Guys, I did it. I took the road alone and found myself in Nanyuki. Thanks to the urging of someone very close to me and a few calls (thanks 🙂 ), I am here on my first solo trip. I thought about visiting one of our neighbouring countries and then it hit me, I haven’t even seen half of Kenya. Calm down, Shiku. It’s better to get lost in a place with your M-Pesa and language than in another foreign land. You can bet I have made quite a number of wrong turns thanks to Google. I know I will continue making them, but that is how I am learning. I even got coolant added without my dad’s urging. Man I am so grownup!
Do I need to mention that the road all the way to Nanyuki is almost flawless? Makes me wonder why it was even mentioned in the Madaraka Day speech when other parts of the country obviously need roads. That is what I call misplaced priorities. Side note: Juja Mall be a Ghost Mall, I confirmed that. It took me about 4 hours to get here, thanks to a few wrong turns here and there. One it the Nyeri right-turn. I could hear my dad telling me to turn in my head, but Google was quiet. And then she spoke after a few meters and I decided to ignore her. “Take a u-turn,” she insisted. Thrice. So I stopped, took a breather and turned. Lol. I am so stubborn.
The first thing I noticed is how clear it gets after Nyeri—the hills you have to sail through at the beginning of the journey between Kiambu, Kirinyaga and Nyeri are now a distance away to the right and you can see miles around. Then, of course, you cross the equator. I think I may have passed through Nanyuki as a kid, but I am not sure. So it’s safe to say this is my first time. I got to the hotel at five and waited a while before I got the right deal which the person I mentioned above ensured I got. Hotel experiences always faze me a bit because I never know what to expect. I am those kind of people who will always remain cooped up at home because I am afraid of what I will have to learn or deal with out here.
Without mentioning names, or maybe I will down the line, I loved the room once I got in. The carpet, the bed, the windows, the bathroom. However, I noticed there was no coffee or tea. Like seriously, I am not a Kikuyu mother but why would they not have this basic commodity as advertised? Secondly, I was not given any rules and there was no guidebook, so I had to go back down and ask. You know, WiFi password (I got it to work today, second night, yay), meal times etc. Thirdly, a mosquito woke me up in the middle of the night, after I took forever to sleep in the first place. So amazingly annoying! I mean, it’s okay for a mosquito to bother me in my own bed in Kikuyu but not in one I am paying for! Even that one in Kikuyu is super rare. I tabled my complaints this morning, not sure if there will be another tonight, probably just waiting for me to turn in to show itself. Also, I had to Google how to turn on the shower so that the water runs from it and not the faucet below. (Go ahead and laugh). Anyway, so far, so good. I am not spontaneous enough to try swim, but maybe I will try the sauna and massage. (I have not tried any of these after three days here.)
Day One: Mount Kenya Animal Orphanage
I Googled and TripAdvisored. (I can turn that into a verb, right?) All of Google and company claim that there are only 7 things to do in Nanyuki. So I turned to Twitter and found that a friend of mine was tweeting about Nanyuki just a few days ago. His advice led me to the Mount Kenya Safari Club today, more specifically its animal orphanage. After two wrong turns, thanks to Google Maps, once again, I was finally on the right road to the place. Through the well-tarmacked, abandoned road (apart from the occasional tourist Toyota SUV), you can see Mount Kenya in the distance. Eventually I got to the orphanage gate, acting very much like I got it together and I knew exactly where and what I was doing. Lol.
This is the part I realized it was a bit strange to be doing this on my own. The guard and guide both asked me, separately, if I was in a group. In my head I was like, I very much alone, people! Free country. Anyhuuuu, I paid via M-Pesa with the guard’s help, a very kind smiley man who seemed to be a bit unsure of the M-Pesa option, and got in. It costs 1,500 KES to get in. You can bet I was hoping, the whole time I was travelling there and making the payment, that it was a worthy deal. Well it was. I didn’t feel so until about 20 minutes into being there.
