22 May 2011

The start of ‘The Journey South’

So the journey back down is well and truly underway and with a bit of a stumble at the start I’m now back on track. (The stumble being a medical condition which caused my return to Ethiopia to be one of nothing but rest and relaxation.) An unfortunate circumstance but hey it could have been worse. Ethiopia then, has been and gone and I make my way further south and return to my second home. I’m back in Kenya once again!

Prelude

I’ll take you back to the beginning.

It was about 13 years ago; I walked through the streets of London a soon to be teenager completely unaware of myself, life, the planet or existence in any form. A naive child on a shopping trip with my Auntie and Uncle I wandered up and down the busy streets, plastic bags with various clothes in my hand, another consumer, another blind human abiding by ‘the system’. I saw something which even then puzzled me, a man passed me by and as he did he threw something from his shopping bag in the bin. Long and cylinder shaped it was and at closer inspection it appeared to be a brand new wall poster. Levis was written on the outside rapper. ‘Why throw away a brand new poster?’ I thought. After passing the thought by my Aunt I was informed it was probably free with whatever the man had purchased. “Take it if you want it” she told me. So I did. When I got home I unravelled the poster. In front of me was a photograph of a sandy beach, on the beach burned an open fire of hot white coals and burning wood surrounded by big round stones. In the centre of the page was a man, mid jump directly above the coals. He was bare foot and wearing nothing but a pair of Levis jeans. At the bottom of the poster the caption read.

“Levis – The only risk in life is to take no risk at all”

To this day I still have that poster; fairly beaten and faded it resides behind the door of my bedroom. I’ve looked at that man many times, taking the risk of burning his feet at the thrill of jumping over the fire. It’s something which is potentially dangerous, but worth the risk of the danger for the thrill or the joy the risk can bring (if passed my unharmed). In many ways to live an over protected life is not really living. If you don’t make decisions like these, if you don’t live on the edge, if you don’t take the risk how will you ever know what you’re missing? If you don’t make the sacrifice how will you know if it was worthwhile or not?

Are people trustworthy? Can you take a friend at keeping their word, let alone a stranger at keeping theirs? Or do we take a risk every day at believing those around us? Do we risk being hurt or lied to for the joy of what friendship and companionship can bring? We take the risks of course. And why? Because not taking them would be the greatest risk of all.

When I was in Egypt I met a Danish girl. Her name is Tine. She has travelled through Mexico and been to Australia and most recently she ventured through the Middle East ending in Egypt. She is 21 and I invited her to join me in Kenya, to my delight she accepted the invitation.

So we continue the journey as a duo, strangers at first we take the risk of travelling together, of trusting each other. But you know what they say, the only risk is in taking none, and feel as though I am a bit of a risk taker!

Kenya

So we start in Nairobi! Kenya’s capital and as previously mentioned Africa’s most dangerous city! So dangerous in fact that we travel to the scary, the terrifying, the simply life threatening – giraffe sanctuary! Okay, so it’s not quite as scary as I made it out to be and to be honest, that’s my view of Nairobi, not as bad as the statistics make it out to be. After nearly losing my life at the mercy of the tame and rather majestic giraffes we continue on to The Karen Blixen Museum (I really hope I spelt her name correctly). The museum being nothing more than the house in which the infamous Danish author lived in I spent most of my time lurking in the grounds as Tine viewed the inside. Most known for her book ‘Out of Africa’ (now a major motion picture) if you have not heard of her or at least the film/book I’d be fairly surprised. So with a day or two’s planning (and a spontaneous nipple piercing later) we leave Nairobi and venture further afield.

Our destination was Lamu Island on Kenya’s northern coast. But on the way there we first had to stop off at my hometown of Watamu. “Henry Kigen!!” After visiting all my old friends and colleagues for a couple of days we continued onwards to the Island.

A predominantly Muslim island Lamu most definitely has a mind of its own. A sort of ‘island life meets Muslim culture meets narrow corridor streets inbetween tall very old falling apart buildings and donkeys’ is a close description to what experiencing Lamu was like. Definitely an island like no other we thoroughly enjoyed days walking up and down the little streets getting caught up and lost in all of Lamu’s nooks and crannies. Every turn held another hidden trader or a new artist’s workshop. The streets themselves are towered by the tall age old buildings, dating back to slave trades and colonial powers, the upkeep of these buildings has been non-existent. Almost mistaken as war torn these crumbled structures shed their dark and faded shadows over the varied mazes that make up the islands streets. Crowded by a mixture of people and rubbish and copious numbers of donkeys depositing their own rubbish the street floors certainly leave something to be desired. This doesn’t appear to bother the islanders however, who walk the streets barefoot, soaking in the muggy air and island sun. I however chose to keep my flip-flops on and after around a week on the island we made our way back to the mainland, leaving with fond memories and our fair share of memorabilia.

A few days regrouping back in Nairobi we head back out for a busy few days. First stop Naivasha Town and then a short visit to the fresh waters of Lake Naivasha. The following morning we left for Hell’s Gate (no it’s not somewhere from Lord of the Rings). Hell’s Gate National Park really was fantastic and was the inspiration behind the setting of Disney’s “The Lion King.” Unguided walking safari in the middle of nowhere, gorgeous landscapes and wild animals on either side, what’s no to like? I partook in a bit of scrambling in the gorge and then returned to town (passing by one of Osama Bin Laden’s old hideouts). Next stop Nakuru Town and the salt water shores of Lake Nakuru. Formed by old volcanic activity, Lake Nakuru’s pink flamingos and hundreds of pelicans amongst other wildlife was a very colourful way to spend 6 hours. Continuing north to the friendly town of Eldoret we visit the cheese factory there, much to the delight of my cheese loving companion and by this point in the trip, someone I was in the beginnings of a serious relationship with. From Eldoret we journey on west to the little town of Kakamega and spend a night and a day in Kakamega Forest Reserve. Lacking in animals but overflowing with diversity of trees and other flora we bid farewell to the forest and made the long stretch back to the capital of Nairobi once more.

After a few days in Nairobi spending time together the realization that our four week adventure had come to a close becomes very apparent and it is with much sorrow that we now part and Tine returns home to Denmark as I continue on and return to Ethiopia for a third time. But as previously mentioned in this post taking no risks is risky and you most certainly haven’t heard the last of Danish meets English on this African adventure. So keep your ears to the ground people, for Denmark is only a plane ride away after all . . . . . . . .