Our first day on the road – Lake Nakuru was our destination with a stop at the Rift Valley view point and a visit to the Saidia Orphanage in Gilgil along the way.
Everyone was keen to get going on this African adventure. We were only 15 minutes late leaving Nairobi and that was partly due to the fact that we were travelling in a brand new truck. The major problem was that the lockers on board were not as big as we had expected from reading the tour brochure. The crew were somewhat dismayed. Things were different from what they expected, as well. Many things had to be rearranged and repacked. Eventually everything was in and off we went. Our first stop was at a local supermarket where last minute personal items could be bought and the crew could complete the outfit of the truck to meet their impending requirements.
We climbed up and out of Nairobi making a stop at a viewpoint overlooking the Rift Valley. This was at an elevation of around 8000 feet.
Down in the valley there were many small farms most of which were growing vegetables or corn. It was all very green.
At this viewpoint stop, there were a host of curio shops all selling ethnic things and the stop was also the first introduction for some of the group to the hassles of being pestered by people trying to earn a meagre living out of encouraging people to buy things they never intended, nor wanted, to buy. Just what do you do with all these things that just do not fit into our homes when we get home? Of course they get put in the bottom draw, or worse still, get given to family and friends who have even less interest in them! A great learning experience for future, similar encounters, of which there will be many if my previous experiences are anything to go by.We climbed a little further up into some low mist and fog which obscured the view of Lake Naivasha, an area which grows many cut flowers, including roses, for the European market.
Our lunch stop was in Gilgil and, while Juma prepared our lunch, we visited the Saidia Orphanage. This institution was established by three grandmothers Jill Simpson MBE, Teresa Wahito and Jane Kinuthia. They saw the need to help the many abandoned babies in the area. Jill sadly passed away in October 2009, but Jane and Teresa continue the work today.
They have 57 kids at the moment in this programme, some of them having come to the orphanage only hours old. As well, now there are three other programmes that are run in association with the original orphanage: first, badly behaved kids; secondly, mistreated kids; and lastly, kids born to HIV infected mums who neither want nor are capable of looking after their babies. You can find out more about the work these women are doing to give these kids a better life on their web site:
Soccer is the sport of choice of these boys and a new ball is a great gift.
And in a place like this, there’s always a lot of washing!
The orphanage is very well set up. Each child selected one of us to take on a tour of the buildings. I was selected by 9 year old John, a young lad with bright eyes and a delightful grin.
John proudly showed me the children’s paintings that decorate parts of the buildings. This colourful elephant adorns one of the water tanks. The name NDOVU is the local word for elephant. Other paintings were of a lion, a giraffe and a bat.
This visit to Saidia Orphanage left us all with plenty to think about. We had great admiration for these visionary, hardworking ‘grandmothers’ who are giving at least some children the chance of a better life. As they had explained to us: “There is no social security net in Kenya. The extended family is still very strong and orphaned children would normally be taken in by an aunt or grannie. But kids with no family are on their own, and today many families have lost the entire parent generation to AIDS.” And that, in itself, is food for thought.
In the afternoon, we drove on to Lake Nakuru National Park, arriving mid afternoon. The first task was to put up our tents for the very first time, a bit of a trial for some. Thankfully, I had one of these small tents to myself.
After this exciting activity we went on our first game drive. Lake Nakuru has considerably more water in it than when Jennie and I were there last in 2004. This meant we could not get as close to the shore as we did the last time but it also meant that there were many more birds to see.
We also saw lots of baboons, a couple of white rhinos, a hippo in the distance, gazelle, eland, antelopes, zebra, buffalo, water buck, and a venerable old tortoise – and an obscured lion sleeping on a rock. We went back to camp very happy, but tired, after a long day. I was looking forward to a sleep – if sleep could be had sleeping on a thin mattress on the ground. And I was looking forward to finding even more animals on our next drive. I was really glad I’d the opportunity to come back to Lake Nakuru.
We drove through a heavy thunderstorm on our way back to camp. It missed our tents, thankfully. Our camping location within the park was unfenced so it was no real surprise when a buffalo strolled through between our tents during our after dinner briefing. This caused some consternation amongst the group. Signs of strain were evident on many faces as nocturnal meanderings to the loo were erased from the mind. We’ll see what the night brings! D