ISSUE 12 | FREE COPY
RUMBLE IN THE JUNGLE
HIKING THE RWENZORI
VIEW FROM THE CLIFF
NOMAD MAGAZINE MAY/JUNE 2018
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PHOTOGRAPHY JACQUIE MWAI
ike most people, climbing Mt Kilimanjaro has always been on my bucketlist. What nudged me to finally be proactive about it was summiting Mt Kilimambogo by pure chance. Through that experience, I was forced to face the reality that you cannot just get up on a random day and decide to summit the highest mountain in Africa, as though going on a leisurely stroll down Peponi Road. It takes a lot of physical and mental preparation; build up to it if you can. On the morning of my unexpected climb, I was sauntering through the garden of a quaint cottage overlooking the mountain, and besotted by the view, asked our driver to drop us off at Ol Donyo Sabuk National Park for a picnic later that day. The picnic never happened, and what should have been a relaxed walk through the park turned into me panting at the 2,145m-high summit two hours later, after a 9.2km hike. Naively, I thought that going down would be the easiest part. It however started pouring heavily and the resultant slippery red soil and loosened rocks made the descent a lot more gruesome than it should have been. It was like being a participant in an episode of Running Wild With Bear Grylls in usual daring and borderline dangerous fashion, only without the dramatic soundtrack. By the time I was done, I was sore, wet and muddy after slipping one-too-many times, but I knew I had to come up with a strategy for Mt Kilimanjaro. As you warm up for your climb, Uganda-based writer Charlotte Beauvoisin helps you decide where to set off on your gorilla trekking experience, another popular item on bucketlists world-over. Tamara Britten takes to the little known trails through the Loita Hills while Hollie M’gog looks to the Ruwenzori range. We’ve also rounded up four trails a short hop away from Nairobi, for anyone looking to lace up their hiking boots. As usual, we hope you will find a lot of travel inspiration in this issue, whether that’s a a budget trip to Limuru, driving down to the recently opened The Cliff lodge in Nakuru or perhaps hopping over to Sudan for some good old strong coffee!
NOMAD ISSUE. 12 · MAY/JUNE 2018 · PUBLISHED BY WEBSIMBA LIMITED, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. MANAGING DIRECTOR MIKUL SHAH EDITOR CATRINA STEWART INTERIM EDITOR WENDY WATTA DESIGN BRIAN SIAMBI DIGITAL FRED MWITHIGA CONTRIBUTORS TAMARA BRITTEN, HOLLIE M’GOG, MORRIS KIRUGA, PETER MARTELL, RUPI MANGAT, CHARLOTTE BEAUVOISIN, IVY NYAYIEKA, GEORGINA SMITH, SAMANTHA DU TOIT, FRANCES WOODHAMS, THE TRAVELDOTE, AMANDA SPERBER CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS BRIAN SIAMBI, PETER NDUNG’U, PAOLO PARAZZI, HARMAN SINGH, GEORGINA GOODWIN SALES, MARKETING & OPERATIONS VANESSA WANJIKU, NJERI GATHARA, LEROY BULIRO, GILBERT CHEGE, DANIEL MUTHIANI, JANE NAITORI, MICHELLE SLATER, WINNIE WANGUI, JOY WAIRIMU SALES ENQUIRIES CALL NOMAD 0711 22 22 22 EMAIL EDITOR@NOMADMAGAZINE.CO PRINTED BY RAMCO PRINTING WORKS LTD
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14 14. TOP SHOTS Lion cubs try to climb a tree in The Grumeti Game Reserve, a group of elephants stroll through the Maasai Mara while for another photographer, an acacia tree proves the perfect subject. 20. NEWS The DSWT (David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust) releases a book called The Unsung Heroes in honour of elephant conservationists, while Canon launches multimedia trainings at The Bus. 21. WHATS ON The 14th annual gorilla-naming ceremony takes place on 7th September in Rwanda while the Mwaka Koga Festival returns to Zanzibar this July, and more.
20 GLOBETROTTERS 28. INTERVIEW WITH PETERSON KAMWATHI This leading Kenyan artist perhaps best known for his political pieces talks Nomad about his upcoming show on migration, insightful askaris and making art more democratic. 62. WHAT I PACK FOR MY TRAVELS Travel Vlogger Farhana Oberson gives us a peak into her Sandstorm bag, packed with everything from her favourite camera and sunglasses to perfume and lipstick.
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FEATURES 30. RUMBLE IN THE JUNGLE Charlotte Beauvoisin shares some of her Mountain gorilla trekking experiences and key tips for planning a trip to meet these gentle giants. 34. A JOURNEY IN MAASAILAND Tamara Britten takes to the little-known trails through the Loita Hills and finds unexpected comforts along the way. 36. MOUNTAINS OF THE MOON With the weather closing in and visibility nearing zero just a short climb from the highest peak in the Rwenzori Range, Hollie M’gog wonders if she might be out of her depth. 40. TRAILS A SHORT HOP FROM NAIROBI If you haven’t gone as far as planning a weekend away but still want to get out of town for a few hours of hiking, some beautiful trails await, from Ololosokuan Nature Trail to Mt Lesatima. 50. WEEKEND AWAY IN LAKE OLOIDEN Only two hours away from Nairobi, we select our favourite lodges and activities around Lake Naivasha’s smaller sister, Lake Oloiden 64. BIRTHPLACE OF THE BITTER BREW Peter Martell hunts for the home of coffee in South Sudan 66. THE TRUTH ABOUT SNAKES Stephen Spawls talks about why he continues to travel around East Africa in search of snakes, despite having lost an index finger to a puff adder many moons ago. 46. NEW HOTEL Discover Lake Nakuru National Park’s newest boutique luxury lodge, The Cliff.
REGULARS 24. POLITICAL REALITIES When Morris Kiruga set off in pursuit of politicians on the campaign trail, he imagined a glamorous few days on the road. The reality couldn’t have been more different. 27. RAIN, GLORIOUS RAIN After the desperation of the dry season, Samantha du Toit marvels at the changes a touch of rain can bring. 54. GREAT HOTELS: ONE FORTY EIGHT Amanda Sperber drops in on this boutique gem tucked in Karen and where the art and decor will make you want to treat the place like your own. 56. BUDGET PICK Think you’ve explored everything Limuru has to offer? We try a modern cottage nestled among Tigoni’s rolling tea farms. 60. RETROSPECTIVE Mo Amin, the late photographer, captures a young Samburu warrior leading his herd along a track near Laisamis. 57. THE LAST WORD A young couple heads off to the Mara on honeymoon but Betty has packed all her flamboyant dresses for the getaway, never mind that this is not quite the setting for it.
NOMAD MAGAZINE MAY/JUNE 2018
LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Letter to the editor Dear Editor, I am a wheelchair user and would like to know where to travel and not find accessibility challenges. There’s a growing trend among persons with disabilities to explore our country. My friends and I love to travel but are always hindered by inaccessible places and endure the indignity of been carried. I humbly ask that you do a feature of places where a wheelchair users can go without any impediment and maybe in the future isssue note if the hotel/space are accessible. Elly, Nairobi Dear Elly, Many thanks for your letter, and for raising such an important subject. You’re right that there is too little information currently - particularly in this region - about disabled access. We will try to redress some of the balance in future issues. Look out, too, for our online hotel reviews, where we will be including information about access, and in the magazine for more in-depth coverage of this. If you would like to ask us a travel-related question or comment on something you’ve seen in the magazine, please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will endeavour to answer you.
PETER MARTELL Dispatch, Page 64
HARMAN SINGH HEER Top Shot, Page 18
HOLLIE M’GOG Mountains of the moon, Page 36
My favourite trek was to the Nuba Mountains in Sudan. Today the area is sadly back in war, but it was peaceful and magical when I went hiking through villages between the rocky hills. The kindness of the people and beauty of the rugged outcrops are special memories. My next trek will be Rwenzori on the Uganda-Congo border, the “Mountains of the Moon.” These are some of the most dramatic, untouched and rainy mountains anywhere, and Africa’s biggest glaciers. This time, I’ll make sure my rubber boots are not two sizes too large so they stick to my feet, not the bogs.
This year’s trip to the Mara started with a surreal scene of an elephant mother and her calf on the horizon with the most amazing light rays I have ever seen. In the following days, we spent countless hours with Mara’s most prized group, the five musketeers cheetah coalition. On another evening, I was lucky enough to watch a storm hit the vast plains. Lightning literally struck the ground metres in front of our car as we headed back to camp. My dream is to visit Uganda so that I can photograph Gorillas in their natural habitat, as well as fly above Lake Bogoria in order to capture aerial photographs of the flamingos.
My favourite part about my trip was the lower forested slopes of the Rwenzori Mountains as there was so much fauna in amongst the flora. Butterflies, chameleons, chimps, loads of brightly coloured birds and plenty of buzzing insects. There were even a few leopard pugmarks, so you know you are being watched! The best trek I’ve been on was Mt Meru in Tanzania. A tough challenge but a feeling of incredible achievement after doing it. I would love to explore the Udzungwa Mountains in Southern Tanzania and the nearby Kitulo Plateau on the same trip.
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GEORGINA GOODWIN Instagram: @ggkenya Just after the sun set in Mara North Conservancy came a blast of orange and pink reflecting off the clouds in the east. From low down in a valley I picked out one acacia on a rise which had the most uninterrupted explosion of colour around it. Maximum focal length of 600mm pops the tree from its background and fills the frame, widest aperture to let the most light in and ISO 1600 high enough to allow for a non-shaky shot yet low enough not to produce too much grain. I used a Canon EOS 5DS with a 150600mm Tamron lens. My aperture was F/6.2 at 600mm. I love silhouettes, especially when thereâ€™s a stunning backdrop. Get down as low as you can to create a full outline of the silhouette making for a better capture.
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HARMAN SINGH HEER Instagram: @hshphotos We spent the afternoon with a small group of elephants and the cloud formations in the background were magnificent! I placed the camera on the ground using a monopod, clicking images with a remote shutter release. Since I was unable to shift focus, change settings or see through the viewfinder, getting a great image was tough. It ended up being all about patience and luck. I took this shot on a Canon 7D Mark II using a 16-35mm lens. My settings were: ISO100, 17mm, F/2.8 and speed 1/500. What distinguishes a good photographer from an amazing one is composition. Anyone can take a close up portrait of an elephant, but very few will get a composition that makes the viewer ask, â€œHow in the world did he/she do that?â€? Strive for that composition, and when you get it, it is one of the most exhilarating feelings ever.
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PAOLO PARAZZI Instagram: @paoloparazzi This photo was taken in The Grumeti Game Reserve, Tanzania. I shot this late in the evening after a big storm and therefore had very little light and a lot of movement to contend with. I used a Canon 5D Mark III with a 100-400mm lens. My settings were an ISO of 1,000, F6.3 and a shutter speed 1/100. Always have your camera ready to shoot as you never know what might happen next!
