27/05/18. Hippo point
Great nights sleep and into the pool for 06:45, special dispensation, strictly not open until 09:00. Wonderful, cool and refreshing plus a delightful young man had placed a cup and flask of hot water at the table for when I was finished. Obviously a church nearby as each time I turned the sound of gospel singing was ringing out. Dried off I sat with my water just enjoying the music and the tranquility of the situation. Changed and into breakfast for 08:30. Same chafing dishes, but this time loaded with breakfast goodies, there was even a toaster on the side table which Barbara and Elaine took delight in making use of.
Limo was returning this morning to accompany us to Hippo Point, he took Les, Adam and Tim in his car. Barbara, Elaine and I followed in a taxi, just around the corner and our taxi pulls into a petrol station and puts in K$480 (less than £4) why does no one fill a tank over here? Back on the road and we cruise slowly through the back streets of Kisumu. We are then in a much more affluent area, high walls barber wire and ornate gates. Returning back to shanty town living before we turn into Kiboko Bay Resort.
Kiboko, it is explained to us is the Swahili for hippo. We are welcomed to the resort and shown around whilst negotiations are underway for a local boat to take us out on the lake for an hour. We sit and have a soda beside the pool while we wait (I’ve drunk more sugary drinks during this trip than I have in a lifetime) our timber boat arrives and walking down to the jetty we scramble aboard. The guide explains that Lake Victoria shoreline is shared by 3 nations, Kenya 6%, Uganda 44% and Tanzania 50%. We cruise slowly around the lake edge, observing the wildlife, fishermen sat on rocks seemingly way from shore and families bathing, the girls and women washing kitchen utensils and clothing, the boys and men swimming in the lake, no crocodiles this far up the lake apparently. There are a lot of problems with water lilies on the lake clogging up the shore line, places like the hotel are constantly removing them to keep their jetty clear. There is always an upside if you look, the dried tubers are used for weaving the seating in some very smart looking furniture.
Various landmarks are pointed out to us including the Radio Kisumu mast, at this point I’m looking at the water and notice a ‘log’ in the distance that appears to be moving up and down in the water. Mentioning it to the others, there are now two similar boats closer than us that are converging on the ‘log’, neither getting too close, about 5m away. As we get closer it is easy to make out two hippo with a baby, the other boats having taken their pictures are moving off allowing us to move in. There is something so incredible about seeing animals in their natural habitat, a very special moment. After 10 minutes or so of being entertained by these huge animals we pulled away and continued our drift around the coastline. Some indiscriminate development appears to be taking place apparently without planning consents, hopefully the regional authorities will take action or the natural beauty of the lake edge and its wetlands will be lost forever.
One last pass of the hippo as we make our way back to Tiboko point where , more sodas and light lunches are enjoyed. Then it’s back to the hotel, Les and Adam are due to leave with Limo and will fly home in a weeks time. Les is due to deliver a lecture at the university tomorrow and has a meeting with the deputy minister for the environment later in the week. Farewells made and it’s now gone 15:00, a drink in the cabana by the pool and then I’m up to the room. I was going to get changed for a swim when I heard raucous noise from the pool, half a dozen young Americans are enjoying themselves down there. Discretion being the better part of valour I put my feet up for a while, finally waking up at 18:20, we’d arranged to meet for dinner at 18:30.
No buffet on tonight, choosing from the a la carte, between us pasta, lamb chops and a t bone, steak was mine, poor choice. I’d hoped that being in Kenya’s 3rd largest city the meat quality may have improved. Never mind Tim and I had another great bottle of red whilst the others doubled up on G&T’s. Following dinner back out into the cabana, cooler here now and another couple of rounds of drinks. Enough for me, I’ll attempt a little blogging before sleeping.
16/05/18 Kisumu airport collection
Rain stopped around 02:00, intermittent sleep and up for 05:30, pass on the swim this morning, still dark outside and a lot of uneven surfaces between my room and the pool. This had been the first night under the new mozzarella net, great improvement. Trusting now that the funshi (tradesman) turns up whilst we’re at the airport and installs the other five.
Breakfast at 06:00, cereal, Spanish omelette and sausage, hot and fresh. Tom and I are ready for 07:00. Sam and the minivan arrive just before 08:00, after some ribbing around the lateness of the hour we head off. We stop briefly in Ndhiwa to pick up a teacher who needs a lift to Kisumu. All the teachers are government employees and it seems that they are moved positions on a whim. This gentleman had been informed that he would be transferred to a town west of Kisumu from the 21st, just two weeks notice. He was a grabbing a lift to save money , leaving his wife and family in Ndhiwa and hopefully finding accommodation near to his new school. The van is old,rattles, stuffing long gone from the seats, but hopefully it will get us there and back, plus currently only me and the driver in the front of the vehicle. We are regularly waved at from the roadside, but we ignore all comers
No real issues on the journey and we arrive around 40 mins after the group have cleared customs. We get a wave as we drive around the drop off lane to pick them all up. Well there was a lot of luggage! The rear six seats were lost to towers of cases, rucksacks, bags and the water filter cases. I now shared the front seat with Elaine and the driver, everyone else shoehorned into the back. We head for HomaBay and the replacement pipes, roads not too bad and takes a couple of hours. Their journey out had been uneventful other than security needing the filter boxes opened, obviously packed full of the filters and the space creamed with the gifts that we had all brought out.
