EAST AFRICA SAFARI 2017 – Fourteen

DAY 76 WEDNESDAY 22nd FEBRUARY 2017. BROOKE, KERICHO, KENYA

I did a very, very, very dumb thing this morning. I do sometimes…

Topping up the engine oil, as I do every few days, I unscrewed the oil filler cap and put it on the engine, topped up the oil, talking to Rutoh and others who had gathered on the rough gravel outside the hotel gate, preparatory to leaving. Yep… I rode off without returning the cap. It was perhaps two or three kilometres before I saw how stupid I had been – I mean, as I took it off, I thought to myself, ‘must remember to put it back!’ I turned round immediately, foot on the filler hole and rode gently back. It would be on the bumpy gravel within a couple of metres of where I had topped up the oil – wouldn’t it?

Despite at least ten very friendly Kenyans and twenty pairs of eyes, we never found it. Logic tells me that it couldn’t have balanced more than a few metres on the engine top, but it was gone. Almost an hour of searching, even employing the security staff’s metal detector on a scrubby grass outcrop. Gone. What to do? Cheerful Sambo, such a charmer, a nearby welder making window frames, fashioned a wooden plug with some inner tube as seal, a work of real craft. I rode slowly back along the road searching for the cap; surely it couldn’t have survived this far..? Road bumps, lurching onto the tar edges, bouncing over gravel. It couldn’t have gone far. But it has eluded many eyes over several hours.

Finally, I set off, trusting to the wooden plug, waving goodbye to all my new friends: I DO appreciate how I can share so much communication in Kenya. I rode over the hill to the north and was in tea country. Espying a road into one of the big estates, I turned off to take yet another tea photo, stopping about half way down a gentle hill to a gatehouse and walking into the tea. Photo taken, I threw my leg over the bike, and pushed the electric start. ‘Click’. Again: ‘click’. The engine had seized! I panicked. This was the end of my journey! I would have to send the bike back to Kitale by truck, following in a matatu. The end of my safari.

First things first: I had to get back to Kericho. I needed a pick up truck. I pushed the bike up the hill towards the road, no mean feat as the sun was now high in the sky after a cool morning. The last rise up to the road was beyond me but a cheery fellow selling bags of tea where traffic had to slow down for a speed hump, hurried over to assist. Kenyans are like that. He then (for a small consideration of course) hopped on a boda-boda to go and fetch a pick up truck from town. Little did I know that if I had continued to push the little bike – and now I was appreciating its lightness! – up a long rise of perhaps 500 metres, I could have freewheeled back to the hotel! Oh well, in the end we loaded the bike into the pick up and drove about two kilometres (costing me about £8!). I stopped at the hotel to drop off my bags and rebook my room with smiling Rutoh – who had already sent me two text messages to say how he had enjoyed my visit and ‘safe journey’ – Kenyans are so good at these social niceties.

There was, everyone assured me, a good bike mechanic in the local town. I’m not actually lodging in Kericho, but four kilometres down the road in Brooke (Brooke Bond, I wonder??), and the local community is a scruffy place of run down lock up shops, pitted streets and small businesses, a typical African local town. We drove into the depths of this seedy area and, sure enough, there was an oily cavern of a single storey lock up with bikes in various stages of decrepitude and destruction littered about. My arrival caused a stir and we soon had the bike amongst the mess and oiliness. Simon, the driver of the pick up drove away with many smiles, leaving me with Nashon and his assistants and a considerable crowd of onlookers. Nashon is a quiet, unassuming man who gave off an air, to me at least, of mechanical confidence that cheered me no end. He was undemonstrative and quickly assessed my bike’s problem. Removing the spark plug, he injected engine oil into the cylinder and gently worked the kick start until the piston released. I heaved a HUGE sigh of relief! Setting his assistant to continue pumping at the kick start, he delved into the oily filth and gloom of his lock up and began to search amongst an astonishing display of derelict machines for an oil filler cap that would fit my engine. Many were unearthed from the heaps of rusting, dusty carcasses and, eventually and to everyone’s delight, he found one that just about fitted! The assistant was still working at the kick start.

