Category Archives: Kenya

Kenya From the Air

I have a lot to write about, but right now can only manage a few pictures of the scenery on a MAF flight from South Sudan to Kenya, passing over Lake Turkana and on to Marsabit and Nairobi. Kenya is blessed with some of the most stunning variety of scenery I’ve seen anywhere. These four photos are only from the far north in Marsabit County, the most remote and largest county in Kenya. It was a long flight, but man, I’m so fortunate to be able to see this extraordinary place.

Rhino Charge

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It’s 7:00 am and a group of 30 men, women, and children from the Nairobi Karen Vineyard church is standing in a clearing in the wild bush listening to the rumble of cars approaching. We’ve been up since 5:00 am getting ready for this moment, food and drinks in hand, and ready to start cheering for the six off-road teams. Suddenly, clear and close, we all hear something unexpected – the wild trumpeting of a startled mama elephant. It was a beautiful and strange moment – that combination of wild, testosterone-laden off-road vehicles ready to take on the wild bush, and the sound of the true wild, just a little bit unhappy about it.

Changing a blow-out on the way to Rhino Charge. The drive took over 8 hours.Samburu women hang out near the entrance to the conservancy.An official leads the team of nine vehicles through the conservancy to the furthest checkpoint where we will set up camp.Mountain view on the way to the checkpointOstrichCampsite & Karen Vineyard CheckpointAudra CaddCadd Family with leaders Mandeep and BubblyVulturine Guineafowl - a beautiful and unusual kind with both striped and polka dot feathers.Josh and Dan erect the toilet tentPreparing foodBoys during a rare quiet momentThe view from a nearby hill overlooking our campsite and the Rhino Charge area.The view from a nearby hill overlooking our campsite and the Rhino Charge area.Preparing breakfast for the competitors at 5:30 am the day of the race.The Vineyard officials in their red shirts.The first six cars arrive at the checkpoint where they will begin the competition. All cars begin at one of the 13 checkpoints.Six cars that began at the Vineyard checkpoint, the farthest from headquarters.Car 02 team decides which direction they will head first. Josh & Audra feed some of the teams before the 7:30 am start.Part of our job is to cheer the teams as they arrive and leave.Bundu Fundi team 38 arrives at the checkpoint with runners in front. This team is the Avery family. The father lives in Nairobi, and the children, many doctors, come every year from England to compete in the Rhino Charge."No Bush too Thick", said before the team saw this year's terrain.Audra and Annette feed and rehydrate a newly arrived team.An elephant, unfazed by the sound of engines, hangs out near the back side our our checkpoint.Two of the runners on this team admitted that they chose to wear the wrong kind of pants.A team checks their map and coordinates to decide where to head next.Gabe serves fruit to team 30 contestants.Planes and helicopters regularly flew over the Rhino Charge areaDirecting a car to the X on the ground.Annette, a nurse, bandages some cuts on a member of team 30, already banged up and bleeding in the morning hours.Team 30 crosses a shallow ravine. Some ravines were straight 10-meter drops.Team 30 crosses a shallow ravine. Some ravines were straight 10-meter drops.A team tries to patch a broken windshield with duct tape.Team 10 gives the thumbs up as they leave the checkpoint.Audra waits with fruit for a car to arrive.Team 37 grabs what they can from the car before racing off again.Team 37 grabs what they can from the car before racing off again.A new arrival.Team 02 makes it back to the checkpoint they started at just before the deadline of 5:30 pm.Team 02's car is badly damaged.Team 02's car is badly damaged.Team 02's car is badly damaged.Several cars arrive before 5:30 pm, but did not make it back to their original starting point.All cars were covered in thorny twigs and branches.Martini, an Italian from team 13, competed for the first time, only making it to six checkpoints in 10 hours.Team 04 didn't make it back to their checkpoint, ending at ours instead.Team 02 came in 5th place overall.

