Nomad 007 October 2017

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e’re going through the car checklist for Turkana, and my eyes are bulging: second spare tyre, two fuel containers, an air compressor, a hi-lift jack … “Come on,” I interject, “is that really necessary?” The kit is the least of it. Is the car in good shape, my travel companions wonder. Well, yes, I say, although it doesn’t start if left more than a day and the tyres look a bit worn. Then there’s the pre-trip check-up. I have a love-hate relationship with my mechanic. At times, I’m on the phone to him every other day, seeking advice. Then I look at my bill and go cold on him for a few weeks. Not that he notices, because I’m always back when the time comes for a service. But not this time. My car had had a service a few weeks back, but in the interim, we drove through Tanzania, and the car needed a onceover. Someone told me about this guy in Ruaka - he was reliable, worked Sundays, and was, mostly importantly, cheap. He charged the cost price for engine oil, and I thought that I would never look at another mechanic again. By the time we got to Loiyangalani, however, I was regretting my economy. An unnerving clunk every time we went over a boulder convinced us that to make the extra push on to Sibiloi - a full day’s drive on a road with no

phone reception, and no other traffic - would be foolhardy. The car got us back, and I sought out a new recommendation. This one came with glowing reviews, and was, I was told, very honest. And then I received a PDF file on how to handle him - never turn up late, always have enough cash on you. They forgot to add: phone, don’t text. I stood outside the gate at 8.30 one morning, rattling the padlock. He came storming down the lane, “I had a good mind to leave you standing there all morning. Don’t you ever phone?” I’ve concluded there are three types of mechanic - the ones you think are cheating you; the ones who don’t cost much, but don’t check much, either; and the temperamental ones you’re far too scared to approach with an after-service problem. Despite the toll I feared it would take on the car, I’ve been longing to bring out a Turkana issue ever since Nomad launched. It’s the place everyone says that they want to go to, but somehow just can’t find the time. With a new, beautifully-graded road built to hook up the wind farm with the rest of Kenya, Turkana’s east shore is now more accessible than ever. Sadly, it’s not practical at the moment to travel both to the East and to the West in one trip - there is no road running around the lake but it provides a good excuse to go back. Kenyan Camper, who has something of a cult following for his inside-out knowledge of

Kenya, joined us on the trip up north, so flick to Page 32 for his account of the journey. From the more luxurious properties of South Horr to the bare-bones accommodation in Sibiloi, we give you the low-down on where to stay. Meanwhile, Amanda Sperber teases us with a glimpse into what Somalia could be if only it were safe, while Adrian Blomfield meanders around Haile Selassie, starting from the graveyards where most of the occupants seem to have come to a grisly end. Morris Kiruga, meanwhile, has a gripe about toothpaste on the road that leaves a sour taste in his mouth. Wanja Wohoro meets Maia von Lekow, a Kenyan musician who defies categorisation, and has just released her latest album. Kiran Shah, the world’s most diminutive stuntman, talks about a childhood in Kenya, and the otherworldly views that have captured his heart. We hope you enjoy this issue, and as ever, we look forward to hearing your views on the magazine. Just write to editor@ with your suggestions. Meanwhile, stop thinking about Turkana, and do it!

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10. TOP SHOTS From a sublime shot of a boat man transporting sand on Lake Tanganyika in Burundi to a fabulous dive captured off the Lamu seafront, our photographers are focused on the water side of things this month. 14. NEWS Segera in Laikipia wows us with its new Bird Nest, a unique place to rest your head, while Asilia has had a busy season, opening two lodges in Tanzania. Meanwhile, good news for travellers as a new low-cost carrier bursts onto the scene. 16. WHAT’S ON Party time is just around the corner, and Diani Beach Party brings European beach-style partying to Kenya. And the East Africa classic safari rally is back! Meanwhile, we catch up with the adventure enthusiasts looking for YOU to join them on an epic cycle down south.

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19. INTERVIEW WITH MAIA VON LEKOW The singer, who has just released her latest album, talks to us about reconnecting with her coastal roots, contributing to an eclectic music style. She fondly recalls a trip to Zimbabwe where the musicians were thrust together in the same hotel, leading to a 24-hour jam fest. 55. INTERVIEW WITH KIRAN SHAH The world’s most diminutive stuntman gives us a glimpse of his childhood in Kenya, stunts that would scare most of us out of our wits, and an otherworldly view that mere mortals will probably never see.





TURKANA SPECIAL FEATURES 26-35. LAKE TURKANA SPECIAL This month, we’re focused on northern Kenya, with a road trip to the Jade Sea’s eastern shore. We also explore some of the region’s ancient history, with the Turkana basin one of the richest places in the world in terms of human fossils. If you’re wondering where to stay, we highlight some of the area’s rustic gems, and track down the best campsites.



38. INVESTORS PIN HOPES ON SOMALIA’S RECOVERY Amanda Sperber wonders if Somalia can move beyond deadly conflict and embrace its tourism potential. 40. “WE CAN TURN POACHING AROUND” Esmond Bradley Martin has devoted much of his life to tracing the rhino horn markets. He tells us about the journey, while at the same time debunking some long-held myths. What next for the rhino? 42. WALK THROUGH SOUTH OF KENYATTA AVENUE This month, we’re scrabbling round graveyards - where a surprising number of headstones suggest a grisly end - before plunging into Nairobi’s judicial museum, which takes visitors sequentially through the country’s sometime harrowing history. But there’s more to this area than just that. 45. WEEKEND AWAY IN NANYUKI Katy Fentress takes us up to Nanyuki, looking for some off-the-beaten path places to stay, and things to do. We like the Shepherds Huts, perfect for a cheap retreat, and scrabbling around in the Mau Mau caves, or plunging into the falls at Ngare Ndare.


COLUMNS 20. WE NEED TOOTHPASTE! It’s not too much to ask, is it? Poor Morris Kiruga, who’s forgotten his toothpaste once again, is bewildered by hotels’ inability to provide this one essential item. 23. PROTECTION OF THE CLAN In Maasai culture, protection of wildlife is not a matter of choice, it’s an obligation, finds Samantha du Toit. 50. NYIKA BIRD SANCTUARY Go East! For this month’s budget pick, we head down the Mombasa Road for the weekend to stay at a quirky little cottage on the boundary of Tsavo East. 54. RETROSPECTIVE As we continue to revisit the work of Mo Amin, Kenya’s renowned late photographer, we’re delighted to come across a magical photograph from his Turkana series. 56. THE LAST WORD Grace is a bit old for backpacking, but she’s undeterred. Confronted with the oldtimers who know a thing or two more than her, she wonders how low she’ll stick at it.




SEBASTIAN WANZALLA @WANZALLA who took this magnificent photograph while on location in Turkana, tells us it how it came about: We were working on this campaign trying to find ways of creating awareness about nutrition and sanitation. This woman, Mama Safi, has been working in the region talking to communities about sanitation issues, including the importance of using latrines and washing hands. She has been very influential. We were sitting down, and I asked her, “What do you like doing the most?” And she said singing, and she started to sing. And then she started to dance, and I took the photograph.

Amanda Sperber Writer Will Somalia Be Your Next Weekend Getaway? Page 38 Coping in Somalia: I love being in Somalia! I manage going there the same way you’d make adjustments to any new country. In this case, it’s respectful to dress modestly, so I make sure I pack lots of colourful scarves and long skirts. When I’m in Somalia, I pretty much live in mumus (a loose dress) so I always bring a handful of those. My kind of travel: My favourite way to travel is to embrace where I am and go with the flow. I’ve taken amazing road trips through the Balkans, and zonked on the beaches of Zanzibar. It’s all good.

Katy Fentress Writer Weekend Away in Nanyuki, Page 45 My Nanyuki: Nanyuki feels like it hides the promise of some great adventure to come. In addition to that, I find being in the shadow of a mountain as majestic as Mt Kenya incredibly humbling. My kind of travel: My parents made sure our trips included lots of down-to-earth accommodation with some luxury thrown in at the end to reward ourselves for having “roughed it.” It is a philosophy I brought with me into my adult life: I prefer to go super basic and then round it off with somewhere astounding, than to aim for something middle of the road that lacks character.

Peter Ndung’u Photographer Top Shots, Page 13 How did you get started in photography? I started out shooting events and fashion shows for free with a borrowed camera from a neighbour and just kept going. Eventually, I found a love for the outdoors and kept pursuing it through small trips with friends and hanging out with other photographers. My kind of travel: My favourite type of travel involves planned road trips with a few hitches. Those ones always have the best stories. But realistically, I like good company, good food and interacting with good people in the most scenic places.











DENNIS MUKUNDI Instagram @tintseh How did you get this shot? I was in Burundi on assignment, and luckily my hotel room was near the shore of Lake Tanganyika. I woke up early one morning to try and catch the sunrise, and that’s when I met this young man who was collecting sand from the lake to sell. I asked if I could take a picture of him, and he agreed. It was then up to me to get the right shot. I used a Canon 6D with the 24-70mm f4 lens, an ISO of 640, a shutter speed of 1/200 seconds and an aperture of f11. I find the best way to capture these kinds of shots is to allow the subject to be in their element.








JOSH KISAMWA Instagram @joshkisamwa I shot this image at about 11 am above Funzi Island on the Kenyan coast. My ISO was set at 100 and my shutter speed at 600. It was a partly cloudy day and I felt the weather gave me the perfect light. This image was shot on my trusty Dji Phantom 4 drone. Aerial film and video have opened up a whole new world for - it is amazing what you can capture. You have to be deliberate in your search for unique perspectives. I am always asking myself how would this look as a video or still. I find asking myself this question keeps me on the hunt for beautiful pictures.






PETER NDUNG’U Instagram @petersize10 I shot this in the late afternoon at f/5.6, a shutter speed of 1/250, and an ISO of 100 right next to the jetty in Lamu Town when the tide was high and the local boys had come out to play. I used a Canon 6D, 24-105mm lens. Plan your shot and try to view it from multiple angles. This way, you get some ideas on how to make different images from that one scene.





