19 September 2009

Lake Navaisha - relaxing at last

Day 15

Back to luxury at Lake Navaisha Country Club. We arrived early afternoon yesterday and spent the afternoon relaxing in the beautiful gardens of the country club. Took a walk down to the lake, which was just out the back of the club, and watched the birds flying around. Unfortunately there were no hippos to be seen, but apparently there are many in the lake, so we should see some!

Had a bit of a sleep in this morning, up at 7.30 to head to Hell's Gate National Park. Jackson had warned us not to expect too much – particularly after all we had seen at the Masai Mara, but it is a really nice national park, with high cliffs and a gorge running through the middle of it.

We saw zebra, impala, buffalo and lots and lots of warthogs! The site was formed from a local volcano Mt Longonot which erupted in the early 1900s. The jagged cliffs which surround the park give it a unique feeling to all the other national parks we have visited on this trip.

We drove around for a little while, spotting animals, admiring the cliffs then headed for the gorge. We did a one hour gorge walk with a Masai guide. The walk was amazing, you could do two hours, but we chose to just do the one hour, which stretched out to an hour and a half, as our guide didn't want us to miss anything, so showed us the highlights from the two hour walk!

We walked down into the base of the gorge, which had just a small amount of water flowing through it at the time we were there. Walking on we came across hot and cold springs in the gorge, so we had a bit of a warm shower, followed by a cold shower – very invigorating, though not great when you have two cameras slung around your neck as per paparazzi Duncan!

The gorge walls were riddled with salt which apparently the impala and other antelope lick off during the night, the leopards (there are about five in the park but we didn't see any) know the impala do this so lay in wait for an easy meal!

As we walked out we had amazing views back over the gorge and across the park. And then of course we had to visit the obligatory Masai market stall – it's amazing where these "markets" crop up!

Back to the van and Jackson took us to see the geothermal electricity station which is in the middle of the park and takes energy from the volcano to power the country. Jackson tried to get us inside the actual plant, but to no avail – apparently you need a prearranged tour. Not to worry, the station is amazing just to look at.

Headed back to the hotel for lunch before heading out to Crescent Island in the afternoon. After lunch we took a walk back down to the lake and saw a herd of hippos not far offshore. They weren't particularly active, but looked so relaxed lollling in the water, its hard to believe they kill more people than any other African animal!

We headed out to Crescent Island about 4pm. Crescent Island is actually no longer an island – a victim of climate change and the local flower growing industry (there are hundreds of greenhouses in the town which ship cut flowers as far away as India and Holland) - it is now more a peninsula off the major land mass. I suspect that it now joins the main island on both sides, breaking Lake Navaisha completely and leaving a dam on the inside of what use to be the island.

The island is owned by a white Kenyan, who was born in England but moved to Kenya in the 70s. She and her husband live in a beautiful homestead on the "island", you can take a walking tour of the island with one of her guides.

The tour takes about two hours and along the way are giraffe, wildebeest, dik diks, impala, cows and hyena. It's amazing walking among the giraffes – such graceful animals.

Day 16

We were up and out early today, our last full day in Kenya, with heavy hearts as our holiday was coming to an end!

But before it ended we still had a cruise on Lake Navaisha. Daniel, who owns Menengai travel, had promised "some of your most beautiful pictures" of the fish eagles feeding at Lake Navaisha, so we couldn't leave without going out on a boat.

We arrived at the mooring at 8am, and went out early after somewhat of a false start as climate change has dried up the lake to such an extent, and the area where the boats are moored is so shallow, our boatman had all kinds of trouble trying to turn the boat to get it alongside the makeshift pier.

Out on the water, we made our way through the sleeping hippo – hundreds of them, and given they head under water for up to five minutes, I was somewhat nervous about getting too close lest one pop his head up under our boat and tip us up!

After getting more pics of the hippo we headed to the opposite shore to buy our portion of fish before looking for the fish eagles sitting on top of the trees. According to our boatman fish eagles travel in pairs and mate for life, so there were always two sitting on the top of any one tree.

The boatman called the eagles with a whistle then threw the into the water. As the fish eagle swooped own we were at the ready filming and photographing like mad, but it's not easy to capture the birds, particularly when the little buggers fly off course!

We were on the lake for an hour, and by the time we got back, the boat mooring office was full of other tourists waiting to go out – there were certainly some well-fed fish eagles out there!

We left Lake Navaisha and headed on to Nairobi, through the Rift Valley where we stopped to get some pics – though it was very cloudy, so quite difficult to see much from the lookout – and, of course, once again went into the obligatory curio shop! There is a definite pattern here!

Arrived at Nairobi about 11am so after settling into our hotel, Kivi Milimani once again, we walked into Nairobi and headed straight for the Masai Markets. What a chore! It was not the fun shopping experience we were both hoping for. We hadn't even walked in the gate, when someone jumped on us telling us we had to go and look at the paintings in his shop – he had two shops apparently so we had to look at both. I thought that would be it and then we could walk around the stalls on our own. But no such luck, he and his sidekick stuck to us the whole way, telling us that we should pick out whatever we were interested in, then we would negotiate the price at the end. We had seen how this worked, they would give us an overall price – highly inflated of course – and pressure us to buy all the items.

If Ade and I tried to talk to each other in low voices so they couldn't overhear us, they would come up and say what are you saying, tell us, please let's have no secrets! However this didn't stop them speaking in Swahili to each other and to the stallholders ofcourse!

We saw other poor tourists who had fallen into the same trap as we had, but some, obviously more prepared than we had been, were walking freely and negotiating themselves with the store holders.

Ade and I don't particularly like haggling at the best of times, this made it even worse! We got to the end – of the market and our patience – and began discussing price. Their first price was absolutely ridiculous so we started negotiating and walked away a couple of times, in the end we removed one of the original items and paid a tenth of what they had asked for originally!

We left the market and went for lunch before taking a walk around Nairobi. For the most part we were left relatively freely to walk around – of course every taxi driver offered us a lift, and we had the odd tourist guide trying to offer us safaris, but there were few beggars and few people hassling us to look in their curio shops, which made a welcome change!

We were getting ready to head back to the hotel however, when we were approached by a well dressed man who started chatting to us, telling us how good it was that we weren't racist. We got chatting, he asked about the situation in Australia with our Indigenous population, then told us about his life. He was from Zimbabwe so started telling us about the political situation there, how his sister was raped, then asked us to buy some rice for his family to eat. We knew we were being scammed, but figured, how much can a bag of rice cost?

When we got to the local Tuskers, he tried to insist on us buying the most expensive, largest bag of rice, then said he needed sugar to go with it! We bought a smaller, cheaper bag of rice and pointed out that you don't need sugar to go with rice, then left him to it!

Day 17

Heading home today!
We had a bit of a sleep in, got packed up and headed into Nairobi for one last look around before heading to the airport.

Another holiday over!

Now onto planning for Mont Blanc, 2011!

No comments: