Getting There – Feet Down in Kenya

Getting to Nairobi from England went fine, and so did the flight from Nairobi to Nanyuki (with a stop at Lewa Downs to deposit some other travelers). Lizzie (the Princeton post doc) and Joseph (a Kenyan conservation biologist who also lives in camp) met me at the airstrip and we did the weekly shopping. I did not end up having to drive “my” new Land Rover back to camp because both Lizzie and Joseph had come to town. They were picking up a new trailer to bring back to camp and Lizzie wanted to follow Joseph as he pulled it for fear it wouldn’t drive very well and it would get stuck. It turned out to be a good plan because it poured rain while we were still in Nanyuki and the unpaved roads were in terrible condition as we drove back up to Koija, where our camp is. A drive that normally takes 2 hours took us 3 and a half, with the trailer bouncing around behind Joseph in his 4×4, occasionally fishtailing out, and me and Lizzie with two Koija residents following behind him in our 4×4 watching him almost get stuck in the mud or slide off the road every few minutes. This morning when we tried to open the back door of the trailer for the first time, the beautiful shiny green metal trailer turned out to be an old rusty one all painted over, and one of the metal hinges sheered off. Which is all to say you have to inspect everything here. And in case this sound like a dramatic arrival, it’s not; just par for the course even in my limited experience of two prior trips to Kenya.

It is just me and Joseph and Lizzie in camp, so it’s very quiet. We bought lots of little plastic free-standing shelves in Nanyuki, which makes my 10’x10’ tent feel very home-like. I also have a locking trunk and an army cot and some linoleum on the floor of the tent. We still have our night guards (‘askaris’), named Simon and Kididing, who I like very much. Kelly is our cook, and Sainai, his sister, comes three times a week to do our wash. My translator Njelina also came today and will come six days a week. I find I am more used to the night sounds this time around (birds, crickets, jackals, singing from the young Maasai adults, and the omnipresent and unidentifiable rustlings). I’m helped in my so-called bravery by the fact that the elephants aren’t around right now, and I haven’t heard any lions. I am also so far less bothered by the dirt than I was at the start of the summer trip here.

Joseph hauled water from the river today in a plastic ‘bladder’ that holds hundreds of gallons. He made 3 trips to the river to fill our (I believe) thousand gallon water tank. He fills the bladder by siphon and empties it the same way. We have so far had meat at every meal, which is a gift after this summer’s trip, when I came back to the States ravenous for meat because our then-camp manager was vegan and fed us all the same way. I am lonely at night and nervous about work, but during the day I am okay and I really enjoy seeing all the people here again. The landscape has also grown on me; it is stark but pretty, and turns from brown to green just a few hours after it rains.

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