Views from my hotel window...
The park again
The traffic by night
Sunday - been at work all day everyday since Thursday, but today's a day off. Went to Mass (in Swahili) at the Basilica of the Holy Family, which was impressive - huge crowds, swaying and clapping with the music (led by a huge African choir).
After lunch I went on a safari with an Indian guy called Vivek who's also staying in the hotel. We went out to the >Nairobi National Park, which is right inthe edge of Nairobi, indeed even is surrounded by housing, but it's wild enough to have lots of animals, plus views to the mountains to the south.
The National Park is well laid out, with gravel roads and good signage.
First wildlife spotted - a couple of cranes (non-mechanical).
While we were stopped, a Defender passed us...
...then we met another coming the other way. We were in a VW Transporter minibus, and I though the Landies would have been a better bet, but our elevating roof (see later) gave us a height advantage.
First mammals - buffalo...
...some of whom were resting (why did this one remind me of Laurie? Plain Lazy!)
Another bird - I forget what variety.
A beady eye for Rosie - he's looking at you!
Traffic jam National Park style - Ostrich in road, and she's big enough not to argue with.
And so are the males.
I'm keeping an eye on you...
The "horns" are actually overgrown teeth. No hog dentists obviously.
You're not supposed to get out of your car, and I know yo can stand on a Landy but this is a Subaru!
And look who's coming...
...the Subaru people got scared and drove off, and the rhino turned away.
This is the same concept at ours, except ours is a VW Transporter. They've got a Nikon DSLR too!
The people in front had stopped to watch this bird in a bush. There were quite a few birds around, but rarely still enough to get a picture (photography from the back of a moving VW Transporter on these tracks is near impossible!)
I can't remember what this was - a gazelle of some kind I think
Some more pics for Laurie...
...but we were on our own voyage of Discovery.
...I'm the Daddy.
More antelope (?) hiding in the grass - you can see how close to the city we were.
I'm looking at you
Big Daddy giraffe
No, this is a baboon not a self portrait.
Baboons at the picnic tables.
Vivek (the best spotter of wildlife) with the baboons.
The view back over where we'd come - the giraffe was in the dip by the big trees and water (mid left).
I must admit I'd have felt more secure in a Landy at this stage.
A weekend off and a chance to fly down to Mombasa and meet up with Fr Joe Kengah
Joe met me from the aiport and took me to Mombasa's Catholic Cathedral - outside
- and inside
Fr Joe and Brother Frank outside the presbytery.
The grotto - where Joe used to celebrate mass when he was based at the Cathedral.
We then had a coffee before driving North to the Nyali Beach Hotel, the original beach resort, opened in 1946 and still a favourite of the Brits. Joe and I had a Tusker at the bar by the beach before taking the view...
...then back through the grounds to one of the restaurants for lunch.
Next stop was Nakumatt supermarket for supplies for tomorrow's safari, then Coralis' house (she was going to pack the picnic for us). In her garden was a pawpaw plant.
Then it was down to the ferry (long queue) to head to the south shore. We had a long wait, as hordes of people were crossing, on foot, on bicycles, in vehicles or pulling handcarts.
The ferry heads south - the island on which Mombasa city stands is connected to the mainland by a causeway to the west and a bridge to the north, but it's not possible to go round the mainland, you have to go via the island and the ferry.
Just south of the ferry is Shelly Beach where the Holy Ghost Fathers have a house, and where Joe and I were to stay. It's surrounded by coconut palms.
After a cup of tea, Joe and I headed for the beach - just through the gate from the house.
I swam in the warm sea, relaxing after the heat and grime of the day.
The sun set behind the neary mosque.
Watch for falling coconuts!
An early start the next morning, as we have to get across Mombasa and face a long drive to the Tsavo East National Park. We cross the ferry soon after first light, onto Mombasa island.
First stop is Coralis' house to collect the picnic she has prepared for us, and the camping chairs, then we pick up Sister Bernadette from the Catholic Primary School and then another Sister from their house in a poor area on the outskirts of the city. Then we're off out of the city, across the causeway onto the mainland. The road through the industrial area is "interesting", though nothing to what will follow! Further out this is a relatively good stretch (impossible to take photos from a moving vehicle on the bad bits).
A combination of road surface (or lack of), the weight of traffic, mechanical failures and over enthusiastic drivers can end in disaster, though somehow the cab of this truck was hardly damaged as it fell from the bridge.
Parts of the road were just unbelievable, especially where they diverted us off onto an unsurfaced road for several miles because the Chinese are rebuilding the road (and the new part are very good). Bear in mind that this road takes all the freight from Mombasa port to most of Kenya and Uganda...
Anyway, Joe safely conveyed us to the Tsavo East Park, and just inside we stopped for breakfast (actually third breakfast as both Father Martin and Coralis had given us sustinance). We relaxed under the shade of a mulberry tree.
In the park we started to get distant glimpses of animals - and saw lots of huge anthills (that's what in the foreground of this photo).
But it wasn't long before we saw animals at closer quarters - a group of around 20 elephants if different shapes and sizes around a waterhole.
Are you looking at me?
As we watched the elephants this little bird came a strutted in front of the car.
As the other safari vans moved off we were able to get a better view.
Then on through the park, on the sort of road Laurie would enjoy!
We turned a corner and this large bird flew up beside the car.
