EAST AFRICA 2018-2019 – ELEVEN

The penultimate episode for this safari. Just a few days to go now…

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Basiliza

DAY 81. SATURDAY MARCH 2nd 2019. KITALE, KENYA 

Not a bad idea to relax for a day after yesterday’s exertions, I thought, and I have a few days in hand with no particular plans now. I promised I would go to Brooke to greet Nashon, the mechanic, again, and William encouraged me to go via Kessup – so that’s pretty much my plans until I fly down from Kitale to Nairobi on the 11th or 12th. Adelight booked my flight for the 11th, as I had asked her – and then I checked my KLM booking and found I actually fly home at midnight on the 14th, not the 13th, as I thought all along. Should have checked first… Now I must decide whether to pay a fee to change the ticket, or the cost of an extra night in rather boring and very expensive Nairobi. Probably cheaper to change the ticket. (LATER. It was: less than £4 with a bit of bargaining by Adelight. A night in extremely expensive Nairobi is £36).

So, a quiet day, ‘sitting on my arse’, as Adelight put it so succinctly the other day, just the chores of travelling and enjoying family life on a showery day. Odd, how this side of the mountain is so much wetter than Sipi, on the other side, less than fifty miles away as the crow flies. Here the rains are threatening and at some time on my rides I am likely to get wet. Well, in that I have no control.

DAY 82. SUNDAY MARCH 3rd 2019. KESSUP, KENYA 

I suppose my journey is essentially done now. I’m sort of on a farewell tour, keeping promises to my East African friends: Alex and Precious, William and Nashon. My trip to Ethiopia pushed all my attention into the beginning of the journey, with my visa valid only until February 11th because I needed my passport for those visits to Poland in November and December, and because I had a long way to go, so perhaps I didn’t plan enough for this section of my travels. I don’t really want to take any more lengthy rides and I have seen much of this area in detail, so I am left with a rather aimless last couple of weeks. Oh well, Rico is home tomorrow and I very much enjoy the family life in the Kitale compound.

****

The clouds are gathering up on the highland plateaux around Mount Elgon. It won’t be long now until the rains begin. I rode away in the late morning on a cooly cloudy ride to Kessup, so much more comfortable than the burning sun – but the African landscape just doesn’t smile at me without the bright sun; the colour is dulled, the brilliance dimmed, the multitudinous greens less defined, the shadows less blackly graphic; it becomes a disappointing semblance of its squint-inducing splendour. The Africa I know and love bakes beneath a mighty sun, deep shadows etching its shapes and forms. When I imagine Africa, in dull, grey England, it’s the startling, blazing light over views like that of the ride from Sipi – vastness, expansive haze-enveloped vistas shimmering beneath an equatorial sun. Rainclouds I can keep for England. 

But I got to Kessup dry, just the customary not very interesting journey, about 70 miles, with light Sunday traffic and people dressed in church finery walking their dusty villages and straggly towns. It’s an agricultural ride, fields now ploughed or dug ready for the next sowing season when the rains come in a couple of weeks. “Oh, there may be a light shower,” says William, looking at the rather grey clouds spinning above the high Kessup cliff wall. “But the wind is from the wrong side. We’ll get the rain about the 10th, not before.” But Climate Change is making that less certain, and in Africa, that certitude has governed the cycle of life for centuries, and when people lose that traditional sureness, they become unsettled – only the educated understand that the causes of this uncertainty is overpopulation, the appalling loss of trees, overuse of the soils; the overgrazing, artificial fertilisers, encouragement to rampant materialism, unimaginable swelling cities and the belching filth and fumes of millions of ancient vehicles – piously discarded as ‘environmentally unfriendly’ in Western nations, finding new pollution-pumping life here, where the self-congratulatory Westerners can’t see them. Where do people think their old vehicles go? Many of them end up on the roads of Africa… 

Travels of a thinking person in Africa don’t lead to any comfortable prospects for the future of our species. That’s sort of been a theme of this journey for me: despondency for our destiny on the planet.

