TRAVELOGUES

Travelogue 1

A Week in the Life and Death of Ulster

I recently had occasion to return (after an absence of ten years) to Belfast, where I was born and bred, and was so moved by the change of events that I felt compelled to record some of the more bizarre happenings that occurred during the week of my stay, i.e., 27th January ’til 3rd February in 1984.

I flew home in an ancient Fokker Friendship operated by Midland Airways and due to be withdrawn from service that very week.  It was a fitting herald to the archaic politics in which I was soon to be immersed.

Our little plane was flung around by the buffeting winds and so on retrieving my luggage on arrival, duly sealed by Gatwick security, I retired to the airport lounge where a couple of Guinness soon settled my butterflies.

My lingering meant I had to wait another hour for a taxi as I had missed the coach into town.  When we finally set off we got no more than a mile or so before we encountered a herd of snow ploughs.  They were scratching away at a ten foot bank of snow which, we were told, would take at least three hours to clear.  Eventually after a skilful drive in reverse we were able, via the car radio, to venture a new path into town.

In my exile I had forgotten the stark beauty of Ireland; the mountain crested in a crust of snow, the sun glinting off the Gothic towers of the many fine churches which sprang up at every corner.  Open spaces abound here, a heritage of the titled Planters whose palatial mansions were surrounded by ponds and woodlands.  It thrilled me to see once again the open beauty of the place, as I watched the multitudes of birds clutch grimly to branches as they were bounced around by the wind.  Ulster is always windy, and it’s the only place I’ve ever been where it can rain and shine at the same time, giving rise to spectacular displays of double rainbows.

On entering the City, slowly, for concrete road ramps abound in an effort to curtail speeding cars that have been known to foray into “the other side” with a vengeance.  It should be explained that Belfast is akin to Berlin in that it shares a “dividing wall” which segregates the two communities of Catholic and Protestant.  This wall may, in fact, be just a series of metal barriers swung closed at dusk to inhibit traffic, or an actual brick divide joining the gables of the last houses at the end of a street.

These partitions will of course be covered with the inevitable mural which will dogmatically proclaim the magnanimity of King Billy (William of Orange) or even the desired whereabouts of the Pope.  They are so tastefully executed that their skill and colour is only surpassed by the subtlety of the local Graffiti which more often than not is written in Gaelic, e.g., “SASANACH AMACH” –“Brits Out” or “TIOCFAD AN LÁ” – “Our Day Will Come”.

It is distinctly unhealthy to get trapped on the wrong side of the line during the hours of darkness, as hooded vigilantes lurk on both sides.  The vast majority of the sectarian killings, which sadly still persist, occur near this borderline, the victims’ remains being found on the wrong side.

There is also a physical ugliness to the city in the shape of massive British Army Forts which are kept shrouded by very tall reinforced netting designed to alleviate bomb attacks.  These premises have machine gun emplacements mounted high up, and are embellished by a bevy of T.V. camera and radio antennae which keep the foot patrols on constant communication with their headquarters.

One cannot, on reflection, but question the wisdom of the placement of many huge rocks next to shops and bars in the city.  Apparently they weigh over a ton each and are sprinkled in gay abandon over the pavements in hope of deterring any cars from parking, with intent to bomb the premises.  Most shops also have a metal mesh framework encasing the front entrance.  These deterrents arose from the recent tendency of terrorists to drive straight through the front wall of a store in their enquiries as to the owners’ financial status.

Armoured jeeps scurry briskly about with soldiers mounted front and rear, their automatic rifles pointing purposely at passers-by; the six wheeled Saracen Armoured Cars are only paraded at ‘Tension Times’ like the mass exodus from school of the student population in Andersonstown, which glories in having the densest gathering of schools anywhere in Europe.  Life indeed, some would say, would be far too tame without such daily confrontations which seldom escalate beyond the bottle throwing to the plastic bullet stage.  These are called baton rounds now, and dozens of people every year, with broken bones, can testify to their efficacy.  On rare occasions they have been lethal.

Helicopters stutter overhead flying just out of rifle range, their staccato casting a superior note of warning, garnished at night by the sudden sharp focus of a massive searchlight as it suddenly sweeps thru your bedroom in the early hours, with a dazzling intensity that can make you jump out of bed.  The Army uses these spotlights to plot movements on the ground as they hover steadily in the darkness above.  Even more intimidating is the sudden appearance of an army spotter plane.  These usually glide over the nearest roof-top perhaps as you’re emptying the ashes from the fire, and will suddenly rev up, to hedge hop over the next house in line, with a snarling cacophony guaranteed to scatter, in a moment, not only your ashes but your peace of mind.

HOUSING:

As I wandered round town I was tempted to visit again the Pound Loney where as a callow youth I earned my living delivering Barney’s Baps, at the crack of dawn.  As I approached the area I was stunned to see whole streets had disappeared in the recent troubles.  What landmarks remained were occupied by squatters and I was fascinated to learn that Belfast City Council, while refusing to acknowledge their existence, furnishes them with a “Squatters Rent Book” and as long as the bills for electricity, which demands a deposit of £75, and gas – currently 30 per cent higher than England – are paid promptly, they are left in peace.  Some claimed that such a lifestyle, if pursued with diligence, would inevitably acquire a premises of one’s own.  But not for them the luxuries of Craigavon; a “new town” built with massive and beautiful landscaping including even trout lakes and an artificially constructed beach.  The recreational facilities alone, which include swimming pools, cost millions.  Unfortunately, being in the middle of no-where it tends to appeal little to the parochialism of the working class community for which it was designed.  Personal transport is also a non-affordable prerequisite for such an endeavour, so now this sparkling white elephant resides in breeze-blocked luxury as the doors and windows of hundreds of brand new houses are perennially boarded up.

In the Province rioting and looting are commonplace.  In court this week in Donemana 50 people are charged with looting a street.  Apparently when police arrived on the scene the crowd sent a spokesman to say they would disperse quietly if only they could remove the larger bits of furniture from number 80, Allen Park.  To their chagrin they were refused and so promptly proceeded to stone the Police.  The R.U.C. Chief Inspector said in court that he’s never seen anything like it in all his life, and that two rounds of plastic bullets had to be fired before order was restored.

SECTARIANISM:

To day in Whitehall, it seems, astonishment reigns over the protest of Irish Premier Garrett Fitzgerald.  It concerns the visit this week by Prince Philip to the notorious Drumadd Army Barracks in Armagh where eight members of the Ulster Defence Regiment there are charged with the murder of Catholics.  The S.D.L.P. party and the Primate of Ireland Cardinal O’Fiaich were incensed, and the Cardinal claimed, because the Home Office was clearly notified of Ireland’s displeasure at Christmas to a similar visit, by Mrs Thatcher to Drumadd, that this visit was a “ calculated insult to the Catholic community”.  Sadly this latest visit has dragged the Royal Family into the scenario of Ulster politics.  The official Royal Ulster Constabulary view is that “Officer ranks appear to have lost control when individual patrols are seen to be completely autonomous”. (Quote)  Needless to report the U.D.R. is, and always was, predominantly a Protestant Regiment.  Sad to relate there are also perhaps a score of incidents where British troops have been charged with murdering civilians, but more prevalent are the small incidents like that reported in court on the 2nd February when Private Dennis Rutter broke the nose of a car driver he had stopped at a checkpoint, by butting him in the face with his head.  In court Rutter was found guilty and fined £300.

The squalid war of the teenage unemployed also surfaced in court today with the trial of five teenagers charged with armed bank robbery.  As I write news is coming in of three armed robberies which tonight took place in different parts of the city.  The three separate incidents all took place in space of an hour.

The prisons, needless to say, are full with some people having sentences to serve of nearly a thousand years (sic) for murder and torture.  Even long sentences do not seem to dampen the ardour of some for the bullet and the bomb, for in Magilligan Prison on Wednesday night Republican prisoners blew up a bathhouse whilst fellow inmates (Loyalists of course) were having showers.  While most had a lucky escape six ended up in hospital.

In the greatest mass escape in recent penal history, 37 terrorists escaped from the Maze Prison here in Ulster, last November.

The Henessey Report found that the prisoners took advantage of a work protest which occurred when the Northern Ireland Office decided political prisoners should carry out physical or menial tasks and the Republicans insisted instead on educational pursuits, primarily instruction in the Irish language (sic).  This protest was the catalyst which engineered the supply of five handguns into the prison, one of which, fantastically, was used in the 1981 Crumlin Prison escape.  Apparently these were smuggled in and passed over during “sex sessions” (sic) which the authorities had to ignore on the pretence of retaining a vestige of control with the rebellious inmates.  Sir James concludes his report, “We have serious reservations about the use to which the rooms in C Block were put to, prior to September 25th”.

BOMBS:

More serious and something which affects us all are the wanton acts of slaughter daily fostered by a callous barbarism reflecting, with savage indifference, the sanctity of life.

On the 1st February a 1,000 lb (sic) bomb blew two young policemen to pieces as they drove over it in an unmarked car.  The blast tore a 15 ft. crater in the road and blew windows out a mile away.  One of the young men Constable Bingham had planned to hold his wedding party tonight (5th February); instead his fiancée had to attend his funeral.  Cardinal O’Fiaich proclaimed this cruel slaughter as a foul and indefensible crime.

A “keg bomb”, a beer barrel filled with explosives was this week detonated in Newry after a four minute warning.  It damaged 47 houses and put 13 people in hospital.  Most explosions carry insufficient warnings like the recent Harrods atrocity.  Yet I was stunned to discover people defending this action claiming the 25 minute Harrods warning was more than ample.  I was ashamed to see in my local newspaper, the Irish News, an Apologist letter from one Jeffrey Dudgeon who had the effrontery to claim that the Harrods bomb “did more for Irish Unity than a decade of car bombs in Ulster –because it had the most destabilizing political effect in Westminster”.  I was sickened that such publicity be given Mr Dudgeon and appalled that the Irish News had the gall to print it.  I have no doubt the moronic Godlessness of Mr Dudgeon’s mentality, or lack of it, would also permit him to condone the Mountbatten slaughter.

The irony is that such Catholics still revel in the aura of spiritual visionaries where they see themselves as guiding lights to the masses.  The one thing not planned for in the Harrods atrocity was the killing of a young American tourist.  Most people over here were unaware of this and countered with such comments as “What a fuss over such a little bomb”.  Wait ’til they see the financial repercussions for Noraid over their little bomb.

There was much more fuss and outrage over here by the recent death of a man called Marron who, as a passenger in a stolen car, tried to run down a soldier at a Zebra Checkpoint.  At the car changed gear and accelerated towards him the soldier fired a single shot which went through the side window and killed Marron.  Local feeling ran high even though Marron had been “disciplined” in the past by his own I.R.A., (usually entailing legs being broken, or kneecapped) for similar offences.  Incidentally, Marron was due to appear in court the morning of his funeral for a similar charge of car theft.

Not many were aware that on the same road, the previous day two children had been knocked down on the pavement and killed by a hit-and-run driver in a stolen car.  Owning a car in Ulster is a problem.  Every family sometimes gets their car stolen for things like robberies, bombings, shootings or just transporting weapons.

If you break down or have a puncture in a lonely spot you must leave your car because to hang about too long is an invitation to trouble.  Sooner or later some “Samaritan” will happen along with an offer of help.  You will disappear and probably never be seen again.  This is called “getting scooped” and has happened to scores of people.  It is an experience few have lived to tell about.

TRADE:

There is amazingly a flourishing tourist trade between the North and South of Ireland.  Weekend breaks and such provided £70 million for the Exchequer up North and day-trippers who visit Ulster to purchase food and drink provided another £70 million.  Cattle also bring the North another £50 million in revenue.  The Irish Pound is very weak at the moment, running at about three quarter face value of the English, but unemployment is a lot worse up North.  The overall figure is about 20 per cent while towns like Strabane or Cookstown run at twice that.  The figures for the male labour force out of work can be much higher.  For example, 70 per cent in Londonderry and 75 per cent in Ballymurphy.  The Loyalists here claim that Catholics are all for the half crown but not at all for the Crown, and that they scrounge all they can from a State they wish to destroy.

A Catholic cousin of mine used to joke that when Saturday morning came round, and his family allowance was due, it was a race between him and the I.R.A. to see who got the money from his local Post Office first.  It does happen that many Post Offices get “hit” over and over again and the same spots tend to be bombed over and over again.  Witness the Europa Hotel.  The most bombed building in the world.  They have now changed the name.  Tonight, Friday 3rd, a large photographic shop downtown was bombed.  It was their ninth bomb in recent history.