NOMAD MAGAZINE MAY/JUNE 2018
WHAT’S ON CANON LAUNCHES MULTIMEDIA TRAININGS AT THE BUS
The project, which is a partnership between Canon Central and North Africa (CCNA) and Cultural Video Production (CVP) aims at giving photography and videography training to youth in Kenya with the objective of widening the pool of skilled digital and media candidates in the country’s growing audio-visual industry. “We have always been advocates for the creation of creative spaces to support the development of new talents,” said CVP director Vincenzo Cavallo, adding that companies that felt they contribute to the project should get in touch with the team as “when it comes to creating partnerships we are very flexible”. There will be a total of 40 different workshops held both at the NRB Bus and the Alchemist Yard over the course of the coming year. Topics covered will include developing an understanding of storytelling technique, understanding light, shutter speed, camera movement and how to create immersive experiences by using Canon cameras. email@example.com
GORILLA NAMING CEREMONY, RWANDA 7th September
The 14th annual gorilla-naming ceremony is set to take place this September in Kinigi, Volcanoes National Park. The ceremony of giving a name to a newborn baby, popularly known as ‘Kwita Izina’, has been part of Rwandese culture for centuries. This event is significant because each name makes it easier to track individual gorillas in their family groups in the forest. 18 babies are expected to be named this year, and you can combine your trek with a guided tour over several days starting in Kigali, interacting with conservationists, attending cultural fairs in Musanze, touring lakes like Ruhondo and Burero as well as participating in discussions around gorilla conservation.
SERENGETI CULTURAL FESTIVAL 20-22 July
This annual extravaganza takes place every third week of July in Mugumu Town in Western Tanzania (in the Mara region). The three-day festival unites different tribes living between Lake Zone and Serengeti National Park in a celebration of art and culture through traditional dances, colourful crafts and exhibitions. Participating tribes include Wamagati, Ikoma, Maasai, Kurya, Sukuma, Jita and Ngoreme, and this would be a great stopover for anyone keen on exploring Tanzania’s traditional safari routes.
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Do not miss these… RHINO CHARGE 2 June
MWAKA KOGWA FESTIVAL, ZANZIBAR 30-31 July
Every year, Zanzibar celebrates ‘Mwaka Kogwa’, the traditional Shirazi or Persian New Year. Historically, the Shirazi were the first set of non-Africans to settle in Zanzibar and their cultural influences are still evident to-date. While the festival takes place all over the island, the main event is usually held in Makunduchi village in the southeast tip of the archipelago. Join participants in singing traditional folk songs, feasting, dancing and drumming. The main attraction is however a peculiar custom in which village men beat each other with banana sticks in a play fight. No referees are involved in the contest, and for one to be declared winner, his opponent must raise both hands in surrender. Meanwhile, women decked in their best outfits often fill the air with songs on love and family. Celebrations last all night accompanied by taarab music and swahili food.
Using modified off-road vehicles, teams take part in the Rhino Charge to raise money for the Rhino Ark Charitable Trust to fund its protection of the dwindling Black Rhino population in the Aberdares National Park. www.rhinocharge.co.ke
BECAUSE YOU SAID SO! IN THE WILD 1-3 June
Fancy an improv comedy show coupled with activities like game drives, tree planting and cultural visits to a Samburu village? Head off to Sarova Shaba for a weekend of fun and laughter. www.becauseyousaidso.com
DSWT RELEASES UNSUNG HEROES BOOK IN HONOUR OF ELEPHANT CONSERVATIONISTS Dame Daphne Sheldrick, who passed away at 83 on April 12 in Nairobi, devoted her life to rescuing and advocating for the protection of orphaned elephants. The DSWT (David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust) recently released a book dubbed The Unsung Heroes, her final tribute to the ongoing work of conservationists and everyone else who champion for the protection of these orphaned animals. The book curates untold stories about the elephants who were rescued from different parts of Kenya, as well as the heroes who rescued them. It features an introduction and quotes from Dame Daphne Sheldrick, and is conceptualised and produced by her daughter, Angela Sheldrick. To get purchase a copy, go to www.elephantorphans.com. PHOTOGRAPHY MIA COLLIS FOR DAVID SHELDRICK TRUST
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A KENYAN TRAVELLER
POLITICAL REALITIES ave you ever attended a political rally? In person, I mean, not via live TV. What you rarely see on the television beyond the three mics in one hand, euphoric crowds, terrible music, and the occasional teargas is the amount of travel involved. It is almost like, to borrow an American phrase, the deities gave us politics to teach us geography. Politicians probably know this country better than cartographers. In June last year, my editor Mark and I went on a road trip. We were chasing a story which required us to hit a ruling party event in Nyeri and then an opposition rally in Kakamega two days later. We were also trying to go through as many towns as possible along the way. Somewhere along the line, I learned five lessons about political rallies. First, hire a decent car. Don’t, like us, meet the guy in a back alley in the evening. You will get a car that reeks of smelly feet. The car also had no radio, and there was a suspicious noise coming from the front left wheel. This would be our chariot for more than 600 km. By the time we handed it back at Kisumu airport, we had learned to live with the odour. To beat the silence, we bought a cheap portable speaker in Thika. It
had a female Chinese voice who announced “Bluetooth is open” so many times that I could still hear her for a week after the trip. Next, get to the rally early. We were having a leisurely breakfast at a hotel in Nyeri by 9 am, confident that we were early for the event. What we didn’t know is that the itinerary is just for the big men. Everyone else is supposed to be seated and twiddling their thumbs long before. It looks good for the cameras, I guess. Add to that that you are a journalist, and the stern man with a big gun will look at you like you are a dung beetle. That look alone will ensure you are hours early for the next event. Third, people watch. With hours to spare, there’s little to do other than walk around and find a seat. Or a nice patch of grass. Or a place to stand or an odd tree to climb. At both events, the venues looked like construction sites. We had to navigate open ditches, both times after it had rained heavily. Once seated, we surveyed our surroundings. That’s when you notice the politics of seating space: the bored camera journalists who can’t wait for it to end, the restless crowd, the hawkers, and the police officers walking around. Then there’s the MC with far too much energy, and the loud music that drowns out the sounds of choppers flying overhead. In Kakamega, I found myself watching the body language on the
dais more than I listened to the speakers. I also saw just how badly our politicians dance; it already looks bad on TV, but trust me, it is worse when you are there. A lack of coordination seems to be a prerequisite for political office. Fourth, get out of there fast. Once the shenanigans are over, the big people leave first. Then we, the taxpayers, can leave. At the first rally, there was a security check on your way out. As if jostling to reach the gate, and then sitting for an hour in traffic just to travel 3 km wasn’t enough. Remember, tens of thousands of people have to be funnelled out of a stadium at the same time. Waiting for it all to end is like waiting for a stampede, and if you need both your knees, then you don’t want to wait for that. Lastly, don’t go. Here’s what they never really tell you about political rallies. They are mind-numbingly boring. I mean, there’s a certain euphoria, but most of the time, you’re just hanging around. The television cameras focus only on the energetic parts when the big show is on. Rightly so, because if more people knew just how exhausting they are, politics would die. There are better ways to see the country. Morris Kiruga blogs about travel, culture and more at owaahh.com
When Morris Kiruga set off in pursuit of politicians on the campaign trail, he imagined a glamorous few days on the road. The reality couldn’t have been more different.
NOTES FROM THE BUSH
RAIN, GLORIOUS RAIN
After the desperation of the dry season, the rains finally arrive. Samantha du Toit marvels at the changes a touch of rain can bring.
he rain has finally arrived. The dust has gone, flattened into mud by the pounding drops. At first the land just looked wet, shiny and dark but then the changes started. Slowly, to begin with, the small shoots started pushing their way up through the earth with a strength that seems slightly incomprehensible for a plant. Within days, the land had turned green as the first little responders, commonly known as the devil thorns, opened up their tiny leaves to the sun. Then came the grass shoots. Places that had been bare for almost two years started turning a vivid green, almost too green to look at directly. Walking across the plains behind camp, the children and I took to guessing what the shoots would ‘grow up’ to be. Was it a small thorn shrub, some grass or perhaps wild flowers? We marvelled to see that the little devil thorn plants turn their leaves to trace the sun throughout the day, facing east every morning, straight up in the middle of the day and west at evening time. Mushrooms, mushrooms and more mushrooms started sprouting everywhere. Small orange ones, tall umbrella ones, squishy pink ones and round balls peeping out of the undergrowth. Then came the insects, coming in waves of different types. First to appear around the
evening lanterns were little golden beetles. Then came the moths. The bats started to hang out, literally, in the dining tent, picking up their dinner of moths from the roof of the tent. Why do all the ‘dudus’ like to fly into the candles and lanterns asks Seyia, our six-year-old, as we sit watching multiple apparent suicide attempts into the candle at the dinner table. A quick consultation with a fellow researcher who has a passion for insects revealed that, amazingly, scientists still have not found the answer to that question. During the day, caterpillars wiggled their way across the paths, millipedes came out to mate and the most extraordinarily bright red velvet mites appeared everywhere, standing out in stark contrast to their green surroundings. And then the noise. I had not realised that the dry season was so quiet in comparison. Now a cacophony of frogs, toads and insects call all night, and the dawn chorus seems to be echoed back to us, bouncing off all the fresh leaves on the trees. The river itself is much louder, swollen from all the rain upstream, and, carrying natural debris in the form of logs and dead trees from far-off places, deposits them in the swamp downstream of us. There have been a few tense evenings spent watching the river, which had been dry only a few weeks before, rise and rise until
it almost overflowed its banks. The baboons were stranded in their sleeping sites up in the trees on one occasion as the river had risen around the base of the trees. However, it was good to think of the swamp being recharged and imagining the water spreading across the land downstream, bringing much needed life to the system. Our Maasai neighbours have started to move, signalling that indeed change has come to the ecosystem. Every day, more and more families are packing up their donkeys or motorbikes and making the journey with their livestock across the river to settle in their wet-season homes, allowing the dryseason area to regenerate for the first time in many seasons. Happy as they are that it has rained and that there is fresh green grass for their animals, the hardship does not end immediately for livestock keepers. Animals, weakened by the drought, continue to die from bloat caused by the sudden change in diet, and many animals are limping due to foot rot from the muddy, damp conditions. The wildlife, too, are finding their way to the plains of short, green grass behind camp. Wildebeest and zebra who have been locked into the swamp for the past months have returned, and many of the wildebeest have given birth, a sure sign they feel the rains are here to stay. And we hope they are right.
