29 April 2008

Arrived in Nairobi from UK. Site visit.

30 April 2008

In the Nairobi office.

1 May 2008

Very early start to catch the first flight to Mombasa.

A main street in Mombasa

Matatus touting for trade

The handcart looks bad enough ... but bare feet! (These cart hauliers are called mkokoteni)

This bicycle is relatively lightly loaded

Frut stalls in Ukunda

A boat off Shimoni

Boats at Shimoni, with Wasini Island beyond

Out group in the slave caves at Shimoni

Chains in the punishment cell

Bats just hanging around

The prayer cell

Heading back to the bus from the caves, we are approached by hawkers, as usual

Coconut palsm by the road back to Ukunda

A pile of coconuts outside houses near Msambweni

Roadside goats taking a snack

Cat at the Swahili Pot, Ukunda, where we had a late lunch

A chicken at the same establishment, obviously not too worried about being on the menu

It was a pretty good lunch

Better than your average pub umbrella

After the visit to Diani

View north from Diani

View south from Diani

The pool at Diani Reef

Beach at Diani Reef - evening

Bird guarding the bridge at Daiani Reef

Flower-decorated towels in the hotel

View from my window at twilight (Diani Reef)

2 May 2008

View from my window at daylight

The beach in daylight

Cleaning the beach - burying the seaweed

The bird's bridge and the hotel beyond

Baobab tree outside the hotel (another is the centrepiece outside)

Flower on baobab tree

View from my window - Whitesands

Modern art - or random tangle of detritus - Whitesands beach

Beach trader at Whitesands

Boats at Whiteands - the wind was getting up, but the water was oh so warm

Fr Joe and a Tusker

The evening thereafter got more mellow over a bottle of Mara (kenyan) wine and a year's worth of catching up...

3 May 2008

Heading north from Whitesands the were big sisal plantations alongside the road.

It is the rainy season here, and when it rains it absolutely pours.

Near Malindi we stopped at a roadside mango stall...

The youngsters wanted their photo taken

We bought mangoes to eat here and now - ripe and juicy, they'd only traveled a few hundred metres.

But there were lots left for others

Garbage disposal unit

The children get one last pose

Heading east towards Ngomeni, along the Tana river delta, it's wide and shallow and used for salt production - that's salt piles not pyramids in the distance

The valley is largely shallow water and some land protruding

Passing the Italian space centre, San Marco.

If you climb the hill you get a view over the islands in the river delta, just above sea level, they were badly affected by the tsunami a couple of years ago

Fishermen

Looking across the river delta, with San Marco in the middle distance and salt piles beyond

Local habitation

Back down near Malindi we found crabs clinging to the rock - out of the sea bt shaded from the sun in a crevice.

And a bird flew past over the sea

I think this is some plant growing on the rocks, much as it looks like fossils

View down the rocky coastline - it's not all sandy beaches

Our overnight stop is Eden Roc, which transpires to have changed little in years. It's much less developed than the resorts we've stayed at, which makes it quite attractive, but it deserately needs some maintenance. This is a view from the garden that runs to the beach back to the row of suites that some of us are in.

Down on the beach, one to make B jealous.

Looking south to Malindi pier

Good waves here - hard to swim, but great for jumping in and very refreshing

It's a long expanse of beach in a shallow arc, and with the sun low in the west the sand is golden and the waves white.

One of at least 3 pools - I think people swim more in the pools than go to the beach

Millipedes - one getting a piggy-back

Another of the pools

Birds' nests in the palm trees

And one of the occupants

Pretty flowers

And so to the bar, restaurant, back to the bar, and bed...but someone was waiting outsiide my room

4 May 2008

It wasn't just outside the room that there was wildlife - at least this chap was not alive.

Sunday morning - day of rest - but there were plans to have a team meeting first. So we hung around for a while, were told that the meeting would be later, so we popped into town on one of the many 3-wheel taxi that seem to be everywhere here.

We had a stroll up and down the main street market, but Larry couldn't fnd what he wanted so we returned to the hotel. Here we sat at the bar for ages waiting for news of the meeting - nohing happened. I got very familiar with this view across the courtyard!

Eventuallly we decided there wuld be no meeting, so we got another taxi into Malindi town and had lunch at the Baobab restaurant, opposite one of the beaches. As we dined, a herd of gaots went past.

