DISCOVER - EXPLORE - EXPERIENCE DISCOVER - EXPLORE - EXPERIENCE
ISSUE 10 || FREE COPY
BODY & SOUL A YOGA CURE IN LAMU
WEEKEND AWAY IN NYERI
CAPE TO CAIRO IN TWO YEARS NOMAD MAGAZINE AUGUST 2017
NOMAD MAGAZINE JAN/FEB 2018
WHERE WILL THEY BE? Our intrepid team of travel writers and photographers let us in on where they plan to go this year.
TURNING OVER A NEW LEAF
any years ago, I took a meditation class in northern India. I had been staying in a town in the Himalayan foothills, surrounded by Western hippies who had long overstayed their passports, but were too high to care. Meditation, I hoped, would induce a similar state of contentment. As I knelt down on the mat, the instructor led us in breathing exercises. My legs began to ache. I looked around, noticing glumly that nobody else seemed to be suffering. Surely we couldn’t keep up this position for the next hour? And, oh God, my feet.. I had been wearing these filthy sandals around India for several weeks now, leaving the upturned soles of my feet entirely black. What if the man behind me couldn’t stop looking at my feet? How would I look him in the eye at the end of the class? As these unsettling thoughts raced through my mind, I realised I was thinking of anything but the meditation in hand. I’m haven’t had much more success when it comes to yoga. Flabby and unyielding muscles make for a painful workout. But then I should probably bear in mind the words of one leading yogi, who said, “I would like for people to realise that yoga is not about touching your toes.” I wish that someone had done me a favour, and told me that long ago. I suppose many people treat exercise as their meditation - the time when the body is engaged, but my mind runs free. But even squeezing in a lunchtime walk can be tricky, and I realise that I’m reaching a point in life where my daily routine is so cluttered and busy that I no longer have time to just be. Living in Kenya, there’s no excuse. Yoga - along with wellness in its many other forms - has exploded in this country. The Africa Yoga Project has transformed the yoga scene, and we now have acrobatic yoga, aqua yoga, to name just a few. I like the sound of Stand Up Paddleboard yoga, where an ungainly collapse is guaranteed a soft landing. As I write this, I wonder if next year is the year I’ll finally make it to Lamu’s annual celebration of yoga, now a major event on the international yoga calendar. Even the most resistant of yogis must surely find ‘down dog’ more enjoyable on the gorgeous beaches of this island archipelago. Wendy Watta, a reluctant participant last year, quickly realised in Lamu that there was more to yoga than just the physical benefits. If for some reason you can’t make it to Lamu, there are plenty more opportunities close to home to find some inner peace. We bring you in this issue our compilation of retreats around the region, whether it’s a WildFitness retreat on Zanzibar, yoga at the Treehouse in Watamu, or running fartleks with the pros in Iten. And if you really want to be inspired to change your life, read our interview with Mario Rigby (Page 19), who just completed a 12,000 km walk / paddle from Cape Town to Cairo in two years. Finally, we’re thrilled to introduce a fabulous new photography competition showcasing the beauty of the Maasai Mara, Kenya’s most famous wildlife reserve, in partnership with the Angama Foundation. The winner of a grand final will take home $10,000 in cash, win a five-day all-inclusive stay at Angama Mara, and be crowned the Greatest Maasai Mara Photographer of the Year. Monthly winners will be published in Nomad. Turn to the back page for details on how to enter. Here’s to a healthier, fitter 2018.
Morris Kiruga Sleeping on the job, Page 14 I think Dubai is calling this 2018, and Gaborone, for some odd reason. My desires this year are to collect experiences mainly out of Kenya. I want to spend the next 10 months chasing thrills so everything from paragliding to zip lining to a full desert experience is on the table. It’s the year of the adrenaline rush. Wendy Watta A Lamu Cure, Page 22 I specifically went freelance so I could have more time to travel. My first stop is going to be Bali which everyone and their Grandma on Instagram has been to. It’s visa free to go there as a Kenyan, which is great! I also hope to finally do a Eurotrip in the summer and particularly explore the South. In Africa, Cape Town, Morocco and Ethiopia have always been on my list. Having extensively explored Kenya, it makes no sense that I’ve never been to the Mara so hopefully this is the year I finally do it, and a hot air balloon over the plains would be great! Brian Siambi Photographer A lot of places to visit this year for me, I don’t know where to start! But the first thing I will be doing is taking my deep-sea diving certificate in Diani that allows me to dive anywhere in the world. I’d like to dive to watch the whale shark migration in Mozambique in October. Possible trips I’ll be doing this year include Turkey with a friend and I’m also hoping to visit Namibia, Senegal and Ghana as I really want to explore more of Africa and shoot my fashion project series.
catstewartuk NOMAD ISSUE 10 · JAN/FEB 2018 · PUBLISHED BY WEBSIMBA LIMITED, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. MANAGING DIRECTOR MIKUL SHAH EDITOR-IN-CHIEF CATRINA STEWART
DESIGN BRIAN SIAMBI, DIGITAL FRED MWITHIGA, SALES, MARKETING & OPERATIONS LEROY BULIRO, GILBERT CHEGE, NJERI GATHARA, DANIEL MUTHIANI, SEINA NAIMASIAH, JANE NAITORE, MICHELLE SLATER, DEVNA VADGAMA, JOY WAIRIMU, WINNIE WANGUI, VANESSA WANJIKU CONTRIBUTORS TAMARA BRITTEN, TRACY BROOKS, MORRIS KIRUGA, IVY NYAYIEKA, SARAH SAMUEL, AMANDA SPERBER, SAMANTHA DU TOIT, TRAVELDOTE, FRANCES WOODHAMS CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS TANVIR ALI, PETER NDUNG’U, PAREET SHAH, BRIAN SIAMBI SALES ENQUIRIES CALL NOMAD 0711 22 22 22, EMAIL EDITOR@NOMADMAGAZINE.CO
@NomadMagazineAfrica NOMAD MAGAZINE JAN/FEB 2018
6. TOP SHOTS Marvel at Tanvir Ali’s extraordinary shot of Mt Kilimanjaro, while Parveet Shah reminds us why, when it comes to photography, patience is key. 10. NEWS A new hotel comes for Zanzibar, while Movenpick is the latest international chain to open up shop in Nairobi, bringing with it a whole new long-term living concept. Meanwhile, we join the census at the Grevy’s Rally up north. 12. WHAT’S ON From yoga to marathons to hat festivals, it’s all happening in the next few weeks, and much of it in Lamu - what better excuse to hop on a plane this month to the gorgeous archipelago?
12 GLOBETROTTERS 19. INTERVIEW WITH MARIO RIGBY The Canadian fitness instructor took two years off to travel from Cape Town to Cairo. Despite some problems along the way troublesome border officials, rebels, not to mention being mistaken for a refugee and border hopper - he finally made it. We talk to him about his epic journey. 40. WHAT I PACK … FOR MY TRAVELS Anyango Mpinga, the people’s fashionista, inspires us with the contents of her suitcase. Not to mention those dazzling shoes!
DISCOVER EXPLORE EXPERIENCE
BODY & SOUL
FEATURES 22-31 BODY AND SOUL A New Year, a new you. From yoga to running, from silent retreats to bootcamp, we’ve compiled a guide to this year’s retreats to tempt you. Take the opportunity to try out a new sport or discipline, or head to the hills with Kenya’s elite athletes for some heart-pumping fun. If this all sounds much too energetic, do read our spa guide ahead of Valentine’s Day - featuring some of the most romantic hotels in the region. 32. TWO CATS AND A CAMPERVAN Tracy Brook finds that not everything is destined to go smoothly on their road trip, but is sufficiently keyed up by the magnificence of Victoria Falls that even an irksome baboon is forgiven. 34. A WALK THROUGH KIBERA This month, Ivy Nyayieka takes us on a tour of Kibera, East Africa’s biggest slum, where she finds that poverty is no barrier to creativity. 36. WEEKEND AWAY IN NYERI The lesser-visited sidekick to Nanyuki, Nyeri is all about green spaces and hill breezes. With two national parks on its borders, and a host of interesting places to stay, why not make Nyeri your next weekend away?
REGULARS 14. SLEEPING ON THE JOB There’s a reason why Morris Kiruga doesn’t generally sleep on the road. Because things have a habit of going wrong. 17. SNAKE ON THE PROWL Samantha du Toit finds a cobra near her home. Kill it or save it? Her mother would have her do the former, but not everyone is so keen. 42. BUDGET PICK Our budget pickers are off to the coast this month, specifically Diani. Kenya’s most beautiful strip of beach is famed for its highend properties, but the gals at Traveldote find a little gem in Maisha Maridadi. 44. RETROSPECTIVE Mo Amin, the late photographer, captures a gorgeous shot of the now endangered Grevy’s zebra, coveted for its exquisite hide, in front of Mt Kenya. 47. GREAT HOTELS In our new column featuring the most iconic and unique hotels in the region, Amanda Sperber heads down to Lamu’s Peponi, a hotel steeped in lore, particularly that of the more colourful kind.
48. THE LAST WORD Our backpacker lands in Nairobi, and finds nothing is like he expects. Everyone has a mobile phone? An iPad? Since when did downtown Nairobi resemble downtown New York?
NOMAD MAGAZINE JAN/FEB 2018
TANVIR ALI @Studio10vr I took this photo at Amboseli National Park as the first rays of the sun were just appearing. This was the scene after a night blizzard on Mount Kilimanjaro, hence the larger snow-cap than usual. I saw the blizzard, and resultant snow cap, at night - however, I had to wait a good six hours, hoping that the snow would remain until sunrise! I took the shot with a Nikon D750 and a 70-200mm 2.8 Tamron lens. My settings were an ISO of 200, F7.1 and a speed of 1/320 at 70mm. I aimed to underexpose the shot slightly to bring out the details of the light coming through.
NOMAD MAGAZINE JAN/FEB 2018
PAREET SHAH @chekaphotography It was midday in Samburu in December and I knew the elephant would sooner or later give itself a dustbath to protect itself from the heat. Patience paid off and I used an ISO of 100 for the midday light, an F-stop of 4.8 to maintain a larger depth of field, and a shutter speed of 1/125 to create the ’whoosh’ effect. I used my trusty old Nikon D200 with a 70-200mm 2.8 lens set at 120mm on a beanbag to aid stability. Dare to be different. Don’t blindly click hundreds of frames. Spend 90% of your time thinking of what you want from your picture and your settings, and only 10% actually clicking it.
