This is part three of the story of our trip to Kenya and Tanzania in 1988. I’d like to say all the images are int he right places both geographically and chronologically but I fear that might not be the case. That is especially true of the monuments and buildings you may see later in this post. They may or may not be from Kenya!! Our trip meandered north. We’d seen Kilimanjaro in the distance but no picture survives.
However Joshua told us we’d be in the foothills of the Abedare Mountains and see Mount Kenya… ‘Or you would if it lost its shawl.’
Rather cryptic. Anyhow, first up was Nairobi itself.
At the time there was a certain amount of political upheaval.
The President was Danial arap Moi and though he had been annointed by the father of modern Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta, his popularity was on a downward arc at time (a British journalist was complaining about his human rights abuses I recall) though he stayed in power until 2002.
We were warned to expect some disruption but in fact the city felt very calm and safe. We wandered about without being hassled and enjoyed the feeling of space.
One thing, I do remember. We’d been told of a market where we could buy souvenirs – carved soapstone being the thing – and while we were there one vendor asked if we’d been to the snake zoo. Nope, not heard of it, we said.
He had a cousin, etc, etc and before you knew it we were being shown round a series of ramshackle huts and fish tanks with rusty frames and broken glass housing black and green mambas, puff adders, boomslang, cobras… all sorts.
I can honestly say it was an experience but one I’m not keen to repeat. The guide laughed a lot and assured us they were ‘well fed’. It was only later I realised the state of their diet was irrelevant as it is their sense of being threatened that matters.
After two days mooching about we set off for the hills. It had been dry and very hot in Nairobi but as we climbed, passing Thika on the way I think (see first post on Africa, here) and crossing the equator at some point, though I’m not sure exactly when, we found cooler air and some large estates very redolent of the colonial years. It was easy to see why the European settlers would have enjoyed living in the mountains, with the cool air, the lush foliage and the easy forming. Oh and the abundant wildlife to hunt. If you like that sort of thing.
It was also clear why the Mau Mau, the uprising in the 1950s took hold here too. If I was local I’d be pretty pissed by a bunch of predominantly white settlers lording it over everything. You began to understand Joshua’s annoyance with us when we first met (see post two on our holiday, here).
We stayed in this hotel that had links back to the 1920s and the White Mischief scandals. It was easy to imagine. And there, in the distance sat Mount Kenya. Not, as Joshua assured us, wrapped in cloud but showing off all its finery. It was a magnificent sight. I think he was slightly disappointed she didn’t retain a little of her mystery.
The highlight of this part of the trip, though, was a visit to Treetops.
This place is famous for its waterhole and salt licks that attract many elephants but also for the place where the then Princess Elizabeth heard her father, George VI had died and she was now Queen. That was in 1952, truly a lifetime ago.
We spent hours wandering the rickety walkways watching as the herd came and went, drinking and chewing the ground. We saw Elephants at every stage of their lives and it felt what ti was; a privilege to be up close to such magnificent mammals. Why anyone wants to kill them is beyond me.
Treetops, for all its rather beautiful surroundings, and maybe because of the historic link to British royalty, feels an out of time place. I can’t say I felt entirely comfortable there.
We moved on to Lake Naivashu, which was another change of pace and expectation.
Here it was bird life (with yet more thundering hippos) to enjoy.
The flocks of flamingos, which ranged in colour from the hottest pink to a rather drab whitey-grey covered acres of the lake and were the stars of the show, for sure.
And we had been spoilt by so much amazing wildlife.
But I liked the pace of the twitching we did on the lake side. I enjoyed the pace of life, actually.
One memory strands out; one couple who had been with us, sort of, had the room next to us. In the morning we were all brought tea and biscuits before whatever drive or bird watching trip we were going on. We had just settled into a second cup when there was the most bloody curdling scream. Other guests appeared from everywhere outside these good people’s door as it was flung open by a wild eyed and even more wild haired woman.
Behind her her husband, in less than becoming y-fronts used a pillow in an utterly ineffectual way to stop a group of monkeys taking the tea tray for themselves. When we saw the teeth on said simians we all beat a hasty retreat until one of the staff appeared. We had been told to keep windows or shutters closed at all times and that was the reason.
We had been fortunate to have such a great holiday. I only hope it wasn’t a once in a lifetime experience because I’d be back in a hippo fart…