****

Well, here I am in Kessup again; William delighted and again telling me how his status has been lifted as high as he can imagine by having a white man trust him and become his friend. “You aren’t just William’s Mzungu now, you are Kessup’s Mzungu! Everyone is always asking me, ‘where is your mzungu? Is he coming back?’ They will be happy to see you when we walk in the village tomorrow. We will go down and greet my father. He’s looking old now; I was with him two days ago… How old? He’s about 84, 85 now.” We drink our beer companionably in the garden of The Rock, beneath the high cliffs. William wants me to save money – he’s always concerned about that – by moving here to sleep, but it’s nearer the road and doesn’t have the spectacular view when I open the curtains in the morning: the view over the mist-filled Kerio Valley, a real ‘African’ view. And The Rock guest house is right under those high friable cliffs too. Only last year a boulder the size of a family car rolled down and came to rest in a – fortunately empty – guest room above the gardens! I’ll stick to Lelin, here on the edge of the escarpment, with its spreading gardens and the splendid view.

Now as we walk, we meet people related to those I have photographed over my many visits. “This lady is daughter to so and so, who you photographed last year… He’s in the book… That’s the son of so and so; we went to her house on your visit before Christmas.” I am a familiar figure here now. I like that. It brings a small sense of belonging, of equality, of engaging with the people around me. I’m in Africa to meet the people, and here I get to understand something of their lives, the differences – and similarities – to mine. It’s satisfying. 

Supper, gazing over the mist-shrouded valley, and a sharp shower as I come to bed. William must have just about made it home before it briefly torrented from the gathering clouds. But he’ll still maintain that there’ll be no more than these brief showers until the 10th. He’s probably right, the locals usually are, especially if they rely on their shambas for subsistence. 

****

Marion dropped in at home during the morning, my new friend giving me a warm greeting and hug. We’ve bonded since that long conversation about her creative versus academic life at school, and her pleasure at growing vegetables. Scovia is soon off to her classes in beauty and style at Eldoret, so we’ll be a depleted family when I get back. Rico’s in Nairobi tonight; on the flight home to Kitale early tomorrow. 

Meanwhile, I am here with William, checking his phone frequently, but he checks the time not obsessive about calls! He’s such a stickler for punctuality. “We learned it from the British! They like TIME!” as he hassles the poor guest house staff for being ten minutes late with supper, cooked in their smokey outside kitchen over fires of sticks in the growing dark. I don’t care if supper is late, but William likes discipline… And he likes respect to be shown to his mzungu.

DAY 83. MONDAY MARCH 4th 2019. KESSUP, KENYA

“Why aren’t you in school?” William asks Faith, a shy, skinny girl of about ten, a sort of niece: child of his half sister, by his elderly father’s other wife. 

“I have lost my pencil…”

“How much is a pencil?”

“Ten bob…” About 8 pence.

“Her parents may not even have ten bob in the house,” William explains to me over his shoulder as we walk… 

I give Faith 50 bob, it’s the smallest note I have in my wallet. “Buy five pencils, then you have no excuse!”

“Her parents will be grateful…” says William, who probably hasn’t a coin in HIS pocket either. I’ve 32,300 Kenya shillings in mine. And two credit cards. It’s an unequal world.

Ten bob. Eight pence. A day’s education lost.

****

We meander the dust pathways of Kessup’s plateau, meeting villagers once again. We’re on our way down to the edge of the plateau, where the escarpment plunges down to the burning Kerio Valley; the Great Rift Valley of Africa. William’s elderly father has his lands down there on the edge, remote and quiet. We shake hands with dozens of people: working their fields, carrying water – for all the streams are dry as dust now; doing endless washing of ragged mtumba clothes; just sitting and staring into space. We chat for a few minutes to a young woman, probably only in the first years of her twenties. As we walk on, William comments, “Poverty! It’s like you were saying yesterday: too many children, and they can’t manage! Look at her, young as she is and already five children!” Of course, the Catholic church does less than nothing to encourage a lower birthrate amongst their poverty-stricken adherents. What’s the point of sermonising on ‘abstinence’ and ‘self control’ to African men? They haven’t any. The moslems perhaps do less. I’ll never forget meeting that man – in one of Alex’s meetings of volunteers, whose purpose was to encourage lower birth rates, planned families, gender equality and reduction of FGM in the rural villages. That moslem proudly told me he had 26 children by four wives. “WHY?” I asked, scandalised. “You can’t hope to educate or look after so many, it’s ridiculous!” 