NEIL THOMAS Instagram @neilthomasphotography
I had found the perfect spot near Maralal on the edge of the Rift valley but had reached there at about 10 am. I knew the light would be perfect in the late evening so sat under a tree with some new Samburu friends. One of them knew a moran (warrior) and I asked if he could come as he would perfectly complement the shot. However at 5.30 pm, a storm came over and blocked the sun, but it muted and enhanced the scene. This shot taught me to keep shooting even though the weather conditions were not what I hoped for. Youâ€™ll be surprised what you get.
NOMAD MAGAZINE JAN/FEB 2018
ZURI ZANZIBAR TO OPEN IN MAY
This new luxury hotel - part of the Design Hotels portfolio - is scheduled to open on the northwest of the spice island on May 1. The resort boasts 55 bungalows, suites and villas, the balconies fringed by tropical vegetation, overlooking azure waters. For those looking for beachfront exclusivity, consider the three-bedroom Ocean Front Luxury Villa, a 5,380-squarefoot house sleeping six adults with its own private beach, infinity pool and zen pond. Beyond the accommodation, the hotel will place a large focus on wellness, with an outdoor “wild fitness” gym, spa, a spice garden, infinity pool and yoga on the beach. www.zurizanzibar.com
MOVENPICK TO OPEN IN NAIROBI
Global upscale hotel chain Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts is to open its first hotel in Nairobi this year, a welcome addition for business travellers and tourists. The hotel, located in Westlands, a commercial hub of Nairobi, will have 276 spacious rooms, suites and residences, all designed with an African theme. Unique to the Nairobi scene, the hotel is a mix development concept that offers short term and long-term stays. On the dining front, the hotel will boast three restaurants and two bars, with the highlight a revolving restaurant with 360-degree views serving up classic Swiss cuisine, including fondues. www.movenpick.com/nairobi
The Great Grevy’s Rally
PHOTOS PETER NDUNG’U
The end of January saw the second Great Grevy’s Rally take place in northern Kenya. Members of the public, scientists and conservationists headed up towards Laikipia, Samburu and Marsabit to conduct a methodical census of the endangered mammal. Participating teams fanned out with GPS-enabled cameras across designated blocks, logging every zebra and reticulated giraffe they spotted. The Grevy zebra is highly endangered, with Kenya having some 15,000 Grevy zebras in the 1970s, falling to 2,800 in 2008. The 2016 count estimated national Grevy zebra numbers of 2,350. If you fancy getting involved next time, visit www.greatgrevysrally.com
NOMAD MAGAZINE JAN/FEB 2018
SAUTI ZA BUSARA, ZANZIBAR
LAMU ARTS FESTIVAL
Zanzibar’s premier music festival, a celebration of ‘African music under African skies,’ is back with an all-star line-up from around the continent, including US-born Somi, Kenya’s Maia & the Big Sky and South Africa’s Zakes Bantwini, to name just a few. Forty-six live acts will perform on the main stage of the Old Fort, the Ampitheatre and Forodhani Gardens, a recipe for a cracking atmosphere. www.busaramusic.org Meanwhile, Somi, described by the Huffington Post as the “new Nina Simone,” will also perform at Tribe in Nairobi on Feb 8. Call 0732 186 000 for tickets.
It’s that time of year again! A month before all the yoga fans descend on the island (see Page 22), Lamu will again be hosting its annual arts festival, a colourful celebration of island ingenuity and flare. A particular highlight is the Shela Hat competition, where locals display their handmade hats, made out of every kind of material imaginable. To culminate, the island hosts a very popular dhow race and party on Shela beach. For further details on events and participation, visit the Lamu Arts Festival facebook page.
SHOMPOLE WILDLIFE MARATHON, SHOMPOLE
KILIMAN ADVENTURE CHALLENGE, TANZANIA
The Shompole Marathon, run along the salt-encrusted shores of Lake Magadi, replete with flamingos, is one of Kenya’s most picturesque races, and also probably one of its hottest. The route winds through Shompole Wildlife Conservancy, making wildlife viewings a near certainty, and then of course there’s the beauty of the rose-tinted salt lake. It’s not strictly a marathon, with the longest distance a 30 km trail run. For tickets, go to www.run-africa.com or visit the Shompole Marathon Facebook page.
This event runs alongside the Mt Kilimanjaro marathon (Mar 4), but requires a whole other level of fitness and endurance. The event kicks off with a six-day climb of Africa’s highest mountain (with no time pressures), before moving onto a two-day mountain bike race, routed anticlockwise around the mountain, and described by the organisers as “very tough.” Finish it all off by joining the runners on the Kilimanjaro marathon, routed through Moshi and to the Kilimanjaro overhang. www.kilimanjaro-man.com
Feb 22 - Mar 5
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1/22/18 5:12 PM
A KENYAN TRAVELLER
SLEEPING ON THE JOB
After two weeks on the road, Morris Kiruga could only thing about sleep. But a quick power nap had unintended consequences.
o tell this story properly, I first need to tell you that I am not one of those people who randomly fall asleep when travelling. I am a good, socially-conscious adult who knows full well the dangers of sleeping on the road. You might fall asleep on a random stranger or fall in love, for one. I also have an inexplicable fear of people who take photos of you when you are sleeping with your mouth open. That I do it to people is not as important as that they are always waiting for me to take a nap to exact their revenge. In my defence, it had been a long two weeks. A few years ago, I left my luggage in the lobby of a hotel in Naivasha. I didn’t realise this until I was being dropped off outside my house. I’ve lost a bag from an open boot once, but that was in the future. Nothing else seemed to be missing, so we started working backwards. I had last seen it when I placed it on the floor at the hotel. Then we had hopped into the car and gone to the mall to have breakfast and mingle a bit. I was tired. For 13 days I had been part of a photographer-producer-writer team on a mission. We had covered thousands of kilometres, from Nairobi to Turkana through
Machakos, and then all the way across to Iten, the Home of Champions. There had been long days and short nights, starting with early wake-up calls and ending with quick doubles of rum at the bar. Those days were spent either sitting in the car as it coursed through all forms of terrain, or holding flashlights and trying to make models relax for the shoot. In between I managed, somehow, to file a story a day and send a few tweets and Instagram posts. I had done this once before, in 2013, but that one had mostly involved walking around Lamu Island or trying to sing along to the melodies of boatmen. It hadn’t been so tiring but then maybe it was because I was younger. Anyway, this next time was something else. I could feel my body shutting down by Day Eight but I surged on. Writing became easier, funnily enough, perhaps because I was losing all care for grammar and punctuation. Systems were shutting down to support vital functions, and I wasn’t drinking enough water. Even my triedand-tested solutions weren’t working anymore. For example, I have always been car sick. Once, when I was kid, I threw up so much that the matatu driver drove us to a clinic because he thought I was dying. Over time, I’ve developed a few ways to fight it: chewing gum, being slightly inebriated and trying to fight off sleep.
But after 13 days on the road, even motion sickness ceased to worry me. Everything was just a blur as we had breakfast, so I decided to go to the car and take a power nap. A proper power nap - and I am a professional at them should be less than 30 minutes. When I woke up three hours later, we were somewhere in Westlands. I had slept through as everyone else finished breakfast and sent emails, and as they went back to the hotel to pick up their luggage, and all the way from Naivasha to Nairobi. I hadn’t even stirred. No one laughed when I woke up, so I figure I also hadn’t farted or snored. Or they conspired not to tell me. Now here I was, with only my laptop bag while my other bag sat innocently next to a table in a hotel 90 km away. Someone had nudged it on the floor so it was hidden by the table, which is how no one saw it when they went to pick our bags. The kind lady at the other end of the line had an “aaaah” moment when she found it. She sent it down the next day, and I am now paranoid about leaving my bag on hotel floors, and I have added a new reason to the reasons why I don’t sleep (a lot) while travelling. Morris Kiruga blogs about travel, culture and more at owaahh.com
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NOTES FROM THE BUSH
SNAKE ON THE PROWL
A deadly cobra is on the loose near the family home. Samantha du Toit wonders if conservation should extend to even the creatures that we fear.
here was great excitement behind the cottage. The first we knew of anything was people running with pillow cases and clean water towards our home. The children and I knew that could only mean one thing: Baba was catching a spitting cobra. By the time we arrived on the scene, my husband, Johann (Baba), had secured the writhing snake on the ground with his snake stick, and was conducting the delicate manoeuvre of gently securing the snakeâ€™s head with one hand and its body with the other. It was only a small cobra, perhaps three feet at most, pink in colour with the tell-tale black collar around its neck. Julius, returning our laundry to the cottage, had spotted it in the bushes and had called in backup. Once the snake was secured in the pillow case, Johann lay on his back on the lawn as I poured clean drinking water into his eyes, the children and our Maasai colleagues looking on. Although he had been wearing his dark glasses, the understandably angry little snake had managed to get some venom into his eye. Using the incident as a first-aid learning opportunity, we administered some eye drops to guard against infection, and everyone went back to what they had been doing. In the cool of the evening, Johann piled us all into the car, with the snake secure in the front footwell and all of us in the back seat. We had persuaded my Mum, who was staying with us over the Christmas holidays, to come along with us. We needed to find a suitable place far away from everyone to release the snake. Mum was grumbling the entire time about our reasoning. Why on earth would we want to release a creature that could possible have bitten someone, not least the children
who might not have survived if such a thing had happened? Could we not release it somewhere it would not survive? It was something many people might wonder, and rightly so, perhaps. I myself do not actually like snakes, and worry about our family, and the local community, living alongside them. Many people have a deep-rooted fear of all small creepy-crawlies. So why are we trying to teach our children that, despite the fact that this snake is potentially a danger, we still do our best to understand it and protect it? It is partly because Johann actually does understand and love snakes. But it is also part of our general family conservation philosophy, which means encompassing all of nature as we find it. Should we as humans pick and choose to take care of only that which we understand, like or find use for? Perhaps much conservation work does exactly this, with so much focusing on the large charismatic mammal species like elephants and lions. But as it turns out, even these creatures are not everyoneâ€™s favourite, sometimes leaving death and destruction in their wake for the people who live alongside them. So how do we prioritise what we conserve, and perhaps more importantly, who should be making these decisions? There are no easy answers. As we stop by a remote offshoot of the river to release the snake, Mum, somewhat unsuccessfully, is still trying to convince herself the snake does indeed have a niche in nature to fill, being a predator of other creepy crawlies. With our children Taru and Seyia in tow, we stop a fair distance away while Johann gets ready with the exit strategy. Undoing the knot on the pillow case facing away from him, and towards the water, Johann nudges the snake out with the stick. Usually the snakes see the exit and head off without looking
A strange dance took place between Johann and the snake, punctuated with gasps from Mum. back. This little one was different. Not sure of the water, he looked back to see Johann standing just behind him and immediately went on the defence again, raising his head and spitting. Johann gently pushed him away into the water, but the snake was not buying it. Over what seemed like a very long time, a strange dance took place between Johann and the snake as we all looked on, punctuated with gasps from Mum. Eventually, the snake saw the far bank and headed off across the water and into the undergrowth. We all sighed with relief, and returned to the camp pondering the implications to conservation of our cobra release. Or perhaps that was just me, with everyone else in the car simply happy to have had a successful ending to the day. 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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Two years ago, Mario Rigby, a Canadian fitness instructor, dropped everything to head to South Africa for the start of an epic solo 12,000 km walk through 12 countries, ending up in Cairo. We caught up with him last month as he came to the end of his walk in Egypt.
