A Travellerspoint blog

Kenya

Farewell Kenya

Its time to say goodbye to Iten and Kenya as we leave for India on Tuesday. We have had a wonderful time here and will be very sad not to see more of Africa in this trip. We have only had about 6 weeks here so it hasn’t been long enough to truly understand Kenya but it has been time enough to give us an appreciation of what Kenya has to offer. I have decided to write a summary of the accommodation, transport etc in case anyone is wanting to travel to Kenya in the near future. I fully appreciate though that this is a tourist summary. Unfortunately Kenya has a lot of poverty which we weren’t really exposed to on this trip but we haven’t forgotten about it. We have had such heartbreaking yet interesting conversations with people regarding this and I really hope in the future, we might be able to something (small as it may be) to help ease the poverty for some that live here. For the moment, all I can do is heartily recommend Kenya as a holiday destination.

Accommodation -There are plenty of options for accommodation here no matter what budget you are on from small guesthouses to luxurious 5-star hotels.

Lamu: Jambo Guesthouse The rooms were comfortable and really clean. The guesthouse located in Lamu town about 10 mins walk from the main restaurants etc. . It has a lovely terrace with Wi-Fi and loungers to enjoy the sunshine. The owner Arnold is very helpful and any his recommendations were great. Breakfast was included and the fruit was so good. Price: €22 – €28 B&B per room depending on whether you have a bathroom attached or not.

Watamu: Marijani Guesthouse . This place had really nice gardens with some self contained lovely rooms. It’s very safe and really close to the beach. We were there out of season so the service was fine but it was a little bit slack. I think in season though it would be a great spot. For the price it is excellent. Price: €30 B&B per room. I think it was €33 but as it was low season we got it for a bit cheaper. Can organise snorkeling in turtle bay from here.

Mombasa: Backpacker’s Nirvana. Really nice place located outside of the city just beside Nyali Beach. It was really relaxed and was a great place to stay. We were sorry we couldn’t stay longer. Price €30 B&B per double room but dorms are cheaper. They organise safaris and snorkeling from here too.

Nairobi: Wildebeest Eco-camp. Its located in Langata outside of Nairobi. It has rooms, tents, dorm tents and Garden Tents that are like a double room. The food is very good has Wi-Fi. It is very clean and safe. It can be busy so might need to book ahead. Prices range a lot. The dorms are €10 and the double garden tent is €45 B&B.

Iten: High Altitude Training Centre (HATC) All an athlete could need. Really great food, good facilities and lots of people to chat with. Wi-Fi access too. The price is €33 per person but that is full board. All meals are included.

Transport
Getting around Kenya has been very simple for us and there are lots of transport options. The matatus are the local buses that get you from A to B and while at first they can be a bit daunting, they are well organised and are a cheap way of getting around. They can be packed though so if it’s a longer journey, it might be the most comfortable. Local trips cost anything from 20 shilling to 100 shilling (20 cent – 1 euro. Longer trips like from Nairobi to Eldoret takes about 5 hours and costs 800 shilling (8 euro).
For long bus journeys, a coach might be more appropriate. We took Modern Coast coach from Mombasa to Nairobi and it took 9 hours with a stop along the way. It cost 15 euro for a 1st class ticket. It is worth paying the bit extra for the better seats. It was a very comfy coach but was lacking air-conditioning so could get quite hot. Getting the coach lets you see lots more of the countryside though.
If you want to fly, there are internal flights that are reasonable in price considering it’s a flight. A lot of people fly from Eldoret to Nairobi if your going to Iten. The main airlines are Fly540 and Jetlink and for that journey its about 60-70 euro one way.

Culture & Food
Where do I start???? The are so many different tribes/cultures here that I just don’t have the knowledge on this after just 6 weeks. I will say though that in general, people dress quite modestly in the places we have been and I haven’t felt it appropriate to wear mini-skirts and strappy tops down the streets in any place we have been. Obviously in the big cities it is different but in general I have tried to cover up a bit. This is especially true in Lamu where its 95% Muslim. I think the locals appreciate when you try to dress appropriately. What I tended to do was to ask in the guesthouse/people we met when we arrived what is appropriate or not. It is easy to get clothes made in the various villages so I had a couple of longer skirts made. They cost around 8-10 euro. The different cultures here are fascinating and just taking to locals will give you some idea however, you could spend years here learning new things I could imagine. If we weren’t moving on, I would definitely have bought some of the arts and crafts and they are really amazing.

