By Lydia Limbe
Our three-hour journey from Nairobi to Nanyuki starts two hours late. ‘Kenyan time’ as we fondly justify it.
But the drive is a pleasant one, and soon all thoughts of the delay are forgotten. We stop to stretch our legs and have snacks in Nyeri, then continue to Ol Pejeta. At exactly noon, we drive through the conservancy’s gate.
James Odenyo, the Sweet Waters Serena Camp manager is ready to receive us. He invites us to lunch before we check into our rooms.
It is low season for the tourism market in Kenya, but, surprisingly, the dining room is full of foreign tourists.
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“It’s a good sign for the industry,” I think to myself.
Just as we are about to settle in for lunch with James, and Elodie Sampere from the Ol Pejeta Conservancy’s marketing office, a gust of wind violently shakes the tent that houses the dining room.
For a moment, I think the tent is about to cave in on us. I even ask James if the tents are securely fastened. He smiles in response, the only one at our table who is calm as everything in the tent seems to rattle.
Glasses are falling from the shelf at the corner right next to the entrance, and the staff are struggling to hold everything in place.
Then, as quickly as it started, the wind stops, leaving a steady shower of rain. It takes a little while for us to be confident enough to relax again and enjoy our meal.
When we step out of the food tent (which I look around to be sure of its fasteners), to our delightful surprise, it is sunny! Save for the wet lawn and damp walkway, there is no indication that the skies opened a short while back.
During lunch, we cancelled our game drive plans, but on seeing the blue skies, we change our minds. After checking in, we leave for a two-hour drive through the conservancy. Ol Pejeta is home to all the ‘Big Five’, but on this afternoon we only get to see elephants, buffalo, rhinos and lions.
As we approach the equator, the difference in temperature is drastic. We stop to take a few photos, then head back to the camp in time for supper.
By now the temperature has really dropped, so I head back to my tent to get an extra pullover. We have dinner as a group, working on our itinerary for the following day. James informs us that it rains every afternoon, and we resolve to finish our activities before 2pm.
Back in my room, I struggle to sleep. I make myself a cup of coffee to keep warm. There’s a hot water bottle tucked in my bed, and I try to wrap my feet around it. Finally, I fall asleep.
I wake up to the chirping of birds. When I draw the curtains, the sky is clear and I can see the peak of Mt Kenya in the horizon. There are zebras and gazelles grazing near the camp, oblivious to the curious human eyes gazing at them.
After breakfast, I scramble back to my room to prepare for the bicycle ride in the wild, excited. The last time I was on a bicycle was a decade ago.
In the cycling area, we put on our helmets, get mountain bikes and head out. The terrain is varied, some places dry, others muddy.
It takes me a while to adjust to my bike, seeing as I have not ridden one in so many years. For three quarters of the trip, I am at the back of the pack, hoping off my bicycle every so often. At one point, I almost fall into a muddy patch.
My legs are aching by the time we stop at the Rhino Sanctuary. Mohammed, a keeper who is excellent in communicating with these animals, calls them closer to the fence with his ‘rhino grunt’. We are impressed by his prowess.
We cycle back to our starting point after two hours of riding, and head back to the camp for lunch. Like the previous day, it rains in the afternoon, and all activities are halted.
During dinner, there is a ‘one-man guitar’ playing popular songs that guests sing along to. He endears himself to his audience even more when he sings the Lion King movie’s Hakuna Matata.
The guitarist follows us to the bar and continues to entertain us, singing even gospel music at our request. From the window at the bar, we can see the zebras and gazelles gathered at the watering hole near the camp.
The next morning, we visit the chimpanzee sanctuary. Most of the animals are from Congo; orphans who have found a second home here.
Mwangi, the keeper gives us the history of each chimpanzee. One is particularly clever: She uses sticks as a ladder to climb the electric fence.
It is an enlightening end to a wonderful trip.