His answer? “The Koran tells me to!” I can’t bring myself to even comment, except to point out the irony of this volunteer’s role as a ‘mentor’…

****

Kenya banned plastic carrier bags a year or so ago, with a fanfare of righteous publicity. Good on them. But all products are still packaged in plastic: cooking oil, soap, BREAD!, toothpaste, tea bags – well, you name it, it’ll be in plastic and cellophane. And this country, like most of the continent, has no organised rubbish collection. The fields through which William and I wander are dotted and disfigured by plastic trash. It has nowhere else to go, and no one educates the people about the dangers as it gets ploughed in, enters the food chain, strangles the cattle. It’s everywhere – probably not as bad as some countries (Ghana comes quickly to mind) where the banana leaf or paper wrapping for food changed to thin black plastic bags by the million from generous China a few years ago. Now they have become the national flower of so many African nations, waving and flapping from every thorn tree and stubble field, and the animals eat them – and die of internal strangulation, stomachs full of plastic. Kenya is actually better than many countries, yet everywhere I look colourful plastic is blowing about or half buried in the newly dug-over shambas. As for countless, ubiquitous water bottles, I’ll say no more: ‘Spring water filtered for your health and safety’ – doing the opposite by reducing natural immunity and encouraging ill health – but there’s a snob value message in carrying your single use water bottle: it’s modern and sophisticated. 

I drink the well water.

****

White clouds are boiling and bubbling above the cliffs over the Kessup plateau. “The rains are forming,” says William, glancing up. “But there’ll only be showers for a few more days yet.” As we sit over our beer, a few stray raindrops sprinkle us from clouds to the north. “There’re showers over Baringo. They won’t come here.” And they don’t. With some money I gave him when I left last time, he has contracted a tractor driver to come and plough his small shamba. He knows the weather lore, does William, like all his neighbours. 

****

Across the enormous valley, as we eat supper, a fire has got out of control on the far escarpment. “It is the forest. It will go out naturally,” William assures me. “Probably some charcoal burners or a farmer clearing the bush for the new season.” It looks hot and impressive, perhaps 30 kilometres away. It’s such a huge, ‘African’ view, this one, darkly viewed from our simple bamboo and plank hut on the edge of the valley. Kessup is immediately below, on its plateau, quiet now, lights twinkling in small homes, many of which I have entered and been welcomed within. With its red fields of turned earth, waiting for the rains: “next week,” as William insists, the plateau spreads to the edge of the steep drop to the hot valley. It’s probably still sweltering down there, even at 7.30 in the evening. The night is still and calm, silent except for a distant barking dog. A deeply quiet, rural African night. No wind; broken cloud now; that distant golden glow of a bush fire that flares now and again, far away across the silent bushlands. Another magical night in equatorial Africa. 

As I prepare to sleep, there’s a sprinkling of raindrops on the zinc roof of my room, an atmospheric sound, but William’s correct: no heavy rain tonight. Suits me, it can rain all it likes after the 14th!

DAY 84. TUESDAY MARCH 5th 2019. BROOKE, KENYA

I noticed a little while ago that Nashon, the mechanic, uses a picture of me standing by my bike before Christmas as the home screen picture on his phone. Once again, it’s that thing of gaining status when a mzungu trusts an African…

****

It’s 200 kilometres from Kessup to Brooke, most of it on roads I know well by now; I’ve made this journey a few times, but there are some rides on my East African wanderings of which I never tire. Kabarnet to Eldama Ravine, via Tenges is one of them.