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PHOTOGRAPH BRIAN SIAMBI, COURTESY HAPPENING AFRICA
Peterson Kamwathi, a leading Kenyan artist perhaps best known for his political pieces, talks to Ivy Nyayieka about his upcoming show on migration, insightful askaris and making art more democratic.
GLOBETROTTERS WHERE DID YOU GROW UP? I grew up in Ngumo, Hurlingham and Uthiru. Some filters with which we perceive life have to do with the environment. Growing up in an urban housing estate contributes to my personality. I’m fascinated by structure and repetition. I decided to seriously focus on art around 2003. I dedicated myself to understanding my own work, the history of Kenya, the global space and my personal history. WHAT DOES UNDERSTANDING YOUR ART WITHIN GLOBAL SPACES AND YOUR OWN HISTORY MEAN? I’m fascinated by social structures exemplified by groupings and gatherings whereby the collective becomes the metaphor or identifier of a particular issue. For example, lecturers holding hands, swinging them and singing ‘solidarity forever’ is a collective act that becomes the ritual of that protest. We also just came from an election period where the queue is the perfect symbol of an electoral process. WHAT ARE SOME OF THE HIGHLIGHTS OF YOUR EARLY CAREER? When the crises in Darfur, East Timor and the Balkans happened, I followed everything that was being reported. I started looking at sheep as a metaphor for victims of conflict because of their meekness, especially when modern armaments are involved. Conflict has been there since time immemorial and comes in different shapes. There’s conflict that crosses borders and trickles all over to the internal spaces. What I’m doing now is looking at the spectacle of the collective as is visible in mass migration, especially towards Europe. We have people who are crossing the desert and ocean into an unknown. HOW DO FOREIGN RESIDENCIES INFLUENCE YOUR WORK? In as much as I think I have a sense of self, I’m not immune to all the stimuli. As much as my point of departure may be very local concerns, I’m always conscious of the fact that we are not unique. If it’s an issue of environmental change or economic disparities it resonates in Rio, Timbuktu or Kisangani. When someone screams in Kisangani, the same reverberates in Moscow. Being away might also affect my visual cues. Or it might be an awareness that there are certain solutions that have worked in other countries that may not necessarily work the same again. WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO? I have a show coming up around migration. I am not traversing the desert or crossing the Mediterranean but that doesn’t mean that I actually cannot look at that and say that this narrative has all these deficiencies. Personally, to travel, I go and queue, get a visa, and get on a plane. The unknown on the other side is diffused because I already
have faces that I am familiar with. For the project, I am looking at peoples’ hopes, strengths and aspirations. There has to be something on that other end. What is that? You are going into three geographies that are not familiar to you: you are going to a desert, you have to also try and negotiate an ocean, and then there is the Europe which you have never seen before. TELL ME ABOUT A TIME WHERE YOUR WORK’S LOCAL AND INTERNATIONAL RELEVANCE MOST STOOD OUT TO YOU. The position series in 2014. It was a reaction to the Westgate tragedy. I was not in Kenya as I was doing a residency up in Vermont. I remember going for breakfast in the morning when I heard these guys tell me, “Oh, sorry. Sorry about what is happening in your country.” I wasn’t sure what was going on so after breakfast, I went to watch the tragedy unfold. As the different perspectives emerged in the days that followed, I broke down the ritual of prayer as symbolised by the postures across the three principal organised religions within Kenya: Christianity, Islam and Hinduism. Then there is also the communal ritual of praying that has a collective part of it. I took about five postures within Christianity, seven for Islam and in Hinduism, I only found two. I never indicated which position belonged to which faith but the works were mixed up. WHICH IS A MEMORABLE SHOW YOU HAVE HAD? When I was at the GoDown, I realised that there’s a specific group of people that come to exhibitions. Then there is also an immediate community that lives or works around. We’d actually have lunch at a kiosk and the people who would come to eat there worked in the industry and had a break of about 1 ½-hours. Between eating and resting before going back for their
afternoon shift,they rarely came to my studio to look at the drawings. I remember doing these wood cuts of heads, based off the community I was in then, and these two women who owned the kiosk decided to show them in their space for three days. They did it twice over two years. People noticed it within that little kiosk setting. I think we need to find ways of making art democratic. WHAT ABOUT INTERNATIONAL FAIRS? I did the first 1-54. It was nice to have a contemporary African theme in London. They just did the first edition in Marrakech. As much as you say the world is more connected now, nothing beats looking at artwork at a fair. You have all these different galleries from all over. Once, when I saw work by Leonard Swizzle, we had a chat with the secutity guard. He asked me “Do you know that work?” I told him that I knew of the artist. He said, “Do you know how much this piece is?” Then he gave me a figure and so I asked him, “Do you think it is worth it?” He responded, “Yeah, if I had the money, I would buy it.” He was into it, and he was ushering me into the glamour. I had a similar encounter at the Village Market in Nairobi when Manjano was happening. So I walked in and as you come up the upper level parking, you could see the works on the outside. As I was looking, the guard come and asked me what I thought of the pieces. Eventually the conversation boiled down to prices.“Wow, they are expensive,” I said. “You know, you can keep on looking at these things for a hundred years... this thing might live longer than you,” he responded, urging me to go look at the pieces inside. Peterson Kamwathi is represented internationally by ARTLabAfrica. www.artlabafrica.com
NOMAD MAGAZINE MAY/JUNE 2018
RUMBLE IN THE JUNGLE Charlotte Beauvoisin shares some of her Mountain gorilla trekking experiences and key tips for planning a trip to meet these gentle giants.
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NOMAD MAGAZINE MAY/JUNE 2018
very encounter with the Mountain Gorillas is different. A once-in-a-lifetime experience. I’ve tracked three times and can’t wait to do it again! I first tracked the gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda. The climb through the mist-covered slopes of the jungle and a nearby tea plantation were a magical start to the whole experience. When we encountered the gorillas, we felt very at ease in each other’s company, and matter-offact, the Silverback slept through our entire hour together! The highlight was watching a baby gorilla hanging by one arm, eyeballing us from the moss-covered trees above. My next trek in Rwanda was an hour crammed with activity. We watched twin baby gorillas playing with their mother. We then crouched against the bamboo to give the family their space, not expecting they would push past us and as their lustrous black fur touched our legs, we screamed inwardly with excitement. A few minutes later we had front row seats to the Silverback’s mating rituals. Huge adult gorillas munched tender shoots of the bamboo towering above our heads. All of this action was to the accompaniment of creaking bamboo (would they fall on us?) and loud gorilla farts. If you are also keen on setting off on this adventure, here is the perfect guide to get you started: Where can I see the Mountain Gorillas? The Mountain Gorilla population straddles three countries: Uganda, Rwanda and the DRC. Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park supports the largest population of Mountain Gorillas. Buhoma, to the north of the forest, is the most popular place to stay. Nkuringo, Rushaga and Ruhija, to the south, also give access to gorilla families. There is one very engaging gorilla family in Uganda’s Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Rwanda’s gorillas inhabit Volcanoes National Park, an area made famous by the primatologist Dian Fossey, who is buried there, right next to her beloved gorilla- Digit. Gorilla tracking in the Congo’s Virunga National Park Congo is becoming popular again, although tracking opportunities are limited. How much does it cost to track the Mountain Gorillas? Sales of gorilla permits have made a significant impact on the recovery of the mountain gorilla populations, from 254 individuals in the 1980s to 880 in 2013. However, they remain criticality endangered and are under 24-hour security with their movements and health constantly being monitored.
During a trek, you have an over 95% chance of seeing the gorillas and tracking permits are therefore highly sought after. A maximum of 8-10 people over age 15 can visit each family per day during a single one-hour session. In 2018, the costs for a gorilla tracking permit are: Uganda: EAC citizens 250,000 Uganda shillings; foreign residents $500; international tourists $600. Rwanda: all permits cost $1,500. DRC: permits cost $400 (except for Congolese citizens who pay $150). Your gorilla permit includes National Park entry, one hour with the gorillas and professional ranger guides who escort you while sharing unlimited gorilla facts. You can buy permits up to two years ahead of time through the Uganda Wildlife Authority, the Rwanda Development Board, online at www. visitvirunga.org (for the DRC) or through a tour company. If you plan to track between June and October or Christmas / New Year, you should book six months in advance, particularly if you are a group.
Your gorilla permit includes National Park entry, one hour with the gorillas and professional ranger guides who escort you while sharing unlimited gorilla facts. When is the best time to see the Mountain Gorillas? Although you can track throughout the year, some prefer to avoid the rainy seasons (March to April and October to November). However, there is a high chance of a shower most days (clue: you’re in the rainforest!) If you’re tracking in Rwanda in September, you are invited to attend the Kwita Izina gorillanaming ceremony, a celebration of Rwanda’s gorilla conservation success. What can I expect when I’m tracking the gorillas? Tracking the gorillas is non-technical but mostly uphill through vegetation so does
require stamina. It’s therefore important to pack the right equipment and plenty of water. (It’s easy to become dehydrated at high altitudes especially when you are absorbed by the beguiling primates). Hire a porter and support the local community with a few hours’ employment. No tourist has ever been seriously hurt by a habituated gorilla. However, it’s important to follow all the directions from the rangers for you and the gorillas’ protection. One hour is allowed with the gorillas, at a distance of at least seven metres. You must not touch them, even if they come close. Gorillas and humans share 98% of the same genes meaning our giant vegetarian cousins are highly susceptible to many of our diseases; you should not go tracking if you have diarrhoea, a cold or the flu. Tracking starts with an early morning briefing by the rangers. The fittest trackers are given the gorilla families that are distant or at high altitude. Expect the track to take one to three hours each way. During your hour with the gorillas, you may watch them sleep, feed, groom or climb trees. On one occasion, a female gorilla walked right through the middle of our tracking group with her twin babies in tow! Every encounter is different. Your hour may pass quickly so remember to come out from behind the camera occasionally and enjoy the moment. Simply recalling being in the presence of these magnificent creatures still brings a smile to my face. Back at base, successful trackers will be given their gorilla tracking certificate.Talk about Bragging rights! How to get there: Uganda: Bwindi and Mgahinga are 8-10 hours’ drive from Kampala and Entebbe International Airport. Alternatively, a round trip flight from Entebbe with AeroLink costs $542. You can also fly to Kigali and drive across the border (for 3 – 5 hours, depending on your final destination). Rwanda: The drive to Virunga National Park is approximately two hours from Rwanda’s capital city. DRC: Fly directly to Goma or cross the land border at Gisenyi (Lake Kivu) in Rwanda. From here it is approximately two hour’s drive to the gorilla tracking area. Find the writer’s ecotourism guide “Walking with gorillas - tracking the gentle giants of East Africa” on her blog, Diary of a Muzungu www.diaryofamuzungu.com.
* Note: Tourism is currently suspended in Congo’s Virunga National Park. Check out www.virunga.org for updates.
