Conservation

Attempting to volunteer with conservation efforts in each country I visit

THE MOUSE TRAP

mouse“Can you come down and deal with this, please?” the Jungle Gypsy called from downstairs. She sounded in a panic so I rushed, practically teleported, to her locale in the kitchen.

“What’s up?” I huffed, my breath catching up with me from behind.

 

She looked at me a little off-key before a screeching brought her back to the moment.

“What’s that screeching?” I asked, my eyes scanning the layout for the source. “Is that a squirrel?”

“There’s a mouse caught in the glue trap behind the washing machine,” JG directed my sight. “I’m late for work and I hate to have to leave you to deal with this on your own but it’s suffering.” She buried her head into my chest as the screeching continued, my eyes locking onto the source glued to a glue trap behind the washing machine.

Next to it, lying motionless, was a gecko that had free-fallen from the ceiling, landing right into the glue. Beside them was another trap with two geckos that appeared to have followed the same fate as their other buddy.

Glue traps are a horrible invention. Yet another cruel device to remove a being from the living and relocate it to the welcoming arms of death in an agonising and painful way. Like being sawed in half – slowly.

When I was a kid, I admit, I was guilty of violent acts against the smallest of nature’s visible-to-the-human-eye creatures. I’ve killed ants, spiders, pulled tails off skinks, flies, pulled apart millipedes and the never-ending onslaught of our own population controller, mozzies.

But that was before I realised that it was the wrong way to be and I stopped killing everything. Well, mozzies and flies have yet to reach an agreement with me and negotiations are still being held with ticks. The outcome being that it seems that peace in the Middle East might be achieved before peace between mosquitoes and humans ever will.

I hate killing anything. And what initially stopped me and put me on the co-existing track was the simple fact of, ‘What right do I have to take the life of another being?’ And, yes, mosquitoes are another being, but I feel like they can be made the exception. I mean, if you’re up against something that can and will inject you with the equivalent of a ruthless street gangbanger in the form of malaria, West Nile River and Zika parasites, it’s a do or die moment. Although , I’d like to think, they don’t do it intentionally (or perhaps aren’t even aware that they have picked up a  hitch hiker and then injected it into your bloodstream), the price they pay to try and control the human population is a hefty one.

I had no idea that glue traps had been set by JG’s housemate who had already left that morning. I remember as a kid, my mother would set identical traps and dispose of the mice by drowning and throwing them into the neighbourhood council bin.

Jungle Gypsy hugged me, apologising profusely for putting me in this position.

“Don’t worry,” I gritted my teeth. “I’ll take care of it.”

Just wasn’t sure how.

I had a Vipassana course coming up. The last thing I needed to add to my anger issues and other fun topics was the murder of another being (be it for mercy – it’s still taking a life) and staining my karma.

The mouse was screeching in a panic as I lifted the trap. We had just watched the animated film, Epic (about fairies and pixies. Recommended) and in it, it shows the fairies point of view of humans and how their movements seem slow and lethargic because of size. With that in my head, I moved my hand slowly, hoping to emulate the mouse’s perception of time (although, I doubt that, at that sticky point in its life, it was thinking of time).

I had to put it out of its misery somehow. I figured I could remove it from the glue with a stick. We slowly stepped outside where I picked up a stick and proceeded to try and unstick the mouse. It screeched louder so I stopped.

And sat with it on the step.

It seemed to be calming down a bit. Watching it getting stucker with every movement, like watching someone drown in see-through quicksand, I noticed that, through its struggle, it had torn off its left cheek-fur from under the eye to the jaw. There was no blood but the skin would be raw. And the torn part was still stuck to the glue.

I can’t leave it out for another animal to eat it. It would get stuck to the glue. And if it didn’t, and managed to nibble away at the unstuck bits, it might eat a bit of the glue and die of poisoning. What  if that animal had young that depended on it? I’d be responsible for wiping out an entire gene pool.

Seeing no other choice, I took a cardboard box, laid it with plastic and filled it with warm water. If I was going to drown it, at least it should go bathed in warmth. I held the trap above the water, begging forgiveness from the little guy.

“I’m so sorry,” a sadness and the sense that I was doing something wrong began to blanket me. Turning to The Universe I asked, “What else can I do?” There was no internet at home so my research resource was limited. As I began to lower the trap towards the water, The Universe appeared by my side in the form of my subconscious.

“Hold on there, Nelly,” it said. “You’re not even gonna try?”

“Name’s not Nelly,” I began as it ignored me.

“What kind of a human are you? You’re supposed to be compassionate and loving. We can’t kill this creature. What right do you have?”

“But what else am I going to do?” I argued. “Of course, I don’t want to kill this animal but it’s in misery, because of cruel human engineering. Look at it.”

It didn’t and continued to berate me with, “So because it’s a mouse it doesn’t deserve a chance?” It paused for effect. “If it were a puppy would you be so quick to conclude that a mercy killing was the only option? If it were a human baby, you would do everything in your power to save it. Everything but kill it.”

Hmm, guy makes a valid point. Why was my go-to option instantly death by murder? My only go-to option should have been (and this is now set to Default in Settings) Save rather than Delete.

“If cruel human engineering created this,” Subconscious nailed it home, “then perhaps soft human engineering can resolve it.”

“But there’s no internet,” I explained.

“You have another resource,” Subi said matter-of-factly. It waited.

As did I. A moment after it became awkward I asked, “Are you waiting for a reply or was that rhetorical?”

It sighed. “Your brain, mate. Your other resource is your brain.” It shook its head in almost disgust. “Look, lemme introduce you to a couple of very good friends. This is Logic and that’s Common Sense. They’re gonna assist you.” Subi’s shoulders slumped, a sort of all-hope-is-lost halo about it.

Well, there was no arguing the point. The water in the box was still warm and my brain came up with a few search results. I clicked on the first one (under the ads).

‘Try to mix it with soap, get it off the trap for a start.’

Mixing in dishwasher liquid, I dipped the mouse in making sure its head was kept above the water. With a stick, I managed to gently remove it from the glue.

I carefully handled the mouse hoping it wouldn’t bite me, talking to it soothingly, asking it to co-operate with me. It appeared at first that the glue was removed but, after drying the creature in a kitchen towel, it became sticky again. Its tiny claws stuck together. And its whiskers, vital for its survival, where glued together to its neck.

There was no way this rodent would survive (from the Latin: Rodere, meaning ‘to gnaw’. They are mammals of the Rodentia order. What makes a Rodentia? I hear you sing. A single pair of continuously growing incisors in each of the upper and lower jaws. In fact, according to research on Wikipedia, about 40% of all mammal species are rodents. They are the most diversified mammalian order and live in a variety of terrestrial habitats, including human-made environments), if I released it like this. And if something came along to eat it – raptor or reptile – they’d die from glue poisoning.

