Kenya, Lakes, Hills, and Habari Karibu

Our second spell in Nairobi (or Nai-robbery, as its affectionately known), involved more coffees out, a very nice Italian meal, and a restock of food stuffs in the new Carrefour supermarket, oh and a few minor jobs on Colonel K (replacement of broken rivets on the roof rack, removal of dud leisure batteries, and a small leak on the return pipe to the fuel tank). As I’ve said before Africa is very tough on vehicles, but our Leyland Daf is holding up better than most. Chris, the owner of Jungle Junction also took our South African and  our UK gas bottles into town and got them both filled up for us, this should now last us (our UK bottles anyway) until we get back to SA at around Christmas. Once again we had a great, if a little cold (compared to what we are used to), time at Jungle Junction, and again met some great people, and our thanks go out to Chris, his family and staff.

From Nairobi we headed north to Lake Naivasha, and stayed for about 4 nights camped right on the shores of the lake. As its quite close to Nairobi it can be quite a busy area at weekends, and sure enough on the Saturday night it proved a very popular place especially with the Kenyan Indian population. The area is a great place to see Hippo’s,both in and out of the water and many many species of birds, including Fish Eagles, Goshawks, Cormorants, Herons, Kingfishers, Waxbills, Weaver Birds etc. There are also many thieving Vervet Monkeys, just waiting for a split second opportunity to dash in and steal something, anything!

There was also a first for us,  a small troop of Colobus Monkey’s, these were so different from the manic Vervet’s, so much slower moving and more wary of humans, but beautiful to look at.

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Whilst at Lake Naivasha, we decided to drive to Crater Lake, which is in a Nature Reserve and only 19km away (12 miles), surely this can’t take more than 30 minutes to get there, especially as it was a tarmac road past where we were camped. Well the first 8km remained as tarmac (though with huge and I do mean huge potholes), then it turned to dirt, but surely it can’t be too bad as it does go to a popular tourist site………. WRONG! That last 10 km took us well over an hour, it went from very badly rutted dried mud, to quite deep sand, to washed away sections, it was shockingly bad, and really didn’t improve when we got to the gate of the NR, but after negotiating a rate to take Colonel K in, we drove to the reception area. Crater Lake is much smaller than all the other lakes in the area, and is actually a collapsed volcano that has filled with water, but it is a really nice place (though maybe not worth the $50 that we paid for the two of us and the truck).

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We were told by the very helpful guy on reception (I don’t think they get too many visitors here), that it was approx a two hour walk around the rim of the crater (this is much further than following the lake shore, which isn’t a walk anyway), but in true lorrywaydown style we arrived in the blazing heat of the day and it was seriously hot! So we decided to walk up to the highest viewpoint above the lake, and were shown the start of the walk by one of the rangers here. Armed with water supply and decent footwear we set off up the hill, and guess what? we went the wrong way! The path is supposed to be marked with arrows, well there definitely aren’t enough of them, and it is obvious that not many people walk this route, so being very careful where we put our feet (there are all sorts of nasty’s up in these hills) we retraced our steps and found the correct route. From up there the view was stunning, and we could clearly see the vast Lake Naivasha in the distance.

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Back down to the truck, we had a quick bite to eat before heading back on that rotten road to Camp Conelleys on Lake Navaisha.

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We met some great characters at Lake Navaisha, including a lovely America lady that runs an orphanage nearby that currently has 82 children living there, but after four nights it was time to move on to a campsite near Lake Nakuru NP.

We had been recommended this campsite by another overlander, and whilst there is no view of Lake Nakuru it is a lovely place with very well tended gardens and a great bar (it was here that we saw our only Olympics, the Brownlee Brothers taking gold and silver in the Triathlon). Again the bird life was great.

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But we timed our visit badly and on the second day approx 15 tents were set up quite near us, and a large group of very very loud Americans, with about a dozen Kenyan youngsters descended upon us, it was like a scene out of a US teen movie, lots of Americans shouting, whistles, even using mega-phones (not required). We left the next morning!

On the way out of the Nakuru area we crossed the Equator, and obviously had to do the compulsory selfie shots, at the metal spinning globe (well it spins if you give it a hard yank).

