Tour through Kenya

Rondje Kenia 12On Tuesday morning we pack up our tent. We will go out of the city and into the country to see some other parts of Kenya. First Mount Kenya and from there we’ll see where to go. We say goodbye to Chris of Jungle Junction and Pim. Although we left well after the morning rush hour, we are still stuck in traffic. It takes us over an hour to get out of the ever busy Nairobi. As we leave the city behind us, we drive onto a busy road heading north. A beautiful route that winds through green hills, tea plantations and even rice fields.

At the beginning of the afternoon we are in front of the high electric fence of Castle Forest, a small nature reserve on the slopes of Mount Kenya that has elephants, leopards and antelopes. Chris had advised us to camp there at Castle Forest Lodge. A cheerful security guard lets us write our names in a large book and then he opens the gate for us. We drive into the forest, deeper into the jungle toward the lodge. Peter drives remarkably slow and does his best to spot the first elephants.

Rondje Kenia 8After a few kilometres we see a sign  for a campsite and drive onto a green meadow where cows, goats and horses graze. At the top is a beautiful country house with a veranda that overlooks the forest and the plains beyond. The house was built by Englishmen who used it while hunting. A beautiful place that reminds us of huts high in the Alps. We are welcomed by Anthony and three huge dogs. He points where we can pitch our tent and warns that we cannot just walk around at night because the elephants sometimes wander around the campsite! That would be something, after hippos now elephants around our tent.

It is off season and we are the only ones on the field. On the large veranda surrounding the house we enjoy the beautiful view and the jungle sounds that rise from the forest. We look at the forest with our binoculars in search of the first trunk and tusks. Unfortunately, we see no elephants. We do see a lot of new birds: five beautiful Cinnamon Chested Bee-eaters together on one branch, three huge Trumpeter Hornbills swirling in the air from tree to tree and dozens of small yellow Spectacled Weavers.

Not only the mansion and the mountain meadow reminiscent of the Alps, so does the climate. It is clear that we are staying at 2000m Rondje Kenia 31altitude. After the sun was quite warm during the day, it becomes quite chilly at the end of the day. Anthony lights the fireplace in the cosy living room of the mansion and moves the lazy chairs a bit closer to the fire. After dinner we crawl into our tent early to watch some episodes of Homeland from our warm sleeping bags.

The next morning it is still chilly and very quiet as we wake up. All we hear are the dogs sniffing around our tent, waiting until we come out. We smell a wood fire that is lit to heat the water for our shower. Lovely, we have not had such a hot shower in a long time! After breakfast, when the sun is shining and it is warmer, we follow a narrow, steep trail to a waterfall. Because of the elephants we cannot just walk through the forest on our own, but the trail to the waterfall is safe and (mostly) elephant-free. Once the dogs notice that we walk towards the waterfall, they storm past us up the steep path. Occasionally they stand to wait for us, wagging their tails, to then disappear again into the dense vegetation around us.

Rondje Kenia 23Once we are on the steep path we walk in the middle of the jungle. Ferns as tall as trees, orchids, banana trees and vines hanging down from tall trees. And all in 100 different shades of green, from deep dark green to bright green that almost lights up. It is beautiful! We follow the dogs, who know the way much better than we do, and walk to the water. The waterfall clatters down from a few feet with a thundering noise and fills the narrow valley with a wet haze. Really nice.

Curious about the rest of the forest, we take a guided tour through the area. In search for elephants!. Once we have left the camping field , we are immediately in a dense forest. We follow our guide -Patrick- through a swampy field to a small river where the elephants often come to drink. He cuts a pathway through the bushes with his machete (panga). We are only five minutes in the forest when I have lost my sense of direction completely. Without a guide, we would definitely be hopelessly lost, even the “path” that we followed so far is no longer visible. We glide along a steep slope down to the river. No elephants. We do see fresh turds, so they were in the neighbourhood ….

Rondje Kenia 9We walk through the high bushes around us looking for flapping ears and a grey trunk. You would say it would stand out among all that green. Patrick knows a lot about trees and lets us smell pieces of wood, he points which fruits the monkeys eat and which branches the elephants love to tear. The canopy of the forest is beautiful, with winding branches covered with a thick layer of moss. Around us dozens of flies and mosquitoes are buzzing. Our clothes are black with tsetse flies, that fortunately can not sting through the thick fabric or our trousers. Patrick shows us various small paths used by the elephants, broken branches, turned earth, even more poo and a tree that is used as a “love-tree” for them to rub against. But no elephants.

We end up staying a few days at Castle Forest Lodge. We enjoy the warm mountain sunshine and the cool nights. We eat delicious Thai curry with cashew nuts (finely some variation) and dine out a number of times at  the mansion. We read, watch the entire season three of Homeland and peer with our binoculars to the trees in search of birds. Chris was right, what a great place this is. After Roberts Camp at Lake Baringo this is absolutely in our top three favourite places!

Rondje Kenia 11On the last night at Castle Forest Lodge, when we are just about to eat, Anthony comes running to our tent. Elephants! Next to the pool a group of elephants is eating. Eight! With our binoculars and camera we follow Anthony to the top of the hill. Even the staff from the kitchen and the guards have come our the watch them. Even they do not see the elephants every day, certainly not eight together. It is a beautiful sight. The big beasts are flapping their ears and their little tail. They stand quietly together and are eating some plants. Their long trunk swinging back and forth and occasionally blowing sand on their backs . They make soft sounds and rock from one leg to the other. We continue to look at them until it is dark. Wow!

