We knew Kilimanjaro was there – we’d glimpsed it behind the clouds many times – but the first time we met for real was the day we left.
The early morning was fresh as washing on the line, with the great volcano high in the blue above us all. It was stunning.
Below was where we were – a dot in our black 4×4, surrounded by baobab, and glimpses of wildlife, on the excellent tarmac road that swept us towards Taveta, a small town close to the Tanzanian border.
Taveta was our first stop for two reasons – to get fuel and to look in on a cemetery from the First World War. The town itself seemed to be a mixture of new churches and indomitable entrepreneurs.
The fuel was easy to find and a few enquiries led us to the war graves. They were down a quiet side street, and were beautifully kept reminders of old conflicts, and of strangers’ lives given to places for causes that few remembered.
We left the tarmac at Taveta and bounced on to the dirt road, that linked through various villages to the Mombasa route to Nairobi.
The dirt stretch wasn’t busy, but it did hatch a fair number of official roadblocks and unusual encounters that stopped us occasionally, then allowed us to move on after some cheerful exchanges.
We wound through livestock, and Maasai, through baobabs and bush…the feel very different to rural life around the coast.
Initially it was a relief to hit the tarmac again, but the closer we got to Nairobi the more that feeling faded. In fact it whooshed over our heads like candy floss in a gale. Suddenly we were on an artery in full spate, almost overwhelmed on every hill, and yet somehow carried onwards by the crush of cars determined to come with us against the flow. Every vehicle must have had a date with New Year and no-one was going to give way…until suddenly they did.
Any livestock involved seemed not to notice.
Grimly our fearless driver clung to the wheel, whilst the rest of us, silenced sternly in his honour, closed our eyes and regretted our lunch.
Then suddenly, miraculously, we were in Nairobi, ring-roading round its outskirts and on to the road to Naivasha. The chat resumed.
Part of the next stage of our route travelled along a steep edge, with the Rift Valley rolled out below in distant blue greens. It was beautiful. Along the viewing points the road was lined with souvenir and sheepskin stalls…sadly all without customers, or if they were there we didn’t see them.
By now we were hot and weary, and only too happy to drift with the comparatively sedate evening rush hour down to the tall acacias by the entrance to our final stop – a family home surrounded by garden, birdsong, and the bounce of dogs.
Arrived is a beautiful place to be.
Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2019
I have just finished reading RULES OF THE WILD, which is set in Kenya. Thank you for making visible this beautiful and intriguing landscape.
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Thank you Antoinette. Kenya has almost everything when it comes to geography – so beautiful and varied. The book you mention, by Francesca Marciano, sounds interesting. I look forward to finding it.