Regarding food, the main food that has stood out for us has been the fruit. I never knew how good mangoes actually tasted until here. They are amazing. Traditional swahili dishes consist mostly of coconut rice and fish. They also have Nyama Choma which is basically a plate of barbequed meat. Its really yummy if your a carnivore like us. If the potato is the staple food of Ireland, then Ugali is the stable of kenya. We have it most days with dinner. Its basically like a dumpling made of maize flour. They like to serve this with kale (Sukuma wiki). I'm not a big fan of ugali but its a personal taste thing i guess. The main beer is Tusker. I normally don't drink beer but i really like the Tusker malt here. They are also fans of guinness, its tastes a little different here though....not bad just different.

Wildlife
A big attraction of Kenya for obvious reasons. There are lots of different safari areas to go to and lots of companies. At this time of year, the Masai Mara is a highlight because of the great migration but there are lots of other parks located around the country. The company we had was http://www.lokenjen.info. I can recommend them but there are lots of other companies too so its best to contact a few for prices. Gametrackers are also recommended. No matter who you go with, safaris are super expensive even for the budget options. We had the van/driver for our exclusive use though so we could tailor the days to our needs. You can go with a group and it would be a little bit cheaper. It is such an amazing experience though, I don’t regret spending one penny of it!!!

Currency
Kenyan Shilling: 100 shilling is approximately 1 euro

Dodging Mosquito Status: Excellent, still none here. We have enjoyed the break from our arch enemies but en encounter is soon approaching i fear!!!! India will bring a whole new army of them...We are off now to prepare ourselves.

Posted by ofenelon 04:29 Archived in Kenya Comments (0)

Running with Champions

Iten Kenya

We arrived in Iten last Monday night with a little trepidation of what lay ahead. Iten is a village located north of Eldoret that is home to some the best kenyan runners the world has known. It also houses the famous St Patricks School where Brother Colm O’Connell has trained many world champions and olympic medalists. Iten is utilised for temporary training grounds for many athletes such as the British Olympic Team, Youth squads and top athletes across the globe. The reason for this is that Iten is at High Altitude so provides great preparation for runners athletes just before big races. It has spectaular trails/roads to train on and has a track that anybody from the community can untilise.

Which such athletes visiting here, you can imagine that we felt a little bit intimidated at the prospect of staying in this village. However, our fears were laid to rest when we got settled into life here. We are staying at the HATC (High Altitude Training Centre) which was founded by Olympian Lornah Kiplagat. The centre is more like a hotel that includes full board and has a lot of facilites such as a gym, pool etc that athletes can use. The food is healthy/yummy and plentiful so no fear of my hunger monster reappearing here. There are lots of great athletes here but everyone is made feel very welcome and people are super friendly.

The altidude is one of the key things that requires some adjustment for us. You can get quite sick if you do too much to soon so the key thing is to build up your miles slowly, to drinks lots of water and rest. We arrived 5 days ago and were doing 1 run a day but hopefully this will change today to two runs as we are becoming adjusted. They have free core classes 3 times a week so we have being doing those in the evening when they are on. We started on Day 1 with just a 25 min, increasing it the next day, yesterday we done 12km (i admit I had to walk the last 1km). Today hopefully will do 2 sets of 8km. We were up early at 6am for the 1st run so will do the next one around 5pm. Its all been done at an easy pace for the moment and as Ger is just back from injury, he runs with me which is a nice for a change. We went to the track the other day for a look at all the athletes training. It was brilliant just watching all these amazing athletes speed around the track. Anybody can use it and I couldn’t resist going out on it so I went for a run around the edge… out of the way of the elite runners.

