Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Game weekend

I was out over the weekend with Gareth and Anton who where with us for a trip up the mountain this week. Over the weekend we headed out into the conservancy for some game driving and also a bike safari which all went well and we got some good viewing in along the way. During the briefing to all the mountain team the game viewing began. As the group sat in a semi circle with backs to the fence we ran through the various bits of kit that would be needed on the mountain as we did a large Cheetah walked past the fence line only a few metres behind, certainly the best sighting I have had. 
We headed out after the rains driving past various spots in the afternoon, the main animals where lions of which we saw numerous sightings including an attempted kill and them eating a successful kill. Various other animials which can be seen in this one minute film below which was taken as we drive round. 

a moment in Ol Pejeta from Dan Goodwin on Vimeo.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Heavy rains

Stormy weather at the moment with heavy rains, like being in Scotland without the midge ! 
Well its been back with the first of the months groups for some Adventure Training at camp and also over in the forest. The long rains which are due here in April seemed to never arrive but having returned from the coast it looks like they have arrived now. We have had a very wet few days over the last course. Its pretty normal in the UK to work through the rain but here things are a little more tricky. The roads being the main issue literally disintegrate making travel anywhere other than the tarmac pretty epic. The mud here or ‘black cotton soil’ is like driving on black ice. Although as far as the area is concerned the rain is a good thing, the forest especially was in dire need of some rain and it almost instantly turned green which I have not seen before. 
We managed to get various things done despite the rain including using our smaller canyon nearer the main road which was pretty full having had the rain and resembled something like swimming in a bowl of coco pops with the brown milky water unlike the usual clear blue. 
We shall be fairly busy this month as bookings are coming in for various courses. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Trip Report : Olokwe Sapatchi

The long road North as the sun comes up North of Isiola 
Gun Shot Groove, Toby 
After spotting a gap in the planner Toby, Maina and I headed North in search of a giant cliff. We led
Ollokwe or ‘Sapachi” sits to the North of the Laikipian plaeux in Northern Kenya a stunning peak rising up from the plains with dramatic giant granite walls. Driving north to reach this area the striking landscape gives a feeling of real Africa and a sense of adventure quickly grabs you. We met John and John our Samburu guides at the Wamba junction just north of Archers post and headed round into a small valley nestled between giant granite wall and boulders. A nice basic campsite set in amongst the numerous acacia trees with their shock and awe thorns. Definitely make sure you give your tent pitch a good sweep as these thorns are particularly sharp. We headed out for the rest of the day having a look at the various crags and boulders in the area some great bouldering to be had, Toby ticked of one corner which we shall name ‘Gunshot Corner’. As he was about to start a sudden volley of rifle and AK47 fire broke out not far from us. We later discovered it was the Turkana warriors who had come to visit the Samburu who had previously rustled their cattle. This is very common cattle rustling and was once done with spears and subtly but now its more serious with the unrest in neighbouring Somalia and South Sudan lots of guns have come from there and the tribes are all armed to the teeth with AK47’s. No issue for tourists unless of course you get caught in the crossfire. I was told that there was once a few cases of people being robbed but that the elders had sat people down and said if anyone is caught stealing anything other than cattle they would be killed. 
After a comfortable night we emerged to find various donkeys and herders who where preparing to take us up to the top to camp. With the gear loaded we set off winding our way over dry river beds through the bush. Its a sharp up hill to reach the top steeply pulling up through dense bush and the occasional large boulder. Every so often the path would pop out giving some idea of the incredible views that awaited us at the top. Stopping for the odd water break along the way we where able to chat with John about the traditions and various issues the Samburu Masai face, the main one in this area seemed to be water. A rare commodity here and when coming you should bring it from Isiola or home as there was none to be seen once we reached the area. 
Once we reached the plateaux we wound our way towards the camp over granite slabs and bit of bush but much less steep and a relief to the calfs. The occasional person appeared herding their cattle as up here there is a bit more for them to eat. Just before we arrived at our campsite we passed a tree chock full of stones. John explained that tradition has it that whenever you pass this tree you have to place a stone it with you left hand. Legend has it that there was a man born from the mountain and on his passing went back into the mountain, his name was ‘Sapatchi’ which is what the locals refer to as the mountain. Its a mark of respect to Sapatchi to place a stone in his memory on passing. 
We reached the campsite nestled in between the trees which offers some welcome shade in the middle of the day. We set the tents around an open fire and headed off to the highest point. Walking round the granite slabs above the huge cliffs was spectacular huge views almost to much for the eye to take it. A vast area of flat plains and mountain ranges. The ‘Cat and Mouse’ which are actually huge granite fingers looked like tiny dots from the top. We wound round scrambling about and taking photos before a few scrambling steps landed us on top. At the top two granite noses stick out giving dizzying views down the cliffs. The cliffs which in areas have lots of white patches and streaks which come from the vulture nests. This is one of only two places in Kenya where the vultures nest, huge birds circling below us looking for food. We sat for a while gaping at the view, Toby remarking it was possibly the best view he had ever seen. 
Watching the vultures circling below 

The top of the main wall just under the top 
Returning to the camp that evening we got the fire going and prepared dinner. There is something quite special about being in the wilderness and cooking on an open fire, it gives a feeling you are free from all stresses and strains of everyday life and brings everything back to the simple things. 

