Sunday, December 03, 2006

Kenya Travel, Part V

DAY 12 – Bradley’s house (Fri)

The morning was committed to some family time and work. In the afternoon, Bradley took us on another tour of Nairobi. We checked out Eastleigh, the Somali neighborhood, Swahili town, and finally out to B’s house near the airport. He lives in an African neighborhood that is gated with high security in the small staff room behind a family’s house. It’s tight, but he has it tricked out with a small gas stove, and nice sound system & DVD.

The bed converts to a couch and the window looks out over the family’s small garden plot. The DVD player was the base of his former entrepreneurial means, when he was living in the slums and charging people 5 schillings (~ 7 cents) to watch movies, slotting him in with the approx billion people earning a dollar a day. He’s since stepped it up with his driving and landing some contracts for his art, which he studied in school. We watched some East African music videos and drank juice before taking the long commute back across town to Westlands.

Municpal waste management needs some work...

DAY 13 – Java House brunch, Village Mkt w/ Mads, birthday party (Sat)

Saturday, with no school for the girl and no work for the Papa was a family day. We started out with brunch at Java House, which was tarnished by the persistent rain, which ruined the appeal of the slides, but still very fun. We ran some errands with Papa and the girl, and looked at the fish at Village Market. Then home for a birthday party at the neighbors, which was lively despite a relatively small group of kids – there was a spider man, lots of acrobatics, heavy rains as we sat down to dinner outside, and a bloody lip – all in all a pretty standard birthday party. Tons of fun, and a stark reminder of the demands of parenting.

DAY 14 – Safari, Tsavo West, Finch Hattons (Sun)

Sunday we had the Land Rover packed up and on the road early, heading South from Nairobi for a 3-day safari. A couple of hours in the back of a Land Rover on African roads took a toll on our bodies and the car.

By the time we reached the main gate to Tsavo West, the door was stuck (requiring Duke’s of Hazard style window jumping), the muffler was rattling and one of the back seats had popped its bolt. All minor problems, of course, and after a pit stop, we were refreshed & ready for game.

On the way to the first lodge – Finch Hattons – we were treated to tons of undulates – dik-diks, gazelles, kudu, wildebeest, giraffe,

and zebra, as well as a huge heard of Masai cattle blocking the road. After an hour or two we reached the camp in time for a late lunch. The place was beautiful. It used to belong to a big-game hunter, who was the lover of Karen Blixen (Out of Africa) and the main house preserves that character. Of course this requires constantly assessing the colonial heritage, which is still very much alive there. This was especially depressing directly after our cursory, but telling tour of Nairobi.

Still there was no denying the beauty and taste of the camp. There was a large hippo pool about 20 meters from the dining area, full of hippos lulling about in the water. There were no fences, and we were required to walk with askari (guards) to and from our tent at night. The tent was deluxe. A large platform with a thatch roof housed a big military style tent with a full bathroom in the back. There was a deck that looked over another watering hole, which was peaceful and surrounded by trees and in some way strangely reminiscent of a New Hampshire lake house – only full of crockadiles.

The camp has some of the trappings of a sustainable operation with solar hot water, limited hours on the generator, recycled stationary. These were small reconciliation for our thirsty Land Rover, but still nice to see a general awareness.

A guide joined us in the Land Rover for an evening game drive, which was exciting with buffalo, baboons, a hippo grazing, and beautiful scenery. After the drive and a quick shower we dressed for dinner and were treated to an incredible meal with perfect service. It was from another world. After an escorted walk home, we got a good night sleep, interrupted only by a cacophony of barking, howling and chirping, which we were later told was mostly baboons frenzied by a leopard in the camp.