Cruel to be kind ?

Days 323, Thursday 22 November 2012 – Eden Rock Camp, Jinja, Uganda

It was whisky induced but I finally managed a good nights sleep, not waking until 5:00 AM, though were minor hints of a hangover but nothing as bad as the sleep deprivation head aches I had been having in the mornings. I was up at 5:30 for the 6:00 breakfast and we were on the road again for 7:00. The day is cool and clear, a perfect day for driving and crossing the border from Kenya into Uganda. We spent a long time driving on the drough temporary roads, looking at the new highway to the border, which seems to just be used to move the occasional cow!

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Or the ever popular wood.

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The border crossing was surprisingly painless, we were warned that it can sometimes be dreadfully slow to get across. I am not sure what the donkey was doing, apart from almost becoming a hood ornament of our truck.

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The worst part was the traffic congestion in no-mans land.

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I managed to have a good Bookface message conversation with Dom, my oldest son while we waited between formalities. I was a bit miffed when Ugandan immigration placed the stamp in the middle of my Asian stamps, instead of at the back with all my other African stamps. I have now visited over fifty countries in all my travels – awesome ๐Ÿ™‚

Uganda is an amazingly lush country, it is all at least 900 metres above sea level so there is plenty of moisture in the air and a lot of crop holdings were seen from the road.

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And of course the kids waved at the truck as we drove past ๐Ÿ™‚

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In Tanzania and Kenya, and now Uganda, there are far less opportunities to stop for lunch, the roadsides have more villages and towns than in southern Africa. It even takes a while to find a place for a loo stop, you cannot really go weeing in some ones front yard – though the local people seem to have little issue with it at times. We finally stopped for lunch at 2:30 at a small roadside clearing, though just behind the bushes surrounding the corn fields were some small houses and soon enough we had ten children out to see us, with their parents watching from afar. The children were lovely and friendly and like all children loved to have their photos taken – and laughed hysterically when shown the pictures.

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It was very hard to eat in front of the obviously poor and hungry people without wanting to give them food to eat. But we don’t, once finished eating we clear everything, load it back on the truck and drive off. Sadly giving out food – and other goodies, has led to begging cultures in other places and this has long term negative consequences on the population. It was fairly obvious were it had – as soon as a muzungu arrives there is an expectation of a hand out, and some get miffed when it doesn’t happen.

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From lunch we took a quick break in the large local town of Jinja before heading up an incredibly dusty side road to the Eden Rock camp site. Everything on the side of the road is covered in red dust, it was quite surreal.

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It is the first time the guys have stayed at Eden Rock, normally using the NRE or Adrift campsite – both notorious party sites, given we were an older crowd and there were rooms available at Eden we stayed there and I took a room – we are here for three nights.

NRE was sort of over the road so we went there for after dinner drinks, but I wasn’t feeling it so went back to Eden and went to bed, tough the music from NRE and one of the local bars went on to 6 am…

A walk in the bush

Days 322, Wednesday 21 November 2012 – Naiberi River Camp, Eldoret, Kenya

It was another lousy sleep due to a noisy bar, but at least breakfast wasn’t until later in the morning and the showers were fabulously hot. This morning was forest walk day, and we were met at 10:00 by Ash, an Indian who’s family has been living in the area for a few generations. Ash had arrived for a pickup to come and collect us so most of us bundled into the back and off we went. Great to be in the back of a pick up again – and with so much space compared to some I have been in.

We soon turned off the highway and onto a dirt road for a few kilometres to a patch of land bordering a block of forest that Ash was building a home on. As we drove along the road we saw a number of Kenyans on training runs – it looked like lovely country to run in.

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At Ash’s house we met our guide for the walk (and I have forgotten his name !) He told us a lot about the work they were doing in the community to regenerate some of the native forest. Like many places in the world the re-development of dying forests are key local projects. In this case they struggle against a number of competing priorities, firewood – both for home us and for sale, and the burning of trees to make charcoal are big issues in this area. The people who work in the forest have had death threats made against them for trying to stop others from cutting and burning the regrowing forest.

The forest walk itself was fun, I enjoyed being in the bush again, though photographically it was not inspiring – though I will confess to be completely photographically uninspired. Period. A feeling that followed me for the rest of the trip. I did love the trees, especially the massive strangler figs.

