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.