It has been a busy couple of months for Asilia, which opened not one but two lodges in August and September. In Selous, bookings are now open for Roho ya Selous (pictured), an eight-tent lodge, in perhaps Tanzania’s most underrated park. At 50,000 square miles - bigger than Switzerland - the Selous is vast, and offers a wider range of activities than available in most reserves, particularly boating and fishing on the lakes and Rufiji river. A second lodge, Jabali Ridge, opened last month in Ruaha, home to 10 percent of the world’s remaining lions, and boasts an infinity pool and spa.

Photo: Maarten Dols

Photo: Jimmy Nelson


Silverstone Air Services is Kenya’s newest kid on the block, launching twice-daily flights to Kisumu and daily flights to Diani this month. The airline, which will fly out of Wilson airport, is offering introductory fares of Ksh 4,500 one-way. Meanwhile, in Uganda, new low-cost airline Vule Airways is to start operations out of Entebbe from November. Initially, it will service just domestic destinations but has plans to expand to regional hubs, including Nairobi, and later to London and the Middle East.





VIEW FROM THE TOP Segera, a luxury lodge in Laikipia, has teamed up with Nad Palay to bring guests more of a nesting experience to their stay. The Bird Nest, which has a 360 degree view of the surrounding wilderness, is a one-of-a-kind experience for those with money to spend. Guests finish up on safari at the candlelit nest, are treated to champagne and a picnic-style dinner before clambering into a comfortable bed beneath the nighttime sky. A night in the nest will set you back a cool $1,150pp.




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EAST AFRICAN CLASSIC SAFARI RALLY November 23 - December 1, Kenya, Tanzania

This legendary classic car race has been running since 1953, after a keen driver called on his cousin to organise a race where “we get into our cars, slam the door, go halfway across Africa and back and the first car home is a winner.” The race straddles Tanzania and Kenya, and attracts competitors from all over the world, with about 45 cars taking part. The actual route of the race is disclosed only two weeks before the start, and spectators can watch along the route.



Brought to you by the folk behind Blankets and Wine, the two-day Africa Nouveau Festival is back for its second year on the Athi River at Small World Country Club. The festival, supported by the British Council, the Goethe Institut among others, brings together musicians, filmmakers, foodies and fashionistas for a celebration of African art. Besides live music, the festival will feature a fashion market, art exhibitions and wellness areas. For more information and tickets, visit

New Year is just around the corner, and the coolest festival in town is coming to Diani for a month of extreme sports, music and partying. Kicking off with the skydiving boogie - where at least 350 professional skydivers come together for a 10-day fest of skydiving - the party is set to go on all month. By day, revellers can try their hand at jet-skiing, yoga, kite surfing or fishing while DJs spin the decks for the idle. The action then moves into evening party mode, with an impressive line-up of bands and DJs to rouse the crowd.

November 10-12, Athi River





December 9 - January 1



Think you’re pretty fit? Like cycling? Why not join African Spokes on all or part of a 68-day biking adventure from Nairobi to Cape Town. We meet with the trip leaders, James Savage, who runs adventure trips in East Africa through Savage Wilderness, and Jennifer Gurecki, a wilderness guide with her own ski gear company in the US, to find out what’s involved. How did this come up? James: I had been running trips for Virgin Atlantic for a number of years now, a kind of unofficial ‘Virgin friends and family’ organised by a guy called Chris Hawe. We organised trips up Mount Fiji and Mt Kilimanjaro, mountain biking in the Maasai Mara, rafting on the Athi River. I got married at the beginning of the year, and Chris was at the wedding. I was having a chat with him, and it popped into my head, “Why not do an ultra event and cycle from Nairobi to Cape Town?” Jennifer: James cornered me over Sunday brunch, and said, “I have this idea.” He asked me to do it with him. I’m not the kind of person who can say no to an offer like that. Who can join this trip? James: Cycling is not for everyone, but everyone can ride a bike. But if you cycle 20 kilometres, and you’re not used to it, you’ll be like, ‘God, that was hard.’ We’re looking for someone up for adventure, out for a good time, people who want to challenge themselves. … Some days are going to be tough, but it’s very doable for weekend cyclists. Jennifer: You don’t need to consider yourself an athlete, but you do need to be fit. You should be able to sustain physical activity for four to six hours.

Are you allowed to get off your bike and walk up the hills? Jennifer: I might be one of those people. There’s no shame in that game. We want you to have fun [even] if that means getting off your bike, and pushing it up the hill. Part of the trip you’re most looking forward to? James: The legs that really excite me are Botswana, Namibia and South Africa. We have two days in the Okavanga Delta in Botswana, and Fish River Canyon and the sand dunes in Namibia. Jennifer: Namibia. Namibia has been on my bucket-list and every time I try to get there, something always happens. Most difficult legs? James: Tanzania and Malawi are quite hilly. The end of Leg Two and the beginning of Leg Three are the harder legs. But on Leg Two, when you’re heading towards the Tanzanian border, cycling down towards Lake Malawi - that’s absolutely spectacular. Botswana [involves] a really long day of 208 km and people need to be really into their cycling. Some people probably won’t finish [that day] and will need to be picked up by the support vehicle.

Jennifer: We wanted a route that would be manageable. In South Africa, there are a couple of different routes one can take, and one is up and over a mountain pass. I thought that would be a hectic way to end, so I scouted out a coastal route .. and so we’ll finish up looking over the ocean and not having this significant elevation gain. I wanted to end with a win, not a soul crusher. What do you hope people will take away from this? Jennifer: There is something really special that happens outdoors that doesn’t happen elsewhere. If you’re able to complete a 160km day on a bike, and reflect on everything you had to do to push yourself to make that happen, you can apply that to Monday in the office when you feel you can’t get through the day. The 68-day trip, comprising six legs, kicks off on March 18 from Nairobi, and takes in Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa. Participants can take part in single or multiple legs. The trip ends up in Cape Town on May 29. Cyclists will be raising money for three charities: Zawadisha, WE Charity and Space for Giants. For more details, including costs, visit



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Interview with

MAIA VON LEKOW The Kenyan musician has just released her newest album, Maia & the Big Sky, a fusion of coastal rhythms, funk, reggae, jazz and folk. She talks to Nomad about rediscovering her Mijikenda roots, and how these have played a big role in her music today.

Tell us about the new album. Firstly, I am also a filmmaker so my husband and I have spent the past four years filming a documentary in Kilifi county, where my father is from. The Mijikenda coastal music is extremely rich so it has been fascinating reconnecting with my Mijikenda roots, hearing the music, and seeing how it infiltrates my current sound. This album is an exploration of those coastal roots while still retaining all the elements of my personal sound. Some tracks delve into the different aspects of what it is to be Kenyan within the context of this political climate. Other tracks communicate the emotions of being in love and the strength of womankind.

to be a bit of a barrier. On the flip side though, when people come to my shows they get to have a taste of not only a different East African sound, but also get to just enjoy my set and my story. I am not one thing or another in terms of where my genre of music sits, so I am glad when people get to know all the different sides to me and my music for the first time.


How did your mixed ethnicity impact your sense of identity growing up? My Mum is German and Italian and my Dad is Kenyan, so initially it was problematic in Kenya because you never really felt like you fitted in. People would constantly undermine my Kenyan background. However, as a young adult I was able to really embrace the fact that I was able to morph and flow into different cultural groups. Kenya is definitely where I feel most comfortable performing. It’s my home, and it’s where I feel most in my element. Where in the world was your most memorable gig? One of my most memorable gigs was at the Harare International Festival in Zimbabwe. All the performers were staying in the same hotel, so while we were staying there, we had continuous jam sessions 24/7 in the hotel lobby. It was a lot of fun. Usually, artists reside separately from each other, so getting that opportunity to meet so many musicians from all over and getting to collaborate and play together off stage was great. Where is your dream destination to play? I think that would have to be Europe. As we’ve played in so many locations already, I think that Europe would have to be one of the places that we haven’t played yet at all. I would also like to play in wider Africa. We

have performed a great deal in East Africa and South Africa, but I’m curious to go to West Africa and find out what’s happening on the music scene there. It would be a great opportunity to see how the East and West can collaborate more, and trade musical ideas. What is your experience of performing to audiences outside of Kenya? Being mixed-race and having a European name as a Kenyan musician puts me in an undefined category within the music scene. Internationally, when I am announced as a Kenyan artist, those who have not been exposed to East African music come into my set expecting West African sounds which proves

How did you get these opportunities to play overseas? Playing to different cultural audiences is something I have always known is important for my career but because of my mixed ethnic identity and music identity it can be difficult to infiltrate certain spaces. I have spent days, probably weeks, researching labels, festivals and conferences that I feel would be interested in my music and participation. For festivals within Africa, I often get told that my music is not quite ‘African enough,’ while jazz and blues festivals say it isn’t quite ‘jazz enough.’ Being in that in-between space can be quite tough, which is why applying to anything and everything all over the world has become a regular practice for me as a way to tap into different parts of the music industry. Opportunities beget opportunities, so I have had the privilege of meeting and partnering with different people from these festivals who have enjoyed and believed in my music. What do you want people to take away from “Maia and The Big Sky”? The first thing I would want people to take from it is just the diversity of Kenyan music. There are so many styles and ways of making music within this country. I would like people to hear and explore all the different threads that make me. I also don’t want people to get too caught up in categories of genre or influence and be able to just immerse themselves in the music itself and let it resonate with them in a personal way. As told to Wanja Wohoro




WE NEED TOOTHPASTE! If there’s one thing guaranteed to make Morris Kiruga’s blood boil, it’s the lack of thought that goes into the hotel amenities.


