Thanks to Elaine Rudman for her contribution on Racoro
I must admit that after stories from Team Tim-Tom-Adam-Sam of yesterday’s treacherous Motocross ride to Rakoro School I was feeling very apprehensive, but fortified by a very satisfactory breakfast of banana, peanut and honey sandwiches and a couple of fried dough balls we set off with our usual Boda Boda drivers leaving David working on his blog and having a well earned rest.
After turning off the main road near the cathedral building we hit the track and travelled steadily, slipping and sliding through increasingly sticky mud and deep puddles and streams until the bikes couldn’t continue. I had my hands clamped tightly on the shoulders of Felixstowe (I asked him twice – this is what he said his name was!) and every other part of my body clenched all of the way so I’m sure it was a relief for both of us when we came to a stop!
We brought a ladder, a bag of tools and materials, a water filter, a bag of gifts and our hand washing training kit on the back of one of the bikes so we needed some assistance to get everything transported the last kilometre up to the school. Sam made a call to the headteacher and soon a gang of boys appeared to help us.
My first impression of the school was one of order and calm. We received an extremely warm welcome from the Headteacher Charles and the children were quickly lined up and were singing welcome songs to us.
The atmosphere was lovely – we were introduced to the Board Chair and Members and we could see groups of parents starting to arrive.
Team Tom-Tim-Adam got straight to work replacing the broken tap and connecting the new gutters to the existing tank. They then moved on to fixing the new hand washing station.
While they were hard at work Barbara and I delivered hand washing training to the whole school in four groups of two classes. The children crowded round the tables with heir class teachers who encouraged them to join in. There was no shortage of volunteers to try out what they had learnt with the soap and water. Each session ended with the children singing to us.
Once we had talked to all of the children we invited the parents who had been watching and waiting patiently to come and try out the hand washing technique. To our surprise a long queue formed and we found that the parents were as enthusiastic as the children.
By this time the works to the tank and handwashing station were complete and the children, parents, board members and staff assembled in front of the school and the handover and celebration began.
The children presented several wonderful performances, a number of traditional and religious songs and a poem which some of the senior pupils had recently performed at a regional event.
We heard speeches from a senior girl and a senior teacher thanking the team and Muriel Armstrong who provided the funds for this work and both women included an impassioned plea for specific washing facilities for girls.
The deputy headteacher, headteacher, the chair of the board and a representative of the parents all then gave speeches and Tom presented with a gift from Muriel to conclude the proceedings.
We all posed for photographs in every group combination possible and then some of the gifts we brought for the children were distributed. The sports teacher couldn’t hide his delight at the footballs and rugby balls and soon the children who had been so quiet and well behaved were running around chasing balls and balloons, laughing and shouting and thoroughly enjoying themselves. After Tim and Les gave the staff a very quick lesson in Geordie we set off walking back to where the Boda Boda drivers were waiting with the happy sound of the children playing in our ears.
On the advice of yesterday’s Rakoro team I stayed behind at the hotel today. The journey up yesterday had been tortuous, alleged making the journey to Sangore look easy. The bikes had to give up some distance away from the school, leaving the team plugging through mud, uphill for 30 minutes before they arrived. Thankfully the head teacher had sent pupils to intercept and who carried up the equipment for the team.
So I set myself up in the bar area, judging by the number of large speakers, I’m sure in the past this room has seem a rare party or two. My task today to try and catch up on the blogging. I’m amazed how long it takes to put your thoughts and recollections down, my hat off to those regular bloggers. I started at about 10:00 working through with a flask of hot water by my side until about 14:30 when I decided to take a break for a swim. Changed and dropped into the pool, I’d had time for just one length when Malaki is pool side saying that he’s had a call from Gilbert saying the others finished at Racoro and are heading to Ndhiwa and I should meet them there. Presuming that they’d only just left I allowed myself the luxury of a few more lengths before climbing out. Dried off, changed into working clothes and heading across to Ndhiwa primary on my own seemed strange and I fully expected to arrive well ahead of the others. But no, they were all there sat on the new benches, all bikes gone from the field, tools out and ready to go.
I looked around and was concerned that there were only two of the three benches on site. I asked Sam to check what was happening. Calling the carpenters, apparently the rain had started whilst the first two had been transported, they would send the third up straight away. Then came the job of positioning and as it turned out we got it wrong the first time and not realised until the last bench turned up on a boda boda. Tom by this time had marked drilled the wall and fixed four of the five steel brackets we’d had made. Ribald jokes about measurements and perception, the brackets taken down and the benches all moved around we started marking and drilling again. The two central benches finished, Tom moved across to the last bench which Tim had narked the bracket positions on the wall. Sod’s law and one and a half holes drilled, the drill ran out of power, if it hadn’t been for the false start we may have got away with it. Bench put away, brackets marked and stored, we’d be back again tomorrow.
