EAST AFRICA 2018 – 2019 – TWELVE



Quiet days winding down to leaving Africa once again, and here in another ‘Jonathan’s House’ – that’s what the family call the house in the garden – I leave my bags containing my African helmet, rinding trousers, jacket, goggles, gloves, and various items of clothing and effects for another safari, whenever that may occur. I’ve no plans just now, beyond the fact that I have taken the bike for a thorough wash and now it returns to Rico’s garage pending a visit at some other time. Meanwhile, I must decide what I want to do next winter! I know I don’t willingly want to spend it in the cold and damp: conditions to which I become increasingly unequal. 


It’s mid-evening on the 13th and I just checked in with KLM for my flight home to Europe late tomorrow night, so my safari is essentially over. Here I am in Nairobi, a capital changed more than I can comprehend from the city I first experienced in 2001, when it had the sobriquet ‘Nairoberry’, for its violence, crime and decrepitude. Now it’s a modern city, impressive amongst African capitals, and a calm, relaxing place to visit – unless you happen to be on foot, when it’s considerably more stressful as no provision is made for pedestrians. Such pavements as there are are dug up to drain the all-important roads leaving a yawning obstacle course, or they peter out, leaving no choice but to risk crossing eight lanes of speeding traffic to join an insignificant pavement on the other side, or more often just a stretch of dust littered with trip-hazardous debris and abandoned cars – which their owners think they’ve parked. 

But beyond the irritation that the car always demands and expects precedence – a status by which I refuse to cowed, much to drivers’ astonishment – it’s a disciplined, quiet city, probably one of the best in Africa now. It wasn’t thus in 2001 or 2002 when crime was rife and even I got mugged in the street: two youths tearing off my shirt pocket while other pedestrians watched. Those petty thieves must have been disappointed by the museum ticket and scribbled notes for my diary. 

Happily, the city feels nothing like that now. Drivers are quiet and relatively courteous to each other, if not pedestrians. Traffic moves and there’s evidence of a fairly vibrant economy. It’s an expensive city, cosmopolitan and smart. People are well dressed, polite and respectful, buildings relatively well maintained and purposeful; public spaces rather threadbare, but they exist. The main thoroughfares have kept their trees and provide a bit of shade and soften the cityscape considerably. 

I’m helped in my accepting mood by finding one of the best places I have stayed on this journey. Adelight told me of the United Kenya Club, and I decided to try it. It’s terrific. It is bang in the city centre, set in its own quite expansive grounds. A private member’s club in that rather colonial mould that somehow survives and is kept alive by the older breed of Kenyans, it is slightly old fashioned, in a 1960s sort if style, with funny habits and rules on which these places seem to thrive: reserved parking for the President, ‘First Vice’, ‘Second Vice’, ‘Past President’; no moving the chairs in the lounge; no mobile phones in the restaurant; members only in the library. I can become a temporary member and have a very pleasant room, with a balcony overlooking the gardens, en suite (everything WORKS in the bathroom!) and access to the terrace and restaurant in the gardens. The roads beyond are a little noisy, as I am right at the hub of the city, so ambulances and sirens do make for a bit of disturbance, but I will remember this place for future visits. And it’s ‘only’ £27 for bed and breakfast. On my incoming night I paid £47 for a gloomy room in a suburb. This IS an expensive city, and to find a room so central, civilised and comfortable for 3500 bob -with breakfast – is excellent. 


Yesterday morning – I’m writing on Wednesday evening in the Club bar terrace – I left my kind, generous and close friends, Adelight and Rico, at the Kitale Airstrip and flew down to Nairobi.  The flight’s not the fun it was when the planes were 13-seater Cessnas; they are now 36-seater Dash 8s and fly at twice the altitude. Flying at 8000 and 9000 feet (when Kenya is at 5000) was such fun. It’s all remote from 19,000 feet, and I struggled to pick out the roads I have ridden these past weeks, the unsurpassed scenery that surrounds the Great Rift Valley, itself less impressive from so much higher. Best ever, of course, was the time – in 2001 – when I flew across the deserts from Lodwar to Nairobi in a six-seater, single engine aircraft, sitting beside the pilot for a couple of hours, skimming the escarpments of the Rift, flying over the red dust of roads that I had ridden on the borrowed Honda for three memorable weeks. 

Well, this time, I arrived prosaically at Wilson Airport, busy with many small planes that fly all over Kenya: safari companies and commercial internal flights. From there I bargained hard for a taxi to downtown Nairobi. “Help the youth!” was a new encouragement (from a taxi driver well past youth!) that I hadn’t heard before. It’s funny: if there was a fixed price, I’d pay up as required, but if they insist on no fixed price and hoping to rip me off, I will bargain aggressively. It’s their choice, after all. From 1500 bob, I found a driver for whom the bird in the hand weighed in at 800. John, was his name. “Are you a Christian?” I find the question intrusive and loaded, but it’s so common here. I usually just grunt and that passes for some sort of admission with those who hear what they want to hear. I’m not going to have a philosophical discourse about atheism versus blind belief with a taxi driver!


I checked in to my sunny room over the garden and walked (much to the shock of the receptionists) to Westlands shopping area, a mile and a half away, where I had an appointment with the people who repaired my iPad screen before Christmas. It’s still malfunctioning, which is why I came to Nairobi a day early. Today I got the probably bad news that it may not function again… For now, I have a replacement pad that I will have to return to Nairobi in due course, when the very pleasant, diligent people with whom I have been dealing, have assessed, with Apple, whether the screen will be replaced again and my own iPad couriered to me, or it will have to be scrapped (£700 or so out of the window thanks to my stupidity of strapping that bag on the back of the Mosquito on the first ride from Nashon back to Kitale). Technology is all very well – but my faith that Apple will feel any sympathy for the fact that the initial ‘repair’ didn’t work, is slim. They’ll want me to buy a replacement, which is why as soon as even an authorised repairer replaces the glass screen, they absolve themselves of all responsibility… 

Sarah, the woman with whom Adelight and I have dealt, was kindness itself. A quiet, chubby young woman, she has been diligent and impressive in her customer care, even ringing Adelight while I was travelling to see if the repair had righted itself. Nicodemus, the engineer, spent an hour and a half this morning, copying all my files and trying to provide me with a useful alternative. Well, I will be at home in 36 hours and, being of the analogue generation, all my important stuff is backed up in notebooks and handwritten lists, and all my photos still on my camera card. Nothing irrevocably lost – just none of my own films or operas to watch on KLM tomorrow night. I guess I’ll manage. I managed for 60-odd years without an iPad, after all. 