ot again! I am face palming in the bathroom an hour after I get to the hotel. It’s early September and I am on a largely-unplanned run around Mombasa. At my final stop, I realise that I left my toothpaste next to the sink at the previous hotel. I have about thirty minutes before I go to explore this Lamu-themed beachfront hotel. I will also divert to see its turtle-hatching project, before I fall in love with the butterfly sanctuary. In the visitor’s book, I will get poetic, emotional even. But first, I head back into the room and power up the laptop. It is time I answered this question - for myself and humanity, I tell myself. Why don’t hotels provide toothpaste? In your standard hotel bathroom, you’ll find soap, shampoo, hair conditioner, and body lotion. Some will add shower caps, and a kit with sewing equipment and earbuds. But outside of hotels in Asia, few will add a toothbrush and toothpaste. Why? Don’t they care about our oral hygiene? A simple Google search leaves me with more questions than answers. No one seems to know when and why the hotel service industry chose not to include toothpaste among its bathroom amenities. In the end, I find there are nearly as many theories on this as on whether aliens exist. In 2013, Daniel Engber explored this question for Slate. The investigation involved talking to a number of hoteliers, and exploring





the many theories. One is the so-called “giant vat” theory - that hotels have huge vats of amenities in their basements where they refill the small bottles. But this would be impossible to do with toothpaste, which comes in squeezable tubes, and is only used once. It requires a lot of research to design a hotel room, and the bathroom amenities are part of the experience. It’s a science to calculate which cap design and font work. The idea is not just to create an experience, but also to create memories. Actually, the hotel hopes you will filch a few things to remind you of your visit later. It doesn’t cost them much - although it does if guests start leaving with towels and robes (and, I’ve been told, even duvets and pillows). Then there’s the expense theory which goes something like this - toothpaste would raise the hotel’s costs without any real benefit. Unlike soaps and lotions, toothpaste isn’t seen as an aspirational product that shouts ‘luxury’ to guests. But this argument doesn’t hold water. For a five-star hotel, toothpaste would be a marginal cost, especially when compared to some of the more unusual items that appear in hotel rooms. And couldn’t toothpaste manufacturers cut prices for bulk purchases by hotels, as it would give them a chance to introduce their products to consumers? It sure would give them a better line than “recommended by dentists.” Another notion is that people don’t like packing shampoos and body lotions because they might leak into their luggage. Toothpaste, on the other hand, is easy to transport, and

can easily be taken on board a flight as hand luggage. As a perennial victim of airline liquid bans, this one is close to my heart. I have lost body lotion, deodorant and cologne a few times. I never learn. After the security guards toss them into a bucket beneath the table, you can say hello to ashy elbows and sweaty armpits. Woe betide if you are travelling to far-flung places with little in the way of replacements. I never seem to lose toothpaste though, so there might be something there. But most of the common amenities predate the ban on fluids above a certain quantity so even this one isn’t convincing. At the end of my impromptu research, I realise that no one knows the actual reason. Or perhaps there is none. The most honest answer Engber got during his investigation is that hotels don’t do it because other hotels don’t do it, either. For example, when a few hotels added coffee and a kettle to their standard room, competitors followed suit. Hotels are not adding toothpaste because we are not asking for it. Here is how Engber summarises it: “We don’t get toothpaste in our rooms because we don’t ask for toothpaste in our rooms; we don’t ask for toothpaste in our rooms because we never knew we could.” Here’s a secret, and listen closely: most hotels will give you toothpaste for free if you call the front desk. Although some might add the tube to your tab. Morris Kiruga blogs about travel, culture and more at



Reservation contact info; Kenya:+254 20 361 6000. Tanzania: +255 27 250 0630-9. NOMAD MAGAZINE OCTOBER 2017 Sopa Lodges locations Kenya; Amboseli, Lake Naivasha, Lake Nakuru, Masai Mara, Samburu and Tanzania; Ngorongoro, Serengeti and Tarangire.




In Maasai culture, the protection of wildlife is more than an instinct - it’s an obligation, writes Samantha du Toit.


he’s back. And she’s not shy about it. After months of wandering, our resident leopardess is back in camp. At least, we assume it is the same one. We have not had a close look at her, but her tracks on the paths in the morning have the distinctive rather long middle toe that we have seen before. We have also been away, travelling to the coast with the family over the election period; this allowed those we work with time to go and vote. She made her presence known as soon as we returned, grunting loudly in the bushes behind the kitchen on the first evening as we sat around the fire with guests. Much to everyone’s delight, she even let us have a glimpse of her in the distance before slinking off into the bushes by the river. Her vocalisations lasted all night, setting off the baboons and monkeys at regular intervals. In the morning, we discovered she had killed a Grant’s gazelle by the car park, and dragged it into the bushes behind our cottage. As we sat listening to her, the firelight dancing in front of us, I wondered what the Maasai really felt about her, and indeed her kind. If I were in a Maasai home, listening to

the same thing, but fearing for the safety of my livestock, what would I be thinking? So, the next day on an afternoon walk with the children in tow, I asked Risa and Nixon, our Maasai guides. They said that leopards can be a pest - killing sheep and goats mainly - but they don’t fear them. They regard them as stealthy, secretive and selfish, because they don’t share their kill with other animals; they hide them up a tree. They commented on the strange fact that of all wildlife, only the leopards are not afraid of their dogs. As we stopped a while to let the children draw funny faces in the dust with their sticks, Risa asked me what clan I was from. At least, did I know what clan I had been given as part of my Maasai marriage ceremony? I said that I thought it would be the same as my Maasai ‘father,’ if I had understood correctly. Knowing the family, he then said, “Ah, then you are from the clan of the hyenas.” As I wondered if that was a good or bad thing, he went on to explain that all Maasai belong to one of six clans, and that each clan has an animal, or perhaps two, that are associated with that clan. In some cases, the clan’s people were thought to share traits with those animals. More than that, though, it was the duty of the clan to protect those animals in the wild.

Intrigued by this, I asked what the other clan animals were and, to my surprise, they included scorpions, striped-bellied sand snakes, jackals and baboons as well as the more charismatic lion and rhino. The Iliserr clan, Risa said, were linked to the rhino, and frequently used the lack of rhinos in this area as a warning to other clans. We have failed, don’t lose your animals like we have, the elders would warn. As we turned back towards camp, it struck me again how deep a link the Maasai have with their land, and the wildlife on it and I vowed to find out more about how the clans came to be as they are. But that would have to wait for another time. The sun was setting, the children beginning to drag their weary feet, and the leopardess possibly was watching us from afar. Her success as a secretive species perhaps means that she has never been, and hopefully will never be, in need of the protection of a Maasai clan. Samantha du Toit is a wildlife conservationist, working with SORALO, a Maasai land trust. She lives with her husband, Johann, and their two children at Shompole Wilderness, a tented camp in the Shompole Conservancy.



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Silver Palm Spa and Resort is a secluded beachfront luxury boutique hotel located in Kilifi, along the Kenyan coast. The property is ideally located with stunning turquoise blue ocean views, direct beach access and with only 38 rooms offers an ultimate privacy and luxury experience for all. ROOM AMENITIES

• 24 hour room service • Free wi-fi • Mini bar and coffee stations • Safe deposit box • Hair dryers . Iron boxes





• Luxurious Barizi spa with Theravine & Theranaka trained therapists, products and treatments • Health bar, Gym and Beauty Salon • Conference facility for 100 pax, with separate 30 pax meeting room and 10 pax boardroom • Tennis Court

Bofa Road, Kilifi P.O. Box 41247-80100, Mombasa EXPERIENCE Tel: +254-780745837 / +254-707745837, Email:

‘The Emakoko is a boutique home away from home run by Kenya born owners, Emma & Anthony Childs. The lodge has been built into the side of the Mbagathi George overlooking the river and the Nairobi National Park. Nairobi National Park is Kenya’s oldest national park and is also home to one of the largest Black Rhino breeding populations per square kilometer in East Africa. The park is without a doubt the best way to start and end any safari in East Africa and The Emakoko ofcourse is a great beginning and ending.’ In order to make a booking, please contact Emma & Anthony Childs on

Set on a private 18,000 acre wildlife sanctuary, 90 minutes from Nairobi, you will find Naivasha’s best kept secret.

For reservations call:0722 200 596 or 0707 645 631 email:

ORIGIN OF A SPECIES Catrina Stewart heads up to the Cradle of Mankind, source of some of the richest human fossil finds in th world, and finds even this remote land is not immune to development and change. PHOTOS: BRIAN SIAMBI, SAMIR DAVE

El Molo home Fisherman on Lake Turkana




Shore of the lake




Fishing boat returns from western shore Camping at Palm Shade

arsh, inhospitable, strewn with black rock, Lake Turkana land in Kenya’s far north is unlike anywhere else in the country. Yet hundreds of thousands of years ago, it might have been a lush wetlands, where early hominins, the upright-walking ancestors of modern humans, roamed, living side by side with hippopotami, elephant and other wildlife. Some of the most sensational finds of early mankind have been uncovered in the area around Lake Turkana, including the skeleton of 1.6-million-year-old Turkana Boy, giving rise to the name, Cradle of Mankind, the place where - for us, at least - it may have all begun. And yet the area around Lake Turkana is the most sparsely populated place in all of Kenya. Stuck up on the Ethiopian border - a largely empty spot on the map if compared to the tangle of roads of the country’s heartlands - it is really nothing like the rest of the country. There is none of the lush savanna of the south, the teeming game of the national parks, the rapid urbanisation. Approaching from the east, the verdant peaks of the Matthews Range collide with the ochres of the desert-like scrub south of the lake, providing little warning of the black, volcanic rubble and the blistering boulders to come. Turkana has always had a magnetic pull for me - it encapsulates the essence of off-grid adventure. But with that fascination comes trepidation - what would we do if we broke down, who would we call, how would we call? After all, this is a place with scant phone reception, and little in the way of passing traffic. That hasn’t stopped a steady flow of off-road enthusiasts from making this trip, and a new road connecting the Lake Turkana Wind Power Project to the rest of the country has made it more accessible than ever. As we wend our way towards Loiyangalani, I am surprised by the size of the town. I had expected something bigger, more development perhaps. As we drive past the hayrick-shaped huts on our way in, we glimpse a traditional way of life that is rare these days to see. Change has nevertheless elbowed its way in. At a small lakeside community of the El Molo tribe, Kenya’s tiniest tribe, we are introduced to Esau, the village hero, who has killed more than a hundred hippos, we’re told. That way of life is disappearing: the hippos have all gone, and stricter hunting and antipoaching laws have more or less outlawed the practice of harpooning crocodiles. Overfishing means that the tiny tribe, and other communities dependent on the lake, have struggled to eke out a living. Fishermen now have to make the perilous journey to the other side of the lake - perilous because the wind whips up in a moment - to bring fresh and salted fish back to sell. As we crest a small hill behind the village, Dandora, our guide, stretches his arms out towards a large depression on the other side of the slope. Ten or twenty years ago, he




Wrist blade used for fighting says, that was all under water. But gradually, the lake is receding. The threat comes from Ethiopia’s Gibe III dam on the Omo River, source of 90 percent of Lake Turkana’s water, which conservationists warn could turn the lake into a dustbowl. “We depend on this lake,” says Dandora. “When the lake moves, we move. If it suffers, then we all suffer.” North of Loiyangalani is the desert museum, not so much a relic of the past, but a living reminder of the present. When we finally run the caretaker, Andrew, to ground, he explains, “You and another guy are the only visitors we’ve had this month. Some months, we have nobody at all.” We wander through the exhibition. Although small, it’s done well. Andrew shows me wrist blades, vicious-looking armlets that are unsheathed for fighting. They resemble relics of other tribes that were used in a bygone era, but these are very much a living specimen. Another spine-chilling weapon still used, I’m told, is the finger knife, a curling shard of metal that can do untold damage to one’s face if attacked. I imagine early explorers chancing on Lake Turkana, and finding everything much the same. The first white men to set eyes on the lake were led by Count Samuel Teleki in the 19th century, and they named it Lake Rudolf in honour of the Austrian Crown Prince. Others followed, including Vivian Fuchs in the 1930s, who sent two of his men to explore South Island, ordering them to send up regular smoke signals to let everyone know they were all right. One day, the smoke signals stopped, and despite efforts to find the two men, they had simply disappeared, perhaps killed by a crocodile, or somehow drowned on the lake. It wasn’t until the late 1960s that Turkana’s wider importance to the world was discovered.





