19.06.2010 - 23.06.2010 0 °C
Nairobi – Our Fourth Respite Here (June 18th to 23rd)
As you all have noticed our blog has gotten way behind due to it being impossible to get our entries uploaded while we travelled. We still want to complete it even though it is long after the time we experienced it. So on with the travel blog...........
It’s lovely to be back staying here with Vikki and Calum – all the family makes us feel so welcome, and we cannot express how important our being able to stay here has been toward helping us feel our way gradually into being at ease in Africa. It has also been an essential component toward our keeping this account of our travels reasonably current.
There are two main events that I want to tell you about before we depart for Mombasa tomorrow evening (June 23rd) by train.
The first is my climbing of Mount Longonot with Calum last Sunday. Although offers were extended to everyone to come with us, no-one else accepted, so just the two of us set out from Nairobi at shortly after 7 a.m. We reached the Longonot National Park Gate, paid the entry fee, and were ready to start the climb at 8:45. I remember that I climbed Longonot with my Dad – perhaps a couple of times – in my boyhood, but my memories of the views are really vague. I think that my decision to become a geologist was very much influenced by the imposing presence, close to Nairobi, of Longonot and the Rift Valley.
The first few hundred metres were flat, but we were soon climbing up the grey, dusty, much eroded path up the flank of what appeared to be an ash-covered, thick lava flow, then another short flat section and up over another flow edge, another relatively flat section, and the final steepish climb to the crater edge. I had started to pant heavily after taking the first few paces on the initial uphill part of the climb, and was only saved from being thoroughly exhausted at the top by those occasional flat portions. My panting made my conversations with Calum somewhat stilted – at least when I was talking! Calum never even breathed heavily at any point throughout the Longonot experience.
An hour after we started, and moments before reaching the crater edge, Calum told me to shut my eyes, which I did. He then led me to close to the edge before, then said to open my eyes. The view was dramatic – the crater is steep sided, several hundred metres deep, and something over a kilometre in diameter. The bottom looked to be relatively flat and heavily vegetated. Because of all the rain, everywhere inside and outside the crater was very green. In one spot on the northern side of the crater’s interior some wisps of steam rose from a small vent or two.
Looking away from the crater over the plains below, we were able to see several lava flows clearly defined by their topographic differences and their different vegetation cover. Calum pointed out a lovely, lone green acacia tree in the middle of an otherwise grassy flow-top, and mentioned that one of his young sons had spontaneously given it the name “Mother Tree”, which seemed to me to be somehow perfect.
After admiring the views for a while, we decided to walk around the rim of the crater. We chose to go anticlockwise. Although the choice seemed automatic, it may mainly have been influenced by the fact that this would mean we would complete the main climbing sections earlier than if we went clockwise.
View from Mount Longonot
This part of the journey took us almost exactly three hours. The climbs were short, but often steep – and again the path was strongly eroded in places as much of the rim was formed of soft volcanic ash. The views both inside and outside the crater continued to be stunning though the haze hid the Rift Valley’s western escarpment. We saw a couple of what we identified as Verreaux’s Eagles gliding and swooping near the crater cliffs, and two duiker on a ridge leading up to the rim.
Back at the point on the rim where we had come up, we found a few other people who had made the climb. Without waiting around much, we started our descent, which was considerably faster than the ascent – using very different muscles as we tried to prevent ourselves from going too fast. A couple of kilometres before the end, my knee started to hurt .... some kind of ligament problem .... but I was able to get to Calum’s Landcruiser OK before the pain became very intense. I was glad that the problem had not arisen earlier than it did – and it cleared itself up after a couple of days. We were back at the vehicle by about 1:30 p.m., and home by 3.
Another highlight of this fourth respite period happened yesterday (June 22nd) when Dana and I stopped updating our blog to go and see if we could find another of my old schools – Parklands Primary – where I was a pupil from Standard 4 to Standard 7 (c. late 1953 to end 1956), and where I took my Kenya Preliminary Examination to qualify for high school. Our taxi driver turned off Parklands Road into a school’s driveway – which I immediately recognised. There was the Principal’s Office and flanking it were classrooms that I once was in, with the Art Room at one end of the building. There were the playing fields where once I and my classmates played King during break, or, at other times of the year, played nyabs (i.e., marbles), or, at yet other times, British Bulldogs. And there, across the driveway from the school’s front block, was the house where Mr. Buckingham, the school principal when I was there, Lived.
But there was something confusing about the whole thing. The school’s name was Hospital Hill Primary School, and a plaque of Principal’s names, hanging beside the entrance to the school’s main office, had someone else’s name where Mr. Buckingham’s should have been!
When we asked in the main office if this had once been Parklands Primary School, no-one seemed really to know .... perhaps ....
Anyway, the school’s accountant asked us if we would like him to show us around, a kind offer that we quickly accepted.
There were substantial changes to the school that I remembered – several new buildings – a lovely swimming pool – and many more schoolchildren (attendance of about 1200).
We also net with the Vice Principal for a while. I and Dana felt truly welcomed, and – guess what – tear-filled eyes every now and again. I’m actually very glad to be feeling these emotions so deeply, and I am really happy to be sharing visits like this with Dana as it makes my recollections of my Kenya boyhood much more real for her (and for me!).
The "old" Parkland's Primary School
Back in our taxi, we asked our driver (Chalo – a great guy!) to take us to Parklands Primary School as I wanted to be absolutely certain I was not mistaken in my memories. After a wrong turn or two, we found it. As Dana and I approached the school’s main office, I knew this was not the Parklands that I had attended. After waiting around for a few minutes, we were shown into the Principal’s office. We chatted for a bit with Rose Mureri, a soft-spoken, dignified woman who, after we had explained who we were and why we had come, started to tell us about a unit within the school where 26 students with cerebral palsy were taught and integrated as much as possible with the other 800 or so students there. She took us to the unit, and introduced us to George, the therapist who worked with each individual CP student in whatever ways were needed depending on the student’s condition – and then to two of the three teachers who were in the classroom with their students. Rose left us there, and we spent the next hour listening to, and asking questions of, Virginia and Mercy (the two teachers) and George. There were also four assistants helping to look after the students – all of them mothers of a CP student. What we heard was inspiring, moving, spell-binding! That the amazing work Virginia, Mercy and George were doing was a calling for each of them was all-apparent, and their visions about what they would like to happen to the CP students’ unit in future, given a miraculous appearance of sufficient funds, were yet another demonstration of their whole-hearted commitment to the well being of their protégés. We met several of the students, four or so of whom are able to attend regular classes with non-CP students, and they all said goodbye to us in their own assorted ways when it came time for us to depart. Before leaving Parklands, we went to have a final few words with Rose, without whose fervent support, the school’s CP unit (one of only two in Kenya, the other being, we were told, in Mombasa) would never have come into being. Our prolonged stop at this school put us behind schedule for the day (we had been planning to spend some time in downtown Nairobi, including a stop at the railway station to buy our tickets for Wednesday night’s train to Mombasa), so we asked the ever-patient Chalo to take us back to Vikki and Calum’s house, where Dana had a massage booked for the early afternoon.
We will be uploading our next entry in a couple of days. Bye for now, Chris and Dana