In late 2015, my lovely Mum and Dad came out to see me in Kenya. They’d never travelled to Africa before, so I asked my Mum to write a little piece for the blog about their experience. Here is the fabulous mommabear herself, Mrs Judith Constable:
We had a week of awe-inspired wonder and amazement in and around Nairobi wth Harri and Owen.
Driven around Nairobi National Park by hugely skilled and well-informed ranger, on roads that in Lake District here would be labelled ‘footpath under repair’. Loose rocks, tyre tracks a foot deep, thick mud, steep gradients – the most fun we’ve had in years! Three bachelor ostriches dancing (Swan Lake in drag), a herd of zebra brushing fearlessly against our stationary, topless Landrover; huge giraffe just a few feet away, munching on acacia leaves; a small wildcat, a serval, vividly yellow with dark spots against charcoaled earth from recent bush fire.
Then on to Elephant Orphanage to meet Harriet’s adopted baby Ndoto, sooooo cute. I have a video of the back of his ear, enormous, grey, waxy, rhubarb leaf growing from downy, dust covered head, memorable moment as baby elephants, now satiated by two gallon milk feast rubbed up against each onlooker, separated only by loosely held rope. Totally upstaged though, by arrival of Dami’s warthog pal, galumphing and snorting his way across the arena, before collapsing into suitably putrid puddle of rust- red muddy water for a good wallow!
Out to Limuru Tea House, place of great charm and serenity, where our hostess, Fiona treated us to delicious tea, home- made biscuits and fascinating talk on tea production, with samples of different varieties. Our guide Joshua led us around the garden and smallholding, so lush and green, sun- birds flashing past, hovering to feed. A turquoise and veridian chameleon on the fence; soft- eyed, long – lashed calves cuddled up in the field with noisy geese; a trek through tiny patch of ancient forest- huge medicine trees, amazing birdsong.
Onwards through Limuru town – think Wild West frontier shanty town in glorious technicolor – fruit stalls, donkeys, more donkeys, motorbikes waiting to deliver goods of all kinds ( eggs, corrugated iron sheets, huge bunches of bananas, petrol in jerry cans) – unforgettable. Stopped in alpine scenery further on to view the Rift Valley, roads and rivers below, volcanic craters on the other side, breath- taking. Simply had to buy ALL the soapstone ‘hand-made by Maasai’ elephant, rhino, hippo and the carved pen stands (x2) thrust into our hands by entrepreneurial stall holders. Harri made me haggle. Everyone needs a pen stand.
‘Off – road driving’ took on whole new meaning as we drew closer to next destination. Admiration for Harri’s driving skills and stamina of now somewhat battered Mitsubishi Wanker intensified as we bounced uneasily along North Road above Naivasha lake. See description of ‘road’ above, then add boulders, dust and precipices, you’ll be on the right track.
Arrived then to unexpected pure heaven at Olerai House. Tranquil, lakeside oasis, open grassland with massive acacia trees, gorgeous flowering creepers and all the staff there to greet us, ladies in purple cotton dresses decorated with ric- rac braid, young Samburu warriors to be our guides and minders. An evening stroll down the garden to the lakeside, giraffe, gazelles, water buck, zebras all munching peacefully or scampering away as we ambled through, then reverent hush as we approached thick beds of water hyacinth where hippos could be heard, invisibly snorting in close proximity, just below clusters of leaves- our guide cautious here in the twilight. A hippo skeleton raised a question or two- so what’s around that’s big enough to tackle a creature of that size? Answer… hyenas. Hardly a comforting thought as we quickened our pace in the gloom. Drinks around the campfire, dinner in the cosy, open dining room with four fascinating American guests, then to our acacia wood cabin with net – tented four poster and hot water bottles!
Awoke to breakfast in the garden, a family of giraffes ambling magically just a few metres away. A guided trip round little lake in small, solitary, three-seater boat with tiny, temperamental motor; flocks of pelicans, fish eagles, cormorants; three families of hippos, eyes, nostrils, teeth and tongues just a few feet away.
Final days in Nairobi
Karen Blixen’s house (Out of Africa), Kinkuru Jewellery workshop (bought five necklaces I really don’t need, but wanted very badly), Maasai Market (more haggling – Harri was an expert tutor) and finally drinks on the terrace at palatial Ole Sereni hotel overlooking the national park at sundown before catching the plane home. Harri and Owen, we can’t thank you enough for this life-changing experience.
Very special being able to show your parents around a new country that you’re calling home for a couple of years. Now that they’ve caught the travel bug, Mum and Dad will be coming back out to Africa in 2016 for a two week mega adventure through Cape Town, Jo’Burg, Zanzibar and the Masai Mara. Can’t wait!