The next morning the biggest dog watches us while we pack our stuff. Once we get on the bike, he presses his big head against our thigh as if to give a hug. We both pet him and then he gets back. We can go. The path to the exit of the park is slippery after the rain that night, but good to ride with our knobby tires. At the gate we see the same friendly guard. He ask if we have seen elephants. “Eight? That is really a lot!”.

Rondje Kenia 6We drive past the tea plantations on the slopes of Mount Kenya in the direction of Nanyuki to a camp site at the Bantu Lodge.Again we see beautiful animals: baboons, colobus monkeys with long beautiful white fluffy tails, Tree hyrax that scream loud at night and some beautiful birds. The nedt day we drive to the Thompson Falls.. From Nanyuki we follow the C76 to the west, to the waterfalls in Nyahururu. We drive along Ol Pejeta Conservancy, one of the many private game reserves. A visit to the park on the motorbikes is not possible and a night (at $300) is just out of our budget, but a ride along the fence of park is also very beautiful. For kilometres we drive on a gravel road along the park while on the other side of the fence we see giraffes, antelopes and even a rhinoceros with young. Beautiful. And there is also plenty of wild life on our side of the fence, we see zebras and small gazelles. We meander through the African savannah, past small villages, sprawling acacia forests and tea plantations.

At the end of the afternoon we arrive at the luxurious Thompson Falls Lodge. A place that we visited in 2007, but at the time we did not walk to the falls. This time we do. With four other tourists we climb into the valley to the foot of the pond. A steep climb over a long staircase with high stone steps. Stairs that are used every morning by the best Kenyan marathon athletes. In the early morning, when the sun is not so hot yet, they run up and down the stairs four times before their daily training through the area. A super intense training, especially when you consider that they do so at 2.400m altitude. No wonder they came in 1, 2 and 3 in the London Marathon this year.

Rondje Kenia 4The “guide” that takes us to the falls is actually one of the guards of the lodge. But he knows a lot about the surroundings, the river, the waterfall and Mr. Thompson who named the falls (and one of the gazelles). In his overalls he is waving his baton as he is telling us his stories. We follow him closer to the water and get wet by the mist that comes from the falls. While we take some pictures one of the other tourists asks Peter to film while he asks his girlfriend to marry him. While Peter tries to keep a steady hand, the camera focuses on the couple, the man gets to his knees and keeps a ring in the air. The lady in question puts her hands over her mouth, starts crying and yells ” YES”. Very romantic. Afterwards Peter told me that he had actually wanted to ask me to marry him at the waterfall as well, but he felt it was a bit dull to do that now…. (yeah right :) )

That afternoon the guard has even more in store for us. In the river that leads to the waterfall there is a pool with 10 hippos that we can visit. If we go at the end of the afternoon we might just see that they come ashore to do some grazing. Before we go there, we first do some shopping in the village. We are offered a ride by Davies and Marloes, a Kenyan-Dutch couple from Mombasa that is on honeymoon. As always, it s nice to hear how they got to know each other, how Marloes ended up in Kenya and what Rondje Kenia 7their life looks like now. A short but fun trip to the supermarket! If we go to Mombasa, we will definitely stop for coffee.

With the groceries, we enjoy a lunch at the campsite when the phone rings. It is Ross, asking where we are. “Are you still at the falls?” Less than five minutes later we hear the roaring sound of two BMW motorbikes and we see Ross with another motorcycle rider enter the campsite. Ross now travels together with Irish, who rides from Cork in Ireland to Cape Town (Blog). They met in Addis Abebe at Wims Holland House and rode to Kenya together via Lake Turkana. They are now on their way to Nairobi. It is great fun to meet our good friend so unexpectedly and it is great to meet Irish.

They stay at the campsite with us that night and will drive to Nairobi the next morning. While we pay a visit to the hippo pool Ross and Irish install at the campsite. As we walk back to the campsite we meet Rondje Kenia 1Ross riding his unicycle. A particular sights, not in the least because of all the people by the side of the road that watch him. He attracts even more people than with his big BMW F800GS. He immediately makes new friends who all want to take a shot at riding the unicycle.

After a good burger, some cold beers and a great night, we decide to ride with Irish and Ross to Nairobi the next day. All in all, it was only a small tour around Kenya, but a wonderful one. We will keep the rest for another time.

Click here to view the photos.

Distance to Thompson Falls: 14,381km (8,936 miles)

PS: Especially for Celine and other birding enthusiasts, an addition to our previous list of birds: Olive Thrush, Little Bee-eater, White-eyed Slaty Flycatcher, Cinnamon chested Bee Eater, Black-and-white Mannikin, Tacazze Sunbird, Hadada Ibis, Common Stonechat, Pin-tailed Whydah, African Pied Wagtail, Spectacled Weaver, African Crowned Eagle, African Hill-Babbler, Grassland Pipit, Baglafecht Weaver, White-bellied Tit, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Hartlaub’s Turaco, Mouse-coloured Penduline-Tit, Violet-backed Starling, Eastern Double-collared Sunbird, African Green Pigeon, Grey Crowned Crane, Golden-winged Sunbird, Rufous Sparrow en de Osprey!

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| Leonie | AFRICA, Kenya

4 Reacties (Comments) - Tour through Kenya

  1. Mieke

    Haha, volgens mij komende tijd nog genoeg andere mooie plekjes om jou ten huwelijk te vragen Leonie….en anders vraag je hem toch gewoon 😉

  2. Jan

    Onder het genot van een kop koffie lees ik altijd de mooie verhalen van jullie.
    Elke keer een nieuw “hoofdstuk”.

  3. Jan en Mariët

    Wat een heerlijk verhaal weer met prachtige foto’s! Liefs van ons. xxxx

  4. Lill

    Wow so beautiful landscape!