It’s grand to be sitting outside on the bar terrace in downtown Nairobi after nine at night. I’d better savour the feeling: it won’t be like this in 36 hours…


Another trip ended. I spend so much of my time travelling these days that it comes easier to complete a journey; I know there’ll be another one, all being well, and probably quite soon. 

Check out time was 10.30, so I was at a bit of a loss for a day’s entertainment. The club looked after my bag, which left me free to wander. I needed reading matter, so I thought I’d try to find a bookshop. Huh! I walked for hours – in fact six hours – and found one decent bookshop filled with very expensive imported books, and all the street stalls, selling second hand tomes imported from USA, sold mainly ‘motivational’ and self-improvement books, old text books, or god-bothering literature – the popular lines here in East Africa. However, I did meet Amos, a delightful fellow, sitting on the pavement beside his display of old books. I was attracted to talk to him because he was reading his own books, unlike all the other salesmen, who swiped obsessively at phone screens, with their ten second attention spans – while surrounded by books… Amos is charming and intelligent, trying to eke a living from his book sales. He buys his books, imported in containers, from middlemen, the books rejected by charity shops and thrift stores in the Western world. Amos seems to have a better eye for books, and buys them a little more selectively. Then he sits and reads them. “I want my children to learn to love books!” he told me. I gave him a somewhat pertinent book to sell, one I just finished, about the addictive nature of devices. “As soon as I finish reading about the soldiers in the Gulf, I shall move to that! I learn so much from my books. When I sit in the matatu to my home, I take a book.” He must be the only passenger old fashioned enough not to be swiping a screen on his journey home. 

Francis is another man I met, of obvious integrity and knowledge. The central market is these days overwhelmed by touristic craft stalls, all selling slight variations on the same not very well made or imaginative souvenirs, presided over by the most irritating, intrusive stall holders. I spotted Francis’s shop from the lower floor: hung about with fine old pieces of creative value seldom seen any more. Those pieces were made from belief and superstition, and because few items could be bought and China was a far distant place beyond the ken of most Africans. His shop was hung with masks and carvings and interesting art works: the ‘antiques’ that are fast disappearing from African markets. I used to enjoy Accra craft market twenty years and more ago, finding some of my favourite possessions there. Francis has travelled much of Africa collecting his own merchandise, with a very good eye for quality. I bought my most expensive spoon – by a factor of many times. I saw it two days ago, and had a pleasant conversation with knowledgeable Francis. Today, I was greeted like an old friend and left to my own devices to browse his collection. He knew I liked the spoon from Gabon and we negotiated politely, agreeing on £42. My most extravagant spoon by far – but a centrepiece of my considerable collection. 


Amos and Francis are representative of many, many Kenyans: courteous, warm-hearted, curious and charming. I do like Kenya and Kenyans increasingly. It’s a country with hugely improved infrastructure and an increasing economy, and its filled with friendly, respectful people. Even the capital city is friendly, people greeting and helpful. In places it gets irritating and I did lose my rag with one persistent hassler. These are agents for tourist companies, constantly trying to attract me to a safari or tourist shop. They CAN be very annoying and sometimes rudeness is my only defence. The insistent nuisance was an older man who approached, asking questions and assuring me he wasn’t selling me anything – which, of course, he was. “Are you a racist?” he asked rudely, as if it was any business of his. “No, certainly not, but you ARE! You are hassling me because I have a white skin and you hope to profit by that. THAT’S racism! Go away!” But such irritation is rare, and I am largely left alone. I can generally walk the streets quietly and apparently safely. It’s been through astonishing changes, has Nairobi. 


At eight minutes past midnight, the giant 747 lumbered into the skies over Nairobi on its way north, leaving African soil once again – after my 31st visit I think, amounting to almost exactly four years spent on the continent that has shaped much of my thinking over the last 30 years.

This has been a good trip, varied, contented and with the added attraction that I can now visit friends as much as explore new places. And a certain familiarity with the cultures makes travelling much easier. I’ve ridden 7555 kilometres this year, bringing the total I have ridden on my little Mosquito, to a little less than 24,000 kilometres since I bought it. I’ve spent about £4700 in the past three months, £1000 on fares, about £800 on maintaining and using the bike, £270 on visas, £325 given away, and £835 on 63 nights accommodation, an average of less than £13 – considerably raised by the first night in Nairobi at a scandalous £47 and the last two at £27. 

Ethiopia was challenging but very rewarding; I’m happy I persevered after my uncharacteristic loss of confidence – caused by sheer exhaustion on the early part of the journey from Kitale to southern Ethiopia, and probably by the recent physical stress and strains of all my intrusive dental work, still less than three weeks old when I made that extremely long ride. I met more travellers this year than on past journeys, on which I met mainly local people. I’m sure I’ll hear from cheerful, chatterbox Alice again, from Addis; Nick from Lalibela and the Isle of Man; Daniel from Addis Ababa, now living in Zurich; and perhaps I will visit Frenchman, Gérald, who lives in rural France and extended a warm invitation when we met in Awassa. Then, of course, there are the East Africans who befriended me: Abdurohman in Ethiopia, Sam the mechanic in Marsabit, and my older friends, William, Precious and Alex, with all three of whom I have cemented warmer friendships each if the past three years. 

Lasting memories..? The ride over those highest mountains from Debre Tabor to Dessie, via Lalibela; the first taste of buna, after which coffee can never be the same again; the day on Lake Tana with Daniel and his mother, Aster, ending in that most memorable traditional music club; the harshness of riding both ways across the northern deserts of Kenya; laughter and relief with Alice the night I got my passport back from charming Tedla, MD of that hotel chain; Precious’s secret baby, Jonathan; the wonderful ride from Sipi home to Kitale, the best ride of all; and of course, the deep pleasure of sharing ‘beer o’clock’ with my old friend and African brother on the porch, and enjoying the warmth and comfort of extended family life amongst Adelight and all those cheerful respectful and cheeky young women. Nothing really surpasses that and my admiration – once again – for the African institution of the extended family, of which I am privileged to be accepted into several. The warmth and sociability of people on this continent, over which I am now flying once again, is a wonder that has enriched my life immeasurably.