In Channel Four’s “A Protestant View of Ulster” (screened 9th February), Lord Brooke claims that before the English Plantation of Ulster the high spot of Irish Culture was a spot of cattle thieving.  He claims belief in a sophisticated native culture was nothing but a figment of the Gaelic imagination.  I tend to agree for only since the “Brit Purge” has a massive revival of Gaelic Language and Culture taken place.  Many years ago when I attended St.Malachys College, Irish was dropped from the curriculum as a dead language.  Nowadays you cannot get a job in a government position in Southern Ireland unless you can speak fluent Irish.

In Northern Ireland today a good education is no longer a guarantee of a job for, in 1978, while there was a five per cent level of unemployment in Graduates the figure recently has risen to 15 per cent.  In Dublin there are more car thefts and wanton vandalism than in Belfast and the drug problem in Dublin is the worst of any city in Europe.  There are constant collections on the streets of Belfast to prevent the import of this side of Irish Culture into the North of Ireland.  One thing that is freely imported is  the network of R.T.E. television channels from the South enabling Ulster to pick and choose between six colour programmes.  The most controversial series on television was the recent screening of “The Thorn Birds”.  According to the British Audience Research Bureau the second episode topped the overall popularity poll.  But after a slating from the pulpit concerning its “Priestly immorality” it faded into oblivion.  Officially, that is!

PERSONALITIES:

Blended into this political pot-pourri of heritage and heretics are thrust as colourful a bunch of characters as would do justice to a Barnhum and Bailey Circus Act.  The Reverend Ian Paisley who is probably the best Public Relations Officer the I.R.A. ever had, has just suggested the deployment of a three hundred mile long electric fence across the border between the North and the South.  This ranks second only to General Westmorland’s plan for a Radioactive Gamma Belt between North and South Vietnam.  Let’s hope the two great men never meet.

Gerry Adams, whose recent book “Falls Memories” provoked some poignant ones of my own upbringing on the Falls, has imported talent like Ken Livingstone, while lovely Selina Scott contributes a weekly column of prosaic banality where she recently told of her battle with fellow newscasters to say Britain and not England while reading the news.  This because the Loyalists, while claiming to be British, will not neglect to sport the “Wearing of the Green”, a sprig of shamrock, on St.Patrick’s Day.

All this ambivalence no doubt confounds our own Enoch Powell, sheltering here in a political backwater where he can still muster in more local limelight than an English Press would afford.

Ian Paisley is currently organising massive rallies and protest marches in the full regalia of the Orange Order, to be accompanied by massed bands all because the City Council of Londonderry voted this week to change its name to Derry Council, dropping the London prefix.  The Rev. Paisley claims this is the last straw.  The fact that an Act of Parliament would be required to alter the name of the actual city itself seemed irrelevant to the mass of glinty eyed fanatics who revel in such Popish Plots.

On the 1st February local I.R.A. Supergrass Robert Quigley, who has implicated 16 men in 34 charges, said in cross examination that he considered himself “a sensitive honourable man!”

The leader of the moderate S.D.L.P. Party recently declared his view that the Irish Tricolour was more fitting a flag to fly on the Belfast City Hall as it represented the Green and Orange peoples of Ireland and the Union Jack, currently flying, represented one side only.  The fact that the flag is actually Green, White and Gold seems to have escaped his notice.

CONCLUSION:

The Ulster Bishop Dr. Daly has just stated that the I.R.A.’s claim to be fighting “a war on behalf of the Irish People” just defined Ulster’s’ one million Protestants as non-people.  He said they were merely invoking the principles of all Fascist Dictators in claiming the end justifies the means.

No matter how many Priests, or Bishops or Cardinals or Popes cry from the pulpit that “murder is murder” the I.R.A. and the cesspool it floats in, will always spawn, I suspect, a patriot who will empirically prove, through aspiring 17th century politics, that Protestants and Catholics are basically not the same, not all God’s children with the same fears and foibles, but that to suffer this concept is to labour under a delusion fostered only by faith and sustained by hope.

J. A. Rooney         ©

TRAVELS  IN  KENYA

Travelogue 2

Kenya

Early morning 5th December 1998, my lovely wife Patsy and I made our way to Gatwick Airport to begin our long journey to Kenya.  We had no idea what to expect when we got there, but were merely tempted at the thought of waking up to the sun every morning, and meeting out old friends, Bob and Lynda.  I had purchased a two-way Amateur radio for my friend because the price in Kenya would have been thousands of pounds and I acquired it for a fraction of the price in England.  We were both Radio Hams.

First stop: sleek, neat Dubai and the Al Arab hotel which is the only 7 star hotel in the world. It also has exquisite furniture shops and ultra-modern roads teeming with up-to-date cars.  An eccentric lone woman befriended us and we shared a taxi before our overnight stay, to glimpse the City and let our toes test the sea, before making our way back to the Airport the next morning for the second part of our journey to Nairobi.  We landed around 10.30pm at night, and we were to be met by Bob and Lynda, but, as we were to find out in the next few months, true to Kenyan tradition, they arrived an hour late.  We convinced ourselves we should try and make our own way on to Nanyuki – all the time frantically searching for Bob, whom my wife had never met and I hadn’t seen for about ten years.  We were told, after enquiring at what looked like a respectable kiosk, that it would cost us 10,000 Kenyan shillings (£100)!  We nearly fell for that one, when at last Bob and Lynda appeared.  Not the best place in the world to be at the mercy of the natives!  By now it’s gone midnight, and too late for the long drive to Nanyuki, so they take us to Athi River, down the bumpiest and humpiest roads imaginable, to stay with their friends Robin and Sarah.  Complete strangers to us, they were very hospitable, giving us a bed, breakfast and a gift of the first of our Kenyan carvings – a giraffe.

We journey on early in the morning (to avoid the Nairobi rush where we see giant rubbish tips with whole families living inside them).  Along the way we visit Sarah’s father’s jewellery workshop, all cats and chickens and waving children – very rural.  Her father, “Rock” makes beautiful rings from opals, etc.  We stop next at Nara Moru River Lodge, where cacti, waterfalls and rustic wooden and coconut buildings are on view and buy some sodas (all soft drinks are called this, including Tangawizi, Cresta, Tonic and Coke).  Beautiful trees, flowers and giant butterflies prevail.  We saw the most amazing specimen of tree which looked like someone had bedecked it with sausages for Christmas; it is in fact called a Sausage Tree!

We spot some huge Marabou storks which have built their giant nest next to some clusters of little tunnel nests made by the funnel birds.  One more stop; for exotic fruit along the way, which is sold at the roadside, fresh from the trees.  Then, at last on to Nanyuki, 6,000ft. above sea level and right on the Equator, so we were exhausted, to be met by Jo-Jo, the very amiable dog, Joseph the gardener, and Davis, house-boy and cook. A meal and so to bed.  We were surprised at how cold it is at night in Nanyuki.  In the morning we take a stroll, minus umbrella to “Town” and take cover with a local under a tree to avoid a short-sharp-shower –the end of the rainy season!  We, at first impression of the town, are at the least unimpressed.  The car wash is the river, the “roads” are full of swirling dust and the “shops” are very meagre.  The culture here is a century behind the times.  We read in the papers about six women who were burned at the stake because the villagers thought they were witches and an itinerant preacher was hanged recently, because they thought he was possessed.  The President, Daniel arap Moi, has ruled for over ten years, and the whole system is totally corrupt.  All the elections are fixed, votes being purchased for a few shillings from all the natives.  When we questioned their logic they told us that at least this week their family can eat, and the future can look after itself.  Every single business from small shops to large stores must have a picture of the President on prominent display for fear of imprisonment.  We also learned that the former president’s wife Mrs Kenyatta who grew roses for export had diverted water from two whole villages to cultivate her plants.  Orchids are cheap here, and so is life, but roses are not.

The locals are curious to say the least, and the beggars are plenty – not a pretty sight.  “ White man stick out like sore thumb”!  We meet lots of interesting characters along the way, and feel almost threatened and defensive, until you get to know them and they you, then they grow on you, and you almost feel one of them!  We were getting used to the ridiculing Ha-Ha birds laughing at us above our heads.  These are the native Ibis, but we renamed them Ha-Ha’s as we felt this suited them better, being the exact noise of their constant cries.

Bob told us that the previous weekend the plantation which he supervised grew mange tout, and peas, was inspected by the ‘Tesco’ representative.  He had flown in specially to check if all the packaged peas and beans were regulation length.  Bob said he had to dump tons of produce because they were too long or too short to satisfy Tesco.  I queried why he didn’t give the surplus to the locals and he told me that the natives reject most vegetables and wouldn’t dream of eating peas, and think the Mazongas are crazy to chew on pea pods.  On his departure the Tesco rep. spotted a dog running, loose, in the crops and freaked out.  Bob laughed and said, “It’s a good job he doesn’t see what the elephants do in the middle of the night!”

On the Sunday morning we go to the yearly Nanyuki Craft Fayre; everybody meets there and does their bit for charity and sells their wares.  Just like England, everything here is exorbitant, but you buy something anyway.  We had fitted in a visit to St. George’s little ramshackle Church before this to sing Carols – Christmas was round the corner.  Lynda sold most of her homemade chutneys and cakes at the Fayre, and we all had a very pleasant day.

Our next excursion was not so pleasant, the sticky, fearsome day we went to Isiola near the Somali border.  We inspected the local bicycle shop; bits of metal under the shade of a few trees, and the shoemakers, where old car tyres are cut up and re-cycled into sandals, which all the locals wear.  On the cratered roads we give a shilling to the gang of locals filling in the potholes in the road.  We had been warned about malaria and trouble en-route before we left, so were on our guard all day.  Very poverty-stricken, the locals are persistently determined to sell us something – anything, so they can eat.  We realised soon that we would have this wherever we went – everybody is starving.

After purchasing some local jewellery, we had lunch of chicken “bone” curry (which we gave most of to the cats), and learned from that day on that Kenyans can’t cook!  We held hands very tightly when walking through the town, and realised that this place was even worse than Nanyuki.  We were quite glad to be leaving Isiola; spotted the same gang digging up the holes they had filled in earlier.  This is how they earn their living, Bob explained.  We then stopped at “Tamara River lodge” on the way back, which was as beautiful as Isiola was not, with its natural waterfalls, giant tortoises, trout and ostrich, which we fed.   We also see our first zebra, and a train of wild camels.  This was an idyllic place with its Swiss-looking wooden lodges and wildlife.  The next day I get my first bout of runny-tummy; one of many, which lingers for quite a few days.  We meet Bob’s ex-boss; Tim, whom we see a week later at The Sportsman’s Arms, along with Martina Navratilova, who was not amused when we failed to acknowledge her prominent presence.

Christmas is becoming imminent, but Bob and Lynda do not decorate their house, so we attempt to make a Christmas tree with branches from their garden, but distinctly feel they’re not impressed with our efforts.  In fact the friendship between Bob and us is in decline, so our days are numbered at their abode.  We decide one evening that enough is enough and plan our escape, leaving a cryptic note and nothing else.  The cockerel, planted neatly outside our bedroom window is the last straw that broke the chicken’s back (metaphorically speaking)!  Our escape would be before seven in the morning, with countless bags of luggage with pull-along monstrous suitcases on an Indian Raja bicycle, along humps, bumps and very curious onlookers.  We didn’t make a sound, so as not to alert Jo-Jo, the cockerel or servants, who slept in a tiny little wooden shack nearby.  We had visions of bumping into Bob and Lynda in the near future, Nanyuki being a tiny place, and wanted to avoid a scene, which happened the very next day; after checking into The Sportsman’s Arms and leaving a message at reception: “Not to be disturbed”.  We ventured into town in the afternoon, and as we left the gates saw Bob’s car number plate “199” coming towards us.  We knew it would happen, but so soon?  I explained that we needed our own ‘space’ and how it was for the best (we were getting on each other’s nerves), but Bob said we should meet up some time, and simply wished each other Happy Christmas and then went our separate ways.

Having the large swimming pool at the Sportsman’s was wonderful and we booked into Room 5; well, wood-cabin No.5, complete with large open wood-burning fireplace.  Most toilets, if you can call them that, are holes dug into the ground – deep holes – but here there was a Western Loo, thank goodness.  We purchased fairy lights and made the cabin cosy and Christmassy, until Patsy was struck down with something clearly resembling malaria – sweaty hot shivers, temperature, headache, aching joints and sore limbs.  We both suspected it was malaria – Patsy was too frightened to admit it.  The next day, after advice, we went to Nanyuki Cottage Hospital where Patsy had a blood test (very much feared in Kenya), and after a sample was told she hadn’t allowed enough time for the germ to be evident, so they treated her for dehydration, which they considered to be the problem.  She never did find out what she really had, but the consultation and tablets came to 2,300 Kenyan shillings (£23).

