Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Back to it in Nanyuki

Tyson in the grounds as a 
Well the holidays are over and its back to it again. We had a great couple of weeks at the coast on paddle boards, Kayaks and even the manager trying a sky dive who landed successfully at our feet at the beech bar! The coast area has a lot to offer but there is a distinct lack of tourism here due the various security issues Kenya has had of late which is a shame and people seem a bit more desperate as a result. Even the fishing has become a poor source of income to the locals as the bigger and often foreign fishing firms drag netting the whole sea bed wrecking it for the smaller boats. We even saw people ring net fishing off the beech in small boats having come all the way from Tanzania (which actually isn't that far away). And catching tiny fish which will be of no use to anyone. 
The bus back to the city was much more comfortable this time and I would highly recommend the Simba bus over the chania bus any day especially as you don't get the travelling salesman who get on from time to time and try and sell a product. We had one on the way up which I didn't understand the product but he seemed to be selling two things one was a powder the turned water into orange juice and the other pill which solved everything the sales pitch went on for the best part of two hours which involved a lot of ranting. It also had which was the bit I didn't understand was he would periodically pull up a large poster displaying the female ovaries and tubes etc and then point it at women. He also mentioned some disses which made me think it was a pill to cover all known problems, he made a lot of sales but I was sceptical and not keen to buy the miracle pill from a brown manilla envelope in the back of a public bus. I have done that route a few times now and have become well used to the Voi service stop in Tsavo which delivers an excellent Goat Samosa but unfortunately also the smelliest loos in East Africa. 

Dipesh coming in to land on Diani beech 
 Not a long stop in Nairobi on the way through but a nice stop in Upper Hill camp which is run by Jess which I would say is the best option in Nairobi with a variety of nice accommodation options in the leafy suburbs. The Milimani backpackers which we stayed in on the way down as they where full booked in Upper Hill is not a good option book ahead and stay with Jess is the best option she also knows the city inside out and is more than happy to point you in the right direction. We stayed there during a cycle trip a couple of years and ago and it now feels like the only place to stay.  

Camp is still standing and all are back in work now after the Easter break and we are getting set for the next set of clients who will be here in a couple of days. All sorts of adventure courses kicking off so things are good for RVA unlike many operators. I am planning various staff training courses over the coming weeks and perhaps also a trip to Uganda to risk assess Mount Elgon which should be an interesting trip preceded and followed by 16 hours of speed bumps to Kampala, still not that keen on planes. The rains are here but not to much of an issue at the moment as you can plan round them but its chilly compared to the coast I have been forced to put a jumper on in the evenings! We have had a stunning viewing of Elephants who passed the camp yesterday in a huge herd. We where able to view them right next to the two foot fence. Elephants have terrible eyesight but if you look at them from downwind of them then they wont smell you if you approach from upwind they will smell you a long way off and get nervous which is not a good thing. Their ears and nose are extremely sharp but eyesight is limited to a few metres at best but with smell and noise they will know exactly where to charge which would be a frightening thing and very likely your last ‘safari’! 

Camp is still standing and looking much greener for the rains 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Wasini and Kisiti Islet from Shimoni : Snorkel

The 'Monsoon' Dhow which was our boat for the day, correctly named as it was raining. 

Tea break after round one of snorkelling on the reef
We headed out today on the 'Monsoon' a Dhow boat with a large crowd all knew some of each other through work in Nanyuki so it was a nice social day out checking out the reef which lies some 10km off Wasini Island in the Southern Indian Ocean. It sits in the 'Kisiti Mpunguti Marine Reserve. Once you sail round the various islets you reach the reef which offers some excellent snorkelling with various fish and sea life to see. Here are a few snaps from under the water:

Octopus in the coral which made some amazing colour changes as we went past to camouflage 

Striped tropical fish between the corals 

Bright colours in the fish 

Different corals that move around 
 The other interesting thing to note is the house pictured below which is in Shimoni where you get the boats across the Pemba Channel, from here you can head to Zanzibar and also Pemba both Tanzanian islands. This was the first building of the British Imperial East Africa Company. They chose this area as it was empty but it had been a major slave area for sending slaves out to the Zanzibar markets but after the abolition of the slave trade this town emptied until this building was erected and many others  following on throughout the town which where built by the British. It was essentially the start of the colonial period which had its roots in Shimoni. For now it seems it has slipped back into obscurity due to the much larger resorts up the coast and also the decline in tourism in Kenya which is hitting the country quite hard at the moment.

Old site of the first British Imperial East Africa Company head quarters.

Paddle Boarding, Diani beech - Galu beech

Out in the Indian ocean off Diani beech using a paddle board, very nice way to travel, waves next !!
Something a bit new today a paddle boarding trip down the coast a bit. Its certainly something to do more of now there is some balance sorted, within the bays here they are pretty sheltered from the reef which sits about 800mts off shore but heading out to the reef is where the surfing is. Its certainly a nice way to travel moving along the coast, also means to can travel down the beech without getting hassled every two minutes. The boards Nick (RVA Director) have are very solid inflatables which unless he hadn't mentioned it I would have assumed they where solid although landing on them is not painful so it makes a perfect board to get going on.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Coastal times

The bus to Mombassa always a squeeze but not a bad vehicle from the Chania bus company this time.