What inspired you to do this journey? I started with the idea of seeing if it was possible to accomplish. Only a few have actually done it from the Cape to Cairo, and they have been Westerners. I wanted to take on a modern challenge and show Africa in a way that’s unique by walking side by side with them [Africans], staying where they stay. It grounds you. You must have had some surprising encounters along the way. So many people have taken me into their homes. In South Africa, the white / black [question] is still a huge issue, but both have taken me in. I stayed with one guy, who was like, “I was at war [with you], I used to shoot the blacks, now I’m sitting with you and happy to get that past me.” Obviously, he felt horrible about it. Did you have some hairy moments? In Mozambique, I got shot at. [The military] told me I wasn’t allowed to walk for a 100 km [stretch], and they picked me up in a military truck, where I sat with eight soldiers. All of a sudden, we heard three gunshots. The truck stopped, and everyone got out, and started shooting. It lasted about 10 minutes. Later, I met some other travellers in Maputo and they said it was totally safe to cross Mozambique. And I thought: “No, they’ve gotta know this.” Egypt was quite intense. The further north [in Africa] you go, the more and more military there is. If you go into the desert [in Egypt], you’ll be shot. Over time, I became a lot braver, but also a lot more cautious. I took the main roads, with no detours. Did you walk all the way? I kayaked along Lake Malawi. It was pretty epic as I had never kayaked before in my life. It was 550 km and probably one of the most difficult things I have ever done. The waves would reach up to four or five metres high, it
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was a proper sea out there. The more difficult part though was going in villages and making the traditional introductions with the chief to stay there. Which didn’t always go well… In one village, they held me. The chief didn’t believe me when I said who I was, and what I was doing. He thought perhaps I was in hiding, a border hopper. The police also believed that and locked me up for two days. I was handcuffed all the time, and the other prisoners were afraid of me because I was handcuffed. I had one corner of the room to myself, the rest were hugging the other corners. How did you get out of the situation? I had an Italian friend, Francesco, who walked the entire length of Lake Malawi while I kayaked. We wondered who would finish first. He went to the jail, and told the police that I was who I said I was. I had no access [to the outside world], I didn’t even have a phone. They finally released me but I still had to get my kayak back [from the chief]. We went to the village, where they all surrounded me, and the police argued with the chief. Finally, the chief agreed to let me retrieve it and came out to shake my hand. It is probably the rudest thing I’ve ever done, but I never shook his hand. We last talked when you were in Kenya. That was eight months ago. How was the next leg, in Ethiopia? Ethiopia was probably the most difficult in terms of bureaucracy. It is one of the beautiful countries in the world, with rolling hills, but I had so many problems with the government and the military. I had soldiers point guns at me continuously. My daily routine was like this: I’d wake up with police officers surrounding me, or I’d start walking, and I’d be stopped by police [shortly afterwards]. It drained a lot of the energy that I had for the expedition.
forward. Then I’d come to a small hump, and be like, “Crap, why am I doing this?”
The police believed I was a border hopper and locked me up for two days. The other prisoners were afraid of me. Why do you think Ethiopia was so tricky? In Ethiopia, the people are proud to be Ethiopian, they’re different from the rest of Africa. So, when they see me, seemingly African, their first impression is probably that I’m a refugee from South Sudan. The people are sceptical, but also so kind. You could be part of a terrorist organisation, but if you go into one of these villages, they’ll still offer you a cup of tea. I fell in love with Ethiopia, but I hated it at the same time. Was there a time when you just couldn’t handle it? From Ethiopia, I wanted to cross the border into Sudan. I was a day late [and overstayed my visa], and the official ended up denying me exit out of the country. She confiscated my passport and told me to go back to Addis Ababa, a two-day drive. I lost it then, it was totally unlike my character. Psychologically, I think I was pushing the limit. I was beyond taking a deep breath. I had been thinking about my finish date, and had had that mindset for two years, and then I couldn’t make it happen. Was it difficult to keep going? My motivation was like a wave. The majority of the wave was excitement, wanting to push
Did things get better? Sudan was very different. They slow you down there because they’re trying to invite you for tea, coffee. The police were quite suspicious, but as soon as they heard my [Canadian] accent, they were very friendly. At the edge of the White Desert, the police picked me up, and told me I wasn’t allowed to walk across. They took me to a police station, where the police officer recognised me from [an earlier interview I gave to Sudanese] TV, so dropped me off at the point they thought I would have reached. From Aswan [in Egypt], I took the middle [of three routes] along the East bank of the Nile. It’s probably the easiest route I had walked since southern Kenya. There were guest houses every 10 km. It took about two months from the Sudanese border [to Cairo]. … In Egypt, I became a little too complacent, there was no challenge anymore. When you lose the challenge, you lose the drive. It’s not because it’s hard, but because it’s not hard anymore. What were your favourite parts of the entire journey? It was most enjoyable to be in the wilds and camping in nature. I’d laugh out loud for no reason. I thought it would be much more like that. But it [Africa] is becoming modern, and technology is everywhere. In Ethiopia, I went to the [remote] Omo Valley, and a guy from the Hama tribe told me: “Last year, just one person had a cell phone, and this year, almost everybody has one.” We are merging as a human species and as a result of that, we’re going to lose some cultures. Now that you’re at the end of your journey, how do you feel? I’m exhausted. It’s bittersweet, like, “Thank Goodness it’s over now.”
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NOMAD MAGAZINE JAN/FEB 2018
BODY & SOUL
A LAMU CURE
Attracted by yoga for its physical benefits, Wendy Watta was less convinced of its mental powers. But in Lamu, she found herself drawn into the annual yoga festival, and changed in ways she would never have expected.
BODY & SOUL
first heard about the Lamu Yoga Festival at a moon party complete with Shela drummers and acrobats at Forodhani House. When I returned to the island for the umpteenth time after that, however, it wasn’t with the intention of attending. I had indeed taken several classes around the island and already realised that practising on this idyllic archipelago was certainly different from anywhere else around the country. For instance, I had been to classes at Banana House with a beautiful Sudanese instructor called Paska, and I had also taken classes at The Majlis with an equally attractive local instructor called Awham who had to come to Ras Kitau from Shela by speedboat. Such is life in Lamu. Before my brush with the festival - which I have since learned is considered on a par with similar retreats in India, Thailand and Bali - I had been living in the Lamu archipelago for about a month. Most of that time had been spent on Kiwayu island, where I spent my days snorkelling, deep sea fishing, running, doing sunrise yoga on the beach and living on a diet of fish, salad and fresh fruit. I was at optimum physical fitness, but by the time I was leaving this glorious place, I wanted nothing more than to spend a couple of days drinking cocktails at Peponi Hotel before reluctantly heading back to Nairobi. Nothing was going to deter me from my mission to become a beach bum and enjoy the blissful pleasure of doing absolutely nothing on a beautiful beach. It is surprising, however, how yoga always has a way of finding you. I was pretending to pore over the cocktail menu (both the waiter and I already knew my order), mentally calculating where my spending budget currently stood, when I was invited to classes by some patrons who had been tucking into dinner at a nearby table. While I am no stranger to yoga, which I mostly practise for its physical benefits, I found myself drawn to the conversation around meditation. “People just
don’t listen to their bodies until they feel really sick and need to go see a doctor,” said one girl. “Meditation is the foundation of everything we do and I like that today’s class finally helped me switch off my mind, stay present and listen to myself.” Admittedly, this sounds like just the kind of spiritual mumbo jumbo that yogis always say, but I had first come to Lamu on my own journey to find overall wellness, happiness and some balance. The idea that meditation could help me overcome things like the rut I had been in or unlock my creativity by getting me out of my writer’s block was too seductive to turn down. “There goes my mission to become a ‘holiday alcoholic,’” I muttered over my perfectly-salted rim of my glass. My very first session was the 6 am power yoga class by the beach. While I had become used to practising alone in the past month, I enjoyed being surrounded by people dedicated to the practice and their enthusiasm was infectious. I felt like I had found my spiritual tribe and as we flowed from downward facing dog into a lunge culminating with warrior pose, it was like there was a collective energy flowing from the sun to the sea and through each of us collectively. If you have been struggling to stay disciplined in your practice, consider attending a yoga festival as this can help you shift your mindset, allowing you to feed off the energy of others and get out of your bad habits. The annual yoga fest is the brainchild of Monika Fauth, who I once bumped into on a flight from Lamu to Nairobi. She first came to the island about 20 years ago on a backpacking trip to visit her sister who was a doctor. Back home in Holland, she was a commercial fashion buyer, but she fell in love with Lamu and later with a man nicknamed Banana, and was persuaded to uproot her life and set up a small guest house in Shela. Monika did the hosting and Banana focused on the menu. They had two kids and decided to expand the business by setting up Banana House & Wellness Center. With Monika’s interest and training in yoga, the idea for
the festival soon followed and Lamu was the perfect setting. With about 350 students, 152 classes and workshops spread throughout the island as well as 26 teachers from all over the world, this festival is a great way to get out of your comfort zone. I have been guilty of sticking to the same classes and routines. Every teacher has a different philosophy and this can be a great way to explore new territory. From Acroyoga with Cheloti to Stand Up Paddle yoga with Alexandra or Laugh yoga (hasyayoga), which is exactly what the name suggests, with Monika, you can get your groove back. With so many options, however, a tip is to create a schedule with your favourite class or teacher and then pick an adventurous alternative. Alternate your Asana classes with physically less demanding options so you don’t burn out fast. Best of all, you’ll leave with not only physical and mental benefits but also lifelong friends. Yogis are generally positive people wired to want to connect to others and it can be a great space to talk or just listen to someone. You will sweat, laugh, cry, dance and possibly even explore the island together. In the evenings, we would go out on a dhow for a sunset sail, a great way to bond. There was also a communal Swahili dinner where everyone sat cross-legged on the floor, washed their hands in a simple basin then dined communally from a metal sinia (tray), before dancing and singing along to drums and Swahili songs. On Lamu, I discovered that happiness is in the present and you cannot wait to achieve it once you buy a car, build a house, get a better job, get married, lose weight or have a child. Most of all, I fell in love with life all over again. At this year’s festival, I hope to finally be able to do inversions like a pro. The fifth edition of the Lamu Yoga Festival will take place from 14th to 18th March this year. Visit www.lamuyoga.com for more information.