I decided, after being talked into it, that we would take our chances and climb Mount Kenya, right on the Equator and just as high as Kilimanjaro.  Before we went we met Timothy and Emily Bungi who owned the hardware shop in Nanyuki.  They are a lovely couple, and we became very close friends with them, socialising and attending the Full Gospel Church together.  It was overflowing with followers and extremely loud – almost deafening!  It was from Timothy’s that I had bought the Indian Raja bicycle.  Brand new bikes here have to be taken apart, stripped, oiled, tightened and pumped before use, which adds to the cost of the bike 3,600 Kenyan shillings in all.  There was a lady’s bike ordered for Patsy, which was unheard of around these parts (ladies don’t do things like that!) – and Timothy tried his best to find one in Nairobi – unsuccessfully, so after a while Timothy brought back my bike for cash – no good if you only have one.

Our mountain trek was to take four days.  We decided to start on Christmas Eve.  We were not forewarned of the horrors yet to come, but we went anyway.  Only armed with the few clothes and socks we had, our long haul began.  Firstly our Guide and 2 Porters, equipped with supplies and sleeping bags – enough for four days, and we all crammed into Bruno’s Land Rover.  It seemed a long way to the Park Gate – 22kms, covering treacherous roads with holes like swimming pools (it helps if you have a well-padded backside), and we held onto the sides of the Jeep for grim death.  When we reached the Gates, everything, including ourselves was covered in brown/red dust – layers of it; and we had to be brushed down with leaves and branches.  We were to get used to being this colour, and all our clothes for the next four days!  With Guide and Porters ahead of us, not showing the way – it can only be Up!

We began.  The sun is scorching/glaring, and we can only stop to find a bush to relieve ourselves (in more ways than one), or to have a sip of the one and only bottled water, which was to last until the First Camp – 9 kms away.  The only animals we spotted on the way up were vultures – ominous!  When we finally reached Camp Moses we were exhausted, but to add insult to injury were told that after lunch (oxtail soup/bread/tea), we would have to walk alone another mile or so up and then back, to acclimatise ourselves to the altitude (10,000ft.)  We had already trekked 6½ miles!  We were ravenous, and anything would have tasted good, even oxtail soup!  We had passed great mounds of elephant dung and cavernous holes made by the elephants and other extremely large animals.  Patsy stopped once, amazed at what she thought was a swarm of flies, and looking up, realised when stung on the stomach that they were bees – angry bees, their honey and nest had just been invaded by an elephant.  Luckily, after trying to run away – upwards from the nest, Joseph the Guide caught up with her and pulled the sting out.  We only had a very short rest after lunch, and then walked as far as we could knowing that Joseph was keeping look-out for us; but we cheated a little and hid, lying on the moss, almost sleeping, then back again to First Camp.

The temperature was cooling very rapidly and by the evening, with only freezing water from the mountain falls and no electric, just the odd candle, we tried to keep as warm as possible, using only our few clothes over the sleeping bags.  The Cabins were just planks of wood with wooden bunks for beds, and tables for eating our evening meal by candle-light.  We then went to find the toilets – bad mistake – just a little wooden cubicle between the trees with a deep, deep hole, too dark to shut the door, and you never knew what might be lurking above or behind the doors – insect-wise!  Besides we had to hold our breath and couldn’t manage to do both at the same time.

After that, we preferred to find a secluded bush and take turns in keeping watch.

Night was over, thank goodness, listening to the calls of the strangest of birds and animals hardy enough to survive at that altitude.  All the food and baggage was repacked and we were off in the morning to the Second Camp – ‘Shipton’.  Little did we know that morning what was before us – the most strenuous day of our lives.  We walked and trekked and walked and stumbled, and tripped and climbed – up – up – up –all the while the air was thinning, and breathing was becoming very difficult.  Our hearts were racing to double their normal speed, because of the thinning air and the temperature dropping by the minute.

Only the thought that lunch would be prepared on the mountain path kept us going – tea and sandwiches prepared by Peter the cook and Tyson the porter.  We still had miles to go – up over the steepest climb we had encountered yet.  We climbed for what seemed an eternity, and the end was not even in sight.  The top of the next section never seemed to be visible – always out of view – very daunting, then on and on, for hours – UP!

We saw the strangest of animals; hyraxes and eagles and plants – great groundsel, which only grows in a few places on Earth, and almost the only vegetation to survive the ice-cold temperatures and altitude, and lack of oxygen.  No wonder we mere humans were finding the going so tough!  Our feet were sore, our heads were thumping and all our muscles strained.  Unfortunately I realised Patsy was near to tears and would be showing us up very soon.  She threw herself on the damp ground and refused to move; only downwards!  She was past caring what anyone thought of her, and just looked a wreck.  Joseph and Tyson tried to coax her with tea and claimed there wasn’t much further to go – only about another 4 hours!!  As they said, it was much further to go back.  Hobson’s Choice.

By this time, the weight of your hands swinging on your arms was too much to bear, but after 10 hours and 11 miles, we finally made it to the top Camp, just before dark.  Quick as lightning Peter prepared hot mushroom soup, fruit and a meal (rustled up in the most basic kitchen I’ve ever seen – just a wooden hut with a stone floor and a little fire burning for cooking).  Our water for drinking was either boiled or siphoned through the little gadget I thoughtfully brought with us.  We didn’t need the runny-tummy syndrome up here!

The mountain was looming – topped with snow, a glacier, ice caps and giant icicles everywhere.  We’d given up washing ourselves, because to undress in these temperatures seemed a life-threatening hazard, so brushing our teeth was the last effort we made, before finding the furthest bush for nature’s calling.  Then we retired.  Everything we owned was put on that night – as many socks as we could find – jackets – gloves, and the spare gloves became our pillows, and a spare sponge mattress each that no one was using, on top of our sleeping bags.  By this time Patsy was feeling almost threatened by the mountain, and knew she couldn’t go on.  We had no mountain boots, only trainers, not the most suitable footwear for mountain climbing, but I was determined this mountain would not beat me.  I was going on!  Patsy was frightened for my health and safety, and made me promise that if it was too tough to turn back.  I promised, and with a towel round my throat for a scarf, hats, gloves and two pairs of trousers, I set off with Joseph, the Guide, heading out for the summit, around midnight.

When Patsy awoke, after the coldest, hardest night yet– her head was thumping and her face and eyes beginning to swell, she ventured shivering to the outside of the hut to see the starving dog that ate our dinner the night before.  He too was shivering, with only the canopy of great groundsel for cover from the elements, and it was snowing!  So far we’d had hailstones, scorching sun, icicles, rain and now snow – and I was on the mountain!  We had decided that if all went well, we would not leave this dog to starve on the mountain – such a friendly, gentle and placid creature for one so hungry and cold.  Later, Joseph the Guide decided to take him home with him, to his family, all the way back with us down the mountain.

Joseph and I plodded up over the shale and shingle with a sheer drop in the dark to the left of us.  The torch that Joseph had brought ran out in half-an-hour, because of the effect of the cold on the batteries.  Despite the intense cold I started to sweat and decided to rest for a drink of water; it is well known that sweat will freeze on the body at such a low temperature and cause hypothermia.  As I started to drink my water I felt foolish because it seemed I left the seal intact on the water bottle for as I put it to my mouth no water came out.  I probed with my tongue, which then stuck to the ice that the water had changed into.  This was the final straw.  I told Joseph I’d had enough and sat down. I said I would wait until sun up but it was only four o’clock in the morning and he said, if I didn’t keep moving, I would freeze up as the sun would not rise for a couple of hours.  I then told him I would go back down.  He then told me that without a torch I would slip over the edge.  Once again Hobson’s Choice; I was forced to go on.  We were able to see because in the clear atmosphere on top of the mountain we were five-and-half thousand metres high and the stars shone like embers; I was stunned by the clarity and multitude of their beauty.  We finally reached the top at sun-up, and I was amazed to find half a dozen other people who had reached the summit from different directions, all around the mountain.  We congratulated each other and posed for photographs, and inspected the memorials to those who had died in the attempt.  We could not stay very long because we had to keep moving to avoid freezing up and so gingerly made our way back down to the Camp.

At last, Joseph and I appeared, but not from the place where Patsy expected to see us, but we were alive and well, although exhausted.  I was too tired to eat and started to shiver uncontrollably.  I was given hot tea then wrapped up in bed for a very short while – about an hour.  Then we were told we had to start the descent!  We were given breakfast, which we found we could not swallow – the altitude, extreme temperatures and fatigue have the strangest effects on the body, but we knew that if we were to have the strength for the downhill trek, we would have to eat something.

This day becomes almost a blur – trudge – trudge – trudge, through pouring, freezing rain and hail, the clouds so thick in some parts that you could not see the person in front of you.  Slipping on ice and failing to judge the width of the ice-cold streams; soaking our trainers and socks through to the bone.  I was so tired now, and quiet, I was almost zombified.  I couldn’t carry anything, not even myself!  This had to be called “The Endless Journey”, with Joseph the Guide continually telling us (as he always did) that it was only half-an-hour to go, when in reality it was more like another six hours.  “Hakuna Matata” he would say (No Problem!)  What would we have done without him?

The dog, by the way, had to be taken down quickly by another Guide for fear of being shot by the Camp Guard, who would have done so, because he said dogs were not permitted!  We went very slowly down the mountain, with me recalling what happened on the journey to the peak.  We were now told that 25% of attempts fail, and that countless people are lost on the mountain each year.  Just lost!  Never to return.  Last year six people disappeared.  On the peak there is a cross bearing the name of a friend who died there of the Reverend Krapf, a Missionary here in Kenya in 1849 – just one of many who die there or just disappear.

We finally did arrive back at the First Camp after 10 hours or so, all the time wishing ourselves somewhere else and dreaming of sun, sea, coconuts and pineapples.  We hardly remembered that this had been Christmas, today being Boxing Day, and that people out there were warm and cosy and heartily eating and celebrating!  We did remember on Christmas day to wish our nearest and dearest Good Tidings – if only to the mountain air!  Collapsing and stripping off layers of the wettest, smelliest socks ever; our shoes were sodden.

A fire was lit for our clothes to dry, hopefully before the morning.  We went to bed and slept while the meal was prepared and dry clothes were kindly lent to us by a group of men from Ireland of all places.  We then ate and tried to sleep, while someone, a young girl, was rushed down the mountain through the dark – she had altitude sickness and was very ill.  The only cure for this is to go DOWN!  When we awoke I was still tired and Patsy had the most violent headache – it was overpowering.  I asked around for advice and medicine, which she took regardless of what it was, and rummaged for her mirror; her face felt very strange.  Not only did she think her head was bursting, but the awful sight of her eyes made her feel a hundred times worse.  Her eyes were mere slits – swollen out of all recognition.  It was horrific!  So she decided to hide her face from the world.  Apparently she now had exposure, from the extreme elements.  The tablets worked, and a surprise lift down to the Gate in a 4 x 4 was very gratefully accepted by both of us.

It was over – we only had to survive the trip back along the red-dusty-incredibly bumpy tracks.  We felt lucky to be alive, and longed for a lovely soak in a hot bath.  This was not to be.  When we checked back into the Sportsman’s Arms we were put in Room 48 – overlooking the pool.  Nice, we thought, even though Patsy still couldn’t look anyone in the face because of her eyes (they took two more days to subside!) – but we had discovered the water for the bath was cold.  We felt we’d suffered enough and this was just not on!  We became irritable with each other and thought we’d better get this ordeal over with – clean our mud-stained bodies and have something good to eat.  This also was not to be!  The food in Nanyuki always, without fail, managed to amaze us.  Somehow they contrive to ruin everything, even a defenceless little egg – or bacon – or chicken – or fish – or potatoes – or whatever.  When we finally recovered a few days later, after our ordeal, we began to enjoy the pool and the town, and even its tenacious residents.  We became part of the scene and accepted, even though still scrutinized by many, mainly the women who frowned upon white women wearing not many clothes.

We took a trip one day to the exact spot on the Equator where it was demonstrated that water, when poured into a funnel flowed either clockwise or anti clockwise, depending on which side of the Equator you were standing.   Whichever side the Equator line falls on dictates the way the water will flow because of the centrifugal force.  This occurs within a few inches of it and right on the centre-line the water flows straight down the funnel.

We managed to evade most of the street traders, and took off back to the Curio-Shop, where we bought countless ebony and redwood carvings; bargaining as much as possible.  By now, we had got back into the swing of the evenings at the Sportsman’s Bar, where Whisky and Gin were 50 pence a shot, and quite glad to be back in the company of Irene, Bruno and the like.  It was here that we met our first African friend Jayne and now discovered she had just got married to Niall who was also from Ireland.  It was their wedding evening, and it was obvious they weren’t too happy with each other.  Over the days to come their relationship deteriorated fast, even though they were destined to go back together home to England on 13th January (lucky for some!).  They were first of all going to spend a few days on honeymoon in Malindi.