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We were looking for colobus monkeys, but didn’t see much of anything at all sadly – however, we were hardly silent as we chatted our way crashing and bashing through the bush. We found ourselves at quite a nice river, scaring off this old chap who was having a wash and doing a bit of laundry!

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There was a concern for a while that we were slightly mis-placed in the forest, I was not unduly worried, we were not in a large area and we had a good river to follow – if there is a river, there are people! Though we had to wait for a while for out guide to re-appear after he had gone off to find some water falls. We just hung around the river and waited. I took a few longer exposure shots to encourage a bit of experimentation in the others.

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After we successfully found our way back to Ash’s house and made our way back to the camp ground I didn’t do much with the rest of the day. Though I do recall draining some red wine and a few whiskies in the evening.

Sorry, these are harldy inspired posts, knocking them out for the sake of completion!

Crossing the equator

Days 321, Tuesday 20 November 2012 – Naiberi River Camp, Eldoret, Kenya

Well, it was another crappy sleep, though at least I did not feel sick, just cold, maybe I was cold last night just because it was cold !! I was up at 7:00 and took a small experimental coffee to see if it would cause any issues – after a few minutes of seeming stability I declared myself well and had another one. Ebron (our cook) made my day by getting the toaster out (we do not always have power) and I had toast with lashings of vegemite – I had been dreaming of vegemite toast for a while.

This little chameleon, literally fell out of the tree next to where we having breakfast. He seemed OK so Will put him back in one of the hedges where they normally live.

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After breakfast I went down to talk to Dave, the driver of an Oasis Overlanding truck that was also in the camp (and the source of the noise last night, not Dave !). Dave had been staying at Karen Camp while we were there and been really ill for the same twenty four hour period as me, it sounded like he was worse than I was too, we both had had the chicken the night before… Oh well, it happens, at least we were both better today.

The others went on a guided farm tour, I have seen enough farms in my time so I decided to go back up into the fields again to see if the photo opportunities I missed yesterday were still there. Gary came for a walk with me along with my new friend, Buster the dog. I forgot to introduce Gary, I met him at Karen camp. Will is leaving Africa in Focus in January and is off to drive overland trucks in South America. Gary is his replacement and was coming along on this leg to learn some of the ropes, so we are now nine passengers with a crew of four.

The road passes a small community of houses that are supposed to be long abandoned and I was quite keen to take a walk through and get some photos, however once we started looking closely it was apparent that a number were occupied so I took some photos from the roadside and moved on.

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The farm is mostly surrounded by a massive electric fence to keep squatters out, so it was quite a walk around to a gate that allows access to a railroad track which we walked along for a while.

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Ducking up a narrow path up into the fields, the light was just not the same as a couple of afternoons ago, there were no dark and brooding clouds behind the acacia trees, so the photography was not exciting – still I love acacia trees so here are a couple anyway!

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Gary and I walked to the top of the hill and stopped to take a look. There was a group of about half a dozen kids of various ages coming up the other side with bags full of wheat – obviously stolen. When they saw us they froze and just stopped and stared at us, I could see they were scared. After a few seconds I smiled, waved and called out the Swahili for hello – “jambo”, they then realised we were just muzungu tourists, burst into laughter and came running up the hill towards us – though bizarrely they followed us back down the hill, but did not speak to us, it was kind of weird…

We had an early lunch back at the truck and were on the road for another shortish drive to the town of Eldoret. The land around here is definitely the most fertile I have seen in Africa, lots of farmland – and therefore incredibly dull to drive through.

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Though we did drive along a long section of sealed road that was the worst sealed surface I have been on anywhere in the world, it had the most amazing ruts, fortunately it was being replaced.

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We also passed the equator ! Yay….

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We stopped in Eldoret to give everyone an opportunity to visit a supermarket and stock up on essentials – beer mainly, I had everything I needed so just had an ice cream and scribbled notes in the truck.

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Naiberi River Camp, our home for two days was about thirty minutes out of Eldroret, loved this guy with the huge pile of wood on the bike.