Samburu moran in Loiyangalani

Fewer than 200 visitors make it to Sibiloi a year, although that figure probably surged in 2013 when dozens of adventurers drove this way to catch the solar eclipse. Richard Leakey, palaeontologist and conservationist, was co-leading an expedition across the Omo River in Ethiopia when his helicopter landed to the northeast of Lake Turkana. He stumbled across a rich find of fossilised remains that would help put East Africa on the map as the place where it all began for modern-day mankind. Leakey quickly set up his own base at Koobi Fora in what is now Sibiloi national park, Kenya’s most remote protected reserve. Fewer than 200 visitors make it here a year, although that figure probably surged in 2013 when dozens of adventurers drove this way to catch the solar eclipse. So gruelling is the road from Loiyangalani to Sibiloi - a whole day of driving over treacherous, tyre-slashing rock - that some of the eclipse-seekers never made it. Since Leakey’s parents, Louis and Mary, discovered a 1.8-million-year-old skull in a

Tanzanian gorge in 1959 that provided the strongest evidence yet that mankind originated in Africa, three generations of the Leakey family have made sensational discovery after discovery. Leakey uncovered the earliest-known remains of Homo sapiens, a 195,000-year-old ancestor of our own species, in southwestern Ethiopia. Not that the claim to our earliest ancestor has gone unchallenged. Earlier this year, researchers dated a part of a skull found in Morocco - said to be Homo sapiens - to 300,000 years ago. I suggest to Leakey’s daughter, Louise, that it’s remarkable how little we still know about the origin of our own species. “It’s phenomenal we know as much as we do,” she counters. Finding a human fossil, still less a human skull, is a “chance event,” says Louise, whose own foray into this work only happened because her father lost his legs in an air crash, and her mother broke off her field work to go and look after him in London, pressing Louise to take her place. While even those with an untrained eye might chance upon a fossil, and recognise it as one, stumbling up fossilised human remains is another ball game entirely. “When things come up to the surface … you may be walking along and see something, and often it’s just pieces,” says Louise. “It’s really remarkable that things get found in the first place.” The extraordinary finds by the Leakeys and others is a reminder of the transient nature of existence. I wonder if and when we, too, are doomed to extinction like all the species of Homo that came before us. In this cradle of mankind, signs of trouble are brewing, whether it’s the threat to the lake from the dam, overfishing, or the disappearance of grazing and wildlife that once nourished this land.


Reservations: 020 391 6000 Helicopters: 020 392 5000 Charter Flights: 020 392 5000





The Kenyan Camper has pretty much crossed all of Kenya, but Lake Turkana has remained just out of reach. When finally he got the call, he decided it was time to put a long-held dream to bed. PHOTOS: BRIAN SIAMBI, KENYAN CAMPER







he year: 2001. The scene: a library in the heart of the city. A young voracious reader comes across a dogeared copy of Count Samuel Teleki’s journey to what would come to be known as

Lake Turkana. In the many years since then, I’ve made numerous trips around Kenya but have always had to hang my head in half-hearted shame anytime I have been asked if I have travelled to the lake. All that changes in 2017 when I get a call asking, “You down for the lake?” I stifle a scream and reply as nonchalantly as I can, “Yes, definitely.” My day starts at the ungodly hour of 3.45 am on a Tuesday with a haphazard, lastminute packing frenzy. Shortly after I meet my fellow adventurers: Catrina - editor / leadfooted driver; Brian - photographer / black denim aficionado and Samir - photographer / recent retiree. With the car packed with several days of woefully-inadequate supplies, we set off for Nanyuki. This part of the trip is nothing we haven’t seen before so Catrina takes this opportunity to tell us about the number of times the car we’re using has broken down recently. It’s too late for second guesses - we’re committed. After a quick breakfast, the trip becomes interesting as we head down the great north road to Isiolo and on to Archers Post. When we get to Mount

Ololokwe, we make the first of what will be innumerable stops for photos. STAR-STUDDED SKIES At Laisamis, we leave the tarmac for the graded wind farm road to our first night in one of my favourite villages, Ngurunit, which is located in the shadow of the Ndoto Mountains. We arrive too late to investigate the rock slides so, after a well-deserved shower and a fantastic egg curry, the evening is spent out on the lugga photographing the star-studded skies for which Northern Kenya is famous. Morning comes too soon for me, but a stunning sunrise and great views of Mount Poi make up for a fitful sleep. We continue north through the Korante Plain with the Nyiru Range to the east breaking the monotony of the landscape. This road has really improved the accessibility to the Eastern side of the lake, I do hope the county continues to maintain it. We stop at the Lake Turkana Wind Power Project’s offices to beg, borrow or steal some fuel and have a short stand-off with three armed guards in army fatigues. It ends amicably or I wouldn’t be writing this. Onwards, we marvel at the scale of this project with its 365 wind turbines - it’s a massive and impressive undertaking. We soon leave it behind and the excitement is palatable as we near our first glimpse of the lake. After a small rise down into a valley surrounded by miles of volcanic rock, we see

the Jade Sea. It’s an emotional moment for me that has been 16 years in the making. Nothing I have read even comes close to describing the scale or the colour. There is a general consensus among the group that no image can do it justice: how do you capture a breeze on your skin, the sun on your face or the sense of accomplishment in your heart in a photo? A HORRIBLE BIT OF ROAD After soaking it in, we drive along the lake to Loiyangalani along what can generously be described as a moonscape of a road, the car groaning and rattling in protest. This is easily the worst bit of road of the entire trip. Owing to the slow speeds with no wind to cool us us off, we’re basically human-sized muffins baking in a metal box. We arrive in town ‘shaken not stirred’ and set up camp at the Palm Shade Resort, a green, shaded site with good hearty meals (the Nile Perch is a must). Camping is great but it’s a plus if someone else can sort the cooking. Over the next two days, we explore the town. We enquire about a trip over to South Island which is slightly undersold by the park warden, who says, “What’s there to see on the island? Well there’s an old airstrip there.” As exciting as that sounds, we give it a miss. It does little to detract from the overall experience of being here. We experience glorious sunsets and sunrises, swim in the refreshing waters, chat with the local




What happened to the big, fearsome desert? Did we use the wrong route? Were we not scared enough?

fishermen, enjoy perfect sundowners with the stunning landscapes dominated by Mount Nyiru and Kulal. This all serves to create a sensory overload that calms the mind and soul. Our time here comes to an end much too quickly. Why Brian packed not one but two pairs of black jeans for a desert trip remains unanswered. We bid farewell to Loiyangalani with a final stop at an El Molo village. Village visits have never been my thing, but the guides are cool guys and make it slightly less uncomfortable. What really hits home is seeing how Ethiopia’s Gibe series of dams has affected the lake levels. It’s a horrifying glimpse into the future. HEADING TOWARDS THE DESERT We drive away from the lake with the car now hissing and spitting in protest - ignoring the sounds is the only option at this point. After a quick soda at North Horr, we continue on to Kalacha for the night. At an oasis we have an altercation with some herders over the photos we’ve taken but after lengthy negotiation, all is resolved, a good reminder to always ask for permission before taking a photo. On arrival in Kalacha, we waste a good two hours or so looking for a place to sleep only to end up at the first place we had seen, the African Inland Church Mission. There are rumbles of discontent as to the quality of accommodation, but I love it; a bed, water, what else do you need? A cat steals our last pack of sausages and Samir throws down another smashing curry. All is well with the world. The next morning, we visit Kalacha’s Catholic church with its ornate Orthodox






murals painted by Ethiopian artists. I’m delightfully surprised by how beautiful it is. But now we need to concentrate and gird our loins to cross the infamous Chalbi Desert. The horror stories of cars lost in the desert or stuck for days on end in the sand have dominated our conversation in the days past, and now we’re at the point of no return. After an hour of driving we arrive in Maikona only to realise we’ve passed the worst of it. What happened to the big fearsome desert? Did we use the wrong route? Were we not scared enough? What did we do wrong not to get ourselves stuck? A LEOPARD IN MARSABIT After the anti-climax of our combined fears, it’s now a straight shoot down to Marsabit town. As the tyres finally kiss tarmac for the first time in six days, I swear I hear the car wheeze out a sigh of relief, as do we. After a quick lunch and some down-time, late afternoon finds us in Marsabit National Park where we get to view elephants at one of the crater lakes and also follow a leopard along the road for 15 minutes. Funny how these things happen just when you’re winding down your expectations of a trip. That evening back at the hotel, the highlights of our adventure replay in my mind. Tomorrow we will be back in the city far from the almost other-worldly landscapes of Northern Kenya and Lake Turkana. Some friendships formed and some strengthened, some disappointments and some unexpected surprises, conquering the unknown and choosing to embrace the unfamiliar. This is the very essence of adventure, this is what we seek on the road. Count Teleki would be proud.