Barbara and Tim meanwhile where chasing up the headteacher as children were using the tank water for drinking, the taps ŵere left running and a group of girls obviously under instruction were throwing buckets of the water onto the new classroom concrete floor, wiping it down and using more buckets of our freshly captured water. None of the drinking water butts were in use at all within the school. There were raised emotions and the head saying he would deal with it tomorrow. For Tom, this was the final straw, he pointed out to the head, that the water in the tanks was primarily for drinking water once filtered, the wash stand being independently supplied. He went on to say that should there not be a marked improvement in the conservation and use of the water when we returned the next day he would be speaking with Chief Cyprian.
With this we headed off down into Ndhiwa and a drink at the deputy heads bar
22/05/18 Rakoro – thanks to Adam Milne for these notes
Written By Adam Milne
The usual start to the day with the problems of getting all the gear on to the bikes, before we eventually set off. When we finally set off, my usually ballsy boda boda driver (Bilius) said that the road was very bad which was quite a bit of a concern.
The journey there wasn’t all that far in terms of the total amount of kilometres to get there, it was probably the second closest school. However, the journey was definitely the worst. Turning off from the main road, the initial dirt road turned into a rocky road, and then a mud path. The mud was so bad that the drivers stuck to the far sides of the road, almost into the bushes. Gradually the roads turned into rivers [Tom has a photo] which were impassable. We tried to continue on, but it was never going to happen. So off we trecked on foot, luckily the school kids came down to meet us and helped us with the gear [ Tim has a photo]. The trek up was awful, I fell over once and almost went over a few more times!
We finally got to the school, the running track looked immaculate, but sadly the main school buildings weren’t. The rains from the night before had turned the paths around the classes into streams and the rest of the place was thick mud, it was definitely a ‘wear your wellies to school’ day. We were as ever welcomed and politely greeted by the Headteacher. Charles on this occasion was the head, and the vice chairman of the schoolboard [Name?] came to meet us too.
The work crew of Tom,Tim, Sam and Myself (Adam) split into two teams. Tim-Tom worked on the guttering, while Sam-Adam went to work on the concrete base for the wash stand. The first problem for both teams was the resting water, the rain water from the night before had managed to form into a mini reservoir and a series of rivers. We had to literally irrigate the whole land before we could get on with any work on the actual project.
Team Tim-Tom had to spend a lot of time straightening out the fascia boards, because either the guys who had put them in had done a bad job or the wood had warped! A lot of loud hammering to get the boards sorted out was very good at drawing a crowd of bemused young students. They had a bit of a task putting the gutters up as the ladders kept sinking into the mud.
Team Sam-Adam cracked on with concreting the wash unit, the only problem was all the flowing water from the recently irrigated reservoir!
Both teams progressed wonderfully and got the tasks done quicker than expected, so we combined strengths to work on the main large water tank before lunch time. We were aided by the vice chairman and a few of the older boys from class 8. Tim once again drew the short straw and got to go in the tank, luckily this one was a lot easier to get in to after we had sprayed it out with DOOM. The temperature inside the tank was like a sauna, so Tim was more than deserving of his post work beers. After the tank was in place it was time to call lunch. Soda and biscuits were more than welcomed, well the soda was more welcome than the biscuits.
After lunch we sorted the fixtures and fittings for the taps and the pipes in from the guttering, before moving on to the other part of the work. There was some already existing guttering installed, but as my Dad would say, it was very ‘Heath Robinson’. It was just a hodge podge of bent pieces of aluminium, quite surprising that it had actually worked. Team Sam-Adam removed the random old guttering, before team Sam-Tim installed the new guttering. The structure of the building and the state of the present tank meant that we were just going to use it for direct rain water collection without the first flush system. So the small tank was just going to be used for hand wash water rather than drinking water unlike the bigger tank which we installed the first flush on.
The work was almost complete and the time was getting on, so we packed up and called the boda boda boys up. Same routine as the way in, the bigger boys from class 8 carried the gear down to the bikes and we walked down. The journey back was far more pleasant than on the way in. We got back at base after the other crew had finished and plonked ourselves down in our muddy gear for a well deserved bit of sit, and a tusker!
Quick swim this morning, sky overcast, heavy rain last night from 20:00 – 23:00. Breakfast cornflakes, sausage, Spanish omelette, brown bread. Following yesterday’s conference the accompaniments have returned, new peanut butter, blue band spread, tea bags and honey. The others are still experimenting with their coffee grounds, I’m not convinced that it’s really that good, my hot water is fine.
