TR Kenya Dec/Jan 20: of roaring rivers, a muddy Mara and 50 shades of green





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  1. #1
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    Default TR Kenya Dec/Jan 20: of roaring rivers, a muddy Mara and 50 shades of green

    Jambo fellow travellers,

    we are back from our trip through beautiful Kenya and will share our impressions as usual but before I start the report we would like to thank Wazungu Wawili for her patience and detailed advice as well as Ortelius, apfac and Stan for their detailed reports which wetted our apetite for a new country on our safari list.

    After last January's experience with a drought-stricken and searingly hot Botswana/Namibia we were ready for a holiday in a greener part of Africa with well-fed animals, lush vegetation and more pleasant temperatures - and greener it was, that's for sure!

    Our itinerary:
    26 Dec: B&B in Karen, Nairobi
    27+28 Dec: Ol Pejeta, Ol Lerai campsite
    29-31 Dec: Samburu NR Public campsite
    1+2 Jan: Aberdares NP Ruhuruini + Reedbuck public campsite
    3 Jan: Kembu Cottages, Njoro
    4-6 Jan: Mara Triangle, Oloololo public campsite
    7-10 Jan: Mara Triangle, Dirisha private campsite
    11 Jan: B&B Karen, Nairobi
    12 Jan: flight back home

    Vehicle rental: Fully equipped Landcruiser with rooftop tent from Sunworld Safaris

    26 Dec 19: Karen

    We flew into Nairobi with "The pride of Africa" (Kenyan Airways) at 9pm and were through visa/immigration in a breeze. Sunworld was already waiting for us and took us to our B&B in a quiet and leafy part of Karen. Traffic was light as expected and after a bit of a search in the dark we found our place for the night and gratefully noticed that it was as nice as described on AirBnB.

    27+28 Dec 19: Ol Pejeta

    After coffee on the terrace and a hearty breakfast we started with take-over of our vehicle which arrived on time at 9am as agreed. First impression was a bit sobering: we had expected better equipment for the extraordinary price we paid: the rooftop tent was really worn out and smelly, two tent poles were missing, the requested sleeping-bags were replaced by woolen blankets at Sunworld's discretion, towels were missing altogether, the requested shower tent was not available for this car (huh?) and the 270degrees awning that looked so smart on the pictures would fall apart with the slightest breeze.

    Knowing that no amount of moaning would help we decided to make the best of the situation. It was agreed with Sunworld that they would provide us with sleeping bags, towels and missing tent poles while we did the shopping and off we went to The Hub, only 5 minutes away from our B&B. First thing we bought was two Safaricom cards that would allow us to stay in contact during our safari and then we dived into the Carrefour to do the big shopping. They have a really good assortment of goods and we could get everything we wanted, except for rubbish bags which were not available due to the ban of plastic bags in Kenya.
    Shopping and Safaricom took much longer than expected and we only started to head out of Karen at 1pm (after having received the missing items of course). Traffic was not too heavy but we were very grateful for WW's advice on how to exit Karen towards Thika - I doubt we would have managed so smoothly without her directions - after all Nairobi is home to several millions of people.

    Shortly before Thika we encountered our first roadblock and were stopped by a smirking policeman who was pleased to inform us that we were going 7km/h above speed limit and that we would have to appear before court in Nairobi the following day. We politely pointed our that we would not be able to do so as we were just at the start of our holidays and it soon turned out that we could pay for our offense right on spot - 10.000 KHS in cash would do the trick. When we asked how fast we were going the good man could not tell us (yeah, but we were exactly 7km/h too fast - right?) but this quickly reduced the price to 2.000 KHS. Matthias with all charm and politeness pointed out that we would expect a receipt with his full name and that we had come a long way from Gernany to see his wonderful home country and somehow this broke the ice, the policeman handed him back the driver's license and said we could go, waving us goodbye with a huge grin.