Well, after less than half an hour, Nashon pushed the electric starter and my little blue bike fired! To say I was happy would be a gross understatement. My journey was possible again. The bike was unharmed and not going to cost me a fortune and end up being scrapped with a knackered piston! I was back in business.

Of all my saviours, Nashon was the best, a man of integrity and capability and quiet confidence. Grinning from ear to ear, I asked him what I owed him – for rescuing my entire journey and maybe the next one too! I had already advanced £4 for oil but he had £3 change from that. Counting the notes in his hand, he said quietly, “give me another 300 Shillings – slightly under £2.50! Five pounds fifty for saving my motorbike! Why, I’d paid Simon £8 for a two kilometre-long rescue and the tea-selling fellow who’d gone with the boda-boda a kilometre to fetch help had conned £4 out of me! I happily gave Nashon an extra couple of pounds, to his embarrassed delight.

It’s always the way: when trouble hits me on these journeys, I end up with a story to tell and meet so many kind, helpful, compassionate people. I’m surrounded by smiles and good cheer and all seem to be happy to have me back in the simple Brooke Hotel, eating Patrick’s food again and sitting with my beer on the upper terrace above the road. It’s distinctly cool now and it rained in the late afternoon, just after I paid Bernard £1.60 (he asked 80p) for spending at least 45 minutes washing my bike at the roadside. It was, not surprisingly, blathered in engine oil – as was my right boot. So, Rutoh, Patrick, Sambo, Simon, Joanne, Nashon and several others have all made what could have been a fraught and worrying day into a very positive experience, another story and warm impressions. The hotel manager sat with me for half and hour and an elderly man just introduced himself, the owner of the hotel. The hotel is basic but friendly and comfortable; the bed warm and cosy in the cool night; the food quite acceptable – the breakfast was excellent; the staff warm and welcoming – and my journey is back on course. Not a bad outcome for the day.

DAY 77 THURSDAY 23rd FEBRUARY 2017. BROOKE, KERICHO, KENYA

Well laid plans gang oft astray… Well, of course, and fortunately, I seldom actually HAVE a plan on these journeys. Just as well today.

It was a stressful morning, enough to make my head spin and ache mildly. My motorbike was reduced to its component parts, nuts, bolts, cogwheels, piston, clutch plates, circlips, spacers, washers and all the assorted bits and pieces. To one used to BMW’s spotless, shiny – extremely expensive – workshops, with not a speck of dust and grit or smudge of oil, ‘mechanics’ in ironed shirts, seeing my vehicle stripped so comprehensively onto the dirt, dust, bits of greasy sacking and general oily filth of an African lock-up workshop at the edge of the road, is very worrying. Being already the possessor of another motorbike in Rico’s compound, one that he bought for me last year but later condemned as ‘butchered’ and for which he has since been trying – unsuccessfully so far – to get my money back, I was alarmed that I was about to have another useless machine.

However, my usual luck has held and I perceive in Nashon not just a decent, honest man, but a reasonably sensitive, experienced mechanic.

*

Packed up and ready to set off to the north, I pushed the bike out of the hotel courtyard, shook Rutoh’s hand for the umpteenth time and pressed the starter – to no avail more than a click. A few times more, but still a mere click. I decided to push the machine back to Nashon’s workshop, a quarter of a mile away. “We must take off this,” said quiet Nashon, fingering the cylinder head. And then they began, he and his two assistants. Bolts and nuts piled up on the old sack; shiny bits of Japanese engineering were strewn about the floor and sacking in increasing piles. There was grease and oil everywhere. I watched apprehensively, wondering – as a totally inept mechanic with no aptitude for engines – whether they would ever remember how it all went back together. I wouldn’t.