Two handover of equipment meetings today Ndhiwa hospital primary and Sangore primary. We don’t need everyone to attend these so we’ve split the team up. Barbara, Elaine, Les and myself will handle the presentations and filter demonstrations. Everyone else will be heading up to Racoro to start the installation there. We load all the equipment onto bikes and wave them away from the hotel. We just need to walk over carrying the filter and the gifts. It was good to see that the small tanks were 75% full, making the large tank full to about 50% of its capacity. Children were thronged around the wash hand stand, obviously novelty value. Barbara and Elaine went to speak with the staff and make arrangements for the presentation whilst I set up the filtration demonstration, including my fake pond water. There really didn’t appear to be much organisation, certainly when you compared this with the handover at Otange.
The majority of the staff were not in sight, head teacher finally appeared and introduced the chair of the management committee, no parents noticeable. The children formed a loose mass and Barbara started her WfK talk., there was no staff control of the children noticeable at all. Barbara and Elaine followed on with their hand was demonstration, the children remembering the motions and following up by singing the song. 2 volunteers were selected to move to the hand wash station and demonstrate there. This went well, with the remainder of the children joining in the motions and singing the song.
I then demonstrated the filtration unit as before, the children as ever were well impressed with the resulting clean water. We appeared to be done at this stage so I asked for volunteers from the senior classes to come forward to see in more detail how the filtration unit worked. Three boys and two girls came forward, we asked for the others to return to their lessons. I then went slowly through the filtration process, taking apart to filter and showing how to clean. I demonstrated the back flush and then suggested that they have a go themselves whilst I was there to assist if they had a problem. So off they went, I slowed them down on the pump, suggested that they use long smooth motions rather that short jerky ones, but they ran the system through and produced clean water. I kept asking that they change over so that they could all experience the pressure changes on the pump handle. Back flush completed and we packed the unit away in its travel case, I suggested that this should be stored in the staff room and just brought out for use each morning.
Barbara meanwhile had sought out the absent group of teachers, pointing out the need for them to look after this equipment as it would not be replaced by WfK in the future.
We cleared up, gather our bags, said goodbye to the staff and that hopefully they would have clean water in each classroom the next morning, also that we hoped the new benches would arrive tomorrow and we would return to fix them in position. Walking back to the hotel , the bikes had been arranged for 13:00, we were in somber mode. Having got such a buzz up at Otange primary, Ndhiwa hospital primary just didn’t seem to care. There were no parents present, and very few staff appeared to take any interest.
No bikes at 13:00, 13:30 before they arrived and we had arranged for a 14:00 presentation. The boys did well, we seemed to fly up the track, bump by bump that is. The approach up into Sangore was yet again a different on, this time through a field of maize. Yet again the ground got the better of us with my bike attempting a small hillock and sliding back, still upright thankfully. We all dismounted and walked up the hill for about 50m where the bikes were sat waiting for us, in fact we were actually right at the back of the school playing field. Just moments later we were dismounting at the school buildings. I walked across to tap the tanks, both seemed to be around 75% full, great result.
Rejoining the others, the head Oliver Otieno introduced us to the chair of the board of management Wayambo O Joseph, as well as some board members. There were a few parents around and the feeling here was so different to that we had experienced this morning. Having sorted ourselves out, the head called all the school together, they gathered in circles around him and he was issuing instructions on K just how they would parade across to join the presentation. A pupil was taken by the hand and a circled unfurled moving across the grass and forming a semicircle some 3 m away from us. The remainder of the school followed in similar vein, no fuss no bother, no pushing or shoving. All the smaller children were brought to the front and the teachers were at the ends of rows.
So school assembled we started, Barbara with her WfK talk, emphasising the need to take care of the system and that it was no longer ours but their property to safeguard. Some applause and the head mentioned that they had already purchased a roll of chain link fencing and that the tanks were due to be fenced in.
Elaine and Barbara discussed how they had completed the hand washing programme and invited the pupils to demonstrate, which they did with relish. Volunteers selected and the process duly worked through with the remainder of the school singing to encourage the volunteers. Elaine and Barbara went on to encourage the pupils to go home and spread the word, show their parents and siblings just how good hand washing should be completed.
Time to demonstrate the filtration unit again, the clean water this time passed to the chair of the board, another out to the children to much applause. I asked the head to look for volunteers from the senior class and a couple of teachers so that I could demonstrate in more detail. This he did, but before I started, the head thanked us for our efforts and our gifts to the school. He then handed over to the chair of the board who likewise thanked us saying what a difference this system would make to school life.
I went through the process with the volunteers who all paid great attention, one of the lads putting back the filter I had removed to demonstrate a part of the cleaning process. The volunteers then repeated the process and finished the back flush packed the filter into the travel case. I reiterated that their task would be a difficult one, that they should each morning sufficient clean water to fill the 25 Lt. drums for each classroom and then enough to back flush the filter. I wished then good luck with their task and reminded them to take great care of the filter.