    The further we went from Nairobi the less traffic and soon we started to climb towards the slopes of Mt. Kenya which was covered in low-hanging clouds, painfully aware that the high weight of our Landcruiser combined with a not so powerful engine hardly allowed us to overtake any slow vehicles in front of us. Climbing the many hills of Kenya at 35km/h was a real pain for dear husband and he would often rudely shout at our trusty old kiboko who stubbornly refused to change his pace just to please a bloody foreigner.

    We finally arrived at Ol Pejeta in the late afternoon and headed to Ol Lerai campsite which is located right by the Ewaso Ngiro river. Due to the abundant rains all was very green and the river was full of foamy melted chocolate - the roaring was so loud that it really suppressed all other noises, except for the thousands of froggies who serenaded us into an early night.

    Next morning greeted us with partly cloudy sky and after breakfast with the most delicious pineapple, mango and banana we started to organize all our belongings into the different drawers and compartments of the vehicle. Mission accomplished it was time for a first gamedrive and we cruised around for a couple of hours and saw all the usual suspects (many buffalo, zebra, eland, giraffe). Elephants were very scarce, maybe they kept hidden in the bush and we were delighted to finally see 4 of them feeding in the swamps close to the bridge.

    In the afternoon we headed towards Murera Donga campsite which I had read is close to a swampy area with plenty of wildlife. First attempt was not successful, the road was blocked by deep water and we decided to approach the campsite from a different direction. This track was pretty adventurous, the tracks up to 50 cm deep and soon kiboko was dangerously leaning to one side and we were in real danger of toppling over. Somehow Matthias managed to get us back to even ground and we found Murera Donga, a campsite with a lovely view of a grassy plain full of game. We would have loved to spend one night there but it was already occupied so we continued towards the plains. A curious black rhino eyed us with interest and it was a beautiful sight in the warm afternoon light.

    Back in camp 3 buffaloes studied us from the other side of the river but quickly retired into the bush when we got out of the car. The night was cool and humid and we were glad to have the new sleeping bags.

    Our rating of Ol Pejeta:
    It was a nice place to get settled at the start of our holidays. Ol Lerai is close to the river, has a basic toilet but we never found the source of water that they advertised for the campsite. Did not manage to see the western part of the park (west of the river).
    Quite a few visitors, probably due to Christmas holidays.
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  3. #2
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    Default Re: TR Kenya Dec/Jan 20: of roaring rivers, a muddy Mara and 50 shades of green

    ...
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    Default Re: TR Kenya Dec/Jan 20: of roaring rivers, a muddy Mara and 50 shades of green

    Looks awesome. I will be following your trip report.
    Toyota Fortuner 2.8 GD-6 4x4 Auto

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    Default Re: TR Kenya Dec/Jan 20: of roaring rivers, a muddy Mara and 50 shades of green

    Thanks Anne for taking the trouble to do this trip report, will obviously follow with great interest, what is still to be posted.
    Landcruiser 76SW.

    “Great journeys are memorable not so much for what you saw, but for where you camped”.

    At least "Once a year go someplace you have never been before" Delai Lama.

    Trans East Africa 2015/2016 Trip report http://www.4x4community.co.za/forum/...e16?highlight= from post 315.

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    Default Re: TR Kenya Dec/Jan 20: of roaring rivers, a muddy Mara and 50 shades of green

    Asante sana, Anne, for this terrific start to your trip report.

    It was a pleasure to give advice as you always give such good feedback. I am pleased that you found your way from Karen to Thika, but I am sorry to hear about the policeman. Well done you for holding your ground: you could have reported him to higher authorities (they ought to be wearing uniform with their police numbers visible).

    Yes, a green and pleasant land, but hopefully not too wet and muddy for all your visit.

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    Default Re: TR Kenya Dec/Jan 20: of roaring rivers, a muddy Mara and 50 shades of green

    Thanks for sharing!

    Cant wait for the next edition.
    Nico Swart

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    Default Re: TR Kenya Dec/Jan 20: of roaring rivers, a muddy Mara and 50 shades of green

    Hi Anne,

    I'm so excited with this trip report of yours! And your beautiful photos already made me wish to be back in Kenya right now. Looking forward for your next installments.
    24 hours in a day.... 24 beer in a case.... Coincidence?
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    Default Re: TR Kenya Dec/Jan 20: of roaring rivers, a muddy Mara and 50 shades of green

    Quote Originally Posted by Wazungu Wawili View Post
    Asante sana, Anne, for this terrific start to your trip report.