After a few hectic days of closing the camp and nipping to Nairobi and back to get Victoria its now time for some relaxing and recoup rating before we start up again at the end of the month. Once the camp was closed down it was back on the road to Nairobi and then the bus which is always a bit hit or miss to Mombassa. Last time I was heading I had found a good bus but had no time to locate it this time in the early morning throng on Nairobi's River Road so it was not a bad one but a bit of a schoolboy error meant I chose the seats over the back wheels which led to a sore butts all round by the time we reached the coast but a fairly trouble free journey bar the scorpion incident. I became aware something was on my calf which had come through the window a short time ago. The back row did not have enough room for all to sit back so it was my time to lean forward and sleep with my head on the seat in front so the back row could sit with their backs on the seats so I was awake and could feel something on my calf and turned it round a bit to see and it was a scorpion the only one I have seen in Africa so far we where passing Tsavo park which must have them. Not wanting to cause a stampede in the cramped bus I tried to flick it off to the floor and crush it but instead flicked it off me and between the seats onto the sleeping person in front. Not wanting to break the sleeping I for some reason punched the seat in front to make it jump which just annoyed the person in front and made it jump back on my knee but a swift slap and it was dead, everyone remained asleep.
 Its a short drive via the ferry which has sunk on occasion but no such dramas and then its a drive down to Diani and the epitome of a tropical beech. Plenty to do down here although at the moment its about getting used to the heat which is significantly higher than Nanyuki although I think its mainly the humidity which is different.

Diani beach south of Mombassa and Tiwi, very nice ! 
The resident bush baby in our room, very mellow and just stays sleeping in the rafters but he will know if you have food.

The warm waters of the Indian Ocean and camels striding by, the Kenyan version of donkey rides ! 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

More training courses

No rain on the horizon which I think is Borana and the Intrepid's 
Another busy few days of adventure training in Laikipia county. I have been based away from the main Ol Pejeta camp up at Timau River Lodge which we use as a second base through the busy periods. I have been jumping between the Canyon and Rock site managing groups with varying abilities but on the whole strong groups with the occasional climber and SPA who we have been able to help their coaching by making them deliver training to their party members and I can help with improving that. 
We have been lucky with the weather as the rains have held of which has made things much easier in terms of getting to and from the sites. I have though looked out from the crag across the plains to Leywa downs and seen torrential downpours coming down and what looks like coming in a line straight for us. But its always worth seeking local knowledge and the various Masai herdsman who come past often looking perplexed at what we are doing seem to have a good handle and just suck their teeth and say ‘no no sir not rains here’ and they are generally right. One amusing thing did occur on the day that our clocks go back I asked the local staff in the morning ‘do the clocks go back tonight?’ A few confused looks and things went back and forth before someone came back to me with a fairly confused and stressed tone ‘Mr Dan you want to change time’ ‘no no not time itself’ Although as it happens I asked a day late so as usual in the UK I would have ballsed it up again. I remember one year working for Alan Kimber and got a phone call asking where I was but I had made the error of not changing the clock on the phone for the alarm. Then the following year working for Alan on the same day did adjust my phone but by then we had smart phones which knew to do it but having adjusted it the smart phone also adjusted it leaving me with the same phone call from Alan in the morning!!! 

So we have a quiet period heading our way so we can re-charge and get the place all sorted for the next phase. Perhaps a little trip to the coast and maybe some time to try surfing again. 
Brew time in the forest camp which we put up and take down as we use it, cook Paul on the left and Ndorito on the right 

Belaying going well, no guessing the nationality with a Helly Hanson thermal !

Monday, March 31, 2014

Catch up blog : Various things

Abseil with a view ! 
A catch up blog as the last while has been very busy with work ranging from cooperate days with various companies, building a low ropes course to adventure training with various clients. The summer is coming to end on the equator and the rains are beginning to hit with some downpours that would put even Scotland to shame. Although its a pain on the roads it is nice to see the area turning green and the dust in the air lessen. Right now its huge deep thunder rumbling and rain falling torrentially. I have even bought an umbrella and welly’s. 
We have been steadily ticking away on the camp situated in Ol Pejeta installing various things for groups to use while in camp. A low ropes course which is now in good shape with various elements  and activities throughout the camp, the old Outward Bound apprenticeship coming into action. 

We have also been taking in groups. A very good adventure training course recently with some Nepali clients where we took on the canyon, climbing and the excellent Mount Kenya bike ride. That has some very nice single track winding through the forests on the lower slopes. Nepalis also don’t mess about when it comes to dinner time, chicken curry from scratch, and they know how to make an excellent curry, which had our camp staff running to the sink dousing cold water on themselves as it was a tad hot.
Some corporate groups have also been through including the middle management team for Ol Pejeta where we provided various team activities and then looked at relating those to the work place and also looked into the issues that they face while trying to work as more effective team. 
Tough hills, fine for some although for others little tough ! 
On the rock 
We have a big surge of groups coming through for some adventure training over the next week before we break up for some r and r perhaps at the coast. Then I shall be getting to grips with some staff training courses looking at the canyon and climbing plus the mountain. Mount Kenya is now getting a good deal of snow as this rain passes through so perhaps it will also be my time to get my snow fix as I need a day or two in a whiteout from time to time. 

Wildlife has been good to as the rains kick in there seems to be more about although the lion is the last for me to see, I have been hearing them at night roaring but have still to see one. We have though had a barrage of snakes through the camp in the last couple of days, certainly something which has made me think twice about the flip flops. Cobras and Mambas live here and there bite would not be something pleasant at all. The local camp staff seem to have a range of tactics to kill them if they are spotted which seemed to me to be a mix of pangas, spears, sticks and water hurled towards it in no great order, possibly a higher chance of getting panga’d than bitten by a snake. 
Learning new skills, chicken curry from scratch