They identified the problem. I may jest about the workshop and the oily mud on which they worked, but Nashon was efficient and able; it’s just that no one here has the best tools, and has to improvise – which is where I feared the ‘butchery’, but Nashon was quite careful and obviously knowledgeable. He started his small business – the two assistants are his cousins – some years ago, before the influx of cheap Chinese machines, so he honed his skills on Japanese bikes and knows them well.

The problem was the flywheel ratchet, from which three teeth have sheared, along with several corresponding teeth on the adjacent cog. The broken pieces may be anywhere in the engine, gearbox or clutch, so it meant a TOTAL strip down and thorough cleaning of all the engine parts.

Off came the cylinder head; off came the cylinder; off came the clutch housing, the starter motor, the exhaust, cables, electric connectors, things I didn’t recognise… In the end the skeleton of the engine was sitting on a stool in the muddy, petrol smelling, oily arena with bits piling up around us. This was major surgery. Sure enough, they did find two of the broken teeth; the rest perhaps shredded to dust. There appears to be no damage done at least

Then, to my relief, began the rebuild. Methodically the three of them, Nashon, Lucas and Ken began to reassemble the engine, blathering it in petrol to clean it as they went. The parts may be available from Kisumu, the second town of Kenya, about Two hours away down on the lake, and Nashon will set off at 5.00am to fetch them for me. THAT’S service. My respect for Nashon increases. I have given him 10,000 shillings (£80) in great faith of his absolute honesty. As I have so often written, my experience of the world has led me to believe very sincerely that 99.9% of people are good, decent and kind.

Nashon believes that this was a problem that was due to occur eventually in my engine, probably coincidental to – or perhaps just finalised by – the oil filler cap debacle. Old age, he reckoned, not my stupidity. Maybe he said that in sympathy for my feelings.

*

Fortunately, since I was able to rebook my room, charming Rutoh insisted that he must have my ‘contact’ so that we could communicate after I leave. This happens everywhere. Everyone in Kenya wants my ‘contact’, however briefly we interact. Mobile phones are the lifeblood of daily existence in Africa now. They burble and bleep all around me; people shout into their phones in every situation; boda-boda riders have their phones thrust into the sides of their helmets; passengers talk; drivers chat; truck and petrol tanker drivers steer their lethal weapons with one hand, the other clutching their phone; everyone listens to scratchy FM radio on minuscule trebly speakers – silence is a thing of the past. Almost no one, no one, is without a phone, clutched in that very 21st century gesture, fingers twitching, endlessly obsessed with ‘social media’ at the expense of actual social interaction – like smiling at passers by or chatting to your neighbour.

*

So, a third night in Brooke, by Kericho. I find myself philosophical about it all. I’m happy this has happened here, not in Tanzania or Rwanda, where communication – on every level – was so much more restricted. Here I am welcomed, understood on a cultural level and surrounded by delightful people who seem genuinely pleased that I keep getting delayed and they can spend more time with me. Isn’t that a great compliment and honour?

DAY 78 FRIDAY 24th FEBRUARY 2017. BROOKE, KERICHO, KENYA

For an hour or two today I assumed my motorbike journey was over and began to deliberate how to ship the bike back to Kitale and continue my journey by public transport. A message from Nashon in Kisumu told me that he could not find the flywheel ratchet cog required or the one that connects to the starter motor. At the time I was rambling in the nearby tea estate. So this, I thought, is the end of my safari. I’m happy it has happened with only a couple of weeks to go.

Late afternoon, poor Nashon drove back from Kisumu, over two hours away. I am so impressed by this quiet, honest, decent man. He had been unable to locate the parts we needed – and I am sure he tried hard on my behalf. When he got back, I was waiting at his scruffy, oily lock up, watching the street life around me. By then I was resigned to the fact that I’d need to transport the disabled machine back to Kitale. What I hadn’t understood, in my mechanical ineptitude, was that the machine would still work, but without the electric starter. Who cares for that! For many years every one of my trail bikes had a kick start, and my 67 year old right leg is more than equal to kicking 200cc’s of compression!

