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|30th April 2007, 10:41||#1|
Senior - BHPian
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: Palakkad, Keral
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Here's a different kind of travelogue...........
A little background here: I reached Nairobi on 15th April, from Mumbai. Had official work, I had to train the Kenyan Team, 11 ppl, from 15th to 21st and was free from 0200 PM on. Have a team of 4 Indians running the show there. The Nairobi town is a keledoscope of Asians, natives and whites. This is SUV counry, you name them … RAV 4, Vitara, Prados, Terios, Pajero, Terracans, X trails, CRV’s and what have you………. never seen so many SUV’s concentrated in one place before!!!!!!!!! This is Toyota country too, almost 60% cars I saw were Toyotas!!!
My weekend trip was with 2 Indian families, 10 of us, to the freshwater Naivashi lake. The name arises from Naiposha or “rough water” because of the sudden storms there, alt. 6180 fts., surface area 140 kms, 64 sq. kms of this swamps, average depth 20 ft and deepest point about 100 fts. I had only 24 hours to spare and opted for this spot; rather than the world famous Masai Mara Game trails; that would need 2 full days. Started off from Nairobi in 2 cars, me in Hiren’s car, a Toyota Corola (1500 cc) following Himanshu’s car, a Toyota Camry (1800 cc), both shiftless petrol.
We were headed for the campsite Crayfish at Lake Naivashi, 110 KM away and needed to reach there before nightfall; April / May is rainy season, it can get pretty dark by 6 PM, lots of wild, desolate countryside in-between. Even Rambo wouldn’t want to be lost after 6/7 PM on a dark rainy day anywhere in Kenya, he could easily get ripped.
We gas up 6 kms out of town, petrol is 60 KSH (Korean Shillings), 36 INR / ltr. The roads are 4 track with a solid 4 feet tall concrete wall dividing it for 30 /40 KM’s. The surface average, pitted on the left extremes surfaces which are wavy in most places, 20-30 wheel monster trucks and all cars tend to drive towards the right, near to the dividers.
Overtaking thro the left /right is no problems, more like India, but most of them use the right/left indicators to great effect, when the turn indicators are on, people patiently give way and wait for side. The traffic density is light; they don’t crowd you, give you enough space to move, no road-rage and no blaring horns on your tail !!!! There is a relaxed road discipline, respect for giving space visible, live and let live undertone shining throughout our drive. Though average speeds are about 80-100 things feel pretty safe. The amazing thing about the whole place was NOBODY USES THE HORN !!!!!! For 220 KMS I did not hear a single horn on the highway or any place, that was surreal, alien; I’ve heard of this, you’ve got to experience it to believe it !!!!
We cover 60 kms, the country side is wide, undulating, sparsely populated, only 30 million for a country half the size of India, lush green and beautiful. The temp is 20, year round average temp in Kenya is between 21 to 26… may the Lord be praised. Came across 3 police check posts. They police are notorious, they need money and break no bones asking for it; Indians usually say, we’ll give you next time rather than I don’t want to give. A female cop came close to my face and asked me in broken English, do you have soda on your dash, it’s a hot day. Told her nada and smiled widely.. she smiled back and waved us off. The Camry we were following got fined (taken) 500 KHS for not having the seat belts on for the passengers behind, its compulsory for everyone to be strapped on and speeds limits are sacrosanct., at least for the radar wielding police. If the police catch you, they fleece you; punishment is the amount of moola you fork out, nothing official about it. We headed up hill, long winding roads, well marked and wide. We came to the view point of the rift valley, its about 7700 ft above msl, high velocity winds, the temp drops to 8; had to put on my jackets with the hoods up and hold on to my Sony HS1 tightly.
his rift valley itself is a story…… it’s a giant crack on the earth’s crust, starting from Lebanon to Mozambique, 6000 KMS long, about 45-100 km wide; divides Kenya into 2 parts, full of volcanic hot springs.. .. one can go on and on about the rift valley, but ………. you’d find tons of stuff about the rift on the web.