And in three months, winter months back here in chill, wet Europe, as we fly through thick grey clouds above England, in three months I pulled on my waterproofs once, to ride through a brief shower around Nanyuki, below Mount Kenya.





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




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.


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.


“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!


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.


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.


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?






The Kerio Valley


Making chapatis


On the road to Nandi Hills


Nashon and the Mosquito


Dazzling tea




Enter a caption















EAST AFRICA 2018-2019 – TEN




A quick reminder about my young friends, Alex and Precious: we met by my random selection of a rough and ready guest house here in Sipi, two years ago, when I arrived, filthy and elated from the 60 mile trail ride from Kitale, the other side of the mountain. Precious was horrified, she later admitted, by my state: not far from crazy, with a face deep red with dust and clothes completely foul. I’d been looking for a decent place to stay, and seen some very bad ones, when I spotted a stained sign directing me to a ‘resort’ down red dust tracks. When I saw the place, perched as it was on the edge of a high cliff, with a view across half Uganda, I decided to stay, despite the deprivations of the accommodation. My welcome, though, was fulsome indeed. Over that and my next visits, we became friends. Alex is a young man of great integrity and charm, and Precious is indeed precious, in her kindness, thoughtfulness, good humour and unaffected pleasure at my visits. 

A couple of years ago, Alex had dreams of restoring the resort on the cliff, in which he owned a part share, left to him by a fond uncle, but cheated of the legal papers by his own cousins. Sadly, jealousy is a powerful Ugandan emotion – oddly, for this wonderfully friendly country, it’s often under the surface, especially when one party realises the truth that hard work brings rewards, and the other believes they are constantly being cheated, while doing absolutely nothing themselves. Alex’s ‘partners’ in the business live in Canada and were contributing nothing whatsoever to their property in Uganda but expecting Alex to keep the money coming in for them. Alex struggled to turn any sort of profit, with no investment from the mean-spirited, jealous cousins from far away. The Canadian cousins assumed that he was cheating them and taking the money, for that would have been their way. Meanwhile, the resort was collapsing from lack of investment. Alex has no money… They saw no need to invest their dollars; the place just dwindled away. The customary lack of understanding of management and maintenance. 

In the end, Alex changed his dreams: he’d try to build his own resort on his own plot. He trained in hotel management and is a very intelligent man. Since last year, when he showed me his land and described his ideas, I have been helping him with his ambitions. He works in a local hotel; is popular with the customers but, in another instance of opportunist envy, his employer has taken the chance to cut his meagre salary, accusing him of not concentrating on the job because he is building his own resort. This jealousy is so corrosive, as is this sort of management. How does that hotel manager expect to engender enthusiasm in employees thus treated? Alex is diligent and popular with that hotel’s clients; so you cut his pathetic salary on a spurious excuse: African management.

So here I am, the first occupant of ‘Jonathan’s House’ in the nascent resort in Sipi. Early days yet, and it’s all a bit rough round the edges, but I have a round room with a thatched roof (based on a photo of one of my favourite lodgings in Lesotho) and for my visit, they purchased a big bed and comfortable mattress. The walls and floor are still rough cement and the bathroom doesn’t function beyond a drain hole in the cement floor, a plastic washing bowl and container of water, but I am adaptable – and very pleased to see this progress. Alex needs to be running his own business; he’ll do it well and successfully, given the chance. One day, the resort will have a restaurant and bar, a number of round houses, camping lawns and bright, flowering gardens. There’s even a three storey accommodation block in his dreams. It’s a long term dream, but Alex and Precious have the persistence and determination – and rare forward planning – to make it work. Without capital, though, realising dreams here is challenging. 


I rode by the long route round the mountain, because of the rains in Kitale, although when I arrived, Alex reckoned the very rough road is still passable to my piki-piki. Oh well, too late now. The other road is twice as long at 220 kilometres but is tarred all the way. The Suam road, over the edges of the mountain, all that rough trail that I have so much enjoyed in the past, is being reconstructed at the moment. The ubiquitous Chinese are building a new road – more staggering debt that they will allow to wallow for a few years and then call in, in due course – in resources and minerals, with consummate greed and no sympathy for the debtor nations. The Chinese government, who do nothing in anyone’s interest but their own, must be laughing uproariously up their sleeves at the naïveté of the African nations, who don’t appear to see the future problems they are building – or don’t care, as their corrupt leaders take VAST personal  backhanders. The time will come when China makes its demands, and those demands will cost not just Africa, but the whole world, the planet indeed. There’s no compassion in China’s ‘generosity’ to this continent: the work employs many thousands of Chinese workers, utilises Chinese technology, provides a surreptitious opportunity for China to survey the geological resources of the countries, brings them huge trade in cheap goods for sale, and at the same time builds enormous indebtedness from these countries who have no method of payment except in resources that will eventually beggar them further – at which point China will walk away without compassion. This is a recipe for future conflict, disaster, extraordinary poverty and suffering. Mark my words, who’s seen it: it’ll end in tears…


Approaching the border, I passed a line of waiting trucks five miles long. ‘Visions of Dover after Brexit’, I thought, expecting a tedious and confused border crossing. In fact, it was quick and efficient and I was in Uganda within twenty minutes or so, the Ugandan customs officer sitting on a bollard and taking down my details in a ledger resting on a redundant steel safe as a desk on the pavement. The safe appeared to have been abandoned right outside the customs doorway.

Then I recollected that this country has the worst driving standards in Africa – that I have seen so far. Fortunately, I don’t have that far to ride here, as I will visit Alex and Precious and return at the end of the week. Kenya always seems so well organised after visiting its neighbours. The ride northwards round the back of the mountain was easy, the road good, lined by many villages and with thousands of visible children, for, like Ethiopia, Uganda’s swelling population is horrifying: 7.8 children, the average ‘download’ (as Sam, in Marsabit, would put it) per woman. Consequently, there are always children everywhere. 

For the final ten miles or so, I have to climb onto the lower slopes of the mountain, winding up a steep road towards Sipi in the foothills. “At least 100 people died on that hill in the last year,” says Alex, horrified. “Just bad driving. They don’t know to use a low gear, even though the sign at the top says ‘engage low gear’. They try to go down using gear four or five and go out of control. In one accident, 21 local tourists died.” Ugandan driving is SO bad… It’s not even a very dramatic road, nothing compared to those Ethiopian passes or many others in East Africa. “Drivers come from Kampala and just don’t know how to drive on hills,” says Alex.

