Reflexions on trees

I speak to the people in the town, by way of conversation – when they ask me where I am from.. ‘Nowhere’ I say, ‘there is no single piece of this earth on which I can say I own or belong in’
Mostly people understand – yes

But what I have to ask you my friend (yes you are my friend, even if.. or maybe I should say ‘malgre tout’.. because that is really how life is here in Africa –
That was upon the fiftieth mountain that I climbed, that this conclusion was expounded, ‘despite everything’ , after making my way up the rocky crest to the summit, avoiding the thorns (for sure there were many) – there was still life and beauty to be found

But yet my friend, how am I to think of this..

.. so maybe it is not at all the truth.. and maybe it is only right to speak of it to the people of the community here, when they begin to ask me questions – and I try to be honest in my answers – as they are the longer term residents, so I might ask about the trees up there,  those few that are remaining there on the mountainside.. and then maybe they ask me, as if I should know, ‘Is it the trees that bring the rains?’

The other day, hitch-hiking in the truck on the way north to Marsabit,  the man in the cab was pointing out the wealth we could see around.. there were camels, a great many in substantial clusters, among the bushes the road; as he explained the camels were value, ‘That man there, he is a millionaire,’ then another and another, ‘He too’
So it seems there are a great many millionaires about in this region, if you think of wealth in terms of camels..

Whilst there are a great many millionaires about too here if you think of wealth in terms of comfortable sunshine and radiance of light
And vast numbers if you measure it in terms of the freedom to be idle and sit about beneath trees talking, and feeling a belonging to some place

So then we get back to trees again. Which provide the shade for the wealth of  so many

Exploring Kenya’s Mountain Landmarks – III

From KABARNET

Morop 10.3.17

I had seen this rather interesting and prominent peak on my way south, travelling to Marigat from Chemolingot in the police truck. With its two distinctive rounded peaks it gave the impression of a swing bridge.
I had not expected to be heading in that direction, but due to circumstances later that evening I found myself heading in a matatu towards Kabarnet, a small town in the Tuken mountains, noting on the map I had been given by John at Mbarra, a peak near to the town called Morop Hill (2318 m). I ask my neighbour in the matatu about this; on mentioning the mountain he immediately lights up and gives me information, telling me the place I should alight to get there and the village I must walk to, writing this down. And as we pass it he points out the mountain and the village out to me, though by then it is nearly dark.
The following morning I find a car heading back to Katin village, from where I (end up) on a motorbike travelling the fairly short way with a lady who rather insisted I came with her, on a road through tall forest to the village of Kapkomoi where she lived. From here I followed a track leading gently up towards the ridge, soon to gain the company of a young man who starts telling me some things about the forest, explaining how some pieces of logs (of acacia trees) lying by the road would be cut up to provide fuel for bakeries, and how the timber from an area that had just been felled would be used for making doors and beds and furniture.
I was very impressed by the forest here, for I hadn’t seen lush forest for some time. It was notably cooler in this region too than where I had been for the past six weeks, and here were growing some big trees and a good mixture of native species.

From the top you could see that this hill and its other smaller neighbour to the south were the last bastions of native forest in the surrounding area, even if the forest was now being encroached upon by the newly felled area.
Though as the young man told me, the felled area was intended to be re-planted. He explained that it was going to be parceled out to the people of the village, and the people would each be given some trees by the Kenya forest service to plant, meantime while the trees were growing they would plant maize there – so the emphasis was on the ‘benefits’ for the local people.
It was quite a grand view up there, though somewhat hazy in the distance, and mostly over the local region, which was quite hilly and entirely green, though the adjacent hills had lost the larger trees, and were mostly just covered in low regenerating scrub. To the east you had a good view over to Lake Baringo, with its several lacustrine islands, one of which was covered in greenery, and hazily south to Lake Bogoda and the rounded hills beyond.
To the west beyond the range you could discern the drop from the plateau to the Kerio valley, and the vague shapes of the hills beyond.
The young man had followed me up there, so we sat on top talking for quite a while. There is actually a cross on top of this hill, and I am soon gathering that Morop is well valued by the local people, and is a well known hill in the region.
On the descent I met a man ascending, dressed smartly in black trousers and white shirt. He introduced himself as Pastor Morichai, and told me he was going to the summit to consider where people would sit prior to a counselling session and prayers that would take place the following day for some people prior to their marriage.
Back at the village I encountered another man who tells me he is the assistant chief administrator of the area. He explains to me that Morop, which had previously been classified as a hill has since been promoted to mountain, as is evident from a sign in the village. He told me there are two types of large butterflies that can be seen on the summit, though they were rare.

Kimajoch (Sacho Hill) 11.3.17

This hill I also found marked on my map of the Cherangani’s, standing at 2421m, so a little higher than Morop. And indeed it had been visible from that summit the day previously.
As directed I took a matatu to Sacho which led through pleasant forested country wending around the hillsides. The lady behind was also going to Sacho, and had told me her son was attending the High School there. When we arrive we turn down a lane and find at the foot of the hill a prestigious Catholic school, with many children in carmine uniforms apparent there, and here the majority of the passengers get off.
I am told by the driver that I should have disemarked earlier to go to Kimajoch, the hill behind which people mostly seemed to prefer to call Sacho Hill. He takes me back to the junction, and from there I walk back along the road, soon finding a well-trodden rocky path leading up through the forest towards the peak.
It was not far, as the road traverses quite high up the hill on the western side, and I was soon on the ridge from where I made my way through the scrub to the far side, and found myself on a rocky crest.
The precipitous classical profile of the hill on its eastern flank then became apparent, as it sheered down to the valley below, the slopes, beyond the cliffs being covered in native trees.
As I sketched  at one point two black and white eagles swirled below, though mostly the birds here were swallows, along with some intriguingly tiny flycatchers in the bushes.
The summit on which stands a Safaricom mast, affords a perspective to the southern end of the range here known as the Tugen mountains.  But I was still not satisfied until I had visited the lower northern summit, the area of which I found was enclosed by a fence with a metal gate upon the track. But I was easily able to slide through the fence and found a pleasant area of native tree parkland, where someone had erected benches and a wooden shelter with the intention perhaps of making a camping or picnic area. I felt quite comfortable there, and sat for a while under the shade drawing the scene.
Following that I walked most of the way back along the road to Kabarnet, enjoying the forest sounds and the scenery, particularly to the west where you could see the many ridges dropping down to the Kerio Valley. Further on meeting quite a number of people walking along carrying hoes, who were about preparing the maize fields prior to planting.

From MARALAL

Mount Roley 13.3.17

I had seen from Google maps that Maralal lies in a basin of indistinct hills, and that the higher peaks were some distance away, dropping down to the Rift Valley to the east.
Having arrived in the dark, I had not idea of the topography of the area until the morning, and the first things I came upon were a Mount Zion shop, and a Mountain View hotel. So it seemed that mountains were still in the consciousness of the people even if there were only shallow hills nearby.
I set out  with no intentions actually, just that my feet began carrying me, as I came upon some wide well-worn tracks leading out into the hilly country, which I followed away from the town, just enjoying being outside, with the sunshine and the warm breeze, buoyed in by a certain sense of purpose in just being out in the countryside, content to think I might just wander there pleasantly with just my thoughts even if I did not find any mountain as such.
I am soon being greeted by groups of women coming towards the town carrying what appeared to be sacks of greenery, by a strap across the forehead, which looked quite heavy. I tell them I am heading to the ‘milimani’ (mountain), though as yet I had not found one.
Then beyond the first hill the country begins to look more interesting, and
I become intrigued to continue to the horizon to gain the view beyond, spotting in the distance some rocky crags which add a bit more character to the scenery.
A little further on I encounter two men, wearing tartan shawls over their short longhi’s as one might imagine the Scots of old, very much in serviceable fashion. They are rather keen to know what I am doing there, but as they only speak the local language (which here is Samburu) we do not get very far in communicating. So they turn round and come with me, stopping at a couple of manyattas (which here are a little like Maori pa’s surrounded by fences of tall sticks). But we have to go some way before we find anyone who speaks English, finding at length a polite young boy who explains to them I am wanting to visit the mountain to get a view.
In the end we agree that they will accompany me, and when we get back to Maralal I will buy them some food. So we continue on, following always the wide sheep tracks whilst one of them keeps pointing things out in a strange way, waving his stick – he is carrying a stick like a short handled golf club, which I find out later is a kind of ceremonial baton, as traditionally used in handling goats. (I had seen one subsequently used for propping up a car bonnet.) The other man also carries a baton only with a metal rose at one end.
It soon becomes apparent that they are going to take me to the craggy peak which I had spotted earlier, I am very happy with that, as this seems like a distinct  mountain. The way is easy,  for there is not a great deal of vegetation, just a scattering of low trees. As we approach the peak we gain a view down to the Rift valley beyond where you can see hazy shapes of the ‘pimples’ and hummocks in the area around Barsaloi. The marveling at the view at least, I was able to communicate well enough with my companions, who told me the name of the peaks nearby.
The summit itself had the feel of a mountain, with a rocky platform upon which we sat (and ate some oranges which I had bought, which the two men cut up with their machetes). After I had made a sketch we started our descent, this time dropping down  to the wooded lower valley to the west, in which the river still contained some muddy pools of water.  There were some big trees here, and it was refreshing to see grass and waterholes. There were piles of elephant dung all along the way, and sometimes footprints in the mud, so now I was convinced there were elephants living in this area, as the men had been telling me earlier. It was a pleasant and interesting route, though my companions were beginning to tire, and at one point they asked a girl to bring up some water. It was really muddy, though both of them drank some, if not with much relish.
Finally we emerge at Maralal, and here I bought the two chaps ugali and meat at a small hotel, which they thanked me for heartily, then we went to a small store and they each selected a pile of goods, such as bags of flour, sugar and tea, which the storeman found two boxes for them to put it. And the men were very happy that they had some things to take back to their families.