Nashon set to work. Lucas and Ken had already put most of the bike back together during the early morning. It just needed the left hand engine casing back, with the damaged flywheel ratchet and alternator. Leaving out the connecting cog that transfers drive from the starter to the engine, he and Lucas reassembled the engine and refilled the oil reservoir. When Nashon kicked the starter, I must admit that my smile spread from ear to ear! The bike sounds a great deal better than it has since it arrived from Nairobi back at New Year. It has, of course, had the most comprehensive service imaginable! New oil, a complete clean out, readjustment as it was reassembled and all nuts and bolts checked and tightened.

Nashon even insisted on washing the bike before I could ride it away. By then he had test ridden and inspected his and his colleagues’ work. A thorough, conscientious mechanic, with pride in his work. I was so fortunate to find him, not the customary bike butchers.

After six, I took him into his filthy, wrecked bike-piled lock up to settle up. He was embarrassed as he finally, timidly asked me for 4000 shillings (£32) for the labour, plus 2000/- for oil and petrol for his trip to Kisumu (£16). I happily added 1000/- for giving me back my journey and added another 400/- to give to the two assistants for beer. My total bill was therefore £59 for a COMPLETE dismantlement and rebuild of my bike. At Ocean BMW in Plymouth this would have probably cost me not less than £1500, basing my estimate on the hours worked and their labour charges. Oh, plus VAT! Is it surprising I am happy? Well, in my own defence, I am happier at having my little bike back, than at the low cost of the work!

What’s more, the bike is running the best it has run since I owned it.

*

With hours to squander while Nashon drove to Kisumu, I wandered off into the tea estates behind the hotel. Such beauty should be enjoyed and the tranquility was just what I needed to overcome the tension of wondering if my bike would ever run again on this trip. A mile or so from the hotel, deep in the tea bushes, I watched the new regime: tea clipping machines, like lawnmowers that ski over the tops of the tea bushes, propelled laboriously by a man on each side. The tea is sliced off and blown into a large bag behind, that coasts over the tea on a vinyl fabric skid. Gone the flowing colours of the tea pluckers, baskets over their shoulders, chattering and laughing in the tides of tea. This is automation, efficiency – and smelly exhaust and noise. But this is Unilever too, multinational profits to a vast corporation. It seems to me that much of the world is owned by Unilever, Nestle and Coca Cola… A worrying thought.

Soon I met Hillary, a very charming supervisor, overseeing his patch. Actually, I shouldn’t have been wandering the tea estates without permission from Unilever in Kericho, and certainly not with my camera without sanction from the ‘press office’! However, Hillary let it pass and we conversed for about two hours, gazing over the tea bushes, many of them, Hillary said, planted by white settlers almost a century ago. Now it’s big business but Unilever have established standards and systems and stamped out corruption at every level (except, says my cynical side, at the international profit and taxation level…), but in the field there’s little nepotism or bribery, and health and safety are taken seriously, rules and regulations observed. The ‘mower’ operators are supplied with protective clothing and adhere to safe practices. Despite my distaste at the probable corporate greed of Unilever, I had to be impressed by the operation in the field. The tea has been of low crop this year thanks to drought, but is usually cropped about every 17 days by hand plucking or 24 days by the mechanical trimmers. From the field it goes to the factory over the hill, is rested for six hours and fermented for eight, before it is chopped and sifted and dried and packed.

And we drink from tea bags! The dust that is discarded at the end of the process. “Yes, you drink dust!” Hillary laughed!