I know my way to find Alex and Precious, Alex still at work when I arrived at 5.00. I’d been riding since 11.00 and looking forward to Precious’s excited welcome. Several village people recognised me as I rode. I am Alex’s ‘rich mzungu’, just as I am ‘William’s mzungu’ in Kessup. It’s that thing about going back – it shows respect. William said the other day, and it made me think, and be slightly depressed at the reaction: “Oh, for a mzungu to trust an African, it’s not easy…” What an indictment – of wazungus, not just Africans. 

Then I was on the path to Alex and Precious’s home, and hugged in a violent grip by happy Precious. It’s exactly a year since I was last here.


Alex was at work until after eight, so it was some time before he joined us, and supper was late. We sat on the big bed in my round house exchanging news and plans for some time. Precious always over-estimates my appetite by about double and had kindly bought me a bottle of beer and plied me with fresh pineapple. Nothing’s too much trouble for Alex’s mzungu. 

Bedtime was late and I was tired. Going out for a last piss, I looked up at the incredible black sky, a fabulous display of silver – and shooting – stars in this very dark place. There’s no light pollution here – not a lot of light at all, and no humidity in the air tonight. It’s quiet and the night is extremely still. “It’s always still while the rains are forming,” says Alex. “The rains will start about the 10th of next month. We may get showers before, but it’s after the 10th when we plant.” Rural dwellers know their weather lore; they need to know when to be ready for planting the next crop – their lives actually do depend on this knowledge.

“There’s something wrong with the lock,” Alex worries, fiddling with the new door lock. “It’s only locking from the outside.”

“Forget it! No one will murder me in my bed!” I remember that the first time I approached the guest house on the cliffs, neighbours were ringing Alex to tell him a strange, dirty white man was at his house, almost before I got there. The efficiency of the bush telegraph and bush security in a place like this is extreme!


This was a relaxed day talking plans and dreams for the new guest house – and trying to think of a name for it, unsuccessfully so far. Alex, on his one day off, is constantly working at something – sweeping his new lawns of pine needles, the paths of dust, patching up the privy, washing, cooking, planning. He has the energy to make this business work and I do hope he succeeds. He actually acknowledges that only work will bring his rewards; an uncommon attitude here. 

The day was extremely hot. “The rains won’t come yet,” says Alex, looking up at a cloudless hot blue sky. That suits me. In the evening and into the night, a strong breeze worried round the garden trees, much warmer tonight, so that we could sit outside under the stars for supper. 


In the late afternoon, as the air cooled a bit, Alex and I wandered the neighbourhood, meeting neighbours. Alex grew up here and knows the place well. I am soon lost and directionless amongst the close growing banana trees amongst the many smallholdings. “How the people laughed when I cut down the matoke (bananas). You will starve! They LAUGHED! There’s a lot of jealousy here; many would like to see us fail; they just don’t understand that if you work hard and invest effort and ideas, you can succeed…” 

It’s an abundant region, still very green as the dry season ends. “I have a lot of plans! But I know it is slow. One step at a time. Oh, people were surprised: when the local MP came, where did they hold their meeting? In my new gardens! People everywhere! The sad thing was, I had no money, so they had to buy their drinks and snacks outside. But it brought a lot of people, and those people will tell other people. Oh, we’ll get customers when we open. I know we will. I have people already asking, ‘when are you opening?’, people from Kampala. I tell them, I am not ready yet. We have to open when we can offer a good service. At the moment we have much to do: that latrine is too poor, the toilets in the rooms aren’t working yet. When we get the second room finished, then we may be able to open. We did have a lady from Brazil; she loved her stay, but she stayed in the house with us. I have a lot of plans, but slowly, slowly…”

Precious told me more of that MP’s gathering. She, as the hostess, was asked to hand out his money to the villagers, 1000 Uganda bob (20 pence!) to every man, woman and youth. Enough to buy many votes, although it’ll only buy a bottle of pop. “Oh, the line was looong! From here the road!” Precious laughed, pointing across the long compound. 


My design skills are proving useful to Alex. “Build the next bed from earth block; build in a seat around the walls, all in earth block, filled with earth. Let it settle and cover it in a thin layer of cement, mattress on top. Two bags will probably do the bed, and earth blocks are cheap! Don’t tile the floors; paint them and then polish them and put down a few grass mats. Keep it simple, unusual and traditional – even if you have to invent the tradition!”

Alex is enthused. “It will be like nothing else in Sipi! And this bed,” we are now sitting in my round room on the big wooden bed, locally made and already probably warping, joints loosening, for all furniture is made with insufficiently seasoned timber, “This bed cost more than £75!” I think £50 is about a month’s salary for Alex. It’s hard having ambitions and no capital and not yet the independence to rely on his own imagination and abilities to sink or swim. “Without Jonathan, we couldn’t get even this far!” agrees Precious.

“We should call it ‘Jonathan’s Guest House’,” she chips in. We are still trying to think of a name for the signboard, the planned website, the Lonely Planet and (ghastly, lying, manipulated) Trip Advisor. My help through the year has amounted to perhaps £750 or £800. I will continue with my £100s now and again. These two deserve – and appreciate the support from far away. 


