We passed through so many communities along the way. The slums of Nairobi (tiny shacks with metal roofs where up to 10 people live in one small room), the Maasai-lands, where the ubiquitous cattle-herders roam the fields with their red robes, larger towns like Narok and Bomet, and various other communities of farmers. And everything else in between. The landscape constantly changed outside our large windows as our guide told bits and pieces of stories and information related to what we were seeing outside.
So many children waving hello. We couldn't help but smile and wave back, which made them smile even wider and tug their friends to come and see. The White People waved back to me!, it seems they must be saying. Apparently that's what they call tourists, and often crowd the sides of tourist vehicles going on safari, shouting out for “candy” and “pens”. Our tour company (Intrepid) practices responsible tourism and advised us strongly against giving any of these items to children. He said it turns his nation into beggars, and causes unecessary fights and rivalries amonst the children. He recalled a child he once knew who got into a fight with some other children over a pen and got stabbed in the eye with it. Instead, we collect a joint “kitty” of tip-money which our tour guide distributes to all the communities we stop in who let us use their facilities along our journey. And we wave to the children. Waves and smiles never hurt anyone.
|The Great Rift Valley|
|The Great Rift Valley|
Early in the drive, we stopped at a spectacular viewpoint for The Great Rift Valley. As you're driving along the farming landscape, it appears all-of-a-sudden; a great rift in the continent that extends all the way from Israel down to Mozambique. It's hard to explain how breath-taking it is, even in photos. I stood at the fence and looked out at the wild, untouched valley. I could hear it teeming with life. I wish we could have stayed longer than ten minutes. It's the kind of place I would just like to sit at and look off into its distance forever.
When we stopped for lunch, I spent about fiftee minutes just staring into the trees and shrubs nearby. Very soon, the astonishing variety of birds in this country started to reveal themselves to me. Iridescent blue and black, purple-yellow-blue, sky blue with purple and cinnamon, brown with surprise spots of red, yellow and brown speckled... every minute there seemed to be a new bird right before my eyes. Birding at its finest. I'll have to get out a bird book and identify these at some point during another long drive... but for now I'll leave you with photos.
We finally stopped for the night in Kisii, and settled into a small hotel for the night after a warm group dinner around a campfire – accompanied by the local Kenyan beer of course, Tusker.
Kenya has indeed been as rich and vibrant as promised. An infinitely complex set of communities, living amidst the complex realities of their environments. But so much colour and such happy faces everywhere we've looked. I know it's only been a mere sliver of a taste so far, but I think I'm already hooked. Tomorrow, it's off to the Tanzanian border. A little sad to leave behind Kenya and its rich landscape and peoples, but excited to see what new adventures the Serengeti brings.