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Unexpectedly successful family camping trip in Kenya?!

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Since last posting we have had half term, I’ve organised two compost heaps/systems (with the help of Jared and Shadrack doing basically all of the work). The first is cooking nicely. Also went to another interesting gardening morning, though some of my fellow students seem to be such know alls on plants that it was beginning to get on my nerves. It was beginning to be a bit of a competition to ‘out knowledge’ the lecturer, with hands going up all over the place and statements like; ‘well of course MY moonflower/lantana/bougainvillea actually DOES seem to like it in the shade’ etc.etc.

I took my three daughters to see the lovely white fluffy rabbits next door, but omitted to tell them that they were being bred for eating. My eldest has placed an order for a baby tortoise when they hatch and requested a visit when the ducklings appear which is predicted to be next weekend.

Most momentously – we went camping!

Based on passed experiences, I hate camping. Not only is it uncomfortable, but it always involves a horrendous amount of shopping, packing, work and often long distance driving. Thrown into the equation in Africa are; the total lack of facilities (ie for loos, hot water substitute spade and bucket of water), nasty creepy crawlies (scorpions, deadly snakes, biting ants etc), fine dust everywhere, thorns and heat. However, the upside of camping is that the kids love it and it’s cheap, so we set ourselves the challenge of finding a site not too far away, with flushing loos and hot showers!

Initially, I thought we would never find such a place (and secretly I was pleased to have an excuse to cancel the trip), then a good friend and fountain of all knowledge, told us of a campsite in Naivasha on the shores of the lake, only one and a half hours drive away, which met with my stringent requirements. There was a bar and restaurant too, and even stone cottages to check into if putting up the tent proved too much. Off we set with the VX Landcruiser groaning with gas cylinders for making instant cups of tea and coffee, foam mattresses on the roof, sleeping bags, pillows, duvet, travel cot, food and more food, camp chairs, camp table, clothes, warm clothes, kettle, saucepan, potty, waterproofs, you name it... and we were only planning to stay for two nights.

Anyway, I have to reluctantly admit it was a success! The campsite was green and shady with lots of big trees (only some thorns). The Naivasha climate is quite like Nairobi, so not too hot. Tent pegs were easy to push into soft soil so pitching the tent was relatively easy. We found the flushing loos next to the restaurant and put our tent next to those (risking the disapproval of the site management) and thus we able to swerve the row of fly blown thunder box toilets that we were supposed to be using at the other end of the campsite. It was fun to orientate our tent toward the lake and watch the sunset. The electric wire strung out between us and the water felt like a reassuring deterrent for night grazing hippo that are known to emerge from the water and wander for miles at night.

We braved the showers which were indeed warm, looked at the stars and made many camp fires and toasted marshmallows. It rained on the first night but the tent stood up to the challenge and we all slept well. Booming ghetto blaster music was minimal. Colobus and Sykes monkeys swung around the trees above our heads in a picturesque way, but weren’t brave enough to snatch our food and bother us. The kids ran around and made friends with other kids from other tents so needed minimal entertainment. The onsite buzzing bar and restaurant looked nice and had a good menu, though we didn’t test it as I was determined to get through the fortnight’s worth of food we had with us. I even found out about a swimming pool at the neighbouring resort which was possible to make use of at a daily rate, a useful fall back if things got to sweaty back at base. In fact, we didn’t bother swimming this time because we went on a fairly expensive boat trip (half an hour cost more that the two nights camp fees) on the lake and saw fish eagles and hippos. The bird life was great for my twitchy husband and later we visited Joy Adamson’s former home ‘Elsemere’ for an old fashioned tea – which was a bit of a rip off to be honest. I found myself beginning to reassess; ‘value for money’ in light of being seasoned campers now.

Hell, this camping experience was actually civilised! I felt like I’ve cracked it and managed to analyse that my kind of camping is pretty much all about decent loos.

Returning to Nairobi and chatting to a travel agent friend, she said that the camp we went to was really the only place to do ‘that kind of camping’ in Kenya, but if we tried Namibia next time, they also have very well equipped sites. Next, I discovered that the place we’d just been to was exactly where an Australian tourist was killed by a hippo in the early evening hours about a year ago – apparently she got too close when photographing the beasts. This tarnished the warm glow I had about camping somewhat, but I think we’d still go back – perhaps in a year or two….

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