journey to the border passed without incident water bottle. Belting down the highway we hit a bump, the door swinging open sending the poor aluminium Sigg bottle out and onto the ground, it was retrieved, some serious injuries had been sustained but integrity remained intact and the bottle lives on.
We reached the border at Nwange after a short pit stop and proceeded through border controls with little fuss. After reaching Longido Township we received news that our transport was unable to make the final 4.5km and we would proceed on foot. This caused some concern to our tour leader but everyone was happy to be out of the busses and took to the path without complaint. In fact the 4.5km turned into less than 2km and we were greeted by a cool flannel, glass of mango juice and a fully struck camp.
Lunch of breaded fish with potato and vegetables was served and gratefully consumed after which we received our camp talk and met our staff for the next 5 days.
We then finally set off on our first trekking of the trip – to a Maasai ‘boma’, where we were welcomed by the residents and spent some time inside the ‘manyattas’ and chatting with the children who were all very friendly if a little pushy when it came to photographs.

We finally wrenched ourselves away, stopping at the improvised market place to make several purchases of jewellery and goods – all beautifully made.
We returned to camp learning about the local area on the way from our guide Samuel – a very well educated Maasai elder.
After washing and pre-dinner drinks we sat down to a meal of mushroom soup followed by beef stew with rice. This was capped off by drinks around the fire with Rogarty on the guitar giving us a rendition of local Swahili songs and Bob Marley classics...only in Africa.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Journal - Part 2

Monday 8th October
Somehow, I am sitting in suite number 918 of the Safari Club Hotel – Nairobi’s only all-suite hotel…it feels very uncomfortable.
The contrasts today have been stark and have now been made all the more apparent by us rolling into the forecourt of the hotel at 9pm to be greeted by bellboys, concierge and a restaurant serving ostrich steak and crocodile medallions.
We began this morning with a breakfast of traditional simple African fare before setting off for our first project visit of the day – the Community Water Project in Ntuka where a pipeline covering some 42 kilometres has been established to transport water into the Maasai communities.

The people we spoke with were very warm and welcoming although the children were naturally very nervous of 20+ white people wielding cameras and asking questions. We gained their trust and they soon became relaxed – laughing and joking while we explored a traditional homestead or ‘boma’, only a few metres from the new water kiosk – the women no longer having to walk up to 20km a day for water. This in turn meant the children were now able to attend school and gain an education.

On reaching the school we were greeted by song and dance from the children – all kitted out in very smart uniforms from the youngest of about 4 up to 16 and 17 year olds. We toured the classrooms – both old and new and looked through school books where the children were learning subjects such as astronomy, nutrition, crop rotation, diseases and vaccinations and many others.
After this we were treated to a special dance by several members of the school which involved participation from several of our party. We distributed t-shirts that had been designed by children in the UK and then subjected the school to a rendition of ‘head, shoulders knees and toes’, they were not overly impressed.
After lunch on the move, we travelled to the final stop of our visit – the Intake and irrigation furrows that have provided the water for these communities and many others. The simple system merely channels the little water there is into a furrow for irrigation then into the pipeline that stretches across the plains and serves over 5,000 people and 18,000 animals – without the use of pumps. Something very basic and simple, but of such importance to the community, which has now taken over control of maintaining it.
We then set off for our trip back to Nairobi via Narok – a journey of some 6 hours the first parts of which afforded us glimpses of much wildlife – zebra, wildebeest, Thompson’s gazelle, impala, dik-dik, ostrich, secretary birds and baboons as well as many beautiful birds such as bee eaters and kites.
We eventually rolled into Nairobi and the palatial surroundings we now find ourselves in and sat straight down to a dinner of goat stew (the most basic and traditional thing I could find on the menu) whilst waiting for the second bus which it seems had turned up at a different safari hotel on the other side of town.
Despite the best efforts of the hotel staff to persuade us otherwise – a few ventured to a bar around the corner for a couple of drinks before retiring for the night.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Journal of a Trekker - Part 1

Well it's taken a while...but here is the first installment of my Africa Trek Journal. The rest will be published (with more photos) over the coming days.

Footsteps of the Maasai Trek, 7-16 October 2007

“Join Maasai tribesmen and seek out your nomadic origins as you take on this majestic bush trek through Africa’s most beautiful region – the Rift Valley. Trek through a landscape of acacia trees, savannah grasslands and volcanoes, passing antelopes, zebras, giraffes and traditional Maasai villages – this is the cradle of mankind”

So said the blurb before we left and what a bush trek it was.

Thanks to your support, my total raised at the end of October stood at £3,293.15. By the end of our trek, the group of 23 as a whole had raised an astonishing £92,000 between us for ActionAid – thankyou.

Sunday 7th October
We are now just over 1 hour from landing in Nairobi to start our ‘challenge of a lifetime’ – events so far having been non-eventful (no traffic on the M25, very quick check in, emotional good byes to the girls, successful meet and greet with fellow passengers and about 2 hours sleep (disturbed). Soon reality will kick in as we are whisked straight from the airport to Narok some 2 hours away and a project visit this afternoon.

An entertaining drive from Nairobi threw up the usual standard of African roads with deviations aplenty and the opportunity to choose which side of the road to drive with regular occurrence. Passing through several villages threw up the hoped for collection of entertaining shop names – of note the Destiny Hotel, butcherys aplenty and what appeared to be the Kenyan equivalent of Weatherspoons – chain of ‘Honey Pot’ pubs – worth a visit? Having left Nairobi in drizzle and mist it was a delight when our route took us past a vantage point giving us views stretching for miles across the Rift Valley – so impressive in fact that astute budding businessmen had set up stalls with goods for sale while you took in the beauty of the ‘3rd World View’…we didn’t stop.

After a brief snooze we headed out to our project visit – Oloontoto Dining Hall at a boarding school some 20kms outside of Narok that serves approximately 500 children (200 of whom are boarders). ActionAid money has helped build a large new kitchen and dining area that now serves as a meeting hall for the whole community as well as a place for the children to eat together indoors. We were shown around the school by the obviously proud head teacher then treated to some wonderful singing and dancing in the hall from groups of both boys and girls. Afterwards as we made our way through the grounds we each received our mob of children who were intent on getting into every photo – 1 or 2 taking particular interest in my hat and sunglasses, another obtaining my ActionAid ID badges and now answering to name of Andrew. We visited their classrooms – brick buildings with desks and blackboards as usual, where I showed them some postcards of London I had brought with me – gone within 5 seconds flat.

Eventually we climbed aboard our buses, waved goodbyes and drove off in a cloud of dust much to the children’s obvious disappointment. We headed back to the hotel stopping briefly for the zebra (and gazelle) crossing.
The children at Oloontoto School

After a quick change of clothes and a drink in the hotel bar, 3 of us took a wander into downtown Narok to see the locals. We found the best policy to be to walk in the middle of the road to avoid cars and trucks using the supposed pavement. The many “Jambos” on the way were followed by inevitable requests for money or pens – not aggressive or pleading – and we found a polite “Habana” (No) would suffice. We ventured into Harry’s bar – a seemingly small cosy tavern from the outside that turned out to be more a German beer hall arrangement without the waitresses but with the hanging meat. We had a quick beer for which we decided on the price then returned to our hotel for ice-breaking games followed by dinner then a drink in the bar before bed – it was gone 9pm after all.