Tag Archives: Nakuru

Roughing It In Africa

Our first two weeks in Kenya have been tough. Food is scarce, and we spend much of our time scavenging. Local food is barely palatable, and Western food is rare, even in the cities. Accomodations are basic, cramped, and noisy. We are keenly aware of the need to protect our valuables, and end up carrying most of our belongings everywhere. By the time we find food and a safe place to stay, we’re typically exhausted. NOT!

In fact, to-date, Kenya has been just the opposite. The time we’ve spend with Norma and Wayne has been rather luxurious.

When Patrick left for a quick side trip to Tanzania, Diane promptly spend all day at the spa with Norma. After her manicure, pedicure, facial, hour long full body massage, and hair wash with scalp massage, she was barely able to face another day.

In Kisumu, Diane had her hair coloured at a salon specializing in Asian and Western hair, which will allow her to face the next six weeks.

On Norma’s birthday, we went swimming at the Panari Hotel pool, followed by a light lunch in the café. Later that day, for dinner, we went to the Mediterranean restaurant, a terrific Italian restaurant in Nairobi.

We spent 2 days at the Lion Hill Lodge in Nakura National Park. We stayed in individual chalets, with floor to ceiling mosquito nets around king sized beds — very romantic.

Elaborate buffet meals are served three times a day, including fresh fruit juices like passion and mango, fresh baked breads, and several varieties of grilled meat. So much for our ‘African diet’. Tea is served every afternoon, and before dinner there is a performance of traditional African dancing and drumming.

Rondo Retreat in the Kakamega Forest Reserve is set in a beautiful park-like setting in the middle of a tropical rain forest. The grounds are ornamented with trees and flowers, cared for by a staff of gardeners. Birds sing constantly from the forest, and Blue and Colubus monkeys visit every afternoon around tea time. At sunset, the crickets and frogs sing in a riotous chorus. Lunch, tea, and supper are served at 1PM, 4PM, and 7PM respectively, in the British style.

Other than these hardships, things have been manageable in Kenya.

Don’t Mess with the Mizungu

We stopped in the town of Nakuru the other day, on our drive to Lake Nakuru National Park. Norma and Wayne wanted to purchase some roadside reflectors, a first aid kit, and a flashlight, as these are required items in a private automobile in Kenya. The fine for not having them is apparently 5000 Kenyan Shillings (KSh), at least that is what the handsome, young, smiling policeman told them, before he extracted a bribe of 3000 KSh (about $50 Canadian) to avoid an all day court appearance. This was the policeman’s lucky day, as Wayne, who isn’t a Kenyan resident, was driving. An International Driving Permit is a giveaway that the white guy (‘mizungu’ in Swahili) is a tourist, and therefore eligible for the maximum fleecing. We went through five police checks on the way out of Nairobi, each enforced with spike belts laid across the highway, but luckily only got stopped at one. The police use these to augment their salaries.

Upon our arrival in Nukuru, Wayne went to the store, Norma stayed to watch the car, and we walked down the main street to find a bank machine. We were walking side-by-side on the busy sidewalk, when a young man coming from the opposite direction collided briefly with Patrick. Patrick felt the telltale pressure on his shirt pocket, and reacted immediately.

He let out a loud yell, spun around, and set out after the man who was running. He didn’t get far. Patrick grabbed him at the corner, spun him around, and threw him up against a wall. The man raised both hands into the air, feigning innocence. Holding him with one hand, only then did Patrick check to see if anything was missing from his pockets. The only thing in his shirt pocket, which was unbuttoned but shouldn’t have been, was the only thing that should have been there, a pair of glasses. He also checked the pockets of his shorts, and nothing seemed to be amiss.

A quick decision was required — what to do with the man? He had clearly tried to steal by pick pocketing, but he wasn’t successful, so there was no evidence to speak of. Holding him for the police seemed fruitless. Patrick briefly considered public embarrassment – dragging him out into the street to let the growing crowd know exactly what he had done. He decided against this though, which was wise, because vigilante justice is not uncommon in Kenya, and there was a small but real possibility that the crowd might take his punishment into their own hands right then and there. In the end, he pushed the man away, and returned to Diane, who was shaken up and still standing on the sidewalk.

Afterwards, Diane told Patrick that there was a second man also, who walked up from behind to split the two of us apart and leaned into Patrick to make it difficult for him to avoid the front man, and perhaps to try for his back or side pockets simultaneously. He had run away in the other direction from Patrick and the first guy, leaving Diane standing startled on the busy sidewalk. Luckily, everything turned out in the end, and we continued on to the bank machine with hearts racing.