Some of you with more time on your hands than you know what to do with might stay up nights wondering how some of my travel ideas come about. Sure, sometimes it takes months of planning but sometimes things unfold in the simplest way possible; like this email I received…
Mr. T: Hi, I took a quick trip up into Namunyak last week and visited a really cool little campsite which is being developed by Museums of Kenya. The really cool part though was their research work on the rare De Brazza monkeys which they have been studying there for a number of years. I am hoping to plan a trip up that way later this year to explore more around the Mathews/Namunyak region. It is big though so will need to give it a few days… are you keen?
KC: Yes! A thousand times yes!
I know, I really should play a bit hard to get sometimes, if I was a lady of the night I wouldn’t make enough cheese to feed a mouse. So thats how 9 explorers, 3 cars, 2 dogs and a mountain of supplies find themselves in this part of Kenya to expose sample its many secrets.
I’ll tell you a little secret; the success of a family holiday is inversely proportional to the amount of time you are actually able to spend apart from each other. It might sound counter – intuitive but believe me after a couple of days together I’m sure many of you know how quickly the fire of familial love can transform into smouldering resentment. You want to spend time together but you also want that sweet space when you need it.
Do not wear any bright colours otherwise they will spot us. Always remain behind a ranger and follow my instructions. Speak in whispers and tread very carefully so as to maintain silence. Be aware of your surroundings and always look out for the largest tree around you should the animal become agitated for any reason.
I know right? How can you not be excited when listening to a brief like that? My hands are clammy and my heart is tripping like an EDM track at what seems like 100 beats per minute. I’m nervous and excited about one of the most unique wildlife experiences you can have in Kenya I’m going to be tracking one of the most endangered species in the the world, the black rhino…on foot.
The first time I visited the Chyulu Hills back in 2012 it was with a spring in my step and and a gleam in my eye….and things did not go completely according to plan. My aim to get to the top of the hills did not happen, I had the wrong car, the weather was really bad I and had under-estimated what it would take to get up there; it was a fun but humbling experience. But since then this particular destination continued to haunt me, so I had to give it another shot and see what these hills, unimpressive from a distance had conspired to hide from me…
How much do I love Kenya’s bit of the Great North Road? I can count the ways for days. Out of the entire 7000+ kms all the way from Cape Town (South Africa) – Cairo (Egypt) Kenya’s infamous 500km section of lunar surface from Isiolo – Moyale put us in the unenviable position of ‘number last’ but that is now all behind us. Who do we give props for this? Was it ex-president Kibaki? Wherever you are mzee please pokea a fist bump. The soon to be completed stretch of the Isiolo-Marsabit-Moyale road has created massive potential in the previously marginalized Northern Kenya counties and has already created better tourism opportunities and brought enhanced security to this previously ‘unknown’ region.
As we’ve seen before Kenya is full of surprises so of course there’s a little conservancy just off this highway that’s just begging to be visited.
Social media: a reality of our age that is to be celebrated and reviled all in the same breath. So while Facebook can sometimes have all the appeal of a soiled diaper and Twitter is the turd that done the soiling, Instagram is the lavender air freshener that makes it all bearable. IG is how I meet Brian and after months of liking and commenting on each others photos and 16 emails later a camping trip is planned by two total strangers, one of who has never camped a day in his life…this should be interesting.
Conservation can be a really boring subject. Depending on how it’s presented on a scale of 1-10 some might rate it ‘watching Olympic golf’. Now most of us like the idea of conservation just as long as not too much is asked of us; liking a photo of a cute elephant on Facebook? That we can do. But actually understanding what impact we have on our environment and working to reduce it? Not so much fun. So there are reasons why conservation can be boring to some, but there are also ways to make it interesting as I find out for myself….
Curiosity is one of my weaknesses. One day I think I’ll try to go climb a bit too high, push that extra mile a bit too hard, stick my head down the wrong hole and ‘Snap!’…no more Kenyan Camper. But until that happens and some ill-informed family member tries to collect on my non-existent insurance policy, my curiosity is what makes my life worth living. That’s how I find myself flying across the waves through the Lamu Archipelago, The Muse by my side, a smile on my face; wondering what my ‘need to know’ has gotten me into this time.
As a traveller and sometimes writer I am obsessed with the stories that are not being told about Kenya and if you have been reading this blog that theme is pretty obvious right across the board. I do not desire the obvious. I am constantly plagued by the thought “Surely there must be more than marketing leads me to believe there is?” You’re about to find out just how true that is.
First, apologies for the lateness of this, the fourth and final instalment in what has been one hell of a ride through the Northern reaches of Kenya. A trip came up in between the writing of this article and the previous one so I’ve been a bit turned around and trapped totally tripping over trips in tandem. If you’re late to the party there was Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 previously. But no fear here we are, and it’s fitting that this series ends with one the oldest and most well known of the country’s parks, and yet one of the least visited (because it’s far, quite far.)