The road from Nairobi to Ngurunit takes approximately 10 hours. The fenced Lasamu campsite offers basic ablutions and a roof under which to unfurl your sleeping bag, costing Ksh 1,000 per person. Leaving Ngurunit, head towards the wind farm. The road deteriorates after the wind farm as it winds down to the lake shore, and it takes roughly four to five hours to reach Loiyangalani from Ngurunit. Palm Shade offers shaded camping for Ksh 500 per person. The road to Kalacha, initially following the lake before heading east towards North Horr, takes about six hours. Stay at either the AIC Mission, or the Catholic Church, which has basic but comfortable rooms starting at Ksh 800 per person. The following day takes you across the Chalbi desert towards Maikona, and then to Marsabit. The journey takes around five to six hours. It is a seven to eight hour drive back to Nairobi.




From the south to the north, we explore places to stay with something to suit every budget. We start with South Horr on the southern tip of the lake, before heading up the eastern shore to Loiyangalani. For those who make it that far, check out the places in Sibiloi national park, too.


This little town, situated on the southeastern shore of the lake, is the site of the annual Turkana festival, and a number of hotels have sprung up here. Factor in two days to reach here. Malabo Resort Like pretty much everywhere in Loiyangalani, this place doesn’t have much in the way of shade, and feels hot and dusty. But for those looking to stay in a room rather than a tent, it has decent little rondavel rooms that are probably among the most comfortable in the town. It also has slightly cheaper rondavels that are less elegantly furnished, as well as a campsite. But the campsite is unshaded, and there are better camping options in town. Ksh 2,500 per room, B&B.

Palm Shade Resort Without a doubt, the nicest place to camp in town, but the wind gets gusty, so tents need to be well pegged. Campers can make use of a shaded, grassy area in which to pitch their tents, clean and decent ablutions and covered huts for preparing food and cooking. Food is also prepared on request, and served up in the camping grounds. Rooms are available here, but are nothing special. Trips on the lake and to Mt Kulal can be arranged. Ksh 500 per person camping; Ksh 1,000 for a rondavel.





Oasis Lodge This hotel, once the priciest place in town, has changed ownership in the past couple of years, but is still overpriced for what’s on offer. Although less basic than Palm Shade, its bandas are a little pokey and rustic, and the garden quite run-down. Its selling point is the swimming pool (empty when we visited, but usually filled, we were told) and a large, inviting bar area, where you can get Western-style food. The website contains old information, particularly on prices. Ksh 7,500 pp, bed and breakfast, Ksh 10,000 full board.


The drive to South Horr from Nairobi is (just) doable in a day, taking about 11 or 12 hours from Nairobi via Laisamis. It’s a good base for exploring the lake, roughly an hour’s drive away, and the surrounding region.

Koros This is a welcome new (and affordable) addition to the northern Kenya scene. Owned by the Taylor family, originally as a family retreat, this self-catering property is one of the nicest places to stay in the area. A selling point is the small pool with a shade, and adjoining barbeque area. Sleeps six in three beautifully-furnished tents. Ksh 5,500 pp, or Ksh 35,000 for exclusive use of the camp. Activities offered include excursions to the lake, and guided walking in the area. Contact the owners directly at or through East African retreats.

SIBILOI NATIONAL PARK It’s another full day’s drive to reach Sibiloi from Loiyangalani, but a worthy trek for archaeology enthusiasts, even if there’s not much wildlife these days. Koobi Fora, the museum with many of the finds in the area, is another two-hour drive from the main gate. Desert Rose This top-end lodge on Mt Nyiru has been around for a while, and remains pretty much the sole luxury option in these parts. The lodge consists of five cottages of varying sizes, and boasts exceptional views over northern Kenya. Cool off in the pool, and retire for the evening to a cosy sitting room with logfire. Activities include flying safaris over Lake Turkana (a chance to see the calderas on Central Island), fishing excursions on the lake, walking in the nearby Ndoto Mountains, or camel trekking through the wild, desert-like terrain. Resident rates start at $375 pp sharing.

Kenya Museum Bandas & Alia Bay Guesthouse

In a rugged spot deep inside the park, the Koobi Fora museum offers very basic accommodation overlooking the lake on on a self-catering basis. There is a dining area and kitchen. Camping, with access to the facilities, is also available. Rooms cost ksh 1,000 per person, camping Ksh 300. Near the main gate is Alia Bay Guesthouse, the KWS-run cottage, sleeping five. It has a living room and kitchen with gas stove. Guests must bring their own water. Ksh 5,000 for the whole house. To book Koobi Fora, go to For the guesthouse, visit or call its reservations’ team on 0726 610 533



Escape to paradise in Kenya’s South coast!! Enjoy sea breezes with breathtaking views from your luxury accommodations. Discover the beauty, wonder and enchantment of this amazing location hideaway. Plan your next Beach Safari with us!

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Even before October’s horrific attack in Mogadishu, Somalia was a no-go zone for many. Can the country move beyond deadly conflict and embrace its tourism potential, Amanda Sperber writes.


ndrew Drury only intended to come to Somalia once. A self-described “adventure tourist,” who has been to more than 100 countries, a trip was a tick off a mental list of conflict-ridden destinations he

intended to visit. “There was a bit of male bravado,” he admitted, adding that, though he’d already travelled to Iraq and Afghanistan, he appreciated the “shock value” of telling people he’d been to the country about which a non-fiction book is titled The World’s Most Dangerous Place. In 2012, the Somali federal government had just been re-established, and didn’t venture far from its besieged compound. Clans wars still waged over fiefdom blocks. Al Shabaab, the Islamist militant group, was an open, defiant presence. There wasn’t a tourist stamp for Drury’s passport. Drury didn’t think much of the place. By 2015, African Union troops fighting with Somali militias stabilised Mogadishu, the capital, enough so that the government was more comfortably seated. Al Shabaab remained, but was more of an an underground force. Bombings and shootings were as regular as a few times a week, but the violence was hit-and-run attacks, not drawn-out urban warfare.





Feeling he hadn’t got a sense of the country in 2012, Drury returned to Mogadishu. “I decided to go back to Somalia because I didn’t think I’d seen it. Something drew me back,” he said. Drury isn’t the first foreigner to refer to the country’s mystical pull on the soul. On his second visit, he was hooked, “I had an emotional feeling I had never had before,” he said. “I had this real love for the country and the people.” He returned in 2015, and is planning another trip this year. People like Bashir Yusuf Osman, the owner of the Peace Hotels, are betting on this unique Somali tug to turn war-ravaged Somalia into a tourist destination. Well, that, and the white sand beaches that form a shore with the turquoise-purple Indian Ocean along Africa’s longest coastline with the buzzing open-air markets, Gothic Ottoman architecture including the Guardafui lighthouse (a 19-metre-tall, abandoned tower built by the Italians during the early 1920s) and lively cafe culture. About eight years ago, Osman bought 28 hectares of ocean-front property in Mogadishu with plans of building a resort. It was extremely dangerous for him to even go and look at the land when he bought it, but in July he travelled to Nairobi to meet with the architect and discuss the Lamu-style bungalows that will dot the beach. Construction is underway and he aims to open in July 2018.

Osman’s moves reflect an oft-noted keenly Somali ability to keep calm and carry on in a way that puts the British to shame (though may also border on insanity). Mogadishu residents joke that after al Shabaab attacks a restaurant, it’ll re-open for business and customers will be calmly drinking tea amidst the rubble a few hours later. “Everyone said it was too early,” Osman said, recalling the purchase. “But for me, I was thinking it’s the right time to start, because it’s going to get expensive.” Over the last five years, Mogadishu has become a veritable boom town as the government expands its reach and the diaspora (more than two-million strong) return to visit, or stay. “Mogadishu is like Manhattan,” a British-Somali property developer said in an interview to the Guardian back in 2013. The business rush is beginning to extend to legitimate tourist considerations even as the majority of buildings are pock-marked with bullet holes and the average city block remains at least fifty percent rubble. The national, nomadic tendency to keep moving ahead is now made policy by Abdirahman Omar Osman, Somalia’s Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism who, in June, travelled to Madrid to unveil a master plan to revive Somalia’s tourism industry, and to advocate for Somalia’s inclusion in the UN World Tourism Organisation, membership of


CLARIFICATION An earlier version of this article appeared in print before the October 14 attack in Mogadishu that killed more than 300. we deeply regret any unintentional distress the headline in our print edition may have caused, and have changed and updated accordingly all of our online editions of the piece. which it finally attained last month. Like most Somali politicians, Osman is the first to acknowledge that security is still the country’s first concern. More than 100 violent incidents were attributed to al Shabaab between November 2016 and May 2017. In June, al Shabaab rammed an explosive-laden car into the only hotel with a disco, and then stormed a popular new restaurant, holding 20 hostage and killing dozens. In October, terrorists carried out one of the deadliest attacks ever on Somali soil, when two trucks exploded at a busy intersection near the Safari Hotel in Mogadishu. The blasts killed at least 300 people, with the death toll expected to rise. Speaking before that attack, Osman said, “If you’re talking about tourism and thinking [only] about security, you’ll never take steps.” For now, according to Osman, Somalia’s main visitors are “indirect” tourists: people coming for work or diaspora Somalis returning to see family. His hope is that spots like the cathedral and the beach, and others like the fish market, will get more institutionalised, and bets that these will be the early adopters when spots like Osman’s beach resort open. Jenny Ziemba, a British Army officer formerly based in Somalia who is also a scuba diving instructor, would be a return visitor. “Somalia is an ideal location for water-based activities,” she said. “The warm Indian Ocean waters host

Tourism minister Abdirahman Osman acknowledges that security is the country’s first concern. “If you’re talking about tourism and thinking [only] about security, you’ll never take steps.” an array of tropical fish and aquatic life [that make for] a snorkelling paradise, including many puffer fish, blue spotted rays, Moray eels and turtles.” She added: “The long shallow coastline makes it a perfect spot to snorkel as you don’t have to go far to see a large mix of life but for those that wish to venture out further, the shallow water makes it safe to do so.”