We often bumped into Bob and Lynda in town, and each time found it more comfortable in each other’s company.  Robin, Sarah and family were coming to see them and stayed a few nights.  Bob and Robin met us at the Sportsman’s Bar and we arranged to go out with them the following day, to Nara Moro River Lodge for a meal, which was excellent.  It was very hot there, and we marvelled at the cacti and Jacaranda trees and countless butterflies, not forgetting the little scarlet-chested sunbirds with their swooping beaks.  The first time we encountered a massive Marabou stork was when we were sitting under a shelter and thought it was a weird sort of helicopter flying overhead, with it’s massive wings beating the air.  Even the common Kenyan Starling is a bright petrol blue and red.  Robin and Sarah left early after lunch for their journey back to Athi River, so the rest of the day was spent swimming in the pool, playing table tennis and crossing the stream to meander through the bush in search of other wildlife.

New Year’s Eve was now upon us, and we celebrated it at Shades outside bar at the Sportsman’s with Jayne and Niall, Timothy and Emily and Irene.  Everyone danced, after watching the local Kenyan old folks do their traditional chants and dances.  When 12 o’clock came, bottles were shaken; we all got sprayed and sung “Happy New Year – We’re the only Mazonga’s ’ere” – my version – (Mazonga means White man).  We ordered a plate of chicken for us all to pick at, which saw the New Year in.  Timothy was very intent on learning how to swim, which Emily found amusing, but I offered to try my best, having been a lifeguard many years ago.  He was a quick-ish learner, and with a lot of patience, I had him swimming Timothy-fashion by the time light was fading; then they bought us a meal which we were very grateful for as their funds, we realised, were very low.

Bob and Lynda presented Patsy with a local-made handbag, complete with brass elephant catch, and said that my present was on order and not yet here.  One morning they called on us after breakfast, a day after my second bout of the dreaded runny-tummy (after eating a T-bone steak – at least that’s what they called it). They said they were on their way to “Sweetwater’s Game Reserve” to book my Christmas Present – two nights in a luxury Tented Camp, Lonrho-style.  We were obviously delighted, and we went with them there and then.  Sweetwater is not far from Nanyuki, and famous for its Night-Game Drives.  Bob booked us in for the next Wednesday and Thursday nights, and by the looks of the place, we were in for something special, and decided to have a Sweetwater Fruit Juice – at 330 Kenyan shillings a glass!!

We decided on the spot to bring our own water and sodas and hide them in our tent.  After signing his life away, Bob drove us round the whole Camp in the hopes of finding some big game.  That day, and only that day (the only no-camera day) we saw a lioness; she was quite near, camouflaged in the long dry grass, and watching what she hoped was her tea – a whole herd of gazelles and zebra.  I asked Bob did lions deserve their ferocious reputation and he related a couple of anecdotes.  Apparently lions become man-eaters when they lose their teeth or a limb in a trap.  They are then forced to hunt for easier pray!  He told me the incidents of lion attacks had doubled in the last five years sometimes because entire families became man-eaters when the parents, after they tasted human flesh, initiated the young into a man-hunt the way other lions do so for hoofed mammals.  He said when a lion bites a human by the head death is instant because the teeth penetrate the brain; but mostly they grab their victim by the neck, or shoulder, dragging the body away which means ten more minutes of agony.  Hungry lions will simply leave nothing more than the head or the feet.  Many times after an attack all that is found are the footwear of the victim with the chewed feet protruding out their boots.  In Somalia, a few miles away, a lion attacked an English Officer resting on his camp bed.  In the confusion the bed overturned and the lion ran away – with the pillow.  In another incident a local came across a lion as light was fading but quickly took refuge in a tree.  The lion perched under the tree waiting all night until dawn.  However the man fell asleep, lost balance and fell on top of the lion, which ran away in shock!  Every year hundreds of people are killed by lions, crocodiles and elephants; but hippos account for more loss of life than the others put together.

We were apparently very lucky, as lions are seldom sighted, as we found out later.  We turned into the entrance to a dam and right next to us was the giant backside of a lone Tusker (a bull elephant which are cast out of the herd when they get elderly).  Bob turned off the engine and we just sat for a while watching, until the elephant sensed us and turned.  Apparently a lone rogue Tusker can charge for no reason, and Bob shot out pretty quickly – thank goodness the car was reliable, and started immediately, so we continued on the track, to try and find Morani the semi-tamed Rhino.  We found him and we all got out of the car to hopefully tempt him with the branches he enjoyed.  I spotted a guard with a rifle and mentioned how grateful I was that he was protecting us from the rhino.  He said “Masah boss this rifle to protect rhino, not you”!  I realised I had forgotten how valuable rhino horn had become.

I managed to get so close to Morani that when feeding him I managed to grasp his huge front horn and felt the massive strength as I tried to move it from side to side.  He then raised his neck and discretion got the better part of valour and I gracefully retreated.  Then we all trekked through the long crisp grasses and dung – with just sandals on our feet.  Having never encountered Safari Ants with teeth like Alsatians, we naively continued on, until Patsy felt teeth gnawing at her big toe, and the biggest “ant” hanging onto it, refusing to let go!  She began to panic, when she realised nothing would stop him – he would have to die, but he wouldn’t!  She shouted out, while jumping and flapping about “Get it off, PLEASE!”  We thought it was a snake at least, that she had on her foot.  Even when the body of the ant was pulped the head and teeth were still embedded in her toe and it had to be extracted.  When finally we looked down at our socks and sandals we found ourselves covered in them and had to sit picking them off.  Lynda thought she had “ants in her pants”, so she too was hopping around.  All the while, Bob was looking on and falling about with laughter.  He continued for the rest of the day remarking on how funny we all looked, not fearing the Rhino, but terrified of the “small fry”, like ants and mosquitoes.  He neglected to mention he wasn’t afraid of mosquitoes because he already had malaria, but had learned to live with it!

That evening at dinner, was when we first met Bernard and Florian; two friendly Germans.  Bernard was sitting by himself, placed in the middle of the dining room, when a tall black girl came into the room and sat in the corner.  We could see she had her eyes on him, and could sense she was determined to pick him up.  She asked if she could join him and he agreed.  Then, as an afterthought he realised what he was in for, and declined.  We could see he was painfully embarrassed, and she was not amused, so we thought we’d better rescue him.  It was then through this incident that our friendship with Bernard and Florian began.  After our ‘meal’ we ventured into the Bar, where the Germans were immediately hassled by a large white man, from South Africa.  He was determined to cause trouble, and, working it out later, we decided that he was probably the girl’s ‘pimp’, and was not too happy with them.  He said “I’ll be back – I’m watching you” – Schwarzenegger style, and with that he very roughly patted Bernard’s head, with enough force to make his head sink into his shoulders.  We could see they were genuinely frightened, thinking that the offending assailant definitely had something against the German race.  They left the Sportsman’s the next morning, but we saw them again and again, even at Sweetwater’s.

We checked out of the Sportsman’s after three-and-a-half weeks but it was almost beginning to feel like home.  Everybody was very welcoming towards us – I became known as ‘Mr Joe’, – but now we were leaving to begin our two days at Sweetwater’s.  Once again, Bob and Lynda drove us there.  We were handed fresh moist flannels to freshen our faces, and had a look round.  We were in Tent 1, which had a beautiful 4-poster bed, and a wardrobe with a stained-glass window of a peacock.  A bowl of fruit was available and the bathroom was en-suite.  A far cry from the majority of most safari tents.  They stayed until about 5pm.  We looked at each other when they had gone – I knew what she was thinking.  We would have a quick swim before dark in the little pool we had been seated round – it was too tempting.  We knew we would be in that pool at least twice a day.

After our evening meal, we were due for our first game drive, starting at nine that evening.  I had just got over another bout of the dreaded tummy bug, and had been congratulating Patsy that she had escaped it.  After half-an-hour driving by torchlight with the escort and two complete strangers positioned behind us, the bug hit her.  She started panting and sweating and holding onto the doorframe, praying all the time.  Surely, not here, in the middle of the Safari Park, where to get out would be suicide – eaten by a lion no less, or to stay in the jeep and have the most embarrassing moment of her life.  What an option!  We prayed and prayed, but her stomach had a mind of its own.  We had to turn back and get to a toilet, apologising and sweating all the way.  Everyone had paid for two hours!  We had only seen a few animals like hyenas and jackals and decided then that these Night Game Drives were not for us.

The next day, after a night with our feet around hot-water bottles, and the scent of “good-night flowers”, handed out each evening, we awoke to the sight of giraffes, baboons, gazelles and wart-hogs just the other side of the water hole – a few feet from our tent.  It was amazing.  During that day, we had seen elephants, zebras and waterbuck come to drink, and each time marvelled at the closeness of them, with only a low wire electric fence between them and us.  After lunch and a swim we sat and had coffee, when our friends Florian, Bernard and Irene appeared.  They had come to stay too.  I had booked for us to have a camel ride in the Park.  They’re the strangest animals – quite grumpy and extremely tall, especially when you’re up on their back.  They plod along looking neither left or right – and you cling on tight, hoping they don’t trip because it’s a long way down.  We spent the evening with Florian and Bernard swimming. Later on we photographed rhinos and elephants drinking at the waterhole in the dark.  Florian bravely decided to explore around the Camp with just a little torch and bumped straight into an elephant.  He told us later he didn’t know who was more surprised.

That night, I awoke with a start, along with the others who heard what must have been a lion trying to cross the fence.  An almighty long drawn out roar.  I sat bolt upright as it seemed to be just outside the tent.  I held my breath, as I guessed everyone else did as we all suspected it had caught its family jewels on the electric fence.  It was the scariest sound I have ever heard in my whole life.  I could not believe any animal could make such a loud roar.  I half expected it to appear through the tent at any moment.  Everyone around was holding their breath and keeping as quite as mice because we feared the first one to move would be the first target.  We had seen enough elephant dung around the campsite, to realise that if elephants can cross over the fence surely a lion could jump over.

Up at six o’clock the next morning and out on a game drive, having been brought a luxurious breakfast in bed.  Bernard joined us, and we shared the next two hours with a very patient driver who took us wherever we wanted, seeing ‘Morani’ again and a semi-tame giant wart hog.  We also saw buffalo, and a whole herd of elephants with young, and countless giraffe, gazelle, waterbuck and zebras.  We never did see another lion there, which was rather disappointing.

Irene and friend Peter came that afternoon to collect Florian and take him back to Nanyuki – Bernard was staying another night, and Bob came for us.  We’d had a good time – a great experience, but we’d decided to check into the Ibis Hotel at 3000 Kenyan shillings a night – just for one night, thank goodness; such a let-down after the luxury of Sweetwater’s.  The Ibis reminded us of something out of a time warp.  We half expected to see Humphrey Bogart appear at a doorway.  The place echoed with the hum of china, glass, pots and pans, strange music and the throb of many voices.  Somehow we slept.

We were off in the morning with Bernard and Bruno to Nairobi, all sharing a taxi (large Peugeots, which seemed to be the only cars capable of withstanding the rigours of the Kenyan roads).  We were all now going our separate ways, Bruno to do business in Macinda, Bernard waiting for his flight home, and we were catching the overnight sleeper train to Mombasa.

The train was to leave at 7pm, arriving at 8.15 the next morning.  We had a few hours to kill, so we ventured very cautiously, weaving between crazy Matatus with luggage and passengers hanging onto every protrusion; hundreds of them skidding round in all directions – like dodgem cars, but not always dodging!  We just missed being mowed down by one.  Every day in Kenya people get killed by these things.  We thought we’d try our luck on crossing the road.  This was going to prove difficult, as the traffic lights appeared to be just for show. Go on red, like everyone else, just shoot across and go on green, as well, but much more cautiously!  Obviously the locals were well used to this daily hazard, but we Mazongas were not.  It took us quite a time to pluck up enough courage to cross, and holding our breath, made a run for it.  The traffic never stops coming.  By the time that was over, we just had time for a quick plate of chips in a seedy-looking hotel, and off back along the same route to claim our luggage and board the train.

We bumped into two Nanyukiites at the station, who were also going to Mombasa.  The train station is just opposite the American Embassy that was bombed, just four months earlier killing 74 people and injuring over 1,600.  The massive building was still a burnt-out concrete shell without a single window remaining.  The train journey was without incident, being well organised, except that at every meal-time we had to stumble along at least twelve carriages, hopping over the flexible connectors, but the food was very passable, and the cabin beds quite comfortable, except hot.  After counting over thirty carriages between the giant locomotives I gave up.  This was the longest train imaginable, and back in England we learned this very train derails every year, killing hundreds.

