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


Busy times in Kenya

The local residents at the crag 
Well its been a busy period of late with plenty of adventure training and other types of courses running from fun to instructional, informative to safari’s. Our main summer season although actually its the dead of winter here is easing off now. We have had some great groups coming through on adventure training courses we have just had a team in who have been on a hectic schedule packing it in and getting the most of the area. They where split into two half climbed the mountain with a hundred percent hitting the summit and the other half where on actives. With them we had some inductions around camp on the bikes and climbing wall before they left with a 60kms ride across Laikipia to our Forest Camp by the Nagare Ndare forest. We had a good two days with a climbing and canyon session cycling between everything. Cycling is a great way to see the country and also feel a bit more at street level rather than speeding by in a cloud of dust peering out the windows of a tour bus. Once we where finished we of course had the cycle of 60kms back to camp in the Ol Pejeta camp to meet the happy mountain team. A great bunch who also attended a school in the UK which I worked on their Scottish winter weeks with Abacus, great to see that the outdoors stuff carries on even if it makes me feel a little old seeing ex students getting older! 

Biking between venues makes for some nice biking in the forest 
Prior to that their was a trip into the canyon with the Spanish embassy and a UK family based here in Nanyuki. Our Canyon can suit many groups from those who want a big jump to those looking for a less exciting dip in the water. 
There have been various other trips coming and going we have had a team from the US on a more Safari based trip climbing Mount Longonot near Lake Naivasha. Our Canadian trip finished and returned home having had a good three weeks with us. 
I have also been on MIAS mountain bike leader course with some other members of staff which all went extremely well. Nice to be on a course for a change. 
Toby our intern over the last three months will be heading home soon and he has been a great help over this busy period, so if anyone is looking for an instructor over the next while then look out for Toby Leckie as he will be appearing on the UK market very soon, but not before we head North for a wall which is rumoured to have some climbing on it although the image below looks intimidating! The scale of this wall does not come across in the image!!!!!! 

Rock climbing at Ngare Ndare 




Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Spaceman

A short film featuring our Security guard Dagama who comes from well North of Nanyuki Maralal. He explains the unusual origins of the Masai who you may think come from Africa......


Spaceman from Dan Goodwin on Vimeo.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Expedition into Ol Pejeta


A Lion lazing in the sun as the heat builds 
 I've been within the Ol Pejeta conservancy over the last couple of days with the Canadian and American team with a packed itinerary. We got prepared packing up the gear and loading the Land Cruiser the classic green go anywhere safari vehicle. We loaded up with tents, cooking gear and food aiming for a wild camp on the banks of the  Ewaso Nyiro river.
Camping on the banks of the river there are Elephants further down the bank on the bend
 The team where also due to carry out a bike safari so the logical thing was to leave our camp on bikes heading round the perimeter fence through the community land to the main Rongai gate to the Ol Pejeta conservancy. In through the gate and off round the bike loop, the previous days rain made for a few boggy sections but out on the open plains its was no problem. This loop passed a variety of animals Buffalo, Rhino, Warthogs and lots of Zebra and Impala bringing us round to Morrani’s cafe. We left the bikes and headed through the conservancy to the research base to check in and have a talk with Joshua about the overall picture and approach Ol Pejeta takes on conservation and its ethos.
Buffalo on Zebra plains 
 We wound down after that through the Acacia tree’s to the campsite to set up on the Ewaso Nyrio river bank at Owesso camp. A stunning spot and pretty much the African impression. As we arrived a herd of Elephants arrived to eat the succulents that run along the edge of the river. With camp set we had time for a game drive taking a drive through we saw numerous animals before returning to cook. Spag bowl prepared and while eating a cracking noise in the dark and large splash almost had me throw my dinner all over me. Just on the opposite bank to the tent was an obvious Hippo run into the river, it had slithered into the water and then silently swam right by us and off down the river. Hippos will use the water ways as there way to get from a to b due to the amount of predators out at night and can move from grazing grounds without being detected. I had quietly had a walk down the river bank to look for obvious runs but our side was a steep bank. Hippo’s can be very dangerous but its more a question of what your actions are to get them nervous, getting between them and the water, or between them and there young will cause, the main reason they are considered dangerous is because if they attack its almost a certainty they will kill. It is rare for these animals to suddenly kill though there needs to be a reason for them to attack and its usually through ignorance or a bad decision on the part of the human which results in an incident. 
Crossing the Ewaso Nyrio river en route to the camp 
An extremely early start at around five am to start the conservation in action day around the conservancy. Although bleary eyed and a little hungry due to a baboon incident the previous afternoon which involved some breakfast items migrating the morning was to have quite a kick start in store which would soon have us wide awake. I drove up to the research station to collect Jimmy who was joining us for the day with the plan of heading direct to the Chimp sanctuary but as we drove closer to the sanctuary Jimmy mentioned that there was a pride of Lions not far from there spotted by a colleague, we quickly headed to the area and soon found a pride 14 strong by the road. A spectacular sight furious snapping of pictures and then the action began with ring side seats. It had become obvious the older Lions had seen something in the bush across the road. The main Lion suddenly got up from sitting and with a low haunched back started to creep towards the track in front of the truck and with perfect precision two other older Lions got up and rushed along the side of the truck and darted into the bush disappearing. The main Lion now in front of the truck moved into the grassy area below us. I couldn't see what they where looking for and then bang the two flanking Lions launched out the bush with a warthog just ahead of them squealing and sprinting its way into the path of the main Lion who exploded into action and within seconds paws where on it then jaws and after some fairly shrill noises from the doomed Pumba silence fell. A perfect ambush. All so coordinated a rehearsed. Then the pride where on it and it was a the scene we have all seen on the Beeb of bloody heads coming up from a mass of Lions feeding on a kill. And that was that breakfast efficiently served at 7am! 
Going in for the kill 