At least my aid gets to the recipient here in Uganda, more than can be said for probably the majority of foreign aid in this perhaps most corrupt country in East Africa, where graft and corruption is endemic throughout all institutions. Of course, it starts from the top; from the longest ‘serving’, fabulously wealthy African president, Museveni, now in power well over 30 years, who has recently cheated all his politicians into accepting changes to the constitution to allow him another seven years – and likely president for life. He just buys them off with huge backhanders and smart cars, new houses and the like, much of it money syphoned off from Western donor countries. It’s a persuasive argument for the total uselessness of Western aid to Africa. There’s a growing discussion whether aid works at all, except in the donors’ interests – for ALL aid is entailed in many devious ways. The argument is that aid is actually causing many, many problems for this continent. Looking close to home: to Alex’s community, there’s a lethargy that has deep roots now in African culture: hard work is a waste of energy for if you wait long enough, someone (usually wazungus) will provide, to assuage their own guilt at the disparities. Self-important white people will then ride about in first class expensive white vehicles (bought with the ‘aid’ money from their own donor countries…) and alleviate the symptoms but never actually address the underlying problems. Officials all down the pecking order take their ‘share’ of the money; large salaries are paid to the top people in the ‘charities’; considerable sums are filtered back in ‘business opportunities’ to providers in the home, donor country – much of the charity infrastructure is based around purchasing those top of the range vehicles, the practical items of relief, the emergency supplies – from local suppliers in the donor country. A lot of ‘aid’ never actually leaves the donor country. It’s an elaborate con. Aid also employs a lot of the donor population and few of the recipients’. And it causes an institutionalised dependence amongst recipient nations and encourages appalling corruption all down the line. Museveni, longest ruling dictator on the continent, were anyone able to count his millions, doubtless stashed away in diverse foreign accounts, must be one of the richest men – or families – in Africa, all based on cheating his poorly educated, cash-strapped, poverty-stricken people. One does wonder how these immoral despots can live with their own consciences? Perhaps they don’t have one…


Just beneath the surface of African life there is so much brutality and jealousy that I seldom witness, seeing instead the generous welcomes and smiles. It’s only when I get to know people and hear their stories that the other aspects surface. Life is cheap on much of this continent, education levels quite low and diplomacy and reason often play no part in inter-tribal, and often worse: inter-clan rivalry. Alex’s brother, Cedric, a charming young man of 23, intelligent, educated, committed and informative, took me for a long walk this afternoon, to villages and communities on the other side of the big valleys that intersects the Sipi plateau. It’s an area he knows from his volunteer work for, like Alex, he works with one of the grass-roots groups to mentor and advise, in an attempt to bring down the astronomical birthrate and reduce gender-based violence and FGM. 

About three miles from Sipi, we walked into a crude village on the mountainsides, rich in coffee and bananas, but very low in education and civilised behaviour. Cedric knows it for high incidence of rape, violence and drunkenness; the women travel to Kenya as prostitutes and come back infected, and Alex told me later that the incidence of HIV-positive villagers in that region is 85%. It’s the first place in East Africa that I have ever felt any sort of aggression, not a place I’d go at night. My normal behaviour is to smile and greet everyone I pass. In that area, I elicited NO reaction whatsoever. It was rare enough for me to comment to Cedric as we walked, which is when he explained the character of those villages. They are off the beaten track, and keep themselves that way. They do not welcome strangers, and going there as volunteers to try to promulgate what the village saw as revolutionary ideas, was challenging, he admitted. Respect for women? That’s radical talk. Equality? Huh. The volunteers could find little link with the people. These are ignorant, proud people – perhaps humanity’s worst mix of emotions: closed to outside influences; knowing best.  

The inter-village rivalry is rough and violent amongst such people. It’s the clan system, a refinement even of the tribal divisions. “You see,” explained Cedric as we walked amongst unsmiling people, who looked unresponding, and slightly aggressively at the mzungu, “the more children you have, the stronger you are; the bigger your clan, the more powerful. The biggest clan becomes the leader in the region. It’s like that in these villages.” There were indeed multitudinous children, afraid of the white man in unusual numbers; even schoolchildren running away, behaviour that usually stops at about age five and turns to fascination. Here it seemed to turn rather to rudeness and jokes at my expense. I don’t think many of us penetrate that area. One or two people were openly rude – a singular reaction in friendly East Africa. 

“Did Cedric tell you about the wars in 1975 and 79?” Alex asked later, cooking supper on a fire of sticks, as I was telling him of my surprise at my reception. “A man from one of those clans killed one from another, and the revenge was terrible. Hundreds died. They just slaughtered each other. It was horrible. Life is so cheap to those people. But, you see, their land is rich, so they have money – but no education,” – and the ugly jealous streak that’s not far beneath the smiling surface, when I listen to Alex’s stories. Those who are intelligent and educated are somehow looked down upon for their hard work. Shades, it seems to me, of the developing ‘populism’ that is infecting the Western world so alarmingly at present, creating a ‘them and us’ jealousy, accusations of ‘elitism’, a determination of the basically ignorant to ‘bring the rest down to size’ – resulting in Trump, Brexit, hatred of immigrants and the shocking fact that those citizens of Dover who spouted racism and xenophobia, wanted their names published in that Guardian article, while the more reasoned, thinking sympathisers trying to understand the issue, withheld their names. To be ignorant and proud may be a terrible mix of emotions, but to be proud of being ignorant is even worse. 

Being so populous in the area – “They are the biggest clan, so the politicians go there and spend their money on those ignorant people since they decide the elections!” says Alex as he bends over his fire beneath a pan of sizzling oil in which he is cooking a delicious whole fish for my supper, in the dark of the starry night. “It’s all based on alcohol. The politician who buys the most alcohol wins the seat…”

Cedric has some political ambitions. He was explaining that he wanted to run for mayor but was laughed out of court by the old men. “You aren’t married!” they exclaimed. It seems that marriage is a requirement for office. “And they said, ‘you are too young!’ If you can’t keep a wife, how can you look after 1000 people?” These are hidebound people, who resist change because no one ever challenges the corrupt status quo. ‘It’s the way we’ve always done things, why should we change?’ Change is threatening. 

I told him to persevere. But the trouble is, he hasn’t the financial backing to buy the votes, for that’s how you win elections in Uganda – right from the top: the most corrupt president on the continent – down to local mayor… This is such a corrupt country. And, of course, it’s in the politicians’ interests to keep the people uneducated: it’s easy to sway them and cheaper for winning office – uneducated people are cheaper to bribe; and once you have office, you have access to all the incoming development and aid money, all the backhanders. 

A country that desperately needs the integrity of their Alexs and Cedrics stops their progress, and jealousy of the ignorant keeps them down wherever it can. But these young men have a longer view than most. I wish them well but am very glad I don’t face their challenges for change. 