Imarti Hill (Baragoi) 14.3.17

I had just arrived in Baragoi, and found a place to stay, then on my way out to investigate the small township I am greeted in English by a man sitting beneath a tree. He tells me his name of Pastor Joseph, and it is very easy to recognise that he has had some experience meeting foreigners and guiding them around.
Perhaps I am not surprised at the evidence that foreigners come to this area, as I had already recognised a particular scenic beauty about this place, once over the dry hills past Surujani to the south. I begin asking him about the local mountains, the hazy profiles of which, seen from the journey having already begun to intrigue me. Pastor Joseph is most accommodating, and suggests we walk to a nearby hill where we will get a view, and he can point things out.
I am happy with that, if admittedly we have to walk quite fast to get there, in order to be on the summit before the sun sets. For I would have liked to spend more time there, just relishing the greenery. Because this area, near to the town was so amazingly different from the desperately dry and damaged land that we had passed through on the journey here, and which I had been travelling through for some days. Here it seemed was what the land ought to be like, with a canopy of tall spreading trees and a full covering of green sward on the ground.
The ground was also notably damp; Pastor Joseph explained they had recently had two days of rain in this area. Maybe it could be explained by the soil or the geology, but certainly this area was distinctly different from its surroundings which had received no rain yet.
At length we gain the top of the small peak, which is a sacred place, as Pastor Joseph explained, and has a white cross upon the top. From here you gained a perspective on a number of other small surrounding hills, and views to intriguing fairly distance small mountain ranges settled about the plain. There was suddenly so much to see.
It was dark by the time we reached the town on the return, stopping on route for Pastor Joseph to show me his little church, and to meet and greet his mother, a diminutive lady wearing the traditional coloured beaded neckband of the Turkana women. As Pastor Joseph explained, though  we were in Samburu county, there were still Turkana people living here, though they maintained distinct areas of occupation, even in the town.
So I was very happy to have had the impromptu opportunity to climb a mountain that evening.

44 Ndoto Mountains 15/16.3.17

15th

These hills you could see from Imarti Hill, somewhat in the distance to the east. I was told you could approach them from a place called Le Silica, so the next morning I set off walking there. After some kilometres I got a lift in a truck that was taking some workers to the new power line being constructed. They were good enough to go out of their way and take me to the end of the track (past the last pylon) from where I could walk to the village which you could see nestled at the foot of the Ndoto hills.
There were quite a lot of people working there, constructing the high capacity pylons; I found out later this was part of a new wind-power project generating electricity by Lake Turkana. The pylons were being constructed piece by piece, the men climbing up them, and various ropes and pulleys used to support the structure. I was impressed at how efficiently the work was taking place. As we passed of course we greeted all of the contingents, and our driver gave their reason for their diversion.
It was easy going walking across country to the village, over the dry scrub-land without trees, passing as I went two men, looking after camels, one of whom pointed me towards a path towards the town.
When I arrive in Le Silica, I first visit one of the shops, then as I am heading up towards the hill a man sitting by a house greets me, and offers to find me someone to accompany me. He then brings another man, quite stout, who speaks good English, who it seemed had taken foreigners up the mountain previously.
Meantime some other people have gathered around, including one man who tells me he is a schoolteacher who keeps waving his arms about, and another men who objects that the mountain belongs to the community and foreigners should not go there.
So the man, who is intending to be my guide, whose name is DJ, says we should first go and see the chief to get permission. So we head to a nearby house, and the chief comes and we sit outside on chairs. The chief is quite happy for me to go, along with DJ and another man who lives on top of the hill.
First we go to the shop again, as DJ wants to buy some tobacco, to give to people on the mountain who we might meet. But as we are coming back up again past the chief’s house we find the objecting man again, and various others making some voluble confusion. They all then go into the chief’s compound and are arguing. I am not interested to be involved in argument or the cause of it, so I stay outside, and soon decide to go back to Baragoi.
So I begin walking back the way I came. DJ follows me, and tells me he will come with me to the power lines, from where I am assuming I will be able to get a lift back to Baragoi with the workers going home.
We do not go directly there, at one point stopping at a temporary encampment where a family is living, where I greet some women. It turns out this is the camp of the first man I had seen on route coming, whom as we are leaving asks DJ for some tobacco.
We continue on further, coming to another encampment, where there are huge number of the igloo-like stick shelters which the pastorals live in, covered in pieces of sacking and cloth. I am told these Samburu people are blocking the progress of the power line, whilst they are asking the government to give them some money, for compensation for intruding on their traditional lands.
Here we stop for a while as DJ drinks some local beer. I had seen this before on the way to Mount Roley, the two men had bought a tin mug of what I thought was tea from a lady beside the track, which they had shared. It turned out this was local beer made of millet and sorghum, which DJ drank two mugs off; and though he said it had no effect, it clearly had some.
It was already 4.30, and I am a little worried the power-line workers might have gone already, but fortunately when we get there I see some still up the pylons and there beside the first one is their bus.
So I get a lift back to Baragoi with them, whilst DJ walks back across country to his home.

16th
DJ had remembered there is a local market in the adjacent village, called Tanga, the following day, and that a vehicle would be going there from Baragoi. So the following morning I find this vehicle, which the driver tells me is an ex-British army land-rover, which was owned by one of the local  shopkeepers. It takes quite a time of course to load up the various goods, but eventually we get going, and arrive at Tanga which turns out to be  a cluster of stick market huts and a few houses set on a sandy knoll at the base of the mountain.
I had arranged to meet DJ there, but I did not find him, and was told he was not there. So I set off myself, as I do I meet the chief from Le Silica again, who tells me I should not go up the mountain alone. Then he very quickly recruits a man to go with me, and we set off.  But this man is not too keen to go, and asks me for a great amount of money which I did not want to pay him, so he soon goes back and I continue alone.
The track soon crosses a dry riverbed which I decide to follow up towards the mountain. This turns out to be a rather picturesque and also a quiet route and I did not see anyone in there. Eventually as I am getting near I climb out from the mud cliff sides and find I am on the plain not far from the foot of the mountain.
There were something particularly beautiful and attractive about this area, even though, like everywhere the vegetation had been damaged by much grazing, just the light and the aspect looking back on the low hills beyond, it had a very peaceful and attractive feel.
I encountered only one young lady on the way up, through the fairly light bush, finding bits of path higher up. It turned out here too there were some people living on the top, in their encampment surrounded by a pa fence. I stayed only long enough to make a rapid sketch of the hills beyond, namely the other (main) peak of Ndoto which lies behind La Silica, seeing distantly beyond it the plains of Marsabit county.

I make a prompt descent, at one point coming through a forest of tall cacti, which were really like trees,  to arrive back to the market (soka) with plenty of time still to talk to quite a number of people, some of whom had seen me the previous day in Le Silica, and spoke to the chief again who was happy I had achieved my mission.
Ialso found DJ who had arrived it seemed shortly I had set off, and had remained in the market all day until I returned.

From SOUTH HORR

South Horr Hill 18.3.17

 I set off up this small peak overlooking the town, after having spotted it earlier after my stroll along the riverbed. First passing quite a number of camels resting in an indent of the dry river. There was not too much vegetation, and some tree cacti at the top.
From the top gaining a view down to the nearby tree clad riverbeds, which were notably green, though as the peak is not high there was only a modest view.