It’s not hard to see why people use this place to train, apart from the altitude, the trails are really nice but extremely tough. For some reason, i had thought they would be reasonably flat. Im not sure why i thought this and i was defiinitely mistaken. The trails we have been on so far have been packed red earth and gravel. They are really nice to run on but they are hilly!!!! They wind up and down and just when your enjoying a lovely downhill section, around the next corner the devious uphill awaits!!! It is however realy beautiful scenery so at least there is some distraction while I gasp for air at the top of the hills!. It is after these hills that you really notice the altitude. Overall though we have been adjusting ok to it, I have gotten more symptoms than Ger so am keeping an eye on it. My chest is a bit tight although i was assured earlier that this quite normal and should subside in the next few days. The altitude is not extremely high here so we shouldn’t get the more serious symptoms.

Apart from training, we eat and rest. The olympics is on at the moment so there is a big screen for everyone to watch it. After dinner, most people head in and discuss the various races etc. It’s a bit surreal at times because you could be sitting beside people teenagers who are potential olympians or chatting to people who have been super runners in the past and know the likes of Mo Farah (he comes here to train and they have great respect for him, meant to be lovely), David Rudisha etc. There are a few past olympians walking about too at the moment as there is a japanese film crew about but I am useless at knowing who is who.

There are also lots of people here who are like us and love running and are here to train, improve times and enjoy the atmosphere so there are lots of people to chat/run with if you want. A group of us headed to a hotel nearby to see David Rusdisha in the 800m. It was brilliant, such a race and the big bonus was meeting his coach Brother Colm o’Connell later on in the evening. At first i was too shy to approach him but I really wanted to meet him and he was so nice when a few of us went up to him. He is an inspiration and was very proud of David Rudisha’s win. He seemed to be very proud of all of his athletes and is much respected in Iten. It was a great end to the evening and I was very excited walking home.

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Well that’s its for the moment, I will update you on our progress after we get a few more days training in and I manage to conquer them hills and get my lungs back to full capacity. Luckily Tony’s training at home with us on the Kyber in the phoenix park has enabled me to make it up some of them. Hopefully a few more days and i’ll be running with the Kenyans (i wish!!!).

Dodging Mosquito Status: Very good, they dont seem to like the altitude so much. While we may have escaped with the mossies for a few weeks we now have to dodge some of the biggest stick insect type things I've ever seen. There has also been sightings of some supersized beetle but I haven't seen it just yet thankfully!!!!

Posted by ofenelon 05:21 Archived in Kenya Comments (2)

The Magical Masai Mara

It was like waiting for santa on Christmas eve as was my excitement the night before the safari. I tried to sleep but to no avail. I even tried counting zebras (thought it was better than sheep given the context) but it didn’t work -I eagerly awaited the morning time to head to the Masai Mara. We were delighted then that at 7.30am the next morning, the safari company arrived with our vehicle ready for the trip. You see picking a safari company is quite hard as there are so many to choose from and it is so expensive that we wanted our moneys worth. In the end we decided to go for a local company that we had read good reports about and it also meant that we had the vehicle and driver to ourselves.
Once the van was loaded we headed off on the long trip to the Masai Mara. On the way down, we passed through the famous Rift Valley which is a sight to behold. Its is where the first human remains were found apparently. After about 7 hours of driving down some of the bumpiest roads I have ever encountered, we arrived at our campsite. We were tired and hungry and were beginning to wonder if the journey was worth it. I can say now that it absolutely was. After a quick bite to eat, we entered through Talek gate to see what lay ahead. I should mentioned that even though we entered through a gate to show our passes, the Masai Mara isn’t actually ring fenced, It is far too big for that. After we entered the gate, it didn’t take long to see that the journey down the bumpy roads were more than worth it. It is spectacular. In the 2 hours of our first drive, we saw 3 of the big five (lion, buffalo, elephant –the other two are leopard and rhino) and much much more. It is difficult to describe the feeling of seeing so many animals I had only seen in documentaries roaming freely. Needless to say that as you drive through the reserve the camera becomes an extension to your hand. We actually got very lucky with our little video camera catching a scene of a male lion fighting off another right in front of our vehicle.