Larry shared his beef with a family of cats.

Just up the road we'd seen an item of historic interest for Laurie (we also saw a rare Defender 130 pickup)

I think even the rehabilitation was a while ago!

We got another taxi to Malindi Marine Park, a world heritage site run by Kenya Wildlife Service. The boats are on their sides because they have glass bottoms to let you see the fish.

It's a nice little beach between rocky outcrops which I think are actually coral rather than rock.

At the southern end of the beach this impressive house looked empty, but it was obviously maintained.

Larry checks out the alternative transport.

There were lots of crabs who either appeared from or disppeared into holes such as these as great speed.

The northern end of the beach.

The coral

Heading south down the beach again, round the piles of seaweed.

One of the elusive crabs.

5 May 2008

After our rest day the time had come to leave Eden Roc

We drove through Malindi town with its markets

Malindi Airport is pretty small

But the aircraft taking us to Lamu looks OK

We'd no longer gone up than we were coming down again towards Lamu

The airport is on Manda Island, not Lamu island, so the first thing was to walk to the pier

Here open boats took us across to Lamu

First stop was the Palace Hotel, but we were going on to Sheli, but we had to wait while they found more fuel for the boats.

The boatd next to where we were waiting

As we headed west towards Shela a man trotted past on a donkey - there are only 2 cars on Lamu (the district commissioner's Defender 110 and an ambulance) and one tuktuk another ambulance) the rest is donkey power (the roads make St Ives' look wide!

There are some smart properties along the seafront.

These are on Manda island, seen from near Shela

If you don't travel by donkey you travel by boat.

Heavy goods delivery

An acacia tree on the hilltop

Looking across to the north coast of the island at Shela

A speedy crossing from Manda

A fisherman's boat - the Swahili means "God will provide"

Coke delivery...

...in convoy

A few of us walked to Lamu village (about 2.5 miles each way). On the way we passed a few boats being built / restored

The campsite entrance

The boats in the setting sun

The island power station - noisy and smelly

By the time we'd had a Tusker the walk back was in complete darkness - an interesting experience, especially when the path went off the coast and through the and hills. Back at our hotel, a little haven.

As we returned the call for prayer sounded out from the mosque next door. Then supper by the poolside, followed by Tusker on the roof - cool and breezy, very quiet - this is the life!

6 May 2008

Another site visiit, this time to Kiunga, so we're off in our boats across to Manda Island and the airport.

It's all rather peaceful, apart from our boats racing around at 45km/h

The power station is still churning out black smoke

You're not allowed to take photos inside airports in Kenya, so this is nearest you get. Security is under a tarpaulin, the departure (and arrival) lounges are simple grass roofs on legs. There was a downpour while we waited and the grass roofs were quite effective - and the airflow allowed by the absence of walls was welcome.

Flying north up the coast - islands and mainland - we passed several remote villages.

The beach stretches as far as the eye can see.

Our transport.

I've read about goat pen made out of thorns - this is one. Th acacia thorns are so big that even the goats don't eat them.

Walking up through the village.

Some the houses are decorated.

The local children bid us farewell - there was a bigger crowd (of all ages) when we arrived/

Flying back, a village on an island

Travelling back from the airport everyone is in high spirits, as we have nearly 24 hours befiore our flight back to Niarobi.

After lunch, a number of us went on an outing to the mainland, passing the hospital on the way (the locals note that the Arabs put investment into their holiday destinations, whilst the euopeans just want to take).

Lamu quayside - with the ambulance.

Mangrove

Boats are the transport for people and goods

Over on the mainland (at a port whose name I can't remember) goods were being loaded and unloaded. Here the Coke empties are being stacked on the quayside.

Petrol etc has to be transhipped from tanker into barrels that can be man (and donkey) handled.

If you come to Lamu by road you end up here - the bus passengers and their goods are loaded onto the boat as we board again for a trip back to Lamu.

We gt the boats to drop as at one end of Lamu village and we walked. Among the many sights to see, this is the Donkey Sanctuary (linked to that in Sidmouth)

Our seafront walk is interrupted by an unusualy high tide.

But in a scrap of land away from the seafront we found this donkey foal.

The local boys could be mistaken for fish, they are so at home in the water.