    It was a pleasure to give advice as you always give such good feedback. I am pleased that you found your way from Karen to Thika, but I am sorry to hear about the policeman. Well done you for holding your ground: you could have reported him to higher authorities (they ought to be wearing uniform with their police numbers visible).

    Yes, a green and pleasant land, but hopefully not too wet and muddy for all your visit.
    Thanks @everyone for your kind comments!
    With regard to holding our ground: it was actually thanks to one of Stan's tactfull remarks in our Uganda trip report where he rightfully pointed out that the quickest and easiest solution (=bribe) is hardly the best. We have tried to follow his advice since then and have been surprisingly successful!

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    Default Re: TR Kenya Dec/Jan 20: of roaring rivers, a muddy Mara and 50 shades of green

    29-31 Dec: Samburu National Reserve

    We headed towards Samburu and once we had again passed Mt. Kenya (in clouds) we were steadily going downwards and the scenery changed from lush and green to more bushy and drier but still green. Often there were carpets of tiny white flowers close to the road and it looked as if the ground was covered with snow.
    We entered Samburu at Archers Gate, paid 70 + 30 USD pppd (public campsite) and headed into the reserve. The road was badly corrugated so we soon decided to go off the main road and head towards the river. Great was our joy when we saw the first reddish coloured Samburu elephant who enjoyed a good splash of riverwater and soon ambled off into the shade provided by Doum palms.The river here is the same as in Ol Pejeta but looks different. While the riverbed in PEJ is narrow and the river deep, here is Samburu it was really wide and water was still flowing strongly but more shallow.

    When we got to the public campsites we were mighty relieved that two of them were empty - we had been warned by a member of the Namibia-forum.ch that Samburu campsites would be very busy over Christmas/New Year and that we would not find peace and quiet there.

    All three campsites have a beautiful view of the river and good shade provided by big trees, though some of them must have fallen during the heavy flooding of the previous months.

    Ablutions however are a real disgrace, of the two washbasins only one had a tap, one of the 2 toilets was filthy (the remaining toilet did not have a door) and the showers had not been scrubbed for a long time. I am normally not one who complains about such things but these problems could easily be solved and a few tiles and paint would not cost a lot, let alone some cleaning liquid. These ablutions are nothing to be proud of.
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    Last edited by Anne_W; 2020/01/22 at 08:26 PM. Reason: typing error

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  18. #10
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    Default Re: TR Kenya Dec/Jan 20: of roaring rivers, a muddy Mara and 50 shades of green

    On the first evening in Samburu we wanted to prepare an Indian curry with rice where we would need 2 gas burners. Sunworld had thoughtfully provided us with a separate brand-new top (pressure regulator) for the two-plate gas burner bottle so they must have known that the existing one did not work properly. Sadly they had provided a top with the wrong thread which was of no use whatsoever. By that time I was already p...ed about the various shortcomings of our equipment (filthy plates and twisted pots, a holey bag where kitchen utensils were falling out all the time, the cheesy smell of our rooftop tent, the non-existant central locking of our doors which each morning required ridiculous acrobatics to open the rear doors, the seldom functional air-conditioning and most annoying: a piercing beep coming from a timing-device with no apparent use whatsoever which sounded each and every time we switched off the engine - boy, did this get on our nerves!

    Over the following day we would explore a good part of the reserve and we were always delighted to see groups of reddish-coloured elephants, the incredibly graceful gerenuk, the most adorable tiniest dikdiks we have ever seen in Africa and Grevy zebra (I think). Lions, hyena or leopards eluded us in Samburu and we never even heard a roaring (except for the river), whooping or other predator call during our stay there.

    In the afternoon, when we had coffee and biscuits under our favourite picknick tree by the river we were approached by a vehicle and imagine our surprise when 2 guys from Sunworld greeted us and said they would quickly solve all our problems - WOW, that was a fast reaction! They went with us to the public campsite and we had the impression that they thought we were just too inexperienced to use the equipment (i.e. the gasburner).