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Though the next day we heard about the damage the fire wood gatherers do to the environment…

This campsite is a known party camp and Will was keen to party, he has been through here a few times and gets on well with the camps owner Raj. I was a bit grumpy, lack of sleep and recovering from being sick so was a bit miffed at the lack of opportunities for putting the tent up. I said some bad things… though I did recover enough to make it down for a very nice mild curry dinner that was provided by the camp. I ate a lot but went to bed early as I was still exhausted.

Sick

Days 319 and 320, Sunday and Monday 18/19 November 2012 – Kempu Camp, Nakuru, Kenya

I had a much better sleep last night, even though it was a very early night. It must have been the movie that helped put me to sleep. It was a quiet night in the camp site as well and very little noise from neighbouring dogs and birds either. I was up at 6:00, showered and sorted ready for coffee and breakfast in the camp, bacon, eggs and beans on toast washed down with really good coffee – wonderful. It was a great start to day one of the third and final leg of this African odyssey. Nairobi in Kenya, via Uganda to Kigali in Rwanda over two weeks.

At 8:00 we were on the road back into downtown Nairobi to pick up the eight other customers on this trip, a nice small group.

I have moved myself back to the front seat I started in back in Cape Town. Though it has less leg room than the others I get less wind in my face and a better view. As I have a double seat to myself the leg room is less of an issue.

I spent the thirty minute trip to the pick up point sitting in the back of the truck discussing the coming tour with the tour leader Brett. We were wondering on what it and the new group would be like. As a tour guide this must be the worst part of each trip – waiting to meet the people you have to look after in the near future. I would hate it!

We picked up the newbies from the same place the last trip ended, by the Israeli embassy, and were on the road for 9:00. There is a young Kiwi couple, five English people and a German woman – I am possibly the oldest this time round. Five of them have done trips with Africa-in-Focus before, which will certainly make things simpler!

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The weather was a bit drizzly as we made our way of out of Nairobi, I was starting to think my gumboot purchase was a one, though as we hit the rift valley later in the morning the weather was considerably better. We have taken a different route to the one I was on the other day and the view point we stopped at did not have the sweeping views over the valley that we had last week, I didn’t bother taking a photo of it in the end. We were warned to be careful on the floor boards of the lookout – and you can see why…

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The rest of the trip to Kempu camp, just outside of Nakaru National Park, was uneventful and it was quite fine when we got there. I managed to keep my old tent, warts and all, at least I knew where the fault in the zip was.

Brett (tour leader) gave his tour briefing after lunch, as I had already heard two of them Will and I took a walk out in to the farm land that the camp is part of. Will had stayed here for a few months some time back as he was doing some work in one of the local orphanages, so knew his way around – and he was keen to stretch his legs, as was I. Stupidly I did not take my camera with me and missed some fantastic photo opportunities as dark, angry clouds scudded across the skies -damnit. We had been walking for a couple of hours when things started to stir badly in bowels, if only I had my camera bag, I was prepared for that as well. It was a hurried walk back to the camp and I only just made it in time.

It was the beginning of the end ! I was Ok for another hour and was just settling in to a late afternoon group chat over a beer when I had to rush off again and that was it for the rest of the day and I had to lie down. The night was pretty awful, I was freezing cold, it was a cold night, nd I had quite a temperature. I did take a couple of my anti-malerials – doxicyclin as it includes a broad spectrum anti-biotic, along with panadol and a lot of water.

The following day, Monday was game drive day and I managed to stagger out bed at breakfast time and tell Brett I wasn’t going to be able to make it. I was gutted as this was the main activity for the first week of the trip and I was really looking forward to it. I love game drives, and this was an all day one ! I didn’t even see people off, I just crawled back into my tent. Will dropped by the tent a couple of hours later and I moved to a spare bed in the crew room, it was a lot quieter and a lot more comfortable and I finally managed to get some sleep.

I was feeling a heck of a lot better when I got up mid-afternoon, I had a couple more pills, drank some water and then vomited for the first time in over 30 years, I barely made it to some bushes before what little was left inside came out. Remarkably after I recovered from the physical exertion I actually felt quite a lot better, my temperature was back to normal and the cramps and nausea were soon gone.