Our swimming was reserved for the hotel pool.

7 May 2008

I think most of us could get used to the idea of staying here indefinitely. The courtyard hotel is so peaceful - until someone gets up and splashes his way up and down the pool (in betwen trying to help some of the Kenyans learn to swim - although in Lamu they are fishes, in the rest of Kenya they have nothing to swim in)

Then breakfast, starting with a serious plate of local fruit

Ali, who has been cooking our meals, took larry and I into the house next door, the oldest (at about 350 years) in Shela.

Our guide poses on the stairs

Views over the village from the rooftop.

Walls made from (or at least faced with) coral

Larry and I set out on a walk down the beach, and found a boat sailing close to the shore.

We met a couple of the others swimming, and they persuaded us to swim too. Then we walked on down the beach - hardly any one else in sight.

This castle is actually a private house, right on the southern extremity of Lamu Island.

They bring donkeys to the beach to carry sand for building, bt the sand here was not right and they moved firther down round the point.

Near the poiint the sea got deeper less quickly which suited non-swimmer Larry - it looked like you could wade to the sandbank - for me it meant a charge out to deep enough water to swim in. [The side effect of unplanned swimming was unplanned sunburn, as I had only protected the exposed areas :-( ]

Back at the Jannataan Hotel we had lunch provided by Ali, the last of our coastal safari.

We then processed down to the beach, with Ali and the lads from the hotel carryin the luggage, and boarded our boats once more.

Back on manda Island, there was a short walk to the airport - and no shortage of mkokoteni if you didn't want to carry your own bag.

We took off to the north east and turned back over Lamu, passing over Shela...

...and the point where Larry and I swam.

And so, with a refuelling stop in Malindi we returned to Nairobi. And then took as long to drive from the aiport, via Larry's, to my downtown hotel as the flight from the coast had taken!

8 May 2008

Although back in Nairobi, that doesn't mean our trips are over. Today we had a 5a.m. start to fly to Garissa (east of Nairobi, towards the Somali border). The trip out, at 11,500 feet, was above the clouds. At Garissa there was some event - a visit by the Minister for North East Province I think - with TV cameras, 2 fixed wing aircraft and 4 helicopters.

Leaving Garissa we saw ourselves passing a homestead.

The semi desert goes on for miles and miles and miles...

...with occasional clusts of houses.

The new tarmac road from Garissa towards Wajir. We stopped in Wajir to refuel - a smart (but largely deserted) airport (aparently built by the Israelis) which is supposed to be the first landing point for all flights from Somalia.

Flying low over the countryside we saw giraffe, camels, anelope, ostriches - but too quick to get photos.

Beyond these hills is Ethiopia

Moyale is very close to the Ethiopian border. At this time of year, i.e. when it has rained, the countryside is lush and green.

Our route back to Nairobi took us west of Mount Kenya (lost in cloud) and over the tea and coffee plantations of its lower slopes. But it wasn't easy to photograph, so I just looked the view!

9 May 2008

Today we were heading west, to the shores of Lake Victoria. The whole area around Nairobi was blanketed in cloud, but Mount Kenya stood high above the cloud (it's about 17,000 feet I believe; we were at about 12,000 feet).

Suddenly the cloud stopped, as we crossed this steep slope downwards. Is this the edge of the rift valley? I will have to study geography better....

We then passed a semi-active volcano (I was told, but can't remember, the name).

A fairly rugged landscape, with a big lake to our north.

These look like jets of team emerging from the ground - maybe not surprising given proximity to a volcano - but there may be a simpler explanation.

As we headed west, the landscape changed to a patchwork of well-preened fields - not unlike the green fields of home, though the crops may be different.

Not surprisingly, in a land where water is so important, the bigger population / industry cluster next to this river.

From the air you can't tell whether these fields are under water or covered with plastic. Certainly we saw plastic cloches elsewhere.

I guess this big town is the northern edge of Kisumu

Then to our south we saw Lake Victoria

It's big, and has big ships!

To the north and west interesting-looking hills appeared.

Many of the properties looked desirable as we descended.

This one's for Laurie - in the absence of pictures of Land Rovers, here's a road designed for Land Rovers! Actually, this one looks quite smooth...

Coming in to land on the airstrip

As ever, the arrival of an aircraft draws a crowd - who knows where they appear from.