On the return at the foot I was obliged to go through somebody’s allotment in order to get back to the riverbed, and was greeted by a lady sitting in front of her house, which she pointed out. She asked me what I had seen up there – another of the difficult questions people ask me,  because well, how can you describe in words the sense of wonder at the space, and ‘feeling’ the shape of the land, indeed I cannot really explain it to myself
Still I make some attempt, realizing after that  I forgot to mention the pink cactus flowers that were flourishing there despite the dryness. Actually I did not get to the very top because there was a fence up there surrounding the summit, which the lady explained was on account of a project to build a tourist camp up there.

The lady told me the mountain was called Cawap, Though I am not entirely sure she was not referring to the other larger mountain that I had lies to the south in the plains.

Mount Mumuso 19.3.17

I had already been in South Horr for two days, admiring the towering ridges which rise at either side of the valley, surveying the craggy tops and wondering how feasible it would be to go up there.
The day before after climbing to the viewpoint I had also climbed up to the first peak of the ridge of a mountain called Serrata which stretches in front of the mountain range on the Nyiro side. From there I had seen that it ought not to be too difficult to make the ascent to the ridge at the other side of the valley.
So the next morning I set off in good time, crossing the river and heading up small paths towards the hill. At one point meeting a man, who seemed in approval that I was heading to the ‘milimani’, and another later who was carrying some green branches who have me a brief greeting. Apart from that I met no one, though at one point I could hear a number of voices in the forest, and one man (who I couldn’t see hailed me), but I did not stop for him, and just called back ‘hi’ to him three times.
After that I was just following bits of goat and cattle track, having to bend quite a lot to avoid the prickly branches of trees; it was fairly steep and lose the way I went. But once on the ridge it was easier walking with views to the peaks beyond, also  south towards the  many interestingly shaped rocky peaks of the further Ndoto range.
I continued along the ridge, and at length came to the rocky summit I had seen from below. And sat up there enjoying the view for a brief while, in some state of wonderment at being there at all.
On the return, after some bush bashing off the ridge I found a well worn cattle track which brought me all the way down towards the river, meeting on route a couple of baboons, and people only by the river itself who were camped there in temporary shelters.

From LOIYANGALANI

Mount Porr 22.3.17

The day previous on my journey, hitch hiking to Loiyangalani, I was truly amazed to see lake Turkana, having not seen a large expanse of water for some months since I was by Lake Victoria. Here I found that luminous quality of brilliance and cleanliness of a spacious place. For there was scarce vegetation surrounding it.
What stood out clearly was a prominent small pyramidal mountain sitting neatly beside the lake, I was told this was Mount Porr.
The following day I had got talking to a man, Mr Stephen Nakeno who wrote his name down for me, (partly in case of the event of meeting people along the way who might be asking questions, as happens, so I could tell them I was acquainted with him). He told me he was the Chairman of the Beach Management Committee and drew me a map, showing the four villages ( simple settlements of stick  and cardboard huts as were found here, and are called  manyattas). The first two were Layepi and Komote,  inhabited by people of the El Molo tribe, which is the smallest of the 42 tribes in Kenya, containing some 400 people.
I opted to take a motorbike as far as the second village, Komote, and walk along the shore (some 14 kilometres) to the hill. When we arrive there I am rather concerned to see that the mountain still appears quite some distance away, and had I seen the track then I would have asked the young man to take me further.
Anyway it was very pleasant walking there beside the lake, at first passing many different kinds of birds beside the waters edge, and a few people here and there, mostly in the distance. , it was very peaceful and relaxing just to wander there without worry of disturbance of too many questions from people.
the land was dry of course, and stoney underfoot, whilst there were still goats grazing. Further along I was pleased to see more trees growing near the lake, remnants of a former time when there had been much more greenery about here, as several people I met in the town attested to  remembering.
After three hours walking, the mountain was at last getting nearer, but still i estimated another hour away to the top. And after sitting under an inviting tree for a while I decide to turn back, this time following the gravel road rather than the shore.
After some time I am happy to be passed by a vehicle, a truck which was , heading back to Loiyangalani. It was a relief truck taking food to the people in Moite, the settlment further up the lake. So I sat in the front and had a pleasant conversation with the workers who were returning from their mission.
I later spoke to some more people in the town gathering this little hill is quite a popular place to visit. And, as I had seen, part of it is sandy and another part is dark rock. But very sad to miss the view north up the lake which surely must be gained from it.

(22.3.17) Mount Kulal

This is the mountain rainge which sits behind Loiyangali beside the lake, the last large mountains before heading north. Mostly whilst I was there it had a capping of cloud along the top, lending an additional touch of remoteness.  You could also see in certain light the band of greenery along the upper slopes – and people told me there were trees up there.
I found out that it would take about six hours to reach the base of it from Loiyangalani. The young man who had taken me to Komote had offered to take me there for 3000 shillings.

From ILAUT

Gallipae Hill (Ilaut) 23.3

Having arrived in Ilaut on the bus from Loiyangalani, I am pleased to find myself now in a scenic mountain area again, right adjacent to the taller mountains with many intriguing rocky shapes. I am soon offered a place to stay with a local man in a nearby manyatta, meantime I have some time before we are due to set off there.
So after drawing the full profile of Mount Poi I decide to climb the small local rocky people, which is a somewhat prickly ascent, but worth the effort to gain a perspective of the area, so that I now perceive we are set right on the edge of the Marsabit plains, which stretch out wonderingly beyind to the north, with a few outliers to the west which I drew but did not determine their names.

 

Mount Poi  24.3.17

This mountain I learnt about from Terry, the Englishman who I had met first in the Cheranganis, who had written its name down, along with three other peaks on a slip of paper for me before I departed from Mbarra.
I didn’t know anything about this hill otherwise, but found out when I came north that you could climb it from Ilaut. then when I arrive I find it is a really prominent tall mountain, overshading the whole area, (even despite all the other remarkable looking peaks in this region, which I find out is still the Ndoto Range)
With its sheer rocky head it looked almost impossible to climb, yet when I arrive in Ilaut I am told there is a path up to the summit plateau where some people are actually living, grazing animals.
The following day I set off promptly from the manyatta, my host Francis showing me the way to the start of the way, on route passing a deep well cut down through the rock in which women were (rather picturesquely, and enchantingly reminiscent of some Egyptian painting, even though it was quite a different place to Egypt here, there bringing up water) and here one of them passed my water bottles down and filled them for me.

The path up anyway had been recently used so it was possible to follow the human footprints and dusty portion, though it took a little concentration to keep on it, as clearly the cattle sometimes went some other ways.
It was actually a very pleasant ascent, fairly directly towards the dip of the ridge. This area harboured a good number of animals, and quite a number of tall trees still grew here, the ‘wild’ sounds of the bird-life here reforming the atmosphere that this was a place still home as much to animals as to people.
I soon passed under the great dark cliff of the peak looming to my left and gained the crest of the ridge. From here a path led up to the peak itself, indeed a very spectacular route which had been reinforced in many places, which rough steps made beside some section of rock, so that the cattle I suppose would not lose their footing when being taken up there. Once of the man peak, the path traversed along quite some way before it finally made for the plateau so I am beginning to wonder if I will ever reach the top. On the way i pass two largish groups of cattle all clustered beneath large trees in the shade, which serve as landmarks for my return.
Near the top I pass two small huts, and hear some voices, but I do not meet the people there until the descent. Two boys had come after me, and were looking on as I made a sketch. They then asked me for money, but all I had to give them, somewhat apologetically, was a lollipop. I was told later how they would take the cows down to the well to drink persiodically, and that as the cattle were slow moving about the hill, they had to make an intermediate camp along the ridge for the night before. Anyway that was the work for the two boys there for the moment.

The view from the top was certainly spectacular, in all four directions you could see the ranges of mountains and outliers. I was suspecting too that one of them was Mount Kenya, but I did not know.