Somaliland, the self-declared nation to the northwest in Somalia, is a significantly more stabilised area, and has a trickle of tourists coming to see the ancient yet still pristine Laas Geel cave paintings, take in the sights, sounds and smells of Hargeisa, the capital, and Berbera, the port city. Lonely Planet mentions some of the sites in their Africa guidebook, but notes that the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) does not advise travel to Somalia, proper. Just to Somaliland. “As Lonely Planet has a policy of not sending writers to areas on the FCO ‘avoid all travel’ list, it is unlikely that we will be increasing our coverage of the south and central part of Somalia in the near future,” said a representative from the company by email. In the meantime, Yasir Baffo of the Somali Tourism Agency is working on getting Somalis eager youth trained and ready to receive guests. In 2014, he built a hospitality training centre with courses in customer care, frontoffice and waitering for about 150 students. The centre, part of the Dayah hotel in Mogadishu, was bombed this past January. Twenty-eight people were killed and the plates, cups and all the practice equipment destroyed. A new centre, the Somali Institute of Tourism and Hospitality, is set to open in the autumn. Baffo smiles and says “As long as we are alive, we can rebuild.”



CONSERVATION NEWS LAOS IS FASTEST-GROWING IVORY MARKET IN THE WORLD Laos is now the fastest-growing ivory market anywhere in the world, according to an investigation by Kenya’s Save the Elephants. Neighbouring China is banning the domestic sale of ivory by the end of this year, prompting traders to seek out alternative markets. “When you squeeze traders in one place, they pop up somewhere else,” said Iain Douglas-Hamilton, founder of Save the Elephants. Ivory is being openly sold all over the country, mainly as jewellery, with traders encouraged by an almost total absence of law enforcement.






“WE CAN TURN POACHING AROUND“ American geographer Esmond Bradley Martin is an expert on the rhino horn and elephant ivory trade, travelling all over the world with his wife, Chryssee Martin, and colleagues Lucy Vigne and Dan Stiles to identify the markets, the traffickers and the modern-day uses, as well as debunking some myths. Among his achievements was helping persuade China to shut down its legal rhino horn trade in 1993. How did you get involved with the rhino horn trade? I was looking at the illegal trade in the Indian Ocean based on dhows, and my wife and I wrote a book called Cargoes of the East. Around that time, we discovered that most of the rhino horn from East Africa was going to Yemen. What had happened was in the 1970s, there had been a huge slaughter of elephants in East Africa, followed in the 1980s by rhinos. In Kenya, there were around 20,000 rhinos in 1970, but by the 1990s, most of the rhinos had been eliminated. The puzzle was: why were all these rhinos being killed, and where was the horn going? What did you find out? Most thought rhino were being killed because the horn was being used as an aphrodisiac in China. It was completely false. China never used it for sexual purposes. But where was it going? To North Yemen [before the country unified in 1990], where it was being used to make handles for jambiyas [Yemeni daggers] until very recently. There was only one place where rhino horn was being used as an aphrodisiac - in a part of Bombay [Mumbai] and the state of Gujurat in India. Almost every part of the rhino is used for medicinal purposes in Asia. The horn is used for lowering fevers; the skin for skin diseases; blood is consumed as a tonic; urine for coughs and nails are a poor man’s rhino horn. Asian horns are much more valuable for medicinal purposes, and always have been. It’s smaller and more concentrated. If you asked about elephant ivory, most would say it was going to China, and being used for carvings. But do you know where most of it was going? Forty percent ended up in Japan, where it was used for making name seals, called hankos. About 20 percent went to Europe, and 10-15 percent to the United States. The point is, if you want to save these animals, you’ve got to know where the market is and combat it.

You were the first to document the destruction of antique rhino carvings in China. Tell us about that. I first went to China in 1985. Pharmaceutical factories were buying up rhino horn locally to make their medicines. But what were they buying? Works of art. At factories, they would pick up 20 kg bags and drop them [with the works of art] on a concrete floor. Why would you break up an antique and grind it down and make into a medication? The pharmaceutical factories did not then have access to hard currency, so they could not import rhino horn. The only source they had was the domestic source, and the domestic source was works of art and shavings from carvings. You then became the UN Special Envoy for Rhino Conservation. Where did that lead? One of my highest priorities was to film these bags containing antique rhino horns, and I got a film crew in from TVE in the UK and we filmed this. TVE then produced a 20-minute film shown all over the world. The Chinese eventually blocked it, but by 1993, we stopped the destruction of antiques and the legal domestic trade came to an end. China started using substitute materials instead. How much does rhino horn currently fetch on international markets? Prices peaked about five years ago. The wholesale price for a full horn in Asia peaked at about $65,000 per kilo for African rhino horn; the price has steadily gone down, and in January, it was $28,000 a kilo. The curious thing is that the price of rhino horn dropped, but poaching hasn’t dropped. That’s true for elephants as well. A poaching gang of, say, three people gets about $2,300 a kilo. An average rhino here carries three kilos so a poaching gang would get more than $6,000. That’s a hell of a lot of money.

What is the outlook for rhino in Africa? It’s very mixed. Kenya is doing very well, but South Africa is going through a rough period. The problem with South Africa is that it shares a border with Mozambique, where wildlife corruption is common. Namibia had until recently little rhino poaching, but now it does. Why? Because of the presence of Chinese rhino horn traders in the country. Overall, now 1,000 are being killed annually on the continent. There are also new uses for rhino horn. The elite in Vietnam will sprinkle a powder [from the horn] onto their food and consume it for status; people make jewellery and small cups out of it. Some people even believe it can be used to cure cancer. What’s driving the trade is China. The people buying jewellery and cups are all Chinese. They’re buying these items in Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar. Many of the markets are right on the border with China. Would you say the efforts to protect the rhino have been successful? How do you assess success? The practical way is to look at the rhino numbers. In 1970, there were 3,500 white rhino [in Africa], it’s now 20,000. There were 65,000 black rhino, and now there are only 5,100. The Indian one-horned rhino has risen from 900 in 1970 to 3,600 today. But there are less than one hundred Sumatran rhino, down from 1,000 in 1970. And the Javan rhino numbers only about 63 today. It’s a mixed bag. What more can countries with rhino populations do to protect them? There are some poor countries that have been very successful in rhino conservation. India and Nepal are two of them. They help local people [living in proximity to wildlife], have heads of state involved, focus on apprehending the middlemen, have an adequate number of people on the ground patrolling, and have really good intelligence. The disappointing thing is that people are too negative on this situation. We can turn rhino poaching around if people allocate the proper resources.




A walk through…

SOUTH OF KENYATTA AVENUE Total distance: about 4 km Total time: 5 hours (including stops and lunch) The graveyard, forlorn and neglected, has an Ozymandian quality to it. Under toppled and faded headstones repose the relics of an unloved empire’s unfortunate privileged, nearly all of them felled in their prime. There lies Sir Donald Stewart, His Majesty’s Commissioner for British East Africa until he succumbed in 1905 to the psychic powers of Koitalel arap Samoei, leader of the Nandi Resistance. Or to pneumonia, if you prefer the prosaic official explanation. And there, a little to the right, is poor Charles Ryall, who came to East Africa in 1900 to kill the man-eater lions of Tsavo, only to be killed by them instead after falling asleep on the veranda of his railway carriage. Housing Nairobi’s oldest graves, the cemetery at the corner of the Bunyala Road and Uhuru Highway makes an excellent starting point to this month’s meander through Nairobi’s history. The cemetery is divided into three. Below the colonial graves is the resting place of some of Kenya’s first Jewish settlers, who came here anticipating the creation of a Jewish State — not in Israel but in Uasin Gishu. Hunt among the headstones for Ettel Block, matriarch of the Jewish family that once owned the Norfolk Hotel. It is strange to think that if Theodor Herzl, the father of political Zionism, had not eventually rejected Britain’s 1905 offer to carve out a Jewish homeland in what was then Uganda, the capital of the Jewish State might have been Eldoret rather than West Jerusalem. Below the Jewish section is the Nairobi South War Cemetery, where 155 victims of the First World War and two of the Second lie buried. Leaving the graveyards behind you, head for Haile Selassie Avenue and turn left onto Parliament Road. You are now passing through Nairobi’s former theatre district. Sadly, the





Donovan Maule Theatre, opened in 1958, has long since been torn down and even its later incarnation, Phoenix Players is no more. Wistful theatre-goers can still have a steak at the Professional Centre Restaurant. Even if its legendary former owner, Mike Doughty, is no longer behind the bar, some of his staff are still there. Our next stop is the Cathedral Basilica of the Holy Family, the seat of Roman Catholicism in Kenya. The original church, built in 1904, was replaced by the present edifice in the 1960s. It was designed by Dorothy Hughes, one of Kenya’s first female architects, who catered for both saints and sinners — she also created the flying-saucer-shaped New Florida Nightclub on Koinange Street, torn down in recent years by enemies of architecture. Hughes was kinder to the tarts than the vicars, and many will find the basilica rather charmless. Across the road is the Kenyatta International Conference Centre, the tallest building in Nairobi when it was built in 1974. Hurry past the Soviet-style kiosks on the ground floor that used to sell KANU kitsch (the building was the former ruling party’s headquarters until 2003) and buy a ticket for the roof at reception. An express lift will whisk you up 27 floors. Tarry for a while on the two lower viewing platforms above the abandoned revolving restaurant. Then head for the helipad to enjoy spectacular, if vertiginous, views of the Ngong Hills and a 360-degree panorama of the ever-expanding city. Stop for lunch at what may be the only surviving Chinese restaurant in the centre of town, the Tin-Tin (lunches only), at the bottom of the KICC. Founded by James Tin, who fled the Japanese advance on Hong Kong for Mombasa in 1940, and his wife Anna, the 39-year-old restaurant is still run by members of the Tin family. Next stop is the neighbouring Supreme

Court and Judiciary Museum, situated in its bowels. The building was designed in 1935 by Sir Herbert Baker, one of the best-known imperial architects, who was also responsible for the Union Buildings in Pretoria, South Africa House in Trafalgar Square and, with Edwin Lutyens, much of the administrative centre of Delhi. The museum takes visitors sequentially through Kenya’s history, with the gloom and blue walls giving way to bright lights and yellow walls as you pass into the country’s post-independence era. The holding cells, including one for capital offenders, are a grim reminder of the political prisoners who passed through here. Stop for a breather at the August 7 Memorial Park, built on the site of American Embassy and Ufundi House, both destroyed by al Qaeda terrorists in 1998. There is a moving memorial to the 218 people killed, as well as a small museum. Head across the roundabout and turn onto Racecourse Road (the old racecourse was dismantled in the early 1950s) to St. Peter Claver’s Church, lovelier and more peaceful than the basilica. Built in 1922, it was the first Catholic church to serve Nairobi’s black African population, and was the site of Tom Mboya’s “wedding of the decade” in 1962. Across the road, St. Peter Claver’s School was the first in Nairobi for African children, whom the colonial authorities initially tried to bar from the city. Our final stop is the Sri Guru Singh Sabha, the Gurdwara, or temple, of the Sikh farmer caste, on Uyoma Street. This extraordinary building, which catches the eye when you look east from the KICC’s helipad, houses Kenya’s largest dome, completed in 1963. Step inside and the priests will be delighted to let you marvel at the interior of the umbrella dome, resplendent in alabaster and teal — Nairobi’s modest answer to the Pantheon in Rome.


