Little Miss Vitz’s First Outing into the Kenyan Wilderness

Ok, perhaps a slightly exaggerated title BUT Little Miss Vitz did make her first outing out of Nairobi and there were those who said that the road was too windy and too rough for her to make it.

Originally I asked to borrow my flatmate’s new (second-hand) Toyota Rav-4 to make the journey to Mount Longonot in the Great African Rift Valley as I had been told the road leading up to it may be too much for Little Miss Vitz to handle.

I have to note, by the time of my request, my poor flatmate, in the space of the week of buying the car, had been plagued by so many problems (including the complete collapse of the car at night on an unlit Kenyan road – not recommended). She had therefore decided to name her car Dennis the Mennace, because as she describes it, “it looks so cute and harmless and then it just throws a pie in your face”. However, it had been to the mechanic a total of three times that week so we thought it was fit to make its first long outing.

My friend who was visiting from Juba and I left Saturday morning to drive to the East African Great Rift Valley. But first we stopped at our local petrol station to fill up the tank. Now Dennis has a very big tank compared to Little Miss Vitz, so we were sitting there for a while until the petrol station attendant came up to my window and said “I think you have a problem.” We did. It seemed that the whole KES4000 worth of petrol that we had put in to fill up the tank was now on the floor of the petrol station. So I sighed, rolled up the window and drove back Dennis to my very distraught flatmate with the news that the tank had a hole.

Then there was no choice but Little Miss Vitz. So my friend and I got in the car and drove all the way to the Great African Rift Valley. Little Miss Vitz did not complain once on the 2 hours there or back and did not even consume one bar of fuel (my fuel meter measures petrol consumption in bars).

The East African Rift Valley is absolutely breathtaking, as these pictures attest.

View over the East African Rift ValleyWe also stopped to take picture of a local wildlife.

(In my defence, it was a very cute baby donkey)

I can only maintain over and over again that Kenya is an absolutely stunningly beautiful country, once you get out of Nairobi. We climed Mount Longonot, which is the highest peak in the rift valley.

The climb was slightly more strenuous than anticipated (or I am slighlty more out of shape than I thought), but it was definitely worth it when you get to the top of the crater. Both looking down into the crater:

And over to Lake Naivasha and towards the Rift Valley:

We even had the good fortune of seeing the train go past:

But this wouldn’t be a true account of my trip if I did not include some anecdotes.

The site of the first story is the top of the crater, right at the point where we had just arrived sweaty, dusty and out of breath, when my phone started to ring. I did not recognise the number so I picked up the phone and the conversation went something like this:

“Hello, this is Astrid speaking, how can I help you” (The formality is due to the fact that I use my mobile phone for both personal and work purposes)

“Hello, this is Michael”  (Loud hip hop music playing in the background)

“Ok, well how can I help you?”

“Which mobile provider do you use?”

“Safricom, why?”

“Hello, this is Michael calling from Safaricom, you have just been selected to win KES 10,000. Can you give me your bank details so we can transfer the money? (Still loud hip hop playing in the background)

“No, I don’t want to give you my bank details”

“Well can you give me the details of one of your friends?”

Michael, next time you decide to spam someone, switch your music down and given the vast majority of those living in Kenya use Safaricom as a mobile provider, it is a pretty safe bet that you can select that as your option. Asking the person that you are trying to spam to assist you with the necessary information to fabricate your story is not a good way to uphold your tale.

After putting down the phone, we had a picnic at the top of the crater. Then, my friend and I decided to start making our way around the crater. It is about a 2.5 hour walk all the way round. Again, I can only emphasise once again how sweaty and dusty we were. The dust was all over our body due to the fact that on some parts of the climb, we definitely did implement our hands and knees to help us. We thought though that we had done well until we saw large posse of Kenyan women, in IMMACULATE condition, make up and  not a single hair out of place. AND they were in strappy sandles. Furthermore, trailing at a slight distance behind them were their boyfriends carrying their handbags. Now my friend and I were not sure what to be more impressed by: the fact that they managed to scale the mountain in strappy sandles without moving a hair out of place, or the fact that they managed to evidently commission their boyfriends as their porters.

Finally, when we were driving back to Nairobi on the straightforward route between Nairobi and Naivasha, there were a lot of foreign lorries that use that route too, to transit through Kenya. This in turn means that as a car driver you spend a lot of your time overtaking as otherwise you could be stuck at driving at 6Kmph (seriously, one of the lorries I was behind was actually going this slow. He probably is still driving to his intended destination). It also means that there are a lot of traffic police trying to stop the lorries and fine them on a variety of different issues.

I was driving along, minding my own business, when I saw a policeman at the side of the road waving wildly with his baton. Now Kenya does (apparently) have a speed limit, but no one actually knows what it is, leaving traffic police ample room to stop you at whatever speed you are driving and tell you that you were speeding. Although I had not been driving excessively fast, I was convinced that I was going to be told that I had broken this phantom speed limit. So I turned to my friend and sighed, that this was going to be my first encounter with the infamous Kenyan traffic police.

I slowed down, stopped at the side of the road by the policeman and rolled down my window to a slightly frustrated policeman who said “Why did you stop” I told him that as he was waving at me, I assumed that this was international traffic policeman sign to say he wanted me to stop and pull over. “No madam, I was telling you to hurry up and go faster because I wanted to stop the lorry behind you.”

Postscript: My last blog entry received wonderful feedback from many of my readers. Thank you, I very much appreciate reading your comments both here, via email and word of mouth. I also received feedback that the colour red was not great, so I have reverted to the classic black and white although I have changed the background theme slightly, to a more symmetrical one. I would love to continue to hear any more thoughts, comments, criticism and feedback.

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3 Responses to Little Miss Vitz’s First Outing into the Kenyan Wilderness

  1. Nantume says:

    First bit of advice is to tell your flat mate to disown Dennis the Menace (a favourite TV show of mine during my youth, BTW).

    The photos are just stunning. I saw parts of the Rift Valley when in Kenya in December 2010, but none of the sites I saw could compare to your experience.

    When it comes to placing my vote, it goes to the pack horse chaperones! Clever move. Having said that, we should consider getting the ladies to appear on Wetten Dass (don’t know the UK/USA equivalent of this TV test-the-limits show), as going around mountains in high heels is an unbeatable feat!

    I thoroughly enjoyed this piece, Astrid! Your blogs are such a tonic!

  2. Nantume says:

    P.S. Sorry to have to disagree with the red conversion – I found it warm and welcoming!

  3. James Lee says:

    Love these photos, it really is a beautiful country!

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