From NGURUNIT

Nesiram 25.3 (Ngurunet viewpoint)

I was pleasantly inspired when I arrived in Ngurunet, having walked here some hours along the road from the manyatta near (Le chevell) Ilaut, through the amazing mountain scenery, even if the vegetation nearby was in a somewhat sorry state showing much signs of damage, by the drought and over-browsing.
Anyway, rather like Baragoi, suddenly arriving in an area of greenery with an almost full canopy of tall green acacia trees, it was wonderful to see and to feel the pleasantness of it. Here I find there is also a place to camp, to which I am thoroughly welcomed, though it is not until the following day that I set out to explore the small pyramidal peak, one of two that lies at base of the circle of taller, towering mountains that form a circle behind the settlement.
As I am setting out I soon find I am being followed by a group of children, and then an old man hails me, and calls me to follow a different path to the peak. He does not speak English at all, but seems inclined to think there is some problem about me heading up there, indicating too that he is too old to accompany me. He is rather inclined to call me back, but I manage to covey to him the idea that, ‘yes we can keep on talking about it, but I am here to climb it).
The children had remained following us, and the old man made some several attempts to get rid of them, but they had paid no heed – so I am thinking maybe it was here a question of the prerogative of children, that they indeed needed to learn things, so it was their business fo follow and observe.
So anyway, they are coming after me. It is not too difficult, fairly steep with some vegetation, but not too hard to find a way. Though higher we come to a rocky part, and maybe i am somewhat energised by my following, for I think I would not have attempted such a direct ascent had the children not been there. So we end up with a stretch of rock climbing and hauling up by roots, the childn following, helping each other along. Though in the end only two of them make it, whilst the others all turned back.
Then once over the crags one of them points out the easier way round.
So we all three sit on the rocky top, and I am feeling some respect for the two chaps who had followed me, and who watch me for a while as I am sketching. For it is a good viewpoint up here. You could also see a nd  band of of green forste at the foot of the towering cliffs. Though they lose interest before I have finished, and head down. i following, this time by a somewhat easier way.

From NGURUNIT

Loguasi 26.3.17

This rather amazing towering outlier peak I had observed first when walking along the dry riverbed from the camp where I was staying into Ngurunet village, and had been inspired to make a sketch of it the first afternoon, with its intriguing ridge and craggy tops.
And then on the third day I decide to make an attempt to climb it, having spoken to some people who tell me you can ascend from the far side.
I had actually been thinking of traversing along the ridge. And from the far side I ascend the smaller western peak by the rock slope, but find no paths there through the rather thick and very thorny vegetation, so I am obliged to descend and try another way.
I am made really    aware of the dryness of the idea here, whilst you could see that it had at one time been quite wet. The rock I had ascended was for instance graced with steps of totally dry moss, which had been gradually forming a covering of soil. But now it was totally compaced and hard and shrinking from the rock after a year with no rain.
There was nobody grazing sheep in this area behind, as clearly all the grass had been finished, and though you could see some old paths that must of be made by cattle of the mountain, they were already becoming overgrown. So the area rather had the feeling of reverting back to the preserve of the wild animals, for there were still squirrels there, and I saw also hares and deer. (and of course many birds which did not seem too disturbed by the dryness).
After some exploring I determined that there was no passable path now heading up the mountain,  and that the only way was to ascend by the bands of rock which ran shallowly up towards the main peak. This proved indeed quite an efficient route, once I had found a way, crossing higher up onto a second rock band which led me to the final summit. Indeed this turned out to be a really excellent viewpoint in all directions, and most intorguing to the south to the tall caldera of Aldera, and the steep rocky summits which seemed impossible to climb.  The relative inaccessibility of this country here probably accounted for the poppulations of wild animals still living in this area.
So there was something for me rather amazing and magnificent about all this.
the memory of that climb had been very wonderful for me, partly because it had taken me quite a number of hours exploring to finally make a way up, and it wasn’t at all a question of will or determination, djust that I seemed to possess the energy to keep on going just that little bit further, until suddenly I got there, and I am thinkinbg of those firends down below in the camp who were aware of me being up there – so in many ways I was doing it for them too.

another thought also occurred to me on that climb, which concerned the beauty of these places as might be summed up by the words ‘despite everything’. Because up near the summit you found some really beautiful miniature boabab trees, green in the stop with a wide base which tapered rapidy and intriguingly to the bifurcations of branches. And many of these green barked trees were now sprouting beautiful pink and white flowers. It was truly amazing to see – that despite all the drought and the damage to the land by so many animals and collecting of wood, beauty in its most perfect of qualities could still be manifested.
So how the life survived here, despite all this was something truly amazing. Life here in its own right.

From NESIRAM

Halibaladan 28.3.17

This amazing peak I drew several times. I had first seen it from Ilaut walking in the evening along the path to his village, and it had appeared ina sketch then. He had told me it was called Lokinoi, but I was later given the name Halibaladan, which I think was the more local name.
It stood out in many subsequent views I had, being rather the shape of a lose fist, and clearly a bit higher than the surrounding outlier peaks.  Francis had told me you could climb it from the village of Namerei, and that was my intention as I set off from Ngurunet, on completing my missions there.
As I walked the moutain gradually became closer, and I began to see that it was very cllearly the remnants of an ancient volcano, still preserving something of its circular base, but with the craggy top formed into many intriguing shapes.
After some hours of pleasant walking, (with 20 drops of rain falling on me from the clouds which are now beginning to grace the sky about the mountains here), and a very pleasant breeze.
Though in Namerei we have now rather left the mountains, and there are very few trees, and the area is now very much desert, with many dust storms and wind.
I have some interesting conversation with a coupld of yound men there, and another man, who is a head teacher ina nearby village school called Lecuchula, tells me you must climb it from a place called Manyatta Lingima, which is still 12 kilometres from Namerei. And here a long way, in the circumstances of transportation.

in the event I am not inclined to try and stay in Namerei, but decided to continue on the Laisamis. After walking some way I am offered a lift with some people travelling to Isiolo, and from the car I gain yet a closer view of this intriguing mountain, wondering at the possibuility of finding a way up one or other of the smooth outer ridges.

Lodomut/Halilugumder 28/3/17

This smaller peak beyond Halibaladan volcano had been visible for quite some days since I had entered the Mount Poi area, and Francis had told me it was near to Laisamis, and had given me the name lodomut.
But when I was talking to people in Namerei, one man tells me the name is also Halilugumder, and writes it down for me.
As I am travelling in the car towards Laisamis I begin to gain a closer perspective on this intriguing mountain, which as we approach gains the shape almost of a sphinx, resting there sturdily in the landscape.

As we are passing closer I make some remark about it to the man next to me in the back of the car, who is most impressed that I know the name as Halilugumder, taking it rather as a compliment to the local culture that I knew it as such.

Skatgat

This peak I had first seen from Kapungaria, the distinctive toothed ridge in the range south of Tiati.
I became more aware of it later when I was travelling to from K to Ch, as the road began to pass quite close to the base of it. And when I reached the village of P, I was actually offered a place to stay there by a young man in a local house, from where I was told I could climb the moutain.
However as that had not been on my plan, I did not take up the offer.

From Ch also the Skatgat takes on a different prominence, as demarking the gateway to the higher mountains behind. And it is clearly visible from the Ch hill. And there is a Skatgat hotel in the town.

From MARSABIT

Marsabit Hill 30.3.17

I had passed many small hills rising from the plains on route to Marsabit, mostly almost bare of vegetation, showing the red soil. But at Marsabit there are suddenly trees, and to the SE it is National Park, with the hills here clothed in native forest.
Beside the town stands Marsabit Hill, which I just had time to make a sketch of the deepening profile of trees in the approaching sunset, on the first evening.
Some heavy rain fell next morning, enclosing the hill (and the town for a while) in cloud. But it lifted later and I proceeded to the Ahmed Gate, indicated by the wildlife service signpost. Here I was told that no one was allowed to enter the area except in a vehicle, which was something of a disappointment as I was looking forward to a pleasant stroll in the green forest.
Anyway some speculative exploring of the inhabited area below the hill brought me to a path alongside an electric fence-line, which I presume was demarking the edge of the park. Then after a while I came to the end of it, and found a well-used peaty path heading up into the forest. It seemed to have been used mostly by deer, though there was evidence of people’s passage in the discarded water bottles along the way. The path became somewhat less defined but continued on, climbing gently, until I reached the ridge heading to the nearest summit. It was very pleasant there, and clearly primarily the preserve of animals, for I saw no human footprints.
There were some largish trees at the top with dangling lichens on the branches, suggesting remnants of more primeaval forest cover here at one time. It was very pleasing to look out from here over a substantial covering of  similar forest on the adjacent hills and to image this as home to many animals and birds. I saw myself a largish deer and quite a big troupe of baboons passed just ahead of me on my return, and paid no heed to me at all, suggesting that they were not accustomed to being disturbed by people.
So I was happy at my chance opportunity for a small forey into this terribtory without disturbing or being heeded by animal or man.

From LAISAMIS

Mount Chopkoron 30.3.17

This small outlying hill can be seen clearly from laisamis town, to the east, standing out distinctly from the other small hills here due to its neat pyramidal shape  capped with a pale tooth of rock.
I was told by a motorbike driver there, the name of it. But he did not know the meaning of the name, as he said it was Samburu. He did not speak the Samburu language but Rendille, as he was from that tribe. He explained too that the hill probably originally had a rendille name, but that some twenty years ago the names of the hills here had been converted to Samburu names, and he did not know the original.

Mount Moille however he said still possessed its original Rendille name.