I felt a bit lost as I was all alone and no one was guiding me. The green is calming though, no matter how lost you feel. The enclosing takes up a climate of its own, with exotic plants and trees that give off a beautiful aura. Benches are neatly placed all over the orphanage. A troop of pupils were getting tickled by a guide in one corner. A uniformed lady was just standing around and another uniformed guy passed by and told me a guide would be sent to me. I decided to get busy and look at some weird animals called (searches brain for the name of some cats with long ears)… Caracals. I have found the name from the orphanage’s Facebook page just now. Then I saw the Llamas that were hidden from sight by the pupils who had now moved on to another animal. What are Llamas doing here anyway? The lady informed me that they were brought in from South America. Okay.
￼I moved on to another tiny animal. Hyrax something. Rock hyrax, that’s it. A family of three joined me. At this point I was kinda regretting this whole thing. Like where is the fun in going around not knowing anything about these animals? The kids looked like they were having so much fun with their teachers, with their little notebooks and high-pitched giggles. They were studying a female ostrich that was roaming around at this point. I almost had the mind to join them. That’s when my saviour came around and began to chat the couple near me. I decided to take the bull by the horns and ask him if he was the guide and just like that I got my own personal guide! Woohoo! To the Shiku who knows what she wants. But, hold that thought…
We walked through to the main compound, stopping by a male ostrich—I come off knowledgeable about who is male and who is female because at this point, he has already told me the differences—and a tortoise who is as old as we will never be. We find baby buffalo who loves the guide so much, he ends up following us throughout most of the tour around. He looks like a cow at this stage, hard to tell he will grow up to be the huge animal we all know. When I sent a pic to some friends, they were sure I was petting a calf—I was, anyway. There are many animals in this orphanage, some I cannot remember. I saw owls, helmeted guinea fowls (it’s illegal to keep this as domestic animals), a huge leopard chilling in its camouflage up a tree and pygmy hippos having a nice time in a muddy puddle, just frozen in their peace. The guide had a interesting story about these two. Apparently they are brother and sister and have been here for years and have never mated. Respect. I instantly remembered our dog at home who is the mother to her son’s daughter.
Then there were the monkeys. Colubus, Sykes and Vervet monkeys. These guys have friends on the outside of the orphanage who come chill on top of their enclosing and wish they were inside too, enjoying free food. Mr Baboon here was happy to show his goods. Then there were cheetahs. I finally got it into my head that cheetahs have smaller, more organized spots than leopards, are thinner and chill on the grass not on top of trees like leopards. And of course, the bongo antelope is a major part of what this orphanage is all about. They breed within the safety of the conservancy and are released into the wild eventually. In the end, I did not regret this one bit. You learn so much out here and meet wonderful people who enjoy their jobs. I signed the visitor’s book and Samoei (I only learnt his name at this point. Bad habit.) explained how contributing to the orphanage works. You get a tile in your name on the building’s walls. I have not gotten to that point in my wildlife appreciation journey though. 😀
Of course I had to take my already daring self into the Mount Kenya Safari Club itself. As usual, lovely people all around who are willing to ensure you spend as little as possible in that super expensive place. I made a wrong move going into the place just as Mount Kenya was cooking up a nice cold drizzle. So I had to sit myself in the bar and drink a juice while I watched the rain and read a book. Lots of kids were running around. White, black, Indian. I just sat there and enjoyed being there. Next time, I will definitely go there earlier to catch a better glimpse of the mountain. Or better still, go hiking. Lazy me.
Needless to mention, I am fighting a tiny cold, not because of my visit to the cold but because it was already slowly bubbling inside me on the morning I left Kikuyu anyway. But ain’t nothing gonna bring this girl down. To be continued…
*Swats mosquito in my palms on fourth night*
This took forever to post because I apparently ran out of physical memory (I could not upload pictures to the blog) and I had to contact Sasahost to fix. In their quest, they published a test post in the middle of the night. Sorry if you clicked the link and found nada. I hope this makes up for it.