I had a farm in Africa

out-of-africa

image source : From Isi, WordPress.com

“I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills. The Equator runs across these highlands, a hundred miles to the north, and the farm lay at an altitude of over six thousand feet. In the day-time you felt that you had got up high, near the sun, but the early mornings and evenings were limpid and restful, and the nights were cold.

The geographical position and the height of the land combined to create a landscape that had not its like in all the world. There was no fat on it and no luxuriance anywhere; it was Africa distilled up through six thousand feet, like the strong and refined essence of a continent. The colours were dry and burnt, like the colours of pottery. The trees had a light delicate foliage, the structure of which was different from that of the trees in Europe; it did not grow in bows or cupolas, but in horizontal layers, and the formation gave the tall solitary tress a likeness to the palms, or a heroic and romantic air like full-rigges ships with their sails furled, and to the edge of a wood a strange appearance as if the whole wood were faintly vibrating. Upon the grass of the great plains the crooked bare old thorn-trees were scattered, and the grass was spiced like thyme and bog-myrtles; in some places the scent was so strong that it smarted in the nostrils. All the flowers that you found on the plains or upon the creepers and liana in the native forest, were diminutive like flowers of the downs – only just in the beginning of the long rains a number of big, massive heavy-scented lilies sprang out on the plains. The views were immensely wide. Everything you saw made for greatness and freedom and unequalled nobility.

The chief feature of the landscape, and of your life in it was the air. Looking back on a sojourn in the African highlands, you are struck by your feeling of having lived for a time up in the air. The sky was rarely more than pale blue or violet, with a profusion of mighty, whiteness, ever-changing clouds towering up and sailing on it, but it has a blue vigour in it and at a short distance it painted the ranges of hills in the woods a fresh deep blue. In the middle of the day, the air was alive over the land, like a flame burning; it scintillated, waved and shone like running water, mirrored and doubled all objects, and created great Fata Morgana. Up in this high air you breathed easily, drawing in vital assurance and lightness of heart. In the highlands you woke up in the morning and thought : Here I am, where I ought to be”.

Out of Afica, incipit, Karen Blixen 1937.

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.

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.

Magical Lake Nakuru

Pour la version française, voir en-dessous de la galerie de photos.

To see the pictures in full screen in a diaporama click on the first picture

Lake Nakuru is a saline lake located at north west of Nairobi. It is known as the birdwatchers paradise. The lake’s water level varies: twice it dried up completely: it depends on rains. Two species of  flamingos inhabit the lake : the lesser and greater flamingo. They are the pride of Lake Nakuru.

The park is home to white rhinos – 100 individuals-, a few lions, waterbucks, impalas, Thomson gazelles, a few leopards, buffalos, rothchild giraffes, zebras and more than 400 species of birds.

The Reserve was created in 1963.

This is how magical it looks, at dawn..

Pour visualiser un diaporama en mode plein écran, cliquez sur la première photo de la galerie.

Le lac Nakuru est un lac alcalin situé au Nord-Ouest de Nairobi. Il est surnommé le paradis des ornithologues. La niveau de l’eau du lac varie, à deux reprises il a été complètement asséché, car il dépend de la pluie. Le lac est habité par deux espèces de flamants:  le flamant nain et le flamant rose qui font la fierté du lac.

Le parc contient aussi des rhinocéros blancs – une centaine d’individus- quelques lions et léopards, des gazelles de Thomson, des kob defassa, des girafes de Rothschild, des zèbres et plus de quatre cents espèces d’oiseaux.

La réserve a été créée en 1960.

Admirez la magie de l’aurore qui fait baigner le lac et ses habitants dans sa lumière dorée.

The Rift Valley

Kenya Great Rift valley (8)In Kenya there is an area South of Nairobi called the Rift Valley. The earth cracked and as a result of that it created a depression that is now a 6000km geographic trench which starts in Lebanon and goes all the way down to Mozambique. Africa has thus been separated into two plates: the Nubian Plate and the Somali Plate.