…Or their challenges just to get through life and support their (limited and planned) families. Life’s tough for them, with their minds opened by education and natural intelligence. Cedric studied IT in Kampala and can get no work. He’s too well educated and work depends on whom you know, not your skills. He’s living at home just now. Alex and Cedric’s parents live next door to Alex’s compound, now slowly converting to the guest house. I wandered over to chat with his mother and father. “I have three children still in university,” says Alex’s father, who retired last year (plus, I later find out from Precious, two in secondary school and one still in primary…). They have a large plot of land and are obviously quite ‘middle class’ for the region but he is still held back by having nine children. Nine! Why, one wants to ask. If he’d had two or three, he could now be retired and living well, helping his three to better themselves in life. As it is, he has nine struggling children, who can’t find work – but he is probably held in high regard locally for his ‘strength’ and ‘virility’. His wife, a cheerful, large, fast-ageing woman, sat with me for a time. We talked about age, as I am older and yet infinitely younger than them at the same time. “Oh, we used to see people of 100!” exclaimed Alex’s mother, sitting sideways on her plastic Chinese chair to keep in the almost vertical shade of the overhanging roof. “But now… seventy, and they are off… Why? Is it the food, all the contamination in our food?” I hesitated to say that she might expect a much longer life if she hadn’t given birth nine times… Then her husband came, a slight, spare man, like Alex and Cedric. She immediately relinquished her chair to the man of the house and went back to her endless hard work – as he settled in for a long, relaxed chat, bemoaning the cost of educating three children at university. Almost my age, and he’s still paying primary school fees. What hope has that child that he will be around to pay university fees? That cost, if it happens, will fall to its struggling siblings.


After our long walk; we must have covered about six or seven miles in our three and a half hour ramble, I was weary. I haven’t been doing so much walking for a while. I took a Chinese chair and sat in the kitchen – just a swept earth area next to Alex’s modest house. Most rural people cook on the floor on fires of sticks, in sooty pans and pots, by the light of their phone torches. It struck me that those who live in the dark, work in the dark – can SEE in the dark, unlike me, who goes half blind as the stars brighten. Precious had gone to buy me a bottle of Nile Special, not a bad beer, although a bit strong at 5.6%, and I snacked on fresh juicy pineapple as Alex cooked. Little Keilah, the baby, now going to two and a half, and still terrified of the mzungu, pushed the sticks into the small fire: there’s a different regard of baby safety here, where they are so exposed to fires, knives, animals, barbed wire, sharp objects, cliff edges and all the ‘dangers’ from which we would protect them – all just part of daily life for these small children. Both Alex and Precious trained in hotel management, so it’s amusing to me to watch the little niceties they practice: the glass of juice served on a plate; the flowers by the bed; the garnish on the dishes. This is still a part-formed guest house, but it has already some of the habits of a grand hotel! I do hope they will succeed, they deserve it so much. I do hope one day I can come and see the completed version – although, like all projects with a forward-looking developer, it will never be finished, always moving forward to Alex’s rare long term dream.  


This morning an unexpected event occurred: my stomach rebelled. The last time it happened was over three years ago! Fortunately, it was all over in an hour. Something had got into my system that my guts didn’t like, which considering the trials I put them through, must have been extreme. Mostly, I am stainless steel down there. Well, without medication, my body worked it out and, taking it easy for lunch (Precious always wants to give me prodigious amounts of food, for she has a huge appetite herself), by evening I was eating my excellent whole fish with Alex’s homemade ‘Irish’ chips and salad, in the dark yard beneath the scintillating starry ceiling. It’s such a shame he has to work all day – long hours for a pittance from a jealous boss – but I was glad of Cedric’s company instead; another intelligent companion, warm hearted and happy for the opportunity to question me too. Very good people; funny how instinct introduces me to some very charming, generous and warm people on this continent. A happy instinct to have, and pretty well honed after all these travels.


There’s a funny story to relate today.

Alex managed to get home from work soon after five this evening, so I suggested it was the only time I could get some family photographs. As the sun dropped through the western clouds, diffusing towards its golden glow, I tried to chivvy Precious along.

“We have five or ten minutes before the sun goes!” I warned, watching the shadow of the pine tree lengthen across the new lawn. “Ten minutes, maximum! And I want to get all three of you together, so dress quickly!”

“Three?” asked Alex, with a slightly quizzical look. “Didn’t Precious tell you..?”

“No, she’s told me nothing,” I replied as Alex’s grin spread. ‘So Precious must be pregnant with number two’, I thought as they hurried away to change from their ragged day clothes. 

Minutes later, they came out into the garden, dressed in bright red finery, looking terrific for my photo.

Alex carried a small baby in a blanket. I have been in the house for three days and saw no baby!

“Meet Jonathan! The little Jonathan,” Alex said with a big smile. “You didn’t know? Precious, why didn’t you tell Jonathan? I assumed you knew.” He held out the small baby. “He was born on November 25th, and we immediately called him Jonathan!”

“Oooh, I thought you would be aaangry with me for having more babies!” exclaimed Precious with an embarrassed laugh. “You talk how the Ugaaanda population is getting too beeg and I thought you’d be angry. I know you want Ugaaandans to have smaller families.”

“Precious, you can have nine children if you want, like Alex’s parents, but you will live much better – and so will your children – if you have two, maybe three! And Alex won’t be a retiree with six children still in education. You can have as many as you want, but my ADVICE is, fewer is better.”

“Two is enough,” chips in Alex, a volunteer mentor trying to bring down the spiralling birthrate in the villages. “Two will do. I want us to stop at two. ”

So we took our photographs; happy pictures with the two small children.

“So what would you do if I visit when Jonathan is ten years old. Send him away to hide?” I joked. Precious laughed, shy and embarrassed. These are such lovely young people. I wish them very well indeed – and of course the little Ugandan Jonathan too. So much of Africa provides such warmth and love when you really get under its skin and instinctively trust new friends.


It has been the hottest of days. Too hot for much activity until the afternoon. I rode to Kapchorwa and met Alex to get my beard trimmed (my trimmer has a rechargeable battery, and being made in China, it failed three days ago. Built-in obsolescence to make me buy another…) and a hair cut in a barbers’ shop in the scruffy town. It cost a pound. I bought the hair trimmer and started cutting my own when my haircuts in Devon reached ten pounds.

Alex had meetings of his hotel staff. Precious tells me that, using the excuse that he is building his own hotel – which will offer no threat to the customers of the Kapchorwa hotel, which fancies itself as a cut above all the rest, but is, to my tuned eyes, unmaintained and no big catch – his manager and his jealous daughter have cut and cut his salary. He now brings home something over £30 a month, for six day weeks. If it wasn’t for all the money I currently send down to Africa – far and away my biggest annual expense – I’d feel inclined to set up a regular payment just so he could reject the meanness of the jealous management in Kapchorwa and get on with running his own place. I do despise this way of African mis-management, common as it is. 