NOMAD MAGAZINE MAY/JUNE 2018
A JOURNEY IN MAASAI LAND
Tamara Britten takes to the little-known trails through the Loita Hills, connecting the Maasai Mara and Lake Magadi and finds unexpected comforts along the way.
ietnamese spring rolls with peanut dip, fresh Greek salad, homemade hummus and pitta bread. Looking at this elaborate spread, laid out on a fold-out table surrounded by safari chairs on a hill overlooking an emerald valley, I immediately knew this would be an improvement on my usual camping experiences. The Loita Hills, a range rising up between the Maasai Mara and Magadi, has rarely been written about in tourist publications. But this is an omission. These striking hills are some of the last remaining parts of Kenya that haven’t been partitioned, where you can wander freely for days, clambering up cliffs and plunging into waterfalls on a whim, and camping in secluded spots wherever you choose. It was in these lovely hills that Jan Grootenhuis established Jan’s Camp back in the 1980s. When Adrian Hughes took over the camp, he quickly realised the potential of the area. Exploring the hills on foot, he was bowled over by it, and so began his Maasai Trails. When I embarked on the walk, I knew little about the area. The Mara I knew, and
Magadi too, but these rolling hills between them were little more than a backdrop to me. This was to change. Safarilink flew us to the Mara, giving us views of a land that was unusually green after the recent rains. Adrian met us at Siana airstrip and drove us through the southern part of the Mara into the foothills of the Loita Hills. We stopped at a viewpoint where we met the Maasai who were to be our guides for the trip: Lemeria, Panae and Ntiyani. Overwhelmed by the views tumbling from our peak in every direction, I barely noticed the guys setting up lunch with the speed and efficiency of a team of silver service waiters. While we ate, our guides weighed all the luggage and camping gear so as to distribute it equally among the donkeys that would be our companions along the way. We set off, striding through open plains surrounded by dense forest, across a valley and through some marshes. Clear blue skies made the green somehow greener, and the sunlight glinted off the patches of water left by the night’s rains. Our guides – ahead of us and behind us – were happy to answer any questions we had on all subjects ranging from the flora we were walking through to their traditions, to what they
thought about cows. Cows, of course, feature large in the life of a Maasai. Adrian’s signature move is to stand, legs astride, arms flung wide, overlooking a broad vista, and proclaim at volume: AFRICA! And walking through the Loitas it’s easy to be stirred by his enthusiasm. This land, unfenced as far as the eye can see, epitomises the vast space of this continent in a way few places now do. Africa spills from the escarpments, unfurls across the plains and fades to mist on the distant horizons. After wading across the glistening Ol Lasur River, we rounded a corner and entered our camp. Some of the team had beaten us to it and had set up camp. As with the food, attention to detail was extraordinary: a shower tent, discreetly set in a copse, with a branch towel rail, mirrored beauty set hooked to a branch, and shampoo and body wash in a little pocket; beautiful pop-tents set at a discreet distance from each other equipped with bedding and towels; and a soaring fly sheet shading a spacious mess area. The bar was set up, tea and coffee made available, and hot water for those who wanted showers. While the sun turned pink over our heads and we celebrated this daily event with sundowners, three Morans passed
by. After their circumcision and before becoming the guardians of their people, young Maasai are free to wander the area. Theatrically made up, legs painted ochre and foreheads adorned with headdresses, they tossed their plaits and greeted us with magnificent disdain. A man of indeterminate age, known to our guides simply as Dorobo after his tribe, strolled into camp, knelt at our fire, and demonstrated the making of poison arrows. Squatting by the flames, he carved the arrow, chewing roots and rolling their glue in his hands, slitting feathers and attaching them with goat tendons, and forming the arrowhead with chicken wire and chain link. To my disappointment, he refused to share the recipe for the poison he dabbed on its lethal tip. The following morning after a breakfast made more dramatic by the mist lying beneath the peaks, we walked to the highest point of the hills – Oltyiani – learning as we did so the story of how the Forest of the Lost Child, through which we walked, got its name. According to legend, two small girls competed to collect ripe berries without opening their eyes. The older child sneaked a peak and won. The younger, dejected when she opened
her eyes on her pitiful collection of unripe berries, returned alone to the animal-filled forest to gather more. And was never seen again. “She must have turned into a tree,” our guide said matter-of-factly. “Or a rock.” As we climbed paths weaving through dense undergrowth, we saw fresh buffalo dung and our Maasai guides told us what we should do if we came face to face with a lone and angry buffalo - essentially fling your backpack away and pin yourself to the ground. “If you have a backpack on your back, the buffalo can slide his horn between you and the bag and toss you into the air. But if you lie flat without a bag, he might not be able to,” our guide told us. The words weren’t reassuring. Several viewpoints along the ascent gave us a taste of the stunning views that spooled from the peak on all sides when finally we stepped from the forested slopes and emerged into the clearing at the top. After descending through a less dense section of the forest, we spent the day strolling across verdant plains and gently rolling hills, stopping for lunch at a shaded spot, and ending at a second suddenlysprung campsite, this time in a leafy glade. Another decadent dinner preceded a night of deep and exhausted sleep in
tents furnished with mattresses and solar lamps. After a breakfast of fresh fruits, we skidded down a plunging path from the hills to the blistering flats of Magadi where we were met by the team from Lentorre lodge. Arriving after a short drive at this luxurious lodge was the icing on the cake. We wallowed in our private plunge pools soothing aching limbs, enjoyed a game drive with sightings of herds of zebra and buffalo, sipped our sundowners on a hillock overlooking the plains, and were treated to a surprise visit from a nocturnal aardwolf on our way back into camp. After dinner, we slept the sleep only those who have trekked over the Loitas can. The writer was a guest of Maasai Trails and African Territories.
Driving from Nairobi to the beginning of the Loita Hills trail takes five or six hours. Or you can fly from Nairobi to Siana Springs, where the team will pick you up for a scenic four-hour drive up to the start of the walk. Two-night trails start from Ksh 35,500 pp, but contact African Territories (www. africanterritories.com) for a tailored quote. Trails, lasting up to seven-nights, can be arranged.
NOMAD MAGAZINE MAY/JUNE 2018
MOUNTAINS OF THE MOON With the weather closing in and visibility near zero just a short climb from the peak of Mt Stanley, the highest peak in the Rwenzori Range, Hollie Mâ€™gog wonders if she might be out of her depth.
DISCOVER EXPLORE EXPERIENCE
he wind howled around us as I pulled my woollen fleece lined hat firmly down over my ears and held it there. Clouds jostled about us and at times, my companion Anne-Marthe simply vanished. Surely, my miserable cold mind reasoned, we had to turn around soon? The crampons felt strange on my feet, constricting and unwieldy. Anne-Marthe motioned to me to keep my feet apart so as to make sure the sharp teeth didn’t catch on the alternate leg and trip me up. I was tired and fighting to keep my concentration clear. I peered into the white-out ahead and around me and caught sight of Grace, the third member of our small party, signalling to stop. It was a crevasse – quite a large one: Grace drilled in a snow screw and carefully crossed the deep chasm. My heart hammered as I stepped into her prints. This whole game was new to me: I had never donned crampons, never crossed crevasses, never been roped to someone else on a mountain climb. We were attempting to climb Mt Stanley, Africa’s third-largest mountain straddling the border of Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda, part of the Rwenzori range sometimes romantically described as the Mountains of the Moon. Our Congo adventure started in the White House Hotel in Kasese, Uganda, a half-hour from the border. The waiter brought breakfast to our table - dry sweet toast and a pile of tropical fruit. “Do you like rain?” he asked with a smile. “It will rain on the mountain this week.” We hoped not, but in reality the rain was inevitable. With a map spread out on the table, we re-worked the small details as we waited for our lift. A BODA-BODA INTO CONGO We crossed the border feeling bold, excited and fit. Photos with border officials complete, our pre-arranged transport met us and off we motored along a road beset with deep mud holes. It wasn’t long before we joined a trailing
tail of trucks at an enormous truck sink-hole. In minutes, we turned the smiling Congolese bystanders into an efficient line of porters to carry our gear through the mud to the other side where we managed to hitch a lift with a UN official. Not too happily and with much talk of rebels, they dropped us on the road edge 40 km towards Beni. Here we met our mountain ranger Alex, hired boda-bodas and headed, in a fine drizzle, to Mtwanga, our climbing base. Welly boots being my climbing shoe of choice, we started up the mountain beneath breaking cloud. It was a steep climb up to ‘The Guides Hut,’ an old Belgian cabin and a welcome place to rest. Beyond, the jungle closed in and the tropical heat made us glad of light clothes. The path crept along ridges, wound down to clear flowing streams, under rocky overhangs, through giant tree ferns and bananas. Chimps had been feeding on banana shoots and their messy eating littered the way. We began to hear them - hysterical shrieks, excited hoots and mutterings. Luxuriant undergrowth broke suddenly to allow glimpses of the thick vegetation of the neighbouring ridges and our minds kept creeping back ... we were in the jungle ... in the Congo! And then we arrived at Kalonge Hut, where we marvelled at how comfortable, well built and practical it was. Isaac, our porter, already had the fire lit and the kettle boiling. UPWARDS TO THE MOON Before we could push for the summit, we had three days of upward slog, safari ants in angry lines and grasses that reached out to sting with pesky hairs. On one crest, a metal cross marked an old shrine site, now banned by the government, where one would pray for a safe and successful ascent. We shared a nutty trail mix and hoped for no rain. In the Cloud forest, orchids rang with invisible tree frogs, fruity throated turacos and green pigeons. When the forest broke and the vast tract of Congo lay at our feet, tree heathers with green and brown lichens began. The heavens sent
NOMAD MAGAZINE MAY/JUNE 2018
rain, we found cover and as the sun sank, the Gods drew back the clouds to reveal the snow capped peaks of Mt Luigi (4,627m). It was a tough climb to Kiondo Hut (4,303m). Lac Noir and glimpses of Lac Vert appeared below us. Dusk brought clarity and more snowy peaks but the hut was cold, the air noticeably thinner and teas cooled fast, so we bedded down and slept dry. ON CRACKED ICE As Kiondo fell away, we headed down towards the shores of Lac Vert over a dicey rock scramble with fixed ropes to grip. Water had made the path down slippery and it took balance and skill to reach the lake. The rainheavy clouds followed us up the scree slopes and glacial moraine to the little square shape of Moraine Hut where we nursed hot tea as the rain began. 3am and the stars were twinkling. The rain had gone. 5am and the stars had disappeared. By 5.30, we were roped up on the Stanley Glacier, crampons, snow boots, ice axes and gloves. The wind had picked up and was uncomfortably cold. “It’s knowing when to make the distinction between being very cold that you think you are in danger and being dangerously cold,” coached Anne-Marthe, who had previously succumbed to frostbite while setting polar bear fences around tent camps in the Arctic. “And right now, you are just Hollie complaining about being cold.” The Stanley Glacier ended and the wind howled. Scudding clouds raced towards each other in the dawn and the visibility lessened.