    First thing the giant pop-up shower tent came out, a thing that stubbornly refused to collapse and where the corresponding bag was missing so that it would quickly build itself up again. Then Ben started to inspect the gas burner while his collegue Peter changed the oil and air filter to give the car more power. After some attempts to solve the gas-burner problem it was declared that this did not work (haha!) and that Ben would go back to Isiolo to get a new set of pots and the fitting gas top. We politely pointed our that it was already 6pm and that shops would soon close down and that we could wait for the next morning, hakuna matata, but Ben's mind was set on making his clients happy as soon as possible, he beamed with enthusiasm and strongly reminded us of Sonny Kapoor of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. So off he went, leaving his quiet colleague and us behind a bit speechless. Inspection of the engine accomplished there was not much else that Peter could do, so he took place on our car hood. It was getting dark and he was visibly nervous when big trumpeting and rumbling started on the other side of the river. He confessed that he lived in Nairobi and had only once been out of the big city, down to Mombasa and that he had never been to a National Park before, at least not in such circumstances.

    At around 10pm Ben arrived back, visibly pleased with himself and he beamed like a small boy before Christmas - he had got us another gas burner top! Oh boy, was his face crumbling when we pointed out that it was the wrong one, that it would only be of use if we had a second gas bottle ...

    So off they went again and promised to get in contact with us next morning and we went to bed, shaking our head at such incompetence.
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  20. #11
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    Default Re: TR Kenya Dec/Jan 20: of roaring rivers, a muddy Mara and 50 shades of green

    At mid-morning the next day we met again at Archers Gate where Ben presented us a brand-new 2-burner gas stove and a 2nd gas bottle, a new set of pots, a tea towel and dish liquid ("all for you Mama"...) and we said farewell. As we were now close to Buffalo Springs NR we decided to explore this part of the reserve which is beautiful but different from Samburu. It is more rocky and has lovely small rivers and we saw more game like oryx, giraffe, impala. On our way back to Samburu we discussed about what we would do this night as it was New Years Eve. We had heard that Samburu Game Lodge was close and would also cater for walk-inn guests so we made a reservation for dinner there. Food was so and so, but the view of the river was nice, the crocodiles impressive, the beer was ice-cold and everyone was wearing funny hats.

    Our rating of Samburu:
    Very nice scenery, quite a bit of wildlife (sadly we were not lucky with cats), beautiful elephants, quiet campground with awful ablutions.
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    Default Re: TR Kenya Dec/Jan 20: of roaring rivers, a muddy Mara and 50 shades of green

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    Default Re: TR Kenya Dec/Jan 20: of roaring rivers, a muddy Mara and 50 shades of green

    Thank you, Anne, for brightening my day! I laughed out loud! Well done you for taking a fair dose of “Africa factor” and keeping calm and carrying on - and seeing the funny side.

    On the rare occasions we get stopped by the police, we greet them with the appropriate greetings, shake hands, comment on the weather and the rains (or lack of rain), ask how their day is etc. We always get waved on, often with a salute! We have never been asked for a bribe. However, if there is evidence from a speed gun or speed trap that one has been speeding, then it is a real pain as one does have to go to court (or there are often official roadside temporary courts). It could take all day or two days to sort out. But never go down the bribe route as one could get in even more trouble for aiding corruption.

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    Default Re: TR Kenya Dec/Jan 20: of roaring rivers, a muddy Mara and 50 shades of green

    I cannot believe how the ablutions have been allowed to deteriorate over the last 4 years.
    Your photo is of the Grevy zebra subspecies (narrower stripes), also nice shot of a pair of reticulated giraffes. Enjoying sharing your experiences Anne.
    Landcruiser 76SW.

    “Great journeys are memorable not so much for what you saw, but for where you camped”.

    At least "Once a year go someplace you have never been before" Delai Lama.

    Trans East Africa 2015/2016 Trip report http://www.4x4community.co.za/forum/...e16?highlight= from post 315.