Mombasa the next morning was nowhere near as worrying as Nairobi had been, but the temperatures were definitely rising.  We knew we had to try and reach Malindi before the end of the day to save paying out for a night’s stay in Mombasa.  The most direct way was by taxi, and the quickest – about eighty miles.  We asked to be taken straight to Malindi Airport in the hopes of getting a flight to Lamu Island the same afternoon.  The earliest flight was not until the next morning, so we had no choice but to stay.  We found the tiny little boarding house we’d heard of through Niall and Jayne (the same house they’d just honeymooned in), “Fondu Wehru”, where the moths were as big as saucers and the spiders gruesome.  It did have an earthy charm all of its own, but when we saw the mosquito-ridden nets we knew there was a problem.  It was obviously too hot for glass at the windows, so there was no stopping them, they were coming into the room in hordes!  Patsy got bitten there, after just one night, over 25 times.

Everything seems to be cooked in either coconut or lime juice – at least they had some taste in cooking; after Nanyuki, anything would have tasted good.  The roofs were coconut palms and the floors earth, with trees growing between the rooms.  We went in search of the beach – it was so HOT!  We were dripping.

The water there is the same colour as the sand, reddish brown, and the sea was almost too warm.  We needed to cool down, but here was certainly not invigorating; we weren’t used to this.  Still, it was fun jumping in and out of the waves – we hadn’t seen the sea for months.  The fine gold sand of Mombasa leaves a glittering coat on your body as you come out of the sea, and being quite uncomfortable necessitates a shower before dressing.  We found our way back after seeing a little of Malindi – it was Sunday and most shops were closed, but we bought some peanuts from a boy selling from a tiny table.  The bags of peanuts were 5 Kenyan shillings, about 5 English pence, and we realised that, even if he sold everything on the table, he would still only have made less than £1 sterling.  We saw so much of this and always felt guilty about our own Western lifestyle.  The cats too were forever crying “hungry – hungry”.  That night they had our chicken – all of it.  We felt much better, if only for a few hours!

After the stickiest night ever, we showered and repacked our belongings to go onto Malindi Airport.  I was not looking forward to it, fearing such a small plane – an 18 seater.  It was only a half hour flight, and we were only just above the clouds.  They looked like snow-capped mountains; then we could see the sea: then the island.  It looked wonderful.  When we landed on a tiny airstrip, we were very hot and were continually hassled by a persistent bearded man, determined that we should stay at the place of his choice.  All we wanted was to take the boat ride into Lamu away from the airstrip.  He came with us – a most undesirable-looking specimen – we just couldn’t shake him off!  We hid in the bank, while changing money, for about half-an-hour, but he was still waiting for us when we came out!  We were now determined to find somewhere of our own choosing.  We decided to take another boat trip onto Shella Beach – nicknamed Paradise Island.  We took an Arab dhow – like a little sailing boat.  We were to use many of these in the days to come, but not in strong winds; they often capsize!

When the dhow reached its shallowest point, we stepped knee-deep into the crystal clear water to wade ashore – this truly was paradise.  White soft sand, the bluest of sea, bougainvillea everywhere, palm trees and donkeys.  All transport is either by boat, dhow or donkey, not a smelly car in sight.  The only vehicle on the island is a government Land Rover.  Wonderful!  We had to find somewhere to stay – somewhere reasonable, clean and near to the beach.  I liked the look of The Island Hotel.  It was very tasteful; 4-poster bed, hammocks and the food was good as well.  We booked in for just a couple of nights because it was too expensive but decided to splash out on a meal.  We enjoyed the best fish and fruit juices we had ever tasted and we were very lucky with the cooking.  The island generator only supplies half the populace on even days and the other half on odd days, and this was our day for electricity!

We had our fish meal, which gave us a good opportunity to escape the persistent street vendors who were insisting that we book up some excursions with them, now they realised we were staying for a few days. We then strolled to the beach – it was luxurious.  The most beautiful beach you’ve ever seen, eight miles long, of the finest white sand and best of all, deserted.  After a glorious swim, and a short rest we walked along the seashore back to Lamu – it was about five o’clock by then, but we were excited and raring to go.  By the time we got there the light was fading fast, and we realised, to our dismay, that we were probably stranded, having found out that the seas were too rough for dhows, and anyway, they don’t sail in the dark because of hidden rocks.  The prospect of walking back to Shella did not appeal.  So many places in Kenya are dangerous if you’re a Mazonga!  We had no choice, we had to find someone brave enough to take out a dhow.  The next hour or so was hair-raising and skirt raising.  The wind was strong, the boat was weak and fear was taking hold.  We had no choice but to do as we were ordered – sitting perched up one end, then smartly moving to the other, slipping in the dark as the water was coming in.  All time is lost in the dark on a boat, and it seemed to take forever.  We thought ourselves lucky to get back to Lamu in one piece for we thought our paradise was lost, and looking down at our belongings with disregard, considered it easier to jump off and swim.  Wading once again, this time our belongings being lifted off, we scrambled to the beach and bought the crew a drink – we all needed it!

Shella is full of narrow sandy lanes; just wide enough for fully laden donkeys, and black bui-buis clothed Muslim women.  It is not proper for us to go round scantily dressed, so a white muslin scarf is in order – anything more than that would be stifling.  Both Patsy and myself had to cover our heads from the sun for fear of burning.  My, we’re getting brown; almost in competition with the natives.  Just some coconut oil and we’ll be nicely done.

I was enquiring about houses or flats to rent, thinking that, if we could find somewhere comfortable, with a fridge, we could feed ourselves and save some money.  Sidiki, the owner of The Island Hotel had just the place for us, a house above his own, in the village. Completely open to the world – no outside walls and very spacious.  4-poster beds (they’re obviously the thing to have, but only for visitors – they themselves often have no bed at all)!  There were 3 bedrooms in all, a rooftop dining room, complete with sea breeze, and a fridge, and we had a houseboy Stephen, to cook and look after us, and he apparently would walk back to Lamu, two kilometres away, in the evenings to stay with his family and then come back to prepare our breakfast the next morning.  After asking for £60 a night, I got him down to £10 a night, provided we rented the house for at least a month!  I immediately paid him £300 and we just couldn’t believe our luck, all this was ours for 31 days.

The view from the top room was breathtaking – a view only in Fairy Tales.  Every exotic tree you could imagine and the sea so close; Manda, another island in the distance, and the sky always blue.  The odd giant butterfly hovering over the bougainvillea, draped over white walls, the scene framed with coconut-leaf roofs.  This was where we ate in the evenings, the lovely meals prepared by Stephen, with the chants from the nearby Mosque, and donkeys clopping by.  This scene had to be sketched and painted; captured forever.

Every morning a fisherman would knock with live crabs, lobster, fish, or giant prawns.  Thank heaven Stephen was here – we couldn’t face cooking the crabs!  We kept them in a basket for what we thought was safekeeping.  I knew one day there had been three – now there were two – one had got away.  Patsy wasn’t too keen on the thought of this creature with its large pincers roaming around the kitchen.  What with incredibly itchy mosquito bites still an annoyance, and the memory of bees and giant ants still fresh in her mind, the prospect of having that crab swinging from her big toe held no appeal.  We found him and waited for Stephen to capture him in a large plastic bucket.  He was over a foot across and when cornered reared up on his hind legs and started clicking his pincers.  He was a very courageous animal, and tasted lovely!  We also ate lots of large crayfish, which are similar to lobster.

Not a washing machine, or hair dryer in sight here.  Washing dries and bread rises in the heat of the sun.  No Hoovers or microwaves – it’s all very basic, even the water is heated by the sun in the daylight hours.  One electrical item is a must – the bedroom fan, which is on most of the night.  Outside, the sandy lanes are scattered with mother hens and their chicks, the odd cockerel guarding his family and crowing from five in the morning – about the time the Mosque comes to life and the Imam chants his morning call to prayer.  “Allah – Akbah” (God is great).  You can get used to anything in time, and learn to sleep throughout.  The next few days were spent lounging about, with maybe a walk to Lamu, but always, without fail, a swim before dinner.  We’d come back to the delightful smell of Stephen’s creations.  We had pineapples, coconuts, limes, bananas, passion fruit, paw-paw (papaya) and mangoes; with our own freshly baked bread – my speciality, so we ate like kings.

Ramadan has been in full swing for the last month.  The Muslim Community have a very strict ‘fasting’ regime, having no food, drink or any other substance enter their bodies in the sun-up hours, so they have to eat before sunrise, or after sunset in the evening, which means that they are busily cooking and active from about 4.30am in the morning.  Below us, the Sidiki family, of which there are many (about fifteen), chatter constantly in their Swahili tongue – all looking forward to the end of Ramadan.  They were very kind to us, sending up, via Stephen, little hand-made jasmine flower brooches, their aroma lingering for up to three days.

I have shaved my hair.  I couldn’t stand the heat.  Patsy pleaded with me not to, but I shaved the top anyway.  To save having a shiny burnt top, I’ve taken to wearing a Muslim hat – “How’s Muslim-Head?” they ask, smiling.  This was to be my name for the rest of the month.

Looking up for a quick check of the ceiling in the shower, and completely in her birthday suit, Patsy spies the biggest, chunkiest spider ever (about six inches across).  What a specimen!  (At least Stephen thought so).  She yelled for HELP, and had to get out of there, forgetting her naked state.  Even Stephen said this was an unusually large size for a spider, as we inspected it, now trapped in a glass.  We didn’t want it anywhere inside the house, least of all near Patsy, so it got dropped safely over the wall out of reach, where it was surrounded and attacked by chickens in the street below.  By the size of it, it was probably a very tasty meal.  They methodically tore off one leg after another.  When it was bouncing around on three legs it got jumped on and gobbled up!

19th January, Tuesday – and the end of Ramadan.  At last the Muslims are celebrating the New Moon (they’ve been looking for it every evening from the top of the house), and now they can eat, drink and be merry, but without the help of alcohol.  Their children are dressed beautifully, playing in the streets.  These children have no ‘Tonka’ toys or ‘Lego’ – nothing manufactured, just homemade boats and pull-along lorries made with flattened tin cans!  They have nothing, but are openly happy, always ready to take your hand with a sweet innocence.

With the New Moon brought calmer days – the wind subsided, but the days grew hot. – VERY HOT.

It’s 20th January – mangrove day – or should I say “No Man Goes Where A Mangrove Grows Day”.  We decided to go on a trip by dhow to Manda Island, fishing for our lunch along the way.  We had to go out to sea first where the fish were easier to catch.  We wondered why the crew were sniggering as we clambered aboard the dhow dressed very skimpily with just a hat for shelter from the sun.  Good job the crew were good fishermen because Patsy and I didn’t catch a thing between us.  We just snorkelled and swam.  It was incredibly hot, and the crew cooked the Jack-fish on the island when we landed.  We’ll be turning into mermaids soon if we eat any more fish!

The next stop was a soda at the Island Bar – the only building there, made from thick mangrove branches and coconut palms, of course, then on through the channels where the mangroves grow in the water on either side, to the 16th century Takwa Ruins.  These are uninhabited now, except for elephants, monkeys and snakes.  The trip was long and hot and we were looking like the big catch of the day – two lobsters!  Nearing the ruins, we had to get off and wade into the swampy, black, muddy water.  We’d hoped it wouldn’t come to that, but when the crew got off, and started pulling the boat with a rope, we instinctively knew what was expected of us.  We looked at each other and laughed – both thinking the same thing – ‘Charlie & Rosie’ of African Queen fame wading through the swamps with blood-sucking leeches all around and over them, swatting hordes of mosquitoes.  This was us!  We knew the mosquitoes were there, just waiting for the likes of us.  We also didn’t know if were going to stand on a crab or a sea snake or if we would get covered in leeches.  Oh well, just another ridiculous hurdle to cross – we were getting used to this.  Ugh – horrible!  With your feet sinking into gooey mud, and God knows what else!

Entering the gates of the Takwa Ruins, with the Guide ahead, and walking through an archway, everybody yelled and leapt feet off the ground – both feet!  Patsy jumped a mile backwards as a long, thin Black Mamba, a very aggressive, deadly snake, leapt out right in front of us.

It was almost too hot to stay for long, but we learnt that the island, when inhabited all those years ago, fought with a rival tribe and were finally forced out, mainly because the fresh water wells all dried up, leaving them only sea water.  Now, during the rainy seasons, elephants swim across from Pate Island when the seas are swollen, and stay until the rains cease.  We came back the same way after finding two of the most beautiful shells.  I managed to finally get a photograph of a giant Bao-Bao tree, a rare specimen that looks as if it was planted upside down.

When sailing back, I offered my hand at poling the boat with a pole made from the mangroves to help speed up our departure.  The wind was very slack, the channels being so sheltered and tucked away, and we knew time was getting on, and the mosquitoes would be after us very soon.  We could see enormous hordes of them, on the riverbanks and as the sun was going down their buzzing increased with the fading light.  I could see the frantic hordes billow and swirl as played tag with each other, their electric hum soaring to new crescendos as they danced in the setting sun.