We chatted amiably for a long time. Trimmers came to refuel their machines. “It’s a safety measure, the machines should be cooled down before they are refuelled, to prevent accident,” said Hillary, when I wondered at the inefficiency of the two operators carrying the machine hundreds of metres to the fuel, instead of the fuel can to the machine. “You see, we have fire extinguishers here, and everyone must present themselves with their full safety gear every morning if they want to work.” I watched the men guiding their machines across the top of the tea bushes, all a uniform height, trimmed so regularly for so many decades. It is hard work, forcing their way through the dense sea of tea, heavy yellow aprons pulling through the almost impenetrable greenness. The teams alternate daily with sorting the leaves at tables in the field, tossing the tea into nylon sacks that will be collected by truck and taken away for processing. Across the green carpets I could see the housing blocks for the workers, vastly improved on my memories of the crude, basic housing I saw in 2002. Now every small home has solar electricity, running water, sanitation and even waste recycling. It’s quite an impressive operation – but then, it’s also a huge operation. Unilever own a vast amount of the land between here and distant Nairobi. This is no small rural farming: this is multinational corporate big business.

*

I’ve been very warmly received here in Brooke (yes, it IS from Brooke Bond, precursor of Unilever) and have had to promise many people that I will return one day, maybe when I come back to reclaim my little blue bike for another trip. Out in the tea ocean, I met various people who had seen me riding in Brooke and Kericho. A white man stands out rather! But it’s so pleasing to be the focus of so much goodwill.

As I have been writing on the hotel balcony, a violent rainstorm machine-gunned on the steel roof above me, deafeningly noisy. Once again though, I don’t care if it rains when I am drinking my beer and not riding my little blue bike! Oddly, since I have been in Africa for eleven weeks, I am rather sunburned tonight, my face flaming, yet it didn’t seem so sunny today, with plenty of cloud as the rainy season gathers strength.

Tomorrow, my journey can resume, for its final few rides. After a brief hiatus, that I imagined to be the end of my journey, I can ride on – and enjoy very much the memory of so many congenial, warmly welcoming fellow beings. These experiences fill me with a general sense of goodwill.

DAY 79 SATURDAY 25th FEBRUARY 2017. KESSUP, KENYA

A fine ride today, made finer by the fact that it WAS a ride, a ride on my motorbike that seemed back from the dead, and actually running better than it’s done since I started my travels in early January. Nashon seems to have done a very efficient job and I am happy to have my journey back. I rode by his oily workshop to tell him so before I left town.

And now I am exhausted and in bed at 8.00! There’s a noisy party taking place outside in the gardens of the guest house, to which I have returned for the third time, about six weeks after I last stayed here. But I am so weary tonight that the ear plugs should keep it all at bay.

*

Nervously, I pushed the bike out of the hotel yard in Brooke and kicked the starter arm. It took some time to fire, alarming me briefly, but then it ran, and continued to run for 220 kilometres of fine scenery. I’d ridden much of the route before a few weeks ago, including that road that I exclaimed about so much that wound me down into the Rift Valley warmth, up to the coolness of the forests at Tenges and Kabarnet, down again onto the oppressive heat of the Kerio Valley and finally up to the plateau two thirds of the way up the escarpment of the Kenyan highlands. Kenya has some fine scenery, and if you avoid the busy main highways, provides relaxing days. For a brief while I was on the main Nairobi to Kampala road, one of the country’s most accident prone, but fortunately I had only fifteen kilometres on a fairly quiet stretch before I could turn to the north onto remoter roads back to Eldama Ravine (site of that awful night with the pounding disco as I tossed in my brocade and gossamer draped bed) and on in and out of the fabulous valleys and forested mountains. Stopping for tea in high Kabarnet, I was recognised by young Erick, the waiter, whose name, astonishingly, I remembered despite such a brief tea stop several weeks ago. A muzungu who mixes with the people and doesn’t flash past behind glass, and one who chats with the staff, is remembered here.

Back up the final long sweeps from the Kerio Valley to the plateau of Kessup there’d been a drizzly shower, now just a wet road. For all these weeks I have avoided getting wet, dodging an occasional shower but never having to pull on the waterproofs to ride, except the other morning when I rode off into the tail of that heavy rain on the last morning in Rwanda. It’s often rained at night but almost never while I rode my bike. What luck!

At one point on the road today I was suddenly conscious that I was riding exactly on top of my own shadow. I looked at my clock and found it was about midday, and I must at that point have been almost exactly crossing the Equator once again at that moment.