NOMAD MAGAZINE JAN/FEB 2018
BODY & SOUL
Alexandra Spyratos is an internationally How do you manage to combine spend a couple of hours sorting two such intense careers? renowned artist, and also teaches a host out the boards before I teach: Art and sport are my two passions each board needs pumping up, of different types of yoga and fitness. in life. I grew up on a coffee and anchoring. The weather, the farm in Kiambu, where I was out Having recently transitioned into Stand-Up waves, the current and the wind in the wild every day. Art and all need to be taken into account Paddleboard (SUP) yoga, she talks to Nomad sport were beside each other when I’m placing them – they about this exciting and challenging sport. throughout my childhood, and need to be spaced widely enough they flow equally through my life. so they don’t collide, but close I grew up surrounded by Africa’s nature enough for everyone to hear me. and wildlife, and these play an essential role Fitness Australia. Between classes, I have to store them properly in both my art and my sport. My paintings and It was only four years ago – after I’d to ensure they don’t get punctures, and I can’t murals feature the colours of Africa, and I use returned to Kenya – that I became certified leave them in the sun or they’ll explode. mixed mediums – particularly gold and copper in yoga. I completed my 500-hour training Breath is the centre of yoga, and – to create the look and texture I want. And in Ashtanga and Vinyasa Flow and I am pranayama breathing while doing SUP yoga being out in nature is an inherent part of SUP certified by Yoga Alliance. My experience is especially beneficial as the fresh sea air yoga where you’re constantly negotiating with in choreography really helped my transition oxygenates every cell. Falling is a must! The what’s happening around you: the waves, the into becoming a yoga teacher, since artistic blue ocean surrounds you, and the fear many currents and the winds. imagination plays a big part in a yoga class. people have of falling on land evaporates. Both my careers are moveable. I travel a Yoga has something extra that takes it beyond I’ve had students doing headstands for the lot for my art exhibitions – I’ve exhibited in other fitness regimes; it develops the body, first time on a paddleboard – even though it’s Italy, Spain, Austria, Hong Kong, the USA, mind and soul. harder than on land – simply because they’ve Australia, Kenya, Uganda and South Africa let go of their fear of falling. Most of all it’s amongst others – and often while I’m based Tell me about SUP yoga. fun, fun, fun! somewhere for an exhibition I do a series of Stand Up Paddleboard is an amazing form of pop-up yoga classes too. yoga. You connect everything you’ve learned What next? on land, and transfer it onto the open seas. It I’ll definitely be in Kenya for the Lamu Yoga How did you get into yoga? challenges you in so many ways. Balance is a Festival. I’ve taught at the festival every year It was a slow transition. I’d been keen on priority as you have to negotiate with the eversince it started, and I introduced SUP yoga to fitness for years, and did Pilates, kickboxing, changing elements: the flow of the currents, the the programme a couple of years ago. The zumba, dance, weights, aqua aerobics, movement of the waves, the reverberations of festival was recently voted the number one spinning and more. In 1990, after I’d been a passing boat. You need to work with nature festival in the world worth travelling for, and pregnant with my son and put on 24 kilos, I and go with the flow. It’s total immersion in the it’s an event in my annual calendar that I never took my interest in fitness further, and qualified ocean life, where you’re surrounded by water, miss. as a fitness instructor; at that time I was based sun and wind. in Australia, and for many years I worked for Preparation for a class is time-consuming. I As told to Tamara Britten 24
PHOTO VERONIKA FERRARIO
YOGA ON THE OCEAN
A new year, a new you? East Africa is rightly gaining fame for its yoga, but what about a bootcamp on Zanzibar, or a nutritional retreat in the Matthews Range, or perhaps a weekend of silence closer to home? Here we bring you some experiences from around the region that might just set you on the path to a new you.
YOGA THE TREEHOUSE, WATAMU
The Treehouse, designed by the family of Kitengela Glass fame, is one of Kenya’s most unique seaside properties with its intricate glasswork and spiral architecture, giving 360-degree views over the ocean and inland. Yoga retreats are a mainstay here, with seven scheduled for 2018 alone. Every retreat is different, featuring different types of yoga, detox and other wellness aspects, with guest instructors, both from the region and overseas, brought in to lead the retreats. Next retreat Feb 18-21, starts at 595 euros pp (Ksh 75,000 approx). www.treehouse.co.ke
SUPERFOOD YOGA HOLIDAY, ZANZIBAR
More than just a four-day yoga holiday, Superfood yoga is about rebooting your digestive system, too, saying no to meat and refined foods, and yes to chia seeds, carob and smoothies. Do your down-dog on the
gorgeous Paje beach, and spend the rest of the time swimming, snorkelling and standup paddle boarding. Feb 22-26. $680 (Ksh 70,000 approx) pp sharing. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
KANGA YOGA RETREATS, ZANZIBAR, DIANI AND LAIKIPIA
In February, three very different yoga retreats, comprising daily yoga classes, fresh, organic meals, juice fasting, detox treatments as well as talks and workshops. Whether beach or bush is your thing, there should be a programme to suit you. The retreats kick off in Zanzibar from Feb 9-11, with Emma Bonnici leading sessions at the Protea hotel; she then takes a retreat at the White House on Diani Beach from Feb 16-19; the Laikipia retreat where Emma is joined by Anne Powys takes place at Suyian from Feb 23-27. Prices for Diani and Zanzibar start from $420 (Ksh 43,000 approx) pp sharing; for Suyian from $500 pp sharing. Retreats held throughout the year. www.kangaevents.com
YOGA AT SANDAI HOMESTAY
Stay at the charming Sandai farm on the eastern edge of the Aberdares to get away from it all, while dabbling in a spot of yoga and healthy living at the same time. The two-day weekend course will be led by Silke from Nairobi, and focus on both yoga, spiritual wellness as well as healthy eating. Mar 2-4. Contact www.africanfootprints.de for prices.