It was frightening loud and I was starting to panic because we were the most exposed blood for miles.  And we were their prime targets.  Somehow – it all happened so quickly – I slipped, and fell backwards to the bottom of the boat.  I just missed going overboard.  By the time we got back, we were exhausted, completely burnt and limping.  We had been on that dhow for 10½ hours.  Now we know what is meant by sea legs – we were still swaying, even after the lovely meal (cooked by Stephen) of crab and coconut rice.  Stephen immediately went out to get us some ‘After Sun’ to save our lives that evening, so we retired for the night.

We’ve just made banana and pineapple fritters, and seem to survive well on fruit, of one kind or another, and fish.  We were all busy in the kitchen last night making a lime-juice, when I felt something on my head – I could only see a large shadow reflected on the wall.  It was a bat, which flew in, did a few figures-of-eight, and then flew out.  This happened quite often.  The evenings also brought out the giant soldier ants, who march around the floor and round the walls; we are very adept at dodging them now, and have given up trying to get rid of them, letting them get on with it!

Nothing gets wasted here, even banana skins and pineapple peel gets tossed over the wall for either the donkeys, or chickens, or even the cats.  Animals have a very tough existence here, fending for themselves most of the time.  Stephen’s managed to get tuna for the three of us for just over a quid!  In England this would have cost around £10.

It is now Stephen’s turn for swimming lessons.  We can’t believe that most of the inhabitants of such a tiny island cannot swim.  We felt that this was a must for Stephen, especially when we learnt his brother, only a few months back, had drowned.  After our swim, and doing our daily shopping, we noticed dust-pans and brushes for sale; one of the thriftiest ideas yet: the pans were yet again, flattened corn-oil cans, and the brushes were coconut leaves – ingenious!  Any leftovers of containers or vegetation is recycled and put to good use; miraculously turned into another money-saving item.  The local board game (Bao) is made up of dried seedpods and shells.

There is so much to photograph here – I’m having a great time.  There’s so much beauty and poverty together under the same stars.  It’s not permissible to photograph the Muslim women, but I had the notion that if I offered some Kenyan shillings to the locals, they wouldn’t mind.  One very indignant woman, who was pummelling maize, argued that twenty Kenyan shillings was not enough for the privilege, and she later saw me on our roof, and assuming I could ‘snap’ her from there, came round to the house with her husband, complaining.  I explained that, as she refused my offer, and the roof ‘shot’ was too distant, making it impossible, she had been the loser.

Three days have passed, and Patsy is completely out of action – laid up in bed with some sort of fever, and the most wicked pain in the head, which no amount of tablets would touch.  Putting together the countless mosquito bites, and the symptoms, we assumed that this time some from of malaria or yellow fever had to be the case.

Venturing out for a soda at Peponi’s – the only ‘smart’ place on Shella, a small crowd of ‘jet-setters’ emerged from the beach and into the bar.  They were all high on booze, etc.  One of them, the Captain of the 3-master Schooner (400 tons) anchored off-shore at Manda opposite, kindly offered us on board for a look round the next afternoon.  Next day we took a little motorboat out and boarded the schooner.  Very palatial, having more room than most houses, with completely separate cabins for each of the crew.  The sails were all operated by remote control even though they were sixty foot high.  All the furniture was polished wood and leather.  The owner was jet setting somewhere else so the Captain, the engineer and the ‘hostess’ had free rein. As she was showing us around we were horrified when a bat flew out of the darkness of one of the bathrooms.  Her boyfriend, the engineer, tried to put it out the porthole to set it free, but he was bitten in the attempt.  We were all worried in case the bat was rabid so they had to set sail the next day for him to be test for rabies, even though the possibility of a rabid bat in these parts is remote.  We have a continual battle with flies, and even though we spray our arms and legs, they seem to take great delight in landing on our weeping mosquito bites, and simply loved the ‘Jungle Formula’ cream that we smeared over ourselves!  This is supposed to be the strongest repellent on the market.

Walking back last night through the dark, narrow lanes, we were painfully reminded of how hungry the donkeys were, finding them rummaging and searching through great piles of rubbish and cans for the tiniest morsel of food.  We saw three beautiful creatures tearing at a piece of cardboard – the only thing left lying around that was remotely edible.  This heart-rending scene drove us back home and then out again; this time with bananas and anything else we could find to feed them.  When we reached the place where we had seen them, they were gone, so we spent the next half hour by torchlight, desperate to find them.  We eventually did and gave them our scraps.  Our feelings for the people here, or at least the way they treat their animals are diminishing fast.  We now cannot tolerate their attitude, and have resolved to step in whenever we see someone hitting or ill-treating a donkey.  We’ve even seen kids thrashing them for fun – the donkey being completely defenceless, hungry and on a very short tether.  We’ve tried to make them understand that God or Allah will punish them for their cruelty, relying on their strict religious beliefs as a deterrent, but only their ignorance shines through.  It is very depressing.  We must do something.  We found it very ironic that a donkey charity, from Sidmouth in Devon, was frequently visiting the island, but seemed to accomplish next to nothing, staying in the most expensive place on the island which was Peponi’s for about £100 a night.

Today we walked way down the beach where the shells are plentiful, the sea is aquamarine and the people are nonexistent.  We swam and hunted naked, for shells, finding the most unusual specimens – sand dollars, or sea pansies, each with a perfect little pattern inscribed in the centre – just as if carved by human hand, but, as Stephen put it, when we asked where they came from exclaimed “God did this”.

We decided at four o’clock to walk into Lamu to collect my latest photographs, but of course they were not there.  Nothing’s ever on time, and once again we found ourselves in the tricky situation of fading light and no boats!  This time we braved the long walk back, after being offered the one and only boat for 500 Kenyan shillings!  Somehow we managed to escape the dreaded Shiftas (these are Somali terrorists who wander over the border in hope of richer pickings).  They frequently hover around bus stations having buried their AK47’s and as the bus leaves quickly dig up the machine gun jumping aboard to threaten the passengers.  Everyone has to contribute something and if they can’t, they are ordered off the bus and as the terrorist gets off he lines them up and shoots them.  Needless to say, most passengers know the score, and everyone carries a little reserve money in their shoes.  We had found out in Nanyuki that the local cops are so poorly paid, if at all, that they hire out their pistols at night for different robberies after which they are collected for the next shift of duty.

At night all the shops in Nanyuki were guarded by huge fearsome Africans with cudgels, each of which had huge nails hammered through the top.  There are no streetlights and these guys prowl around all night just looking for someone to pick on.  We learnt of an American woman who got a taxi to the bank and drew out a large amount of money in front of her driver who then drove her home and promptly killed her.  He was easily caught and we learnt from the locals that “that man will never walk again”.  This was before his trial – for justice here has a bad history!  In Nanyuki in the early fifties the local farmers store was then the courthouse, where hundreds of Mau-Mau were sentenced, to be hanged, by the British who had lost thirty-two European settlers, in total.  The British then wiped out twelve thousand Mau-Mau and hanged 1090 natives, often on trumped up or non-existent charges.  Even to this day there is a massive British Army Camp just outside Nanyuki.  In fact when new recruits arrive, although they are warned about the Sun on the Equator, they still end up in the hospital after a day or two getting burnt skin stripped off their bodies with tweezers!

Saturday 30th January 1999 – “another Glooorious Morning in Paradise”, as Patsy would say, flinging open the kitchen window, the sun blaring through.  The daily bin-man has just been spied, trudging along the lane outside – a donkey that stops outside each little doorway, where another load of rubbish is balanced over his already laden back.  As he stops outside our wall, we fling over paw-paw, pineapple and lettuce for a treat, and then he gets sent on his weary way.  We are always amazed how many huge sacks the owners load onto their donkeys; for after the journey from Lamu town to Shella they simply unload the animal and let it make its own way home to feed itself as best it can.  These poor animals gallop and rampage through the village streets at night, just running wild.

All three of us paddled and swam our way to Lamu in the afternoon in the hopes of collecting the elusive photographs – obviously without success “tomorrow, tomorrow, promise”.  On our travels we order a coconut scraper – a must for back in England, to enable us to extract the ‘milk’, from coconut.  Along the route back, we stopped in amazement – in fact, sat and watched as a large boat with hundreds aboard, and dozens swimming out to it to clamber over the sides, was slowly being filled with water in the very choppy seas, betting with each other as to whether it would actually sink.  The surprising thing was that nobody seemed bothered at all, not rushing to find the owner, which would have been the sensible answer.  Still, nobody rushes for anything here!

I think we’ve put the wind up the sails of the ‘Shellans’, by bringing quite strongly to their notice the downright cruelty towards their animals, especially the donkeys, and the way they misuse and pollute their beaches.  I have written a piece on the subject and taken a lot of photographs – they’re not too happy.  We don’t seem to be receiving any more gifts of jasmine brooches!  Still, some things cannot go unspoken, and we feel that, as the donkeys and beaches cannot speak for themselves, we would be wrong to stand back and let it continue.  The evening found us in the company of an Italian couple, Vittorio and Hannah – we had coffee and talked of the situation here, sitting in their rented house, which was very tasteful.  They had just arrived from Nairobi and had witnessed a scene where a fellow tourist had been stabbed to death when he refused to hand over his wallet in front of them.  They had decided they would no longer spend time in Nairobi and had come to Shella for a change.  They told us they could not wear necklaces or earrings in Nairobi even on the main street because they would have got torn out of their ears and promptly sold round the corner.  Just before we left, we watched while a toad sat in wait on a large cockroach, while little geckos scrambled across the walls, stalking insects.

Sunday 31st January, Vittorio and Hannah came over to our house for bread-making and a daily swim.  It seems impossible to buy bread in the village.  I made a gruesome muddy-green drink from the Kenyan weed, Mira, which is supposed to make you feel ‘good’ – it just made us slightly light-headed.  That afternoon, we all made a date for the following day to go on a trip to the small island of ‘Manda Toto’ on a motorboat.  We’re hoping this will turn out less arduous than our last trip on a dhow.

We’ve lost Stephen today.  We haven’t seen or heard from him at all today, and we’re worried.  This evening also brought no news of the elusive parcel of elephants that should have trundled its way back home to Hastings over a week ago.  These were ordered for £500 from Bruno back at the Sportsman’s Arms in Nanyuki, some weeks ago.

We all met today, as arranged, at 8am, and set off for ‘Manda Toto’, meaning I presume, Child of Manda, because it’s the tiny island next to Manda.  As the hours went on the waves were increasing, and when we could see ‘white horses’, we knew we were in for a rough ride.  Three of us were feeling very sick, Vittorio being the only one to escape – Hannah suffering the most.  After four hours of nausea, we anchored and attempted to fish for our lunch, but the fish weren’t biting, mainly because of the strong tides and choppy waves.  A few attempts more, after moving and re-anchoring, produced our food, but once again, neither Patsy nor I were successful.  We got off at that point, out in the ocean and snorkelled.  It was amazing to see bright blue, scarlet, zebra-striped and giant fish waving in and out of the rocks and coral.  We just hoped the Captain wasn’t lying when he said that sharks favoured further waters.  We tried so hard this time not to get burnt, after our last performance, but we got ‘twice bitten and the sun wasn’t shy’!  There’s something about the sun on water that can’t resist us Mazonga’s.  Even our lips and ears hurt – apart from everywhere else.  Boarding the boat again, we headed for Manda Toto, which was completely deserted – the telltale sign being three-pronged footprints – just the gulls.  We couldn’t wait to get into the sea again to cool off, which was a very silly presumption; we should have realised it would be hotter than bath water.  We even had to wear headscarves in the water to stop from burning up.  After a quick swim, for it was too hot to stay in the water, we ate our barbecued fish on the boat for cover and made our way back home, thankfully with the tide this time.  At seven o’clock we finally reached Shella once again – brilliant red and exhausted.  Thank goodness we hadn’t taken a dhow – it would have been double the time and double the sunburn!

After showering, Sidiki called us from downstairs to offer us a meal at the Island Hotel, telling us that Stephen would be back the next day – he’d had what Patsy had, and been very ill.  The whole evening we were both swaying and giddy after our long day on the boat, so we didn’t feel much like eating.  What a waste!

The next morning, 2nd February brought Stephen back, with my photos and his usual smile.  We were going to the school in Shella to talk with the headmaster about the children’s attitude towards the donkeys and how they should learn to respect the natural beauty of their surroundings.  He appreciated our concern and we were asked back the following day, when he would have the whole school in attendance – just for our visit!  That evening we composed our little ‘speech’, making it as simple as we could for the children, but still getting the message across.