Leaving William in Kessup about ten, I rode off down the long curling hills into the hot Kerio Valley, a descent of three or four thousand feet, heat building. Then the long, slow effort to regain all the height on the other side of the huge valley. The Mosquito struggles, winding upwards to Kabarnet – called, I was told by a cafe owner when I stopped for chia and samosas – after an American family called Barnet, who moved here as missionaries 100 years ago, and whose descendants still live in Eldama Ravine. The Kerio Valley is a parallel spur of the Great Rift Valley, its southern ends sloping back up to the highlands somewhere west of Kabarnet, which sits on the ridge between the two yawning, deep valleys. And along the top of that ridge runs one of my favourite roads, the one through Tenges. In many parts of the world, this’d be a famous scenic drive; here it’s just a way from A to B, from the scruffy trading centre of Kabarnet, to the scruffy trading centre of Eldama Ravine, via the even scruffier trading centre of Tenges. But the road is magnificent. 

It clambers up to sweet smelling pine woods, my ears popping. For a few miles, the road balances right on the ridge: push ten yards through the undergrowth to the right as I ride south, and I can gaze far down into the white mists of the Kerio Valley; push to the left and I can see mile upon mile across the Great Rift Valley itself, so wide here that I can’t make out the other side in the haze, Lake Baringo a flat grey sheet amidst the endless bush of the valley floor. Huge vistas open, the mountainsides plunging steeply downwards into the tree-filled depths. The road teeters on the very edges of the ridge with the most famous topographical feature of Africa displayed dramatically on either side. I’m happy to be here, even if I’ve been this way seven or eight times; first when this was just a rocky, dusty, bumpy track, before the Chinese made this tarmac road. It’s easier to daydream and watch the views now, but I enjoyed the slight sense of adventure the first time, imagining that down there was the real essence of African life as I bumped over rock and dirt. 

I’m in the vast African landscape, about to cross the Equator again, at the whim of geography and topography, my route running through such magnificence. Not many come this way; it’s quiet and relaxed, 60 kilometres of natural delights. A quick flip left and then right through a couple of sharp hills, like portals; two right angle bends, and I am now on the eastern slopes, looking down into the Great Rift Valley, endless expanses far below, fading to indistinct haze. My inner smile is broad today: I love this.

Then, reaching the winding summit, the road tilts forward and spins quickly downwards, through the warm scents of pine sap and eucalyptus, dodging potholes and wandering cows, towards the valley floor, where the scents are just the smell of hot soil, dust, dryness, warmth beating up from the road itself. Thorn trees, strange cactus-like plants, aloes, odd water-storing plants – the only things that can survive here, all defensive spikes, thorns and rubberiness against the voracious goats. Everything adapts: mankind’s down here too. In Africa humans adapt to the harshest environments – keeping goats, woolly sheep, quite good looking cows. The women all have babies on their hips or backs or breasts; I guess they’ve had to adapt too. The incidence of primary schools speaks for itself: equally voracious, irresponsible African men. They father children everywhere and run away. It’s difficult having teenage daughters here: many parents end up caring for the babies of their schoolgirl daughters, the fathers soon beyond the horizon. 

Chittering social weaver birds dangle their woven nests, swaying from the long branches of trees; the sky’s filled with cotton wool clouds, sparkling white against the wondrous blue of the African sky. It’s good to be here, satisfying, uplifting, rewarding. My inner smile is very broad today.

****

Wanting to find a new route to Brooke, that avoids the highway that races traffic from Mombasa, via Nairobi and Kericho – five miles past Brooke – to Uganda, Rwanda and the interior of the continent, I took an appalling rock road short cut today. I crossed the hurrying highway near the Equator and took off down a terrible, punishing track for nine miles, bouncing and bashing on my little Mosquito. It was hard and energetic, but fulfilled the purpose of getting me onto calm meandering backroads towards Brooke. This year I am refining some of my better used routes, finding alternatives that avoid the towns, traffic and speeding roads that I dislike. And, of course, I enjoy the physical challenges of these tough byways! 