We un-roped and began the hour-long navigation between, over, under and around the rocks. Pausing at the base of the Margherita glacier, we roped up again. Grace led, followed by Alex and me, with Anne-Marthe bringing up the rear with her quiet confidence. My confidence wavered when Grace stumbled at our first crevasse and I watched carefully as she made the crossing safe for us. “Ok, now stop!” Grace called out loud and clear. “You’re going to need to add some speed and jump the gap.” I fumbled with the weight of my clothes and pack and wondered if I could do it. “It’s only about a sixty centimetre gap,” said Grace. “But you need to make sure you get across it, failing is not an option.” I jumped. And seemingly with ease, I landed on the other side. Just 20 minutes further on, we came to a snow lip but there was no visibility left. We knew that Mt Stanley’s Margherita peak (5,109m) stood to one side, but where? Alex looked at the cloud. “The weather is turning,” he said. “These clouds could bring rain, and rain is not good for crossing crevasses safely.” Grace looked at the altimeter. We were 200 vertical metres from the summit. The wind rushed her words away as she conferred with Anne-Marthe. “I think we have to turn back. We can’t risk it.” And so we turned back. So close and yet so far, and yet for me this was an irrelevance, my diary captures my mood exactly: “For the first time on ice in crampons, I feel that I’ve come away successful.”
From the Congo side, it takes about five or six days to reach Margherita Peak (5,109m) on Mt Stanley in the Rwenzoris. It is best arranged via the Visit Virungas website, and will cost approximately $700, excluding visa costs. From the Ugandan side, it takes about seven or eight days, and treks are arranged by Rwenzori Trekking Services or Rwenzori Mountaineering Services. The cost is approximately $900-$1,000 for the round trip. * Note: Tourism is currently suspended in Congo’s Virunga National Park. Check out www.virunga.org for updates.
TRAILS A SHORT HOP FROM NAIROBI BY GEORGINA SMITH
OLOLOSOKUAN NATURE TRAIL
If an adventurous rock climb is what you’re after, this hike in Kajiado county can be reached in an hour. The rocky path starts off along the rift valley escarpment, over boulders and past huge trees nestling in the mountain ridge. Climb down into the valley and across the Ololosokuan river bed, before coming up against nature’s ultimate challenge: the 12-metre rock face. If you suddenly contracted vertigo, the bad news is that the only way is up, unless you fancy the hour-long trek back the way you came. Nothing can beat the sense of achievement on getting to the top though,
and on a clear day, you can see Mount Suswa in the distance from the escarpment. The scramble up the rock face is not especially technical and can be done without climbing gear.
GETTING THERE AND BACK:
Take Ngong road through Karen to Ngong town. At Ngong town, there is a small roundabout. Take the left for around 5 kilometres – the tarmac ends after 2.5 kilometres and continues as a dirt road for another 2.5 kilometres before you will see a signpost for Ololosokuan. For more information and to arrange a guide, contact Jackson at Savannah Sunset Resort: +254 743814053.
FOOTHILLS OF MOUNT KENYA
Set in the thick forested foothills of Mount Kenya, this lush rainforest is complete with waterfalls and stunning views of the valley and mountain peak. You will need a guide to navigate the trail passages through dense
forest, but you don’t need any technical skill and the walks can be taken at an easy pace. The tree canopy is home to hundreds of bird species – this is a birding paradise. Tread over bright green moss and listen to diverse bird song as you pass under towering medicinal trees, through colourful plants and wild flowers. A pathway cut into the side of a steep hill eventually leads you down to the twin waterfalls, where a rock pool awaits below and you can dip your feet in the cool water, giant wild banana plants hanging overhead. You can also arrange horse riding through the forest and bird watching trips.
GETTING THERE AND BACK:
The main road is an easy two-hour drive from Nairobi on a good road, though the road from the gate is dirt and you may need a 4x4 in the rainy season. Take Thika highway north to the C73. Follow the road to Kutus and Kimunye, until you reach the gate to the Mount Kenya National Park. Follow the road for another 15 minutes to the Castle Forest Lodge, where the hikes start. You can also take a bus to Kimunye and a boda boda to
PHOTOGRAPH PETER NDUNG’U
It happens to the best of us. Despite intentions to get out of the city come Friday, we find ourselves planted firmly on the coach after a hard week’s work. But fret not. If you haven’t got as far as planning a weekend away but still want to get out of town for a few hours of hiking, some beautiful trails await. If you can stay one night or more the better, but these four gems are accessible day trips.
the lodge. Contact Jackson to arrange short or long walks from two to six hours, and for more information: +254 731 407109.
River walk in trout and tea country MATHIOYA RIVER HIKE
If a light, relaxing walk through lush countryside is what you’re after, this trail along the beautiful Mathioya River offers a pure tonic from city life. A leafy footpath dotted with stiles passes through farm boundaries along the river, between patches of dense eucalyptus forest, emerald green tea fields and maize farms. Downstream, the river is popular with tourists rafting its winding path, but here, the waterway is too narrow for rafting and is much quieter. Set against the backdrop of the Aberdares, green backdrops and cold, tumultuous water eddying through the rocks make for some beautiful shots. In the heat of the day take a light dip in the cool water, and if you’re lucky, catch a glimpse of the trout. You can also arrange trout fishing.
GETTING THERE AND BACK
through clusters of other-worldly looking giant groundsel plants, rocks and flat open moors, before reaching the rocky peak at around 4,000 metres. The hike is strenuous because of the elevation, but not technically difficult, and gentle for most of the way except for a steep 15-minute climb to the peak. Depending on how often you stop to take photos - or eat snacks - it should take around five hours in total to walk to the top and back.
GETTING THERE AND BACK:
The drive takes between 2-2 ½ hours on winding but well-tarmacked roads in Muranga county. Take the Thika highway past Thika town and join the C71, which will take you through Muranga County to the C72. Head to Gatunguru tea factory and towards Aberdare Cottages and Campsite. You can organise hikes and lunch from the cottages. Contact Zac: +254 721646613 or Pete: +254 711342999.
This is a hard day out and will need a little planning. If you’re prepared, however, this trip to the highest peak in the Aberdare mountain range is well worth it. You’ll need a 4x4 vehicle, enough energy for a full day out, lots of water and snacks, and an armed guard to accompany you because there are wild animals in the park. From the gate, it’s a steep drive through beautiful ancient bamboo forest and giant heather to the start point for the hike - your guide will show you where this is. Continue on foot up a narrow rocky path which winds
With minimal traffic before day break, it will take around three hours to reach Mutubio gate from Nairobi. Follow the A 104 and then C67 to Njabini. From there it is 17 km to the small town of Engineer and another 7 km to Ndunyu Njeru, from where you will pick up signs for the Aberdare National Park. Bring warm clothes, rain gear, strong walking boots, snacks, lunch and plenty of water. There are no provisions in the park so you need to bring everything with you. Guides are compulsory, check park fees in advance and arrange your guide with the Kenya Wildlife Service via Geoffrey Kariuki: +254 722 403 665.
NOMAD MAGAZINE MAY/JUNE 2018
The secrets to an authentic
MASAI MARA SAFARI Undoubtedly the highlight in every safari the Masai Mara teems abundance all year round: the famous Big Five, plenty of predators, plains game and others and not to forget the unique spectacle of the wildebeest migration. Equally ‘The Mara’ is one of Kenya’s busiest of safari regions –herds of up to 20 minibuses surround wildlife scenes, fighting for the best position. But happily, there are ways to avoiding those crowds and enjoy a unique safari experience. The greater Mara is home to about 25% of Kenya’s wildlife. Apart from the Masai Mara National Reserve many private wildlife conservancies and the Mara Triangle form the region. The National Reserve counts large numbers of economy-minded travellers with many lodges and camps inside and around the reserve. Private conservancies attract well-heeled visitors paying for truly luxurious accommodation. With game drives exclusively for guests, visitors are few – but often without big attractions. The Mara Triangle is an excellent alternative – with only a handful of options in- and outside the area targeting middle to higher class guests. The Triangle offers well maintained roads, clear off-road driving and game viewing rules –allowing only five vehicles per sighting and certain distances to be kept. Poaching is kept to a minimum, no cattle rustling and well maintained roads.
All this leads to an excellent game viewing experience for visitors while being in an area that is not overcrowded. The great migration is awe- inspiring and as a consequence, the Mara is busy in the peak migration season from mid-July to mid-October. The key point is to accept that to witness a river crossing; you are not likely to escape the crowds. If possible, arrange your visit slightly before or after this period - you still have the chance of witnessing a crossing (in recent years from mid-June to mid-December) but visitors are significantly less. The Mara Triangle is ideal for migration river crossings as most parts of the Mara River flow here, often featuring major crocodile action while still having less visitors. To get the most out of your safari, do not focus exclusively on the migration: there are always ways to avoid feeling crowded and there are many interesting animal sightings at any time of year. Our tip: Choose accommodation close to the Mara Triangle but not necessarily inside. This allows you to experience walking safaris and other activities permitted inside the reserves. Game drives can also take place in the private Mara North Conservancy - home to Leopard Gorge, a birthing and maternity ground for big cats made famous by the BBC. From December to May thousands of wildebeest migrate from the Loita Hills to Mara North.Smaller places offer
individual services and flexible game drives. The experience to sleep in a tent with luxurious beds and still be very close to nature and hear zebras grazing next to your tent is a very special one. Lastly: Your Guide on safari will make the difference. Make sure your guide has vast experience in the Mara. Ideally have a vehicle for yourself so that you can decide where you would like to go, what you would like to see, for how long and the guide can focus on your needs. Mara Siria Tented Camp & Cottages is perfect for an authentic safari experience. Perched on top of the Siria Escarpment offeringstunning views, the camp offers only twelve tents and two cottages. Individual service for every guest is guaranteed.Facilities include a lounge, a restaurant, a wine cellar and a plunge pool. The camp is located right outside the Oloololo Gate of the Mara Triangle and offers a range of activities that will turn an already unique holiday into a once in a lifetime experience: Nature walks, mountain biking trips - range from gentle rides to challenging adventures, horse riding, balloon safaris or helicopter flights and visits to a traditional Masai Village or school. Game drives range from early morning drives with breakfast out in the savannah (enjoying the opportunity to witness predators either hunting or feeding on their prey) to full day game drives - including a picnic.