“Well now what?” I asked aloud.

“Think, man,” Subi egged me on. “How do you get glue off your fingers?”

“Hmm,” I hmmed. “Usually I let it dry and then peel it off. But I don’t have hairy finger tips.” I examined my fingers to double check. All the while I kept an eye  on the three dogs that came with the house and realised that I could call the local vet for assistance.

“You’ll have to cut the fur off where the glue is,” she recommended over the phone.

“What about its feet?”

“I don’t know. I can’t help you there.” There was a pause. “You might just have to take it out of its misery.”

Seems to be the go-to solution around here. Again, were it a larger mammal, a puppy, a human, that solution wouldn’t never cross anyone’s mind. Sighing, I grabbed some scissors but as I held the mouse and tried to get an angle to cut the fur and not the flesh, I concluded that it would be too risky and sticky.

Alcohol.

“This is no time for a drink,” Subi spat. “Besides, you quit.”

“Not for drinking,” I said, raiding the house bar. “To see if it’ll get the glue off. Like how acetone removes nail polish.”

The house was out of vodka but there was plenty of gin. Pouring a capful into a small bowl I then dipped a cotton bud and dabbed at the mouse’s fur.

The fur came off.

Strong gin.

And then a thought struck me like the discovery of black gold.

Oil.

Yes, oil.

If there was something we had, it was a ton of oil. Olive oil, coconut oil, sunflower oil and vegetable oil. Why not oil?

Why not, indeed.

I decided to use vegetable oil purely for its affordability and poured some into another small bowl. Carefully, I bathed the mouse in the lubricant and to my astonishment, the glue came off, sliding off the fur.

I watched as its whiskers, crucial to sense changes in temperature and to help feel the surface they’re walking on (mice don’t venture far from their burrows to find food. About eight metres is their boundary line. Their complex burrows usually built close to the food source) came unstuck. It’s toes and claws followed suit. Its mouth resumed moving freely and the only physical injury it appeared to have was where it had torn its cheek-fur under the left eye.

I wiped down the mouse but the oil wasn’t coming off. I figured it’ll dry off and decided to make a little hospital box for it. I placed the lid of a large plastic bottle with water and left  a banana so it could eat (mice eat 15-20 times a day), recuperate and, eventually, be released in a new location in a field somewhere within a few days.

As the days passed I checked on the mouse every morning before heading off to surf and when I came back. I didn’t want to interact with it too much for fear it would grow attached. My 10-day Vipassana course was nearing and I figured that the morning I’d leave for the course would be the morning I’d release the mouse, allowing good karma to carry me through the meditations.

But it’s fur was still in oily clumps, exposing parts of its thin skin. I figured it might be a health hazard if the mouse’s fur couldn’t protect it from pointy things or the cold. I mean, sure, their life expectancy in the wild is six months but you wanna make those six months count, no (in captivity, they can live for two years, depending what experiments they’re subjected to)?

Two eves before the proclaimed check-out date, I headed out to a friend’s art exhibition. I relayed the rescue effort and consulted with him my dilemma of ridding the oil.

“Try warm water and soap,” he suggested. “The best would be dishwasher liquid as it’s a degreaser.”

Of course!

The next day I followed up on his suggestion. After the mouse dried it was back to its furry ball. It had eaten most of the banana and a carrot I had added to spice up its menu.

It was climbing fearlessly on my hand and then up my arm when I cleaned out it’s box. Just chillin’ on my shoulder. I was tempted to keep it but what if it had family? What if it was a mother or part of a bigger colony that was now worried sick?

What if, in fact, it was a baby rat that was still growing?

The morning before I headed out to Vipassana I came up to check on the little fella and to let it know it was being discharged from the temporary hospital. But the box was empty.

“Never even got to say ‘goodbye’,” I complained sadly to Subi.

“Dude, you just rescued and recuperated a mouse after your go-to solution was to kill it,” it consoled me. “I’m sure it knew it was time. It probably just didn’t want to be relocated. Wants to stick around in the hood, make sure you’re doing alright.”

“I’ll take that,” I grinned. “Hope you made it out there, little buddy,” I called out.

I mean a raptor or reptile could have taken it the minute it high-tailed it (or long-tailed it. Mice tails grow as long as their bodies) out of the hospital box. But even if they did, I was at peace knowing that they wouldn’t be poisoned by any glue.

Such is the circle of life.

It used to be that we would co-live with our fellow natural species. If they got into the food, we’d just have to make better containers. The easy way out is to trap and kill but what right do we have? Even if it is ‘just a mouse’ it’s still a living being. We’ve become so disconnected with nature that we’ve created weapons of mass destruction against them and scaring ourselves from things like cockroaches and mice.

Such is inhumane nature.

It seems the only solution we have is to kill – and with cruel devices like a glue trap –  rather than use patience and compassion to find a way to co-exist. I learned a valuable lesson through that mouse: Don’t ever give up on something no matter how small or big or impossible it may seem.

If you just take a moment to think a bit, use Logic and Common Sense (which, when put together, make for a better combination than a burger with fries and a beer) things tend to work out and another life gets to live.

Such is human nature.

 

Categories: Adventure Travel, Asia, Conservation, India | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

THE CONSUMPTION OF CHRISTMAS

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What you’re about to read isn’t anything new or ground-breaking. Videos have been made, songs have been sung and articles (like this one) published about consumption. And with the festive season upon us, what better time to share with you my observation of the most dangerous population-controlling drug our species has ever developed?

Please, keep in mind, I’m not stating fact-checked things. I’m merely giving you my point of view, my perspective. My conclusions are from those very actions. Things that, to me, make logical sense.

And I’m as every bit guilty of partaking in this killing spree as much as you guys out there. But it’s time that together we really stop and think about what it is that we really need?index

Webster’s online dictionary defines consumerism as, The theory that an increasing consumption of goods is economically desirable.

Or How slavery was re-branded as employment.

I grew up in the 80s and 90s when things simply lasted. There was no timeframe of ‘longer’. They just kept working. Up until the year 2000, my family had a working TV since 1986 (sold in working condition). My uncle got rid of his still working 40-year-old set well into the noughties.

In 2009 I bought my very first car – it was a ’96. Had it for three years. Ran like a finely-tuned locomotive on nuclear energy. It was instrumental in the 5,400 kilometer Outback crossing through Australia’s Red Centre without a hitch (really, I had no space in the car).

