Samburu and Thomson’s Falls

Our next stop is Samburu National Reserve. (There is a difference between a ‘National Park’ and a ‘National Reserve’, but we don’t know what it is.)

On the way, we pass what appears to be a market for second-hand clothes.

Glad rags

We reach the park gate well before sunset.

Archer’s Poste Gate, Samburu

The Samburu National Reserve was one of the two areas in which George Adamson and Joy Adamson raised Elsa the lioness. Possibly the world’s most famous lion not created by Walt Disney.

Samburu is very scenic. There’s a river. There are some mountains. In between is the wildlife.

The Ewaso Ngiro River flows through the park on its way to Somalia.

Ewaso Ngiro River

We are fortunate to come across a family of five cheetahs. Or maybe it’s a gang.

Rarely spotted

This gives an idea of how close these beasts are.

There are many elephants in Samburu, too.

This elephant looks small, compared to my head in the foreground. Don’t be deceived.

When we depart, we have a plan to drive to Thomson’s Falls via a scenic route. First we head north, on the Isiolo-Moyale section of the A2.

This excellent road goes to Moyale, on the Ethiopian border.

Thanks, Chinese Belt-and-Road Initiative!

We soon turn off onto a dirt road. This is it for the next few hundred kilometres.

The local Samburu people herd camels, as well as the usual sheep and goats.

Dreaming of the desert?

Like most Kenyan towns, the ones we go through are impoverished and not very inviting.

The Samburu women, however, are very statuesque.

Samburu Vogue

Our original plan turns out to be a risky proposition. The road is not good, fuel is a concern, signage is nonexistent. By midday we have travelled a fraction of our desired itinerary. So we backtrack to the main road and take the easy way to Nyahururu (the updated name for the-town-formerly-known-as-Thomson’s-Falls).

We treat ourselves to a stay at the Thomson’s Falls Lodge. It has a slightly run down colonial air, but is still comfy. The gardens are superb.

Pine House, Thomson’s Falls Lodge

The falls themselves are fun to visit, after a challenging hike down a very slippery path.

Seventy-four metres high

A party of schoolchildren are eager to be in our photo.

‘Wazungu! Wazungu! – that is, ‘white people!’

Note we are dressed for the weather. Nyahururu is supposed to be the ‘highest town in Kenya’. So it’s chilly.

Sight or Insight of the Day

Speaking of elephants, we receive a nocturnal visit from one. Back in Samburu, we stayed in these sturdy safari tents.

During the first night, we awake to the sound of the tree outside our tent being systematically de-branched a couple of metres away. It’s as if a clumsy giant were tramping through a forest of giant dry underbrush.

Midnight snack

In the pitch-black, all we can hear is the noise of branches being ripped off of the tree, seemingly right beside our heads. It’s a good thing we weren’t staying in our own easily-squishable tent!

Nairobi to Meru

We spend our first four nights in Kenya at the Wildebeest Eco Camp. Its leafy environs are on the outskirts of gritty, crime-ridden Nairobi, in the posh neighbourhood of Karen.

Keep an eye out for thieving monkeys

Karen is named after Danish author Karen Blixen, whose farm was nearby. As a long-time lover of all things Danish, I smugly boast about reading Out of Africa years before the Redford-Streep film came out.

We enjoy visiting the homes of writers, so hire a driver take us there.

 ‘I had a farm in Africa at the foot of the Ngong Hills…’

Our single foray into central Nairobi is to the Nairobi National Museum.

Kenyan schoolkids

Finally, we take delivery of our rental vehicle, a Toyota Land Cruiser Prado, and head north out of town.

We name our new wheels Jambo. This is Swahili for ‘hello’.

Nairobi traffic

There’s always something interesting being transported by motorcycle in these countries. This one is carrying a load of cornstalks.

Wide load

From time to time we pass though lively market towns.

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Street life

Meru National Park is our first destination. We are on a bit of a Born Free kick, having recently re-read this classic. Meru is where Elsa was returned to the wild and where she was buried.

One day, we try to drive to Elsa’s grave site, but are forced to turn back by the badness of the road, even for our 4X4 vehicle.

Baobab, Jambo, and chauffeur

Kenya Wildlife Services have recently changed the way park fees and accommodation are paid for. It’s very confusing. (Even the park employees are stymied.) Only on the third day of our stay do we succeed in paying our bill, after hands-on tutoring from a pair of park rangers, Salim and Deka.

I get by with a little help from my friends

A major difference between this trip and previous self-drive trips in Africa: this time, we have a full-size 4X4 vehicle. Kind of a necessity in Kenya.

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An elephant crosses the road in the distance

One issue with Jambo is that he sucks up fuel like a – well, like a two-ton-plus SUV. Fuel is around 2.15 CDN$ per litre here.

We run low while in the southern part of the park, so visit a village just outside the gate for a top-up.

Centre of attention

Unlike game parks in southern Africa, Kenyan game parks are emphatically not set up for individual travelers. There are no maps. Everything is geared toward tour groups spending astronomical amounts

Into the great wide open

The animals are what it’s all about. We plan on spending lots of time on game drives.

We come across an elephant by surprise around a bend. It makes a bluff charge, with indignant huffing and ear-flapping.

Back off!

Our accommodation is a banda, a sort of simple cottage. It has running water, but no electricity. There are no cooking facilities. (We bring our own.) The screens are full of holes.

It’s unfenced, so all kinds of critters wander around at night, including hippos.

It does have an outdoor cooking area, caged to keep out the local wildlife.

“We are all living in cages with the door wide open.” – George Lucas

The resident vervet monkeys are able to slip in through a gap between the roof and the cage walls. This one filched a carrot and a cucumber. I got the cucumber back.

Ill-gotten gains

Sight or Insight of the Day

Africa has a lot of plants that grow aggressive spikes. Which then fall to the ground.

Traps for the unwary

These can easily pierce the bottom of a flipflop when stepped on. I speak from experience!

Into Africa, Again

Where has the time gone? After coming back from Cyprus in February, it was good to be home. But it’s already time to be dusting off the travelling shoes.

Among our activities: visiting the farm of our friends Eric and Katti near Ottawa and hoisting a few baby goats.

Just Kidding

In April, we go to Brazil for a couple of weeks. Strictly a family visit. We eat a lot of meat.

In Porto Alegre with Lucia, Zequinha, and Candhino

Our nephew has a cabanha, that is, a stable where he trains horses for gaucho-style competitions. Sort of like a rodeo.

Horsin’ around is a serious business

Back in Canada, most of our time is spent at the cottage.


Maria played lots of pickleball in several locations, including the courts of our condo.

Pickleball queen – photo by Sabri El-Harim

Traditional bicycle trip to Prince Edward County with our friends Pete, Judith, John, and Diane. (John and Diane missing from photo.) This takes place around my birthday in September.

Saddle up

It’s a good excuse to visit wineries and enjoy some fine food.

Sight or Insight of the Day

And they’re off! We depart in the middle of the night for a flight from Ottawa to Newark. From which we take a taxi to JFK. After a 14-hour flight, we arrive in Nairobi.

Our first stop is the Nairobi Giraffe Centre.

Giraffe pick

These people work ro conserve the nearly-extinct Rothschild’s giraffe.

You can hand-feed them with the provided giraffe chow. Which looks a lot like rabbit food.

Everyone gets into the act.

Junior giraffe

Gratuitous giraffe joke: Some giraffes can grow up to 18 feet.

But most only have 4.