By these wandering backroads I reached Brooke in the late afternoon, checked in at the usual hotel and rode round to see Nashon, as I had promised. He wasn’t in his workshop: business is slow, he says. He has a dwelling nearby. It’s a room, twelve feet square, in a block of similar rooms, under noisy zinc roofs and in the closest proximity to neighbours. Across an eight foot, washing draped, child-filled alley, are more rooms, exactly the same. This is African life. You can see these homes the length and breadth of the continent. Whole families live in these rude dwellings. Nashon and his wife and three children: a girl of about ten, a boy of perhaps seven and a baby of ten months – well spaced. Nashon’s put the double bed up on stools, and I guess the children sleep on the lower deck, under the parents’ bed. Perhaps the girl sleeps on the settee, for there’s also a settee, two chairs, coffee table, simpering Jesus posters, inevitable TV, heap of pots and pans, plates and cups and a pile of suitcases – African wardrobes – all in this meagre space. As I arrived, a heavy rainstorm drummed and battered on the zinc roof, so Nashon’s wife had to bring the gas bottle and ring inside and boil water for chai behind the curtain that encloses the bed. She fried omelettes (that spoiled my appetite for supper badly!) and nursed the whining baby. Neighbours’ children pressed into the tiny space to be near the mzungu. Cramped, basic, concrete-floored, grey cement walls, rudimentary, minimal comforts – home. They’ve a home in a village miles away, but for most of the time, this is home; home for the schoolchildren, home from Nashon’s nearby oily lock-up, home for the family, cheek by jowl with fifty other souls: arguing, watching loud TV, crying children, washing endless tattered clothes in the alley, cooking, getting drunk, fighting the wife, screaming kids, smelly drains, disgruntled neighbours… It’d be hell on earth for me by the second day, but for most on this continent this is HOME… Remember that next time the neighbours piss you off for a minor infringement of your privacy, convenience, parking, peace or comfort!

But I have to remember also that most on this continent cannot understand the Westerner’s need for privacy. They feel comfortable and confident amongst close neighbours. The need or expectation of personal space is little known here.

****

I’d just made it into Nashon’s home when the heavens opened. The rains have arrived. As I write, on the chilly balcony of the hotel (the bar has deafening music and the ‘restaurant’ has gabbling American TV) the rain is hammering on the zinc roof over my head. I’ll try to get going early in the morning as the rain tends to be an afternoon event and I have a longish ride home to Kitale. I’d like to be able to claim that I’d ridden for three months without getting wet, but I think I may be just days too late… 

Must head to my room. It’s cold. I’m at high altitude again and it’s damp. Out there in the dark though, are the tea estates: brilliant green carpets forming some of the loveliest scenes Kenya has to offer. I hope the sun shines tomorrow for my final journey home.

I need to get beneath a blanket.

DAY 85. WEDNESDAY MARCH 6th 2019. KITALE, KENYA

I awoke early to a perfect, cloudless, washed blue sky, condensation on my window, for Brooke is at a chilly altitude. In jersey and jerkin I ate breakfast on the hotel front balcony and made a note never to stay in Brooke Hotel again: built entirely of concrete, it has no absorption whatsoever, doors slam and echo, mobiles ring and men talk loudly (few in Africa can talk quietly on their phones), the TV in the bar was already raging with trivial American news that doesn’t interest me or involve anyone within thousands of miles; numerous 22-wheeler trucks squealed to a halt to bounce over the speed hump on the highway beneath my balcony and empty trucks bucked the other way in a tympani of loose panels and metal parts. If I go to Brooke again, it’ll be to somewhere quieter through the night than beside one of the main East African highways.

The one attraction is the spreading tea estate over the road. It’s difficult for the colour green to dazzle, but the carpet of low tea bushes really does dazzle in the morning sun. Dark trees in the distance enhance the brilliance under the clean, fresh blue sky and for now I can ignore the screaming, drumming trucks and screw my eyes at the fabulous green, drink my ‘mixed’ milky tea and eat a plate of local fruit: water melon, tiny bananas, half an orange and delectable pineapple – the astonishingly sweet fruit you get only in Africa when it comes direct from the field. 

****

The best of the weather is earlier in the day now, the clouds forming and gathering into the afternoons and rain by evening, so I rode away promptly, riding down from the bright tea estates to the lower plains of sugar cane, then back up again on more of my favourite roads to Nandi Hills, where tea spreads again across rolling hillsides in the mountains, my Mosquito struggling upwards to the Kenya highlands once again. I know all these roads well by now.

