This morning we awoke in our very chilly tent at Fisherman’s camp. We had decided today was going to be a nice lazy day to gain our energy back and just have some time relaxing as it was needed once again. We started off having a leisurely breakfast in the restaurant and watching the sun makes its way through the tall and numerous yellow acacia trees. Then we went for a walk along the shore line and through the acacia trees taking in their size and beauty. We had been warned about cracking branches and not to be in a tent under a tree as they’re getting up there in age and the branches will fall at any time and kill you. We looked around a lot to make sure nothing fell on us.
After unsuccessfully finding any hippos, in water or on the shore, we discovered instead some colobus monkeys in an acacia tree next to the restaurant. Conveniently there was a platform attached to the bottom of the tree with a tray in it. These monkeys apparently get fed on a regular basis with kitchen scraps from the restaurant. Lindsay and I grabbed a seat on a picnic table, which we carried over to the tree, and watched for the next 30 minutes or so as the monkeys made their way down the tree. A nice surprise was that one of them was a mother with a little baby. They’re not the most attractive monkeys and the baby kind of looked spooky, but he/she was a very active little guy. He would continually climb up the little chain holding the platform to the tree, turn around in the nook of the tree, and then jump through the air onto his mother. He repeated this for 15 minutes and was cute every time, even more so when he wiped out. He was quite fearless, shown by the fact that when the monkeys left and headed up into the high branches he kept doing his jumping act from 60 feet up in a tree.
Finishing up with our monkey watching we headed in for lunch and chatted with a nice British woman and her “boyfriend”. He was a rather bitter expat from Britain who has been in Kenya for the last 20 years and has some very strong opinions on Kenya and its people. Not the nicest fellow towards the locals but he had 20 years of great safari stories from running safaris. Lots of getting trapped in tents by lions, or having an entire old school safari tent collapse on you because an elephant walked by and took down all the ropes holding it up without even noticing. The food for lunch was again just okay and overpriced, as everything in Kenya is, but filled us up for the afternoon.
We relaxed for a while in the tent and among the grounds. We also did some shopping amongst the vendors who have semi-permanent “stalls” (ground space on a tarp), set up just up the hill from the main building. We were every vendor’s best friend for a few minutes as we walked between them all. A few vendors in we found some handmade cards we liked so we bought a few of them for a decent price and a Kikoy (a colourful blanket used as a dress by the women here) for Lindsay. We’re planting on using the kikoy to help keep us warm tonight.
All shopped out I convinced Lindsay to go for a walk with me out down along the road. So we headed back up the entrance of the camp, then turned right and headed down the road. There was not a whole lot to see, mostly arid landscape that was extremely dusty. Periodically you could glimpse the lake over the trees but mostly you were just able to see the locals also out walking or the matatus going by. We probably walked a kilometre or so and decided to turn around once we made it to a bridge. On the way back we passed what looked like a village of sorts. There was a gate, but it was wide open and it seemed fairly inviting to we headed up the path. After a little ways we came to a small school which had a bunch of children playing in the playground. We stopped to chat with one of the adults and asked him about where we were and if it was all right for us to walk around their village and see what was there. He said no problem so we kept going. By this time the kids had noticed us and we now had a parade of little Africans following us up the path. We decided to turn around and talk with them. We got a chorus of “How are You?, How are you?” in the typical sing song voice that all the African children here know. A few of the older children had much better English and we were able to find out some of their names and ask them small questions and they in turn asked us a few questions. At this point I took out my camera and took a picture of the smiley little parade. Then I turned the camera around to show them the picture. Perhaps I won’t do that again. About 14 dirty, dusty, little hands reached up to try and pull the camera towards themselves so they could see a picture of what they looked like. After showing a few children I pulled the camera back and turned it around to see it covered in dirt, dust and little fingerprints. It was cute, but I’ll hold onto the camera next time. We do have some great pictures though.
As we continued up the path the parade of children came along with us. Some were very interested and as we stopped to talk to some locals they would come and hold our hands and pet our arms. My arms in particular were apparently quite interesting to pet as they’re covered in hair, which is not typical of the Africans we’ve seen on this trip. It was rather odd to be surrounded by children and to be getting petted on all sides. They were all quite adorable and after a while a few kids stood out as the most interested and most brave of the group. Even when the crowd of kids dwindled later the few brave kids stuck around to walk us out.