LAMU YOGA FESTIVAL
The “go-to” event on Kenya’s yoga calendar, this Swahili-inspired festival is all about changing up your routine to try one of the many different types of yoga offered by the 26 instructors, and communing with hundreds of like-minded yoga fans from all over the world. Classes span the unspoiled Shela and Manda Bay beaches, to Lamu Town. A perfect combination, perhaps, of tree poses, seafood and the sounds of the sea. Mar 14-18. Tickets from Ksh 22,000. www.lamuyoga.org
BODY & SOUL WELLNESS WILDERNESS WELLNESS RETREAT, SASAAB
Personal trainer Karina Walsh and nutritionist Heather Cuthbert lead this four-day Wilderness Wellness Retreat at Sasaab, a luxurious lodge in northern Kenya. The retreat includes Pilates by the river, walking with Samburu warriors, and stretching sessions in the lodge’s gorgeous pool. Meanwhile, Heather, who leads workshops in Nairobi on nutritional eating, prepares organic and gluten-free food for participants. From $2,600 (Ksh 265,000 approx) pp sharing for three nights, departing May 17,18 or 19. www.thesafaricollection.com
YOGA CAMP, OL PEJETA
At the centre of Ol Pejeta is the intimate Kicheche Laikipia Camp, the location for a holistic retreat, led by yoga instructor Oriana Torode. Guests will participate in two daily yoga sessions, with the focus on breathing and meditation. Away from the yoga mat, you’ll learn how to cook vegan food in the bush kitchen, while guests will also have the chance to go out for game drives and walks, and sundowners. Ksh 42,000 pp sharing. Feb 2325. To book, contact Oriane on email@example.com
FITNESS KENYA EXPERIENCE RUNNING CAMP, ITEN
Head to Iten, home to some of Kenya’s finest marathon runners, for a running retreat with a difference. The Kenya Experience is holding three running camps later this year lasting around two weeks, with the aim of turning you
into a lean, mean running machine through specialised training programmes, workshops and one-on-one coaching. The July camp will be hosted by Adharanand Finn, author of Running with the Kenyans. Camps run in March, July and August. Starts from £1,000 (Ksh 140,000 approx) pp. www.traininkenya.com
There’s a hefty price tag attached to this body and mind overhaul, but a WildFitness retreat might just prove life-changing. The focus is on the wild: wild living, wild eating, wild moving. The fitness side will have you moving in myriad different ways - whether it’s jumping, hanging, crawling or carrying - with a strong emphasis on helping you find pleasure in doing so. Retreats held throughout the year at White Sand Villas on Zanzibar. From £2,840 (Ksh 400,000 approx) pp for a week. www.wildfitness.com
FIT KENYA BOOTCAMP, ZANZIBAR
Fit Kenya holds bootcamps at different locations throughout the year, ranging from a weekend to
several days. Over Easter, join them at Matemwe on the northeastern coast of Zanzibar for five days of fat-busting and strengthening sessions that will either destroy you, or leave you feeling stronger and healthier. If you’ve ever joined a workout at the Arboretum or Karura Forest, then you’ll have some idea. Mar 29-Apr 2. Ksh 71,500, all-inclusive, including flights. www.fitkenyanbootcamp.com
SPIRITUAL / MEDITATION SILENT RETREAT, THIKA
Head out to the serene Manyika House, an old coffee lodge in the plantations around Thika, for a very different kind of retreat. Held every couple of months, the retreats focus on more than just physical wellbeing. There’s a strong emphasis on silent meditation, with several sessions a day, and personal reflection. Participants break their silence with a final meditative session on the final day. Costs Ksh 24,300, vegetarian meals included. Next retreat March 9-11. www.mindfullivingkenya.com
NOMAD MAGAZINE JAN/FEB 2018
BODY & SOUL
ON THE TRAIL TO A NEW YOU Sarah Samuel takes a look at the running races across East Africa to kick-start your New Year. If your resolution is anything like mine and the majority of New Year’s Eve optimists, it is something like “lose weight” or “get in shape.” More often than not, resolutions don’t make it past the first calendar flip to February, leaving you reassuring yourself that next year will be your year. But it’s not like you will be any younger or less busy in 2019. A tangible goal with a deadline is what your resolution needs to outlive the initial clinking of champagne flutes. Might I suggest signing up for a race? My first year living in Washington, DC, I ran a half marathon downtown. Racing through the national monuments of the United States’ capital city was a great way to usher in a new phase of life. Not to mention the friends I made through joining training groups. Running a local race is a great way to get a feel for a country and meeting new people. Trudge up the steep red clay hills of Uganda or jog alongside Nairobi’s skyscrapers. Race towards Mt. Kilimanjaro or dance alongside thousands of mighty women in Ethiopia. Make 2018 not only the year you get in shape, but also the year you make a lifelong memory. If your bucket list includes “run a marathon,” make 2018 the year you proudly check that box. If a marathon is not your thing, most races also include half marathons and a 10 or 5-kilometre race. In fact, there are over 400 races from which to choose. Mark the date on your calendar now and work towards the literal and virtual finish line with friends and family members. Note: The prices listed below are for the marathons, shorter races will be cheaper. Please also take note of the different fees based on residency status where applicable. VIRTUAL ULTRAMARATHON TO SUPPORT OL PEJETA CONSERVANCY | KENYA Throughout 2018 Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya is launching its first ever virtual ultramarathon. Train anywhere as you tick off kilometres to the tune of 1,245 km. In order to complete this goal by the end of the year, you will need to walk, run, jog or bike 3.4 km per day. In addition, you need to raise $1,000 to support Sudan
(the last male white rhino) and his friends at the conservancy. Ending your year of training with a trip to see Sudan and the other animals being cared for at the conservancy would be the icing on the cake of a successful year. Entry Fee: $1,000 www.olpejetaconservancy.org/ conservation/innovation/virtual-ultra KILIMANJARO MARATHON MOSHI, TANZANIA March 4, 2018 Many diehard runners have used this race as an excuse to travel to Africa for the first time and gaze up at the tallest mountain in Africa. The race course begins in a large stadium
where live bands kickstart the party. Runners pass through local farms, small villages, and fruit and coffee plantations before making their way back to the stadium. If you are not local, the organisers have a travel agency that can arrange everything from hotel to transportation
BODY & SOUL the community comes out to cheer you on. End by dancing and eating the night away with the entire town. Fees for entire week (depending on accommodation selected): $950-$1,295 www.ugandamarathon.com KIGALI INTERNATIONAL PEACE MARATHON KIGALI, RWANDA May 20, 2018 Rwanda, a land of rolling lush hills and pristine cities, is also host to the only race in the world whose main goal is to promote peace at home and around the world. This will be the 14th annual race for peace held in beautiful Kigali. While the main event – the marathon – is held on the 20th, there are numerous other activities in the lead-up to the race. There is a night-time torch run and a family-friendly 5 km the night before the big race. The course runs mainly through the capital’s wide and well-paved roads, so this is a good one for road runners. Fees: Free. More information: www.kigalimarathon.org SAFARICOM LEWA MARATHON LEWA WILDLIFE CONSERVANCY, KENYA June, 2018. Dates TBD As you twist and turn through the bush, you can’t help but think how lucky you are to be sprinting like a cheetah next to a giraffe. This race is not for the faint of heart – it is hot and hilly in the savannah. You are going to want a lot of sunscreen for this one! The funds raised from the race benefit dozens of communities and nonprofits throughout Kenya from elephant sanctuaries to endangered turtles. Fees: $250 entry, plus $1,500 fundraising for the Lewa conservancy. www.safaricommarathon.com
OTHER RACES ACROSS AFRICA TO CONSIDER IN 2018:
to post-race sightseeing. Fees: EA Citizen: $5 EA resident: $35, Non-residents: $65. www.kilimanjaromarathon.com
12,000 women – again this year. This year’s message is “Violent Free Life: It’s My Right!” Fees not yet posted. www.ethiopianrun.org
UN ETHIOPIA WOMEN FIRST 5K ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA March 11, 2018 Celebrate this year’s International Women’s Day (March 8) by combining forces with 100,000 women and girls who have already cruised through the 5 km (3.1 mile) race course. Music plays loudly along the course to propel you to your next mile marker. Ethiopia has been hosting this fun run, one of the largest women-only races on the continent, since 2004 and is expecting a great turnout – estimated at
UGANDA INTERNATIONAL MARATHON MASAKA, UGANDA May 27-June 3, 2018 This is much more than a race. Spend your first six days volunteering your time and talents, sharing your love of running with local children, and embracing all that Uganda’s beautiful countryside has to offer. As the sun rises on your seventh day, you will take off through the red hills and lush countryside of Uganda alongside 3,000 other runners. To keep your morale high as you traverse hills and boulders,
• CECC Hawassa Half Marathon | Awassa, Ethiopia | February 11 • Rwanda Challenge Marathon | Rwamagana, Rwanda | February 18 • Seychelles Eco-Friendly Marathon | Beau Vallon, Seychelles | February 25 • Marathon de Sables, Sahara Desert, Morocco, April 6-16 • Malawi Impact Marathon | Nkope, Malawi | May 26 • Victoria Falls Marathon | Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe | July 1 • Racing Madagascar Ultra Trail 2018 | Anivorano, Madagascar | July 9 • Mauritius Marathon | Le Morne, Mauritius | July 15 • Standard Chartered Nairobi Marathon | Nairobi, Kenya | October 28 • Running the Rift Marathon | Fort Portal, Uganda | December 1 • Tsavorun | Mwakitau, Kenya | December 8
NOMAD MAGAZINE JAN/FEB 2018
BODY & SOUL
LOVE IS IN THE AIR
Valentine’s Day is almost upon us. What better way to treat you and your loved one than with a spa and wellness holiday away? In the spirit of travel, we’ve sought out five romantic places around the region that involve a little more time commitment than a 10-minute cab ride. The Sanctuary at Ol Lentille, Kenya This hilltop Laikipia retreat speaks to the romantics. The Sanctuary comprises four, fully-staffed private villas with majestic views of northern Kenya. For couples, you can’t do better than the Eyrie, a round bedroom where from the comfort of your bed, you can feast your eyes on the mountains outside. Now to the spa, where guests can enjoy unlimited treatments at no extra cost, whether it’s facials, manicures, Indian head massages or a variety of other massage treatments. Little wonder then that most guests spend at least a part of their day in the spa. Starts from Ksh 21,000 pp sharing. www.ol-lentille.com
Ocean Spa Lodge, Msambweni, Kenya Formerly Saruni Ocean, this southern Kenyan boutique hotel opened in 2015, and is all about wellness. The classy, thatched suites are beautifully appointed, and complimentary yoga is thrown in. The spa offers one-off treatments, or a three-day programme involving two treatments a day, while couples can enjoy a candlelit massage together. An interesting addition is the water wellness circuit, involving rain showers, vascular corridors and hydromassage pools, all of which are aimed at getting a sluggish circulatory system moving. Starts from Ksh 28,000 pp, sharing. www.theoceanspalodge.com
Six Senses Zil Pasyon, Félicité, Seychelles If you really, really want to push the boat out, consider this island idyll with its low-slung villas and chic interiors overlooking an azure-blue sea. This island hotel is justly proud of its spa. Five ocean-view treatment villas connected by swing bridges are wedged among the boulders, along with an elevated saltwater pool, and yoga and meditation platforms. Offering more than just massage treatments, Zil Payson offers an integrated wellness programme focused on food, meditation, fitness, all within an unbelievably enchanting setting. Double villas start from 1,850 euros (Ksh 232,000). www.sixsenses.com
Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp, Uganda Amid the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, this is one of the few places wehre you might actually get a gorilla sighting without leaving the camp. Part of the hugely successful Sanctuary Retreats group (with Sanctuary Olonana in Kenya, closed until June), this intimate eight-tented camp is an ideal base for gorilla tracking. And what better way to wind down after a trek than to take a spa treatment. The spa offers a range of treatments from hot stone massages, full-body toning, mud wraps to foot rituals, all deliciously invigorating. Starts from $240 pp, sharing, full-board. www.sanctuaryretreats.com
Essque Zalu, Zanzibar Essque Zalu represents urban chic on an island paradise. This resort boasts 40 suites and eight private villas catering to a clientele that like their their modern creature comforts. In front of the property is a huge pool, and the resort has a forward-looking kids’ club, with imaginative offerings such as cookery classes. The Healing Earth Spa offers a long list of treatments from African-sourced oils, and there’s a sauna aromatherapy steam room and gym, too. Or take the Maasai ritual, a two-hour journey of renewal in specially-erected tents, involving foot rituals, facials, and full body scrubs. Starts from $290 pp. www.essquehotels.com
Shanti Maurice, Chemin Grenier, Mauritius Mauritian family-run boutique hotel with an award-winning spa, Shanti Maurice boasts large, sea-facing rooms with private balconies. Its spa is justifiably feted, offering a range of wellbeing experiences, including the Indian and Oriental experiences, to a four-handed Balinese massage. Beyond the treatments, guests can benefit from alternative health workshops, yoga, pilates and meditation classes as well as Aquafit, promising to relax even the tensest of guests. The kids’ club also goes that one step further, offering kiddy yoga. From 225 euros pp (Ksh 28,000), sharing. www.shantimaurice.com
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TWO CATS AND A CAMPERVAN Travel from Johannesburg to Nairobi in 10 days driving a Peugeot delivery van (called Henry) with two cats who loathe car journeys? Tracy Brooks’ friends and family all thought she and her husband were mad.
