Thursday, 30 August 2012

Last dance

It is officially our last night in Kenya. I guess one would call this feeling bittersweet… though for us, it’s a lot more bitter than sweet. We are not ready to leave! But, school awaits. It has been quite a while since I last posted – mostly because we have been busy and having lots of fun. We just returned yesterday from a week long vacation in Uganda. In a word, I think amazing would suffice. It is truly just a beautiful country. Bu before that let me back up. On our last full weekend in Kenya, we decided to do an overnight on Lake Naivasha, located just about 2 hours away from Nairobi. We arrived on Friday evening and stayed at a cool campsite/hostel place called Camp Carnelly’s. It is a beautiful property right on the lake with lots of room to camp, bungalows to rent out and dorm rooms with beds to crash on. 

Lake Naivasha at dusk
We (obviously) went the cheap route and opted for the dorm. It was fine… except for when we were attacked by biting ants during the night. Thankfully we survived the attack and got a little sleep. Camp Carnelly’s had a really great bar/restaurant area with big comfy couches, huge pillows, lanterns a nice camp fire. Perfect spot to spend an evening drinking beers and playing cards. In the morning Ellen, Ben and myself headed in to Hell’s Gate National Park. (Poor Nate had some sort of food poisoning and had to miss out on the fun.) Hell’s Gate is a really unique place in many ways, the first being that you can bike around the entire park. And bike we did – about 20 km in total. When you first start off on the bike path/road through the park you think to yourself “oh this is lovely, fresh air, nice scenery”… and then you come around the first bend. And everything changes. Some of the largest and coolest rock formations I have ever seen in my life. The scenery was just breathtaking, so massive, so much wide-open space that my photos could never do it justice.

Did I mention the animals? They were everywhere, just hanging out on the road or just off to the side. On our ride we saw I don’t even know how many zebras total – 200? 300? Something like that, maybe more. Warthogs, antelope, giraffe, baboons (tons!) and more. Not to mention the birds. It was really special to be on bikes because the animals don’t really hear you coming. It made for a more natural and surprising experience… both for us humans and the animals. 

Question: when a baboon crosses by you on a dirt path then waits on the side of the road right next to you, what do you do? Run by fast? Walk by slow? Wait? we waited until he walked away, pictured here.
Lunch time

At the end of the trail we chose to take through the park was a place called The Gorge. Literally just a huge crevice in the earth (carved by a river) that you can hike down in to and follow along through it’s winding path. Again, the unique beauty down there is not really something that can be captured on camera. We had lots of fun hiking around, climbing on, over and around rocks, and dodging the tour guides who were trying to lead us around (for a price of course). We prefer to make our own adventures.

At the end of our hike – we didn’t go all the way through the Gorge, as it was getting late in the day and Nate was waiting for us back at the camp – we climbed up out of the Gorge to one of the most breathtaking views I will probably ever see in my life. We could’ve sat there all day, that’s for sure.

OK, speeding up a week. As you’ve noticed I haven’t talked much about the challenging (and rewarding) work we have been doing in Kibera. There are a few reasons for that. Mostly, I have trouble motivating to write these blogs at all, and the fun stuff is more easy to show in pictures and I think more interesting for most people to read. Hopefully when I am back in the US I’ll do one more post about the work and all that I’ve learned (and perhaps unlearned from school) here. That said, if you’re interested in talking with me about the work – just ask! Anyways, back to the fun… UGANDA. Oh my, what a ______ (insert strongest positive adjective you can think of here) trip. We just had such a great time. On Friday of last week after finishing up our work we hopped on an overnight bus from Nairobi to Kampala. A bus seat is not the greatest place to sleep ever, but we made do. We arrived in the morning, got some Ugandan shillings, grabbed some food, and boarded yet another bus that was crossing the country to a place called Kabale, right near the border with Rwanda. Little did we know, we chose the worst bus company in Uganda. (Not my qualifier, we were told this by many Ugandans after the fact). The bus was supposed to leave at 11am and take 6 hours. Or so we were told. What happened in reality was it left at 2:30 and took over 8 hours. But alas we made it. And on the other end were greeted by Nate’s family friend Stan and his son Sam, who ferried us to our hostel. We all slept hard that night and in the morning headed to our real destination – Lake Bunyonyi. One of the coolest lakes I have ever seen – so many islands (27 I believe) and really cool shorelines. Our cab driver out to the lake let us stop at an overlook… what a spectacular view. 

Lake Bunyonyi from the overlook. Gorgeous.

Dirty Helen and the Hongs
We were met on the shore by two men in dug out canoes who helped us paddle across the lake to where we were staying for the night - on one of the small islands at a hostel/resort called Byoona Amagara. This might have been the best decision we made all summer – what a place! All these little cabins and geodomes built into the lush vegetation on the island, with spectacular views. The bar/restaurant was fantastic and cheap… overall just a perfect place to relax for a few days. And that we did. The next day we rented a canoe ourselves and paddled around to a bunch of the islands. We even came across a rope swing (on private property but open for public use!) and had a grand old time playing around on that.

Our island home

That evening we headed back to Kabale, where we were treated to a home cooked meal by Stan and his family. It is always so nice to be welcomed into someone’s home, but I think never more than when traveling. It was a great meal and good company, followed by a great night sleep back at the hostel before hopping on yet another bus back to Kampala. We arrived late on Sunday afternoon and had just a bit of time to explore the capital city, eat some delicious Indian food and head to bed… we needed a good night sleep before our day of rafting on the Nile. Yup, you read that right. We went white water rafting (first time for all of us except Ben) on the Nile.  It was the most badass thing I’ve ever done. No doubt about it. Nile River Explorers company does a really great job and our guide Henry/Loco was awesome. They have several guides on kayaks who travel with the rafts, both for safety and to take your photos as you crash down the 8 rapids (levels 4 and 5). Here are a few…

 All in all a great day, and we stayed at their awesome hostel camp that night, right on the Nile with a gorgeous view. Again, a great spot to drink beer, play cards, and spend the whole next day relaxing before another overnight bus back to Nairobi.
view from the bar on the nile where we stayed. paradise.
And that brings us to now. Our last full day. Sigh. We said lots of good byes today, paid some grant money we owed to contractors and the like. Feeling quite lucky to have spent my summer getting to know these wonderful people (Anthony, Rina, Sylvia, Chris…. So many more) and the community of Silanga, and I could not be more sad to say goodbye. They all wish we were staying longer to do more work and the feeling is mutual. I can only hope there will be an opportunity in the future to return and, as Chris put it to me today, “see what happens with the seeds we’ve planted”.


  1. Congratulations on such a successful, adventure-filled experience. I love your photos and you are a great writer! Call me immediately upon arrival.


  2. thanks mand! cannot wait to catch up. leaving for the airport in an hour xoxo