Timageshese days, nothing lasts for more than two years, forcing you to consume more, thus creating and throwing out more plastic that ends up in our waterways and eventually the oceans, killing whatever endangered organism mistakes it for food.

The tragic comedy of it is that we have allowed ourselves to drown in this fast-rising poisonous sea by constantly accepting that we NEED THINGS. Like accepting that the processed foods we eat (that we all know is as healthy as licking a uranium lollypop) is the food to eat. That same food is wrapped in plastic to protect the plastic that’s wrapped the practically plastic food.

And it’s all because we’ve been buying into the NEED IT and WANT IT without ever questioning the WHY? FOR WHAT?images It’s a vicious cycle that marketing companies force-feed us.

And now with Christmas coming up, the mother of all consumer holidays, the amount of unnecessary things we receive and give just to throw out after a day – and almost all are made with or of plastic – is almost equal to the amount of stars in our galaxy.

We live in a world where days in the calendar year have been set aside for consumption and for celebrating consumption most notably Boxing Day and Black Friday. People camp out for days just to be the first to grab the next best thing that they don’t need. Sometimes a stampede ensues and people get hurt. It’s like with war – another means of consumption.

images3When you consume too much you get bloated, heavy and gassy. You feel as though a root canal would be better than the heartburn and indigestion your now trying to steamroll through.

It’s a common feeling to have during the holidays. Well, this is exactly how our home, Earth, feels. Our planet is sick. Its human-caused cancer is fast-spreading and far-reaching. Even more so due to our learned belief that tomorrow we need everything to be better, faster and stronger than it was yesterday (god-forbid we momentarily detach ourselves from the tiny screen we’ve allowed to control our existence).

We’ve become the deep-sea trawling net, which in seconds entraps and destroys everything that is in our way, leaving behind nothing but a barren sea floor, stripped of the beautiful and ecologically balancing life that took millions of years to evolve.

The NEED and the WANT are the drug we’ve been peddled and continue to accept in high doses. And if we don’t take drastic action like boycotting companies who use plastic, boycotting markets that sell GM foods, and boycotting huge corporate companies like Nestle® and Coca Cola® who environmentally exploit everything that is sacred on this very planet, then we’re all fucked.

I mean, come on, what is more ridiculous than bottled water?

Instead, we systematically destroy everything that we actually NEED and WANT for survival – trees, eco-designed habitats, organic foods and clean waterways – in order to consume things we really can do without.

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This Christmas, while you sit around feasting and gorging and ripping open gift wrappings and throwing away all the plastic-made packaging, pause for a moment. Give thought to the fact that it will end up in the ocean.

While you cuddle by the fire and decorate a plastic (or live) tree with more plastic, hold space for the people of Syria and what they’re going through.

Imagine if that was you and your family.

Give a thought for the people of Dafur, of South Sudan, Chad, CAR, Mali, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Palestinians, Chagos, Indigenous peoples everywhere. Give a thought to all those classed as a minority, who are in a dark place yet find a way to smile with nothing more than the shirt on their back.

Imagine if this year’s Christmas trend was boycotting. Imagine if Christmas was about giving without consuming. Instead, we donate what we TRULY don’t need to those that TRULY need it (clothes, toys, you know the jazz). Imagine if we all gathered together and went out and cleaned up our neighbourhood (which would make a tighter, coming-together community we all aspire to live in), cleaned up what’s left of the forest being destroyed to allow us to live in comfort, cleaned up the ocean where we surf and swim and feed from.

Fuck, just imagine!

imagesInstead of populating the Earth with more people, have one kid and adopt another one or three. There are so many orphaned children out there who could really use a family – a good family, to spend the festive season and their young lives with.

Better than working in sweat shops stitching the designer clothes that magazine told you you must have – at all costs – cause your personality isn’t enough to get by with, you have to hide behind brand names that mean nothing.

 

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We all know that Christmas has long lost its message of Family and Togetherness and Being One. We all know it’s about consumption. Like the cookie left out for Santa, we know it’s unhealthy but gosh darn it, one more bite won’t hurt anybody, will it?

But what really makes my reindeer pout is the fact that we allow ourselves to believe that we deserve just one day of the year to drop our defences and open up our hearts to our fellow humans and other species. We’ve dressed it up to appear so special and unique when, really, being compassionate and kind-hearted and helpful is, essentially, just being human.

But it’s all-out war the other 364 days when we’re battling each other for that monetary bonus. For that promotion. A closer parking space. For the, Call-now-for-that-once-in-a-lifetime-never-to-be-seen-or-heard-of-again chance to have that 5% discount and finally own that overpriced, always-breaks-the-day-after-warranty-is-void piece of child-enslaved-produced-planet-destroying-plastic-crap that’s gonna make a dusty dust-collector right up there next to the other things collecting dust.

And for what?

images2Seriously.

Stop and ask yourself, for what?

What would happen if you ‘indulged’ in this ‘Christmas Spirit’ every day of the year for every year that you’re alive? What would happen if you rose in love instead of falling in to it? If you were a hopeful romantic instead of a hopeless one?

We’ve succumbed to accept that our lives MUST be in competition with each other. From Earth Day One of birth we compete: through academia, sports, work, religion. Even family rivalry.images

Imagine if, instead of competing, we all worked together so that we all get to rise up. We all get to be hopeful. We all get to evolve ourselves – our TRUE selves and share the natural wealth to which we’re all entitled. To see the world for what it really is: Beautiful in spirit, beautiful in nature and beautiful in its species.

That’s where the true riches lie.

It’s ironic that the very virus killing Earth – Human Beings – is the very anti-biotic that can save it. By either reducing it or teaching it a different, more co-operative way to survive. It’s a Catch 22 until we can reprogram ourselves to just Being Human. Restore to factory settings, if you will.

imagesTogether, we the people have absolute power and that terrifies those in control cause they know it. They know that,  individually, we can’t do much because we’re constantly consuming. But together? Look what happened at Standing Rock.

When we do get together to fight against something evil, it’s posted in whatever social medium as such a surprise that people actually came together to fight against a common enemy.  Standing Rock stands because of that. Because of our willingness to come together. Because nothing should be regarded as more sacred than this planet, our home, Earth. Because all that was done to fight was give compassion, love and forgiveness

That’s the ‘Christmas Spirit’.

That’s what Being Human is all about.