n a date years back, when a man with gorgeous blue eyes asked if I liked camping, I replied that I was a luxury lodge woman and wouldn’t be caught dead in a campsite. One wedding and nearly 20 years later, I’m a camping veteran. It helped that the then boyfriend, now husband, was eager to ensure I shared his love of camping and the outdoors. Forget sleeping bags and fiddly camping pillows, he packed down pillows and duvet and did the lion’s share of setting up the camp. Alan would wake me with a hot cup of tea then leave me to contemplate my toes while he prepared breakfast, cooking every meal and washing up after them. The level of spoil tapered off but we’ve got camping down to an efficient, comfortable experience involving minimal toil. Why we embarked on this latest adventure was a simple matter of my husband wanting to test his campervan on an African road trip. As for the cats, they refused point-blank to settle in at their ‘cat sitters’, giving us no choice but to surrender and let them travel with us. The trip took two days longer than planned, the cats had us running around in circles on occasion
and Henry’s clearance kept us on the main road. The drive from Johannesburg, and the first few hundred kilometres into Botswana was unexciting and tedious, perking up after Nata on our way to the Zambian border. “What’s that crossing the road ahead? It’s an elephant! An elephant and we’re not even in a reserve!” I cried, hands grappling to get the lens cap off my Nikon. What a novelty - unfettered wild game heedless of the juggernaut transport trucks thundering past.
A WIDENING GAP
The link between Botswana and Zambia entails vehicles and people squeezing onto a ferry over the Zambezi towards the Zambian checkpoint. I climbed out of Henry to photograph the ferry and the spectacle of two men wrestling with an overladen bicycle determined to gallop down the ramp faster than their feet. Hesitating about stepping onto the ferry while an enormous truck was nudging its way on, I suddenly realised that the gap between jetty and ferry was widening and the ramp rising. Without any fanfare, the ferry was chugging deeper into the crocodileinfested Zambezi and my husband, Henry and the cats were on their way to Zambia
while I was standing firmly in Botswana. Anxiety is a super booster and a spectacular leap clutching camera, sunglasses and hat signified my undignified boarding technique to the undisguised amusement of the other passengers. After re-joining my team and having my passport stamped, I was despatched to cat and van sit while the helpers took Alan off to conquer the nightmare of red tape. I’d strongly recommend you accept the help of one of the ‘helpers’ at Kazungula to navigate you through the maze of immigration paperwork and queues. Eventually Alan and his posse stormed back to Henry. “Are we done?” I asked. “No,” he snapped. “They insist the van is a commercial vehicle and we don’t have an export permit.” Back and forth our group went but the officials refused to budge. We paid so much over the odds that the ‘helpers’ reduced their rates in sympathy.
AN UNWELCOME VISITOR
At the campsite in Livingstone, Alan jumped down to open up the side door while I hovered in the cab, collecting the detritus of two days’ travel. Glancing up when the driver’s door opened, expecting Alan, I was almost eye level with the largest baboon I’d ever seen. He
proceeded, at a leisurely pace, to help himself to the lollipops we keep handy to oil some sticky officials. Waving my hands had absolutely no effect and the hairy simian strolled with his treat to the adjacent dustbin, hunting for something else to munch. After this, our camp went into lockdown mode but the ape was smart enough to wait for us to tire of the constant untying and unlatching everything and we returned one afternoon to find the remnants of a muchanticipated Christmas pudding strewn around the site, along with shards of our wine glasses. His timing was excellent, however. We’d spent a magical time at Victoria Falls and were still bubbling with adrenalin, and took the trail of campsite destruction in our stride. We were fortunate that the Zambezi River was low, revealing the magnificence of the massive gorge usually hidden by water. The falls are a photographer’s dream but it is difficult to capture an angle that hasn’t been seen a million times before. Despite the many visitors, it is possible, however, to find a spot for yourself to soak in the spray and the breathtaking power of nature. Back on the road, driving in Zambia was a series of halts at interminable police checkpoints. Every few kilometres we were
stopped and questioned as police, military, municipal and immigration officials took turns to examine our paperwork. The stop/start grew tiresome after a while, and my husband finally snapped when a policeman asked yet again if he had a driver’s licence. “Yes,” Alan retorted. “Do you?” This cop swiftly waved us on.
“LOSE THE CATS!”
Henry rattled and bounced on the 60 kmstretch of road to the Tanzanian border, our first experience of bad roads and once again, his commercial registration raised its irksome head. Absorbed by the border bustle of colour, noise, squalor and fascinating types of goods carried on foot, head and bicycle, I started when the door wrenched open. “You’ve got 30 seconds before the inspector arrives to inspect the van, so lose the cats,” Alan hissed. Tossing a towel over the cat on my lap, I leaned my head out of the window and chirped, “Good morning” to the rotund man officiously dressed in a suit groaning at the seams. He didn’t even glance my way, a good thing as the be-towelled cat was lashing her tail in fury. “Sorry about the mess, the Zambian roads are dreadful,” said Alan in an effort to explain the state of our earthly goods, sprayed about Henry’s innards by the shocking
road. “You live in here?” the official asked incredulously before waving us on. The potholes, roadworks, cargo trucks, goats, cows and bicycles continued and it was slow going to Ntengule Coffee Farm and Lodge near Mbeya, our recommended stopover. Set on a lush mountainside with magnificent views, Ntengule is a peaceful haven and we spent half a day cleaning, tidying and battening down the hatches before toasting a spectacular sunset with some good South African red wine in decent glasses - outdoor and simple doesn’t mean sipping Merlot from a plastic cup. The moment was short-lived. Within the hour, a ferocious storm landed. The poles on our gazebo buckled while we cowered beneath the awning, hanging on desperately to prevent it flying away. Packing our drenched collection of possessions away, we got back on the road to face the trip’s most frustrating driving conditions – the Tanzanian speed limit and enforcement thereof. Within an hour, we’d collected two spot fines for exceeding the scantily-indicated limit, draining our cash. Fortunately, past Iringa the new highway is a wonderful piece of road and the speed limit well sign posted, so the hawkeyed tension eased. Onwards we sped for Namanga and Nairobi.
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A walk through…
Starting Point: Olympic School Finish Point: Power Women Duration: 3 hours
ccept the invitation from Chef Morgan Etete to try one of his mandazis; this café at the Town Centre will wow you with the samosas and fries as well as an assortment of international dishes. Apart from a laundry, an IT hub, a library and a range of classes to choose from, the Town Centre also boasts a studio. A large glass window separates people inside the narrow room with black walls and grey curtains from the rest of us, making them seem too cool for school. Or perhaps they seem cool because they are on first name basis with the Hollywood actress famous for her role as the mother in Wonder Woman, Connie Nielson (yes that is who they mean when they say “Connie”). Let a jilted lover’s Luo rhumba song floating idly in the air guide you to Uweza Art Centre, almost next door to Town Centre. The artfullydecorated outside walls of Uweza are a feast for the eyes. The exterior is a great cue to prepare yourself for the work displayed inside. And it’s truly beautiful art at quite affordable prices (and if I say something is affordable, it is). If you are a resident of Kibera, you can submit your work and join the workshop. They will consider any applications, even a drawing in your exercise book. The little art shop boasts a significantly large footprint on the globe, too, shipping some of their artwork to regions in the US and Dubai. However, Frank, who runs the place, insists that the artists must be passionate before they succeed: “Ukiingia art juu ya dough hautaifanya.” (“If you get into art because of money, you won’t make it”) If you keep walking away from Town Centre, you will come across the railway line. In
times of political turmoil, residents have been known to pull up the railway line, bringing to a grinding halt the commuter train that runs through Olympic twice a day. The railway line also bears a wealth of historical significance. In the early 20th Century, the British settled Nubian veterans who had helped expand their empire in a forest near the railway line. They called the forest “Kibr.” Other migrant workers moved in as tenants and were drawn there perhaps by the availability of housing, and proximity to work in the European areas. Once you make the about turn you will find, opposite a vegetable stall, a small mysteriouslooking cinema owned by the charming Peter and Redempta Ochieng. If it is your first time watching a DJ Afro movie, proceed with care. This stuff is addictive. It’s a movie with comical translations from English into hyperbolised Sheng. A simple “Tea?” becomes “Utakunywa chai? Chai ni ‘tea’. Hii ni dawa.” [“Will you take tea? Chai is ‘tea’. This is medicine.”] The verdict is in. Everything is funnier and juicier in Swahili. It costs … wait for it … 10 shillings to watch. You can also buy a few movies to take home. Next you should definitely visit Victoria’s Bone factory. Don’t wear black. The dust will wear you in return and you will look like you walked through a cement bag. The factory shapes the bones of cattle into a lot of fun things. Imagine being the kid with a comb made out of bones in school. I know. I know. I am finally rehabilitating you from your awkward teen years. Charles, who runs the place, thinks bones are cute but is actually passionate about education, with much of his and his colleagues’ earnings going towards their kids’ schooling. They are working extra hard now because the long election season affected their business and now some of their kids are not in school. Even if not every kid takes advantage of schooling, he feels he
has done his part, at least. “Ulimpa dawa akatema,” he says. (“You gave them the medicine, and they spat it out.”) The slum upgrade dwellings are visible on the section of the railway line that leads you out of the bone factory. The upgrading project began in 2003; the tall apartment buildings look down on the rusty corrugatediron ceilings of the houses so typical of Kibera. When the government relocated the first lot of Kibera dwellers into the apartments, it was a short-lived solution. Struggling with the higher monthly living costs (approximately Ksh 1,500 rent and Ksh 1,000 shillings in rates), they mostly moved back into their old homes, where the cost of living was much cheaper. On your way out, there is another opportunity to spend your money - at the amazing craft shop, Power Women, run by 15 women. An orange, beaded butterfly they had on display is etched into my memory. They have earrings, skirts made out of lesos, dashiki shirts among others. Hellen Moraa, the chairwoman, says the women faced a lot of challenges when they first set up the shop in 2004 because they were all living with HIV/AIDS, and were initially shunned. But they never gave up. The walk out past Olympic Primary School to the matatu stage is a great chance to stock up on anything from shoes to basins to kitchen racks from the stalls flanking the road. A fun thing to do while leaving is to see how long it is before Solo 7’s door-to-door graffiti (“Peace Wanted Alive”) which ushered you in is no longer visible. Our writer visited Kibera with Chocolate City Tours, which charges Ksh 3,500 per person for a tour lasting two to three hours. Contact Henry on email@example.com
PHOTOS: PETER NDUNG’U
If you’re one of a new breed of traveller looking to substitute safari with the chance to explore Nairobi through a sociopolitical lens then Kibera’s Olympic area is a good place to start. Ivy Nyayieka takes a walk through East Africa’s largest slum.
