Saturday, February 19, 2011

Our Private Kenya (4): Spectacular and Seldom-Visited Countryside

While there are probably any number of "private" places to visit in Kenya, relatively unknown parts of the country, our various safaris throughout the country enabled us to enjoy several of these, and we'll always be grateful we had the opportunity. Being some distance from Nairobi or the other major cities (Nakuru, Kisumu, and Mombasa), and not necessarily in close connection to the more popular safari parks, these places are pretty much ignored by tourists.

That was OK with us as we drove about Kenya. Not that we didn't want to share. We just liked the idea that we could explore places where not many visitors have gone and, on some occasions, to see sights that are usually seen only by the local people, or other Kenyans on their own journeys. Almost every Kenyan not native to Nairobi or one of the other urban centers often speaks about visiting his or her "rural home," and even if that person has lived away from the village for some time - or even, in some cases, for some generations - that rural home continues to exert a strong pull and many people like to return there whenever they can.

Such was the case with us. Our good friend Nerisa Jepkorir Kamar, written about often in these posts, has during my time working in Kenya invited me on many occasions to come "up country" (that's the phrase Kenyans use when they refer to going out of Nairobi, regardless of the direction), but it never seemed to work out. On this safari, it happened. As our group left the Kakamega Forest National Reserve, in the Kisumu area and - as it turned out - not far from Chepkorio, Nerisa's village, the ranger at the park gate asked about our travels. When we told him we were going back to Nairobi, he asked about the general direction we were planning to follow and suggested we try an alternate route which, by coincidence, delighted us as it would take us near Nerisa's family home.

So off we went in that direction, and we had a lovely visit with Nerisa's family, some of whom were visiting for the Christmas holidays. As we had not been expected, our little safari groupo insisted that we should not stay long, but we were nevertheless treated to very generous hospitality, and we had a very pleasant visit (as can be seen in the above photo, with us posing just as we took our leave).

The amazing part of our "private" Kenya adventure took place when we left Chepkorio, and we were totally unsuspecting. Nerisa, apparently in a mischievous mood, did not tell us about what we would see as we began our long drive back to Nairobi and it turned out to be spectacular indeed (in fact, had she attempted to describe it to us, we wouldn't have been able to grasp the beauty of what we were about to see). The views almost unbelievably beautiful and, coming as it did in this part of our journey, the experience seemed almost a perfect finale to our time in Kenya.

The drive was pretty breath-taking, and when we stopped we found ourselves looking out over the Kerio Valley, between the Tugen Hills and the Elgeyo escarpment. We were up about 3,000 feet, looking out over the Kerio Valley which itself lies within the Great Rift Valley (so I guess it's sort of a "valley in the valley," as one of our group put it!). Off in the distance, we could see the Kerio River, flowing northward, ending up eventually in Lake Turkana. This photo will give you an idea of what we saw, and hopefully the photographs in the Kerio Valley, Kenya album will add to the pleasure. What a joy it would be to bring some of my other American and European friends to see this place! Really special!

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