The others arrived back from their game drive at 6:30, it sounded like they had an amazing time with some really good rhino sitings – one crossed the road in front of one of the 4wds, so unfair !! I had a ginger and a small amount of dinner and feeling a lot better I went to bed at 8:00. Though no sleep as the bar was really noisy.

So ended the first two days, not a very good start!

This post was written over a month later, taken from some hand written notes I made at the time. I did not take many photos during this week unfortunately.

A five day relax.

Days 314-318, Tuesday – Saturday 13 – 17 November 2012 – Lake Naivasha and Karen Camp, Nairobi, Kenya

My dad died five years ago on the 13th November so after an early breakfast I Skyped my mum and family back in New Zealand to just briefly share the day and dad’s memory.

Leonie and I then took a cab to Karen Overlanding Camp on the outskirts of Nairobi where we met the tour guys and the truck and dumped a load of gear there. We had a quick trip to the supermarket to load up on provisions – beer, wine, cider and gin seemed to take the lions share of the space in the trolley !

We then made our way up to Carnelly’s Camp about a hundred kilometres from Nairobi on the side of Kenya’s lovely Lake Naivasha. On the way we stopped at a view point over the Rift Valley. There was a guy miming in front of a video camera to some awful Afro-pop – it was a wee bit amusing and Leonie got to swing hips with him for a wee dance segment. I just laughed on the sidelines.

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The four of us arrived at the lake mid afternoon and decided to take a room, not the cheapest in the world, but the room was cool and the view was stunning – and to top if off we were almost the only people at the campground.

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The idea was to spend three nights doing nothing here and well, we pretty much achieved it. We drank beer and wine and gin in the evenings, ate massive breakfasts late in the morning and only cooked once – a BBQ, so hardly stressful.

There is a bit to do in the area but I didn’t do any of it, I managed to walk around the campsite at appropriate times and took a few photos.

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I blogged a bit and caught up on days worth of blogging – and had my awesome Safari.com sim and data plan so I could actually up load posts as well as write them. I watched episodes of Archer and talked a lot of crap with the others. All in all it was a great few days!

I loved the massive fever trees in the camp ground, they were all bunched too close together to get the photos I wanted, however I managed to get a few I liked. They were named fever trees by the early settlers here. After camping under the trees people would often get sick and die and the trees were blamed. Turns out that fever trees grow near water and provide great shade, being near water also means mosquitoes. The people were bitten, got malaria and died.

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The trees also attracted the attention of some large, more mammalian animals, especially the ubiquitous vervet monkey.

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And the far more elusive colobus monkey. We spent a couple of days looking for them and Leonie finally found them on the last afternoon, she came and got me and we went back to find them but o luck. We tried again later and I spotted one up in a tree ahead, just a black lump way up in a tree, unphotographable. I signalled Leonie to come over and as she approached, she told me to look up – there was one right above my head ! They are a large monkey with the most magnificent tail – a prized possession in some head dresses.

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The lake is very nice, it was still for most of the time we were there, and these local fisherman braved the waters all day netting the small fish. There are a lot of hippos in the waters and I imagine it is quite unsafe in the dawn and dusk hours, we could hear them roaring at night time.

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Sadly our time at Lake Naivasha was only short, the camp site was lovely, but not particularly cheap, it was very nice to not move for a couple of days and not have to drop a tent at 5:00 AM, but Leonie had to go back to NZ and I had my third and final tour to head off on so it was back to Nairobi on Friday 16th. I did have a three week shave though – thankfully I managed to borrow some clippers to get rid of the worst of it – way too hairy!

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Mt something or other, an extinct volcano on the far side of the Rift Valley.

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We met up with the guys and the truck at the supermarket in Karen and Leonie took a cab to the airport and we went shopping again! It was great fun travelling with Leonie, she is a great travel buddy and we shared quite a few laughs. I did not envy her the long flight back to NZ and going straight back to work.

I had two nights at Karen Camp with Brett, Will and Ebron, it was another pretty chilled couple of days, we took a couple of trips in to the shops and I bought myself a new pair of expensive sun glasses to replace the cheap pair I stood on that replaced the pair I lost on Zanzibar. Hopefully now that I have spent decent money I will look after these ones!

A trip into the Kenyan countryside.