In the Rift Valley, the mountains are purple, the sky is strong blue, the well-shaped clouds always hang on the horizon, never just above your head, and the the bark of the trees is golden, the earth is at times of a vivid orange colour, so strong it can hurt your eyes.

Kenya Great Rift valley (1)Here, yes, indeed, it is true the clouds look like the ones we drew when we were children, cotton clouds or like the skins of the sheep that are sold along the way. It’s the place to see the world through the eyes of a child and here indeed we can understand why artists portray things in ways that would otherwise seem naive to us, because here we can see by them ourselves through the eyes of artists or children. If we want to understand art, we need to come this natural temple.

Kenya Great Rift valley (71)

As Karen Blixen had stated, here the trees, the golden trees, grow horizontally. Continue reading

A festival of pop art colours : birds, corals, fish and dolphins!

Lilac breasted roller flrying

Lilac breasted roller flying

For my birthday I decided to go and see my kins, the fish at the Coast. From Diani road in Nairobi to Diani beach…

On the way there amazing birds would dash like arrows in the sky and then land on the electricity lines. “What are they?” – ”  I haven’t seen it….”

When another one passed by I showed him again. Again he hadn’t seen it. “Most of them are lilac rollers”  said the driver casually. Of course I couldn’t take a picture of those winged beauties myself but here is a portrait of a lilac roller.

This is when I noticed how spoilt Kenyans  are. They have these birds we have not even conceived in our brightest dreams and for them they are just ” Most of them“. They don’t even notice them just like we don’t even notice our fat pigeons in Luxembourg Gardens. His tone translated :” we have plenty of these things you don’t even dare to dream of, and we don’t even see them anymore, because we have so many of them!

Stoplight Parrotfish (Sparisoma viride) at Salt Pier

parrotfish

I had planned to go to the Kisite Marine park on the 24th, and that day it seems that all the dolphins of the park had decided to come and greet me! When I was a child I had put posters of dolphins and cheetahs on my walls. And here I was when all of them jumping around, like a symphony! The captain said they had four species of dolphin, but I don’t remember the names he mentioned.I had made a lovely film with my lifetime dream friends… but that very day my camera got stolen.

When we reached the diving spot….. Waoo! The corals and the fish dressed in pop art colours. Unbelievable ….Pink, blue, yellow, orange….. the brain corals, corals like a lion’s mane, corals like bushes, others looked like flowers…. I saw my first parrotfish ever. And I saw several of them! Angelfish…too…

On the way back, the captain said that, when the tide was low, the area we were going through was totally uncovered and that we could walk through four kilometers of sea . This was something like what Moses did! I was amazed! I couldn’t believe it: the water we were sailing on now, could actually be gone?? “It is a reef he said”.

I started imagining how it could look like with no water just algae and rocks… a few corals… I wished I could see that one day!

starfish and urchin

starfish and urchin

Guess what? A big surprise for me. The next day I went to Diani beach… my beach…the water had gone! The tide was so low and I saw what I had dreamt of seeing. 1 km of uncovered “sea floor”. Starfish had to be put back in the water or else they would die.

I held my first starfish: it’s actually as hard as bone but they can move and change shapes. How strange! Huge starfish, and so many sea urchin I had to avoid walking on…Salim the guy who had accompanied me, told me the starfish were eaten by the urchins.

corals

Corals at Diani beach

“When you reach this point Salim said,  you can snorkel”. But yet the water was so shallow that I was afraid of getting pinched by one of the urchins….

Less than 20 cm, it was really tight…. I tucked my tommy in…

And that’s how I saw my first rectangular fish ever.!

A tiny tiny yellow fish half the size of my little finger accompanied me all the way at the beginning. He was really with me. When I got tired, at the end of the first session….guess who appeared again!

Then I understood: the corals here were no coincidence. In Diani beach there is a coral barrier, and that’s why the waves broke at a certain point on the horizon. It was around 3 Km away from land. I had planned to reach by windsurf and snorkel from there to see the corals. I had thought I had to go to the Tanzania border to Kisite marine park, but what I wanted – the coral reef- was here already.