This is the Rhino Charge – one of the most popular off-road competitions in the world in which teams are required to visit 13 points scattered over approximately 100 square kms of rough terrain within a 10-hour period. The winner must do it in the shortest distance, which means taking the most direct route possible. This year, the competition raised a record-breaking 102 million Kenyan shillings for conservation. Sixty-five cars entered the race – the maximum allowed – and Karen Vineyard ran one of the 14 checkpoints. It’s a lot of work and a lot of fun.

The location this year was an eight-hour drive north of Nairobi in the Kalama Community Conservancy, a Samburu region that benefits greatly from the Rhino Charge. The Conservancy is a dusty open landscape, thick with every thorny bush and tree imaginable, scattered throughout with ravines and low mountain formations, plus wildlife ranging from dik dik to leopards to elephants (and a few scorpions to keep us on our toes).  A large bull elephant hung out at the backside of our campsite the morning of the race, seemingly unfazed by the roar of engines.

Our job was to feed and rehydrate every team that passed through our checkpoint for 10 hours straight, plus our officials checked each car in. Six cars started at our checkpoint, and only one made it all the way back in the 10 hours, coming in 5th place. About 40 cars came through the checkpoint during the 10 hour period. All the cars have “runners”, guys (and the rare girls) who run ahead of the vehicle scoping out the terrain and best route, making sure the car doesn’t fly off a cliff or drop into a ravine unexpectedly. As the day wore on, the teams and cars start to look more and more ragged and beat up. Windshields smashed, doors twisted, tie-rods bent, and all kinds of other damage. The contestants all looked happy, whether they finished or not. Martini, an Italian on Team 13 and a first-timer to compete, beamed as they drove into camp just before the 5:30 pm cut-off, having only completed six checkpoints. With a wait-a-bit branch hanging from his turban, he looked like he couldn’t have been happier if he had won.

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Kenyan Coast

Although I have many more photos of animals in Tsavo, I think it’s time I post some of the beach trip photos.  I have more animal shots from our road trip back to Congo through a Ugandan national park and will post those later.

The house at the beach is called Jinchini, south of Mombasa near Tanzania, and it’s owned by a British family who rent it out when they are not around.  It sleeps nine, and comes with a staff of three (plus gardener and guards) who cleaned and cooked whatever we requested. If we wanted locally caught fish, prawns, or lobster for dinner, then we simply put in the order in the morning, and dinner would be fixed and ready for us by 7 pm. They made a killer coconut rice every night that we couldn’t get enough of.  The breakfast table was set and food prepared in the mornings.  Patrick, Omari, and Kasim took great care of us – wonderful guys. We felt pampered, but with a privacy you don’t get in a hotel.

From the house, you could walk across a lawn to the beach.  At high tide, the waves were great for riding (as long as you didn’t mind getting ground into the sand every so often, which I did).  Jon and Josh took a beating every day in the surf.

Jon and I played a game of pool pirates with Gabe and Raeleigh (age 5 and 8 ) in the lovely pool on the hill above the house, complete with pirate names (the “Scurvy Wenches”), ships (the floaties), oars (the flippers), and a host of other pirate language. It was girls against boys, and the girls won, no question, after stealing the boys ship and oars. Good fun.

Here are a few photos…

Jinchini House on the Kenyan Coast. It had four bedrooms with nine beds, a living room, big lawn, and a pool, all right on the beach.

Jon and Gabe sip their morning coffee and hot chocolate drinks on the house patio.

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner were all served at the outdoor dining table on the patio. The lawn leading down to the beach can be seen in the background.

A local fishing boat sits on the beach near the Jinchini house.

Raeleigh and Lu plot their attack on the pirate boys in the house pool.

The Scurvy Wenches take a beating from the pirate boys.

Cher celebrated her 60th birthday at the beach.

Josh and Jon play in the ocean waves, which are bigger and scarier than they look.

Walking home after playing in the ocean.

While house staff Kasim, Omari, and Patrick look on, Jon examines a parrot fish brought to the house by a local fisherman for our dinner. Although this doesn't look like most rainbow colored parrot fish, it has the hard parrot-like beak used to eat coral.