A long drive in two very beaten-up matatu took us to Sio Port on Lake Victoria, many of the group were eager to buy fish.

The main business seems to be the landing of sand, presumably taken off remote beaches, loaded into open boats, paddled back to the port, and shovelled into wheelbarrows, then piled up to dry on the roadside.

The lake obviously holds some pretty massive fish...

...and also some more reasonably-sized specimens - so fresh, they were still alive.

These'll make someone a good dinner - at under 1 each

A scrum formed around the fish laid out on the ground, as fish were selected and prices agreed.

One happy customer!

Me by the lake - the land beyond the lake is Uganda.

The lake provides water for all purposes, including cycle cleaning.

A boat returning to port - I must find out what the big hill in Uganda is.

The bustle of activity at the lake-side

With our taken-for-granted running water, the idea of having to collect water from the lake and carry it home is shocking, but here it's an everyday reality.

The road away from the port, with sand drying in piles.

Driving back to the airstrip we passed through several villages, with shops and stalls, this being fairly typical.

As I said, water is important, and water bowsers are frequently seen, even if they look like they'd not go anywhere, they still work. (A similar vehicle was used to refuel the aircraft at Wajir)

It being early afternoon, lots of children were walking home from school, most in uniform, and many carrying water, and even in bare feet. No mum to pick you up in a Chelsea tractor here (although such a vehicle would be justified out here)

The main crops seem to be bananas and maize

A murky river, reflecting that this is the rainy season, which is why everything is so green.

They must make bricks here - there were several piles of bricks arranged lattice-style to dry, some covered in dry grass to prtect them from the direct heat of the sun.

The airstrip - reasonably smooth

Flying back, we saw more of the north shore of the lake - this village is yet to be identified

Descending over Nairobi, you see the mix of housing, from the slums (bottom left) gradually improving further away.

A typical Nairobi street scene, seen from above.

10 May 2008

Most of the day in the office, or working in the hotel. But guess what I saw below my hotel window!

11 May 2008

Up reasonably early, especially for a Sunday, and walk in the pleasant monring air to the Holy Family Basilica for Mass at 9. This was an English mass, and didn't have the lively atmosphere of the later Swahili mass I attended last year. Unlike last year, the walk to and from the church was uneventful.

Spent while working, then Larry and Mutua came with the car and we went Nairobi Safari Walk, next to the National Park. It's really a zoo, but the animals are in there natural habitat, and you walk through and observe them.

First up, pygmy hippos tucking into carrots and greens.

Mrs Ostrich is looking at you...

A rather shy hyena

The monkeys were all behind wire - the little ones were very playful, but impossible to capture - this one just sat still.

One big tortoise.

Rhino...

...not to be argued with.

There's a forest walk too, with Kenyan trees, although there are imported trees elsewhere.

You really can get close to nature here

The lions are awesome, particularly up close.

The unsociable leopard relaxes high up in the trees.

Did someone mention my name?

If you thought zebras only came in black and white, think again.

Cute little bambi!

The walkway gives good views onto the animals and their habitat.

Mr Ostrich fancies the berries.

Not sure who this is...

Impala

Cheetah - the fastest thing on four legs...

...until it lies down.

Nile crocodile - swimming is not recommended.

An unusual notice!

One for Laurie...

...and another (Mutua tells me it's a 109).

12 May 2008

In the office / meetings on site.

13 May 2008

In the office / meetings on site.

14 May 2008

Today we had a site visit at Isiolo, north-east of nairobi, beyond Mount Kenya. It was an early start, cool and grey. We were in safari buses again, but this time (although the road wasn't bad) it seemed long and uncomfortable. After about 3 hours we stopped at Nanyuki for beakfast at the Mountain Rock Cafe. Nanyuki is just about on the equator, and over 1,000 feet higher than Nairobi.

We slogged on to Iiolo - climbing another 2,000 feet as we skirted Mount Kenya, then hurtling down 5,000 feet into Isiolo.

Site visit complete, we started to retrace our steps. Some very heavily laden bicycles were sen, along with donkey and catttle carts.

Slogging back up the hill you see Mount Kenya iahead, but the cloud was too low today.

The road over the top seemed to go on for ever!

There were strange looking cacti and succulents.

