The Gorge and the art of making up friends…
Following my ‘great expedition’ transversing East Africa; so far shared in bits and pieces here, here and occasionally got pampered by Serena Hotel here and here, I take you back to Hell’s Gate National Park where I met my Kenyan friends – Cliff, Levy and Grace.
I didn’t drink Zappa that Cliff had originally offered. I drunk some water and reluctantly got into the back of the car with Cliff. Levy and Grace sat at the front. Cliff and Grace are a couple, he would occasionally lean over in his seat and caress Grace at the back of her neck. Levy would stare at me through the rare view mirror. I began to wonder if getting into a car with total strangers was such a great idea. The Hitchhiker movie flashed in my mind – it didn’t bring any comfort.
“I’m Levy, she’s Grace and Cliff,” as he gestured to the back.
“Where are you from Olive?”
I got asked this question a number of times and every time – I had to think about it. Why isn’t it obvious I am from Uganda? In Uganda when I get asked this, I know someone wants to know either of the three; where I work, live and or home district. But when a stranger from another land asks me where I am from, a mere Uganda doesn’t suffice it. I want to tell them everything; my tribe, clan, totem and how we kutambula… I want to tell them about my work, my place of work which is located in the heart of the city, my village and how far it is from Kampala, Uganda’s Capital City – just in case they don’t know. I don’t want to rule out this possibility.
Instead I say, “Uganda.”
“First time in Kenya?”
“No, but this is my first time in Naivasha.”
Grace jumps in with, “And you’re going through the park by yourself?”
I thought about this before answering. I didn’t want to come off as completely alone, much as I was. “No. My friends rode bikes ahead of me,” I said referring to my roommates I met earlier that morning.
Obviously by this time, I am not taking any more photos. I saw a herd of buffaloes and I really wanted to photograph them but I thought about having to ask Levy to stop to take photos, it seemed like an imposition so I let it go. Do you see why riding a bicycle is better?
I asked them if they lived in Naivasha. Cliff told me that they came from Nairobi the previous day and they were in Naivasha for the weekend. They asked me if I planned on going to Nairobi and I told them I did. They invited me to show me around their city, I thanked them…
Soon we arrived at the main attraction in Hell’s Gate National Park, The Hell’s Gate Gorge. It’s lined with beautiful intricate cliffs. The Gorge offices are situated at the Masai Cultural Centre. I was happy to find my roommates and so were they. I excused myself from my new clique to go say hello to the other strangers I would be sharing a roof with that night.
They were taking shade under a tree; their bicycles lying by their feet, their hair and shirts plastered against their bodies… Since The Gorge has hot springs I asked, “Did you go swimming in your clothes?”
Rebekah, grey eyed and brown haired laughed, “No, it’s all sweat! It’s gross, no?” As she reached to sniff her under-arms while wrinkling her nose at the same time.
“What a great workout for you guys…” I said.
Erik had the lightest brown eyes I had ever seen with pitch black hair. He shifted in his position to look behind me, at my Nairobi clique questioningly.
“I bumped into some friends from Nairobi.” I said while waving and smiling at Cliff and Grace. I was getting really good at making up “friends.”
Klaus who had been on an internship in Nairobi had wavy, blond hair and grey eyes like Rebekah. He asked if I would be going through The Gorge with my friends, I said maybe. They had found out that it is The Gorge that needs a guide and it is better as a group. They charge Kshs. 2000 per group for two hours. My German clique was too tired to go trekking, they only had enough energy to ride back to Camp Carnelley’s. I told them I would find them there.
Levy had used that time I was with Klaus and team to book us a guide. I asked him how much I owed him, he said that it was a Karibuni treat. YAY!
Our guide went all mechanical; reciting the history of The Gorge like he had done it over a thousand times. He probably had. I perked up soon as I heard him say that going through The Gorge is challenging, one could easily slip and fall, sprain or break something… I felt my camera against my chest to still my heart. I rather break something than scratch my camera. The thought made me shudder.
“Ready? Let’s go!” Our guide prompted us.
He led the way. Gingerly stepping into nooks, holding onto crannies and advising us to follow suit as soon as he reached the first landing. Gracey went next, then me… I could tell everyone was holding their breathe. I know; my hands and feet are really misleading – they give an impression that I can barely walk to the kitchen and carry my own cup but I will have you know that a fitness beast resides within this fragile looking being!
Levy followed and lastly Cliff with his long limbs, decided to ignore the guide and step into other nooks – in three steps he was done. Triumphantly.
“Show off!” I said grudgingly, quite impressed.
He laughed and simply said, “I’m Kenyan!”
Within ten minutes of climbing and gingerly slopping cliffs – my camera dangling around my neck, my purse against my hip (why did I carry a purse? A purse of all things?) – it dawned on me that two hours of doing this was definitely going to be a wearing workout!