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Of course the most important thing about this month in the Masai Mara is the arrival of the wildebeest from Tanzania. The Great Migration – and great it is. The migrate from Tanzania to the Masai Mara every July/August and then go back aorund December. How they find their way is beyond me! It is spectacular seeing thousands of wildebeest roaming migrating across the grasslands walking, leaping and running about. The are true to their name and are prone to buck-leaping about.

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The amazing thing about the arrival of the wildebeest is that they seem to complete the ecosystem here, providing much needed food for the meat eaters and friendship for the zebras. The zebras and the wildebeest are good mates and can been seen hanging around together in massive groups. This relationship works well for the wildebeest as they can sense the lions approaching, and start running. Unfortunately the wildebeest aren’t the smartest of animal in sensing danger so the warning if much needed.

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On day two of the safari, we left the campsite at 7am and headed off on our full day game drive across the park. It was unbelievable. We saw so many animals and birds I think I was just going around with my jaw dropped for the day. Some of animals were more elusive but many had no fear of the vehicle and a lion walked straight beside the van. One interesting thing about the lions in the Mara is that they aren’t man eaters. The ones in some of the parks near Mombasa, the lions can be man eaters but apparently if a lion eats a man, he is killed. The reason being that humans are meant to be unbelievably tasty to eat and once a lion eats a human it wont eat anything else and will continue to hunt humans so it has to be killed. I never knew we were delicious!!!

The thing I found so amazing was that all of these animals (elephants, lions, cheetahs, zebras, giraffes, gazelles, wildebeest just to name a few – live in the same area and just get about their daily business. Yes, obviously some animals are food for others but it seems to be on a need only basis. They don’t just randomly kill for fun. The day ended seeing two Cheetahs lying together under a tree – what a sight. They were so cat like just sprawled out (I couldn’t help think of poncho at that moment).

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Today- Sunday we got really lucky and got to see the famous wildebeest crossing of a river. It was spectacular. Thousands of wildebeest crossed the Talek river. It was over in about 15 minutes. The amazing thing is that they all gather together on one side of the river and when the leader decides to cross they all follow. It was amazing. There were a few zebra in the group too!!!

Aside from the animals, it is also important to remember that this area is home to the Masai people who live just on the outskirts of the Masai Mara in different villages. We passed through some of them on the way to the campsite. They are a very interesting tribe and take great pride in their livestock. They have a wonderful traditional dress that some of them wear but many others just wear plain clothes and are not involved livestock anymore but have taken jobs elsewhere. We got chatting to a really nice guy called Freddy in Watamu who a shop selling Masai crafts. He was very interesting and while he seem to take part in traditional dances etc, he lived like us other days.

I could go on and on about the experience in the Masai Mara but I don’t think I could do this place justice in just how amazing it is. It was always my number one dream to see the African wildlife in person and now I have fulfilled it. Hopefully I will be back again someday – actually I know I will!

Dodging Mosquitos Status: Was so overwhelmed by this place that I forgot about them!

Posted by ofenelon 12:49 Archived in Kenya Comments (4)

Let the Tales Begin!!!!!!!!!!

From Dublin to the beautiful coast of Kenya

Well we finally got underway with the 'Big Trip'. After weeks/months/years of planning, I'm a tired ollie but delighted to be writing the first entry from the terrace of Jambo House on the Island of Lamu located on coast of kenya on the Indian Ocean. It took about 30 hours to get here but as i look out over the terrace, I'm convinced it was worth it.

We had orginally planned our to go running with the champions in Iten in the rift valley but had a last minute change of plan as Ger wasn't 'running fit' for another few weeks so are delaying teaching the Kenyans a thing or two about running (i wish) for the time being. Instead we chose to come to Lamu for some chill out time on the beach and to soak up some of the fascinating culture that exists here. We arrived by a domestic flight from nairobi and I have to say, it was a great experience. We boarded a tiny plane with only 4 other passengers and took to the skies. It left 1/2 hour ahead of schedule as 'we were all there ahead of time' and even got a little brown bag with a roll and water in it as we boarded. I should have perhaps have been nervous about such a small plane etc but it was far too much fun for that.

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Thats it for today. we will begin our exploration of Lamu tomorrow. Right now, time for some fresh fish and a beer!

Posted by ofenelon 08:18 Archived in Kenya Comments (4)

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