Day 313, Monday 12 November 2012 – Nairobi, Kenya

It was another early start to the day, considering it was the first day off between trips – my gorilla tour does not start for a week, so there is plenty of time to kill. Breakfast in the hotel was pretty good, though I did not eat much. I am not entirely sure how long the day will be and what facilities will be available – my stomach is only feeling about fifty percent normal, so caution it is. Plus I can do without eating like a pig three times a day!

Leonie has been sponsoring Mutoni a twelve year old Kenyan girl for a number of years through World Vision. As the village is only a hundred or so kilometres from Nairobi – and in an area not subject to tribal violence or the kidnapping of westerners by Somali gangs we are going to pay a visit.

We were collected in a World Vision (WV) Toyota Landcruiser by our host for the day Solomon.

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Solomon lives in the town of Yatta, where we are heading but had to come down and stay the night in Nairobi to be able to pick us up as the traffic here is notoriously bad. However, we were fairly lucky, the ride through down town to the “super highway” was slow but not too terrible. For safety, we were seat belted, bags on the floor with doors locked and windows up. It is not called “Nairobbery” for nothing and carjacking is not unheard of – though we did not see anything that raised any suspicion.

The super highway is a fifty kilometre section of new motorway from the centre of Nairobi and is a surprisingly good piece of road, they are still building pedestrian bridges across the highway so every few kilometres there is a section of speed bumps preceding a crossing. The only highway I have ever been on with speed bumps – amusing ! Nairobi is a big city, with the exception of Cape Town way back at the start of this journey it is the most western city I have experienced, there is a lot more apparent infrastructure here, a lot more permanent looking housing (well as permanent as Africa gets) and a lot more schools and universities surrounding the highway. Parts of it could easily be in New Zealand.

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It is still Africa though and unlike New Zealand they just LOVE football – and by this I mean the game you play with your foot, not the one you play with your hands ! Manchester United is the most popular team in the world and it is easy to see why, there are posters, banners and stickers everywhere.

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The highway ended at the town of Thika and we stopped at the local mall to do some shopping, part of the deal with WV is Leonie provides some supermarket basics for the family as a gift. I also needed to get some Kenyan cash and do some shopping for myself. The rain yesterday morning turned the Snake Park campsite into a bog and as we had heard that there had been heavy rain up in Uganda I wanted to get some cheap gumboots just in case, I had not replaced the jandals (flip flops) that disappeared in Malawi. I also wanted to get a Kenyan sim card for my phone, apparently the cell network in Kenya is very good. The sim card, 50 minutes of talking, 500 texts and 500mb of data cost me just over $9NZ, WOW – how can it be so expensive in New Zealand. They also had a very good range of Kiwi shoe products : )

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From Thika we made our way to the town of Yatta where the WV office for the area is located. The road has a vast number of police checkpoints that we pass through without being stopped. They are mainly stopping the local buses coming from the opposite direction. According to Solomon they are looking for members of Al Shabaab a Somali terror group. I asked him how far away the border was and he said very close – about 800kms. I guess the perception of close in Africa is different to the one in NZ.

I think this mini-bus was a bit off course – Manurewa is an Auckland suburb!

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At the WV office in Yatta we were introduced to all the staff and were given a morning tea. It is clear (and good) to see that the offices are not flash, there are no fancy trimmings or luxury here. The staff have different areas of expertise with the main being in food management and water and sanitation. WV provide some resource, such as wells, but focus on education and training, the old “teach a man to fish” scenario. I am not sure how hard they actually work though.

After morning tea we took a ride out to Nialani school to meet Mutoni. The school was about ten minutes from Yatta, and once off the main road we were on a rough dirt track, I now know why WV drive Toyota land cruisers!

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The school had obviously been prepared for our arrival, and it was fairly obvious that WV have spent a lot of time working with the school. There were a few WV signs around the place. There was also a fair amount of Christian messages, though the state schools are agnostic.

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When we got out of the vehicle the children in the nearby classrooms came charging to the windows, laughing and calling “muzungu, muzungu”. Muzungu is Swahili and basically means a white person who wanders around aimlessly – which pretty much sums me up ! In most cases, like here, it is meant in good spirits. They very rarely get muzungus in Nialani and we were the highlight of many children’s day. I just loved the look of joy on their faces and the huge huge smiles. I don’t think all the teachers were amused by the distraction as we walked past the open windows of the classrooms.