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  28. #15
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    Default Re: TR Kenya Dec/Jan 20: of roaring rivers, a muddy Mara and 50 shades of green

    1+2 Jan: Aberdares

    Next morning we headed towards Archers Gate, not without a last gamedrive along one of the gullies that had caught our attention the other day but sadly the leopard that we had hoped to spot was never seen.

    The sky was very clear and and we climbed back towards Mt. Kenya which was clearly visible in the distance, Matthias continuously swearing at old kiboko as if this would change anything...

    Around 3 in the afternoon we reached Mweiga headquarters where we paid our entry fees for 2 days and 2 nights camping in a public campsite. To do so the lady calculated which amount in KSH would be due, we paid by credit card and then she loaded it onto a safaricard which we would have to present at Treetops gate. Sadly a map was not available, only a very bad copy of the Salient and we wondered why KWS don't do anything about it. After inspection of our safaricard the guy
    at the gate claimed that there was not enough funds on the card and after some lengthy discussion we went back to Mweiga gate where the lady admitted that she had been wrong.

    Once in the park our mood soon got better, it was wonderfully green, impressive trees, plenty of buffalo, thick vegetation and a whole range of flowers that we normally only see in our garden centers in summer. We had coffee and cake at Bongo special campsite and we would have liked to spend the night there - sadly it involves a hefty booking fee which I find a bit steep so after an hour we headed towards Ruhuruini public campsite.
    It was already late afternoon when we got there and we were not too pleased about the state of the campsite. It is located right at Ruhuruini gate, much less open than Bongo and the toilet was so overgrown that nobody had used it for some time. I still hope that the smell on the lawn came from buffalo poo rather than from former human visitors but I am not convinced. There was a rubbish dump close to the river which did nothing to make the place more attractive but we would only be there for one night so all was well. It started to rain at 8pm and we retired soon, grateful that the tent was not leaking.
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  30. #16
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    Default Re: TR Kenya Dec/Jan 20: of roaring rivers, a muddy Mara and 50 shades of green

    Next morning greeted us with sunshine - it had been a really cold night!

    With renewed enthusiasm we decided to explore the Salient, an area that is said to be more rich in wildlife than the higher parts of the park. Previously I had often checked the webcam at The Ark and there had sometimes been elephants and the everpresent buffaloes late-morning so that's where we headed. Mt Kenya was again visible over the beautiful and incredibly green Aberdare forest and we found plenty of elephant poo and buffaloes on our way. However, vegetation is so thick that once these large creatures leave the road they are swallowed up by the abundant creepers that cover the bushes on both sides so just 1 or 2 meters from the road they are gone.

    On the access road to The Ark we met our first group of Aberdare elephants who were eying us with interest and curiously sniffed at us - we had had our last good hot shower in Karen and maybe that was the reason.

    When we got to The Ark the guy at the reception would only reluctantly let us in (at least he did not sniff at us). He said we had been lucky to enter at all, for some reason the barrier at the access road was open but after our pleading looks he led us onto the viewing deck where a large group of ellies and buffalos were just enjoying their daily portion of water and minerals. We were also led down to the bunker where we could study them at eye-level only a few meters away and it was a a magnificent experience! Later we had coffee in the seating area, still with a beautiful view of the waterhole and we left much pleased, profusely thanking the guy who had let us in.
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  32. #17
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    Default Re: TR Kenya Dec/Jan 20: of roaring rivers, a muddy Mara and 50 shades of green

    Soon it was time to climb towards reedbuck campsite which is located at 3000m above sea level in the moorlands of the park. Vegetation was slowly changing from from thick forest to patches of bamboo and finally the grassy moorlands that surround reedbuck campsite. On the way we saw more elephants who looked tiny under the large trees, black-and-white colobus monkeys as well as beautiful meerkats.

