“I once had a farm in Africa.” Meryl Streep, in the voice of Karen Blixen gently moves in my mind as we speed of the runway and leave Cairo behind.
It’s been my dream, since I first read ‘Out of Africa’ to visit Kenya. To see where Karen lived and experience (in a modern way) the safaris she went on. It’s been a dream worth keeping.
It is pitch dark and delightfully cold when we land at 3 in the morning. The airport practically deserted, it doesn’t take long to claim our bags and clear customs. Outside, Richard greets us with a big white smile, my hand feels very small in his big handshake. He leave us waiting on the corner, feeling excited by not knowing what to expect. What modern day tourist Kenya is really like.
We doze our way out of Nairobi on the good roads. In the black of night there is nothing to see when the light of the city fades away. Just as the sun brakes we hit the rickety roads and wakes, bleary eyed, drool faced and stiff from hours of sitting in uncomfortable positions trying to sleep. We look at Ruby, sound asleep, stretched out in the back seat, clutching teddy under her newly required Egypt Air blanket. Oh to be that size again – to sleep like that we sigh and smile.
My only view of Richard is through the rearview mirror from my seat, behind him, in the minibus. How far have we gone, we want to know, how much further? We’re not sure what time it is. His dark chocolate complexion is amplified by his baldness. His hands firmly on the weal as he zigzag to avoid largest potholes and boulders in the road.
After Cairo’s sweltering heat the cool morning is lovely. Fiddling with the latch I finally side open my window – expecting a fresh breeze to flood my pollution clogged lungs, I must have thought I was in Norway or something, for the sensation that meet me is dry and dusty, a bit like Cairo without the heat and pollution.
We jingle on for another hour, mostly in silence, as I watch in bewilderment women carrying empty drums along the road, for miles and miles, on their way to the well for water. Oh – here is my ignorance again, I really thought every village had their own well in Kenya by now. Whatever happened to evolution? Every few miles there are schools and churches – whether a solid brick and painted building decorated with the symbol of the fate or a corrugated iron shack with a simple sign of ‘God is Good’ – every denominations seem to be represented though very few mosques.
Half way we stop at Narok Coffee House for breakfast. I savour their deliciously strong Kenyan coffee while Shane and Ruby delight in pork sausages and bacon, – such a treat from living in the Muslim world.
School uniformed children mille on to the road as if they materialised form the grassland that stretch as far as I can see. Waving and smiling as we rattled by as fast as Richard dared to drive, most wearing shoes in varying states of repair. I wished I’d brought Ruby’s old trainers to quietly drop out the window. I remember my Grandmother’s tale of her and her sister alternating school days because they only had one pair of winter shoes between them. The prospect of frostbite was not worth a barefoot walk to school through the snow, but that was Norway nearly 100 years ago. In Kenya children are still walking to school without shoes. When I spoke about this with a friend, over dinner, back in Cairo he mentioned The World Bicycle Relief initiative – and I though YES! – Cycling to school! What a great idea! – That’s exactly what I did as a kid – that’s what Ruby does now 🙂
At the next crossing we wear off and the road gets progressively worse – is it even possible to drive this minivan here? ‘Welcome to the Kenyan massage’ laughs Richard in the rearview mirror and points into the distance. We focus in on his direction and sure enough, there, far in the distance, – Elephants. Soon we are surrounded by zebras grazing, funny warthog running around with their tail straight in the air like an antenna. Antelopes everywhere – WOW! We lean back in our jumpy massage seat after our initial exhilaration – I never thought I’d see the wildlife from the actually road. Soon we are playing the game of spot the animals, Richard helping where we’ve forgotten their names me being grateful to The Lion King movie – Hakuna Matata 😊 . . . and soon we arrived 😊
Much Love & Light
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