MARCH 12th to MARCH 16th – The end of the safari
It was with some relief that my visa approval arrived on Monday morning, having applied for it last Thursday. Of course, I was long in the country by then thanks to Chirchir at Suam border, who agreed that his department’s website just isn’t fit for purpose. It supplied me with sleepless hours, those disturbing ones in the small hours of nights when your brain stresses about useless things. Well, I can only find patience in the fact that we in Britain treat incoming African tourists with a great deal more callousness, cruelty and disdain (especially these days…) at all levels of the process…
A final few days at home in Kitale, sorting the debris of another three-month safari, drinking beer on the porch with Rico and playing Scrabble with Adelight (2:2 over four nights, so I leave with honours equal). Then it’s time to get the morning bus to Nairobi, the day before I fly out, back to hot water bottles, blankets and woollen hats. It’s a tedious but not uncomfortable ten and a quarter hour ride down to Nairobi, the last one and a half hours moving about five miles. I arrive jaded, in no mood to bargain with touts and taxi drivers, and walk to the old United Kenya Club, where I am welcomed like an old friend and have one of my usual rooms, a bit faded, but overlooking the car park and large grounds from a small balcony. The old, once-colonial club is right downtown, and very reasonably priced at £22.50. I like the old fashioned ambience and the spacious extent of the city centre property. It was a find, thanks to Adelight’s recommendation four years ago.
My last day is always boring: I wander the city streets looking for things to do, but I’m not a city person, so it’s just coffees and juices and foot-weary plodding in the sun. My impecunious travel habits are too long-established to allow me to book my £22.50 room for another night that I won’t use… I wander, and drift back to the Club garden to read a book until it’s time for a couple of beers before I book a car to the airport in the mid evening.
Messages of love and goodwill come in from my families. It’s been a good winter, even if I didn’t get to ride my Mosquito much. But I spent good times with the people I’ve come to value so much in East Africa, a part of the world that’s become familiar and comfortable, these past years.
In Kitale, Rico and I do our ‘elder citizen’ stuff and sit and ruminate over beers of an evening on the porch and remember being young and crossing the Sahara all those years ago, unforgettable memories we share; Adelight loves her Scrabble, and we’ve become comfortable friends even on shopping visits to town (!). The Rico Girls have become my nieces and I watch their young lives develop with interest and fondness.
In Sipi, I leave building works and development of the young business that I hope will make Alex’s family independent and kick-start a future for the two children, whom I’ve come to love rather surprisingly. Their future has become of great meaning to me. My support will guarantee their education at least. And what better legacy can I leave in Africa than a couple of well balanced, educated young people? I’ll watch their development with special interest.
I’ve made so many friends on my safaris. My travels have changed: not so much the gung-ho adventures of my earlier trips, more consolidating the relationships amongst my ‘families’ and friends. Perhaps that’s something that age has encouraged? I’m not sure. I still have nearly all the energy I ever had before, although I get more physically tired a little sooner. I have all the curiosity and fascination I ever had for my world travels: how people think, how they live, what makes the world go around. I find it VERY odd to realise that in six weeks time I’ll clock up the apparent ‘old’ age of 74. It sounds so ancient! But I don’t feel that way until I look in the mirror… I remember my mother telling me that, when she was in her late-80s: “I look in a shop window and see an old woman that I don’t recognise…” I guess that’s the way it is. But her maxim was always, “No point giving in!” And I’ll continue to repeat that just as long as I can too!
Still lots to see, so many places to go, people to meet…
It’s difficult to select a few favourite photos from three months, but here are some that I particularly like: