A swahili place: Lamu town

I had been told by several people that Lamu and Mount Kenya were the highlights of Kenya. There are so many highlights in Kenya that I was really wondering what Lamu would be like!

The problem is reaching… it’s located on the Northern Coast : there are three Lamus; Lamu town, Lamu the island itself and Lamu archipelago. It seems the most beautiful thing is apart from enjoying the atmosphere to navigate from one island to another and enjoy the nature around. In fact there are mangrove forests and the islands are surrounded by turquoise water. I didn’t do that myself, because it wasn’t what I would call a highlight: Diani for me is more of a highlight having a coral reef at 200 m from the shore!

When I arrived a guy took my suitcase and asked me what my hotel was and took me there; I had just landed… I had no time to breathe: people in Lamu assault the tourists that come especially in low season: they are hungry for clients. No tourist goes unnoticed in Lamu. The inhabitants greet you, ask you if you need or want something… They probably thing they are being nice by doing so but it produces a contrary effect in me: all I want to do is run home! And I become really unkind to whoever is trying to make a living, because after all, all they are doing is looking for clients.

There are no cars in Lamu: they use donkeys instead, and there are 2200 donkeys on the island. It’s a multicultural city: Indian, Arabian, Kenyan influences merge. It is what they call the Swahili culture. Like the rest of the coast it’s an Islamic territory.

In the evening the children jump into the water from the “main road” … a main road which reminded me of Pondy’s promenade. Their games include also are boxes which become cars, and even I saw them playing with a dead baby donkey which they threw into the sea they were swimming in again and again… Ok this is definitely a different culture I thought.

The streets are narrow, the houses and buildings are made of corals, and the sewerage runs through the streets itself. Yes it can seem relaxing in the sense that we are on an island where there are no cars. It could seem like a voyage in time … if only people didn’t assault every single tourist!

What I did enjoy in Lamu was my beautiful hotel : a Swahili house made of coral with a beautiful green patio in the centre, and I think it was the cutest I’ve ever experienced.  Three windows and a bed like the one I dreamt of when I was a child. There is was really fun to do all the writing I had to do: calm and relaxing, just what I needed! Another thing was watching the tides: the difference is huge so huge that when some people attacked Lamu, they got stuck when they wanted to leave because there boats which they had left in the water were now stuck in firm land… and also the food: fresh snapper, fried bananas with honey and the amazing, truly amazing fruit juices that are as creamy as smoothies.

But I have said enough: as we say in France an example is worth a thousand words, so take a look at the video and get a sense of what it is like.

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Hell’s Gate National Park

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Hell’s gate scenary

Hell’s gate is a special park in Kenya  in the sense that you can cycle or walk around. It’s located near Lake Naivasha, 150 km from Nairobi.  The main attraction is the Gorge, located 8 km from Elsa Gate.   The Routard said it could remind us of Petra in Jordan… well let’s not exagerate please… But the Gorge can get water and there there were hot springs were you can even boil eggs!

The other beautiful part of the park is the scenary. Huge special rocks I hadn’t seen anywhere else in Kenya…

And zebras, warthogs, many birds…interesting plants, flowers… insects.

I chose to ride a cycle myself, and I thought I saw a buffalo from a distance. Then I laughed at how ridiculous this was: there could not allow people to walk or ride around if there were actually buffalos inside the park! Buffalos are the most dangerous aggressive animals, that was literaly impossible…So I proceeded to the Gorge.

And on the way back I saw not one but many buffalos… staring at me….mmm… let me take a deep breath…as I cycle past them…

Waooo….that was scary!

Remember to click on one of  the picture to view all  the gallery in full-screen

Lake Naivasha

Lake Naivasha… 150 km away from Nairobi, accross the Rift Valley…139 km2 a fresh water lake unlike the saline Lake Nakuru…

I was imagining I would have a wonderful walk around the lake… which is totally impossible. Aroud the lake there are hotels who own the land and rosegreen houses … each rose drinks 10 litres per day… but then this is why the Kenyan roses do smell. They are also exported all over the world.

