While my initial plan was to stay in Kenya for three months, I am instead opting to leave after three weeks. I could get quite verbose on my reasons for choosing to leave Olepangi Farm but I would rather use this post to celebrate the things I will miss about Kenya. This trip has been my first time in sub-Saharan Africa and it has been an eye-opener (and ear opener too – I can recognise quite a few animal sounds now!).
So here, in no particular order, are my top memories/moments I will miss about staying in central Kenya.
>The casual way in which you can come across fantastic beasts such as elephants, giraffes, lion and rhino in the national parks and reserves. And how quickly spotting them becomes the norm as if you’re just spotting the usual urban foxes in London.
>Watching two male rhinos fight for possession of the old male’s harem of women. Seeing them pace back and forth, draw blood from each, kick up a storm of dust and finally seeing the old male turn tail and be chased away was a real privilege. Even our experienced guide was enthralled.
>Seeing a family of elephants make a river crossing with the bravest (or craziest one) forging a path across while the rest of the herd waited and watched. Once it was clear the lead one was safe, the rest followed, at first a bit haphazardly with the babies choosing to loiter about to play in the water, then finally they made a lovely straight line and crossed the river safely.
>Talking of playful babies – I have a particular soft spot for the two foals Siri and Mapenzi at Olepangi Farm. I loved grooming and playing with them.
>Watching the polo with Mount Kenya dominating the background and two or three very cuddly polo ponies on lead ropes very much in your foreground demanding attention from you.
>The view of the Kenyan countryside, farm animals and rural dwellings from the back of Jerry the polo pony on a two-hour hack home from the polo. Jerry gave me confidence hacking out of the arena in Kenya and seeing little kid goats rush out to play at his feet and a flock of blue starlings flutter out of a tree and across our path are stand-out memories for me from that hack.
>In fact, the bird life here deserves a mention of their own. The yellow weaver birds and their ball-like nests hanging out of a lot of trees. The blue starlings. The hornbill that followed our car along on a game drive. The yellow-necked grouse. The crested crane. The ostrich parents and a veritable flock of children marching along Samburu. The bird of prey that was perving on me in the shower. And the numerous other small colourful birds that visited the garden of Olepangi Farm (and for an unlucky few ended up in Freddie the dog’s jaws). All beautiful.
>The only sight that can rival the birds for colour is that of the locals turning out in their Sunday-best for church. The dazzling fashion array is a feast for the eyes that makes people watching in the UK seem boring. The school uniforms of some of the children are great to look out for too – I was particularly impressed by the tartan shorts one school insists its boys wear.
>Being faced with the realities of the poverty many Kenyans face has been difficult. Watching children play for old plastic bottles and bicycle tyres because those are the only toys they have, and seeing the run down shacks or small dark concrete cells that are the homes to some Kenyans was depressing. But I must say I enjoyed seeing the way they would use bright colours to spruce up some buildings. And the signs and names for things were often quite amusing. Some of my favourites include: a garage called QuickLube, the petrol pump called Baraka – which translates as ‘blessed’, the Redeemed Gospel Church (I mean how naughty was it before?!); and the sign for Zion City church which bears the instructions “located by the prison, opposite the slaughter house’.
>Shopping for the many beautiful beaded and carved items in the various ramshackle stalls in Nanyuki. I am very pleased with my haul of goods. It was also quite enjoyable viewing several furniture shops with beautiful sofas and other large pieces of furniture all on display on the roadside as you drove past.
>Sipping chocolate milkshakes in Dorman’s, a café in Nanyuki.
>Swimming in a blue waterfall pool in the Ngare Ndare Forest, created by the water streaming down from Mount Kenya. (Did not enjoy the hike there though. Hiking is a pastime for psychopaths.)
>The local people. The staff at Olepangi Farm have been so kind and friendly, many of the locals have been very friendly and it was adorable seeing so many small children excited to see the foreigners in their midst and waving and shouting ‘how are you’.
>Oh and I couldn’t possibly forget Zsa Zsa, Freddie and Ginger the Jack Russells and Col. Lawrence the South African Mastiff. The dogs of Olepangi Farm were a delight to fuss over for three weeks.