Weekend away in
Three hours’ drive from Nairobi is hilly Nyeri, often overlooked in favour of Nanyuki. But it’s a refreshingly cool and pretty base for the Aberdares and Solio ranch, and boasts several serene places to stay ranging from homestays to a more formal country club. PHOTOGRAPHY BRIAN SIAMBI
SANDAI HOMESTAY AND COTTAGES
Forty minutes from Nyeri, Sandai is more of a homestay than a hotel. Guests are welcomed into Petra Allmendingerâ€™s eclectic home, and have the choice of the four original rooms, self-catering cottages or rondavels or a bigger house for families and friends. African prints and colourful quilts reign supreme here, giving every room an individual and homely feel. Two rondavels with a shared kitchen (although fullboard, or individual meals are available) sleep between two and four, while two larger wooden cottages sleep 5-6. The bigger house on the edge of the homestead sleeps up to 8, and has gorgeous views over to Mt Kenya. Meals - with a healthy bent - are served up on the patio of the main house, with Petra almost always in residence, whether itâ€™s just hosting, or running various yoga, painting or wellness retreats. Activities on the farm include horse riding into the neighbouring Sangare ranch, where plains game roam. Rooms cost 60 euros (approx Ksh 6,000) pp sharing FB; Ksh 7,000 s/c for a rondavel; Ksh 14,000 s/c for the cottages, and Ksh 18,000 s/c for the larger house. www.africanfootprints.de/en
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ESCAPE ABERDARE COUNTRY CLUB
PHOTO SOLIO LODGE, THE SAFARI COLLECTION.
Probably the plushest place to stay in the locale is the Aberdare Country Club, a sprawling property comprising cottages, health spa, pool and its own nature conservancy. Drop-ins are required to pay a Ksh 500 day fee just to visit. Once ensconced in the hotel, however, you’ll find yourself in something of a haven, with the main dining area overlooking large, hillside gardens, where peacocks roam. Cottages are very comfortable, if a little on the small side, with fireplaces, but no television. A larger, deluxe cottage, comes with more modern furnishings, and of course, a supersize TV. Activities include horse-riding, nature walks to see giraffes and other plains game, golf, and tennis. If you’re planning a visit to the Ark in the Aberdares, it’s booked through the club. Cottages start from Ksh 17,450 FB. www.aberdarecountryclub.com
This old colonial hotel, built in the 1920s, oozes history, and is a place for those looking more for nostalgia and fine gardens than mod-cons. Indeed, it feels like little has changed in the last 50 plus years, with dark wooden panelling very much a feature of this Nyeri mainstay. The sitting room is less than cosy, and the rooms are a little rough around the edges, but the standard doubles with wooden floors looking out onto well-manicured lawns are hard to beat. There are no mosquito nets or fans, but in Nyeri’s cool evening climes, these are arguably scarcely needed. Even if you’re not staying, consider dropping in for a outdoor buffet lunch in congenial and peaceful surroundings. B&B starts from Ksh 10,600 per room, sharing. www.outspan.co.ke
This 45,000-acre attractive private conservancy 30 km north of Nyeri on the Nyahururu Rd has been a huge success story for the breeding of black rhinos, and is credited with saving it from extinction. It is the one place in Kenya where you’re guaranteed to spot rhino, both the black and white rhino - and not just one or two, but quite possibly dozens at a time. Within the park is the exclusive and upmarket Solio Lodge, run by the Safari Collection, while about a five-minute drive from the conservancy is Rhino Watch Lodge, the more affordable option. Solio is pricier for locals than the national parks, but a worthy day trip if staying in the area. Entrance costs Ksh 3,000 for both residents and citizens, and Ksh 500 for a fiveseater car.
There are numerous entry points to the Aberdares, but Nyeri brings you close to the Salient, where both Treetops and the Ark are located. Unlike the western park of the park - think moorland, waterfalls, peaks - the Salient is more densely forested, and has frequent rains. A popular hike to the Western part of the park is Mt Lesatima at 4,000 metres, doable in a day from the Nyeri side. With its flora and fauna more reminiscent of a Northern European landscape - although replete with buffalo and elephant - this park offers a very different experience to most safari. Entrance costs Ksh 300 for citizens, Ksh 1,030 for residents. For those seeking to enter via the Ark gate, you’ll need to obtain permission first (readily given) from the KWS HQ in Mweiga.
BADEN POWELL HOUSE AND GRAVE
Lord Robert Baden Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts Association and the Girl Guides, lived three years until his death in 1941 in Nyeri in Paxtu House on the grounds of the Outspan hotel. He once wrote, “The nearer to Nyeri, the nearer to bliss.” Every February, scouts commemorate his memory, descending in their thousands on Nyeri. Besides the hundreds of scouting scarves adorning the walls, there’s been a decent effort to bring out some of Baden Powell and his wife Olave’s lives through photographs, old letters and other memorabilia. In town is the grave of Baden-Powell, well-kept among the overgrown graveyard. It’s worthwhile pottering around the graves, mainly those of Europeans as well as a small corner given over to military graves. Admission to Paxtu House: Ksh 300.
ITALIAN MEMORIAL CATHOLIC CHURCH
Situated about 200 metres away from where Google Maps would have you believe (and 5 km north of Nyeri), this attractive church, situated at the top of a tree-lined boulevard, is a sobering reminder of the high death toll of Italian prisoners of war in captivity in British East Africa during the Second World War. This church was opened in 1952, and houses the remains of some 700 Italian soldiers who died during the war, including the Italian commander in East Africa, the Duke of Aosta. Each has a plaque with their name and regiment inside the church. The Italian community holds a remembrance mass here every second Sunday of November. Hoot at the gate for admittance, but otherwise ask at Caritas to contact the caretaker. Admission free.
NOMAD MAGAZINE JAN/FEB 2018
What I pack … for my travels
Anyango Mpinga is a fashion designer, whose contemporary brand is aimed at the modern woman. She creates her own prints and statement pieces, and describes her brand as disrupting conventional fashion rules. Instagram @anyangompinga Scented Candle The candle calms me and the smell reminds of home.
Large Weekender bag Ksh21,900 Shoes by Dune They go with everything. They’re comfortable and classy.
Supple skin oil by l’Occitane If I’m in a cold place, this stops my skin from getting very ashy. If it’s hot, it stops my skin from getting greasy. It helps lock in the moisture.
Skin oils by Aphorism They’re both natural oils. The day oil has a natural sunscreen. And if I’ve had a long night, the night oil makes me look less tired in the morning, particularly after a nine-hour flight.
Scarf and Necklace by Anyango The scarf is my ‘go-to’ for everything - to dress up, or to add colour to an outfit. The necklace is made of ostrich feather, and is gold-plated. Sometimes, I just want to wear a plain colour, and this adds a touch of elegance to my outfit. PHOTOS BRIAN SIAMBI
Good Girl Gone Bad perfume by Kilian Their perfumes smell so natural, not synthetic. The company is known for artisanal perfumes that last. This scent makes me happy, and it comes with a box that can be used as a clutch in the evening.
NAIROBI: The Hub, Junction, Sarit Centre, Village Market, Yaya Centre, Westgate DAR ES SALAAM: Slipway
NOMAD MAGAZINE JAN/FEB 2018
MAISHA MARIDADI about. Just plan out what you would like to eat and the chef will sort the rest out. There’s a supermarket close by called Shan-E-Punjab should you need anything. There are two dining tables, the one close to the pool being perfect for breakfast, brunch or lunch. At night, the hanging lampshades over the second dining table create a romantic ambience for you and your friends.
OVERVIEW Maisha Maridadi literally translates as ‘beautiful life.’ The simple, yet elegant, openplan villa is two storeys with three ensuite bedrooms and an extra double bed on the top floor, allowing eight people to stay. Four people would have to share one bathroom, though. The rooms are colour- themed: the blue room features a huge circular bed, plenty of storage space for your clothes and the balcony door leads straight onto the private pool. This is the master bedroom. The other two rooms are equally as spacious with king size beds, lounge seating, and an ensuite bathroom. Upstairs is a TV lounge with a round bedlike sofa, a massage bed (business cards for the masseuse can be found in the kitchen) and the double bed. The lounge area by the pool features a big U-shaped sofa. The owners clearly put a lot of thought into decorating the space with the Big Five making an appearance in paintings and statues. The kitchen is fully equipped with an oven, toaster, kettle, fridge, pots, pans, glassware, cutlery and crockery. The villa comes with a chef and cleaner so you’re guaranteed a pretty relaxed holiday with no chores to worry
WHERE Diani is on Kenya’s south coast, and Maisha Maridadi lies at the Northern end of Diani beach. If flying, there are direct one-hour flights from Nairobi to Ukunda airport next to Diani beach. If you’re driving from Nairobi, then plan for a 10-hour journey. Alternatively, you can fly or take the train to Mombasa and cross the ferry to Diani. Once in Diani, search google maps for ‘Maisha Marefu’ and you’ll find your way to Maisha Maridadi.