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After visiting the deputy head teacher we were introduced to Mutoni and her class, she is twelve and was incredibly shy and embarrassed about the whole thing, I really felt for her ! We had to introduce ourselves to the class and the Mutoni had to introduce her best friend. I was kind of glad when we left and took the poor girl with us.

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On the way out we walked past the new entrant class and they were very keen to see us and say hello, I am not sure if the youngsters in the last photo had seen a muzungu before, they look a bit wary.

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We drove out through the village to where Mutoni lives with her mother and grandmother, there are no adult males alive. Mutoni’s mother showed us around their small holding, the two houses and the separate kitchen. There is no electricity here so everything is done on a wood fire. This is the kitchen.

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We presented the family with the food that was purchased in the supermarket, it was all fully documented by the people from WV, not entirely sure why and I didn’t ask.

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We then all piled into the car and drove back to the WV office for a very large lunch – that was paid for by Leonie. Mutoni and her mother and grandmother obviously do not eat like this very often – they had a lot. We all posed for photos afterwards, Mutoni and her family had obviously dressed up in their finest while embarrassingly we were in our normal scruffy travelling clothes.

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It was mid-afternoon now and time to head back into Nairobi, the drive was not too bad, a lot of traffic once we hit the centre of town. There are a lot of half finished buildings on the way, a lot just have a single storey completed with room for a second to be added. In many cases families will start to build a house as soon as they have money, if they have enough for one wall, they will build one wall. If they don’t use it then there is a chance the money will just get wasted on booze by the men, saving for a future is not common here, for many there is not much of a future to save for.

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Once back in the hotel we had a quick dinner and then I sat in my bed and blogged for a while.

It was an interesting day, it was good to travel into a part of Kenya where not many westerners go.

I am using a new version of Blogdesk to put together the posts before I upload them. They have changed the way adding photos works, the sizing is different to how it used to be, I liked the old version better – grrrr, sometimes change is not good!

The end of tour two in Nairobi

Day 312, Sunday 11 November 2012 – Nairobi, Kenya

I was not that hung over considering we did have a bit of a night last night, there were a few long faces and sore heads around though. I was up at 7:30 and took a quick cold shower (sadly) before breakfasting by the truck in the pouring rain. It is official – this is the most rain I have had since arriving in Africa forty three days ago.

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We waited until the worst of the rain had gone away before hurriedly dropping the tents and throwing in the truck. For the rest of the group their life in tents was over for a while, I have a few days off and then will be back in the tent again when the gorillas trip starts in one weeks time.

We left the campsite at 9:00 and farewelled Tanzania for Kenya at 11:00, it took an hour to get through the border, which was not too bad I guess. There is a huge amount of work going into the road and the border area, it will be totally different in a years time.

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We stopped at Namanga just over the border for a final lunch – and a final curio shop for some before heading into the centre of Nairobi where we arrived around 4:00. I had another of my new favourite drink – Stoney Tangawizi (Ginger Beer).

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The Fairview Hotel is the end point for the trip, it is over the road from the Israeli embassy and it is impossible to take the truck down the road so we stopped in a side street nearby. We said farewell to some of the group in the street and then Leonie and I walked to the neighbouring Country House Hotel where we had a twin room for two nights.

At 5:30 we went back to the Fairview for dinner and drinks with Dave and Nancy and Simon and Ewa who were on the same flight. Dave and Nancy have been on the trip since the start and Simon and Ewa became good drinking buddies in the past couple of weeks. I have really enjoyed their company and look forward to seeing them again.

We said good bye to them at 7:00 and went back to the hotel, I was asleep by 9:00

The end of the second tour.

I have yet to do the tour evaluation form, and I will do it one day! I can say I have LOVED the tours, the crew Will – driver, Brett – tour leader and Ebron – cook were fantastic guys, very good at their jobs, but great company and good fun as well. I could not find fault over the past six or so weeks.

I have been to some amazing places and seen some amazing things, Africa is stunningly beautiful and full of lovely people. I have also met some great people on the tour, and look forward to seeing some of them again.