Three years ago I met a group of young Kenyan adventurers with fire in their eyes and and the determination to create a travel show for Kenyans, by Kenyans. It was during this first meeting that it was suggested “We should do a trip together”. However just like the very familiar “We should do coffee sometime”, it would take some time for us all to pull our respective knickers up and get planning. So finally here we are 3 years later, myself and the Routes Adventure crew, bonded by a common dream to shout as loudly as we can about our amazing country. This time with an idea to drive 900km over 5 days along the southern border of Kenya and Tanzania.
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.
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.
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….
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.)
Our expedition wanders ever deeper into the hinterland but we do not tire. We are energized by the curiosity of things to come and are fuelled by wanderlust, snacks and diesel. The forth day of our adventure finds us in high spirits, we have found our travel rhythm and it beats to a strong and steady drum. If you haven’t already, you can see how far we have come to get us here in Part 1 and Part 2 of our journey. In the meantime what do the days ahead hold in store? More than we can imagine…
“Let’s do something big”. Those four innocuous words uttered six months before this trip slowly snowballs into what turns out to be a 10-ten day monstrosity, spanning a total of 1,500km through some of Kenya’s least visited but most beautiful desert landscapes. The more experienced among you might be saying “Pffft, 10 days? Bunch of pussies”, but for me this is big, really big. This is the longest camping trip I’ve ever taken and if you really want to get out of your comfort zone and find true adventure then Northern Kenya is definitely the place to do it.