Categories: Adventure Travel, Conservation | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

NELION of MOUNT KENYA

Although this one happened a few months ago, it took me some time to come to terms with it. Here’s a short account of my climb up Nelion Peak on Mt Kenya with the awesome folks at African Ascents as published in Africa Geographic:

http://africageographic.com/blog/free-climbing-the-peaks-of-mt-kenya/

Categories: Adventure Travel, Africa, Conservation, Kenya | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment
 
 

YEAR THREE

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2013-2016

The third year of hitchin’ through Africa was turmoilous in a good way. I rose in love with an amazing soulmate. I kinda conquered my anablephobia (an extreme unwarranted fear and physical aversion to looking up) and found out a few more things about myself.

I spent a long time in Kenya and a really short time in Sudan where I almost broke down due to the heat and other personal variables.

I patched up Ol’ Red, jammed from beaches to treehouses to boats. I hung out with artists across all mediums. I’ve visited more hospitals and taken more anti-biotics and pharmaceuticals this past year than I have my entire life. I quit drinking but discovered ecstasy. I got addicted to rolex in Uganda, coffee in Ethiopia, tea in Sudan and falafel in Egypt.

I got a free ride on a train from Khartoum to Shendi in Sudan. I was arrested (Zanzibar) with handcuffs and risked arrest with the Gypsy Queen and had to protect some wannabe hustlers from her ferocity when they tried to pull one over us.

I publicly played a song I wrote for the first time, the soon-to-be Grammy nominated song of the year, The Ballad of Jim-Bob and the Bear. Speaking of Grammy’s, I jammed with a Grammy-nominated artist, singers, poets, rappers, the most talented musicians I’ve ever come across.

I gained an awesome camera with some helpful tips by the talents of the Gypsy Queen and created art in two countries I never thought I’d ever be capable of with said Gypsy Queen (who’ll have a special guest post published here in the coming days. Stay tuned).

And finally (yet sadly), after two amazing years, I’ve left Africa – for now.

And I’ve realised that, after three years of full-time travelling, even though people say I’m living the dream, I’m fuckin’ exhausted. It’s not easy to be continuously on the move carrying 30 kilos of everything you have in extreme heat, rain or cold.

This next year I’m gonna focus on surfing (two years since I was last on a wave), writing a few books, editing some videos (no, not porn), develop some ideas I’ve had, perhaps write an album (whether I record is a different story) and learn a completely new repertoire of songs to cover (suggestions are welcome).

So this list is the absolute TOTAL of three years of travelling from Oz to the Middle East without a flight (except for that one cause of the Ethiopian embassy in Nairobi) – from May 13th, 2013, to May 13th, 2016.

Without the good-hearted folks that I’ve encountered on the way, none of this would’ve been possible. So thanks people.

See y’all in a year (or thereabouts. It’s just an outline).

Total distance covered: 47,000 km (29,205 miles) from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia – Eilat, Arava, Israel

Total number of countries: 21

Total number of islands: 27

Total number of hitches on cars: 155

Total number of hitches on public transport: 28

Total number of hitches on trucks: 45

Total number of hitches on motorbikes: 1

Total number of hitches on trains: 1

Total number of hitches with police: 3 – Malawi, Uganda, Sudan

Total number of hitches with military: 1 – Uganda

Total number of hitches: 233

Total number of flights: 1 – Nairobi, Kenya – Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (only way The Universe was letting me get a visa)

Total number of boats: 17

Total number of boat rides: 45

Total number of travel partners: 4

Wettest country: Uganda

Driest country: Sudan

Hottest country: Sudan

Most Mountainous country: Ethiopia

Flattest country: Sudan

Hottest temperature experienced: 45° C, Omdurman, Sudan

Coldest temperature experienced: 1°, possible 0° C, Mt Kenya, Kenya

Highest Altitude reached: 5,188 meters above sea level, Nelion Peak, Mt Kenya

Lowest Altitude reached: 116 meters below sea level, Danakil Depression, Afar, Ethiopia

Total number of hospital visits: 8 (2 motorbike accidents, 2 spider bites and multiple ear infections)

Total number of spider bites: 2 – Recluse (aka, violin spider), Kilifi, Kenya

Total number of wasp stings: 2 – Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, Uganda

Biggest spider encountered: Rain spiders, in the shower, Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, Uganda

Most dangerous snake encounter: Boomslanger, WAG, Thuma Forest Reserve, Malawi

Total number of tropical diseases collected: 1 – H. Pylori (stomach bacteria). Still housing it from Madagascar

Total number of bats in the shower: 10 – Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, Uganda

Total number of festivals attended: 5

  • Uluru Camel Cup, Uluru, Northern Territory, Australia
  • Sedgfield, South Africa
  • Vortex, South Africa
  • Sauti za Busara, Zanzibar
  • Kilifi New Year’s, Kenya

Total number of conservation\NGO projects volunteered: 8

Total number of volunteer jobs for food and bed: 24

Total number of art installations with Osotua Creative Collective: 5

  • The Cave Mandala – Rubuguri, Western Uganda
  • The Black Lantern String-art sign – Jinja, Uganda
  • Mandalas at The Black Lantern – Jinja, Uganda
  • Dreamcatcher living art, The Black Lantern – Jinja, Uganda
  • Light & String-art pyramid, What’s Good Live Studios – Nairobi, Kenya

Total number of videos on Youtube: 14

Total number of kayaking white water: 1 – Savage Wilderness, Tana River, Kenya

Total number of white water rafting: 3 – Rafting Xtreme, Zambezi River, Zambia and Savage Wilderness, Tana River, Kenya

Total number of SCUBA dives: 1, Red Sea, Dahab, Sinai, Egypt with Sinai Gate – 21 meters

Deepest free-dive: 15 meters

Total number of bungee jumps: 1 – Victoria Falls Bridge, Zambia (Shearwater Adventures)

Total number of ziplining: 1 – Victoria Falls Bridge, Zambia (Shearwater Adventures)

Total number of gorge swings: 1 – Victoria Falls Bridge, Zambia (Shearwater Adventures)

Total number of places surfed: 8

  • Desert Point, Lombok, Indonesia (not so much surfing as almost dying)
  • Kuta, Bali, Indonesia
  • Tangalie, Sri Lanka
  • The Strand, Cape Town, South Africa
  • Kalk Bay, South Africa
  • Inner Pool, Mossel Bay, South Africa
  • Dias Beach, Mossel Bay, South Africa
  • Bukka, Mossel Bay, South Africa (last surf, two years ago)

Total number of mountains conquered: 12

  • Chatauqua Peak, The Grampians, Victoria, Australia – 2,546 m
  • Mt Kelimuto, Flores, Indonesia – 1,639 m
  • Adam’s Peak, Sri Lanka – 2,243 m (including more than 6,000 steps)
  • Mt Blanc, Madagascar – 420 m
  • Mt Hedelberg, Cape Town, South Africa – 1,001 m
  • Table Mountain, Cape Town, South Africa – 1,085 m
  • Mt Mulanji, Malawi – 3,001 m
  • Chombe Plateau, Malawi – 764 m
  • Mt Meru, Tanzania – 4,565 m
  • Point Nelion, Mt Kenya, Kenya – 5,188 m
  • Point Lenana, Mt Kenya, Kenya – 4,985 m
  • Mt Erta Ale, Ethiopia – 613 m