Moille 1.4.17

This modest rocky hill was first pointed out to me from Laisamis by Pastor Kiloran, who had offered to take me there on his motorbike, when I was on my way north to Marsabit.   I subsequently noticed that it stood out quite prominently from the road coming south from there.
In the end I arranged to go there with another motorbike man, Edward, who was a friend of Pastor Kiloran, and we set off promptly at 8 o’clock. On the way he was telling me about an American woman, Carla, who I had heard of previously, who came periodically to the area to study the cultures of the different tribes. It turned out he had done quite a lot of work for her.
The mountain indeed looked more impressive near to, with a massive rocky face seen from the east. The western, rear, side was a little more broken up, with three distinct pinnacles
Edward suggested I ascend up the diagonal fissure coming up from the left, so I ascended from this direction, scrambling over the fiarly steep but rock faces towards the right hand tallest pinnacle, on the top of which there is a metal cross which you can climb up to.
There was an almost disconcerting sense of elevation from the summit perch, which afforded good views down over the local area, with the intriguing patterns of yellows and browns of the soil, and the sinuous lines of the wadis wending their way, slightly more vegetated, across the plains below otherwise evenly speckled with the remnant trees that still are allowed to remain here.
Though there was not much more to be seen in terms of the further mountains from the summit than below.
All the same, it felt a substantial climb to get up there, so it was definately worthy to be called a mountain.

Meantime Edward had been mending a puncture on his motorbike down below (unsuccessfully as it turned out, as we had to stop and pump it up on the return).
I made a sketch of Moille from below, and Edward told me some more about the names of the mountains here, explaining that many names had been changed to Samburu names about 20 years ago, during his father’s generation. He then explained something about generations which in one way was how people measured time.

From WAMBA

Ngura 1.4.17

This gently sloping peak with a distinct mitre rock cap is clearly visible from Wamba main street, standing in front of the higher peaks of the Mathew Ranges behind.
On asking a lady, who was selling samosas, I was told the name was Ngura. She also remarked there were elephants up there, adding that the elephants also came into the town itself during the night.
certainly when I set off the following afternoon to climb it, I found much evidence in piles of dung.. There were also quite a number of the small deer here, with the greenish-brown back which I had seen elsewhere in the area. Nearer the summit there were quite a number of boys, grazing goats, and making quite a noise, passing them on the return, though they did not take undue notice of me.
There are more rocky outcrops nearer the summit, casting views out to other rocky peaks perched in the plains to the south-west. The summit rock turned out to me somewhat larger and more formidable than it appeared from a distance. I think it would not be possible to climb it without some ropes and aides, though the daring might have got to the lower part by way of a fissure where there were some remnants of trees, which it seemed goats even had climbed up in the past.
So a pleasant and not an insubstantial walk to this local mountain.

Mataquel 2.4.17

This small rocky hill on the road back down from Wamba invited to be climbed as a gentle excursion. So I set off along the road back down towards the plains. It is Sunday. On route I pass beside a school where a number of boys are sat in groups beneath the trees. They call to me, and on my responding one of them comes to the fence to speak to me. I ask him why people are burning the forest on the mountain.
He is quite keen to come with me, and I tell him he is welcome to accompany me if he likes. But in the event he does not come, and i continue on alone, crossing the plains beneath the remaining thin covering of trees towards the mountain. As I get closer I meet a man on a motorbike, (with two passengers) who seems anyway in approval of my intention, and tells me I should climb it from the right side.
I do not do this, as it seems easier to ascend by the rocks of the shallow gully leading between the left hand two of the three pinnacles.
There are quite a number of boys here, looking after some goats, making some noise and calling out ‘chow’ to me, as seems to be the custom in this place, presumably because the people have had  Italian visitors.
It is not far to climb, then a short rock scramble to the middle and tallest pinnacle, which affords a pleasing perspective on the intriguing flat plains which stretch out to the west towards Baragoi.
The shapes of other small peaks can also be seen to the south, and beyond them the hazy shapes of more distant hills.
Some of the boys had followed me up, but they became quieter after I had begun sketching. And when I looked round after I had finished I found four dark cherubic figure sitting together, intrigued upon a rock.
They did not follow me on further, and I proceeded over the further summit and made my way down through the thorny scrub to the far side, towards another small rocky hillock on which stands a radio mast.

From CHO

Exploring Kenya’s Mountain Landmarks II

From KITALE

28.1.17 Endebess Bluff

 

From Kitale I took a motorbike (piki-piki) upto the gates of the Mount Elgon National Park. I was fortunate that after a bit of time, in which on request I made a drawing of one of the wardens, she looked very smart actually in her khaki army pattern jacket with innumerable pockets, and her green beret (of which she pointed out the elephant logo). Anyway they let me in at residents rate.
I walked then along tracks –  it was very wonderful to see the preservation of the forest – quite amazing actually that all this native vegetation should still exist, in such a state. There were many monkeys here too, of different colours – some very nice looking black and white ones. Also a modest sized ground level orange-brown animal which I saw for a short period – fattish.
There were some caves further on, which I climbed the short path upto, of quite some spectacular size, with many animal prints in the sandy floor.
I then returned and climbed upto the Endebess Bluff, again on a smaller path, gaining a view of the brown and green patchwork of farmland stretching out below, and a wonderful view north now to the crest of Mount Elgon itself (still 32 kilometres away – to the end of the road), with the layers of wooded hills before it.
Beyond the hill (where two army clad park warden were sleeping on stone benches – who I did not awaken, so it appeared) I found another grass track, which had been kept mowed on through the forest. There were some really big trees here – ancient rainforest giants – and at one point a musty smell as if animals (maybe buffalo) likes this place.
It was actually quite a long way back, and I was fairly tired by the time I returned to the gate.
Here I was talking to another of the wardens, and then I got a lift from a local man ina car to the next little settlement. A piki-piki then took me to Endebess village, where a car was waiting, which soon filled up to take us back to Kitale, by dark.

From ORTUM

 

Sakat 3.3.17
I had initially thought this peak was called Embobut, after the river that flows down the valley at one side, as I had been told by people at Kolowa. But when I am at the village at the  fooI find that the mountain has its own name.
I had been attracted to this mountain after seeing it from Kolowa in late afternoon, a Matterhorn-like pyramid that rests as an outlier to the Maraquete range. So I was tempted to make the detour back westwards to climb it.
from Kolowa i took a motorbike to the Kerio river, which forms the boundary between Bast* East Pokot and the Maraquete region. I had understood that there is a dispute between these tribes (I think quite a lot to do with cattle rustling), and for this reason there is very little traffic between Kolowa and Tot. So I was obliged to cross the Kerio river bridge  myself, which was a beautiful sight to see as it is one of the few rivers wending across the Rift Valley plains which still has water in it. Then I walked the few kilometres to Tot. On entering the village I encountered some old men sitting under a tree, telling them of my intention to climb the nearby peak, they advised that I take a motorbike to the next village of Soko Boro, where I could stay.
The peak did not look too far or difficult so I decided to set off in the afternoon to climb it, being accompanied for the first part by the young man from the guest house, from whom I first learnt the correct name of the peak.
I was really impressed by the lushness of this area, for the Embobut River also is running freely, and there are many trees in this area at the foot of the mountain, including some veritable giants. There is, as I had been told, and saw many fruit trees here, notably mangoes,  unfortunateky not fruiting just now, so that the market in the village has nothing but tomatoes and greens, and one or two bananas.
There are a fair number of people living on the hillside, with plenty of good paths leading up, and many round stone structures here which I did did not know the purpose of.
I encountered a few people near the base and some men higher up clearing the water channel, because the water had been diverted many times to flow across the hillside.
It got steeper as I ascended, and I found that there were actually two peaks, a slightly higher one beyond the one that you could see from below. So I made my way on the lose rock towards it. resting beyond the first to take in the view, and the new perspective to some of the mid rift valley peaks to the south of where I had been.
Then some men appear over the crest of the first summit, and they begin calling me. I tell them I am heading on to the top. Though there was not a distinct path, it was more a case of bush-bashing.
They caught up with me, and they wanted to steal my bag. However after they had looked inside they gave me everything back. By then I had rather lost incentive to continue of through the bush to the summit, so I descended with them, until they branched off down towards the valley.
I continued on a good path heading down towards the south ridge. As I did I met up with a man clad in army uniform carrying a gun, and he told me they had been looking for me, on account of my safety. There were actually four or five of them, but only two in uniform, and so I descended with them, having the luxury of not having to be constantly looking to find the path.
we greeted a great many people on the way down, usually shaking hands. At one point we had a conversation with a schoolteacher who has living up there. He told me he had been to London, and liked it there very much. I also benefitted from some guavas that were being handed round, there the only fruit I had found that day.
Further down we passed a lady who I had had a (sort of) conversation with on the way up. She was now standing beside a large metal barrel, covered with a lid which had a small fire underneath. Apparently she was brewing spirits, and the policemen all had a drink there (somehow it was siphoned off by means of two tubes.
When we returned we all went to an enclosure where the chief of the village was sitting beneath a tree with some men, the chief being the only woman amongst them. I was obliged to have a conversation with her to explain my project, and she seemed satisfied enough with my purpose.