Two years ago I was moved to write on my map, ‘lovely road’ about one road on the way back to Kitale. Sadly, its continuation got the note, ‘V bad road!’. Once through the ugly town of Kapsabet I turn off the main road, onto the lovely road that meanders through tall trees and past shambas and schools. Some miles on, a sign says, ‘Tarmac ends in 150 metres’, and the road turns to murram – red dust. The rains of the night have settled the dust and it’s a smooth ride; I can keep up 60kms an hour on these hard surfaces. I thought of a chai stop as I rode through Kapsabet, but I like to stop in smaller places if I can find a local ‘hotel’. In a very small village called Sangalo, I found just the place. Parking my motorbike in the roadside dust, I asked some elderly men, “Can I get tea?” 

“There! Tea is there.” They pointed up the opposite embankment to a zinc shack standing back above the road. I clambered up the embankment and asked for mixed tea and carried a Chinese plastic chair onto the small verandah in the shade of the tin roof. 

It causes a stir when I stop in such a remote place. People gather to look and greet in the friendliest manner, polite, respectful, curious. They want to know who I am, where I’m from, what I am doing in their small village and which Premier League team I support. It’s the one thing everyone knows about England – that and how rich we are, everyone espousing the African Dream: ‘take me to your country’. Once again, I tell of unemployment, homelessness, white beggars, the cold, the prejudice, the ugly ‘populism’ and how my mug of tea, I expect about 20 bob in Sangalo, will be over 300 bob in England, trying to point out – once again – that our perceived wealth is in the contrast between our economies, not in the fact that everyone in England is rich. 

Luke owns the hoteli. He’s in the Kenya armed forces, serving in Somalia, home for leave. He joins me and talks. Most of the village come by to shake my hand. They all want to know why I have stopped in their village. I tell Luke that the most common question I am asked at home is, “Aren’t you afraid, these places you go?” How could I be afraid here? The whole village is passing in a welcoming parade, smiling, shaking my hand, encouraging me to stay for lunch. Elizabeth totters up the dust slope; she’s Luke’s elderly mother, coming to pay her respects to a visitor. A few moments later, her senior sister, Basiliza (“It’s an English name!” declares Luke when I ask him to spell it) clambers after her sister, two very charming old ladies, full of smiles, come to greet. There’re quite a lot of elderly people around here, retired back to their village in some cases, passing through, stopping to meet and greet one another, including me warmly in their welcome. 

Luke’s used his tough but reasonably salaried work to invest in the small cafe and a parade of shops. His mother is the shop keeper – the usual commodities: flour, soap, matches, plastic water, cooking oil, tomatoes, onions; the everyday needs in a small village. Luke’s made one of the units into a bar as well. There’s an expansive view of wooded highlands, deeply green, from the dusty terrace where I am sitting, surrounded now by village folk. It’s so congenial that I stop almost an hour, risking the build up of clouds in front. It seems an oddly well educated, urbane place for a village so small and remote: a lot of school teachers, retired professionals, a tall ex-professor who used to play volleyball. It’s a very sporting area; they are proud that many of the world athlete runners originate from round here. The high altitude makes them fast. 

Time to move on; Luke insists on paying for my tea. “You won’t make money if you run your business like that!”

“You are our guest!” They all want photos with the mzungu who stopped in Sangalo; I have to submit, getting photos of the two old ladies for my own collection. I am waved away by many hands, with the wish that some day I’ll stop again in Sangalo. Perhaps I will.

****

The road continues well for another few miles then deteriorates to new-build, soft earth, rough diversions. Then back to the roughest track I have ridden – well, since yesterday anyway! It’s good exercise as I bounce and bucket through the villages and high landscape, then down a long staircase of rockiness that will eventually bring me back to one of the major highways. Somewhere I have taken a wrong direction and added five miles to the journey, and five miles of dire trail too. At the main road, asking a bunch of friendly, inquisitive boda-boda boys, it seems I am a few kilometres west of where I wanted to be, but there’s a wide, tar highway to get back there. It’s a small town called Turbo – but it’s not pronounced that way, quite obviously, for no one understands my intonation. Just five letters, how many ways can you enunciate them? Enough that no one knows where I am going, it seems. “Oh, you means TURBO!” Eventually the penny drops. It still sounds like ‘Turbo’ to me…

