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Curious what backpackers do in Kenya? Discover travel destinations all over the world of travelers writing a travel blog on FindPenguins.
  • Day32

    Today Tom and Sherry took another day off of service to spend some time with us. Tom had a meeting part on Thursday so he took the morning to go over his part and Troi took it easy too. Sherry and I headed downtown to do a little shopping.

    I wanted to go back to the little handicraft market we first visited on Monday to get a few more souvenirs. Sherry took in some magazines and offered them to the shopkeepers who all agreed to take them.

    Interesting detail; the English congregation in the city actually has a territory that it itself covers - The publishers in English will preach in either Swahili or English, but when the interested ones go to the meetings, they are going to English meetings. In Tom and Sherry's territory, they preach in either Swahili or English and when interested ones go the the meeting they go to Swahili. English is not really a foreign language here.

    In the afternoon we went for a drive to a beautiful viewpoint called the Kerio Valley. It is where the Rift Valley starts that runs down into the Maasai Mara (I believe, I plan on confirming that point). There is a resort there where we had a very nice lunch overlooking the valley, the resort gardens and the black and white Colobus monkeys. After our break we drove down into the valley. Tom estimated that we went from here - Eldoret - at 7000 feet, up to the lookout at 8000 feet, then down into the valley to 3000 feet then we drove back home to 7000 again. I got a bad headache that we contributed to the drastic changes in atitude.

    All the way along we would be waved at by the school children and many would yell out Mzungu! Meaning "white man" (technically "foreigner" but they have different names for people of different ethnicities. We stopped at one group of people along the way that were selling fruit. As soon as we stopped all four windows had ladies at them trying to talk us into buying their produce. We got some bananas (which were very good - sort of like the little mini bananas - but a little bigger and they had a really thick skin and the flesh was quite firm) and a mango (or papaya). Asked if we could take a picture they replied yes, if we paid. Tom gave them all a magazine and they posed with their 'gift', their wares and a smile.
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  • Day33

    More farm calls today! Got to a few more farms, but many of the cows we saw had chronic problems, that were not particularly fixable ie chronic mastitis but she is now dry. However, we did get to speak to many people about cow comfort and nutrition. We are looking forward to doing a seminar as that way we can get the messages out to so many more people.
    We treated one cow for hardware, and I will be curious if she is improved by next week.
    Just passing the elephant corridor - we have not been lucky enough to see them crossing but we hear they do on occasion. We did see a troop of baboons there this morning. There are so many animals being herded or grazed along the sides of the road, it is hard to believe we haven't hit one yet. Returning from Samburu, we witnessed a goat being hit by a car - it tumbled a few times then got up and ran away! Our driver Isaac said the same thing often happens to young boys! They also get up and run away!
    We travel around in a 14 passenger rattle trap of a van. At least we have room for our boxes of medicine, and we normally have about 3 or 4 Kenyans with us. I can't believe the places this van travels, and we have rarely had to push. Once you are off the highways, the roads are just barely wide enough for 2 small vehicles to pass. Often you encounter a Kenyan traffic jam, which is a slower moving cart pulled by donkeys or oxen. More than one taxi driver has asked in all seriousness if we use donkeys much in Canada. Trying to picture good ol' Ned pulling a cart..... he'd not have lasted long in this life.
    On the traffic note - the Kenyans fully recognize the degree of corruption in essentially all aspects of life. Our first exposure to it was while driving home. The police had set up a "roadblock​", charging each vehicle 100 KES to go through. After stopping our van, we were allowed to proceed. Our driver explained that it was because they saw we were white, and they knew if we reported it, their impromptu road block may get them into trouble!
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  • Day35

    What a busy day - we managed to visit 10 different farms today, which was a feat considering one required a hike down a steep mountain side (through the burning piles of the local garbage dump). It was too steep and far to carry all the kits, so that requires a trip back up to the can for different meds once we diagnosed her problems ( metritis and mastitis). The farmers were friendly and gave the boys chairs to sit on in the shade, along with oranges and sugarcane to munch on. A highlight of the day was our final stop at Edwin's house, where we met his parents, uncle, and 3 milking cows. Edwin is 22, and works with Igoki dairy. He has been with us for the last 2 days, and he is a quick study in cow comfort! We are confident he has taken our advice to heart, and will be able to teach many farmers once we are gone. Edwin wants to come to school in Canada - he would like to learn veterinary medicine in order to help farmers in his country. We hope we can help him realize that dream.
    We were also joined by Leah and Kevin . Kevin is an agronomy intern at the Meru office - and an awesome soccer player! We remembered to bring a ball along today and the boys got Kevin to show us some of his skills between calls. Leah is our local coordinator for Vets Without Borders, and we enjoyed her company and translation skills. She is a good source of local dairy knowledge, as she grew up with cows. She had greatly increased our knowledge about Napier crops!
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  • Day37