As we were assembling our bits to leave one of the other teachers approached me to ask about the function of the prefilter units in the supply pipe work. We walked around the building to the pipe work and I described the profiler process. I then pointed out the small hole in the stop end and described how this allowed the 4″ pipe to drain, I then unscrewed the cover and removed the back plate and water gushed out soaking my leg and just missing the teacher. I checked a plastic dwarf from the hole drilling had blocked the internal hole, greatly reducing the drainage flow. I pointed out that ordinarily it should only be necessary to do this perhaps once or twice a year, but a good job that we had looked. We walked across to the second and again repeated the process, again a cascade of water ensued, although not as great as previously. In this unit a small plume of what I suspect was the foliage from the maize plants had neatly ŵedged itself into the hole. I suggested that for a while it would probably be a good idea to check the drains on a regular basis just in case.
The head had all the children assembled around hi again as we headed to the bikes. He was explaining that we had left a bag of goodies, from which he produced a football and kicked it into the air. To rapturous screams we drove off across the playing field, back to the hotel, arriving there before 16:00 a good hour before our colleagues who had gone to Racora.
My thanks to Adam Milne who provided the text for that day in Racora.
Into the pool under an overcast sky, the rains had started mid evening last night and lasted well into the night. Pool temperature seems to remain constant despite the daily refill from the heavens. The initial body contact with the water causes an intake of breath every time, but nothing to be gained by dithering, by the time you’ve swam a few strokes the temperature feels just fine. Those of you who know me know that I have casually worn a style of Jilbab that Diane produces for me around the house and on odd occasions outside. With the pool here bringing one with me has proved invaluable, a quick wipe with the towel, drop the Jilbab over myself and modesty is protected, not that there is generally anyone else around.
Changed and into the dining room with the others for around 08:30, breakfast today, banana, boiled egg and chopped potato with tomato and coriander. Back to the room sort out my backpack and back out to the front of the hotel. I’ve just heard the bikes arriving, fittings and some pipes out of the empty shop we’ve been using as a storage space for the less sensitive items loaded onto one of the bikes with the two sets of steps and the tool chest from Tom’s room. Everyone ready and we head back off to Sangore fully intending to complete the installation today. Riding up the track there is the constant sound of I suppose mountain streams, the runoff from the adjoining land cascading along either side of the track, in places as the level changes cutting across removing the track surface in places leaving chasms a couple of feet deep.
In others it can result in mini lakes some perhaps 3 – 5 metres wide covering the track surface, the topsoil washed away and the underlying rocks exposed. Our drivers, constantly wearing wellies skilfully walk and slide our bikes through these obstacles, all the while managing to keep our feet dry. The track surface is muddy and slimy, the bikes generally choosing to take the same paths though puddles mud and chasms resulting in the formation of deep ruts that with the next rain will be brim full of water. Ŵe carry on slipping and sliding our way, with somehow the occasional stretch of track that appears dry and the speed increases until we turn off the main track and now head up to Sangore. These rutted pathways are again wet, muddy and very slippy, but now also narrow. This is meal motocross, we keep heading uphill, the drivers skilfully keeping us upright and moving forwards. Then all of a sudden we’ve slipped, the driver, bike and I and now laid on the ground the bike motor still running. I can feel the damp mud leeching its way into my shorts. The couple of bikes behind us have stopped, the riders disembarked and set about lifting the bike off of us both, I’m checking that my driver is ok whilst the others are asking how I am. We are both fine, the driver I’m sure embarrassed, but amazing neither of us worse off for the incident other than decidedly muddy. The bike righted, may driver pushes it on ahead until reaching a patch of clear grass. I join him there and we all continue on our way. Those who had been ahead of us unaware of the incident and wondering just where we had got too.
Arriving at that school, we unload and the bikes make the journey back to Ndhiwa. We’d been two stop ends short yesterday for some reason, we’re hoping that somehow they’ve ended up in Racora, our first task now is too move one of the existing ones to close off the end of one of the running outlets. Job easily done, we all look at moving the tanks around into position. These are the tanks that whilst the same size 8000lt were a different width (short and dumpy) and equipped us to have the bases remade, but they are lined with a white interior, meaning that whoever ends up in the tank will actually be able to see. Tanks on the bases, measurements transferred now across to the school wall can start on the down pipes into the pre filter systems. Measuring, pipe cutting, solvent welding and the pipe work takes shape, both tanks served independently by a roof slope.