So the next day we dressed ourselves respectfully and made our way – me with my camera and straw hat; Patsy completely in white, to the school.  Between us, the talk lasted a good half hour with the donkeys throwing in timely innuendos of their own from just outside the window.  Neither of us had ever made a public speech before, and to start with we found it a little nerve wrecking, but relaxed when we could sense the novelty of our ‘peculiar’ colour and dress wore off.  It went well, and the headmaster asked if he could have a copy for himself for future reference, and because of the keen interest we offered him some great ‘donkey shots’ that I had taken.  I promised to make a poster-sized poem for the children to read which we hoped would be pinned up in the School Hall.

The next morning we bumped into the headmaster when shopping for our breakfast, and he said we’d obviously made some impression, because his ‘Donkey Club’ members had doubled overnight!  Walking along the sandy streets now, we hardly go a few steps without meeting someone we know, or without feeding a donkey.  It’s almost become an obsession now to check each donkey for wounds and wellbeing, and this morning was no exception.  A young donkey was tethered – around the nose – with a chain.  We tried to explain to its owner that a rope was sufficient – I even tried to buy some to prove it to him, but of course the donkey had a deep gouge across its nose where the chain had rubbed.  We went back home for some food to distract the donkey whilst spraying antiseptic on its cuts.  We’re now the local ‘vets’, and by this evening we’ll probably find a whole line of sick donkeys awaiting attention!

We’re very lucky to have Stephen, he is a lovely person, but finds it difficult for himself, his wife and three children to make ends meet.  His wife is crippled because she was in a bus accident where many people were injured when the drunken driver overturned the bus.  There were three Americans on board who later sued the government for massive compensation but none of the locals were able to, as they could not even afford a lawyer.  His wife, we found out, could help support the family if they could afford a sewing machine.  From what Stephen told us, she sounded like a good seamstress, so between us, we have come to an arrangement whereby Stephen will have a sewing machine before we leave.  We hope it will change their lives enough to enable them to eat more than their usual ‘ugali’ (stodgy maize-meal).

I’ve been very busy photographing all the fruit trees of Shella, with a mind to incorporating them into a book.  Lamu and Shella are renowned for their exotic fruits, which are plentiful: pomegranate, tamarind, mango, lime, Bao, guava, kungu, custard-apple, passion fruit, fenesi, pandana. papaya, banana, mekoma and of course coconut.  Lemons don’t thrive here because the soil is too sandy, but limes seem to flourish.

Patsy has finished a poster and also a painting for Sidiki.  Although she trained as a professional ballet-dancer with the Romberg Ballet in London, she is a very accomplished artist having sold many paintings back home.  My, we have been industrious.  I think our friend should be called ‘cheeky Sidiki’ – he takes great delight in winding us up, and I think he’s going to miss us when we’re gone.  He has taken us to his chambray (which is an extensive garden plot) up in the dunes to show us the way burnt rubbish is used to fertilize young fruit trees; sand having no nutrients of its own.  Sidiki has convinced himself that we’re going to buy and develop a piece of land up there and build a house for ourselves.

Today Stephen and I went to Lamu and I ‘jumped ship’ (or dhow) on the way back and came in dripping, leaving Stephen with my belongings.  They all think I’m a crazy Mazonga, but I actually jumped in the sea to swim home, merely to cool down.

Yesterday we saw the beach funeral of a flying doctor – she lived along Shella beach and was very revered.  Archways made from bent over palms, covered with colourful bougainvillea led the walk along the beach to her resting place.  Almost the whole village turned out for her send-off.

The flies are still a constant nuisance, and never leave us alone.  They’ve even taken to the Betnovate cream we smear on our bites; in fact I think they’re thriving on it!

We’ve befriended a young family of feral cats that hang around our steps.  They’re really terrified of humans, but are getting to know that we, at least, are not the enemy, and tuck ravenously into the milk-soaked bread and bits of fish.  If only the locals would get it into their heads that they wouldn’t be the thieving menace they think they are, if they fed them!  Last night the little family spent their nocturnal hours in the comfort of our cushioned seating area.  We’ll maybe even end up stroking them next!

We learnt today from Stephen that in the off-season when he goes home to live in Malindi, that his family have to walk more than 10kms every day for water.  His children leave home at 6.30am in the morning for school often with no food for breakfast, and nothing throughout their school day – only having a meal when they return in the evening.  We tried to visualise the terrible hardships they all face each day, but find it almost too impossible to comprehend.  Just the daily trek for water can take up to 10 hours, because they have to carry two five-gallon plastic containers to the first available watering hole, which is 8kms. away, and, if it is dry, have to trek another 4kms. to the next one!  This means a twenty four-kilometre trek if there is no water available at the first stop.  It also means that one of the containers has to be drunk to stay alive on the journey back!  What a hard life.

We wake up to children screaming below our veranda.  A chicken has just been decapitated for dinner.  We’d heard of the saying ‘running around like a headless chicken’, but never thought we’d actually see it for ourselves.  It is the most horrific sight, the chicken, its head cut clean off with a sharp knife, whilst its body races around in circles for some minutes.  The most amazing thing was when the other chickens started pecking into its’ neck, it actually turned around and ran away from them.  It’s just too barbaric for words, but it is the ‘Muslim way’.  I’m sure there are better ways of killing a chicken.  Apparently, all animals are slaughtered this way, even cows.

Today is Tuesday 9th February, and our days here in Shella are numbered.  We paddled into Lamu, the three of us, and went to Stephen’s place where he sleeps at night, through dusty narrow cat-ridden lanes.  The ‘door’ next to Stephen’s is the local ‘Cinema’ – which they’re all quite proud of.  It’s a dark little room with ten small benches at one end, and houses a little black & white television with a video.  We secretly knew what to expect, but even so were surprised.  We should have learnt by now about their sparse, meagre lifestyle, but it still managed to amaze us.  We came off an alleyway into a small courtyard entrance raised up a foot above the ground that was about ten feet square.  I expected this to be the entrance to his home but in fact that was all the family possessed as a home, and was their dwelling space for the tourist season.  They literally lived life, open to the world!  We passed a boy with a home-made toy boat wading out in the sea; it was made from a piece of plastic bag (the sail), twigs and a flip-flop balanced on one side to weight it in the wind.

We leave here on Saturday morning, and are quite relieved, our annoyance of their treatment of animals almost getting us down.  If we had stayed here much longer our patience would have gotten the better of us.  We just can’t seem to get through to them that their animals are their livelihood and they should therefore respect them.  It will also be a relief to sleep without the threat of the Somali Shiftas.  We often barricade our bedroom at night and arm ourselves.

It is early morning 11th February.  After Stephen’s telephone call from his brother, we all set off on a Beach Safari, equipped with one flask of lime water, two knives and a very long stick.  The two latter items were our weapons, in case any Somali’s were to attack from cover of the dunes, which often is the case.  Recently a young American who was strolling along the beach with his Walkman earphones, playing loudly in his ears, failed to notice a Somali who came up behind him and chopped his head off with a kanga knife.  Many a tourist has been ‘kanga’d’ for some trivial possession like a watch or camera.  We walked in the blazing sun for 10kms, stopping for the occasional swim and the odd crab roundup.  The crabs that far down the beach are the only life – not a human in sight.  Once again, the muscles on our muscles hurt.  We started before eleven and reached our destination around three-thirty.  We cheered ourselves up by pretending that we’d all order ‘prawn salad sandwiches’ and ‘ice cold beers’ at the imaginary café in the distance.  We had to do this because none of us had thought of bringing food, not realising the length of the journey.  Boy, those pink crabs looked tasty, and we had a knife and a lighter, but no pot to cook them in; anyway, they weren’t big enough to ease our hunger.  We had the walk back ahead of us, hopefully before dark, after finishing the last of our water, and daubing inches of protection cream on our tortured skin.  My camera was now a permanent fixture so I took motion shots of Patsy diving over the breakers,  with sparkling sunlight on the water.  By now we were all flagging in the heat, and with the afternoon winds beating against us, and the lack of food and drink, home couldn’t come soon enough.  Our last swim – around six o’clock found Patsy’s big toe nail flapping in the wind; then to add insult to injury she trod, out in the deep sea, on a shell which broke off and embedded itself very nicely and deeply into the same foot.  We spent a very troubled night tending our burns and aches and pains, sending a kiss to each other by Deed Poll, for fear of touch!

A major operation was called for next morning by ‘Dr Joe’, and a new hypodermic needle, to gouge out the offending foreign object, well lodged in her heel.  Her yells could be heard downstairs, and all went quiet for the first time, since the beginning of our stay.  We should have realised that after a 20km walk along a white-sanded blistering hot dangerous beach, something had to go wrong.

A mother hen has just calmly plodded her way through our front room after methodically climbing up the side steps, which were built only for giants, and clucked her way to the kitchen, where Stephen is sieving the coconut into milk.  After a few tasty morsels were offered, she was ushered back to her chicks, who were obviously lost without her.

Today, 12th February, our last full day on Shella: we leave on the morning flight tomorrow for Nairobi, and then hopefully on to Masai Mara.  For the last time, we trekked the 3km walk into Lamu to visit the Museum and Fort, but stopped in our tracks when we spotted a very poorly baby donkey.  It so obviously had a broken lower leg – plus sores on its body.  Very unnaturally, it was without its mother, probably because it couldn’t walk, and she had gone off wandering for food – alone.  We pleaded at the Donkey Sanctuary for them to collect the baby, but they asked us to go back, find its mother and owner, and then they would assist.  We told the owner that the foal would surely die if it wasn’t treated, which most definitely would have been the case, and he agreed.  We are still astounded at the Islanders’ complete ignorance, because these sick donkeys are housed, fed and watered and treated – for free, at the Donkey Sanctuary, if the owners agree to them being neutered.  Unfortunately the merchants are all adamant they want as many donkeys as possible, and never do agree to those conditions.  The result is chaos as the donkeys get chased through the streets at night by their mates.  We hoped, once again, that we had saved a donkey from an unnecessary premature death, because nobody else seemed to care.  We still have to worry about our little family of adopted cats and how they will survive when we’ve gone.

Our last morning, and we have to say goodbye to our friend Stephen.  We can still see the sadness on his face.  We hugged – all of us, but no one could say much, we were all choked.  When we arrived back in England he did write claiming that Sidiki had charged him 1000 Kenyan shillings for not getting the extra day’s rent off us as there were thirty one days in the month, which he was supposed to collect.  Needless to say we sent the money by bank transfer as we knew this would be the only way for safe delivery.  We will always remember his gratitude for the sewing machine and the paraffin stove which was the only one in the village.  Unfortunately he had to sell the sewing machine, for a pittance, because his wife no longer had enough strength in her legs to push the peddle up and down.

Our flight from Manda Airstrip on a 48-seater took us to Nairobi, after stopping first at Malindi.  We were almost dreading our one-night stay in Nairobi after all the horror stories we’d heard earlier, and in fact, by the end of the night we were glad it was over.  The ‘hotel’ with a small ‘h’ was more like a prison layout than what the brochure described as ‘luxurious’.  The choice of three restaurants turned out to be a ‘Caff next door’ and the ‘succulent’ food was merely jam and bacon, which seems to be a favourite mixture of Nairobians.  It could not have been more sparse, and the sheets and blankets looked like they hadn’t seen water for months, which was probably true – when the water did come out of the taps, the walls clanked and shook, or there wasn’t any at all!  We were at least relieved to see the bed had a mosquito net, but after further inspection, to our dismay, it did not fit falling short of the edges.  This is typical everywhere in Kenya.  Nothing surprises us anymore – just one thing – a country so short of rainfall that never has a plug in the sink!  We’ve come to the conclusion that they either don’t wash, or they’re too stupid to see the waste.

Hassled is too polite a word for the behaviour in Nairobi, so to compensate, we changed our nationality, excusing ourselves for not being able to speak English.  But the local punters were too clever for as we passed they would shout out various phrases in different languages and when we reacted to “Lovely bubbly, Del Boy” they knew immediately we were from England.  What a pathetic City, with so many people in dire straits, on the dangerous pavements and starving.  Some were so eager to forget their lifestyle that glue sniffing seemed a better alternative.  In Nanyuki we would go out every morning and buy dozens of cheap bread rolls to give to the homeless kids.  They all had beer cans with small amounts of glue in them and sometimes they would tell us not to give a certain child any bread, because it would be wasted.  Once a beggar told us “Doctor say, this boy die in week, so don’t waste bread”.  The beggar looked about seventy but we found out he was half that age which is the average lifespan for people like him.  He also told us that some Americans whom he befriended sent him a ticket and a cheque for him to emigrate but the letter when it arrived was devoid of ticket and cheque.  We heard from Bob never to send him anything other than an Airmail envelope, because if the postal workers cannot see inside the envelope they will open it, but they don’t bother with Airmail envelopes because they are transparent.