Spend 15 mts soaking up the valley view and clicking, its getting dark, we must hurry on, roads go up and down the hill, 30 km yonder we can see an extinct volcano clearly on the left side and lake Naivashi gleaming another 20 kms in the distance. I want to drive here on, my friends warn me its like the death-wish without an international driving license; if the police catch you…… its anybody’s guess. Moreover I need to get used to the shiftless, we need to hurry on; I grudgingly allow Hiren to drive, we switch off the A/C, the Corolla is struggling to catch up with the Camry up the hill and the need to gobble distance before dark is pressing. Hiren console me and tell me getting an international license is pretty easy, better luck next time. Later he allows me a test drive inside the housing compound, away from prying eyes !!!!!!
come to the turn off point to the Hells Gate National Park, Crayfish should be 10-15 kms up ahead. Road narrows, goes thro populated village, people and life chocking the road, counted 10 bumps within 3 KMS and ……….. wide open country once again. I can see the lake on to my right and curving dead ahead below the mountain. On both sides are huge green-houses, flower farms, booming rose flower farming is pretty profitable, exported all over, the Europeans make yodels of money on flower -farming. Now floriculture is the main lively hood for the locals here and hence they respect look to the whites. We come to the turn off point to creyfish and drive down to the parking lot. Its 7 pm and very dark, the lighted parking lot full of all kinds of SUV’s. Some interesting facts about cars here.
Most cars are refurbished, imported from Europe, Asia, Singapore, Japan etc., pretty cheap compared to India. A Camry – 7 Lakhs INR, Corolla 5 L, X-trail – 12 L, CRV – 6 L (yes 6 L, Honda is not a big thing there), Pajero 13, Prado- 15, Good condition Mercs from 12-18 L, Land cruiser about 25 L etc. Tried my hand on a couple of used ones at a dealer there, they are all in good condition and would run for 3-4 years there, may be 6-7 years in India; wondering how to import one of these. Ate my heart out……..
We settled down in two rooms and 4 tents. Crayfish is a great campsite, lush green all around with tall canopied trees standing straight. You can cook your own food, play music loudly, join the disco, (starts from 10 PM to 0300AM) lay on the grass or do a combination of things. We uncorked the spirits, cooked tasty dal vada, had roti + subji, and lit camp fire. Started Anthakshari, went on till 2 AM, and then called it a day. Around 3 AM we could hear the blacks coming back to their tents and rooms all around us, most of them pitch drunk or crawling back. They were pretty friendly people and are relatively safe; the further you go away from Nairobi, the better the country folks. Reportedly, the young camping crowds are very safe, usually rich, out for a good time, they join into the fun and are pretty outgoing.
7 AM, April, 22nd, Sunday, 2007
Somebody woke me up to a bright sunny day. I vaguely remember all kinds of bird sounds early in the morning or was it night !!!! I take a stroll and start clicking away with the camera; the variety of birds are huge, birds of all colors and shapes, there was an hornito feast out there !!!! Even the crows are big and different.
Take a hot shower and was ready for steamy breakfast; we have toast, jam, honey and wafers. Later we walk down towards the lake to see the hippos, we counted 15 heads in the water and some more in the distance; they say there is a big hippo population in the lake. If we can be silent and still, the hippos come close to the shore, you can take pretty good photos. Spend an hour near the water, boating not possible because of the hippos; the kids were pretty disappointed. We walk back to the rooms, Crayfish is a sprawling campsite, people lazing all over the place, most of them man-woman pairs sipping beer, cacophony of music spewing out from cars with all their door ajar. A nice Woodstock mood all around. Contrary to what I heard and what people told me in India, I did not see any necking couples or obscene positions; the reports looks more like imagination running wild !!!!!!
We play foot ball with the kids and lie down under the trees listening to music. The ladies are making Kichadi and we chip in with cutting vegetables and cleaning the plates. The rice cookers are whistling soon and piping lunch ready on the plates. We sit down relaxed for lunch; in about 20 minutes, there’s crackling thunder on the eastern sky, looming clouds raise their heads and move, it’s the rainy season here, we need to hurry and move the beds, mobile kitchen and all run for cover. It starts to drizzle and the rain pick up in temp in no time, we’re watching and waiting for it to ebb from the rooms.
I start getting worried, need to report at Nairobi airport around 6, this rain could turn out to be a problem. My friends tell me not to worry, the rain will stop, the ground will soak up all the water, there would be no traffic blocks, we will be home by 5.
