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Visiting Kenya

So I visited Kenya for a week. My visit was less of a holiday and more for personal reasons and that figured in the way I spent the seven days in Kenya.

I left Goa on December 26 in the evening and reached Nairobi at 10 am the next morning. The journey from Mumbai is approximately 6.5 hours. I stayed the night in Mumbai airport. I landed at the Jomo Kenyatta Airport in the capital and what struck me was the lack of traffic. In fact the airport and the roads were almost deserted

I was told that most establishments are closed for the holidays from 20 December to 6 Jan approximately. Most people go to their villages and native places. The tidbit is that when they go home, they carry stuff for a new house. Tiles, and such. A person should have built his own house before he gets married.

Things to know before visiting Kenya

1. Apply for a evisa through the government website: http://evisa.go.ke/evisa.html
The cost of a evisa is approximately rs 4500. The visa takes a month. You will also need a letter of invitation. Visas are also available on arrival but I didn’t want to be waiting in the queue for that and the chances of being hassled exist.

2. Yellow fever vaccine and oral polio vaccine are a must. These have to be taken from the urban health center, one month prior to leaving for Africa. You will get a booklet from the urban health center as proof of the same

3. The currency is Kenyan Shilling. 1 dollar = 100 ksh
However dollars work fine too.

My friend picked me at the airport and we went to the Nairobi National Park. However, a Safari would take time and we didn’t do a safari. We went to the Nairobi Animal Orphanage which is inside the National Park.

The animal orphanage, like the name says, houses animals that have been abandoned by their parents. They come from all parts of the country. Some of them are rehabilitated in the national parks, where as others seem to have been there for a long time. It’s quite sad to see them in constricted enclosures.

From here we went to Don Bosco YES. That’s the place we would be staying for two days. This is a retreat/conference place which is run by the Salesian fathers. A room and three meals cost $ 25 per day per person.

It’s a beautiful place situated in Karen, a suburb named after Karen Blixen on whose farm the suburb stands. Karen Blixon has written one of the classic books where she describes her experience in Kenya. The book is also made into a movie by the same name Out of Africa. Though the book paints a rustic picture of Nairobi, I can vouch that the Nairobi of today is very suave. There are shopping centres and offices. One of the popular shopping centre is the French chain Carrefour. Kenya has one of the fastest-growing economies in Africa. Karen also has a lot of expats settled in lovely houses.

The priests belong to various nationalities and were very hospitable. During our stay there, we were treated to an Ethiopian fare of a fermented bread called Injera and chicken in chille sauce. Unfortunately, no pictures of the food but these are some pics of the Don Bosco YES campus.

 

The next day in the morning, we set off for the elephant orphanage run and managed by the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.

More about that here: https://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org/about/mission-history

The place is a swath of land with the Sheldrick house also located on the border of the property.

The time to visit is from 11 am to around 12.30 – 1 pm

At 11 am the elephants come from the hills of the property for their feed. The handlers bring in a wheelbarrow with large feeding bottles. It’s extremely cute and heart-warming to watch the elephants feed from the bottles. One of the handlers announces the arrival of each elephant by name and tells about the history of the elephant, how it was abandoned – mother died of natural causes or because of poaching. The elephants come to feed in two groups. First the younger ones. They are playful and they feed in an enclosure of rope. The tourists stand along the rope. Instructions about how not the provoke the elephants are said through a loudspeaker.

When the young ones have finished, the older group comes in. There were about 26 in all. All of them will be rehabilitated. There is provision to adopt an elephant and you will be personally informed about the progress of the adopted elephant.

The elephant orphanage was about 20 km from Don Bosco YES. We went back to Don Bosco YES for lunch and relaxed a bit. The weather is very nice in Nairobi. It’s cool especially in the evenings, the temps are like 16 to 20•C

I didn’t require warm clothes – I loved the weather but people do wear a windcheater in the evenings.

In the evening we visited the giraffe center.

The giraffe manor – a boutique hotel – is next door and is very famous for the giraffes in the property that peep into windows. The giraffe center is a not for profit organization whose objective is to educate and conserve through the entry ticket sales and tea shop sales. We saw 4 Rothschild giraffes. They have a vast field to be in but they come at the border of the enclosure to be fed by tourists.