    (A word of warning: these posts are getting longer. Its because this is also my journal of our trip, so please skim, ignore, and skip over as desired! )
    Organization was the name of the game this morning - sorting out our jumbled medical kits and chaotic suitcases. Once the laundry was sorted (not yet done - I have done one big wash but it takes much longer by hand!), we headed off with Geoffrey for an adventure. Our first stop was at the equator, on the west side of Mount Kenya. While we have driven by the equator a number of times on this side, the town of Nanyuki had a bit of a tourist stop set up. Of course, we got the demonstration of how water flows in opposite directions in the Southern and Northern hemispheres. (hmmm....check out Coriolis effect. You be the judge.) But a cool demonstration nonetheless. Also a few souvenir shops there. Then it was on to lunch. Geoffrey had really thought about the kids and we arrived at the Trout Tree Restaurant, which was quite the place! The idea is you catch your rainbow trout out of a pond, and then the kitchen will cook it for you. Sadly, we were confounded by the drought....the water has been low for the past few months and while the fish were still present, they were thin and long. Fishing will resume in April. Highly disappointing. However, the restaurant itself was worth the trip. It was truly a treetop restaurant, complete with Colombus monkeys that invaded and snatched handfuls of French fries off the table next to us before the staff chased them off. A thunderstorm rolled through while we were eating - not sure high in a tree was the best place to be during that, but it all ended well. Our next stop was destined to be a camel ride for the kids; but again it was not to be. The camels had gotten old since Geoffrey had last been there, and now it was just horses. We decided to keep on our journey rather than ride, so it was back towards Meru. Just outside of town, we turned into the Mount Kenya reserve and headed up into the forest. As luck would have it, the one truck we passed and asked for directions had a Forrester in it! He was happy to take us to the "big tree" . It is an enormous tree, hollowed out, but still living. It took 6 of us to reach around the trunk, and the 8 of us could fit easily inside. On the path to it, there was plenty of elephant dung, but I was half relieved and half disappointed that we didn't encounter any en route.
    Our last stop was at a beautiful waterfall in a grassy valley, literally 2 minutes from downtown. We have noticed that there are very few green spaces for kids to play, but here was a lush valley, straight out of a movie set. Getting down the steep path was tricky, so I don't think it would be great for young kids but the stream was picture perfect fly fishing territory.
    After the quick Nakumatt stop to pick up supplies for tomorrow, it was back for another great meal and the arrival of Polly. Polly ( the daughter) is studying tourism in Nairobi and is going to practice her trade by accompanying us to the Meru Game Reserve tomorrow. As we leave at 5:30 am, that's all my writing for tonight!
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  • Day41

    A sad moment....our last day with the Igoki group. We have enjoyed working with the group out here. We hope that their cooperative can grow big enough to have their own bulk tank storage, which would really help them deliver a quality product to the processing plant.
    We arrived early enough to visit three farms before the seminar. Our seminar was supposed to start at 10, but the first people drifted in closer to 11. We finally started at 11:45 with about 15 people in attendance, but the number quickly grew to over 40. We presented information on cow comfort, nutrition, reproduction, mastitis and calf rearing, and then we fielded questions for the rest of the time. We spent about 4 hours with the group. They expressed gratitude for the information, and invited us to return to their farms in the future. They offered prayers for our safe travels and for success with the knowledge.
    We headed back to the house for supper. I am not sure how much help I really am to Dorothy in making the meals, but at least I feel useful when I am chopping vegetables and washing dishes! I will have to try making some of these dishes at home...but not sure that I want to try cooking over the open fire in Manitoba right yet. Even if it is unseasonable warm!
    After supper, we walked down to Jess and Laura's house with our guard, Abdi. The girls moved in to a house just a short walk away this past week, which has been nice for getting together to prepare reports. We enjoyed an ice cold Tusker while counting the number of farms we have seen so far.
    Abdi is one of our two guards. They come at 6 pm and stay until 6 am. Having a guard is fairly standard for foreigners staying in local houses. They don't have weapons, just are a deterring presence in the yard. Most yards are enclosed with high fences, often topped with broken glass, spikes or razor wire. Petty crime (such as burglary) is the biggest risk here, not violent crime. Abdi is a Muslim, and has explained that the three things Muslims pray for are peace, health, and food. He says that groups like Al Chabob are not true Muslims, as they are not peaceful. Abdi has taken to coming up to the house a bit early to join in the soccer games before 6 pm, when he stops to do his prayers.
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  • Day28

