Pick a destination, any destination there is a catch though it has to be in Kenya. Where would you go? I would be disappointed if your only answer is Mombasa .I have never been a traveller but every time I get an opportunity to go anywhere I never thought of Kenya as an ideal destination. Every notion I have ever had, I take it back because Kenya is a canvas that is beautifully painted. All you have to do is just dig a little deeper to get those treasures.
I was blank slate and I travelled sans any expectations. Your experiences can never be the same. The fact that you choose to take it as it is makes the journey memorable. We search for adventure even in the minutest things. Travelling is like seeing things twice once here and the second time in paradise.
An itinerary stated that travelling would be via train but that plan went sideways once it got to 7:30 in the morning and I was still at the pick-up location. The inter-county train schedule differs from the one heading to Mombasa. From the train station, I should have alighted at Emali then head to Amboseli. Even though I did not get to experience the train ride, I would recommend using that route just to gain a different experience. Flights get you there faster but you miss out on scenic views.
The group I was travelling with agreed to drive down to Amboseli. The drive down ideally should be four hours; it took a bit longer because of the stopovers. I usually have a checklist of what I require when I am travelling. Apart from my clothes and all, my phone has to be charged so that I can drown out everyone surrounding me with music. I had something else to distract me this day the open road that is not filled a million and one vehicles rushing to get to their destination.
I have realized we all have different tastes but animals can be exciting up to a certain point. I mean you have seen one lion you have seen them all right? I needed to experience something different on this trip, which was the people. It was all about what I could learn from all the places I would be visiting during this trip.
The driver was conversant with the area that was essential because it would have been dreadful to travel with someone who did not know anything. I found the drive down to Amboseli exciting, I took naps in between of course but as we got closer to the intended destination felt the need to be awake because I did not want to miss anything.
We had just gotten to the turn heading to the park when our driver decided to pick up a white hitchhiker. The concept of hitchhiking gives me the chills but that welcoming nature of Africans seems to lull your sixth sense. He got in and started a conversation with the other passengers in the car.
“We will kidnap you and no one will know you are missing,” one of the people stated.
“All the better for me,” he said while laughing.
Would you hitchhike? Especially in the bush. My answer is no but he felt safe enough to do so. It struck up a conversation about how different the story would be if it were a black woman asking for a ride. It is easier to relax while travelling and not holding on to the stranger danger notion because you might need to ask for directions or something else.
We got to Tawi lodge and conservancy and I was in awe. How was this in my country? I could not believe everything that was at my disposable in this magical Kenya. The architecture of the buildings and the homely nature of the managers was such a delight. The artefacts that occupied the communal spaces gave it that old school vibe.
An astonishing effort can be noted in the location and build of Tawi, which ensured that it was not a place where one went to be seen, but where you went to disappear and forget. The privacy was perfectly sublime; I guess that is why I was completely sold on it. It was an intimate travelling experience that I believe you might not be able to get in those big hotels. It was not pretending to be luxurious it just was even though it was nowhere near civilization.
It was close to the Tanzanian border and according to one of the Maasai’s it would take at least three hours to get there. This was a place to go if you wanted to be off the grid. You travel and you stay on your phone half the time, it just becomes a moot point then. I had zero access to my service provider and I could not emphasize how refreshing it was. Documenting your journey has always been a cause of disagreement for me.
On one hand, you want to savour the moments but how could you savour the moments and still be taking pictures. Warsan Shire says that you have to document the moments you feel most in love with yourself and let it be on repeat. I was in love at that point and I needed to remember it.
There are times where you just have to put your phone down and look around you. Then there are times when you just have to take a picture hoping that the moment will last longer with that. The shocking is that we might not know that all this was in our backyard. I wanted to soak in every second experienced and bleed it dry but I had to leave a little bit of Amboseli for you to see. Take a moment to look at the beauty that is the people and our country.
‘Msafiri masikini ajapokuwa sultani’.
It ringed so true during this journey. The aim of this trip-was to experience the culture and the people in Kenya. I knew Amboseli as the home to one of the oldest elephants known as Tim. It tickles my fancy how they get such names; I would rather a strong African name for an African elephant.
The vehicle I was in got stuck in the mud as we were heading to a village somewhere in the Amboseli. I hated to think about being stuck in the middle of nowhere with those wild animals hiding in the bushes. It was a thrill in itself because the process of getting out of the mud was exciting. All that skedding and pulling of the car made me shrill with excitement.