When you enter, you’re given a bowl of pellets to feed the giraffes

a little wary of the drool… Otherwise, the giraffe was adorable

It was a wonderful experience to have a giraffe in my face, literally.

We then visited a bead factory called Kazuri Beads. They are hand made and hand painted ceramic beads. I bought three sets of earrings as a souvenir from the bead place

Sunday morning, after breakfast, we set off for Kisumu. It’s one of the counties of Kenya, and is situated on Lake Victoria. The largest lake in Africa. It lies between Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. The comfortable mode of transport is to have your own private vehicle, although there are buses but I wasn’t sure about the safety. We drove to Kisumu which is 351 km from Nairobi. There is a small airport in Nairobi with small aircraft and flights which take you to the other counties. But with driving, I got to see Kenya and its beauty in a way that wasn’t possible otherwise

Kenya’s beauty is breathtaking. It has so much greenery and wildlife, it’s hard not to fall in love. That, and many parts feel like you have stepped back in time and into beauty. Life is slower, you pay more attention to the environment and the people. Ah, I can still taste that green air.

We drove through Nakuru on Sunday. Nakuru is known for its pink flamingos on Nakuru lake. But that’s for my next trip as are
1. The national museum in Nairobi
2. Mount Kenya
3. Mombasa, the coastal land

Nakuru county is in the great rift valley. The 351 kilometres was like driving through and around the rift valley. We could see it out of our windows when we were at a height and the rift valley in its vastness is something I can never forget. It’s like staring into the start of history, civilization, something so magnanimous and so much bigger than my little self.

Driving from Nairobi to Nakuru. The great Kenyan Rift Valley to my left

We were headed to Eldoret for the night. On the way we saw these zebras grazing. Just like that.

FYI
The East African Rift Valley System is the most extensive rifts on the earth’s surface. It runs from Jordan through East Africa to Moçambique a total of 6400 km.
It has produced Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya. Kenya’s Rift Valley produces some of the world’s best runners and we were headed to the very place where the runners come from and where they train – Eldoret.

While going to Eldoret we passed Iten – the city of champions, located 7000 ft above sea level. My friend says that because it’s so high, the people are born with bigger lungs and thus they turn out to be good runners with training.

There are a lot of Indians settled in Kenya. Many businesses are owned by them. We spent the night at a club owned by an Indian. The name of the club – the Sikh Union.

Rift valley and all the greens

Eldoret to Kisumu… The tea plantations

As we descend into the plains, tea gives way to sugarcane.

At the premises of the Vic Hotel.

Kisumu, at a place called milliami on Lake Victoria

 



Kisumu, Dunga hill camp on Lake Victoria

The following day we set for for the final leg to reach Kisumu.

Kenya is known for its tea and there are several big and small tea estates along the way. The most famous is the Kericho Tea estate located in the highlands of Kericho county. It houses the Kericho Tea hotel which is a colonial hotel with 100 acres of tea.We passed the tea plantations and as we descended to the plains where Kisumu is located, the weather got hotter and tea gave way to sugarcane.

In Kisumu I stayed at The Vic. The hotel along with its pub and two restaurants are run by Raaj Durbar and his brother. The hospitality and service was impeccable. The pub/bar known as De Bar is managed by Dean Martins, a Goan origin Kenyan (family origins in Chinchinim). I met two other Goan Kenyans, Rudolph who is on the staff at The Vic and professor Anthony (origins in Betim)

I was in Kisumu for 3 days. Kisumu is a quaint county and had several Goan families, however none remain – they have migrated to the UK. The best part of Kisumu is the lake. The popular viewing points are Dunga hill and Hippo point. One thing to have is the white wine from the Kenyan Rift Valley – Leleshwa wine

More Kenyan scenery… Inclusive some rift valley



Sunset on 30 December, Lake Victoria. We were reading about the coronavirus outbreak around this time in China… It seemed so far off.

And that was the end of my Kenya holiday.

 


Joyce Dias

shared her Kenyan Holiday on the Let’s Travel whatsapp group on 25th June 2020.
Let’s Travel is a whatsapp group created by travel enthusiasts to share their travel stories and memories.
Its an open group, to join click the link: https://chat.whatsapp.com/ITeMEV5DQkr8SiPP7Wak5R

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