Elaine and Barbara are working through each classroom with the aid of the couple of the senior girls acting as interpreters giving the hand wash teaching. Tank one marked up and now back on its side off the base, Tim has volunteered to tank dive. Only problem now is that the opening for this style of tank is central in the top as opposed to one side on all the other tanks. Tim can’t get in off a set of steps so eventually is posted through the aperture. The tank had been pretreated with ‘Doom’ a mosquito killer and allowed to vent, this following Tom’s experience up at Otange. Tap and overflow inserted, backnuts in place and tightened up, we now need Tim out of the tank, with a set of temps directly in front and held tightly Tim holds onto the steps and then is lifted out of the tank, one down one to go. The white interior certainly made it easier, with the sun streaming through the opening hitting the white surface, it was daylight inside the tank. Now placed back into position we repeat the process on the 2nd tank. Now a practised team, we seem to be getting quicker with these processes. Tim popped in and out of the 2nd tank with ease, job done. 2nd tank righted and back on its base, only the final connections from the pipe work to the tank remain.
Tom had decided that we would bring the pipes across and with an elbow, drop them into a hole we’d cut in the tops with a 2.5″ hole saw. We were looking around and now wondering if we actually had sufficient pipe to connect both tanks, we had a full length and stubs various, the longest about 20″. We were now puzzling over where the 4th length from the overnight bus delivery had gone to. However, we were here and we needed to crack on, careful measurements to the back tank, not wasting any pipe, elbow and a stud and the tank was connected.
The last tank to go, I had looked at the rainwater connection from the pipe work and the top of the tank and commented that I thought it would be uphill. My comment obviously unheard, we repeated the previous operation, just making the connection with the long stub. Climbing down from the steps Tom exclaimed ‘bugger’, worried looks aground and what’s the problem. The problem is that it’s difficult to make water run uphill. We’d have to cut a 2nd opening in the side of the tank and cap off the unnecessary hole in the top. Without much ado the task was completed, the extra hole filled with the disc that had been removed and some of Tom’s wonder tape. It was just after 14:00 and the system was complete.
The deputy head Mike had advised that the rains were coming. We worked on with the final connections to the rumbling of thunder in the distance. The boys had returned with the boda boda, we debated whether we would go as far as the turn to the hotel and then make a decision as to whether to go on to Rocara for a couple of hours. Having bounced and slid our way back with the occasional rain drops bouncing off ponds and my shoulders, Tom rolled in behind us and declared that we should return to the hotel, time 14:50. I changed and settled in to hopefully catch up to date on the blogs, the others were walking down to the bar in Ndhiwa.
Sam called in having been collecting money from Tom for the tap cages, he then came across the hall to my room. the benches were finished and he needed the balance of K$5400. This brings our outlay for the additional tank base, fittings, the benches and Sam’s time to K$35,000. We just need to fit the benches and return to Otange, repair and install the additional tank. Plus of course start and finish the installation at Racora.
Time for an afternoon swim, peace and tranquility, then back to do some more writing.
Dinner for some reason delayed, eventually at 19:30, portioned Tilapia, chips, tomato salad and a couple of plates shredded cabbage like green vegetable (Swahili mrenda and Kunde)
Into the pool for around 06:30, a peaceful place to glide up and down thinking about how privileged we really are. Thinking what we expect for our children and grandchildren and compare that to the children we are seeing each day here in Kenya. These children can walk miles to school, often without shoes, there is then a 2 hour lunch break to allow them to walk home, eat and return to school. The standard of education has been really surprising and I hope that some of you reading these pages will make contact with one of the schools and start a communication between your pupils. This is a real eye opener, concrete floors, often in poor condition, wooden benches a a smoothed section of concrete wall. Yet all the children learn English as well as Swahili, they have classes in mathematics and English, physical and human geography. I have even seen work around microbes and biology on the wall in these dusty rooms. As everywhere the staff sit with stacks of books marking, the big difference for them is the money they are paid and the facilities they have at their disposal. They want the same as the majority of teachers, the best support for their pupils.
Hopefully our work here will help them in some small way, hopefully at least in reducing absence caused by gastrointestinal illness, that will also help the parents who will no longer need to purchase medicines to combat those bouts of illness. As for us we head into breakfast about 08:30, we’ll be heading into Ndhiwa around 10:00 to get a Makati (minibus) into HomaBay, for us a day of relaxation. Breakfast was weetabix, chapatis, boiled egg and chopped potato in tomato and coriander sauce (coriander does appear to be the herb of choice for the majority of dishes) with bread.