Koiburi 4.3.17

This is one of several small ‘pimples’ near to the Kerio valley which I had first seen on the descent from Sakat, and which attracted me due to its rocky top.
So the following afternoon I set off along the road north from Soko Buro through the green tree clad countryside here. I get talking first to a woman and then a young man who points me, after some time, down a side road leading towards the peak. Along here I get talking to three young women sitting beneath a tree, and one of them offers to show me the way to the mountain for 50 shillings. So I go with them (all three of them came) past some enclosures and then to a more open area where goats were grazing beneath the trees.
When we reached near to the foot of the hill the girls did not want to go further, saying that they had to go back to their work which was planting the green dal in the ‘shamba’. So I continued on alone;
It was a very beautiful climb, maybe partly due to the light of the later afternoon and the nature of the hill and the brown rocky soil.
i soon reached the crest of the ridge and ascended to the rocky part of the summit where I sat admiring the view back over the rift valley, with the nearby covering of trees here and the many small ‘pimples’ on this or that side of the Kerio River, which marks the boundary between the Marakwete and the Baringo (East Pokot) counties.
on the way down I met five Markwete with guns; they turned out quite friendly chaps actually, and explained that they were protecting their area from the Pokot.  So I went down with them, past the area where the goats were grazing, one of them telling me that he had 62 goats. Back at the road there was an interesting sight, with a great many men gathered round in a lose circle under some trees, with people standing up in turn to speak. When I asked, I was told it was ‘stories’. It seemed something very ancient and traditional just continuing naturally into the present. I had already observed it is quite a pass-time for men, sitting under trees talking, but I had never seen anything so big or formal as this.
I did not stay long, as it was already getting late for walking back. Further down the road meeting thé three girls again who were now busy in the ‘shamba’ field, which I now noticed had been planted with small seedlings.

 

 

Exploring Kenya’s Mountain Landmarks I

Kenya sojourn

Eden suites hotel, Nairobi  9.11.16

All along the road from where I am staying there are small stalls with ladies selling fruit, and maybe a few sweets, some have boiled eggs and fried donuts for ten shillings each. I am amazed at the abundance and variety, for though I have not yet seen (outside the city) clearly there is evidence fruits can be grown here
There are trees too, tall trees (in the gardens) and as i walk I am thinking ‘is this not also because of the mountains, for sure if there were not mountains here there would not be cold places and there would not be rain (to fill the rivers, and water the trees which produce the fruits, which these ladies here are selling so cheaply

Eden suites hotel, Nairobi 10.11.16

Today I was walking about Nairobi, appreciating the fact that as a white person here I am not (especially) conspicuous, and do not find myself noticed or approached by numerous people wanting to ask me what I am doing here and where I come from..

Just one or two, who were interested because they thought I was American.. ‘how can you not be American?’ one asked, when you look so much like the people we have just been seeing on the TV (for everyone here it seems has been following the US presidential elections)…

As I entered a shop I was greeted by two security guards, one says to me, ‘you do not look happy’
Which makes me feel a touch guilty, that  I am failing in my duty in not appearing to be..
I was not unhappy , just having a rest from the effort of seeking reasons for being so, whilst the sun was also taking a rest , remaining hidden behind the clouds
‘About the election’ the young man added – and thus I gathered he was assuming i was American
So then I am rather forced to have a bit of a conversation and smile

15th November, Nairobi Eden suites Hotel

So I get to find my way a little about the city by way of the local transport, namely buses and matatus. my first had been on the way to meet my old school acquaintance in the evening, on the Friday, and then making quite a number of trips with my south Sudanese friend on the Sunday, down to the St Luke’s South Sudanese church, where we listened to the service conducted (all apart from one notice at the end) in the dinka language – as is the mother tongue of my friend – even if, as he told me, it is more a spoken language than a written on – for as he said he does not write too well in dinka, even though that is his first language for speaking.
But anyway what is funny is the way the conductors use the term ‘bob’, when they are telling you how much the fare is. As the Kenya money is called shillings. it seems really funny, because i did not hear that term in England since we changed to decimals in 1971

November 16th Eden Suites hotel

I have now collected four cards from tour operators. Three of them I gained today and one yesterday.

Eden Suites Hotel. Friday 18th November

So somebody asks me the other evening, (he had told me he was a luo, and belonged to the tribe living in the north – so he was from a remote region
We were speaking about the elections, and he asked me, ‘do you have tribes in England’ – so I suppose this was some concept for him which he imaged was universal

Eden Suites Hotel. Monday 21st November

I am still here – here in Nairobi. Yes, the city becomes more palatable when there is rain (as there has been now for a week –  I was told this is the rainy season (they also call this the short rains).
But still some sunshine,  shining through the trees in the dripping enchantmnent then there is something reflective and romantic.
I walked back from the church yesterday afternoon. I had meant to meet my South Sudanese friend there (he had taken me there the last week, and had invited me again). But I did not want to sit for four hours – the services are long. This church is called St Lukes ACK and is primarily attended by the South Sudanese congregation – and the whole service, almost, (apart from a few sentences of sermons I sometimes discern) is conducted in the dinka language.
The people are dressed very fine – it is a wonderful spectacle when everyone is coming out at the end, and people are lingering there, greeting and shaking hands. I feel, maybe a little conspicuous as a white person there, but the older women greet me with recognition – and yes, I feel welcome enough.
Anyway I missed my friend this time, and so walked back along the Ngong road on my own – in the showers – where there was mud, and some bits of grass and slipperiness in places – so then it was something rather reminiscent of being in the countryside

 Eden Suites hotel. Nairobi 24th November

It rains outside, still. Whilst yesterday we had sun – I found my way to the forest – the forest within the city
Karura Forest
There  I sat beneath the straight and lofty stems of the Araukaria trees that (must some while ago have been planted there – being native of some Polynesian Islands) for you could, stll just discern the rows…
There I was not wasting time – for yes, I believe I have been languishing a little, staying here in the city – waiting for outcomes – that  still at present come to no avail – though yet not time wasted when there are friends made along the way – like the lady who sat at the reception (inside) the Embassy of South Sudan, she did not know why either…

And my dear young friend, whose hospitality to me came so wonderfully and courageously –

Whilst I am not the same person I was when I arrived here (nearly) three weeks ago – even if, time and circumstances may cause me to revert back (closer to how I was)

I hear the rain now, substantia and wetting, through the open window, falling and reverberating through the trees – into puddles, making mud
It was so wonderful yesterday – walking – rediscovering that state of body and soul, that is, discovering and exploring the wonderful and beautiful places of nature.. by the pale brown flowing stream there – an unblemished nook of tropical places
I was shown the way back by a young lady – her name was Pricilla, as she told me on parting, by way of a farewell – she was carrying a large bottle of water, which she eventually put upon her head for easy of carrying –

  • wow it really is raining here now… so there is not so much incentive to go out just yet…. there is a reason anyway

I told her trees was my field of study – because well, she wanted to know how I walked in the forest alone without guide – and that was the truth in the circumstances just then

24th November. In the matatu, waiting to leave Nairobi

Hey my friend, yes
Whilst, there are other friends here whom I have not yet departed from
The bus driver led me here to this place… through the bustle and jam of the more crowded part of the city

Things are getting busy..
But we will not leave yet.
And earlier goodbyes… which are, as it seems, the beginning of a new (phase of) acquaintance – which in some ways can be closer,
And all the way into town wishing that I had given some gift to the man at the gate (whose name was like a name from Shakespeare – he said he would still be here when i returned (I told him I would be looking for him –

26th November, Naivasha

Well here I am anyway – and I have climbed two mountains – a small one yesterday overlooking the lake, where I drew. There were people up there. And afterwards I went down and spoke with some of the fishermen by the lake, who greeted me and spoke to me in thier native language, assuming I knew it

Whilst today i met a very funny fellow, on the way back from Mount Longonot. when I was walking back to the road – it was very beautiful up there. He wasa tour guide, very  obviously one and had just been taking some people up the mountain, that morning.
I did not tell him that I had actually been up it – because I had made my own way up through the bush, which was not thick or too thorny  – finding much  evidence of the passage of animals, disturbing a few buffallo, and some other animals. Finding some of the particular beauty of ‘seeing’ nature in the raw, and the completeness and subtle repetition of patterns attained through time .