Spag bowl the old fashioned way 
Its worth getting up early to see the sunrise here and we did just that and walked down watching the sky turn all colours before the day broke. By then it was a quick rattle down the steep path all the while the head of the day starting to rise. As we hit the bottom we loaded up the truck and quickly headed back to Ol Pejeta for a new group arriving that day. 

A truly great area huge empty plains and adventures to be had all over in remote mountain ranges and bushland. The Samburu people who where with us where very friendly and more than happy to share their traditions and even fire with us. We dropped them back at the junction we all shook hands and went our separate ways although I shall see them again as we start to develop more trips there and also my own personal trips as I certainly want to be returning to the area. 

An area with huge potential for more fun ! 

Friday, August 29, 2014

Catch up AT Coast and back !

In the North atop 'Sapachi' 
Well it's a bit of a catch up blog as I have been in various spots over the last while. We returned from our trip to North to finish off the last of the main seasons courses which where all AT orientated and based in the Ethi or Olpejeta with a wide mix of bike trips climbing and canyoning. We finished up feeling pretty tired and all aimed for the coast for a quick break before we start again in September. 
Toby our intern and I headed down to Nairobi for the night experiencing the best curry in months in the Westlands area and caught a quick flight early in the morning from Wilson to Mombassa to put us beech side mid morning. 

Early morning in Nairobi heading for the beech 
The Diani coastline is a superb one but its suffering now as the tourists are not coming at the moment which is sad to see. When I first came to this area three years ago it was busy even the last time I was here in April there where people but this time you could really see the effect on the area. It also greatly exposes the unacceptable German approach to ‘dating with an age difference’ which seems very prevalent here with them as it would not be accepted in Europe, either that or they are just really humorous great guys who younger women find really attractive. That said there where some people around so its not all gone but the time to tell will be when the tourists haven't booked anything for the season as this time some will have had things booked and not want to loose their cash so next season will be the tell tale but the signs are not good. We had a mix of things a nice boat trip before Toby headed off. 

Aboard the boat heading for a sail and snorkel with Toby Siv and Maya 
I visited the Shimoni area again with Dipesh and friends for some snorkling, diving and swimming in the most stunning little inlet sandwiched between lush islands coral outcrops and a stunning sandy bay. This is all on a Dhow touring around the islands and reefs before ending up on Wasini island for a fish meal. Nice fresh crabs to start, they where always a mystery to me as to how you where meant to eat them. I would often be the one smashing into bits all over the people around me and wondering what you where supposed to eat but I am getting the hang of it now, Some nice fish snapper I think, cooked whole and delivered to you complete with eyes which Dipesh seemed to enjoy popping out and eating, a nice coconut sauce and rice finishes it off. 

Aboard the Dhow heading to the Wasini islands from Shimoni 
From there I headed back to Nanyuki taking a flight this time from the Ukunda air strip behind Diani. I am not keen on flying at all as many will know as I arrived at the ‘terminal’ a quick glance up and down the run way I quickly gauged that big planes don’t come and go from here which did fill me with a high degree of nervous anticipation. It wasn't as small as the ones lying around the sides of the runway in differing states of repair. It was using propellers and not jets as I expect planes to do but it was forty seater it was a little bumpy on the way up and down but not bad. Kenyan airways on these smaller flights still provides you with a sandwich drinks and biscuits free Easy Jet could take note as it costs more than the flight to have a sandwich with them. When I arrived in Nairobi there was a high level of security and I was unable to gain access to the main gate and meet Musa who was driving North as the President was coming so a quick sighting of Uhru and I was off to Nanyuki. 

Toby proving the British mountaineer doesn't always fit into the coast seamlessly 
Back North and all seems well, plenty of rain has passed through and in some places you can see the build up on aspects of Mount Kenya where the snow is creating a pack, patches albeit. A few days in hand to catch up and get ready for kick off on the first of September. Its looking like we could have a little rain over the next while although when the sun is out its still hot but not quite the same as the coast. 

Below is a quick film of the ‘Ubiquitous Go Pro shot’ on every piece of footage you take with a go pro it has someone peering into  it looking to see if the red light is flashing and that is its filming. Have a look below.  

The Ubiquitous Go Pro shot ! from Dan Goodwin on Vimeo.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Northern Rock

The giant main wall at 'Sapache' otherwise known as Ol olokwe in Northern Kenya
I have just got back from a trip up North to have a look at a venue beyond Archers Post in the North here is a quick glimpse of what we saw. More to come on this trip when I have a moment spare!

A pretty large view from the top of the wall across Northern Kenya 

Looking back towards Isiola, the centre left is a vulture which nest in the cliffs 

Sunrise looking to the cat and mouse crags and beyond