*

So back to Lelin Campsite, where I have spent a few nights. Before I could even settle to my room William appeared, alerted by the staff to my return. To describe William’s reaction as excitement and delight would be a serious understatement! Ecstatic might come closer. I am now his best friend after his daughter in Australia. It seems that he will never get over the honour I have bestowed on him that will make him great in his community. I am a great man, a very special man… And so it went on over a beer for me and a quarter of gin for him. Trouble is, as with almost every African of my acquaintance, alcohol is uncontrollable. Decent, cheerful William proceeded, as I ate my supper, to drink a Guinness, order another and become very garrulous. I’ve known so many Africans who died from hard alcohol (mainly in Ghana). It is the continent’s Achille’s heel, the inability to limit alcoholic intake, the imbibing of seriously strong spirits – often with insufficient solid nutrition. Strong young men like Kotua in Navrongo – one of the toughest men I ever knew, who could work like a machine in the hot sun, water his dry season gardens with a bucket hour after hour, hack and hoe the dry dust and rock hard soil of Navrongo for days on end… He sold his family’s heritage for viciously lethal home distilled alcohol, and perished before forty, weakened and destroyed by his inability to live without the stimulant of that dire spirit, always drunk neat, guzzled into an overheated body without solid food. He’s not the only one I knew; and doubtless it is all around me now. It’s a hard life in Africa and people think they can improve their lot from the bottle. Banning alcohol and enfranchising women would be my two choices for this continent. THEN you’d see it surge forward from its basket-case situation, as it contains so many of the world’s natural resources and social skills. Women, with the natural responsibility of their role as mothers, think of the future. Men think of instant gratification. A generalisation, perhaps, but not far from the truth in my extensive observation of this continent. The power here is in the wrong hands…

So I hurried away to bed before eight, leaving William to his second Guinness and a weave home in the dense darkness, but no doubt he is familiar with his route. I came away to my room and by 8.30 realised, as the mis-typing spread, that I didn’t even have the energy to carry out my invariable daily discipline and write my diary, which I am now having to do over breakfast. At 8.30 I turned over and went to sleep! William, doubtless unscathed, will be back at 10 to accompany me around his community once again. Since my wisdom seems to be in the ascendant in his eyes, I might take the opportunity to tell him about Kotua and the others!

*

Talking over breakfast in Brooke with my neighbour, she transpired to be the daughter of the elderly owner of the hotel. A smart, capable woman, she told me she has come for a time from her home in Washington DC. “The hotel is under performing, so I’ve come to see if I can help improve its fortunes. How long? Oh, maybe a couple of months. But I may stay on… I don’t feel comfortable or welcome as a black in Trump’s America…” No doubt she speaks for a large percentage of the population.

DAY 80 SUDAY 26th FEBRUARY 2017. KESSUP, KENYA

“Yes, I was so excited!” William agreed when I told him he was very drunk last night. “So excited to see my friend again!”

Today he accompanied me all over the hillsides of Kessup community once again, introducing me to all his neighbours and friends. He’s a well known and obviously popular fellow and makes a good introduction for a wandering mzungu. So many people came to shake my hand. “Greeting a mzungu is something very special for them! Maybe they never touched a mzungu before! It’s very special for them.”

We met William’s mother, Teresa, and many of his brothers and half brothers, cousins, nephews and nieces – as well as a lot of local people who weren’t related I suppose. We sat for a time drinking bulsa – the local beer, a soupy fibrous mixture made from millet and maize. I don’t have much taste for it and poured a good deal of mine quietly into William’s ‘Tilly Pure Cooking Fat’ container, retaining just enough to impress and appear polite to all the passing villagers as we sat on a low wall on a steep slope. Everyone waved from far and near, came to shake the mzungu’s hand, and many actually wanted me to take their photos which, of course, I did with pleasure, adding another twenty or so people to my portfolio of smiling portraits. It’s so easy to get the majority of Africans to smile. All I have to do is smile at them!