Back home, young Sam, a fifteen year old neighbour, took me for a walk in the vicinity, climbing the hills to gaze at the vast view that opens below Sipi, seeming to include half Uganda, an endless plain that stretches to the western horizon, lost in the mists of distance. People are burning the bush now, long plumes of white smoke exactly parallel to the north easterly wind across the plain. Many new feeder roads are being bulldozed through the village (no compensation if your fields happen to be in the way) as the population increases and more plots are needed, opened up by the new earth roads. 

I’m still chuckling about Precious’s secret baby, and have a small glow of pride that he is named after me. It shows so much love, acceptance and respect.


This has been a great day. The Suam road is perhaps my favourite East African road. It’s the roughest of trails, with the most wonderful vistas from the lower slopes of Africa’s third highest mountain. It’s being improved, which on one hand I resent a bit – for I loved the challenge of the rugged road, and liked to be able to say that I can still ride on those trails. It’s still bloody hard work and I am happily weary, in that I have exercised muscles I hardly knew I had. Riding a small trail bike, a versatile machine, on those sorts of rocky, dusty, pitted, broken, rough tracks is so much fun! I used to love to trail ride, many years ago, and before I ‘discovered’ Africa, where trail riding is the norm in so many places: just the way people get around. Now I have a wide smile on my face that I can still find and ride such rough roads, and especially with such magnificent African scenery around me. There are the smiles and waves, the calls of children, the laughter of the people I pass as well. It’s invigorating, youthful fun, hard exercise and very, very satisfying. I feel 25 again, forgetting that what passers by see is a white haired old bloke, going increasingly red with thick African dust, smiling a bit crazily as he bounces from rock to rock, flinging himself about, standing on the foot pegs, rebalancing every second as he lurches from pothole to pothole and rock to rock. And off to my left, much of the way, are views that are stunning: vast areas of the northern plains of Uganda, seen from this vantage point on the lower slopes of the mountain, volcanic pimples spotting the boundless, sweeping panorama. The distance fades into a softness that eventually just becomes sky. I am looking hundreds of miles into the enormity of Africa. It’s a wonder to be here, steep slopes, heavily cultivated; small rural homes lining the twisting, convoluted, tangled, tortuous dust track. My smile is wide and my spirit soaring. I am riding tough trails in Africa!


Two hours or so from Sipi, I stop in a small, earthy village. I need to rest a bit. Mixed tea is always my choice – I’ve learned from Precious how to make it this morning and written it down in my notebook. It’s not complicated, just tea leaves boiled for a while in a saucepan of water; milk added and boiled some more, then strained into a big Chinese Thermos.

“Have you chai?” I call to the women assembled, as they probably are every day of their lives, under the shade of the crude wooden shacks at the roadside. 

“It is there!” calls back a woman. “Come!” and she enters one of the shacks in the row to fetch the Thermos. 

“Let me sit outside,” I say. “I want to watch the people!” In fact, it’s the opposite: the people want to watch me. A crowd gathers; my tea is brought in a chipped Chinese enamel mug, full to the brim as always, so I spill scalding tea down my fingers. I’m used to that now. It’s always to the top. Value for money; it’s only ten pence, but ten pence is a different sum when you may have fifty pence in your pocket, not £50 like me – unknown riches here in deep rural Uganda. 

An increasingly swelling group of primary school children gather to watch. They are neatly dressed but dusty – everything’s dusty here – in yellow shirts and blue cotton shorts, a big letter T stitched to their pockets. I guess they are of Tulel Primary School. There’s a curling A4 sheet stuck to the earth wall on which I am leaning, seated on a low wooden stool. The notice gives tantalising information about enrolment at Tulel Primary: ‘Hurry, hurry, while vacancies last’, the fading paper warns. To register, the parent must provide: ‘A none (sic) refundable fee of 2000/= (50p) for registration; 25,000/= (Uganda shillings, £5.25) per child per term on the opening date; 10kg of maize and 2kg of sugar; a mathematical set for P4 and P5; a pen and pencil’. 

The very hot sun is almost overhead; I’m still almost on the Equator. Almost vertical, I am grateful for the scant shade of the rusty zinc sheets of the rough verandah, held up by crooked tree poles. Chicks ‘cheep’ loudly round my feet, scavenging for some spilled beans, but they are dry and rock hard, so the small bundles of feathers must forego them and peck at some maize husks instead. It is still, claustrophobic, hot. Music, not offensive, fairly tuneful Ugandan pop, plays on a speaker in one of the shacks; no one has anything much to do, except talk desultorily and gaze at the hills, thickly dotted, in this astonishingly populous land, with shining zinc roofs. There’s little forest left, just patchwork fields of matoke (banana) and dug-over red earth, waiting for the rains and sowing season, soon to come. The forests have been sacrificed to firewood, fence posts and construction – or sold to Kenya. I just rode through where the pine forests were last year; they’ve gone now. I hope and assume they’ll be replanted. I missed their cool freshness, a respite on this dry, hot, dusty road. Now the hillsides are barren, punctuated with low stumps and dying brushwood; ugly blasted heath, baking, desolate. As I rode, back there, I thought fondly of the smell of pine and the greenness overcoming the scorched scent of the dust as I bounced through the tall, shady trees on previous journeys; I’ve been this way about seven times now. Gone now, those proud trees, such a feature of these hills, many of them sold to Kenyan sawmills I am told. The managers stayed in Alex’s mean-spirited hotel. 

It’s very still now; the sun beats down. It’s 1.30, the hottest part of the day. The shade of the verandah is narrow and the zinc above is too hot to touch, acting as a hot plate. A baby mizzles on a teenage mother’s back and another one suckles from a woman sitting in a locally made bamboo chair. Babies everywhere. Children too; the schoolchildren are now about thirty, watching me attentively. I smile at them and they giggle shyly. Not many wazungu stop here to be viewed so closely. I wonder what stories they are making up about me? Eight young men do nothing at all. It’s like this every day of the village life: sitting in the shade, sheltering from the oven of the sun, staring; staring at nothing… It’s not surprising so many people in this country go to church; it’s the only social event of the lazy week. 