Kenya – More Photos

My brother Jon sees a world of wildlife in the bush when I see only a little.  I’m not talking about just being able to spot elephants, giraffe, zebra, dik dik, klipstringer, ostrich, and so forth better than me (which he can).  He sees elephants in a broken branch, bark torn off a tree, big round footprints in the dirt with a curvy line where the elephant dragged his trunk. He sees lion prints moving across a road into the bush. He sees a life in a small dung beetle rolling a ball of dung with her back legs that has her unborn babies in it. A bird sitting in a tree has a personality to Jon because he knows everything about it. A coucal bird, for instance, isn’t just a large brown bird. He knows that this bird is a lousy flier who crash lands most of the time, smacking into trees or the ground while attempting to land.  We see a tree full of weaver bird’s nests, and Jon points out that these particular weaver birds always make their hanging houses on the west side of trees.  As we drive on, I see that he’s right.  We see a large bird sitting in a tree surrounded by weaver bird’s nests.  Jon tells me that this bird likes to eat the Weaver babies – not the eggs (although they will do this too), but the chicks. All the weavers will go on the attack, both male and female, to try to stop the large bird, but he mostly ignores the attacks of these tiny birds and continues on eating.

Being in the bush with Jon is a treat – like having your own expert guide with you. He learned all that he knows about the bush from his time in Zimbabwe where he got his hunter/guide license – something at the time that was terribly difficult to pass.

Tsavo Giraffe

Audra, Josh, and Gabe watch animals from the back side of the house we rented in Tsavo

Tsavo Ostrich - In most of the animal kingdom, the males are the beautiful ones. This male ostrich has black feathers while the female is a very plain beige type color. This one turned it's back to us, lifted his back brown feathers and showed us his backside which looked a bit horrifying, like he'd just mooned us, penis and all. *For the sake of the children, the X-rated photo is at the end*

Tsavo - Everything in Africa wants to kill you. This tree has 2-3 inch thorns all over the entire tree.

Tsavo Elephants

Tsavo Elephants - Off in the distance, an elephant crosses the road.

Tsavo Zebra - two zebra play with each other near the water hole close to our house.

Tsavo Ostrich - X-rated photo of an Ostrich mooning us.

Photos from Kenya trip

I’m in Kampala, Uganda, having just returned from a trip to Kenya with my brother, his wife, their son and his family. We went to Tsavo West National Park where we rented the former warden’s house for a day, and then rented a house on the south Kenyan coast for a week. All of it was wonderful, but I will never ever get tired of seeing wild animals in their own habitat, and elephants bring me joy. I’ll write about the trip when I get the chance, but for now, I will try to post some photos each day for a few days (except for when we’re on the road driving back to Congo).  More photos tomorrow (if there’s electricity and internet)…

Tsavo Elephants - They saw us, smelled us, ignored us, but then one of the mothers decided to let us know she wasn't pleased with our presence.

Tsavo Elephants

Tsavo Zebra - This is the view from the house we rented.

Tsavo - It's quite cool to turn a corner in the road and have this view. Although most animals stay in their groups, I love seeing the mix of different animals in the same view.

Tsavo Impala - Impala are one of the most common animals you see in game parks, often causing people to say things like, "Oh, it's just impala." But they are incredibly beautiful, and worthy of a good look.

Tsavo - The man-made water hole below the house we rented where animals come regularly to drink.

Tsavo - LuAnne with Gabe Cadd, Josh & Audra Cadd's 5 year old son. This is taken from right off the back porch of the house.

Tsavo - Zebra

After it got dark, a group of four elephants came to the upper tiny water hole, about the size of a small car and very close to the house.

Tsavo - The night life around the house included plenty of lizards, bats, and frogs. Jon caught this lizard, which was unhappy until he turned it over and rubbed its tummy. This quiets lizards down into an almost comatose state.