Friday, 24 June 2011

Naivasha – 2nd – 8th June

Lucy’s mum grew up in Kenya so we’ve had the good fortune in Naivasha to have people to stay with.
We stopped in at Crescent Island on Lake Naivasha to stay with Barry and Linda
Gaymer and daughter Akira, distant relatives of Lucy. Linda runs a private wildlife reserve on the island and Barry is a professional game hunter, conservationist and many more things. The island is actually the rim of an old crater, now filled in by the lake, and just taking a stroll along it on our first day we ‘discovered’ an incredible array mammals – giraffe, wildebeest, Thompson’s gazelle, zebra, impala, elland, monkey, - including finally a hippo grazing by the waterside. Apparently they can run up to 40km/hr and I fancied my chancies of outrunning it but Lucy wouldn’t let me get any closer.

After taking the bikes out of their carefully packed boxes and putting them back

together in Barry's shed (yes that is my muscular physique in a vest), the following day we took a 60km bike trip into the foreboding Hell’s Gate National Park, so named because it quite simply feels like you’re descending into the centre of the earth. Absolutely stunning ride. The photo of us is up against Herschey’s Tower, named
some German chap who was looking for a route from the coast to Lake Victoria. He met a sticky end here at the hands of the locals after he failed to bring them any presents from the seaside, or something.

Unfortunately the fun sort of stalled there. Lucy came down with something the same night (just the usual tropical stuff – fever, headaches, runs etc) and we’ve been laid up ever since. Then I picked up more or less the same thing although more minor. Trips to doctors have revealed little, although the Nairobi expert reckons we’ve got mal-absorption (common in the early white explorers which makes it sound much more interesting than it feels). After months of planning, it’s been so frustrating and demoralising to be unable to continue.
However on the plus side we’ve had a lot of time to get to know Lucy’s relatives and their way of life, and we’re still in some stunning places and managed to take one or two trips out. We're incredibly lucky to have been with Barry and Linda when Lucy fell ill and we're incredibly grateful to them and Akira for looking after us (and putting up with us) for so long.
Barry has been pretty prominent in conservation efforts in the Naivasha area for his whole life. The challenges they face are increasing population pressure, land taken up by flower farms (from which your Tesco, M&S etc flowers come) and changing rainfall patterns. This means there is less water in the lake, less grazing land for animals to roam on and more people looking to poach animals for food. The national parks are seemingly fairly ineffective at protecting the animals on their land and guards and guides are known to collude with poachers. Private landowners seem to have a far better record than government run parks of protecting the wildlife – of course there’s a financial incentive to do so when you rely on them for tourist or hunting income. However they’re finding that the pressure of population, land and water is affecting their ability to continue. Barry also maintains that the ban on all hunting in Kenya (following pressure and funding from western wildlife charities) has had a detrimental impact on rare species because there is now much less financial incentive to breed them for tourist hunters (who pay a lot of money for the privilege of shooting something).
One day I left Lucy in bed and took a hike up Mount Longonot, 1,000m high over the Great Rift Valley floor that is part of an old crater rim.

Like most of the volcanoes in this part of the world, it rises straight up from nothing. A bit like the lost world down inside.


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