As we neared the top of the village path we met a security guard of all people. In talking with him we discovered that we were in a village that is set up by the owners of the local farming fields. All the people in the village work for them and in return they get quite decent lodging, and schools, and some other good everyday things. We also discovered it is a private village and the field owners don’t really like people, (I’m assuming white people), coming into their set up “villages”. Apparently our welcome had now been worn out. The security guard was nice about the whole thing and we explained we had no idea when we came in. So we headed back down the path a few children still in tow until we made it back to the main gate. This time the gate was actually closed and we stepped through the gate door. We were both glad it had been open earlier so that we could have the great experience meeting all of the local kids.
Now back at our tent, in camp, we went to clean up a bit and get a drink. While having a drink we watched some folks return on bikes from their day at Hells Gate NP, so we decided that it was probably time for us to reserve ourselves some bicycles. The bike rental guys at the camp are interesting. It appears to be a few guys that have a bunch of bikes they own. There is also random other locals that are there, depending on the day, with their bikes. So as you look through the bikes, different guys are pushing for you to use their bike so they make the money off of the rental. Lindsay and I walked through the sad state of bikes and weeded out the bad ones and picked a few to try. All of these bikes were better than ones we had used in Nicaragua, but still not that fun to ride. We got a goodish one for Lindsay and then I finally found one worth testing. I took it a bit up the hill and then rode down on the dirt trail and ended by jumping off of one of the tree roots and launching the bike a few feet in the air. Lindsay tells me I got a bunch of ooohhhs, and awwws, and when we left the bike rental guys we saw a few of them trying to jump their bikes the same way, too funny. So be both got decent bike rentals for the next day and took them over to our tent so we were ready to go nice and early in the morning. I believe they were only $5 each for the day, for a well used, but functional bicycle.
At this point Lindsay wanted to nap and I decided I wanted to go Kayaking. So I walked down to the shore, convinced the camp manager to let me go out even though it was “windy” (It wasn’t, it was one of the calmest lakes I’ve ever seen, he must have just been crazy or lazy) and then payed way to much money to take a kayak out for an hour. They handed me a “life jacket” from 1950 that won’t do much if needed, a paddle, and then I hopped into the kayak on the shore. After about 50 feet out into the lake I knew I had a crappy kayak as the rudder was angled so no matter what you did the boat veered, severely, to the right. I tried to reach back and adjust or disconnect the rudder but in true African fashion they have it wired in place and there is no moving it. So I paddled along the shore line, only on the right side of the kayak as I cruised along the reeds. I kept a good distance as I didn’t want to surprise, or be surprised by a hippo as they of course do more damage than anything else in Africa. The irony was that I was hoping to see some hippos, but scared of the encounter at the same time. Nothing in a lake back home can knock your boat over or bite it in half. It was an unsuccessful trip and eventually I gave up looking for hippos and decided to sneak up on a bird I saw up in a tree/bush along part of a peninsula. I slowly paddled the boat closer to shore putting myself between two separate pieces of land. As I got closer to the bird I noticed out of the corner of my eye the now unmistakable flicker of a hippos ears as they surface to breathe and shake water off. I turned and sure enough there was a hippo about 20 feet away. I debated whether to reach for my camera, or paddle out. As I decided on the camera Mr. Hippo went back under the water. That made my decision for me and I paddled backwards far enough out that I was fairly confident the hippo couldn’t walk out that far along the bottom (they can’t swim). My heart was racing and I felt a little embarrassed that I was afraid of a large water pig, but they are ornery pigs with big teeth.
I headed back to camp at this point, now paddling even harder on the right so the boat wouldn’t head out to the middle of the lake. Stupid boat. I made it back, toured among the acacia trees in the water, very cool effect, swamp like – then came back to the slowly sinking dock and got out. Nobody seemed to care if I was back, aside from Lindsay, so I probably could have stayed out for much longer and found some more giant water pigs, oh well. To finish off the day Lindsay and I both showered in the strange little shower huts they have, just us and a bunch of random bugs, and grabbed some dinner. We also ordered a bag lunch for the next day and since we wanted to leave really early before the staff would be in, made an arrangment where we could get the security guard to open the fridge and grab it for us when we left. Then off to bed.
Tomorrow is Hells Gate National Park – Safari by Bicycle!