It was a busy day at The Gorge- a bus full of school boys, groups of friends, families… I wondered if Ugandan national parks get that busy. Matter of fact, I am ashamed to say, I haven’t the slightest idea how much it costs to go through our national parks. Is it a single fee as with the Kenyan Wildlife Service? I mean, can one ticket from Uganda Wildlife Authority give me access to either Queen Elizabeth, or Lake Mburo or Kidepo National Park or are they unique?
I’ve been to Lake Mburo National Park but I was on some kind of arrangement, I didn’t pay so I don’t know. Planning to remedy this as soon as I get a chance. Although I strongly believe this is the kind of information that should be readily available for people, not just Ugandans but for the East African Community and the foreigners. It’s a great help knowing in advance so travelers and tourists can financially plan accordingly.
I have seen photos of the Grand Canyon and I dream of visiting it and sleeping the the stars one day. Going through Hell’s Gate Gorge gave me a slight peek of what it would be like. A once in a lifetime experience.
Needless to say; after two hours, we had worked up quite an appetite. I couldn’t wait to get back to Camp Carnelley’s, shower and have a huge happy meal.
My Kenyan friends suggested we go eat in Naivasha town, I told them I couldn’t. I felt like I had been awake for two days straight.
Levy and his friends dropped me off at Camp Carnelley’s. They wrote their numbers on slips of paper so I could call them once I was in Nairobi and email addresses so I could share our photos with them.
By the time we reached Camp Carnelley’s, it was drizzling. The dorm was empty – the German clique was out showering. And they were three more travel bugs – travel bags 🙂 I soon found out that they belonged to three Italian guys and they were out on some sort of adventure.
I dropped off my camera and my stupid purse, picked up my towel; I didn’t carry a change of clothes since they would get wet and made for the showers. When was the last time you showered outdoors in rain? Now imagine this; hot shower, cold rain, outdoors. I can’t even begin to explain to you how that felt! I only stopped the shower because I am frightened of thunder. The lightening would strike, cast shadows of tree branches and their leaves against the bathroom walls… After the second deafening sound; I grabbed my towel, hastily wrapped it around myself and ran to safety. I think I still had some lather…
When I went back to the dorm, I found my roommates buzzing, going on about how that was the most amazing shower ever! As we toweled, teeth chattering… It struck me as odd to feel at peace so far away from my friends, discussing showers with new ones.
“Have you eaten?” Erik asked me.
“You can join us, if you like,” Rebekah said.
Why do people say that? If you like. If you like makes me feel like I am on a spot. If I like. If I don’t like. What happens if I don’t like? Whatever happened to, “Would you care to join us?”
Sometimes even I surprise myself, I had carried an umbrella on this trip! Off we went to the Lazy Bones Restaurant. Camp Carnelley’s restaurant is called Lazy Bones. The cushions are on the floors, arty lights hanging from the ceiling. Very inspiring.
Going through the menu, my heart sunk. Everything was above Kshs. 1000 but for one that was
Kshs. 1000 = Ushs. 34,000! For someone that works so hard, it really blows that our currency is useless in a country just next door! Without even looking at what I was ordering, I pointed at whatever cost Kshs. 750 and waited. I had already given up on my dreams of a huge happy meal. Meanwhile, my friends had ordered for burgers, sandwiches.
It turned out to be a salad wrap :'(
I was so hungry I could eat the salad thingy and the waiter that delivered it. Instead, I prayed. I thanked the Lord Almighty for the meal, for that moment, for my safety, my new Kenyan friends, my new German friends, my old friends, for the gift of sight and the opportunity to see and appreciate His work, for my ability to hear the birds chirp, the frogs croak. I asked Him to send down His Mighty Angel to look after my family while I was away and to continue blessing me with the gift of new friends and wonderful experiences.
I was pleasantly surprised at how happy and less hungry I was after my little prayer. I looked up at my friends mixing Sprite with the Tusker lager. Apparently, it’s a thing back in Germany and is believed to be a great taste. I took their word for it – you might want to try it out, if beer is your thing.
Biting into my salad, I was gifted with the taste of ham and cheese mixed with lettuce, green pepper and other delicious green stuff. I actually struggled to finish it. Phones passed each other so we could see photographs taken at the Hell’s Gate. We oohed and aahed at the chef’s skills.
After the meal, we leaned back in the cushions, stretched out our legs, rubbed our full bellies and just fell silent. The camp next door, Cray Fish about 2km away had a party. We could hear the music all the way.
After a few moments punctuated with contented sighs Klaus said, “I am so glad we aren’t staying at Cray Fish, imagine all that noise!”