Adrian Blomfield takes a nostalgic walk through Kenya’s history.



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Weekend away in

NANYUKI Just under three hours’ drive from Nairobi, the town of Nanyuki feels like it’s on the brink of taking off. Popular for its proximity to Mt Kenya, and a gateway to northern Kenya, this former sleepy backwater is poised to become one of Kenya’s most vibrant urban centres, at least if the new Cedar Mall is anything to go by. Savvy weekenders head outside of the town for the best places to stay, and fun things to do. WORDS AND PHOTOS KATY FENTRESS


Inspired by traditional mobile homes in Somerset in Britain, these two cottages are tastefully furnished with a light and airy modern feel. Each contains a double and a single bed. These are the newest and quirkiest accommodations around Nanyuki and are set up behind One Stop, a tiny shopping centre hosting a grocery shop and cafe. Ideal for small families or couples, these are bound to become immensely popular so best to book in advance. They have limited cooking facilities though, so come prepared to lunch at the café and dine at one of the restaurants nearby. Ksh 6,000 per night based on two sharing.





Nigh impossible to get there without an insider to guide you along the way, if you do finally stumble upon this old cave near a waterfall in which Mau Mau warriors would hide out and store supplies during the 1950s Rebellion, chances are you will have the entire place to yourself. The easiest access point is from Bantu Lodge turn off about 15 kilometres before reaching Nanyuki - and it is a seven or eight kilometre walk to the caves. Make sure you wear your walking shoes, bring a picnic and the kids and then challenge yourself to wade out to the waterfall and keep your head under it for thirty seconds. Your brain will feel frozen before 10 seconds are up.

Photo: Rift Valley Adventures


Get your friends to photograph you in slow motion as you plunge off a waterfall into the icy river pools of the Ngare Ndare Forest Reserve. Situated an hour’s drive from Nanyuki, this amazing picnic and camping spot is run by a community trust and boasts a beautiful suspended one-kilometre canopy walk - apparently the only one of its kind in East Africa - from which you can look down on buffalo, elephant and other animals as they refresh themselves in the nearby holes. Getting down to the stream is just about walking distance from the main parking area and there is always a guide at hand. Ksh 200 entrance for citizens, Ksh 400 for residents.






Extremely popular with the locals, many swear they never go without its twice-monthly Sunday curry lunches. This colonial-style bungalow is nestled in verdant gardens and is the perfect place to enjoy a delicious mid afternoon tea surrouarby. The kitchen uses mainly locally-sourced ingredients and features a traditional Anglo-style menu complete with steak, lamb and, of course, fish and chips. There is also a small playground for children. Open from 9 am to 4.30 pm, except for Friday nights when opening hours are extended for Tapas, or bitings. Closed every other Sunday.



Built in 2013 and set between Nanyuki and Naru Moru, everything about Soames Hotel still feels spanking new. Each one of its en suite Mt Kenya-facing cottages are designed with a contemporary aesthetic keeping clean lines and light, neutral pallets in mind, while still maintaining a wooden and homely feel that wouldn’t feel out of place in a New England guesthouse. Locals looking for a chilled sundowner followed by a meal can be found at Jack’s Bar on weekend afternoons, relaxing on the porch, a glass of wine or beer in hand, or sitting inside on one of the downy sofas when a chill comes in from the mountain. Doubles start at Ksh 13,000 per night, bed and breakfast. 0711 100891 / 0738 733323


This lived-in guest cottage oozes character and is packed with the memories of the many creative minds that have passed through its doors. Famous Kenyan authors have been known to use this place as a bolt-hole when looking to escape the chaos of city life. The guest house, named after the stream running through the land, has four bedrooms and sleeps six comfortably or eight at a push. The owner Keith Pearson, who bought the property in 1993, recently added a large activities studio adjacent to the property. If it’s luxury you’re after, this is probably not the place for you. But if you’re looking for something unassuming and down-to-earth, this may well be your perfect spot. Ksh 10,000 per night for the house at weekends. Email


What Penguin House lacks in immediate aesthetic impact - its close cluster of grey brick rooms appear built for practicality and comfort rather than beauty - it makes up for in charm. Its en suite rooms are clean and functional, but the real draw here is their restaurant, Tin Cantina which has a small and delicious menu. Recently taken over by William Stephens, a Nanyuki-born chef who spent a large part of his career working in Australia, the restaurant serves a short but exciting menu inspired by the produce of its nearby organic farm. Expect classic dishes made to a much higher standard than we often expect from unpretentious eating establishments in Kenya. Doubles start at Ksh 5,000 a night, B&B.





What I pack … for my travels

A pioneer in many ways, DJ and producer Foozak has been at the forefront of dance music culture in East Africa for close to 10 years, performing in clubs and festivals around the world. He recently returned from his latest European tour, which included playing at Ministry of Sound. Instagram @foozak Twitter @foozak_

Small explorer Ksh30,900 Sennheiser HD25 headphones. In my opinion, the best headphones ever made. The quality is insane, I’ve been through so many headphones but these have stuck. They’re perfect for electronic music, too.

Lacie Hard Drive, 4 TB This has all my music and my production samples, and it allows me to prepare for gigs while on tour. It contains my whole music collection as a DJ and producer, so to say it is valuable is an understatement!

TAG Heuer watch (Formula One Watch Chronograph Black Dial) This is a very robust watchwaterproof, scratch proof and helps me keep up with different time zones while on tour. Macbook 15” It’s super fast, perfect for production and for putting my music together when on the road. It’s the hub I use to store all of my music along with my hard drive.






Bose Soundsport Wireless Headphones While travelling through airports, having wireless headphones is really convenient. You don’t need to stand there untangling wires! These cancel out background noise and have a really good sound. I am constantly around loud volumes, so quality headphones are essential for protecting my ears.

Palo wooden sunglasses These are from Barcelona. They’re hand-made, probably the one pair of shades that have lasted. They’re quite different and very comfortable to wear with a lightweight wooden feel.


NAIROBI: The Hub, Junction, Sarit Centre, Village Market, Yaya Centre, Westgate DAR ES SALAAM: Slipway




Mtito Andei


OVERVIEW: Retired safari guide Robin McDonald raised his family on this 100-acre estate on the boundary of Tsavo East national park. After many years in Mombasa, Robin returned to Nyika, and set up a bird sanctuary to protect the sheer abundance and variety of birdlife. He rebuilt the family home, knocked down during his long absence, and repurposed it as a guest house. He lives in a small cottage nearby on the sanctuary. AMENITIES: Rob doesn’t like things to be more complicated than necessary, and this view is reflected in the house. It is a simple yet beautifully-finished bush home, sleeping six. It consists of three bedrooms, one large en suite double room, one twin en suite room and a lounge (where two guests can also sleep). There’s also a fully-equipped kitchen (includes a fridge, freezer, stove, oven, crockery and utensils) and large dining room. For fine evenings, there’s an outdoor barbeque chill area, and a roof terrace on which to dine. On a clear day, you can see Mt Kilimanjaro from the terrace. The house





is run on solar power while the fridge and stove run on gas. Bahati, the cleaning lady, comes in daily. WHERE: Nyika Bird Sanctuary is located 10 km off the main road from Mtito Andei. It’s an ideal mid-way point if you’re driving to the coast or returning to Nairobi. It is 234 km from Nairobi (around 3-4 hours driving) and 284 km from Diani (we were coming from Diani and took the Shimba Hills route. This takes around 5-6 hours). PROS: • Nyika bird sanctuary didn’t earn its name for nothing! If you are a bird lover, you will be spoilt for choice. • Sundowners on the roof terrace. • If you like to bring your dog, you can ask to bring them along. Be careful though - the house borders a national park, and you wouldn’t want your pet to dash off into the bush after an animal. Only a few weeks ago, Rob’s dog was eaten by a leopard. CONS: • The house does not have power sockets so if you need to charge your laptop or camera, it’ll be tricky. There are USB ports in the battery packs found inside the house where you can charge your phone. • The showers aren’t heated, so depending on the time of day be prepared for a cold one!

WHAT TO DO: We spent most of our evenings on the roof terrace, swapping stories with Rob, drinking beer and taking in the view. If you’re an early bird, it’s worth waking up to see the sunrise, or grab a pair of binos to look at the birds. On the other side of Mombasa Rd is Tsavo West, the easier to access of the two parks. Spend a day there visiting Mzima Springs, walking up Roaring Rocks to take in the views, and having lunch and swimming at Kilaguni Serena Lodge. And, of course, seeing the animals! HOW TO BOOK: Call Nyika Bird Sanctuary on: +254 (0) 710 384 808. You can also book through Airbnb, just search for “Nyika Bird Sanctuary.” Facebook and Instagram @Thetraveldote This review is independent and unbiased. The authors of this piece pay for their own accommodation.

The cost of the house is $50 during the week and $55 during the weekends for the entire property per night. OVERALL RATING 8/10


NYIKA BIRD SANCTUARY, MTITO ANDEI Nyika Bird Sanctuary, a quirky little property a few hours outside of Nairobi along the Mombasa Rd, is a little-known gem for nature and bird lovers. Surrounded by thorny shrubs and throngs of birds, it’s perfect for those who prefer the smaller, more private spots to big hotels. Whether it is exclusivity, eco-friendliness or rustic comfort you’re after, Nyika ticks all the boxes.