Boda boda down into Ndhiwa pulling into the main road. Paul and Sam were there and ŵe asked about having a Makati (minibus) for our own use. At this particular time there were very few Mataki about, other times I had seen over a dozen here, now only three. Paul went off, coming back a few minutes later and said we could hire a car, how big how much? The white Toyota was sat on the other side of the road and was the one that had taken Tom, Sam and I up to Otange on one occasion, price was K$4000. Tom haggled and the price came down to K$3000, www put in the petrol and Tom drives. I handed over the cash and deal done we now try to all get in, Tom in the driving seat, I’m ushered by Sam to the front passenger seat, 3 on the back seat, leaving Elaine and Tim to climb into the back with the spare tyre, I had a couple of rucksacks up front with me to help out. Everyone in, Tom tried to start it without success, the lads had the bonnet open, fiddled (difficult to see exactly what with) and urged Tom to try again. Success, bonnet closed and move just 50m up the road to a petrol station, I pass over K$1000 for fuel. The gauge had been flashing and that had now stopped, but gave no indication of just how much fuel we actually had. Still, that’s what the boys had said would get us to HomaBay and back so off we set. Bumping our way along we are frequently flagged from the roadside with people wanting to buy a space in the probox. I just waved as went past, swerving around potholes, goats and cattle. Pulled into a police checkpoint, I chatted with officer saying we’re headed for HomaBay – continue and enjoy your day came the response. So that’s just what we did, Tom driving just like a Kenyan, the occasional ouch, bump and groan from the back when he didn’t clear a pothole.
HomaBay, and Tom dropped us all off opposite he bus station and headed off to park up at the Tourist Hotel HomaBay, pointing out to us that the supermarket we had previously used was just visible over the rooftops and he would rejoin us there. So we weaved our way through the dusty street with calls of ‘hello mzungo’ greeting us along the way, or ‘mzungo, my pockets are empty’, arriving in the comparative sanity of the supermarket. My colleagues were desperate to find Kenyan filter coffee and jams, myself, I just wandered looking at the array of fresh produce and picked a a couple of cartons of juice and a half bottle of Kenyan rum, you need to just check these things out! Surprisingly as I rounded a counter end Tom was there. I went through the checkout, joining Adam outside. One by one the others came out with their purchases until we were all gathered back together. I checked with Tom that the market opposite was in fact the one we had visited for our hardware shopping before the others had joined us. That confirmed, I said we needed to visit the stall again to purchase the bits and pieces to carry out the tank repair and to allow it’s connection into the system.
So off we all headed, conga style, the only white people amongst the local population. ‘How are you’, a favourite call as we wound through the fresh produce, fish stalls, butchery, fabrics and finally I spotted the stall we had used previously. Somehow the young girl recognised Tom and I from the previous week? It always amazes me that people remember who I am. We gathered up nuts and bolts, a couple of taps, insulation tape, short lengths of threaded pipe, couplings, ptfe tape and a shovel. I settled our account K$1650, we distributed the goods and the headed off looking for the bank. By our recollection this should be on the other side of the market, so we walked through the clothing, I couldn’t see any suitable shirts or I could have been tempted. On past furniture and oddments looking for a way out, after several false tries we made it out, roughly where we had expected. The Barclays Bank we were looking for was just around the next corner. Tom and a few of the others headed in to use the ATM’S, coming out saying ‘if you want to cool down spend a couple of minutes in there’.
Banking completed it was time to head across to the Tourist Hotel, Tom and I electing to take boda boda, the others, with direction saying they would walk. They headed off, we flagged a couple of bikes and 15 minutes later we were sat in these events spot we’d been a week ago. No weaver birds, but plenty of special starlings, and canary type birds flitting around and again a proliferation of butterflies. The breeze from the lake and the relative quiet (back at the hotel, in order to have power there is the constant drone of the generator) is a pleasure to be savoured. Tom and I sat just chatting about the way the project was going, and about his work out in Africa over many years. Tom had spent time on various projects for various people/organisations, in Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya and Zambia. A man with a fascinating past and a wealth of stories to tell.
Joined first by Elaine, Barbara and Tim, Les and Adam coming into view about 10 minutes later. The staff came across and took our order and we sat contented, just chatting on. Drinks came and a menu, I went for the chicken salad again, Tom, still being careful decided to just stick with a drink, a range of foods ordered around the table, the waitress headed off for the kitchen. Tim was busy attempting to identify the birds, I was content to feel the grass on my feet, no dust, no mud. The food came and as before was plentiful, fresh and I’m sure tasty. Our meal complete, drinks finished and the account settled, time to venture back to Ndhiwa.