Seeing a group of safari vans stopped we went to look. Thy told us there was a group of cheetahs lying in the grass. Most of the other vans got bored of waiting and moved off. We tried patience (sister of prudence) and were rewarded as they got up and slunk off through the grass. Not really within the capabilities of my optics, but believe me that's a cheetah!
Most people seem to be interested only in mammals, but the birds are unusual too...
...especially in flight.
The hippos were enjoying the cool of the water, and weren't emerging for anyone!
The lake was surrounded by birds, plus zebra and antelope on the far side.
Not to mention the view towards the hills.
Nice day for a glide around the lake.
The vultures hand out under the tree. Judging by the smell there was something very dead they had feasted on.
We saw impala...
...then zebra close to...
...posing for the camera.
The giraffes were more shy.
We pressed on to the campsite (yes, you can lay your sleeping bag on the ground and sleep here, but Joe tells me Patrick was too scared to do so!). Here we enjoyed our lunch.
This bus full of students (from the far side of Nairobi) had been camping here for a couple of days, and were heading to the Tsavo West Park.
The baboons watched and played, but weren't troublesome.
After lunch we saw elephants again - closer, and clearly red from covering themselves in the red soil (or mud) to keep themselves cool. (Bridget tells me that in fact their skin colour adapts to their surroundings).
An elephant grid is a heavy duty cattle grid with electrified wires hanging down to shock any animal trying to get across.
This is the life!
A safari-style Defender for Laurie's delectation!
We stopped at Voi Safari Lodge, on the top of a cliff with watering holes below. the theory is that the animals some to drink and you can go through an underground passage to watch them at close quarters. But although we saw elephants from afar, only a lone impala came close to the watering hole.
However, the rock we were perched upon had lots of interest in the form of lizards of different shapes and colours.
And the view out across the bush was splendid.
Joe was conviced we would see buffalo at a spot near the Voi Gate, but they weren't there. But there were a couple just outide the gate, watching the traffic go by.
And so we were back on the Mombasa-Nairobi road, but many kilometres further from Mombasa. It proved to be a slow journey as we traversed the more challenging stretches - a number of lorries had broken down on the unsurfaced stretch and the weight of traffic was such that you couldn't get through for ages. We pressed on, stopping and starting, through the dust, as the sun set (6pm, lights out). We then dropped the two sisters at their homes, picked up Coralis and a visiting lay missionary, Kris, and headed south over the ferry. We dined at African Pot in Diani before Kris drove us up the vanishing dirt road to Joe's house at Mivumoni, where we arrived in COMPLETE darkness about midnight - the sky was just full of stars - then we fell into bed!
Sunday morning - another early start (full day ahead of us) - so it's up, out of the mozzie net, into the cold shower, then outside to see the place in daylight. Joe had said they were on a hill, with views to the Shimba Hills National Park.
I think these buildings belong to the neighbours, but they're typical of buildings out here in the bush.
This is Joe's house.
After breakfast it was time for mass in the church next door, which Joe celebrated (and he made me get up and address the congregation, using Joe as translator as very few people out here speak English - Coralis and Kris are fluent Swahili speakers)..
Notice that the windows on each side are open to allow the breeze to pass through - at 30 or more degrees it's pretty warm (and humid) here.
The church was quite full with people who had walked there - only Joe has a vehicle - and the music was uplifting.
Coralis snapped me with the locals.
Many of the youngsters were camera shy, but not these two!
After Mass, back into Joe's house to collect our things - this is his sitting room...
...and this is Joe in his sitting room.
Kris talked to the local lads.
Then they all helped us get the truck loaded.
As we left the congregation were drifting off home down the dirt road. Imagine this in the rainy season (no Laurie, I don't mean imagine what fun...)
The road got more interesting...
...before we reached Shimba Hills church.
The people were surprised to see Joe, as this isn't a mass venue this week.
But Joe wanted me to see the field next to the church. Joe will be celebrating his Silver Jubilee this year, but rather than a big party he wants to start a project to build a school for the deaf in the area, and this is the proposed site. Both Joe's brother and sister were born deaf, and their education in mainstream schools was very limited, so he has first hand knowledge of the issues. In May he plans to undertake a long-distance sponsored walk to raise funds, and sponsorship opportunities will be available through the pilgrim website.
The off down the road we went again...
...yes this is the road to the mass centre.
And this is the Mass centre.
But despite its humble nature it was a real church, full of life.
I didn't understand much of Joe's sermon (like the rest of the service, in Swahili) but I did follow when he quoted my experience of the previous week - whatever the language, the structure of the Mass means you know what's going on.
After Mass we headed off back towards the coast...
...passing little settlements, not all as picture-postcard as this one.
This bridge was only partly washed away - other routes were blocked because the bridge was completely washed away.
Back in Diani Joe insisted we stopped to look at the wooden Range Rovers (apparently they really go).
Then back to the African Pot for a real African lunch...
...surrounded by wildlife and Maasai spears...
...and a few bottles of Tusker (authentic Kenyan beer).
The new building next door demonstrates the African use of raw lengths of tree as props.
We then headed across the ferry back into Mombasa, and to the old town. This is Fort Jesus, founded by the Portuguese.
The view across the water from the fort.
The funny tree on the left (whose name escapes me) is supposed to have been planted upside down, hence its strange shape.
Here you see the size of the fort.
Coralis took me for a walk round the old town, interesting architecture (and interesting bargaining in the shops)
But soon it was time to head back to the airport, passing under the tusks that are the symbol of Mombasa. It's been a wonderful weekend. Thanks Joe!