The large pride all looking at breakfast

Poko one of the rescue chimps
Off we went now sufficiently awake to the Chimps sanctuary. This lies as a small reserve within the conservancies 90’000 acres. A sanctuary for chimps who have been rescued from throughout the region. Often neglected and abused which adds to their rather shocking aggression towards humans and each other, in fact almost as soon as I arrived I got the camera out to take a shot of a friendlier looking one who rolled his mouth in way that made me think ‘surely he’s not’, and he did and spat a massive blob at me thankfully missing my face but hitting my shoulder. As we gazed around the two caged areas they where in before they where let out it was a fairly eye opening scene. The noise they made and aggression they showed alarmed me. I have never seen banging and screaming like that from animals also ones you see your own species characteristics in so noticeably. Their aggression though is not without reason. If we take Poko who was used for amusement in a petrol station in Bujambure, Barundi as an example. For nine years he was hung in a cage above a petrol forecourt to attract custom. The cage was so small he could only stand and as a result walks bolt upright as it affected his back. It was common practice as described in Tim Butchers book Blood river that in the Congo it was good luck to have a Chimp in a cage hanging from a shop. A pretty sad story for these Chimps but good to see the great work being done by the conservancy to make them a good home. 
From here we had a long game drive making our way to the western side of the conservancy at Namok where the cattle ranch lies. We pretty much saw everything on that drive round, Lions lazing in the sun, Hyena, Elephant, Giraffe, Jackals and Rhino. 
We met Giles at the live stock office who ran through the balance of Ol Pejetas wildlife ethos. Essentially it boils downy to creating a balance between having a working cattle ranch and wild animals often associated with eating the cattle such as Lions. The Ol Pejeta beef is well known and sold all over. There conservation ethos is cutting edge and should be taken on by the national parks under the Kenya Wildlife service. Introducing things like steel fenced but moveable ‘boma’s’ to protect the cattle through the night from Lion attack. Moving those boma’s on a regular basis leaves the area naturally fertilised and the ground broken up so that better grasses can grow through in the rains leading to better grazing grass for the wild animals. By having a strong head of cattle and strong wild animal population they are able to protect the park for hard times, for example we have troubles with security in the country but if the tourists stop coming the park can lean on the cattle more for income through the hard times. We had a look at a tick spray station and also a Boma while heading back to see Baraka. 
Baraka is a Southern Black Rhino but blind and seems very comfortable around people as you can get up close to him. The park has four Northern White Rhino’s of which there are only seven left on the planet sadly for them they don’t have long left before they are all gone. 
One of the large herds of cattle on the conservancy 

Giles explaining the livestock management program 
 After that we where pretty bushed and headed back to strike camp and head back round to our permanent camp. A great experience for all and plenty learned about managing a conservation area. Sadly humans over the years have destroyed the habitats of these animals, hunted them into extinction, put them into Space or tea bag adverts so these conservation areas are vital if we are to keep these animals for future generations to see them in real life. Although I have scepticism about charity in Africa I think if directed towards wild life programs or anti poaching missions I think its a very good thing, so long as that is where it ends up.