    This morning we had to pack and get to the airstrip. We slept in just a little later than our 6 am mornings of late and ate breakfast in camp. We could see that it would be nice to have a day in camp to enjoy what you see right at home. There were lots of birds including a beautiful russet-coloured, long-tailed bird whose name I can't remember (it had the word paradise in its name). We left shortly after nine am - taking our time on the way to the airstrip for 10:30. Our Safarilink Cessna was supposed to be there at 11 am, but it was about 40 minutes late arriving. We visited a little with Dennis and James, who waited with us until we were picked up. They gave us a gift of two metal water bottles from the lodge.

    Our flight to Nairobi was almost uneventful. It was raining along the way so the flight took slightly longer than it should as the pilots had to fly around little storms.

    Again, our driver was waiting outside the terminal with our name on a piece of paper. He took us over to the Air Kenya terminal to pick up the two bags we had left with them when we first flew to the Mara. They were there waiting for us.

    On to the next terminal for our Fly540 flight to Eldoret. We had to wait until 6 for the flight so we went to the cafe next door and had lunch and a little internet time. We should have stayed there as there was no WiFi in the airport terminal.

    Flight to Eldoret was fine and Tom and Sherry came and found us at the luggage pickup and took us home.
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  • Day26

    Masai Mara Land and Resource Management

    Problem: Limited shared land and grazing resources.
    The Maasai are a herds people. Their livelihood is built directly on the raising and selling of cattle. Many have little or no formal education so there is little opportunity for diversifying their income. In addition, the land they have is shared with the wild animals - including predators. Like many other places in the world the human here is growing; encroaching and taking over what was once wild animal's natural habitat. As this worsens and livestock is taken by predators, the predators are killed to protect the livestock.

    Parks & Reserves: Approximately 8% of Kenya's land mass is protected area for wildlife conservation. These areas have been surveyed, demarcated, and managed as either National Parks and/or National Reserves all managed by the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS).

    Plan 1 - National Park: Government owned and managed land that is set aside as a fenced park. (Nairobi National Park)
    Complete protection of natural resources and the only activities allowed are tourism and research. Animals are able to roam freely within the park. Local people do not contribute nor benefit from the park. In addition, since the animals are fenced in, there are limitations on their natural movement in grazing, roaming, and breading. In the park any number of vehicles are allowed in at any given time. This can cause visitor congestion and stresses the animals. Poaching continues to be a problem in the park which also makes the animals stressed and skittish. This plan does not address the real world problems of increasing demand on the land, education for the local people (Maasai), nor diversity of income for the local people.

    Plan 2 - National Reserve (Maasai Mara): Government owned and managed land that is set aside as an unfenced park.
    Human activities are allowed under specific conditions. Animals are able to roam freely across the reserve as well as outside the reserve without hinderance by fences. Activities such as fishing in marine reserves or firewood collection in terrestrial reserves are allowed. This plan also does not address the real world problems of increasing demand on the land, education of the local people, nor diversity of income for the local people.