A fruitless journey around the backstreets of HomaBay, no 2.5 pipe available anywhere. I did pick up a 5m Tape and a 13amp plugin the rounds. The extension bar in the reception area has been operating with just a couple of leads poked into the outlet sine Tom and I arrived. Discussions on the missing pipes and decide to call the original supplier in Nairobi and have them shipped on the overnight bus to save any more hassle. Tom now needs access to a bank to arrange money transfer. We drop him at Barclays, driving around the corner to the supermarket to allow everyone the opportunity to stretch their legs and grab any snacks they may wish. I opted for another bottle of Legend Brandy and a couple of cartons of fruit juice. The others seemed to prefer the crisps and biscuit ranges. Still time to kill some walk around some of the adjoining market, a lot more stalls than on or visit last Sunday.
Tom is back with us so time to finish this trip, everyone squeezed back into the van and we’re away. We pull into a petrol station as we note a Coca Cola wagon delivering, we just need to squeeze in cases of bottled water for the new arrivals, we should each be drinking an absolute minimum of 1lt of water a day, ideally 2 or more. Whilst Tom and Sam dealt with the water, I noticed a lad selling sliced pineapple from a wheelbarrow on the forecourt. From my privilege position in the front I wandered over and purchased 16 slices for 200 K$, all the same denomination money I had with me. Certainly more thirst quenching than the sodas and gratefully received in the rear of the mini bus. The approach to the hotel is a real eye opener for our new colleagues, the impact of the heavy rains on the local infrastructure is clearly visible. Back at base and everything unloaded and people allocated to rooms and time to just wander. All the new mozzarella nerds have been fitted (300K$ for the nets each 250K$ for each installation). We’ll meet up in a cabana in 20 minutes or so for a discussion and then a Pastor Stephen is going to join us. The Pastor is part of a project that delivers, as part of their remit, hand wash and sexual education to 19 schools, Rakoro and Sangwe we will be working at and want to ensure that we do not provide contradictory advice to the children.
A round of sodas to quench thirsts and discussions around the forthcoming programme. Tom explains what we have achieved so far at Ndhiwa hospital primary and Otange, and that we will concentrate on getting those two projects completed before we move on. There will be issues in getting to Rakoro and Songwe because of the road conditions. It is currently impossible to get a car up to them, even the tractor and trailer had struggled. It is likely therefore that we will all need to ride pillion and potentially still walk for the last half mile or so.
Pastor Stephen now joined us and following introductions started to detail his groups work, it appeared that they worked primarily with children from 10 explaining the importance of hand washing, in fact there were hand washing clubs in both schools. He went on then to describe the sexual health messages for the different age children and started to talk about a counselling programme. At this stage, although this information was interesting we would in no way be conflicting with these parts of their project and I was very aware that the new volunteers were asleep on their feet. Thanking Pastor Stephen for his time and very interesting information, it was suggested that when we came to deliver our hand was message, that someone from the Pastors team be present at the two schools. He was very happy to accept this offer and our meeting came to an end around 16:00. Everyone was reminded that dinner would be served at 18:00.
I headed for the pool, the others I think to attempt a short nap. Dinner service had moved to what the hotel described as buffet service. Placed on the table were trays of braised beef, chicken pieces in a sauce, pan fried diced potatoes with chopped peppers and coriander, shredded cabbage and a mung bean Dahl. Even Elaine , our vegetarian (Elaine does eat fish) had her fill at the table. Arrangements had been made for a crate (25) of Tuskers lights to deliver to the hotel (boda boda) for consumption in the evenings. There was general chatter in the lounge for a short time, the newer members of our team disappearing off to their rooms to catch up on sleep. The inevitable issues with power and wifi access having been an interesting set of topics
26/05/18 journey to Kisumu
No swimming, time to pack. Generator on at 07:00. All the tshirts, spare towel, some of the toiletries and even the stationery kit left to one side for Sam. Breakfast at 08:15, generator had gone off just before 08:00, had to ask Maliki to sort out the power so we could actually see in the dining room, boiled eggs and the fried maize dumplings, this time shaped like a ring doughnut (did nothing for the flavour)
Bags out to the minibus, much hand shaking with Maliki and Gilbert, requests from staff to sponsor children’s education or some church activity. Discussion with Gilbert about the two varieties of Mango growing in the car park border, one of which I’d assumed were almost ripe, apparently not, they would double in size yet before harvest. Minibus loaded including a huge sack of surplus clothing heading to Sam’s house, he’d already sent on the couple of cases of empties and the foam pads Tom and I had been using in the dining room. The previous evening he’d loaded a couple of bikes with all the surplus pipes, guttering , fittings and all the tools we’d brought out to do the job. A final bumpy ride down into Ndhiwa then turn onto the HomaBay road. A couple of hundred metres and there are two young lads stood roadside, we pull up and Sam passes out the large sack of clothing that the older boy pos up unto his head and off we go.