Total number of active volcanoes: 1 – Mt Erta Ale, Ethiopia (with ETT)

Total number of national parks: 54

Longest period in one country: 7 months, Kenya

Shortest period in one country: 10 days, Sri Lanka

Longest wait for a ride: 2 months, Darwin-Indonesia

Shortest wait for a ride: 3 seconds, Mulanji, Malawi

Longest hitch: 4 days with Harley and Em from Jinja, Uganda to Karen, Kenya

Longest distance hiked before getting a hitch: 10 K’s on the road to Lake Tanganika, Zambia

Most remote place to get a ride: Aberdares National Park, Kenya

Total number of Mohammeds met: 30

Total number of continents: 3

  • Australia
  • Asia
  • Africa

Total number of oceans crossed: 1 – Indian

Total number of seas crossed: 1 – Timor

Total number of canals crossed: 1 – Suez Canal, Egypt

Total number of deserts crossed: 5

  • The Outback, Australia
  • The Namib, Namibia
  • The Danakil Depression, Ethiopia
  • The Sudanese Desert, Sudan
  • The Egyptian Desert, Egypt

Total number of gigs: 97

Total number of tattoos acquired: 1

Total number of articles published:  257

Total number of photos published:  6,165

Most camels in a single caravan: 49

Total number of attempted pickpocketers: 2 – Cape Town, South Africa and Mwanza, Tanzania

Best Coffee: Hailu’s mum’s, Ayat, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Best Tea: Mzee Baraka’s spiced chai, Kilifi, Kenya

Total weight of packs: 33 KG

Total number of packs stolen: 1 – Zambia Oktoberfest

Total number of nicknames collected: 18 –

  • Jesus (everywhere in Africa – except for Ethiopia, ironically)
  • Moses (everywhere in Africa – except for Ethiopia, ironically)
  • Noah (everywhere in Africa – except for Ethiopia, ironically)
  • Funny Man (Caprivi Houseboat Safaris, Namibia)
  • Guitar Jesus (by the British Army in Savage Wilderness, Sagana, Kenya)
  • Pan (by the Gypsy Queen in Kilifi, Kenya)
  • Kwizi (by Ruganzu Bruno in Kira Town, Uganda)
  • Sami (by a Sufi priest in Sudan)
  • Chuck Norris (everywhere in Africa – except for Ethiopia)
  • Jack Sparrow (by the crew of Wisdom, Zanzibar)
  • Ntingo (means ‘someone who can survive anywhere’ in Ki-Swahili, Tanzania)
  • Hamlet (in Malawi)
  • Osama Bin Laden (everywhere in Africa – except for Ethiopia, ironically)
  • Robinson Crusoe (everywhere in Africa – except for Ethiopia, ironically)
  • Castaway (everywhere in Africa – except for Ethiopia, ironically)
  • Sami (bestowed upon me by a Sufi priest in Sudan. Used throughout Sudan and Egypt)
  • Rainbow (Dahab. Accused of being part of the Rainbow community. I’m not).
  • Rasta-mun (everywhere)

Total number of hotels bartered with: 39

Total number of couchsurfers from couchsurfers.com: 31

Total number of near-death experiences: 12

  • Desert Point, Lombok, Indonesia. 4-foot swell suddenly turned to 9-foot water mountains.
  • Motorbike accident in Koh Phangan, Thailand
  • First storm in open waters sailing the Malacca Straits
  • Motorbike accident in Sri Lanka
  • Multiple stings by Portuguese Man O’War, somewhere in the middle of the Indian Ocean
  • Chased by hippo while river guiding on the Zambezi, Namibia
  • Charged by ostrich, Lake Kariba, Zambia
  • Slipped off a mountain hiking up to The Mushroom Farm Eco Lodge, Livingstonia, Malawi
  • Almost slipped off a cavern wall at Menengai Crater, Nakuru, Kenya
  • Almost runover by a matatu (mini-van), Nairobi, Kenya
  • Head-on collision averted when oncoming car decided the ditch was the safest bet, Kenya
  • Sucked under and momentarily trapped in a rapid on the Tana River, Kenya

Most amazing experience (cheese alert): Rising in love

Worst experience: Ear infection, Mbale, Uganda. Doctor did not go easy on me.

And, too end on a high,

Total number of acid trips: 4

  • Sri Lanka
  • South Africa x 2
  • Kenya

Total number of ecstasy trips: 10 – 8 in Kenya, two in Uganda

Total number of bad trips: 1 – Kenya

Best Weed: Malawi Gold, Malawi

Strongest Weed: Shisha Mani, Ethiopia

Mellowest Weed: Bungo, Sudan

 

Categories: Adventure Travel, Africa, Asia, Australia, Conservation, Hitch Hiking, Sailing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CAIRO NIGHTS

img_2027“Today is Shaman Neshim,” Hadeel, my local guide in Cairo, explained why there were so many people on the street after we walked out of the Filfila (chilly) restaurant.

“What’s that?” I asked, zigging left and pirouetting right before gracefully swan-diving over a crowd.

“It’s the national holiday of the beginning of spring,” she explained.

The holiday is celebrated nationwide. It’s basically one big street party spread over many streets. And in a city like Cairo, there are plenty to choose from.

The meaning of Shaman Neshim is ‘harvest season’, known as Shemu, meaning, ‘A day of creation’. The Ancient Egyptians used to offer salted fish (fesih), lettuce, and onions to their deities on this day.

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To start our evening escapades, we hit the revolution-made-famous Tahrir (Liberation) Square, where back in 2011 protestors demanded (and got) the ousting of then president, Husseni Mubarak who had ruled the country (which has been under military rule since Gamal Nasser’s revolution in 1952) for almost 30 years.

“The downtown area of Cairo is considered bohemian, where activists, artists and intellectuals would meet at coffee shops like Denda Sou Cafia,” Hadeel guided us through the busy streets. “And it’s walking distance to the Al Hussein mosque.”

The mosque, built in 1154, is considered one of the holiest Islamic sites in Egypt as it holds the oldest complete manuscript of the Quran. Today’s structure stands on a 19th century reconstruction with some Gothic implements.

