"And if you SPEND YOURSELVES on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness and your night will become like the noonday."

"The Lord will continually guide you. He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail."- Isaiah 58:10-11

Friday, September 19, 2014

A Memorable Aberdare's Family Trip

For the first few days of our winter-in-Africa-but-still-feels-like-it-should-be-called-summer break we went to the Aberdare's National Park for some much needed family bonding.  Known for it's beautiful waterfalls and trails, we anticipated hours of hiking to exotic places, enjoying family time together in the outdoors.  It was not exactly what we dreamed it would be…we'll call it a memorable family trip.  We bonded, but not how we expected.

As is typical of the Aberdares, it was cold and rainy about 80% of the time we were there. We anticipated this and brought our rain coats, hats and extra layers - good planning.  We even arranged to stay in some cottages located "just outside the Aberdare's National Park" in the "foothills of the Aberdares" because we didn't want to camp in the rain for three nights.  

However, what we did not anticipate was to experience just about every Kenyan snafu possible.  It began with realizing that the "just outside the park" cottages were actually a three hour drive from the closest entrance to the park in the middle of one of the many (this is significant later) Aberdare foothills.  Hmmm…no wonder we were the only one's there.  After wandering through the many (did I mention this was significant) foothills and finally arriving at the park entrance day one, we decided to modified our plans, to make up for the time we lost actually getting to the park, and enjoyed viewing some stunning waterfalls. So far so good.  We're flexible.  

The Queen's Waterfall
Caleb in the Queen's Cave behind the waterfall
Unfortunately, Google Maps does not work as well in the outlying regions of Kenya as it does in the city and we spent more than five hours returning to our "just outside the park"cottages "nestled in the foothills of the Aberdares." Wow are the foothills of the Aberdares extensive and they all really look identical.  Arriving well after dark (but thankful to be arriving and not sleeping in our car) we were tired, hungry and cold.  After dinner we crawled into bed with our warm water bottles listening to the soothing lull of the heavy rain.

Did I mention that it rained all night? Day two as we ventured out towards the park during a break in the rain, we accidentally drowned our treasured family-sized bag of Skittles (saved for this trip) with our water supply, which overturned when we got stuck in the mud. I'm embarrassed to say our Land Cruiser could not make it up one particularly steep muddy hill, but really, it was only because one of the hubs wouldn't lock.  Don't ask Rick about this…he might still be fuming over it.  We reluctantly (some more than others) decided that reaching the park this day was futile and we were able to slide our way back to the cottages, which we easily located due to the now dropped pin saved on Google Maps.  We changed from our muddy clothes and decided to go fly fishing instead.  We're super flexible! The cottage fishing guide (possibly the cottage grounds keeper who instantly added this to his job description) excitedly joined us (likely because he thought he might get tipped more than because he wanted to fish in the cold mist) and assured us that, "Fish always bite in cold weather."  After fly fishing for about four hours with nary a nibble, we decided to turn in for the day, with our guide mentioning that if he would have been the one fishing he would have caught at least ten fish.  Thanks, that helps. We then settled in to watch a "Lost" marathon on our laptop only to realize that we'd forgotten the computer cord and the battery was at 10%.  Not to be thwarted, Rick rewired the entire front office in order to connect the cottage desk top computer to their TV and our stellar speakers.  Game ON, Rick! 

Our third and last day, we woke up early, packed our bags, said good-bye (forever) to the cottages and arrived at the park excited to tackle the original hike we had planned for day one to the top of the highest peak.  As we entered the gate, we were told we would not being allowed to do this hike without an armed guide (in case we stumbled across elephants, one of which we did not see the entire time).  Fortunately, this armed guard happened to be standing right there at the park entrance.  Unfortunately, said guide's services had to be paid for at a park fee collection station an hour and a half outside the park. Logically, since this hike takes a good part of a day, we didn't have an extra three hours to spare to remit the 1200/= (about $15) payment for the guide.  And no, he would not bend on these regulations, even for a "cup of chai."  (If you're looking for a group of honest Kenyan law enforcement officers, they are located at the remote entrance in the very north end of the Aberdares.) We ended up safariing around the Aberdares slightly disgruntled but beginning to laugh at the incredible amount of challenges we experienced.  We did find a peak by four-wheeling with our now repaired hub lock (Go Rick!) and managed to take a short hike on our own trail (sans elephants). And we did love the many beautiful sights the Aberdares had to offer between the rain showers. All in all, we bonded, which was the purpose of the trip.

We returned home a different route by exiting on the other side of the park.  It took us a mere two and a half hours to reach Kijabe.  Yes, by doing this we realized our actual home was a closer drive than the cottages we stayed in.  But we're flexible.  Ahhh….family bonding.

Below are a few pics snapped during the moments when the rain stopped.  We must say, the Aberdares is a beautiful place with amazingly varied landscape and vegetation often looking quite mysterious and mythical.  Next time, however, we'll make it a day trip.

brilliant orange lichen on rocks

A bush buck…pretty much the only wildlife we saw excluding birds, but what a setting!
 'peppermint' flowers

Family bonding!

mythical hairy moss covered trees

pillowy moss covered trees

mysterious threads covering whole forests of trees
fields of Torch Lilies

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