27th November Naivasha

Sunday here, and services in the churches going on all morning and into the afternoon.
I walked a lot today , meeting new people, finding the public beach where I sat and drew some of the huge pelicans  which had gathered there near where people were cooking fish in huts
People were sitting about the trees nearby on logs, with smal boys sometimes coming up to me, and I was also obliged to shake several small hands – and it seemed something a priviledge for me,  a white person, just sitting there ordinarily with the local people –

Naivasha, 29 Nov, – In the minibus waiting to depart.

The ladies behind me were just laughing –
It’s funny sometimes when somebody suddenly notices me – and I take them by surprise –  ‘hey, here is a white person’ – suddenly they notice
Sometimes it makes people silly – as on Sunday when a big church group came to the hotel, to have a ‘flying tea’, a mug of tea and a plate of cake and a sandwich polished off in a flash –  then they were off again on another aspect of thier program.
My presence there became part of their program, several people were keen to introduce themselves and ask me things – one  man in particular was talking in a high pitched voice.. it was hard to understand what he was saying ….whilst another told me that they spoke Kikuyu, (in addition to Swahili and English.)
It was the same today, with the the chap by the minibus, seeing me sent too him by surprise – he had come along with something for sale to the passengers – I was busy writing so not taking too much notice of things – but he noticed me, and started speaking in a high pitched voice – rather oddly at first, then in due course he introduced himself and told me he was from some certain place where they grew some certain crop – which seemed indicative of Kenyans generally, that they are mostly agriculturalists here – so that was how he introduced himself.
And he asked me questions, but I didn’t make any effort to answer them, which set the ladies behind laughing – because, well it was funny
Then the man shook my hand, and went off quite happy..

Eden Suites Hotel, Naironi 1st December

Hi to you my friend this morning,

2nd December

I have now collected five business cards from tour operators. As today coming down Valley Road I encountered the two chaps who I had spoken with two weeks ago, who  I had bought lunch. They  told me of another place they could take me to = a sacred hill which you did not  have to pay anything at all to go up. I told them I had three business cards (from them) but two of them were the same. And this was re-addressed, when the taller chap whose name was Frank, gave me his…

A little extra on Somaliland

26th October

So I got to climb another mountain in Somaliland, happily and unexpectedly.
I was on my way to the border with Djibouti, and I stopped first at a small town called Borama, where I had six hours to wait – not an easy task in Somaliland for a foreigner, when one gets so much attention. And there are no parks or any places where you can just sit and contemplate trees.
First I thought to go and eat some lunch, as fortification for a whole night of travelling ahead, and it turned out to be the ‘real’ local fare. This young chap had been talking to me outside the Internet cafe, where I had been first, and I thought just as well to have his company. The first two restaurants he showed me were real dives, you kind of went in under this tent and it was quite dark inside and dirty. That is the thing about Somaliland, you never see anyone eating – the rule it seems is that you should not eat in public. And even the restaurants tend to be divided into tented areas. (though the men chew chat everywhere, and there is plenty of drinking tea at one or two chairs gathered under trees – which women are always there to serve – at any time of day.
The third place he showed me was cleaner, again we were in a room, where there was an older women already eating some rice.. So I ordered some meat, and some rice for the young man. it was goat of course – as that is all they have.
The first thing the man bought was a big plate of ribs, well cooked, just meat plain and unseasoned. It was well browned but so fatty i couldn’t imagine eating it.. and said i didn’t want it.
My companion said he would ask him to bring something else… meantime the old lady opposite had purloined the ribs, and was busy tucking into them, saying ‘it’s not much fat’
Then the waiter bought a leg portion, which was mostly meat, and a knife too to cut bits off, which I shared with the young man.. meantime the lady went off, taking the rest of the ribs with her in a plastic bag… so anyway that was the local fare.

After eating the lunch, and walking around a bit with my pack, I had really come to the point of having exhausted all possibilites of ‘filling time’, taking account that i was so highly conspicuous,.. and after sitting for a while on the bench outside the internet place, walking past a stall a man greets me ‘where are you from’. he speaks good English, and it turns out he had lived some time in Denmark, and had travelled around quite a bit in Europe, so he was familiar with the European culture. His name was Abadir, I felt quite comfortable talking with him. A few people had gathered round, and an older man came out of a rickshaw, and he tells Abadir (who translates what he said for me) that he should show me some of the things here in Borama

So thanks to his advice, Abadir comes with me, and first takes me to a place where men are sitting around playing a kind of bowls – and sure this was a place where men could probably pass several hours maybe..
So we look at this for a while – I  had already explained to Abadir that I was very interested in nature – and seeing I’m not so enthralled to sit watching bowls he offers to take me to see some countryside. So we take a rickshaw, then another one and we come out of the town to some areas of hills – I should say that Borama is surrounded by quite a number of small hills which beckoned to be climbed (but I think here one needed company).
He wanted to show me a river bed, which it turned out a month before he told me he had been swimming there, which was hard to believe as everything is so dry now – you do not see running or standing water anywhere.. But I was more interested to climb the small hill we had passed – which all three of us did – including the young man driving the rickshaw. It was really wonderful up there – even if I only had just a few minutes to appreciate it.. so maybe that was my best moment in somaliland, getting to the top of that mountain – though it was also a pretty good one two days before when I arrived back from Djibouti on the plane (having been sent back) and the man at the immigration (after I explained the situation) just waved me in, OK come back to Somaliand, you’re free.. and then outside when two chaps offered me a lift into the town in thier car, ‘come with us..’

The journey to the border was overnight in a shared car.. I was fortunate in getting one with a family – one of the ladies also spoke French, and she made me very welcome. It was very bumpy, dirt road all the way, and quite sandy. but the window at my side was stuck  open so i got to see the stars and the outline of the bush as we went along. We stopped about 4, at a little settlement in the desert, just before the early morning call to prayer, and had a few hours sleep there on mats that were laid out there. The last part was in the light – coming towards the coast, in flat dune country but very scenic and pleasant to be there despite the discomforts.
I do like Somaliland – I have a lot of good memories there are lots of good memories there, it is quite a unique culture, and it takes some time to get to know it and feel comfortable there – but once I did I felt very welcome.
I liked the light too, once you got away from the busier roads and the dust, it was always something special to wake up to the dawn there, and the skies had a beautiful soft radiance.

A few words from Djibouti

Djibouti Sierra Hotel, 29th October

So here I am in Djibouti, where I have already been for three days, so far just in the city – but yet I already find companionably here, in the black people seen about the place, sitting, and on the beach – I too sat on the beach yesterday, (La Plage)  – because I was amazed – it was a Friday, the primary day of rest and holiday here, so not many cars in the streets. I was amazed at the spectacle of so many dark heads in the water – surely I have never seen so many people swimming in the sea all at once.  And others on the shore too, perched along the line of seaweed – the sand is grey here, but one gets accustomed to this ‘slight dullness of colour’, as something rather homely.
I am staying (at great and very frightening expense!!) at a hotel overlooking it too – and so becoming accustomed to it myself decided the greyness and slight dreariness of the sand lent a sense that this place belongs to the people.

And suddenly it just seemed wonderful, seeing all the people, happily enjoying the time and that place (there were no white people there – and I – here in Djibouti anyway, have already appreciated a sense that the white people are seen as a different class – so I was aware for me to sit on the beach I was in some way an intruder – and that it could only be done with this ‘proviso’ , and a special respect for all the inhabitants sharing it there.
Yet I felt it too – the sharing and pleasant atmosphere of just being there, and so I sat (gaining the company of a small boy) and attempted to make some drawings of the bathers (women too, who went in fully clothed ). Then some young men came and looked to see what I was doing –  explaining that they needed to know .

And anyway this is Djibouti – and it is nice to be able to speak French a little, so I can accord fully the greetings, and speak a little with the people I encounter here, who belong in the ‘other’ economy…

I was going to write about the railway..

31 October, Ras Bir camp, Obock

Hi my friend, I just must tell you about the view I saw yesterday, just as the sun was setting. I was walking back along the cliff-top (if that is the word for it, for the rock by the shore here is actually made of fossilized coral, which appears rather as if it is something volcanic.
I have been sleeping in a simple hut made of matting and sticks, inside which I had put up my tent – yet it is strange – for I still have very little notion that I belong here, or have a great deal of right to be here at all – fully aware that I remain only at the behest of those people who live here – and yes, I was aware yesterday of putting some of them to a little trouble for me..