Pushing our way through the throng of people, vendors and stall holders, each trying to entice us with invitations of, “Come into my shop,”or the ever popular, “Looking is free.”

img_2036Although the noise was at level, ‘This is a bit much’, I was glad to have come out on one of the busiest nights of the year (when there isn’t a revolution happening) and felt how every movement flooded my paining body, walking at a turtle’s pace.

The world blurred around me. Kids stopping me for photos, motorbikes and cars beeping and horning people out of the way, whistles being blown from the very strong police presence.

“Bit noisy,” I managed to yell to Hadeel above the throng. She grinned and nodded.

We came upon the crowded Sharm Weiss square before we found a table in the famous El Fishaway restaurant, a hub-bub of the who’s who of Egypt’s literary giants, poets, musicians and actors.

 

Well, until the government came and jailed the lot of them.

We had lemon-mint juice which came with our sugar and some mint tea while being constantly approached by hawkers selling packets of tissue, henna art done on your hand engulfed in the shisha (waterpipe) smoke while traditional musicians looked for opportune guests to play for.

As I watched the loudness of the crowdness, I couldn’t help but grin. Not sure why. Probably the delusionary affects of running a fever. Finishing our drinks I was then shipped home via taxi to sweat out whatever was in me.

I was hoping to catch the pyramids the next day and I needed to be mentally prepared as my research had brought up a lot of ‘Beware!’ stories regarding scams targeted at foreigners.

Categories: Adventure Travel, Africa, Conservation, Egypt | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

POINT LENANA

A few months back, I headed up 4,985 meters on Mt Kenya’s Point Lenana, third highest peak in Africa. It was one of the toughest, physical and mental moments I have ever been through.

Thanks to Julian and Tom of African Ascents and to Stocky, Face and Turkish for the great company and Jacob the machine and Joffery the camp cook.

Click here to read about the experience.

Categories: Adventure Travel, Africa, Conservation, Kenya | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

FISHING FOR FLIES

A few months back, in preparation for my ascent of Africa’s second highest peak, Mt Kenya, I joined African Ascents for a fly-fishing expedition. Here’s a snippet as published on that wonderful platform, Africa Geographic magazine:

http://africageographic.com/blog/magical-lake-michaelson/

Categories: Adventure Travel, Africa, Conservation, Kenya | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

HITCH HIKING IN ETHIOPIA – PART VI

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© Unbound Ether Photography, 2015

“Rumble,” my stomach rumbled me awake. I felt stuffed from the two dinners last night and the six cups of coffee were knocking on the back door.

The toilet in the compound, a traditional squat was a little full. There was no way I could do what needed to be done. My brain tapped me on the inside of my head.

Hotel.

I gathered my packs and headed out, making the five minute walk into three, reaching the Sabena International Hotel. I put my packs down and kindly asked to use the facilities. I was directed to the restrooms and saw that the cleaners were doing their duties.

Shit. I’d hate for them to have to go in after me but it was the fault of their traditions with the coffee. A price must be paid. And unfortunately, they were about to pay it.

Ten minutes later I walked out of the hotel with a skip in my step and a grin on my face. I hiked down the road that lead to Shire (pronounced Shir-eh), about an hour and a half away. Every time I looked back all I could see were bajajes (tuk-tuks), buses and taxis.

The great thing about hitchin’ in Ethiopia is that the hard working folk of the public transport industry don’t hassle folk like me. The disadvantage to that is sometimes, after hearing my way of life, some bus drivers offer me lifts in exchange for a song or my philosophy.

So I found myself hiking down the road. The sun had yet to peak so it wasn’t too hot. The school kids in their green and pink uniforms cackled and giggled when I passed them, salutating them with the local greeting of, “Salamneh,” for the men and, “Salamnesh,” for the women.

The road to Gondar from Axum is a 275 kilometre stretch that, according to Google maps, would take almost seven hours if I scored a direct ride. Why seven hours when 300 Ks is usually a four-hour drive? This bit of highway is regarded as one of the most dangerous in the world. Not for bandits or terrorists, but because of its mountain-hugging, cliff-dangling, twisty and windy rollercoaster asphalt.

At least, that’s what I’m told. I never looked into it.

My first ride, after hiking about 3 K’s, was with Zekarias and Kidane who work for a German NGO. Like the UN, NGO vehicles don’t usually stop for hitch hikers so I was surprised (and fuckin’ relieved) when these guys did.

“We work in agriculture,” Zekarias explained. “We are teaching the locals how to farm sustainably and how to farm in the harsh conditions of these areas.”

He asked where my travels were taking me and I said, “From Ethiopia I head through Sudan to Egypt and then Israel and Jordan.”

“You can’t get across the border between Israel and Egypt,” Zekarias hit my panic button.

“What do you mean?” I’d never heard of any issues at the border between the two countries that have held onto their peace agreement since 1981. Even Sadat’s assassination by extremists during a military parade not long after the signing didn’t stop the Egyptians from maintaining the quiet.

“I visited Israel from work because they are very good at growing the desert,” he explained. “I wanted to travel overland to Cairo and then fly to Ethiopia but at the border they wouldn’t let me across.”

Hmm. “When was this?” I asked.

“Nine years ago.”

What happened nine years ago? I tried to think. If I calculated the time according to Ethiopia’s Julian calendar, it’d be 1999. If I went by the Gregorian one, it’d be2005. Both years registered nothing for me.

“Maybe for certain passports they weren’t allowing it,” I pondered aloud.

“No,” Zekarias said. “We were simply refused.”

Then I recalled how my mates, Harley and Em had recently crossed the border in Chewie, their Landrover Defender they’d been driving from Cape Town to Stockholm.

“They just crossed about two months ago,” I said.

“Oh,” Zekarias seemed defeated. “Maybe things have changed.”

“Maybe,” I leaned back, watched the landscape of mountains roll by.

I was dropped in the tiny roadside village of Wukromarain, whose entire population seemed to be of three cows, four goats and ten people. I began to hike down the road. My water conservation was that I’d only take a sip once I got a ride.

We can survive a whole month without food but if we lack water for three days we’re screwed. I hiked down the mountainside until a single-cabin Landcruiser took me on.

“Welding,” the driver said in broken English when I asked about the generator my packs were accompanying in the back.

“Ah,” I ah-ed.

img_1270The two guys were both named Solomon which made remembering their names a helluva lot easier than other drivers I’ve met. “The kings,” I grinned as they chuckled.

They dropped me in the town of Salekleka where, as I waved and greeted the locals, I hiked out to where the road dropped to a flat stretch of land, a rarity in a country that has more mountains than people, so it seemed.

The traffic on the road was sparse aside from the occasional bus or mini-bus taxi.