    Plan 3 - Conservancy: Privately owned lands put in trust and managed in unfenced areas.
    Individual land owners place their land in trust with a conservancy that is financed by safari operators. The conservancy acts as a middle man between a group of land owners and a group of safari operators. Safari operators pay an agreed upon amount to the conservancy for the management of the conservancy as well as compensation to the land owners for the use of their land. As part of this agreement the land owners have a say in how the trust will be managed by the conservancy as well as are paid for the use of the land. The land is held in trust by the conservancy for a specified amount of time (usually 15 - 20 years). During this time the conservancy will pay a specified amount of money each year to the land owners (Maasai) and employ many of the Maasai people in many new jobs related to the conservancy from laborers to drivers and trackers. In addition to payments and employment the conservancy also manages the grazing for the domestic livestock ensuring that the grazing grounds are rotated, to reduce or eliminate over grazing. The conservancy also monitors the movement of the predators and coordinates the domestic grazing to ensure that the livestock and people are safe. If livestock is lost to a predator and the kill happens in the conservancy designated grazing area the conservancy will pay the owner of the livestock for his loss. This encourages the local livestock owners to cooperate with the conservancy's direction as well as eliminates the need/desire for retaliation by killing the suspected offending predator. As part of this plan schools have been established and basic education is now required for the children of those who are part of the conservancy. This education includes understanding the purpose and functioning of the conservancy and allows the local people to have a say and "pride in ownership and success" of the conservancy. The land owners also have a say and contribute greatly in the operation, guidelines, and rules of how the conservancy is run. For example, in the Maasai North conservancy only a limited number of vehicles are allowed at a given "sighting" or "event" (currently five vehicles). This is less invasive and disruptive to the animals, significantly reduces visitor congestion, and provides a much better and natural viewing experience for the visitor.

    Our experience: In our five days at the Alex Walker's Serian (meaning peace in Maa) Safari camp was a real eye opener. The permanent camp is setup on an escarpment overlooking the Maasai river. The employees of the camp are mainly Maasai including our expert driver and spotter - Dennis and James. We observed many of the local wildlife. The wildlife, especially the predators, seemed to be uninterested in our vehicle or us, often walking within feet of the vehicle. Even the animals we could call "prey" were calm and unconcerned with our close proximity. Around the camp many of the local residence were present. Just down the hill in the river we saw and heard hippopotamus, we heard lions on the other side of the river, and one evening we even had a couple of Eland walk and browse within yards of our tent. This could only be due to the peaceful relationship between man and animal over a long period of time. We are told that in areas where there is still a real problem with poaching the animals are still very afraid of man, are not at ease, and are stressed by our presence. Even when a predator was eating a carcass we were able to be within yards of the kill without any observable change in behavior or concern on the part of the lion or her two cubs. Animals with their babies seemed unconcerned with our presence continuing to feed, suckle, and play with no concern that we were observing and taking pictures.
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  • Day33

    Meeting night tonight, so not a lot to do. Tom and Sherry took us on their Bible studies today, a very nice experience. We decided to stop for lunch at Poa Resort. There are these little oases all over the world. You can pay a few dollars and go inside the resort and enjoy the amenities for the day. Or, go the restaurant, buy a meal and enjoy the surroundings for awhile. Here we found pretty gardens and lots of birds to watch - the sunbird especially - a relative to the hummingbird, but it doesn't hover.

    We all ordered a beer and a platter of snacks to share. We were finished our beer, but there were no snacks (fast food doesn't exist here - as we have also learned to be true in Mexico). When we asked, we were told, "Yes, it's coming soon!". About 10 minutes more passed and it arrived - a problem with the fryer we were told. We enjoyed the atmosphere and the food and our 'break' ended up about 2 hours long, but we were all quite happy.

    Home for a couple of hours and then we headed to the 5:30 mid-week meeting. Unlike Sunday, where we went a little overtime and everyone lingered and visited, the meeting was over early and everyone was gone quite quickly. The school children come dressed in their uniforms and many come straight from work or the ministry so they want to get home. Plus, when the meeting was finished it was dark and raining. In the congregation there are two cars and one motor bike, so the majority are traveling on foot.
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You might also know this place by the following names:

Republic of Kenya, Kenia, Kenya, Kɛnya, ኬንያ, كينيا, Keña, Кенія, Кения, Keniya, কেনিয়া, ཁེན་ཉི་ཡ།, Kenija, Kènia, Keňa, ཀེ་ནི་ཡ, Kenya nutome, Κένυα, Kenjo, Keenia, کنیا, Keñaa, Kenja, An Chéinia, A Cheinia, Quenia, કેન્યા, קניה, केन्या, Քենիա, Kenía, ケニア共和国, კენია, កេនយ៉ា, ಕೀನ್ಯಾ, 케냐, ເຄນຢ່າ, Кенија, കെനിയ, केनिया, ကင်ညာ, Khenya, Keeniyaa, କେନିୟା, Chenia, Quênia, Kenyäa, කෙන්යාව, Kiinya, கென்யா, కెన్యా, เคนยา, كېنىيە, کینیا, Kê-ni-a (Kenya), Kenyän, Orílẹ́ède Kenya, 肯尼亚, i-Kenya

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