We loaded up in the car park, Tom turned the ignition and nothing. Opening the bonnet, it was easy to see that it was the battery the boys had been tinkering with in the morning. The negative was connected with a short length of copper wire wound around the terminal, the positive terminal had a clip, but the terminal post was corroded. Using Tom’s pen knife, having removed the lead, I scrapped the terminal post and attempted to tighten the negative terminal connection, still nothing. At this time a couple are returning to their nice new Toyota Land Cruiser parked next to us, the man asks if he can help. I ask if he has a set of jump leads, but he says no and climbs into his car. His wife however says yes we have and getting out opens the boot and is moving stuff around. The man now appears with a pristine set of leads, we have also now been joined by one of the Ascari from the main gate checking out what the problem is. Our potential saviour needs to relocate his vehicle to allow both batteries to be connected. That done Tom has another go, a flicker and then nothing, but perseverance and the tired little engine bursts into life. Cheers, thanks, the jump leads coiled and retuned, we load up once again.
Heading out into HomaBay, I query with Tom our fuel situation and should we put mor in, just in case. Tom felt that as the boys had said K$1000 should get us from Ndhiwa and back we should have faith (that was actually around 2 gall of fuel) and so off we headed. It is incredible just how many people use these Probox services, the roof of our car is concave where loads have been strapped on over the years. Every 500m or so someone waves looking for us to stop, even once out of the town there will be someone stood beside sacks or bags waving us down. The car ploughs on through another checkpoint, nearly always around the potholes, often driving on the wrong side of the road until at last we are back in Ndhiwa. No sign of the boys and no arrangements previously made for the return of the vehicle, I suggest to Tom that we just keep going back to the hotel. 20 minutes later and we pull into the hotel car park, hesitating over switching off the ignition, but off it goes, our belongs gathered together, off to our rooms. Tom calls Sam and explains that the car is at the hotel.
I’m changed and heading for the pool, as I passed Barbara And Elaine on the reception veranda, they inform me that I have other people in the pool. So it was half a dozen locals were in the pool, splashing and enjoying themselves, the remainder of their families sat poolside. I derobed and climbed in, ducking down and swimming a length. Surfacing at the shallow end the older of group said hello, can you teach us to swim and pointed to a young lady in her mid to late teens. I said that I couldn’t help as this would be inappropriate, but demonstrated breast stoke and crawl. The lads in the group all had a go and I then noticed a young girl, maybe around 9-10. I turned to the older man and said that when we taught our children to swim we would just support them with an open hand under their stomach, allowing them to move both arms and legs. He took the advice and with the girl balanced on his hand she valiantly thrashed in the water using an excellent doggy paddle. I said, that’s perfect, you just need to keep practicing. The lads meantime had been trying to practice a crawl, splashing and spluttering but not necessarily making much headway. I called them across and suggested that they were using a lot of energy keeping their heads out of the water, that when they bring their arms a over have their hands act as a knife into the water then into a cup pulling through the water. Off they went to try again, I swam another half a dozen lengths, climbed out bade them all farewell and said, ‘keep practising’.
Changed and down to reception to join the others, power and wifi intermittent, we had a beer and I then returned to my room to try and write up some of the blog notes. Somehow I’d lost the notes for the 17th & 18th, no idea how and no idea how to retrieve, I’d not been able to send them out to Catherine due to poor or no signal, I was quite low at this point. No point in moping though, I’d just have try and remember and rewrite them.
Generator on from 07:00 for an hour. Early swim and for the first time as I made my 1st turn I had a spectator. A bird, nut brown plumage, about 15″ tall, 18″ with the neck extended and a plumage visible with this extension. Wing span about 2 feet when it flew off, the under wing feathers slightly lighter than the rest. I had thought it would disappear as I swam up the pool, but no, it remained there nodding into the pool for about 6 lengths, then obviously feed up took off flying over the treetops.
Swim completed under an overcast sky, changed and in for breakfast with the others around 08:30, weetabix, Spanish omelette, fried potato, watermelon. A discussion as to whether we actually venture up to Sangore, it is the furthest project away and inaccessible by minibus. The tracks up are generally in a parlous condition and taking into account last nights rain there are doubts about safety. A call to Sam who advises that the way is alright and 10 boda boda are ordered, 2 for the equipment. Around 10:15, bikes arrived and loaded we head off in convoy to Sangore. The track initially the same approach to the hotel, but then we turn left uphill as opposed to the right tun downhill into Ndhiwa that we’ve been used to. The track is certainly not as stony as that to Ndhiwa, but what it lacks in stones it makes up for in ridges. We bump up and down, through rain filled potholes, past remote, isolated dwellings, occasionally some compounds with decent looking properties. We twist, turn, bump and slide our way up, the views are stunning, I should have thought to bring a GoPro (although I never really dreamt I’d be on the back of a motorbike). One last big puddle about 10′ across and the bikes decide that’s it, from here we’re on foot.