NOMAD MAGAZINE MAY/JUNE 2018
COMPETITION At the beginning of this year, the Angama Foundation, in partnership with Nomad, launched a competition to find the best images from the Maasai Mara. Here, we showcase the first of the monthly winners. From 10 monthly winners, one lucky photographer will take home $10,000 in cash and win a five-night stay at the Angama Mara. For details on how to enter, see opposite page.
MARCH WINNER “MARTIAL EAGLE FEEDING ON A WHITE STORK” BY TORSTEN BREHM “A Martial Eagle is feeding on a White Stork on top of a small hill. To pull the Stork into a better position, the eagle had to open his wings.” “It was perfect that the eagle was sitting on this small hill hence I could get the perfect perspective.” CAMERA SETTINGS: Canon EOS 1 Dx Mark II | Canon EF 200-400 mm 1.4 TC | 8.0 | 1/640 sec | 1250
APRIL WINNER ‘THE GUARDIAN OF THE NIGHT’ BY FERNANDO MORALES The photo is composed of a panoramic of 5 shots. Each shot is made with 25 seg, F2.8, 14mm , ISO 6400. In each shot, I used a warm light flashlight to illuminate the floor and the Maasai “I came out of my tent at Enkewa Camp in the night for dinner and I saw a great Milky Way. Around the area there was a Maasai worker caring for our safety. That is when I visualized the picture that I wanted take. I just had to tell him to stay as still as possible for 25 seconds” CAMERA SETTINGS: Nikon D750 | Nikon 14-24 F2.8 | 2.8 | 25seg | 6400 INSTAGRAM: @nandomorales33
NOMAD MAGAZINE MAY/JUNE 2018
DISCOVER EXPLORE EXPLOREEXPERIENCE EXPERIENCE
VIEW FROM THE TOP Tucked away in Lake Nakuru National Park, Nakuruâ€™s latest boutique luxury entrant, The Cliff, may well be just the breath of fresh air the town needs to inject some verve into its hospitality industry. TEXT WENDY WATTA PHOTOGRAPHY BRIAN SIAMBI, JERRY RILEY
NOMAD MAGAZINE MAY/JUNE 2018
Whatever your calling international traveller, smart weekender, corporate strategist, or nature watcher - The Cliff, with its sensitive blend of space, privacy, style, service and scenery will make you feel on top of the world.
unzip my tent all the way to the top then roll up the flaps, allowing the morning light to wash over the room, illuminating the rustic yet modern European-style furniture within. Gingerly, I step out onto the balcony, now wet from the overnight rains whose patter on my tent punctuated by peals of hyena laughter had kept me company through the night. Barefoot, I pad across the deck to the protective rail at the end of the balcony and take in the beauty of Lake Nakuru which, only a couple of years back, would have been specked by a flock of blush pink flamingos happily wading about in its waters. Mine is one of ten spacious tents in Nakuru’s latest boutique luxury entrant bound to be a hit with both domestic and international tourists, particularly given the relatively affordable rates. The deck on which I stand is perched on a cliff about 100m high, hence the name of the camp. A freestanding bathtub within the tent overlooks the lake and I idly contemplate running a bath and fixing up a hot cup of milk coupled with the chef’s tempting jar of freshly baked pastries which are complementary with each room, before heading off to my pre-booked yoga session at the gym. The Cliff stands out for various reasons, notably the obvious absence of safari chairs and maasai blankets which are always a key fixture in tented camps. The chic decor here could very well place the
living spaces in a high-end boutique hotel in Nairobi. To ensure that they get things right, the owner explains that over a four year period, he changed architects three times before settling on one to come up with a design that would maximize the obvious advantage of the cliff and the lake, all without destroying the site given its protected location within Lake Nakuru National Park. Having been going to the Mara since the 70s, the owner not only has a palpable passion for wildlife and safaris but has also seen enough lodges to know what he wanted to do different at The Cliff. Nothing was left to chance, with the staff for instance being trained for about 7 months before the camp’s official opening on April 25th. His wife runs an interior design company, Spiegel Interiors, that specializes in high-end homes, and he picked up a few tricks from her over the years. Most of the decor around the camp was decided on by him, and the attention to detail can be seen in items like the handmade throws, customised designer furnishings, Timothy Oulton furniture and the well curated contemporary artwork decked along the walls, mostly featuring flamingos and other wildlife. The restaurant’s continental menu which has distinct Thai influences is in itself reason enough to stay at The Cliff, and the food could very well rival some of Nairobi’s top spots. For dinner, the chef serves up three delectable courses with a hot roast pepper and tomato soup to start, perfect for the cold evening.
The main meal is a juicy tender beef fillet packed with flavour with a lemon mustard sauce and potato lattice, crowned by a Belgian mousse for dessert. At the fully-stocked main bar where a bartender who doubles up as the barista deftly whips me up a mochacino, the eye is immediately drawn to a bold and daring canary yellow leather sofa behind which stands three indoor plants. The spa, an architectural and decor marvel in itself features only the very best africology products, and the technogym which overlooks an infinity pool and the lake further beyond is enough to inspire anyone to workout. Guests can also go on game drives around the national park which is flanked by rocky escarpments and dotted with pockets of acacia forest, with the likelihood of spotting wildlife like leopards, buffaloes, rothschild giraffes, rhinos, buffaloes, lions and more. Long seen as a stopover point for people heading to Western Kenya or on the Mara circuit, The Cliff may well be just the breath of fresh air Nakuru needs to inject some verve into its hospitality industry.
THE CLIFF - LAKE NAKURU NATIONAL PARK Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com Tel: (+254 ) 748 813006, (+254) 754 011142 @thecliffke
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Weekend away in
TEXT WENDY WATTA PHOTOGRAPHY: BRIAN SIAMBI
Lake Naivasha’s often overlooked smaller sister, Lake Oloiden, is a volcanic crater lake whose name means ‘salty’ in the Maa language. One of the most intriguing things about this lake is that given its salinity, it used to harbour an impressive flock of flamingos, but today they have since been replaced by freshwater birds such as pelicans and the African fish eagle. This is because Oloiden has since turned into a freshwater lake given the rise in water levels which, in Lake Naivasha which is only 200m away for instance, have been unusually high due to heavy rains. There is speculation that should its water levels go down, Lake Oloiden will likely turn salt again. In this issue, we set off for Naivasha about 2 hours away from Nairobi in a Renault Kadja from our partners at SimbaCorp. We were keen to spend the weekend discovering the range of activities and properties available around the lake. Aim for at least two nights, although given Naivasha’s proximity to Nairobi, this may well also be a day trip. If you are traveling on a tight budget, consider Oloiden Camp Site which is stark by the lake and costs less than Ksh 1,000 if you have your own gear. If you’re looking for luxury, however, check out our three highlighted houses, all of which are able to set up the recommended activities for you.
NOMAD MAGAZINE MAY/JUNE 2018
BOAT RIDES & BIRD WATCHING
Most high-end properties have their own boats. For the cheapest rates,however, head out to the public jetty marked by colourful wooden boats and negotiate directly with owners. Be sure to get an experienced guide. Ours for instance pointed out about seven families of hippos which sometimes inched dangerously close to our boat, heightening the thrill of the experience. He also spotted various bird species such as pelicans which are mostly white, herons and storks which somewhat resemble each other, cormorants, the African fish eagle which is adept at spotting its prey then diving fast into the water before victoriously revealing the fish caught in its talons, as well as the kingfisher which typically has a large head with short legs and a long, pointed beak.
Your boat should dock on a public stretch of land marked by thick pockets of acacia trees. Should you decide to go on a walking safari here, and ours took about 40 minutes, be sure to wear hiking shoes, pants and preferably long sleeved shirts because the grass and certain plants here can cause itching and eventual rashes. Right off the bat, we spotted a herd of zebra a few metres away but the guide told us not to go too far off without him because there were buffaloes lurking around. Shortly after, we chanced upon a giraffe followed by encounters with warthogs, thompson gazelles, waterbucks, elands and other impalas.
Built in 1926, this property has seen numerous visitors including Winston Churchill and Ernest Hemingway. “We take our conservation very seriously,” says our host Helen Hartley. “It’s all privately funded by a Polish family who set up an organisation called ARR (Animal Rights Reserved) who are involved in things like wildlife rescue and protection with people calling in from as far as Mt Elgon”. When you stay at the house, it helps to know that your money goes towards supporting a good cause. The property has four doubles and one family room, and two extra doubles can be availed on request. Kids are often attracted to their rabbit hutch and the animal orphanage. Rates are the same for both local and domestic guests throughout the year at Ksh 16,000 Monday to Thursday, and Ksh 20,000 from Friday through the weekend, excluding game drives. www.munduihouse.com
PHOTO: NEIL THOMAS
LUCITA FARM GUEST HOUSE
Owned by an Austrian family, this is the sort of home where you would feel comfortable putting your feet up. The decor is rustic country chic, and if you love art, Lucita farm is a haven! There are three properties on the farm; two (3 and 4 bedroom) guesthouses great for families and a stable suite perfect for couples. The guesthouses are spacious, complete with fully equipped kitchens. The stable suite is all white with quirky decor and if you look out the window, you are likely to spot a waterbuck milling about the foliage. There are also two horses and dogs on the farm, including an adorable pup called Scooby. Prices are Ksh 29,000 for the smaller cottage and Ksh 35,000 for the bigger one. Available for booking on airbnb.
THE MANOR HOUSE
This colonial tudor-style house sits on the exclusive Hippo Point conservancy along with the wooden 120 foot Dodo’s tower. The Manor House was derelict before being purchased by its current owners about 30 years ago, and they have since transformed it into the cozy home it is today while retaining much of its Elizabethan charm. Boasting 8 rooms that can sleep up to 15 people sharing, some of the living spaces have been renovated, with stables being turned into two-storey one bedroom pads and a granary now serving as a main lounge. The decor is European and African, mixing contemporary art with locally made quirky pieces to create the perfect balance. Perfect for families, the food here is all organic, farmed from their own vegetable garden.www.hippopointkenya.com
NOMAD MAGAZINE MAY/JUNE 2018
ONE FORTY EIGHT
Amanda Sperber drops in on One Forty Eight, a boutique gem tucked in Karen and where the art and decor will make you want to treat the place as your own.