Ah, well. May as well enjoy the view. It wasn’t too hot of a day – yet – so I continued to hike merrily along the road. Until a truck appeared on the horizon.

“Shire,” the driver said from behind the old man that sat next to him. The youngest fella in their crew hopped out and helped throw my bags up into the tray. It seemed they were transporting sacks of flour.

No one spoke English but through gestures and tone I managed to convey my lifestyle.

“Music for food and bed,” I’d air-guitar for music, indicate with my hand to my mouth for food and clasp both hands together, flat by my head which I tilted to the side to specify sleep. The guys looked at each other and burst out laughing.

“No money?” the driver couldn’t believe it.

“No money,” I grinned.

“How you get here?”

“Lifty.”

“Lifty?”

“Ah-huh.”

“No money?”

I tapped on my chest to show that people were helping me from their heart. That it wasn’t always about money. That it should never ever be about money. Just about being human.

He nodded, tapped his chest and said, “Brother.”

I nodded, “Brother.”

Amazing how we can still communicate even if words are a struggle. When I was hitching from Malaysia to Thailand only one driver spoke English, and that was on the Malaysian side. Every other driver I had didn’t speak a single word, but they all smiled, nodded and projected good vibes. Couldn’t go wrong with that.

The truck dropped me in Shire which, turns out, is a little bigger than Axum. I thanked the guys and hiked off down the road. Luckily, it was a flat stretch to the next village, about 5 kilometres. But I could feel the sun really beating by now. I wasn’t sure what time it was but I figured, by the sun’s angle, it must be just after nine.

I kept hiking and began to project to my good friend, The Universe, what I needed.

A ride to Gondar would really make my day here. It’s pretty hot. I don’t wanna succumb to the sun.

I’ve always felt that when my physical presence on this planet would cease, it would be on the water. I really believe that I’m not destined to die on land.

And just a note in case I do, I’d like to be fed to the ocean. No land burial.

We came from water and to water we should return. That’s my belief anyway.

I came upon a curve in the road when I heard an engine behind me. Come on, Nelly, I thought as I turned around and stuck my hand out for a ride.

The single-cabin Landcruiser pulled over. I came up to the passenger window.

“Salamneh!” I greeted the two men.

“Salama,” they grinned back.

“Denani?” I asked to their well-being.

“Denani,” they smiled.

“Where are you going?” I asked.

“Gondar.”

I blinked. Jesus, The Universe doesn’t waste time.

“It’s possible for a lift? I don’t have money.”

Please say ‘yes’. Please say ‘yes’.

The driver looked at his friend. “No money?”

I gestured to my guitar and explained my ways.

“OK, let’s go.”

I couldn’t believe it. Sure, I’d be squeezed in between Aout, the driver, and Abdusalam, the passenger, in a seat where there was only room for one butt-cheek but still, I had 245 kilometres left to reach Gondar. I’d sit with cows in the back if I had to.

We took off as I leaned forward, waiting for the sweat I was drenched in to evaporate from my shirt. Aout had better English than Abdusalam and as I philosophised my way of life he would translate over my head to his buddy. We stopped in Dabahuna for some soda and bread and water and continued on, all the while talking about life, if I was married and had kids (the standard questions) and then, as usual,

“What religion are you?” Aout asked.

I grinned. “No religion.”

He blinked. “Why no religion?”

“If I had a religion and I told you, you would judge me based on that.”

He blinked again, seeming to realise that I was making sense. But like most religious folk, he was trying to fight what he had been brainwashed to believe his entire life. “But you must have a God.”

“I have The Universe and I’m a strong believer in Karma.”

“What is Karma?”

“It’s a philosophy, a way of life. It comes from the Hindu religion but has nothing to do with Gods or prayer. All it is is if you do good, then good things happen. If you do bad, bad things will happen.”

He seemed to accept this as we passed through the towns of Adigebru and Maysabri.

“Means Muddy Water,” Aout said.

img_1275It was past this town that the road turned to up, almost vertical and wound around mountains.

“We climb more than one thousand meters,” Aout explained, skilfully guiding the Landcruiser which I noticed would violently shake in third gear.

“Wheel balance,” he said when I asked him about it.

 

Ah, great. A lack of wheel balance is just what was missing to make this trip a little more exciting. The wheels hugged the edge of the road as Aout took the curves expertly.

“You’ve done this drive a few times then?” I asked.

“Many. Every month. My family is in Gondar.”

We drove up in silence as I snapped photos of the incredible views. It was like riding a ski-lift to the top of a mountain.

And I’ve never ridden a ski-lift before.

The silence was shaken when Aout asked a question about the bible. I explained how could it be possible to believe every word in the book when Lucy, the 3.8 million-year-old skeleton of the species before us sapiens, sat on display, proof to the world that not only did we evolve from cave folk but that there was life long before the 5,000 years that the bible states.

“I can only believe what I see,” I finished off. “And if I can’t see God, how do I know there is one?”

Aout blinked. I gotta hand it to the guy, I was quite grateful that he didn’t take his eyes off the road for a second. But my words affected him. He translated for Abdusalam and he remained silent for the next three hours. I could see from the corner of my eye he was pondering on thoughts. His world had been flipped and the change of energy in the cabin was strongly felt.

Sometimes, I really need to learn how to just keep my mouth shut. What if my approach would piss someone off and I’d be dumped by the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. We hadn’t overtaken a single vehicle and there hadn’t been any behind us.

And the way the road wrapped around the mountain, hiking it was going to be a pain in my left knee.

We passed through Aderkay and Zarima before stopping in Debark, the gateway to the Siemen Mountains National Park. Aout’s phone charger was broken so he went off in search of a new one while a man who talked to some rocks begged me for money.

He grabbed my arm which I gently removed from his grasp.

“Don’t touch,” I said sternly. I hate being touched by people I don’t know. “Back off.” Abdusalam stepped up and told him in Amharic to get lost.

Ten minutes later we were back on the road. The windiness of it had ceased now that we peaked the top of the mountain.

“Ras Deshen,” Abdusalam pointed out Ethiopia’s highest peak. Regarded as the fourth highest in Africa. I looked at it longingly but my left knee said, ‘No, no, no.’

Gotta listen to your body sometimes. Besides, after climbing Mt Kenya, anything less than 5,199 meters just didn’t seem worth it.

Finally, at around 17:00, Gregorian time (23:00 Julian time), I was dropped off in Gondar. I thanked my ride although Aout seemed a bit pissed at me, Abdusalam vigorously shook my hand.

Right after he peed on the back wheel.

I gathered my packs and headed down the road wondering what awaited me here. I had the number of a couch surfer. A young local said, ‘hello’ and as we were headed in the same direction we chatted a bit until I reached the Landmark Hotel.