The area is home to more than 600 bird species…

In any case, just reaching and seeing was so relaxing.. these are all the animals I could spot at the Fisherman’s camp where I actually camped! The place is full of yellow feaver trees which appear golden as the light declines…

Click on the first picture to view the gallery in full screen.

Planting trees in Ngong hills

I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong hills” .

This is the first sentence of Karen Blixen’s book, Out of Africa, who had published her book under a man’s name, Isak Dinesen, because at that time women writers were not taken seriously.

Today it was the soldier environmental program day, and so we all went to the Ngong DSCF4640hills – ngong means knackles in maasai- to plant 2500 trees.  I was looking forward to this, so I even came back a day ealier from my holidays. Everyone is so exceptionally nice at my working place, it is such a pleasure!

When we arrived the hills could not be seen at all. The mist was so thick that we could not see beyond 20 meters. It was poetic and mysterious. In fact it could have been any landscape in Europe, and more precisely an Irish landscape.

DSCF4643It started raining. But I had brought the kind of shower cap Kenyan ladies wear to protect their weaver ( the fake hair they use as African people’s hair doesn’t grow) that I had bought to a street vendor before stepping into a bus. I had no intention of buying it and didn’t even have the change for it, but he insited and finally ” support sister, support, we are hungry…”. This is how I ended up having this rather ridiculous cap. I can’t say it was the sexiest look ever but it was certainly the most appropriate. The girls  laughed a lot – at me, that is-, but they they had long nails and high heels and they were wearing the sexy clothes. To make things worst on my side, I had also taken pinky kitchen gloves not even knowing that we would use our bare hands to plant as there were no shovels. ” We Africans use our hands they said“.  When it started raining, I continued planting and the other Miss Nairobi girls all run to the umbrellas: Kenyan ladies take good care of their looks!

DSCF4648I planted 125 trees and I think it was the female record. Not that I was special, it’s just that I concentrated only on the planting rather than the carrying ; I worked alone at first and in a team later  it was real fun. I have never laughed as much as today ever since I arrived in Kenya, and I can say I haven’t laughed like this in a very long time.

There was a lady there who spent most of the time under the umbrella, but I saw her plant a tree or two. She was dressed in a rather simple way. I got tired eventually but the main thing is that in my excitement, I had totally forgotten to take breakfast, and run out of home at 6 AM, and I was the first to arrive to Karen from where we were all driven to Ngong hills. It had been a long ride too. At 1PM, I was feeling the hypoglycemia and I went and talked to the lady. By then the hills had uncovered their beauty as the sun was shining we could see ahead and below. ” This is so beautiful…!“. We talked a bit and then I mentioned I was not feeling too well because in my excitement I had forgotten to eat. Continue reading

A lesson of motherhood & life : baby Thompson’s gazelle’s first steps in life

new-born thompson's gazelle

new-born thompson’s gazelle

Probably the highlight of my visit to Lake Nakuru’s National Park is to have been blessed to see a new-born Thompson Gazelle make its very first steps in life.  She was still wet from birth, her mother had been licking her to clean her. Both for this reason were harassed by flies. At first I was surprised to see that they were far from the group of gazelles.

I was waiting for the moment… I was so absorbed in it, that I even forgot to film it! How I regret not having caught with my camera the moment when defying gravity the calf stood on its thin legs for the first time in its life! Where could he find the strength after the tremendous effort of birth, to fight against gravity? A new-born human baby would require months before finding the strength for such an effort: but in wildlife, they couldn’ t afford such luxuries…

What was the motivation behind this instinct? Maybe hunger and thurst after the effort… Here we see the perfection of creation. It was so hungry and thirsty that this made gave the new-born strength! Indeed it was impossible for it to feed if sitting. And the mother would certainly not bend down for him. She would empower her calf, to stand up to her! What an amazing mum! Continue reading