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n first arrival at One Forty Eight, guests may feel the relaxed ambiance sits almost uncomfortably with the chichi decor - until you accept that the place is more whimsicallydecorated mansion than hotel. Opened in early 2017, One Forty Eight is an eight-room house with accompanying bungalow apartments, sleeping a total of 16, on a 2.5-acre plot of land in Langata, 15 minutes from the gate of Nairobi National Park. “I wanted it to be very contemporary and very personalised,” says owner Elizabeth Fusco, who comes from Toronto, Canada. “Our vibe has been high quality, very bespoke service, very homey atmosphere and tiny, tiny, tiny amount of rooms.” Fusco has lived in Kenya for more than 20 years, and, along with her husband, also owns Richards and River Camp in the Mara, as well as various other business ventures in the region, including a design shop. She bought the house from Ana Trezebinski, widow of Tonio Trzebinski, a white Kenyan artist murdered in 2001. He was found dead next to his white Alfa Romeo outside the Karen home of his mistress, killed with a single shot to the heart. The murder has never been solved, and has given rise to comparisons with the fast-living “White Mischief” set of yore. Tonio has left a lasting legacy on the
house: his art is everywhere, on the walls of every room (the hotel serves as a de-facto glitzy storage container for much of his work). “I think it dictates the whole style of the hotel, having Tonio’s art hanging on the walls,” says Fusco. She describes it as a “Pan African” feel, with lightings and fixtures from Cairo, accents from Morocco and furniture upholstered in antique fabric from West Africa. It’s important to Fusco that One Forty Eight stands on its own, however. Indeed, I knew nothing of the house’s previous owners before I stayed there. I suppose it would have added a layer of intrigue, but Fusco has succeeded in her goal: the hotel is a outstanding experience in itself. What struck me about the hotel’s decor was how refreshingly modern and funky it felt. One Forty Eight may use old fabric, but it’s certainly looking ahead. The main entrance is expansive to the point that the massive paintings on the walls, wooden dhow tables, long green sea-glass chandelier and voluminous sofas seem small. There’s no concierge counter or any other such official trapping and you’ll probably feel comfortable popping off your shoes and treating the place as your own. Patter up the slim staircase of the main house, and you’ll find each of the bedrooms and bathrooms are decorated completely differently and have their own setup. Peer into as many as you can - individually, they’re a feast for the eyes.
I spent blissful nights in the second bedroom, where the undercurrent colour is a sort of deep lavender, as seen in the bedspread and accents. An interesting Lamu-style wood carving and an abstract oil painting of a woman, both sizeable, statement pieces in their own right, are the dominant art in the room but there are plenty of smaller pieces. It feels a bit like sleeping in an art gallery. The other bedrooms, especially the master with its epic tub and full-wall pink bull painting (you have to see it to believe it) are equally splendid. Up another set of stairs is the children’s loft, with three single beds. The space that’s now the kid’s quarters was unused when Fusco started redoing the house. She’s especially pleased with the final product and enjoyed leveraging the nooks and crannies to make it feel exciting for youngsters. Give the attendants your order in advance and there’ll be coffee, tea and biscuits at your bedroom door in the morning before you saunter downstairs for breakfast. The food at One Forty Eight is lovely and if the price to stay is too high, consider dropping in for lunch or dinner. If you’re looking for a mind-blowing spot, Nairobi does luxury very well, and it’s first rate here at One Forty Eight. Prices start from $420 pp, sharing, B&B. Resident discounts available on request depending on availability. www.one-forty-eight.com
NOMAD MAGAZINE MAY/JUNE 2018
LIMURU COTTAGE, TIGONI TEXT & PHOTOGRAPHY THE TRAVELDOTE
Nestled in among Tigoni’s rolling tea farms is this modern two-bedroomed cottage. With its expansive views, mod cons and proximity to Nairobi, it was an easy choice for a quick weekend getaway. OVERVIEW The cottage can hold up to four guests. Upstairs is a large master bedroom with its own bathroom and a small balcony overlooking the living room. Downstairs is a spacious double bedroom, bathroom and well-equipped kitchen (with a large fridge / freezer, stove, crockery and a dishwasher). The living room is cute and cosy, perfect for snuggling up to someone or just chilling out in front of the television. One section of the wall of the living room is almost entirely glass. It’s one of the first things you see as you enter the house and the view of the tea farms is breathtaking. WHERE It’s less than an hour’s drive from Nairobi (around 30 km). To reach the house, head
for Limuru Girls School, turning right down a road signposted “ATC” just before. PROS Less than an hour away, this house is extremely accessible for anyone in need of a quick getaway without wanting a long drive. The house is very well equipped, so it makes a perfect home away from home. It is only a few kilometres from Brown’s Cheese Farm and Kiambethu Tea Farm, so it is very easy to do a day tour then head to the house for the evening. CONS In the house manual, it did mention that there is WiFi. During our stay, however, it didn’t work. Even though the view is stunning, it would be nice if there was a designated outdoor seating area, especially for those who like to dine “al fresco”. The gas stove wasn’t too powerful so it took us a little longer than usual to cook our dinner.
THINGS TO DO Get your cheese kick from Browns Cheese Farm! Go on a farm tour which comes with a fresh and delicious lunch. Want to learn about tea? Head over to Kiambethu Tea Farm for a day tour and lunch. Alternatively, there are lots of lovely walking trails through the tea, or you could just lounge in the living room taking in the view of the tea farms. HOW TO BOOK It’s a bit tricky to find on Airbnb since it doesn’t have a name. You’d have to look for houses in Limuru and keep an eye out for one that’s called “Exquisite Cottage in Kenyan Tea Country.”
Price starts from $90 for the whole house. Overall: 7/10
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Mt Marsabit is a shield volcano rising 1,700m above the low arid lands of northern Kenya. Winds carrying moisture from the Indian Ocean travel uninterrupted across Somalia into Northern Kenya, where they meet the imposing Mt Marsabit. The rainfall they deposit here has formed a tropical rain forest in the middle of the desert! Located about 530km north of Nairobi, Mwangi Kirubi took a road trip there to discover the beauty Mt Marsabit holds.
1. Mt Ololokwe. It will be begging you to shoot it as you drive 2. On Mt Marsabit, you can camp at KWS’s Ahmed Gate Campsite. It has hot showers, a secure banda where you can cook, and power outlets for you to charge your phone and other electronics. All for a paltry 150/- per night for citizens. 3. Rendille girls in Merille. With permissions given, you can make portraits on the way to Marsabit. Get ready to negotiate and agree on a fee before you whip out your camera. 4. Samburu children play in a pool of rain water at the foot of Mt Ololokwe. It’s always good to take breaks during road trips. You never know what you’ll find a few metres off the highway. 5. Lake Paradise. The name says it all. 4.
PHOTOGRAPHS MWANGI KIRUBI
NOMAD MAGAZINE MAY/JUNE 2018
A young Samburu warrior leads his herd along a track near Laisamis. Only Samburu communities in drier regions close to Ariaal Rendille and Rendille proper tend camels. 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.
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What I pack … for my travels
Farhana Oberson is a travel vlogger who aims to promote positivity while showcasing Kenya and beyond. She also uses her passion for travel and adventure to break barriers between different cultures. Instagram: @farhana_oberson GoPro Hero 5: I love how small and compact it is so you can take it everywhere and film under any weather condition without having to worry about spoiling it.
Earphones by Samsung: When I can’t sleep on long road trips or flights, I just pop in my earphones, play some Bob Marley and will be in dreamland in no time.
Large Weekender bag Ksh21,900
Perfume by Roberto Cavalli: A mini spray, this favourite is essential for a quick spritz to make me feel human again after a rough day of travel.
Sunglasses by Ray Bans: Sunnies are not only great for sunbathing at the beach, but I also use them when disembarking a plane like those renowned celebrities, mostly to hide my eye bags. 62
Blotting paper by Clean & Clear: These absorbent thin sheets are a great way to wipe away any excess oil, shine or even sweat off my face. It gives a refreshed look in just a matter of seconds.
Lipstick by Mac: I hate getting caught with dry lips. To keep my lips hydrated while adding a little colour, I love using my Mac matte moist lipstick in the shade Taupe.
PHOTOGRAPHS: PETER NDUNG’U
Beauty pouch: It contains all my mini decanted essentials that are crucial to making me look refreshed while traveling.
NAIROBI: The Hub, Junction, Sarit Centre, Village Market, Yaya Centre, Westgate DAR ES SALAAM: Slipway NOMAD MAGAZINE MAY/JUNE 2018
BIRTHPLACE OF THE BITTER BREW
can wait for a long time for a good cup of coffee, but this was the longest. When it came, it was one of the best. The cup was dark, the scent strong and brew bitter, and it tasted delicious. In hindsight, I wish I had not gulped it down so greedily. For it was, I would later find out, a very special cup of coffee indeed – perhaps the rarest I ever will drink. I was on a reporting trip in the far east of South Sudan, not far from the border of Ethiopia. Now I was stuck waiting in the lonely thatch hut and mud street town of Pochalla, hoping for the promised airplane to get a flight out. I was still waiting and staring at the fierce blue sky on the third day. The route by road to South Sudan’s capital Juba was a long one. It could take weeks to cross the wilds of the Boma plateau even in the dry season, but with the rains, almost impossible. It is one of the continent’s greatest wildernesses, the largest area of intact savannah ecosystem left in East Africa. Antelope, elephant, buffalo and giraffe roam its vast forests. Ernest Hemingway even once wrote of it as a legendary land for big game. It was beautiful to fly over, but an epic trek to travel via land. In short, I was stuck.