A giant of a building it hideously protruded from the hillside, overlooking the city. As I came up the driveway I was greeted by Marion who had perfect English.

“I used to work here as a receptionist,” she explained, “but I’m moving back to Addis so I’ve quit. Are you staying here?”

I explained my ways and she tried to help me by calling the number I had. The guy answered but the reception was bad and then he wouldn’t pick up his phone anymore.

“The hotel here won’t go for your barter,” she said. “They’re too old school in their ways. But you can try the AG Hotel. Come, I’m heading that way.”

I tagged along and she called her aunt to see if I could crash on their floor but was declined. Outside of the AG Hotel I was instructed to talk with Mark, the manager.

“We don’t have any facilities for music,” he began, “but I’m interested in the marketing side.”

I elaborated my ability to promote his hotel and by the end of our warm conversation I was provided a room, dinner and breakfast for the morning. I thanked Mark and followed Micky, the bell-boy, to the elevators.

“Enjoy your stay,” he blessed me.

“Cheers, bro,” I shook his hand and brought him in for an Ethiopian hug – right shoulder tapping his right shoulder while we still held hands.

I stepped out onto the balcony and looked at the city. What a day, I thought.

What a fuckin’ day.

Categories: Conservation | 1 Comment

DE-NILE

AG

Although this adventure happened a few months back, it’s now readable on Africa Geographic.

Special thanks to the amazing folk at the Nile River Porch Lodge and the Nile River Camp, Jinja, Uganda.

Well worth a visit.

Enjoy.

Categories: Adventure Travel, Africa, Conservation, Uganda | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

HITCH HIKING IN KENYA – PART X

CK8A6969

© Unbound Ether Photography, 2015

“Where?” called out the passenger on the flower truck slowly rumbling on the on-ramp to the A2 Meru-Nairobi highway.

I’d been hiking with my pack and guitar for at least two hours. I reckoned a 5-K walk to start the day was enough and decided to try and hitch a ride from this ramp that really didn’t have much space for drivers to pull over.

There was also the uphill climb that I could see ahead. Not exactly seducing my legs to take the next step.

“Nanyuki!” I called back.

“Come!” he waved me over with his arm as the truck rolled to a stop. I ran with my gear and hopped in to the cabin, greeting the mzee (term of respect for elders) behind the wheel.

“David,” he grinned with brown, broken teeth.

“Benson,” said the passenger.

“Where are you guys headed?” I asked as David guided us onto the 3-lane highway.

“Nanyuki,” David replied.

Sweet. Might be a good idea to tell them that I can’t pay them for the ride.

“It’s OK,” David continued to grin.

My pack was uncomfortably situated between my legs (the first time I’ve ever used ‘uncomfortably’ and ‘between my legs’ in the same sentence) while Ol’ Red was being straddled by Benson.

“How long will it take to reach Nanyuki?” I asked.

“Four hours,” David said.

Hmm. The way I was sitting within four hours I’d be generating a pair of splits that would have Jean Claude Van Dam impressed.

“What are you guys carrying in the back?”

“Cows,” I heard David say.

“Cows?” Wasn’t this a flower truck?

“Flowers,” he articulated.

“Ah, sawa,” I whewed. “Do you think you might have room in the back for my bag and guitar? Make things more comfortable around here?”

Both driver and passenger looked at each other. We were just pulling out of a weigh bridge station that we’d come across a little further down the road. David pulled over and I followed Benson to the back.

As he threw the doors of the container open I figured I’d be welcomed with a colourful display of flowers and their accompanying scents.

“Whoah,” my voice echoed around the empty metal can. “It’s empty.”

Benson grinned as I passed up my pack and guitar before we hopped back in the cabin, seated a lot more comfortably. Driver and passenger suddenly burst out laughing, I’m guessing its cause they didn’t think of it and forgot that they were completely empty of cargo.

I was nodding off to the rhythm of the diesel engine. A lack of sleep and early rise had me out for the next two hours, occasionally jolting to wake by Benson’s very loud voice and screaming laughter. Occasionally he’d whip the air in front of my nose with his hand.

It’s gonna be a long ride.

I awoke somewhere in the rises of the Aberdares, the national park where I had climbed the Dragon’s Teeth in preparation for my ascent of Mt Kenya in 17 days. The rock itself was obscured by cloud. I had only seen the peak once, briefly, when I visited the Ragati conservancy two weeks before. As I stared at it for the moment, it was clear of clouds, all I could think to myself was, Why? Why am I doing this?

Of course, it was for the adventure. For the physical and mental challenge. For the experience of doing something I’ve never done before – conquer the peak of a very formidable mountain by hugging it’s rock walls with my finger tips and possibly my beard.

By the time we crossed the Equator and hit Nanyuki I was partially deaf in my right ear thanks to Benson’s need to yell and talk with his hands, millimeters from my nose. And it’s not that it’s hard to miss my shnoze. You could see it from space, if you really focused.

Thanking the two, I grabbed my pack and guitar from the back and crossed the road to the Nanyuki Mall where I managed to receive assistance to make a call to Tom from African Ascents (I don’t have a phone for those not in the know).

“Head over to the Kirimara Springs Hotel and I’ll pick you up in the morning,” he suggested.

The Kirimara Springs Hotel was about a hundred meters down the road. It was painted blue all the way up its seven storeys (I think. I didn’t really count). I managed to barter a room for the night, dinner and breakfast but was denied playing guitar.

Sitting on the A2 highway with a direct view of Mt Kenya (or the clouds that obscure it) the Kirimara Springs is a budget hotel with friendly staff. My room had a TV, mosquito net, its own toilet and hot-watered shower. The restaurant had a fully stocked bar, a variety of cuisine choices from fish, beef, chicken, local food and an intercontinental breakfast.

I enjoyed a plate of fries, fried fish and a side of salad with fresh passionfruit juice. A sleepful night had me rise with the sun and the breakfast buffet consisted of freshly sliced fruit, cereal, hard-boiled eggs, beef sausages and beans (there’s also WIFI but quite slow).

Tom picked me up about an hour later and we headed to the offices of African Ascents where I’d be staying until our trek started. I was provided with a list of things to do while he and his business partner and fellow rock-climbing guide, Julian, took some clients up the very rock I’d be conquering in 17 days.

“You’ve got warm gear, yeah?” Tom asked.

“I’ve got thermals, a beanie, a neck warmer, gloves, a beard and you’ve got that down jacket I can borrow,” I checked off.

He nodded his approval before leaving me with the keys and the fresh mountain air.

My training begun.

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