OR 0711-466 047; 0738- 515 085; 0775- 515 085



MORNING COFFEE AT ALEM BUNA IN KAZANCHIS. This is our favourite café in Addis. It’s frequently so packed that you’re forced to share tables with strangers. It’s a quaint old place that serves excellent macchiatos (the Ethiopian macchiato is more of a cortado, really) but it’s the whole experience that just can’t be beaten!

Dawn to dusk in

ADDIS ABABA Eliza Richman and Xavier Curtis are the founders of Go Addis Tours, which offers immersive day tours in Addis and travel throughout Ethiopia. In 2016, they launched Go Kigali Tours which offers city tours in Kigali, Rwanda. Go Kigali also has a boutique of contemporary Made in Rwanda products

LUNCH AT ZOLA CAFÉ. Zola has both fantastic Ethiopian food as well as home-made pastas. They have a great location near Edna mall, an old-school cafeteria atmosphere and friendly waiters.

SHOPPING AT GOLLAGUL TOWER. This place is home to five shops that sell leather shoes made in Ethiopia, a couple of which export to Europe but you can snag them here for crazy prices. The shops can sometimes be hit or miss but there are always at least a few home-run staples.

WANDER AROUND SHOLA MARKET. I love Shola because it’s a more manageable version of Merkato, Africa’s largest openair market located in the north of Addis. Shola has just about everything you can find in Merkato but with a way more relaxed vibe. I love wandering the aisles, taking in the action and stocking up on spices.

DINNER AT KATEGNA RESTAURANT. They have a really varied but most importantly excellent menu. You really can’t go wrong but our favourites are the Gomen be Siga (collard greens and beef stewed in Ethiopian butter), the Doro Wat (Ethiopia’s famous chicken stew which is usually only made at home) and Dinich be Siga (spicy potatoes and beef served with Eyib cheese which pairs perfectly with the spice).








A young boy grins triumphantly as he emerges from Lake Turkana with a crocodile for his family to eat. For the El Molo tribe, a tiny community living along the shores of the lake, hunting crocodile is largely a thing of the past given stiffer laws, thanks to Kenyan law, and they subsist mainly on a diet of fish. Mo Amin identified this shot, taken in 1976, as his favourite photograph from his Turkana collection. This photo forms part of a retrospective series celebrating the work of renowned Kenyan photographer Mohamed “Mo� Amin, who died in 1996 when his Ethiopian Airlines flight was hijacked and crashed into the Indian Ocean. Photograph courtesy of Salim Amin.






“WE ARE NOT DAREDEVILS” Kiran Shah is an actor and the world’s shortest stuntman. He has stood in as a stunt double in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films, and has played roles in some of Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters from Star Wars to the Chronicles of Narnia: the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. He talks to Nomad about growing up in Kenya, the relative perils of stunt work, and a glorious view that isn’t quite real. Early memories of growing up in Kenya? My early memories of growing up in Kenya are with my family and my uncle’s family. Eight or nine of us, adults and children, would get into one car and go to Thika, Ruiru or Fourteen Falls. This would happen most Sundays. At the end of the trip, we would end up having icecream. This was something I looked forward to. I have also fond memories of Ngara in Nairobi where I was brought up, such as playing with other kids, games like cricket, football and marbles. Everybody looked out for each other. How did you start getting into stunt work and acting? After doing theatre work from 1973, I got involved in my first film called Candleshoe. It was a Disney movie. I was standing in for a nine-year-old girl. While on location, a stunt coordinator called Bob Anderson saw me dressed in a dress and a black wig. From the back, I could pass as this girl. He asked me if I would like to do stunts for the girl. I said ‘yes’ and did a fight scene where I was thrown about, landing on mats to break my fall. When I was at Pinewood studios working on the same film, a producer called John Dark approached me one lunchtime at the bar. He asked me to come to his office and meet his director, Kevin Connor. They were making a film called The People that Time Forgot. There was a small character part for a small person. I auditioned for the character, did some movements and got the part. How dangerous is it? Stunts are ninety-nine percent safe. We are not daredevils. There is always this one percent of the time when things can go wrong. In most stunts, one will come out with bruises and bumps. [But] stunt people have a high tolerance to pain as you get used to getting knocked about. I have broken a few bones. The worst injury was coming off a galloping horse in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. It was in rehearsals for the last big fight. I was doing a stunt for Hobbit Merry. I was double riding with a stuntwoman who was sitting behind me. We did a few runs and each

time the horse bolted. We managed to stop the horse every time. The last run we did, the horse bolted [again] and we managed to stop him. As we relaxed on the horse, he suddenly bucked and bolted and I came off. I landed badly and fractured a vertebra in my back. I was taken to hospital and stayed for three days and was in a brace and had to walk with crutches for three months. [But] it is not often that things go wrong. Which was your most memorable role, and why? The two most memorable roles were both in fantasy films. One role was Blunder, a fairy in a film called Legend. Blunder goes on a journey and falls into bad company and does a few nasty things, until his ego and greed challenges Darkness. He is imprisoned and rescued by his fairy family. The second role was Ginarrbrik in the film, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. Again, he is evil and stays evil throughout until he dies in battle. These two characters saw that ego and greed are not good. As an actor I have always played bad characters. They are so fun to play as one can explore the bad side of humanity.

Favourite hotel in the world, and why? My favourite hotel is Museum Hotel in Wellington, New Zealand. It is an art décor hotel with paintings and period motorbikes and art décor objects displayed. The staff are friendly and helpful. It has got good views of the harbour and Te Papa museum. Favourite view in the world, and why? My favourite view in the world is in New Zealand. The whole of New Zealand has wonderful views but the one that sticks in my mind is near Christchurch. When working on The Lord of the Rings, I was travelling to location early one morning. We set out at three in the morning from the hotel in order to arrive on location around five to get into make up. As we approached the location, the sun was just coming up over the mountain. Some distance in front of the mountain was a much smaller tabletop mountain. On top of this smaller mountain, the production team had built a small fake village. From a distance, the mountains and the village were covered in this orange glow from the early morning sunlight. It was surreal. That image will always be in my mind. What do you never travel without? I always travel with my small figurine of Buddha. It has been with me everywhere. To see this laughing Buddha brings a smile to my face. Twitter: @ittlekiranshah




The Novice

BACKPACKER By Frances Woodhams


race struggles into a backpackers lodge’ and sets down an overstuffed rucksack. There’s no-one behind the reception desk to ask about accommodation so she wanders into the bar. A few lounge chairs in varying states of disrepair are filled by fellow travellers playing cards, surfing their iphones, chatting, or nursing empty beer bottles. A man in a singlet and fedora hat strums a guitar in the corner but is studiously ignored. The high-roofed, opensided banda which serves as the backpackers’ lounge gives out over a spectacular landscape of which the occupants have apparently grown bored. The barman is also nowhere to be seen and Grace is aware that the backpacker code of travelling alone requires being open with strangers. Grace deduces that the man with the guitar will be the easiest to approach since he appears to be in need of an audience. “Hello, I’m Grace, are you staying here? Only I can’t seem to find anyone to help me check-in.” The man runs his eye up and down Grace, taking in her slightly too pressed and laundered appearance then smiles, tipping his hat to the back of his head. At 30, she’s about 10 years too old for this backpacking game. “Sure, I mean, Michelle’s normally around but we had a big night here so today’s been pretty chilled.” He doesn’t stand up but resumes plucking at his guitar strings, gesturing generously for Grace to take a seat beside him before adding, “By the way, I’m Erik.” Erik works hard on his effortlessly cool demeanour while Grace perches on the edge of the chair, hoping that it doesn’t collapse under her. “So, do you reckon there’s space for me to stay here? I read that there’s some good hiking in the area?” “Yeah sure,” replies Erik. “I’ve done a few hikes but it’s been a bit quiet for me around here so I’m planning to bounce soon. The overlanders who came through last night were a riot though.” Grace notices a lady appear behind the bar, presumably Michelle. She takes this as her cue to escape Erik’s lacklustre welcome. “I see you’ve met Erik,” says Michelle, raising an eyebrow. “Surprised he didn’t get you to buy him a beer.”





“He’s been here a while then?” asks Grace. “About a month,” Michelle says. “He’s always talking about moving on but never quite manages it.” Grace asks about a bed for the night. Michelle grabs a bunch of keys and offers to show Grace the shared accommodation. They walk to an outdoor block where Michelle throws open a door onto a concrete room. A bare light bulb hangs from the ceiling and there are three sets of bunk beds. A dirty t-shirt lies strewn on the floor alongside halfopen bags, abandoned shoes and other personal belongings. Grace strains a smile. “Might there be anything a bit more private?” “Well, there is a single, but it’s about double the price, I’m afraid.” “Oh, thank goodness, “ says Grace with barely disguised relief, “I’ll take it.” Later that same evening and Grace has braved a plate of chips, downed a couple of beers, planned a hike for the next day and met Ken, who is an authority on travelling, hiking, the best places to visit and above all, is reassuringly dull and in his 40s. He’s been talking to Grace about his camera for over an hour.

“So you see I can adjust the shutter speed or set it to do time lapse, so that works pretty well for a night sky if there isn’t too much ambient light. Last month there was a meteor shower and I managed to capture it pretty well, although of course it did mean that I was up for a lot of the night...” Grace nods absently. Erik treats a group of 20-year-old girls to some of his own compositions. The girls giggle in bursts and start most of their sentences with, “Do you remember that time when we…” “What was the name of that place we stayed?” asks one. “The one where there was that club and Naomi vomited?” Cue more laughter. Grace wonders whether the girls’ parents fully appreciate how much their offspring are gaining from their trip. “I think I’ll turn in,” Grace tells Ken, who looks disappointed. “It’s been a pleasure to chat with you though.” “Perhaps I can join you for your hike tomorrow?” he asks, jumping to his feet. “Oh, yes. How lovely,” replies Grace. Some company is better than no company but she’ll probably check out tomorrow. Frances is author of blog


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