BILL AND DES'S SAFARI Entry 4: Kenya – Nairobi
Wow, we are now happily in Nairobi after a very full 3 days in Northern Kenya. We land in Logichogia at the northern end of Kenya following a 700 mile leg over some very inhospitable looking desert in South Sudan, and some beautiful mountainous regions of Ethiopia.
We leave from a 'long' grass airstrip at Menengi at a height of 7,500 feet. We mention the height of the strip because the higher you are the more challenging the experience! We circled Menengi at 50 feet above the runway to check there were no potholes, animals, ditches, people etc before landing - we were at maximum power and only achieving 80% of sea level performance! The 4,000 feet long runway was made of sand, dust and dried grass which is perfect for landing… taking off comes later!
We are in Nairobi for 2 nights staying on a camp / farm called Kembu Cottages, run and owned by the lovely Andrew and Zoe. They have an incredible spear collection on the wall of the sitting room. This is 9 star + accommodation compared with our previous ‘hotel’ in Lokichogio. Even without the obvious comparison, this really is a remarkable venue, rich with MANY great fireside stories of the true family history and that of colourful characters past and present. The welcome was superb and the food absolutely excellent. We are now just 11 miles south of the equator, so we had to celebrate! The weather is fantastic, the company great, temperatures dropping at night, so we had to light the open fire in our little stone circular cottage to stay warm. It's the altitude effect again.
After a hot shower, the first for a while, we toured the farm which grows a number of different crops, however its main crop is thoroughbred race horses. This is where around 30 foals, ranging from newly born to 3 year olds, are out playing with their mothers in the paddocks. Last week at one of the major Kenyan racing events, the 1st to 5th places were all bred here.
The local tribes are the Kikuyu Tribe and the Kalenjin Tribe. Sadly only 15% of these lovely people are employed, and only 9% are taxpayers countrywide. The local attraction is the Nakuru Lake National Park. After a 06.15 am start for the 'drive' in an Indiana Jones style 8-seater driven by a local, John, through the park, we marvel at the close-up sightings of White Rhino, Water Buck, Cape Buffalos, Impala, Thomson’s Gazelle, thousands of Zebra, a few Ostrich, hundreds of Reticulated Giraffes, thousands of Olive Baboons and Lesser Flamingos, also White Backed Pelicans, Eland Antelopes, Bushbuck (a native antelope), Reedbucks and Vultures, of course. We did take a LOT of pictures! What a truly great day we all had, breakfast atop a rocky outcrop overlooking the lake and all the beautiful animals all around. This was all within sight of the huge crater that we took pictures of during our descent on arrival.....worth travelling the 3,500 miles for sure!
After a great dinner we all sit down to plan our flight to Wilson Airstrip in Nairobi. Back to height and performance again. We left enjoying a beatific stay with really nice hosts. They packed us off with leather bookmarks and bags of locally produced unrefined sugar, called Jaggery. The Jaggery is made using traditional Hindu methods, driving sugar cane into a press and then boiling the liquid that is produced for a long time.
Our aeroplane needs approximately 1,200 feet to take off on a tar runway at sea level. Here, on a wet grass strip at 7,500 feet we need about 3,800 feet. The runway is 4,000 feet…. At 07.00 am, we are looking down the runway with not much overnight dew - so a dry grass strip. Good news! Power on, off we go.... We move very slowly at first, and with the end of the runway already in sight it seems awfully close for the speed we are doing (!). We travel at 40 knots, then 50…. just 20 knots more required, ...70 knots, and we rotate! Off we climb slowly into the morning sun. Well, that was easy we still had about 100 feet left of runway!!
On to the famous Wilson AirClub and wonderful Museum, cottages attached....more on that later....