Through police checkpoints, around potholes and looking out for Malcolm who is responsible for water and sanitation across the Otange region schools, he had hoped to meet with us at the hotel prior to our departure, Tom’s in touch by phone. For the first time I’m seeing tractor trailer unit transport loads of sugar cane heading for the Otange factory, regretfully our driver is managing to bowl along and I’m unable to get a photograph. On through Rodi and then we’re aware of a commotion roadside, a car is down at field level having left the road, something like 3-4 m drop. We’d slowed but people were pushing the car about and it sounded as if the motor was still running and the driver appeared to be ok, still in control in the drivers seat. We get 50m up the road and Tom gets a call, Malcolm has had an accident and won’t be able to join us. We reverse up and sure enough, his car now back up on the road, but apparently dead is Malcolm.
Introductions, expressions of concern, thanks for all the work that we had done and after 20 minutes conversation we leave Malcolm who is now attempting to locate a Fundi who can get him mobile again. Into HomaBay and we’re calling into the Barclays, Tom and I both unlucky with the Coop in Ndhiwa. Funds replenished we push on, we’re headed now for Kisii, the village where the soapstone carvings are produced. The minibus is hot and the roads bumpy and then we turn off the Tarmac. We come across a diversion, the main road is blocked foe what look like like term roadworks. We bump and swerve on for kl after kl, pausing now and again to check how much further to the soapstone village. Each time it’s a couple of kl over the hill. We turn into a small village with doors open and soapstone products displayed, but no this not what we’re looking for. On we go, about 30 minutes more of uphill, dusty, bumpy, twisting and turning and we enter the production village. What we can’t find now is the cooperative workshops and sales room, another couple of kl over the hill we’re told. So on we go until we reach a T junction, we’re told now that the cooperative has closed.
Mumbling, grumbling, do we give up or head back to the last village. Back we go, everyone out and go their separate ways. I watch men and women, sat with vats of water and emery paper polishing the pieces. Two men sat with a two handed saw cutting the soapstone into blocks, each little shack with doors hanging off was a showroom. You wander around in the gloom, looking a hundreds of pieces. I would have loved to brought back a couple of large pieces, picking up just a 50cm giraffe dissuaded me, they are so heavy, beautiful maybe, but not something to take on the plane.
I’d wandered from shack to shack, shaking hands, having people feel my beard and my skin, but all the time so impressed by the artistry of these people who start off the pieces with machetes. My choices made from three producers, bantering completed, purchase wrapped in newsprint and back to the minibus. I’m last aboard, but no problem, everyone has managed to locate something they like. Tom had set out to get a chess set including the board and had succeeded in his quest. Heading out of the village in the direction of the missing cooperative, turning right at the T junction and within 10 minutes we were back on the Tarmac road to HomaBay. We retraced our steps for several miles until we turned off for Kisumu.
Reasonable roads, but well trafficked and still a couple of hours driving. Approaching Kisumu and Tim is now attempting to check on his phone for the hotel location. We have the address and the phone number to hand.some exchange of Kiswahili between Sam, the driver and his accomplice and w plough through the Kisumu suburbs. Making one right turn and the whole road is a vehicle repair shop, roadside in the open. I’ve never seen so many oxyacetylene sets aid out and about as in that 300 m or so. Motorbikes, cars, lorries, arctics, all types of vehicle were being worked on. On we drove, Tom and I piped up that we’d just passed a road on the right that was on the address, by the time the driver had located a space to turn, Barbara and Elaine are shouting they’ve seen a sign for the hotel off to the left. Off the Tarmac and through an industrial estate and there right at the bottom of a rutted, potholed dusty track is our hotel. Like an oasis, we piled out of the minibus, the hotel staff taking care of our cases and bags. We settled up with the driver, some emotional handshaking with Sam (he was now setting off to get the bits to fix his motorcycle) plus of course they still had to turn around and get back to Ndhiwa.
For us, check in, bags carried up to our rooms and then back downstairs to meet up with Limo, previously an environmental health field officer responsible for communicable disease outbreaks across the country, and now very involved with the EH course at the university as well as education and public health.
Gathered poolside, cold drinks and chatting all seemed well with the world. A table booked for 19:00 for dinner and I had a chance of trying out the pool. Buffet style in the restaurant, but not as we had known it latterly. A row of chafing dishes with parra fin lamps keeping everything hot. A smooth creamy pumpkin soup to start, ogali, rice, roast potatoes, shredded kale, diced lamb, spare ribs, grilled pork, salads, dips and then, cakes, fresh fruit salad and watermelon. We were spoilt by choice and all the main course food hot.
I even shared bottle of red South African Merlot Shiraz, smooth warm and a really pleasant change. Sat around after dinner poolside and our numbers are dwindling fast, Tim and I left, decision made, it’s time to call it a day, tomorrow we think we’re headed for Hippo point and possible the Impala sanctuary.
25/05/18. Politics, our work here is done
24/05/18 Otange tank repair