We were glad to leave Nairobi the next morning – our long trip to Masai Mara ahead of us.  We weren’t sorry to be leaving Nairobi, it is a fearsome, depressing City in every way – the people so poor, yet Mercedes Benz limousines are for sale in the car showrooms, with homeless waifs sleeping in the doorways of the showrooms!  Even the pavement opposite the grand Hilton Hotel, which sported a concierge, bedecked in red and gold braid, complete with top hat and tails, standing outside, had a whole family that  set up home complete with babies in prams and grandparents on sheets of cardboard.

The next day we set out to the Masai Mara but did not arrive until dark.  It was hot, dusty and very, very bumpy.  A dark little tent with two basic wooden beds and a loo, but no paper, was our base for two nights.  The tiny light went out after a couple of hours and we were terrified at the thought of creepy-crawlies trampling over us in the ‘bed’.  Before we retired we were given a meal, while a fire was lit outside, as we were told later that lions, buffalo, wildebeest and the like sometimes roam – and this was where we were sleeping!  After the meal we were honoured with some Masai Warriors’ ritual dance. They were wearing their ‘warding-off’ clothes, which are always coloured red and they marched and skipped and hopped around the camp-fire, all armed with a spear or stick, with their ear-lobes dangling.  This was to frighten off any wild animals!  They jumped up and down as high as they could in unison as their traditional dance dictates, managing to soar much higher than any of the audience, who also tried to join in the proceedings.

Then we all had a nightcap and a heated discussion began when one of the Masai warriors gave a talk, mentioning that all girls and boys were circumcised, in accordance with their culture.  I happen to know that a whole tribe once died out because the ritual flint stone used for these operations had become infected, and I started to argue about the logic of circumcising women.  The warrior jumped up in anger (complete with spear) demanding to know if I was trying to change his way of life because he claimed that circumcision of the clitoris kept their women faithful!  Among our group of a dozen tourists half were women and they became quite vocal in supporting my point of view.  The evening finished rather acrimoniously.

However the night came alive with the sounds of baboons running on the tiny roof, big cats roaring and hyenas laughing.  Hyenas are reputed to have the strongest jaws, apart from perhaps lions, and in fact most people fear them more than lions.  We had earlier secured, as best we could, every possible entrance, of which there were many, to our tent.  A very troublesome night was spent, just armed with a torch and we had to be up at 6am the next morning for our eleven-hour game drive.  A very long and rough ride over endless miles of dry, hot plains led us to our first of the “Big Five” – a leopard, sleeping high in a tree, after obviously having eaten a good breakfast.  I clicked away with my camera, and wanted to get out of the jeep to take a closer shot.  I begged the driver but when he insisted I write down the address of my next of kin, I changed my mind!  We managed to find elephants with their young, herds of zebras, wildebeest, hartebeest, buffalo, rhino, giraffe, gazelle and waterbuck, but we were determined to find lions.  They seemed to be very difficult to spot, their colour mingling so well with the surroundings.  After much searching and squinting, performed by all, we found four lionesses, stalking a herd of Dik Diks who had sensed them and turned as one with their ears all twitching in the same direction.

The ‘Big Five’ are Elephant, Rhino, Leopard, Lion and Buffalo.  Apparently the only animals that lions won’t tackle are elephant because they are too tall and Orix, because their horns are too long.

We stopped for lunch at “Mara River” – the only water for miles, which housed a humping hoard or snorting hippos, and the odd ‘croc’.  Armed Kenyan soldiers were thankfully guarding the hippo-ridden river while we all clambered over the rocks, to photograph this rare sight.  Their grunts reverberate under the water while they exhale great gulps of air – which I imitated rather too well, for they all answered together!  These animals actually kill more people than all the other wildlife in Africa!

We were all exceedingly hot and filthy and longed for a shower when we finally reached ‘Camp’ that night, our backsides still ached from our gruelling ride, but even a wash was almost impossible, our loo area having no light at all.  After another fretful night, we left again for the reserve, then our trip back to Nairobi – from 6.30am ’til 5.30pm.  We felt numb and exhausted after what seemed like three whole days travelling over rocky tracks.

When we returned to Nairobi we decided we weren’t going back to the Parkside Hotel, but checked into ‘The Gratton’ after it was recommended to us by a couple of Slovakians that we had shared our Safari with – the only snag was, it was situated on ‘River Road’, notorious for its dangerous undesirables, who rob, attack, rape, and even kill innocent victims every day.  We showered immediately after finding the accommodation very acceptable and much cheaper than the last hovel, and congratulated ourselves on surviving the night without incident.

The next morning we even managed to find ourselves a ‘taxi’ – Joseph’s Taxi – the crankiest old banger with more holes than metal; with the baldest fraying tyres, and a gear stick pointing out the nearside window, – well, it would have done if there’d been a window.  Joseph was very proud of the fact that he’d owned the car since 1955, but was sorry to tell us that it was now in need of some repair!  That was an understatement, and we nearly got out several times because it could not go faster than twenty miles an hour.  We were his only custom for days, which was the only reason for us not making a run for it before it fell apart.  We felt very sorry for him, especially when he told us he always slept in the car until he’d made enough money to take home to his wife for food.  We gave him much more than the fare, and he was eternally grateful, after dropping us at the famous ‘Carnivores Restaurant’ where we tasted zebra, ostrich and hartebeest, but paid for it the next day, spending much time in the ‘little room’.

We booked Joseph for the next morning to take us around Nairobi’s Industrial Units in our search for a Maize Mill Grinder for our friend Stephen of Lamu, whom we were missing already, along with his cooking, and even the cries of “Allah-al-Akbar” from the Imam in charge of the Mosque.  Unfortunately, the prices were astronomical – completely out of our reach and not at all what Stephen had thought.  So we purchased a giant paraffin heater/stove instead and arranged to get it delivered to his home.  So on to the Peugeot Taxi Stop for our trip to Nanyuki, where our journey three months ago had begun.  There was an almost full Peugeot waiting for just two more passengers, plus luggage – US!  We scrambled in like sardines (nine of us in all), and Patsy sat next to me at the back, on the wheel arch seat.  The car was completely stationary, but somehow we had a premonition – that there was something very wrong with the wheel underneath Patsy.

When we got going, we knew then what our sub-conscious had been telling us.  The wheel most certainly was about to fall off – for her it was like perching on top of a pneumatic drill – every layer of skin wobbled about separately.  No way was she sitting there for the next three hours, and I said as much to the driver and passengers.  He stopped the car and she changed places with the woman in the front seat, after many filthy looks were directed her way.  After what we’d been through in the last few weeks, we didn’t give a hoot.  The roads, as before, are gaping holes for 100 miles – the cars continually on the wrong side of the road and swerving this way and that to avoid them.

Yet another miracle happened that day – we managed to get there in one place, even though, at one point, I nearly jumped out – well, I would have done if I hadn’t been sandwiched, because the Matatu taxis kept flashing and pointing to the offending wheel, indicating something was wrong.  When Matatu’s resort to this, you know it’s serious, because they’re the world’s craziest drivers themselves.  We couldn’t believe our luck when we got to Nanyuki, and the driver stopped in the middle of ‘town’.  We asked him if he could drop us round the corner to the Sportsman’s Arms, but when he said that it would be a further 100 Kenyan shillings, we grabbed our cases and walked, on principle.  It was only one corner away, after all.

We were back in dusty little ‘ol’ Nanyuki – which Bob has since renamed ‘Hell’s Gate’.  As usual, the wind was blowing clouds of dust high into the air, swirling all around us and ending up in our eyes.  We were just so glad to be alive we didn’t care.  Arriving at the Sportsman’s we were greeted with “You’re back Masah Joe – you’re back”, and we were glad to be back, even though Nanyuki is not on our list of favourite places!  They put us back in our old room – 48 – by way of saying how glad they were to see us, and immediately produced kettles, cups, lamps – anything we needed, to make us feel at home.  We jumped straight into the pool to relieve ourselves of our dusty journey before unpacking, and then went for a meal – we were thirsty and starving.  The Sportsman’s hadn’t changed, however; the familiar unsavoury food was placed before us, and we resolved there and then to buy our own fruit, nuts and biscuits.

We were desperate to find Bruno and hopefully track down the sixty – strong herd of elephant carvings that still hadn’t reached England.  Bruno, droll as ever, could shine no light on the subject, and after Bob’s prophesy of doom, we became very suspect.  We bumped into Bob and Lynda the next morning – I knew we would somehow – and we all sat in Marina’s Café, the only place in town which was hygienic enough to eat in where we relayed our experiences in Lamu, and then walked back to their house in the evening for a meal; Lynda’s home-made vegetable and herb soup and sweet potatoes.  We hadn’t seen vegetables for over a month, so that was a real treat.

We only had a couple of days left to find old friends and say our goodbyes, and sort out Bruno and the elephant mystery once and for all.  The horrors of Nanyuki came flooding back to us in the shape of poor little street kids for whom we had bought dozens of bread rolls every morning, and the choking, filthy whirlwinds.  We felt as if every intake of breath would be our last, and since our month stay on the completely unpolluted island of Shella, our insides were not coping very well.  Breathing was becoming a task, and not the effortless bodily function it used to be.  Sidiki had mentioned that he never left Shella for whenever he had travelled in the past to somewhere like Nairobi he suffered dreadfully with shortness of breath.

Bruno had disappeared – nowhere to be seen, and after leaving messages galore for him to contact us, he finally knocked on our door, very late, the evening before our departure.  We asked for a copy of the parcel receipt, which he sent off to find, even though, I think by then we were in doubt.  It turned out the next day, after we received a note from him, that there was no receipt, in fact there were no elephants.  He had admitted in the note he’d pocketed the money – and that was the last we saw of Bruno.  I rang the police because £500 is a lot of money in any country.  They informed me they could not come to the hotel to take a statement, as there was no petrol in the police car, but if we wished to buy some there might be enough for them to reach us.  I decided Patsy and I would simply walk to the police station and make a statement.  At the station we were informed that Bruno was very popular and it might take some incentive to get him interrogated.  I knew exactly what they meant and paid a few hundred shillings, in the hope they would give him a good hiding.  I learned later on that Bruno had paid twice as much to avoid this!  This apparently is the way the system works and how the policemen earn their wages’, as they don’t get paid for months at a time!

On our last day we stayed with Bob and Lynda, after a final swim at the Sportsman’s.  We now had to leave Kenya with all its’ squalor and filth; its’ open sewers and its’ depraved streets.  Bob told us many years ago there used to be an abundance of wild animals, all around Nanyuki, but the natives killed everything that moved for food or profit.  There appears now to be no hope for the animals or the natives.  Everyone seems resigned to living in a mud hut, or, if they’re lucky, a tin can hut, (made from exactly that – empty, squashed corn oil cans) – no electricity and usually no water.  If they are lucky enough to have water, it’s usually contaminated, carrying all sorts of water-borne diseases, such as typhoid, cholera or denghi fever, which was, we found out from Sarah, the last bout of illness Patsy had suffered from on Shella.

I was not too well at the moment and felt very nauseous on the journey to Athi River where we were to wait for our midnight flight to Dubai.  Bob was somewhat unsympathetic towards his ‘old friend’, and we felt the sooner we departed the better, and healthier it would be.  Stopping at the Blue Post at Thika, famous for its Flame Trees and taking a look for the last time at the better side of Kenya on our journey to the Airport.  We had planned to stop at Kassarina, but were glad we didn’t, because, as we drove through, clouds and clouds of mosquitoes were hovering above people’s heads – it was an incredible sight.  We would have been eaten alive had we ventured outside the car.  Every passerby was immersed in their own dust cloud of hundreds of mosquitoes!

We were lucky at Nairobi Airport to get our baggage through – it was well overweight; so heavy in fact that we had to drag, pull, push – anything rather than carry our cases.  In fact a young customs officer was very keen on us paying an extra £100 for excess baggage and we had to bribe his superior as the only alternative.

Dubai seemed like a futuristic world to us – almost like something out of Star Trek, after our three months away from civilization.  We stayed at The Gulf Inn; air-conditioned, immaculately clean, very well organised, in fact totally alien to what we’d been used to.  We stuck out like two sore thumbs, with our dust-ridden Nanyuki outfits, so we decided to wash our clothes, in the hopes that they would be dry before we left for the next plane.  They weren’t, and we had to put on exceedingly damp clothes (everything else being packed), but at least we were clean!  We felt we couldn’t stop at Dubai without actually visiting the Hard Rock Café – it was great.  I was still not too well, but we’d got this far, and we definitely weren’t turning back now, even though the thought of the English weather did not exactly appeal to us; in fact we were secretly dreading it, and all the problems we would have to face after being away for so long.  Still I guess it was the trip of a lifetime and neither of us would have missed it for the world.  We will never forget the great country of Kenya with its wildlife and peoples.

FINI