We had a light lunch of beef stew and potato made by William’s mother and later repaired to the Rock Hill Resort for beer. After my short talk about the dangers of hard spirits and the need for moderation and thought, William drank Guinness. I felt a bit of a killjoy, but I might extend his life by some years if I can make him consider the damage that a frequent quarter of gin can do on a dehydrated body. He took the advice well, after all, I am his senior by fifteen years, so he has to give respect to my opinion. His daughter, currently studying nursing in Australia – “I am the only person in the whole community who has sent his child out to train abroad!” William boasts proudly – his daughter, understands his proclivities too. She won’t send him money, but arranges for groceries to be brought from Eldoret instead! Says William, “She doesn’t want me to go to the village..!”, meaning to the illegal spirit makers to spend his money, or her money. So a friendly word of warning went down well from his new ‘best friend after his daughter’. He and his wife, strangely invisible and a police officer in Eldoret, invested about £11,000 or £12,000 in sending Lydia to Perth. A huge sum and a great investment in a daughter’s future.

Conversing in the bar with one of William’s neighbours, watchman at the same bar, I was reminded again of the prejudice against girl children still so prevalent in most of Africa. To his astonishment I informed him that many people in Europe actually chose not to have any children, let alone the six and sixteen that Africans bear. “Two is enough! You can educate two and their future has a chance of some development, but five, eight, nineteen! how can you care for them? The grandchildren won’t thank these stupid men who are proud of the huge families they bear. The population expands, but Kenya stays the same size, with less water, less resources, less trees…”

“But if you have only two, what if they are both girls?”

“Why do you always devalue girls here? If you have two girls someone else will have two boys! That’s nature! Nature keeps a balance. Look at the statistic all over the world, even in Africa where you are so obsessed to have boys; you’ll see: a maximum of two percent difference between the number of boys and girls born! That’s nature keeping control. You can’t change that. It’s the work of your god! God’s will, if you like. Educate your girls, make them leaders, get rid of the stupid, self-interested, proud, corrupt men and your country will thrive!”

But of course, most of it falls on deaf ears. Boys are a gift from god, girls a burden. How does one change this attitude? I do my little bit – but no one believes a mzungu with no children, no belief in god and no interest in football..!

*

It’s been a hot and very scorchingly sunny day, but the sort of day I enjoy, partly for meeting so many friendly folk and being the focus of their goodwill and partly for enlarging my collection of photos once again. Say it myself as I will, I do have a wonderful collection now, and there’s a certain professionalism about them. Handing my camera to one of William’s friends in the bar garden as William wanted a photo of us drinking beer together, proved once again that not everyone has the ‘eye’ for photography. The fellow got most of us in the picture, but it needed a lot of straightening and cropping to make a picture. I am proudest about my portraits in that the subjects are reacting to ME, not the camera.

I think this could be another 8.30 night! A lot of sun, walking on the dusty steep hills, answering endless questions – yes, I feel another very early night approaching fast. Last night I slept for most of eleven hours. No beer tonight, which’ll help my sleep; I had two in the afternoon. Now I have eaten a basic supper cooked by Vicky in her charcoal black tin kitchen hut and the day is almost done. It’s not even eight yet. It’s very quiet outside tonight, just a very distant dog barking far below in the deep blue valley. A few lights wink down there in the heat of the Kerio Valley bottom and Kabarnet, where I stopped for tea yesterday, provides a sequinned patch of light about twenty miles away on top of the opposite escarpment. Between me and Kabarnet lies a whole deep valley of darkness, little habitation and quite a lot of roaming African wildlife. A silent night world. Only in Africa do you see such depth and breadth of darkness at night.

*

I phoned Adelight a while ago and told her I will be back to Kitale tomorrow. I had a warmly cheerful welcome. “Oh, we will cook a NICE lunch! Welcome home!” How fortunate I am to have – and to make – friends all over the world.

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