From Turbo, or TURbo, or Turrrbo, there’s supposed to be a short cut that will cut off a 25 kilometre triangle and join the main Nairobi-Kitale highway. It’s quieter in that part of the road, so I’m not so desperate to avoid it, and anyway, the alternative is worse than the terrible trail I just descended. I recollect it as one of the worst roads in East Africa. Eventually, I find the short cut, but again I take a wrong turn somewhere… The short cut, that should be about 12 kilometres turns into 30. Pleasant riding, through the Nzoia forest on good hard murram, but two sides of a triangle the other way, to cut short the main highway triangle that would have been faster, as it turns out. That’s riding in Africa: as likely as not short cuts are long cuts, but it’s a way to see the country and fun to be in these remote areas off the main roads. 

****

By the time I got home to Kitale, I was weary. 245 kilometres, over 150 miles, some of them very punishing. Rico’s home now, fixing the suspension on his car in his big garage. A necessary rest on the bed for half an hour for me and it’s just about beer time, to catch up with my old friend and white African brother, stories of Zambia and my safari to Ethiopia. My 2019 safari is just about over now. I’ve another five days here in and around Kitale, without much plan, then down to Nairobi and home to damp Devon. It’ll be a shock – as usual: not to sit on the porch of an evening, in my shorts, with a couple of £1.30 beers…

But, excitingly, an email in tonight from my friend Mike, in South Africa, tells me that a museum project for which I attended an early meeting in the Drakensburg Mountains three or four years ago, while staying with him and Yvonne, is back on. ‘May need to bring you over for a short while this year, if you are interested and available’.

‘Interested and available..?’ Apart from anything else, the Drakensburg Mountains hold up Lesotho, one of my favourite places in the world.

Another email tells me that the big project I completed in Boston in September, has its grand official opening on May 2nd. ‘I think you should come’, writes my colleague, Bob. I’ll think about that too. Already 2019 is filling up.

DAY 86 – 88. THURSDAY/ FRIDAY/ SATURDAY, MARCH 7/8/9th 2019. KITALE, KENYA

The weather is changing fast now, the rainy season about here. In the afternoons the clouds build and gather, the temperature drops and then comes the rain. Mornings, so far, are fine and sunny. Fortunately, I have few plans and little occupation that will be interrupted, just the domestic chores of the end of a long journey: washing my filthy riding clothes and boots and motorbike, getting things mended and leaving everything ready for another safari sometime. 

It’s relaxing and comfortable to be welcome in the family unit, even if we are so depleted now. Scovia is at her new college in Eldoret; Marion and Bo at school, leaving just Adelight, Rico, Maria and Sarah, the quiet house girl. “Oh, I hope you will come next Christmas!” exclaims Adelight. “All year, I have no one to play with until you come…” She’s referring to Scrabble, our evening entertainment. “Shall we play..?” her usual query after supper. We are a congenial unit.

Rico works in his garage. He’s invested in a solar panel and pump, and a solar security light for the compound. The new well, at over 12 metres deep, is producing good clean water and he aims to be as self-sufficient as he can in coming years. Public services here are unreliable. 

Cor, next door exiled his  cockerel for making too much noise at night. Unfortunately, Adelight gave the damned thing migrant status in her compound, so now I sleep with earplugs handy again for its chorus at 3.30. Still, that’s life here on this noisy but fascinating continent!

On Tuesday morning I fly down to Nairobi, spend two nights in the city and fly out late on the third night. My trip’s almost done now. A period of relaxed contemplation prepares me for getting home to normal life – although I sometimes wonder if THIS is not the ‘normal’ state in my peripatetic existence?

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Kori

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Maureen

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The Kerio Valley

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Making chapatis

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On the road to Nandi Hills

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Nashon and the Mosquito

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Dazzling tea

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Elizabeth

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One thought on “EAST AFRICA 2018-2019 – ELEVEN

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