Again, just like earlier with the Moses experience, the stars had planned an even better surprise for me! I could snorkel now and enjoy the windsurfing hour just for windsurfing when the tide would come back.

angelfish

angelfish at Diani

When it did, the beach shrunk. Again, I couldn’t believe it was the same beach as earlier. No space left to lie down, when in the morning there were more than 30 meters of dry sand! Those tides were impressive indeed. In the afternoons the wind rose and it was so harsh, that I no longer found it nice to stay on the beach. In the morning it was as calm as a lake.

During my holiday in Diani, the full moon hang above the sea, twenty four hours a day.

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PS: for all pictures except the  lilac roller, and the parrot fish, I appear courtesy to Stilts Backpackers facebook page. Thanks Andy! https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Stilts-Backpackers/120956872812?fref=ts

Shimba Hills National Reserve

Shimba hills is located in the Mombasa area. It’s a National Reserve where elephants, giraffes, buffaloes, baboons, antilopes and sable antilopes can be seen…

If we are looking for a water point and we find this tree it means the water is not far. This tree needs a lot of water and only grows where it can be found. The fruit of this tree was used as washing soap as once opened it produces foam.

Foam tree

This palm tree is the only one with branches. Its fruit is reddish and it ferments rather easily – although I didn’t understand how- and once it ferments the elephants eat it and get slightly tipsy , just like in Jumbo. By the way this is a Swahili word meaning “ hello”.

This is called crocodile liana and you can easily understand why…

Also here Sable antilopes can be found: it’s one of the only places where this graceful animal can be seen

And here is a video for you to watch

Excursion to Washini Island, Mombasa

Washini Island is a small island 7km long and 5 km large – yes dad, even smaller than Singapore and here there is no space for airplanes! – along the southern coast of Kenya. It was discovered 200 years ago by the Arab traders. Today it is home to two villages which include…. a football club! There are baobab trees, just like in Le Petit Prince which also takes place in Africa.

When I decided to go to Mombasa on Wednesday morning I had hesitated. only 4 days off, and 12 hours to reach that’s 24 hours for the return trip… and alone… But these were my only day of my only opportunity to see more than Nairobi. Of course when God gives me an iopportunity….

And such the beauty of life is that our efforts always pay off!. I didn’t know that 48 hours after making this decicion, one of my lifetime dreams would come true!

There are many reasons to make an excursion there

-1)  first of all, you will be able to snorkel around the Kisite Marine Park which is believed to have the best diving spot in Kenya. Here no need to have completed a padi diving course, snorkeling is enough! Had I known this I would have taken my underwater camera, but I left it in Paris! Sorry no pictures, but just imagine a variety of colourful corals, resembling the human brain painted by a surrealistic painter, and that it! If you know the names of the fish: well parrot fish, angel fish, clown fish… to name a few, otherwise come over and see for yourself!

That was my lifetime dream number 1

2) Another dream came true! Seeing dolphins in their natural habitat! The guide on the boat started the excursion saying ” Dolphins are wild animals and we can’t guarantee 100% that you’ll see them but….”. Then I thought, well that’s gonna be tough, but if I think about them, I’ll see them for sure!

And we did! we saw three dolphins diving in and out the waters! The people on the boat kept laughing they really spread happiness around those dolphins. Their “face” is really expressive it seems that they are smiling!

3) The water is really clean just like in everyone’s dreams!

4) Washini hosts another surprise!

On the island itself ” A coral island the guide said” there are some limestone rocks sprouting out the land.

They are in fact, it’s clear to see, the same corals, but this time dead ones….from a time the island was submerged: the sea has retroceded millions of years ago, and the corals remain there as unaltered sculptures.

The fisherladies catch some crabs in the salty mangrove waters.

5) Just driving there will allow you to see the beautiful coastal landscapes and the traditional habitat.

I would like to turn back time and be the Eva before seeing that so that I can get this mesmerizing sense of surprise!

You can have a look at this video and see Kenya’s coast through my eyes ( or at least my camera….!)