It is in those little things that we derive so much joy. These nuances are key because the transitions between the dry and wet season matter as you decide to travel .Throughout the trip, I noted that many people preferred coming during the dry season because you had a higher chance of spotting certain animals.
I would recommend a taste of both seasons because apart from being stuck in the mud you could see the variety of animals as you drove through the park. I did not know it then but we were in Enkong’o Narok and the villagers made it their personal mission to ensure that the vehicle got out of the mad.
They extended an invite to their village and as I alighted the car, a lady held my hand so that I could not slide in the mad. That small gesture filled my heart with so much love. We take some situations for granted, inviting complete strangers to your home and showing them how you live without any malice is not an everyday occurrence. Be open to changing your schedule while travelling, you do not want to miss an extraordinary experience just because you are rigid. Before the car got stuck, we were heading to a Maasai village so why not just visit with the people of Enkong’o Narok.
It was composed of around 125 people. They traced back their roots to four brothers who settled in that land. I have never met a more self-reliant community that works on building their society with a few resources. I was impressed by the family planning method they used on their cattle.
They meticulously planned everything and this method ensured that mating did not occur during this period because the offspring would be born during the dry season and that meant most of the kids would not survive that season. They had a couple of challenges as well but they braved through most of them. Their village chief casually talked about attacks by various wild animals. That would have been my exit strategy but that is their home and they intended to stay there because their heritage traced back to Enkong’o Narok.
The authenticity in the Maasai culture is undeniable and of course, I have fed into the stereotypical notions of the Maasai culture. But to be with them in their village was a refreshing perspective. Their beliefs are deep rooted in them; I believe a couple of things could change especially in the sense of the patriarchy.
What they have is real; they did not try to pretend to be anything different even with the progression of society. My only regret was that I did not taste their food. There is a language in a meal, a uniquely thought out Maasai story. That will be a plan in my next journey there because one day was not enough to get my fill of the Maasai.
My next destination was Tsavo one of the most exalted African bushes. Trends are changing in the tourism sector and domestic tourism in Kenya needs to be at the forefront. I loved staying at the Sarova Salt lick lodge more so because of its set up. It is designed with the tree house concept in mind.
“The saltlick lodge is a way of giving you a different experience without the modernity’s that you would experience in our other branches,” stated Alexander Baraka the Human Resource Manager.
It gave you the best of both worlds, a hint of both a recluse and civilized world. Waking up to the view of the watering hole with a couple of wildlife hurdled up to have their taste is pure bliss. You can get an even clearer view through the tunnel with an observation room. It felt like that antelope was within touching distance. I would just walk across the bridge just to feel the fresh air and look at the animals running around without a care in the world.
Have you ever been to Taita-Taveta? Have you been with someone with someone from that town? This is definitely the moment for you to catch a glimpse of what they have to offer. The Taita’s have a rich history that is not documented with the precision it deserves but while I was there, I was able to learn so much about them.
Imagine a time when going against the laws of the land would result in you being thrown off a cliff as punishment; you would have to pray hard to whatever God you believe in to salvage you because only those who survived the fall would be welcomed back into the community. Those who died, oh well your fate was sealed at the bottom of that cliff.
The World War I has a lot of its root in the Taita – Taveta. Sad thing however is that it talks about the Germans and British. It was not our war to fight but they were in our home tuff so something’s has to give. Fun fact though did you know that carrier corps was used to refer to the Africans potters , it is what we now refer to as the Kariokor markets located in Voi, Dar es Salaam and Nairobi.
As you go around the region I would recommend that you get a tour guide who is conversant with the area in order to get all the facts right. Winston Churchill stated that history would be kind to him because he intended to write. We visited buildings that were over 100 years old but the preservation was just a disappointment. It is not just for international tourists to view but something that even the natives can enjoy.
One thing that I will carry with me while travelling is that it is never about the destination but about the hiccups and the memories you make along the road. Viewing the sunset is something we might take for granted but watching it set atop a hill can literally change your perspective. I danced the cold away with the Taita Chapa Kazi women; I learnt that in the past that kind of music could create a sense of an out of body experience. I did not want it to end.
This was an ideal travelling experience for me and I hope you get the same feeling once you choose to take the trip. The Tembea Kenya Na Mimi perception is what we need as a nation. There is a whole world out there that you cannot even begin to fathom, maybe if we see these hidden gems then we would be fighting to ensure that they remain sanctified.
There is so much more to see in Kenya. The next time you decide to pick a destination, select one that is in your own turf. You would be amazed by what this beautiful country has to offer.