    We got to Reedbuck in the afternoon, it was partly cloudy and whenever a cloud would obscure the sun it would get distinctly cool. We prepared a Greek salad with beans and corn and I emptied the brine onto the lawn. Much to our delight only a few minutes later the first bushbucks appeared, sniffing at the ground and they started to nibble the grass right where I put the brine - we think they were interested in minerals and soon up to 7 bushbucks were very close to our vehicle, some of them licking the car which must have been covered with mud from the salient.

    We retired even earlier than usual and I confess I had been really afraid that it would be a horrible night at such altitude. For this special occasion we had brought two hot water bottles and I dressed with two trousers and 3 sweatshirts and I must say it was a very comfortable night! We even heard our first whooping hyenas in the distance, a sound that we had painfully missed so far.
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  34. #18
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    Default Re: TR Kenya Dec/Jan 20: of roaring rivers, a muddy Mara and 50 shades of green

    Hi Anne,

    Glad to have you back, and hope that apart from the troubling Kiboko, you had a nice experience in Kenya. A really special place!

    Your TR has been a pleasure to read, and thank you for excellent photos. That pano on Samburo is incredible. Just makes me to start planning our next Kenyan visit. I am pretty anxious to know how did Mara go and if you enjoyed. At least by the itinerary you ought to spend 8 marvelous days at Mara.

    Keep well,

    AP

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  36. #19
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    Default Re: TR Kenya Dec/Jan 20: of roaring rivers, a muddy Mara and 50 shades of green

    3 Jan: Kembu cottages near Njoro

    Just after sunrise we rose to a sunny morning and had lovely hot coffee and toast, accompanied by our new bushbuck friends.

    Later a couple approached us (they had arrived at the campsite when it was already dark). Their battery was flat but their car was soon back to life - although how on earth they would cross the Aberdares in such a non 4x4-car was a mystery to us, the roads were really washed-out after all the rain of the last few months.

    It was still early when we left and when we got to the turn-off to Karuru Falls (10km) we decided to give it a try. Boy, was this a adventurous track! Scenery was eerie with all the giant heather and long moss covering most of the trees, like in a fairy tale. The 10 km took much longer than expected and when we thought it could not be that far we came to the final ascent where we soon decided that this would be too risky to continue. There were deep ditches in the road and it was very steep so we walked the last 100m and came to the viewpoint of beautiful Karuru Falls with a view of the long veil of Gura Falls in the distance - a truly magnificent sight and so different from what we have seen so far in other African countries.

    Back at the turn-off to Karuru Falls the road was now blocked with stones and there was a sign that the falls were unaccessible - yeah, that was more or less our impression...

    We sailed down towards Matubio and the steeper parts after the gate are on a good tar road. This soon changed when we headed towards Ol Kalou, the murram road was bad, with deep tracks where cars must have got stuck in the mud which was now solid and made driving much unpleasant. It was with great relief that we reached the tar road again, only to be caught in the mad traffic of Nakuru. We had originally planned to do our shopping for the Mara there but this was postponed, we were exhausted and keen to arrive at Kembu cottages & campsites.

    Kembu is a quiet oasis, the garden is immens and beautiful, friendly people and a nice restaurant. Originally we wanted to camp but it started to rain and we enquired about the tree house which sadly was already booked. Kobbs carriage right next to our car was still available so we decided to spend the night there - only to be told that they would kindly offer Acacia cottage for the same price. Acacia cottage has a winter garden and its own park, really beautiful so we paid for the night, made arrangements for dinner at the restaurant and then headed for the bath, Matthias was really longing for a good hot shower. To cut a long story short, we only had hot water there in the very late evening, it takes a lot of time for the boiler to heat the water and when after 2 hours it was still lukewarm at best we headed for the communal showers - it was a reminder to us that things we take for granted are precious in other parts of the world.

    The three-course dinner was sumptuous and tasty and we met a German guy with his French wife who gave us interesting insights into their life in Kenya.
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  38. #20
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    Default Re: TR Kenya Dec/Jan 20: of roaring rivers, a muddy Mara and 50 shades of green

    Fantastic! Aberdares are high on my wish list. Now even higher.
    24 hours in a day.... 24 beer in a case.... Coincidence?
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    My blog: Our African Ramblings (https://safaribug.wordpress.com/)

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