Yet I did get away, to walk over the cliffs in the afternoon – for I feel so much the need to walk and regain some of the strength which I have lost in feeling obliged to stay in cities where the air is not good –

There is life here – a little – indeed I hear a bird now – you have to appreciate every bit that there is. (This was maybe the driving reason for setting out yesterday – to seek out some life). There are no shells here by the shore – and rather a strange and unworldly barrenness about the coast, just as I had experienced by the Red Sea earlier when I was in Egypt.
There are French people staying here too, at this encampment by the shore, some of whom I had seen on the boat crossing, with their cars – their meals are cooked for them by some local men and boys who I have seen about an open stone building.

My friend – that view yesterday evening – I really desired to capture the colour there – as the sun was setting, first behind the dense branches of a spreading thorny tree, and later, as I still sat in its shade, behind the hill beyond – the shapes of the distant mountains clear and discernible, as they had not been in the brightness of day, now evident in a purple-rose backdrop.

Tajoura, Auberge La Palmier 2pm
November 1st Tuesday

My friend, that was the day before yesterday – and already so many diverse impressions have befallen me, that what I wrote then seems already far in the distance.
I hear a crow here, and the sounds of the life of the village – people talking, the clinking of pots, a child making a jerky exclamation, an older man speaking in tones that could only be Africa – ‘awoowalli’ or something like I heard..

Yesterday I was invited to visit the refugee camp, of the Yemen people which can be seen on the hill a little beyond the village – I met the lady Raja in a shop – it was she who was keen to talk, speaking to me in English – as she explained, the British had been there as colonists – she did not speak any French. She wore a colourful scarf, and had an open face – but I did not get to go today – passing the encampment beside the road.. after I had been offered a lift to Tajoura in the car of a French family (they lived in Paris but were I think of Djibouti origin) whom I had met on my first arrival in Obock when I had been taken to La Mer Rouge resort (and been given lunch there). That was a feature of my sejour in Obock, that I was continually re-meeting people I had seen before – thus I did not have to walk far out of the town before I was on my way (comfortably in a vehicle) sat beside the driver, seeing the landscape as we passed – all the journey reeling in amazement at the hospitality I had received, aware my friend, that without it the journey could not be happening at all.

And now I find myself here, at this new beach-side place which I have arrived at just a few hours ago..

 Tadjoura Auberge La Palmier. 7.30pm 2.11.16

I walked today, some way along the shore where there were stones,  and at the far end of the beach which I reached, coming upon a large troupe of monkeys, near where people were swimming – it was fine today to be among the people

All the way coming along the beach I was appreciating the freedom to walk – for it seems that is a very hard won freedom sometimes – the freedom to walk, and return to your lodging pleasantly fatigued..

On the return (that is the best time) at the end of the afternoon when the sun is portending to descend – I was greeted by a man heading out of the village.. he asked me where I was going, and what was my occupation – this man, I should add was carrying a bag full of small fish which he pointed out to me – which it seemed he was taking to some people further up the beach – he told me his occupation was a teacher. He asked me, and I had already discerned how important it is to have a reason for being here – people want to know – I must have a place, some work as a member of the human community –  the question is easier to answer when I find myself in a beautiful place, when I am actively travelling, and things are happening which I know I can share…

Just now I am able to tell people I am an artist..

I sat by the beach in the town later and watched a goat opening a cardboard container and eat some of  it. It was very adept. There are goats everywhere here, they are let into the compound of the guesthouse where I stay for a while in the morning too.. I do not know how people keep track of them – they wander everywhere about the town, free and of their own accord, like the cows in India

Bolli Camp, Randa 4th November

Today I got to walk for seven hours over the mountains – a very difficult thing to achieve here – because amongst these people everything must be shared – I begin to understand this with the African people – and it is not always easy for me..
The two chaps – the navigators of the campment have just been sitting by my hut, talking with me. (They all went and sat inside it the first day (along with two boys from the village who had tagged along with me – but that was too much.. and I went away up the hill

5.11.16 Djibouti Auberge Sable Blanc

My friend,  yet I feel so much put to shame – because the people who I was with, are so natural at sharing… whilst I am always wanting to go off on my own – I love people, I love to think well of people – but yet I do not always like just to sit.
So many people always wanting to talk to me – I am honoured by the attention, and yes, it is my duty too – for why am I here, but to give (of what I have, which is not much – indeed very very little, when I compare with the capacity of th0se around me.
I was inspired my friend, as I walked about the mountain yesterday – no one was there, only goats, and also some wild animals – three beautiful white rumped gazelles filing up the hillside in front, and down in the wadi another greyish-brown, smaller kind of deer that was regarding me curiously for a while.. and one or two birds – so there was company there – and I did not quite want to come down, and return to the camp – even though, when I did everyone was so kind…

… and the two of them came with me this morning, accompanying..
whilst part of me was still there, in the views of those mountains, stretching into the distance, and the fresh air and cleanness of sky in that place – where remained the guardian of the camp, Ibrahim, who was always smiling – you could not find anyone with such a capacity for it, who remained always unperturbed

I told one of them (the one who spoke good French) about my friend in Paris, for whom this was all for – even if he did not understand

Auberge Sable Blanc 6.11.16 2pm

I am still thinking of yesterday, when I was sat outside one of the huts on the village near Bolli  – really I cannot believe what a remarkable privilege it was to be there. I had gone along with Daoud and his friend Adi, whose company I had shared at the Bolli camp. They had all gone inside one of the huts, and I was left watching the cat – no one else saw – and, come to think of it I think the cat was not aware of my presence. It was walking along the wall – and I watched it climb down in such a way that during the maneuver at one point both sets of paws were on the wall – before the final jump to the ground. It was a pale ginger colour, whilst underneath it was almost pure white, and also its paws.
I should point out that the whole compound was notably clean and well kept, with some of the stones painted with white strips – as had struck me on entering – you could barely call it a village, just a cluster of mat tents and stone buildings in an enclave beside the road that led to As Doora, with the usual goats straying about around the place.
This was the family house of Daoud – his mother and grandmother were there, along with some others – they all went inside the igloo shaped mat tent, which I had learnt earlier is called a daobula (the same as that which Ibrahim inhabited at the campment). (The pie shaped tents are called dab’s). And whilst they were conversing I was watching the cat eat some scraps which had been left in a pan, set in the corner by the wall on the ground ready to be washed. I watched it gently lift its paw, curving the end, and draw out a morsel, like a chip from the pan, first one, which he ate, then another, and ate that, then a third. After which he cleaned his whiskers, seeming satisfied, and then he made the beginnings of a move to retrieve another – but did not commence it – and soon ambled off.

Then a thin kitten appeared on the wall. And descended to the place by the pots where the other cat had been, sniffing there the residue where the larger cat had eaten, and found there a small morsel still on the ground  – and ate that, as seemed (not quite) due portion for its size. Then it went too.
And a young woman comes, tall and slim in her coloured drapery and adeptly tied scarf, and crouched by the pots to begin washing and rinsing them – happily in an awareness of her own beauty there.
And when she came to clean the saucepan, I saw there were no more scraps in it – so it seemed the cat had taken all that there was, performing the first stage of cleaning, unnoticed by the other inhabitants.

 Auberge Sable Blanc, Djibouti 7th November, 2pm

I sit on the tile floor at the entrance to the balcony, and idly draw the leaves of a tree protruding behind the white parapet, and i am feel my thoughts regaining their sanity, and the motion of life again with a (even if yet still small) sense of moving forwards

So that was the situation – remembering that somehow one is not in charge of ones future – but yet there is still some purpose in aiming at beauty, because that is something in this world, that it is possible to give, that other people can appreciate – which one has the sanction to strive towards on ones own..

Djibouti Airport, November 8th 7pm

Even now there is no knowing.. one is at the behest of the others – waiting for the humanity.
I was sitting earlier on the beach

‘Bonjour Madam’ someone said,  passing behind me on the sand
Then two young men came, sitting ahead and askance of me (also facing the waves)..   there on the black man’s beach – thinking how, being a writer is my legitimacy HERE – whilst this morning in the street outside the hotel a man had called me ‘the artist’ (as seemed he already knew).

Til the  further one turned and spoke to me in English, and  it transpired he knew no French  –  he was from Ethiopia, and so as he said, he ‘favoured’ England, (because that is the language he spoke)..

I spoke also with some Japanese, later waiting outside the airport, who, as one pointed out, already had the airport code for Nairobi printed on their suitcases – so sharing something in their also being travellers, just then, and the courtesies of their culture – as meted out to those in their group by their guides, when we finally came to file inside.

But we dare not speak of leaving yet… even now, inside the airport – because there is no knowing.. whilst the thoughts that I had when I was with the people earlier, – – the thoughts which filled that time, which had seemed important then, and I had wanted to keep in my mind (as intentions to follow) I have already forgotten .. remembering only (instead) those mutual transactions with the people