As got higher there were views to be enjoyed.

And hills that look rather like home.

We stopped where there was a sign for hony on sale - and kuku (chickens) in the cage...

but what we actually bought were potatoes, which clearly grow well up here. We had seen potatoes planted an every available space long the verges a little way before.

The trees were covered in birds' nests.

We stopped for lunch at Nanyuki again, this time at the Sportsmans Hotel

Heading back into the southern hemisphere, we passed round Mount Kenya and dropped down to cross the Tana river. Here there were fish on sale...

...and some other local produce, like bananas.

15 May 2008

Various meetings around the city.

16 May 2008

Various meetings around the city, followed by dinner at the Tamarind - Nairobi's best restaurant.

17 May 2008

Today was going to be a work day, but Larry had to go to Thika (where there's a big Land Rover garage) and Martin proposed that we went to climb Logonot, the volcano we flew over last week.

We left Nairobi at 6:15, just as it was getting light and headed out on the road towards Uganda. After a bit of difficulty (the road was closed for road works so we coulldn't reach our junction) we headed for teh KWS lodge at Logonot National Park. As we approached I noticed the signal on the railway was at "go" - then a train appeared!

This is the line from the coast to Uganda and beyond, the old East African Railway.

We went on to the gate and paid the entry charge. They had a collection of skulls - I think this was a buffalo.

We then headed up the track, our objective ahead.

Most of the trees were these thorn trees with fruit wrapped around the thorns.

We saw some zebras and antelope, then looked to our right to see this handsome chap.

A stiff climb followed - almost 2,000 feet of it, on very dusty ground.

When we reached the rim, the view over the crater rewarded our efforts.

We walked anti-clockwise around the rim. Looking north we saw the satellite crater (a satellite to the main crater, not where a satellite crashed!) and Lake Naishava beyond. The white bits before the lake are greenhouses where they grow flower for export.

Looking into the crater there were jets of steam, showing some level of underground activity.

The rim looks impressive

Looking west there were some strange shaped hills.

When the path turned from dust to volcanic clinker I thought of Ethel, and walked carefully.

We climbed towards the highest point on the rim - a bit hairy, with steep drops, and some quite tricky paths to climb.

From the top we saw this creature looking at u from the next hill.

We had to prove we were on top of the world.

Working round the rim, the cliff wall had interesting gouges in it.

Desending towards the lower part of the rim.

Interesting hills outside the volcano - presumably ancient lava flows.

Nearly back to where we started.

We saw no-one at all until nearly back to the access path, then we saw LOTS of people, and more as we descended. We were glad we'd made an early start.

The KWS centre from the rim.

A rather exotic looking flower

At the bottom we enjoyed a cool soda and Dairy Milk chocolate, changed out of dusty clothes, and headed back towards Nairobi. But we'd only gone a few yards when we met oncoming traffic.

As we climbed up the side of the rift valley (a LONG drag) we stopped at this little Catholic church, built by Italian prisoners of war in 1942.

And so back to Nairobi, a shopping trip to the Maasai Market (an interesting experience, but Kimathia thought I got a good price), a shower, packing, and Kimathia picked me up and took me to the airport.

...And as we arrived at the airport, Larry rang to say "you didn't see my Land Rover" - he'd not got my phone message to say I was around. So Kenya Defender trips will have to wait until next time.

31 May 2008

Well, I've been back in Kenya a week but the camera hasn't been out of the room safe - all work, no excursions. Anyway, today Jack and his wife too me on an outing for my last day before heading home. We lunched in the garden of a Japanese restaurant on Lantana Road before going to the Blixen House, where Karen Blixen (of Out Of Africa fame) lived. It's an interesting visit, with much original furniture restored to the house, but you can't take pictures inside.

From the Blixen House, which is in Karen, we went to the giraffe centre in neighbouring Langata. here you can get up close to these wonderful creatures...

...real close.

This is just the start

Now it's my turn...

...now my hands are REALLY slimey!

They share their enclosure with warthogs.

This is the home of the family who started the centre.

Gimme!

More!

Jack feeds the baby

We then returned to Karen and had tea at the Swedo house, where the Blixens lived while their house was being built. This isn't the Swedo house, which isn't very photogenic, but a house built in 1905 which was moved here from downtown in 2007.