0230 PM: Its drizzling a little, we had to load all luggage into the Camry and were blocking the driveway. There was a Prado behind with a young man and a woman in the car, waiting patiently for us to finish. We gesture to him sorry, we’ll be on our way in a couple of minutes; he smiles and waves back. He must have waited all of 7-10 minutes; my BP was going up, I was expecting him to touch his horn or revv us; lo and behold….. this is AKUNA MATATA country !!!!! “Akuna Matata” aka don’t worry, made famous from “The Lion King” originated from here; the Kenyans have made it into a national institution. We start back and soon hit the highway. Most people on the roadside are dressed well, its Sunday and church time, Christian population is about 50-60 %. Traffic is thin, we’re making good time. I sit in front and watch all those muddy SUVs roll by.
The expanse of the country slowly dawns to you, conifer trees, you can see water glimmering in distance everywhere; green, green and green where ever you look. The locals like to wear the red, blue and anything bright; sets off the skin color to advantage, men folk are lying on road side on the pastures you can see flashing by and in front of the road side shops they have set up for passing trade. My friends say, men folk in villages, just don’t do anything, relax most of the time or do some menial jobs for 3-4 hours, Akuna Matata is the way to to. There are happy and healthy looking zebras grazing in some patches, we stop to shoot some pictures. There are 3 FM stations with Hindi Music on 24 hors; I just relax and watch the country roll by. We hit Nairobi around 5 PM in time for me to rush to the airport.
The 10 KM drive to the airport took 30 mts, Nairobi is relatively empty due to the holiday; we hit the police check post, they frisk the car, occupants and go thro the documents / tickets carefully before they let us in. There were 6 families at the airport to see me off; pretty strange and awkward for me, never had so many families seeing me off, even from India. I learn that women and children wait for a chance to get out of the house, they don’t dare to go out alone any time, specially after 0600 PM without men folk to escort them; my going was a change for all the 6 families for a fellow ship at the airport !!!! For me , It was a great short 220 KM road trip and something to remember for years to come.
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Mod's note: Phew!! Please do not use those fancy fonts/colours/sizes to high light your write up. It's really difficult to read.
Last edited by Samurai : 30th April 2007 at 20:21. Reason: Expanding the photos
|30th April 2007, 11:34||#4|
Senior - BHPian
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: Palakkad, Keral
Thanked: 368 Times
Thanks for debugging
I'd written the story into the outlook shell and just copy pasted it into the BHP shell, don't know what happened? I had used ordinary fonts, colours and only bolded some portions. Had difficulty in managing the image shack links. Thanks for debugging it.
|30th April 2007, 13:14||#5|
Join Date: Mar 2004
Thanked: 4,284 Times
Gee, thanks Rudra for debugging that.
My family and I were planning to go in May but were advised that though May is low season and hence cheaper, October is better as it does not rain (May is very wet) and the grass is not that high (game is easier to see).
|30th April 2007, 14:59||#6|
Distinguished - BHPian
Join Date: Sep 2006
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That was a wonderful narration and the pictures to support them was really beautiful. It's there on my calender to do this kind of a trip. But, dont know when it will happen.
|30th April 2007, 15:43||#7|
Join Date: Nov 2005
Thanked: 8 Times
Excellent write up!!
|30th April 2007, 16:19||#8|
Senior - BHPian
Join Date: Nov 2006
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Ramky, that was a great account!
Well, except for India, most of the world follows civilised codes of driving behavious - no honking, giving way, following rules, respecting pedestrians, etc.
I spent 12 days in Europe 10 days ago and I visited Belgium, Germany, Scandinavia and Austria - I did not hear a single horn even once, cars stick to their lanes, all wait for pedestrians to cross on the zebras, none break a Q or line even in the worst of traffic jams and no one was seen to be breaking any rules.
It is pretty easy to take a IDP, especially if you are a member of a AA - I am a member of the WIAA and they wrote out a IDP in 2 days - merely on producing my passport and driving license. Only care to be taken is that the address in Driving License and Passport have to be the same, although minor differences (such as shifting within the same locality) will be excused.
Relieved to see that Kenyan Police are Indian-like.
Last edited by Samurai : 30th April 2007 at 20:09. Reason: broken stuff!
|30th April 2007, 17:36||#9|
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: San Jose, CA
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|30th April 2007, 23:19||#12|
Join Date: May 2006
Location: Avon, CT
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Great writeup Ramky! Almost like reading a hybrid version of the Journey To The Ends Of The Earth and Welcome To Africa . Beautiful pics from the cradle of life.
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