ravings, rantings and ramblings
I downed my coffee and rushed towards the Hilton reception. Wifey was changing cash.
We were greeted by this rotund, shiny man called Benjamin and his lady boss, who came by to greet us. Jambo! We jumped into the Toyota van that would later serve as our game park vehicle. Miriam, the boss, explained the itinerary (also mailed to us the day earlier) and got dropped in the city. Benjamin spoke then. He had a raspy, big voice which he ‘threw‘ like most other Kenyans did. We were to drive approximately 160 kilometres to this place called Nakuru that has a large salt-water lake and a game reserve called Nakuru National Park. My head was fixed on the sights that rushed us past as I heard our guide. Benjamin was like the perfect radio… just the right amount of information given and spoke when spoken to (when the scenery outside was drab – which was rarely).
I was marvelling the shades of green. Dark. Shiny. Juicy and leafy. The colour of earth reminded me of an ethnic clothes label called Red Earth. I was marvelling the unending corn fields, the houses with every wall coloured differently. People walked briskly. The youth – largely unemployed – sat just about anywhere. Others sat by restaurant and grills, eating. Kenyans eat early, Benjamin informed us. You bet! 1130 hours was early for lunch. I was enjoying the landscapes with the ‘Akhenaten‘ type of heads. Old men were rather well dressed. Shopkeepers to shepherds were dressed well. In fact, one gentleman was walking his goats in the field in a sharp gray suit!
Benjamin explained about a road that we took, that the Italians had built during World War II. It ended with a small chapel down the road. The tree-lined road went rushing by outside my half-opened windows. The skies were overcast, with intermittent sunshine. We were hoping that it wouldn’t rain as that would put a spanner in our gaming works. No safaris allowed in the rains. So the sunshine was welcome. The weather was rather cool and it was a pleasure to sit in a speeding van with the windows half-open. I had my camera in my right hand, clicking away here and there. And then, suddenly, the vistas opened up a 160 degrees.
It is difficult to explain what we saw. Almost as if the ground vanished , and this rift just opened up, neatly dividing Kenya into two. In front, as far as my eyes could run, literally, sat the earth in a huge depression. This was the Great Rift Valley. We stopped at a tea stall. The rift valley was a result of tectonic movement millions of years back and runs from Israel, all the way to Mozambique. Breathtaking. Primal beauty. We could see the rift as it were, now covered with foliage of all sorts. As a result of this geographic phenomenon, Kenya has many lakes and volcanic mountains, some extinct, a few dormant. I dont remember how long we stood there, soaking in the beauty of it all. All this aside, something that broke this spell was the number of Indians in Kenya. Residents and tourists alike. I had to look at Benjamin and the tea stall guys to remind myself that this was Kenya and not some hill station in India.
We drove on. Followed the road. Clicking photos. Benjamin sprinkled the drive with information and things to see. Nurseries. Schools. Clinics. Butcheries. Farms. National Parks. And imagine all of this in a background of pristine blue and freshest hues of green. Nature had truly blessed Kenya. We sped past Lake Naivasha and two nature reserves. After sometime, Lake Elementaita. This fresh water lake is diminishing due to forests being cut down and rivers changing course. We drove on.
There was a time when spotting cattle on Indian roads was commonplace, as are spotting camels as you drive in the UAE. Here, Benjamin asked us to look left and there were zebras! Yes, zebras!!! They were fenced out so that they could not bolt across the highway. I felt happy. I like wildlife. Always did. Almost 2 and half hours later we entered the sleepy town of Nakuru.
Oh those villas! Huge villas with a barbed wire fence or concrete walls to keep the desperate out. It was funny that one had to be more careful of humans there than animals. Well, we shall talk about economy and the impact on indigenous Kenyans later.
Now we were about to enter Nakuru National Park. We drove past houses with various themes painted on the walls – from zebras to Kenyan sportsmen. The green cover increased. A signboard announced the starting point of the national park. We stopped. Benjamin went in to get the tickets. I noticed an entire heard of African buffaloes walking along the banks of the lake. Trained my lens on them. Benjamin emerged from the office and jacked up the roof of the Toyota so that we could stand and look at the animals. That done, we slowly entered through the gates and we were in wild Africa.