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Next up was Lake Borgoria to the north, this was a great recommendation from Chris at Jungle Junction. We turned up at Lake Borgoria Spa Resort (yup as nice as it sounds), and was told by the receptionist (that was busy dealing with some very rude Chinese guests), that camping was possible but the rate was 2,000ksh (about $20) per person per day. After politely telling her we couldn’t afford that much, she called the manager, who appeared with a big smile and a warm handshake. He then took us on a guided tour of the whole resort, including the camp site, swimming pool, showers and toilets, and the hot springs pool. This place was good value at $20 pppn, but Phillip, the manager, agreed that we could stay for $10 pppn, an absolute bargain! Heaven knows how much the Chinese guests were paying to stay here! A couple of hours later, as arranged, our Dutch friends Robert and Clarey turned up and we spend the next few days and nights in their great company (including a few great “happy hours” around our huge camp fires). The swimming pool here was by far the best and cleanest that we had seen for a very long time, and we made the most of it during our stay here.

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 Although we were mostly the only humans that used the pool (the hot spring fed pool always seemed busy), there were other “visitors”, including a large number of Marabou Storks that visited the pool regularly for a drink, up close these birds are both huge and very ugly (they are part of the “Ugly Five” after all).

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Then there are the Vervet Monkeys. These buggers have perfected the art of stealing anything, they are so fast here, and so cunning, I even had one large male stand its ground with me as I tried to chase it off.

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Sadly it was time to say goodbye for the final time to Robert and Clarey, as they headed back to Nairobi to have a few jobs done on their truck, and then they will head north into Ethiopia, and back to Europe. We stayed for another night (and another day in the pool obviously), and decided to eat in the restaurant that evening, Jac ordered pizza, and I ordered a minced beef curry (all the Chinese had a buffet), once again we were disappointed in our eating out, we should have learnt our lesson by now. Jac’s pizza was basically 25mm thick of tomato base (very sickly) and a few blobs of cheese on top, and my curry was so bloody hot (spicy hot) that it was almost but not completely inedible. But the great waiter that we had, decided that we needed to speak better Swahili, and ended up writing out our “homework” for the evening! Then our friendly security guard, Lawrence decided we needed escorting back to the truck and also started teaching us Swahili. With such great teachers we should be fluent in no time!

The next morning we left for Lake Beringo, again further north (the furthest north so far on the east side of Africa), and to a campsite that Robert and Clarey had visited on a previous trip in 2010, called strangely enough “Roberts Camp”. When they were here before they were allowed to camp down by the lake shore, the problem now is the water level has risen dramatically, and even some of their rooms are now way out in the lake.

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 Despite having to camp in their ground to the side of the bar (The Thirsty Goat), and not actually having a good view of the lake, we still had plenty of visitors that night including two huge Hippo’s that decided our camp fire was more inviting that their grass that they were munching.

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There was at least one huge crocodile near the bank and we were warned not to stand too near the waters edge by the manager and of course in true Kenyan style there were the mischievous Vervets again!

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We also had a pair of Southern Red-Billed Hornbills that refused to stop attacking Colonel K, both the windows and the mirrors, the male was particularly persistant.

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We only stayed one night at the blazing hot Lake Beringo, it was a very uncomfortable night with no breeze, and the cold shower was for once quite a relief, but next morning we set off west towards the mountains. Leaving the lake at about 950 metres (just over 3,000 feet) above sea level, we went up and over the first mountain range up to Kabernet (at just over 2,000 metres), a small town right on the top, the tarmac road then plunges very steeply back down to about 1,200 metres, and then rises again very very steeply up to the mountain town of Iten at 2,400 metres (over 8,000 feet) above sea level. Much of this journey was done with the truck in low range, and at times we were down to not much more than walking pace as it was so steep, but eventually we made it to Iten after climbing a total of over 8,000 feet in a day! Our plan was to camp at a place just outside Iten, and from here to explore the area and hopefully ‘blag’ our way into the high altitude training camp as used by many long distance runners including Paula Radcliffe and Mo Farah. 

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But the campsite that we had in mind (there is little to choose from up here as this is not part of the usual tourist route) was under going a bit of a refurb, and the ground we were told to park on was almost as sloping as the road up there! So we headed on to the large town of Eldoret, about 70km away. 

We have been in Kenya for over a month now, and have really enjoyed our time here, the people (in the rural areas) are very friendly, and the country has lots to offer the tourist. Tourism here has definitely taken a downward turn over recent years (perhaps after the terrorist attacks that have sadly targeted the country), but it now seems very secure and safe. Self driving here really is quite easy, wether camping or using lodges, the only downside is the safety of the roads. The driving standards of everybody from car, to truck, through to bus drivers (actually especially the bus drivers) really is quite shocking! It seems that for a Kenyan, it is impossible to judge risk while driving, and sod EVERYONE else.

Anyway, tomorrow we head for the Ugandan border, a long days drive to Jinja on the River Nile………… excited? oh yes!

 

Thanks for reading………..Tutaonana………… Hakuna Matata

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