I’m high here, over 2000 metres, here on the mountain slopes, maybe 2500. I’ve been generally climbing, the last fifteen miles, and I’ll drop down again towards Kenya soon. The village, it may be Tulel, or is it Kabokwo, I’m not sure, and it hardly matters – all these rustic collections of shacks and shambas are the same – is on a dusty hill. We can watch the boda-bodas wobble by, overloaded hugely, in the cloud of dust that I make too. 

At last, after half a lazy hour, it’s time to move on; still fifty kilometres or more of this energetic ride to go. It’s difficult to get up and start again. A move from me, pulling on my filthy, faded, fraying jacket, and the children whisper comments to one another. When I roll up and put in my ear plugs against the helmet noise, they wonder… The oddities of this being who seems so alien, yet is divided from them by only a millimetre of skin colour; few appreciate that. Leg over the bike, a few words of thanks to the amiable women and their babies, a wave to all the children; now at least fifty, and I accelerate away, the biggest thing to happen in Tulel, or Kabokwo, or wherever we are, this week; back onto my favourite East African road with its stupendous views.

Riding again, it’s difficult to find somewhere to stop for a piss. I drank about a litre of ‘tangawizi’ tea that Alex made this morning – that’s my favourite ginger and spiced mixed chai – plus a glass of fresh passion juice that Precious squeezed for me, and now another half pint of sweet milky tea. But everywhere along the track the homesteads of this remarkably populous country sprawl by the dust trail, and a mzungu attracts so much attention. The track seldom enters a stretch of open country and I’ll have to find a hedge by a maize field for relief. For a couple of miles the terrain is too steep for homes, the track hacked from the mountainside, Uganda reaching into the haze to the north, endlessly vast, blue from distance, impressive and magnificent, a good place to stop: another photo.

Suam River is the border village, a particularly scruffy place; two rows of lock up shacks, a scattering of mud and zinc homes, a lot of indigent people, a bit of sluggish business, a rutted dust street, if it can be graced with such a word. The border itself is crude and easy going; I’ve been this way several times and know the ropes. In the exit immigration building it’s difficult to hear the Ugandan woman through a small hole in the glass, for there’s a television – more cheap American melodrama – competing for attention, right behind me so the officials can watch through the glass, the opiate of TV to pass the day. It’s almost three now and I am the sixth person to pass out of Uganda: locals don’t get recorded and come and go, but I have to be registered in a ledger no one will ever read. Then I have to scrabble my way up the dust and grass bank to customs. Why have they never dug steps? Because no one was told to, and no one will take the initiative. I’ve scrambled this way every time now, grasping for tree roots to pull myself up to the dirty office, where an official sits at an old whirring computer and takes down my Mosquito’s details again.  

Then it’s bumping through rubbish and ruts, and over a colonial bridge, eight feet wide, built in 1956 it says, over a filthy trickle that must be the Suam river, and into Kenya again. A broken gate, more ruts and bumps; more dusty customs and immigration nonsense that no one will ever check, my passport scrutinised, all those stamps and visas. It’s curiosity for bored officers at this remote border post with about ten international vehicles passing each week. Last year I was the fourth to pass and be registered in nine days! No uniforms, just old mtumba tee shirts with European shops and stores, American resorts and international football teams’ names across the chest. I wonder if all this will change when the new road gets here – Chinese, of course: I’ve passed many  Chinese in wide straw sun hats and dust masks unsmilingly directing African workers on the early part of the new road build near Kapchorwa, and now I’ll pass more as I ride the new construction towards Kitale, long tracts of earth and dirt as the future road takes shape. In a year or so, you’ll be able to sweep through all this magnificent country on tarmac; pity really – I enjoy this more challenging route, it feels more like a bit of mild adventure, sixty miles of trail riding through Africa. I’ll miss this ride and the sense of achievement I now feel, face red with thick dust, muscles exercised by the crashing and bumping, fulfilled by the scenery. Pity I may never have that experience again when the road sweeps along, a hot black line back to Kapchorwa.


I got home about five to the warm welcome I have come to expect from my Kenyan extended family. The well is now dug – water at about 30 feet, the house renovation complete, the house tidy, the mushroom house cement-rendered over the mud blocks. It all looks good for Rico’s return next week. In the evening, after supper, Adelight loves to challenge me at Scrabble. After an hour and a half sitting on the settee playing, my hips have stiffened and I can feel the exercise of all that rebalancing and riding along standing up for much of the way on my little bike. But it’s a good feeling, healthy exercise, a couple of cans of beer, warmth of the family and now the prospect of a good sleep. Not bad at all.


The other good news seems to be that I may have been alarmist at the ailments of my little bike. I have ridden two days without the white cloud that was tending to follow me: white smoke of burning oil. I noticed that it tended to happen more in the morning, after I had topped up the lost oil of the previous ride, and linked that to an observation of Cor, next door, who helped me by finally fixing the drive sprocket with proper LockTite. Fiddling with the rubber engine breather pipe, I reduced the kink that may have been making the oil pressure too high, and pushing oil past the pistons when the engine was fully topped up. Maybe I have fixed the problem? I hope so, as I will keep the Mosquito for another year or two, even if I use it for only shorter trips. I have paid the money now, and may as well keep it, if Rico doesn’t mind having it stored in a corner of his garage (which he doesn’t seem to) so I can enjoy days like today: a good day indeed. Any day that makes you feel 25 again, when you are fast pushing 70, has to be notable! 


Precious borrowed my pen and returned later with a folded letter surrounded by hearts and ‘miss you’s.

‘We wish you a safe journey going back home God protect you head and add you more years. Jonathan its so wonder ful that you have now becom our parent we appreciate Every thing your doing We congratulate “so so” much. Pleas take care of your self. HAVE A NICE JOURNEY. Written by Precious = Family member Alex Precious Keilah Jonathan WE LOVE YOU SO MUCH. we fell like being with you again and again and again and again and again’. 

A most satisfactory day.




Many Africans are terrified of harmless chameleons


The Sipi slopes of Mount Elgon


Precious rolling breakfast chappaties


The  first room completed is called ‘Jonathan’s House’






Precious and Alex with their family, including Jonathan junior


Precious and Keilah




Cooking supper at Sipi


Alex and Keilah preparing my supper




The road to Suam


The view into endless Uganda


On the road. A great place to ride!