PROS • Private pool • Wifi connection • Personal chef • Daily laundry • Rooms cleaned & beds made daily • Proximity to the estuary CONS • No air conditioning (ceiling fans in every room) • Not beach front (four-minute walk to the beach) • Long wait for hot water when showering (and tends to run out after four showers). BUT who even takes hot showers at the beach, right?
• Lots of mosquitoes (all beds have mosquito nets but take repellent for when you’re lounging on the sofa) WHAT CAN YOU DO? Usually the beach is where we escape to lay back and relax. Eating great seafood is one of my top things to do whilst there so check out Sails Restaurant, Blue Marlin and Nomad Beach Bar and Restaurant for your seafood fix. Get your adrenaline pumping and jump off a plane at Skydive Diani or try something a little more grounded such as kite surfing or wind surfing. For a full-day excursion, take a trip down to Wasini Island to spot some dolphins and snorkel in the reef. Finally, round off the day with sundowners on the estuary.
HOW TO BOOK & COSTS We booked through an agent called Kate. Email her on firstname.lastname@example.org She manages plenty of other properties in Diani as well in case you are looking for something bigger or smaller. Maisha Maridadi costs Ksh 35,000 per day and if there’s eight of you, you’ll be paying Ksh 4,375 each. Accessibility: 4/5 Cleanliness: 5/5 Amenities: 4/5 Budget friendly: 2/5 (considering location & food costs) Unique Factor: 2/5 (lots of similar villas in the area) Family friendly: 5/5 Overall: 7/10 Facebook and Instagram @thetraveldote
Many of us flock to all-inclusive hotels and resorts when going down to the Kenyan coast, but the real luxury lies in booking yourself a private self-catered villa. One that comes with a personal chef, cleaner, wifi, private pool and doesn’t make a dent in your wallet. Diani, in particular, has plenty to choose from. Recently, we stayed a few nights at a pretty little villa in Diani called Maisha Maridadi.
Ras Kitau Bay, Manda Island For reservations contact us on +254 20 712 3300/1/2 Email email@example.com www.majlisresorts.com
RETROSPECTIVE A herd of Grevy zebras graze on the slopes of Mount Kenya in 1984. The once-plentiful Grevy, found mainly in northern Kenya and southern Ethiopia, is now endangered. 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.
Tel: +254 (0) 714 315 151 email: firstname.lastname@example.org www.lantana-galu-beach.co.ke
JOIN THE TEAM Nomad is looking for creative and dynamic individuals to join us. Visit www.nomadmagazine.co/careers for more information.
Forodhani House, Shella Beach, Lamu, Kenya www.forodhanihouse.com For reservations: email@example.com Tel : +254 718 407 480, +33 612 548 184
DISCOVER - EXPLORE - EXPERIENCE
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.
Bofa Road, Kilifi P.O. Box 41247-80100, Mombasa Tel: +254-780745837 / +254-707745837, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org www.silverpalmkilifi.co.ke
PEPONI HOTEL, LAMU This month, Nomad kicks off with a new series, Great Hotels of East Africa. Every month, we’ll be delving behind the scenes at some of the region’s most fabulous and eccentric retreats. Amanda Sperber drops in on Peponi, the legendary hotel on Lamu beloved by well-oiled Europeans, A-listers and expats.
he reviews are faultless. A deep online dive from TripAdvisor to the most obscure personal travel blog wields nothing but effusive comments (“Old school excellence.” “The loveliest hotel in Africa.” “Absolutely perfect!”) Fair enough: There’s nothing the staff won’t accommodate. The lush, tropical terraced gardens with their shocks of colourful flowers border on surreal. The Swahiliinspired menu is as extensive as it is delectable (the fish curry and rock oysters are best sellers). At any time of day, in any sort of weather, the views from the large, comfortable, though pleasantly understated porch, are gorgeous. Its status as the only place to serve alcohol in Shela, the small Muslim village just three kilometres south of lively Lamu town, and moreover as (likely) the place to imbibe the tastiest cocktails on the entire, glorious archipelago (or in Kenya proper, for that matter), often results in tourists redrawing the map of their Lamu universe to put the posh, colonial-style property at the epicentre. This could only, of course, be Peponi Hotel. The legendary 28-room property opened in 1967 and just finished celebrating its 50th anniversary. Five decades in, Peponi appears to be as fashionable as ever, mostly by remaining rooted in its original (see: “old school”) charm which was always the initial appeal. It seems central to understanding
the place Peponi occupies in Lamu to know that it was founded by Danes pushed out of their farm in the Aberdares following the resettlement scheme arranged by the Kenyan government after Kenya gained independence from the British. Seated on the crook of the golden-white sand facing the periwinkle estuary that flows out to the Indian Ocean, Peponi is the most centrally-located property on the strip, and attracts wealthy international vagabonds, as well as actors (the founder’s son, Lars Korschen, died in 2014 and actress Kim Catrall is quoted in his obituary), musicians (most famously, Mick Jagger), and mid-level European royalty.
It was here that world-famous violinist Yehudi Menuhin once launched into an impromptu after-dinner concert that ended in his replacing a string on his violin with a bit of fishing line. For the many high-profile visitors to Lamu (Princess Caroline of Monaco, for example) who stay in private homes, Peponi is a popular watering hole. Though now estranged, the princess and her husband Prince Ernst of Hanover, were known to stop by for sundowners at Peponi, staying on for an afterdinner dance as the musky night disintegrated, as they tend to do at this establishment. One hopes they tried the Old Pal, a satisfying, addictive mix of vodka, lime juice, Angostura bitters and soda water with a crunchy sugar rim. While the bar and restaurant are accessible to the masses, the area past the dining room is guests only. A winding, 50 metre-concrete walkway leads past a just-guests pool, through the three-acre land, with painstakinglyconserved tiers of gardens (there’s always at least few people tending to them, and the concerned manager, Carol, Korschen’s blonde widow, is happy to oversee and happier to comment on their work). Among those levels sit various rooms or bungalows. All are decorated in the classic Lamu style, which means vast, intricately-carved wood beds and whimsicallydraped mosquito nets. There are the necessary amenities, including hot water, and perks: plush white bathrobes, luxe bath products and frangipani, artfully placed. In terms of layout, colour scheme and size, none of the rooms are exactly alike. Breakfast is included. Time spent at Peponi will - for better or worse - colour your experience of Lamu. Plan accordingly. Try the fresh juice. Rates start from $280 per room, based on two sharing, with breakfast. www.peponi-lamu.com
NOMAD MAGAZINE JAN/FEB 2018
By Frances Woodhams
wenty-something tourist Neil arrives in Kenya and Edwin, his Nairobi guide for the day, picks him up from a mid-range hotel in town. “Karibu Kenya,” says Edwin, reaching out for a handshake. He is smartly dressed in wellfitted chinos, collared shirt and fancy watch, whereas Neil, who glances down at his own unsavoury-looking toes poking from Velcro sandals, is wearing well-worn hiking trousers and a scruffy Led Zeppelin T-Shirt. He’d planned his outfit in an attempt at blending in but it’s becoming clear that he may have misread the situation. “Ready to go?” asks Edwin. “Yeah,” Says Neil, “But if it’s okay, first I’d like to go to a Forex?” “No problem,” Edwin says, pulling out his smart phone and getting straight onto his Uber app while Neil plunges his hands into his pockets and wonders what is in store for the day. Minutes later they are in a taxi, speeding towards a Nairobi mall. Neil spots a Maasai herding cattle alongside a four-lane highway and tries to take a photo. But when they get closer, he notices that the herder is on his mobile phone. In fact, everywhere he looks, people seem to be on their mobile phones. “So phones are pretty big here like they are back home?” says Neil. “Yeah, most people have one,” replies
Edwin. “Think it’s up to about 90% of the Kenya population now.” Neil raises an eyebrow. On arrival at the shiny shopping centre, Edwin pays for the cab without exchanging any cash. “How d’you do that?” asks Neil. “How did you just pay for the cab?” “Oh - with MPesa, mobile money, we invented it here,” replies Edwin. “Kenya’s kind of a tech hub and there are tech incubators popping up all over the country now. They call this place the Silicon Savannah. We’re pretty big into developing low cost solutions for solar energy, the medical industry, internet access and all that stuff. ” “Oh,” Neil says lamely. Once inside the mall, they stop off at an expensive coffee chain for chai latte and a Danish. “So I was thinking of exchanging about $50 for the week?” Neil says, having read somewhere that people in Sub-Saharan Africa exist on less than a dollar a day. However, looking around him, it seems that he might have got this badly wrong. “Better make that $500,” says Edwin. Neil looks up, startled, before Edwin adds, “just to be safe.” Edwin is busy refreshing his Facebook feed. “There’s free wifi here by the way. May as well make the most of it.” “Oh right,” says Neil, updating his Instagram page with the caption, “This place
is blowing my mind!” Around the café, edgily-dressed young professionals tap on their laptops, are engaged in meetings or chat on their mobile phones. A young, female waitress approaches wearing tight jeans, statement earrings and bright purple eye shadow. As she hands over the bill, she gives Neil an up and down look. After briefly stopping at the Forex, the pair walk out of the mall past international brand name fashion stores, makeup, jewellery and food outlets. “So there’s this street style event going on around the corner,” Edwin says. “Not sure if you are interested?” Neil nods, wondering to himself when he’ll get to see the national museum, giraffes or baby elephants that he’d read about in Lonely Planet. At the pop-up event, a DJ wearing futuristic sunglasses is throwing out tunes while statuesque men and women chat and browse fashion stands. After Neil winds up dropping $300 on a pair of limited edition, vintage trainers, he chats to Edwin over a craft beer as they wait in line at the gourmet burger truck. “So when did Nairobi get so cool?” Neil asks, rocking to the music and enjoying the vibe. “It’s always been cool, Neil. It’s just that the rest of the world never knew it.” Frances Woodhams is author of the blog: www.africaexpatwivesclub.com
SKETCH: MOVIN WERE
NEW IN TOWN
NOMAD MAGAZINE JAN/FEB 2018
IMAGE COURTESY OF FEDERICO VERONESI
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Published on Feb 1, 2018
Published on Feb 1, 2018
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