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Muddy, hot and sick of the sugary tea at the tin-roof shack stall, I asked forlornly if anyone might have coffee. The small stash of coffee grounds with which I travelled had long run out. Initial requests were dismissed. Yet as the passing trade at the tea shop came and went, one man said he could find some coffee. An hour later he unwrapped a scrap of cloth. The handful of brown beans were shrivelled tight and dry, but rubbed together between my palms they gave off a heady scent. It was powerful, deep and earthy with the promise of caffeine. We roasted the beans in a pan over a charcoal brazier, then ground them up. In a second round, an elderly lady added spices, including a dash of ginger. Both cups tasted delicious. “From Ethiopia?” I asked, pointing to the beans, and waving to the east. “No,” said the coffee-man, pointing in the other direction, west towards the great lands of Boma. “From here.” Ethiopia speaks proudly of its history as the birthplace of coffee, saying its region of Kaffa gave its name to the beans. Coffea arabica, the first of many coffee species to be domesticated, grows wild in Ethiopia’s southwestern highlands. They tell of the legend of Kaldi, a shepherd who tried the beans after noticing
how frisky his goats became after they munched the berries. Coffee certainly spread from Ethiopia. Travellers, who found the beans useful to chew to keep them going on the road, took them to Yemen, where the seeds flourished in the terraced hillsides. In time, Yemenis exported the beans from the ancient port of Mokha – that has given its name to the mocha coffee of today. From there, in the 17th century, smugglers sneaked live plants out to start their own farms, and coffee spread around the world. The origin is always East Africa – but just not Ethiopia alone. For coffee grows wild too across the border in South Sudan, as the Boma plateau is effectively an extension of the same highlands of Ethiopia. The wild genetic variations there are irreplaceable treasures critical for the future of coffee worldwide. Leafing through old British records of colonial-era exploration, I read of coffee found in the wilds of South Sudan. “Standing out dark among the ripening maize were scattered bushes of Coffea arabica, either singly or in groups,” botanist A.S. Thomas wrote in 1941, when he pushed through the thick forests of Boma. “We were told that none of these bushes had been planted and that they were all relics of the original undergrowth of the forest.” He described the plants he found as
PHOTOGRAPHS: PETER MARTELL
Peter Martell hunts for the home of coffee in South Sudan
“locally frequent, growing as a small tree with the crown above the shrubby undergrowth; most specimens had a single upright stem crowned with a mass of primary branches.” Coffee experts I spoke to say that at the very least, South Sudan should share that honour as the origin of the beautiful brew. Some botanists go further to say it could be the birthplace of coffee entirely. “The proximity of Boma to the parental species – arabica coffee is a natural hybrid – namely Coffea canephora and Coffea eugenioides, perhaps makes this area a better candidate for the origin of arabica, compared to Ethiopia,” said coffee specialist Dr. Aaron Davis, from Britain’s Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in London, who has travelled across both countries searching for plants. “But no one knows for sure.” Eventually, when the airplane came and we headed west towards Juba, I stared down wondering if coffee plants were growing in the wilderness below. That trip was a decade ago, when South Sudan was still part of a united Sudan, Africa’s biggest country. In July 2011, the South split from the North. After decades of war, it was a time of celebration. There was talk of farming coffee, to offer South Sudan a chance of a different future, a means of living away from war. Hollywood actor George Clooney pushed the company
Nespresso to restore old coffee plantations and produce crops of beans to help support the people. “South Sudan is the cradle of coffee,” the promotional leaflet boasted. “It is now one of the only places in the world where coffee still grows in the wild, thriving in a distinct, dry climate.” A few months ago, I tasted coffee from one of those special Nespresso pods. Without a proper machine, I squeezed the metal pod direct into a pan to heat. Purists will shudder at the process, but the taste was as strong and rich as I had remembered. I sipped it more slowly this time. I’m not sure I could denote the “bold silky texture and intense aromas of dried cereals and subtle woody notes” that Nespresso boasted of. I could taste something else, though, for it took my memory back to that cup of coffee I had while waiting for a flight from Pochalla many years before, beans from the land where the plant perhaps grew for the first ever time. Today, South Sudan is gripped by brutal conflict; a five-year war against itself. The still raging civil war has resulted in tens – potentially hundreds – of thousands of deaths, and forced over two million to flee as refugees. Two-thirds of the people need aid. Despite condemnation at the outbreak of a man-made
famine in 2017, things have got worse. Many expect famine again this year. The world’s youngest nation is now ranked lowest in the list of failed states. Production has now stopped on the Nespresso-backed farms, with the land now fought over by some of the now more than 40 rebel factions. Still, sipping that coffee, it reminded me, for the briefest of moments, of a time of hope in South Sudan. Peter Martell’s book, First Raise a Flag: How South Sudan won the longest war but lost the peace, described as “a beautifully written first-hand account of how bitter and deadly rivalries dashed the hopes of the world’s newest nation”, will be published by Hurst in London on June 28. www.petermartell.com
Having had a lifelong fascination with snakes, Stephen Spawls talks to Rupi Mangat about why he continues to travel extensively around East Africa in search of them, despite having lost an index finger to a puff adder many moons ago. He has also worked on several books including the extensive ‘Field Guide to the Reptiles of East Africa’, because “So little was known about them and people wanted to learn.” Now living in Norwich in the United Kingdom, he regularly returns to his favourite haunt – Kenya in search of reptiles and amphibians because, as he says, “there is still so much that we don’t know about them.” What’s your favourite snake? The puff adder, despite the fact that I lost a finger to one. I like vipers. They are beautiful, fascinating and such efficient killers. Luckily, the one that got me wasn’t so efficient. That was in 1970 at St. Mary’s School where I was a pupil and had brought it to school for an awareness talk on snakes. I don’t have a least favourite snake. What’s the best place to go looking for snakes in Kenya? Tsavo and the remote north. It’s big, wild and beautiful. Any exciting recent discoveries? This April, we found the Chyulu Hills Bladehorned Chameleon that hadn’t been seen in nearly 40 years in the area. The scientific name for the species is Kinyongia tavetana, the Mt Kilimanjaro Two-horned Chameleon. Although it is also found around Mt Kilimanjaro, the Chyulu Hills specimens, being isolated, are probably going to be re-classified as a separate species. They were first located by the Coryndon Museum (now National Museums of Kenya) expedition to the Chyulu Hills in the 1930s. Subsequently one specimen was given to the National Museum in 1981. Since then, several prominent herpetologists have searched for this chameleon in the
THE TRUTH ABOUT SNAKES Chyulu Hills and failed to find it. There was speculation that it might have become extinct, so by managing to find it, we confirm that it is still there. We also found, at Satao Camp in Tsavo East, the first inland record of a rare Kenyan endemic snake, the Malindi Centipede-eater, Aparallactus turneri.
What’s the best anti-venom currently on the market? A universal anti-venom manufactured in South Africa is the best. It’s polyvalent, meaning it can deal with the most lethal, venomous bites from cobras and mambas. Get it at Kenyatta Hospital in Nairobi or Bio-Ken in Watamu, but should only to have it administered by a qualified medical personnel. It will hopefully soon available in powdered form, meaning it doesn’t have to be stored in a fridge. How should one go about treating a snake bite? Get to a hospital ASAP since all bites need medical attention. Don’t go chasing after the snake as it could bite you too, then you’ll have two medical cases instead of one. Traditional treatments rarely work and it is almost impossible to suck the venom out. Electric shock doesn’t help either and may hurt the patient. Leave it to medical professionals. How should one get a snake out of their car? Park it in the sun and leave a door open. It will get out because it’s too hot for it. What’s an amusing incident you’ve witnessed in your career? In 1970, an expat leaving Kenya came to the museum to find a good home for his pet python that he’d had for over 20 years. James Ashe, the legendary curator of Nairobi Snake Park, tipped out a two-metre long snake from the bag and it turned out to be a puff adder! I asked James why he didn’t tell the owner that it was a puff adder. James said, “You saw how old the man was. He could have had a heart
attack here!” In all those years, the supposed ‘python’ had only tried to bite his owner once but the owner was too quick for it. What’s the best way to spot snakes? If you look carefully you will see it. Carefully try lifting ground cover like logs and rocks. Kenya ‘s beautiful endemics include the Mt Marsabit chameleon, the Mt Kenya bush viper, Mt Kenya hornless chameleon, the Kenya montane viper and a new species, the Ngong Agama Agama hulbertorum only recently described. East Africa has a remarkably rich variety of reptiles, in Africa, second only to the Congo in species numbers. What would happen in a world without snakes? There would be a lot more pests. In Thailand, they killed most of their snakes to supply the Chinese food market. This resulted in an explosion of rats that destroyed huge amounts of stored grain. What’s the biggest threat to Reptiles? Habitat destruction; many of our rare reptiles and amphibians live in small forests. There is also the illegal trade in exotic pets, and reptiles are easy to smuggle. Let’s hope that no-one decides they want to eat our reptiles and people start catching them for the food trade! Can you debunk some common misconceptions about snakes? They don’t attack, except in self-defence. Puff adders, despite their frightening reputation, will often not bite even when stomped on, as proven during an experiment in South Africa. Snakes can’t eat us, and a close encounter between a them and a human nearly always ends in the death of the snake. They can’t move faster than about 10 kmph. There are also no snakes with two heads, although some burrowing snakes have blunt tails that look like tails.
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THE EXTENDED FAMILY
DISCOVER EXPLORE EXPERIENCE
squeezes her hand and she smiles. “No morning game drive today?” asks the waiter as he brings coffee to the table. “Not this time,” says Betty. “It’s our honeymoon. We need time to relax.” “We are getting up early tomorrow though aren’t we?” asks John, mindful of the surprise dawn balloon ride he has up his sleeve. “Depends how much sleep we get tonight,” says Betty. The waiter drips the coffee as he pours, perhaps perceiving some innuendo, but the truth is that they spent the night frightened out of their wits as a hippo grazed right up against the canvas of their tent. John and Betty had clung to one another as the huffs and grunts went on. Then a hyena howled in the distance. “What was that?” Betty had asked. “You did do up all the tent zips properly?” “Yes, yes, nothing can get in here,” John assured her, not entirely convinced. That afternoon, John and Betty decide to go on a bush walk. When a grazing zebra takes sudden flight, John suspects that Betty’s oversized red sunhat is the culprit. For the remainder of the walk they hardly spot much more than a dung beetle. Betty checks her Instagram feed as the ranger explains which plants have medicinal properties and John attempts to look interested for the both of them. After about half an hour in the hot sun, the ranger
radioes a vehicle to come and pick them up. “I’ve booked a massage at three,” says Betty. “I can’t be late.” John is close to despairing of the honeymoon but the next morning, the pair dutifully get up at 5 am to be transferred to the balloon site. “It seems a bit early for a game drive John,” queries Betty, half asleep. “It’s still dark. We won’t see a thing.” John fetches Betty a cup of sweet tea from the dining room then tucks her into an opensided vehicle under a Maasai blanket with a hot water bottle. Her head bounces gently on his shoulder as they head out from the camp across the shrub to high ground. Finally they round a corner to be met with the vision of a giant, striped balloon midway through being inflated by an impressive flame. The sky behind has turned a vivid orange with the dawn. Betty sits up, eyes wide and lets out a shriek. “A balloon ride! I’ve never done anything like this!” John grins, gallantly handing Betty a glass of champagne. “Only the best for my wife,” he says before she plants a huge kiss on his lips. “Thank you, thank you, thank you!” she says. “This is the best honeymoon ever!” Frances Woodhams is author of the blog: www.africaexpatwivesclub.com
SKETCH: MOVIN WERE
ohn is seated at a breakfast table for two when a clacking sound across the terrace heralds the arrival of Betty, resplendent in smart floral dress, fourinch heels and matching handbag. She looks more ready for a church service than a bush breakfast. Everybody turns to look. “Bit dressy for breakfast darling?” murmurs John, nervously. “Well these honeymoon outfits need an outing, even if it’s not quite the setting I had in mind,” she says, waving a hand across the vista of a waterhole, replete with picturesque plains game taking a drink. “By the way…I waited ages for a golf cart to come and collect me from our tent, so I gave up and walked in the end. And I can tell you, that path was murder in these heels. And so far!” John thinks of the multiple suitcases filling their honeymoon tent and sighs. His idea of the perfect holiday with his new wife was to get back to nature, hike and have an adventure. It turns out that her concept was quite different. He glances around neighbouring tables peopled with bland, khaki-clad tourists wearing technical trousers and ventilated safari shirts. He can’t deny that Betty looks gorgeous, so
By Frances Woodhams
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