The bikes with the equipment did keep going and quickly left us behind. Muddy underfoot and an uphill climb, it soon felt that your feet weighed 3 times the weight, they probably did with the volume of mud encasing my boots. The hillside is lined with deep ruts running down the hill, obviously where the water cascades down eroding the top soil, this doesn’t help in picking a way up. I can see the others ahead, but this is tough going, my knees are shouting at me, my backpack pulling and my breathing to pot. In fact I do catch up with Tom, although technically I think he has fallen behind as much as me. We both are breathing heavily and struggling with painful joints. We mount yet another summit and find ourselves at the edge of a football pitch, it’s been about a 2k slog up here and we need to keep going to reach the school at the far end of the pitch.
First job is to attempt to get shot of some of this mud from my boots, in fact I kick them off and put my sandals on from the backpack. Children are already starting to gather and this is a Sunday. Tools and steps out and we discover just how muddy it is around the classroom perimeter, obvious when you think of it, all that rain running from the roof has just been falling straight to the ground.we get a straight line up to a fall to the far end where the tanks will be placed. Difficult moving the steps as they sink into the mud as you climb them. By now we have a couple of dozen children around us, watching the ‘muzumgos’ working. Tom fits the running outlet and the far gutter clip, Adam and Les then start marking out 1 metre lines from the running outlet. I follow on placing gutter clips below the next two marks, leaving the 3rd clear for a coupling. Experience has taught us that as the gutters are not exact lengths this is the easiest way, fit the coupling the the actual gutter length. One side completed, we repeat the process on the other slope., not quite as muddy, but bad enough. It’s getting on for 14:00 now and Sam has invited us all to his home for food, the bikes have been summonsed, tools collected and when they arrive, strapped to one of the bikes. Tom is still rough from the journey up this morning, but has still been dashing up and down the site rather than directing the operation.
The bikes have actually come right up to the school this time, coming a back way across. We mount up and reverse the tortuous journey from this morning. The top surface mud has dried a little, but with 10 bikes following the same track through the puddles it soon becomes very slippery. Back at the hotel and the bikes will wait for us to take us to Sam’s. Quick dash to the room, a wet wipe wash and change of clothes and back to the front. Everyone, including Tom assembled, we set off to the far side of Ndhiwa, about a 20 minute ride and certainly easier than the 45/50 minutes to Sangore. A shortish distance off road and we come through a small settlement, just beyond which we come across Sam’s Bar. Sam explains that in Kenya parents must leave their children land and property, that his father had purchased this plot many years ago and overtime they had developed a bar and some rooms for accommodation. A backpackers dream, but still only used by locals as a bar run by Sam who had run a bar previously in Ndhiwa next to one of the schools. Changes in licensing legislation meant that Sam’s bar had to close and despite the fact that he had paid his annual renewal only a few weeks before, he received no recompense. Trying to start again in an alternate location didn’t work for him so he fixes and odd jobs to support his family.
His site stretches through woodland and borders a stream at the bottom of a slope. Monkeys play around the site, apparently during the day, drumming on the accommodation roofing. Sam intends to further develop the site with more accommodation and a small holding to produce fresh produce to be used on site. During our tour of the site, Tom had remained sat up in the open area to the rear of the bar and on our return said he was going back to the hotel with and upset stomach, a bike summonsed, Tom left us.
The Kenyans are polygamous, Sam having 2 wives and 6 children, the 2nd wife inherited (tradition) on the death of his brother along with her children. Barbaric , the 1st wife and Vivienne the 2nd introduce themselves and shake hands all round. They then disappear back off the house, situated on a separate plot above the hotel area, returning carrying on their heads and in hands an incredible array of foods, the crockery, cutlery and utensils. The spread included chapatis, fried potatoes, rice, onion salad, mung bean Dahl, a sort of coleslaw, boiled eggs in a tomato and garlic sauce, chicken both fried and braised along with an enormous platter of diced fresh fruit, bananas from his trees, mango, papaya and pineapple, what a spread, we were no longer used to eating a lot, but gave it our best shot.
We had started out with sodas and then moved onto beers, Tom having arranged for a case of each here when he got the case of beers for the hotel. Sam gave me a half bottle of brandy, apparently we drink the same brand. A tally was kept of the sodas and beers we’d drunk and this would be added to our accounts being managed by Tom. We had all handed over a sum to Sam for the food a few days previously, but very little in comparison to the spread they had produced. The time now around
17:00 and rain imminent myself and Barbara opted for boda boda whilst the others decided that they could walk it, seeing what torches they could rustle up between themselves.
Barbara and I arrived back in about 15 minutes, the others making it for just after 19:00 in the pitch dark, slumping in reception and having another beer. The rain had held off for them, but not for much longer. No lights on in Tom’s room so we didn’t disturb for a while. Barbara knocked on his door about an hour later and between the decided that perhaps he was actually dehydrated, not having drunk any water during the morning, despite the balmy 27/28 degrees. She provided him some salts and left him.
No wifi so for many including myself an earlier night.