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Going Round Mt Kenya - Kenya Trip Report December 2006

Going Round Mt Kenya - Kenya Trip Report December 2006

Jan 14th, 2007, 04:57 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2006
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Leely... I am really sorry that I got you down about Samburu. It wasn't my intention - but mine is a warts and all tale. We did actually enjoy Samburu, as every other place we visited - the only problem with a good introductory safari to Kenya is that you can't go everywhere! What a happy problem. There are so many animals in Samburu and its such a pretty place. If it's any consolation I should have mentioned that part of the problem was that some of the roads were impassable due to the rains which meant everyone had to use fewer roads, causing more meetings. Ad if there had been more easy sightings available the "track game by listening to the radio" gang would have been more spread out. Keep in mind the last and best day that we had in Buffalo Springs there were only two other vans (Henry and a hanger-on) coming out our way and we all used different routes to the Swimming pool, giving us a much, much better experience. Also, we were totally spoilt before this... we had not seen more than two other vehicles per game drive for the previous six days... spoilt brats complaining - that's us!

Patty... I didn;t hear anything about the new camp - it would be fantastic if Sweetwaters was a 10 tent camp, though.

Cyn, rhino skin seems harder than elephant skin, and not hairy. And yes I do live in Bangkok.... and good red wine is indeed expensive and difficult to find ;-) Where are you staying in Bangkok?
kimburu is offline  
Jan 15th, 2007, 04:27 AM
Join Date: Sep 2005
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First night we land we'll stay at the airport, the next few weeks we'll do some traveling around Thailand, and eventually end up back to BKK at the Oriental for about a week. I should be getting my itinierary posted this week over on the Aisa board, and would love your input if you have the time.

Rhinos are so interesting to me - they look both ferocious and sweet all at the same time.

cynstalker is offline  
Jan 15th, 2007, 10:23 AM
Join Date: Jun 2006
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Hi Kimburu -- I'm really enjoying your report. Honestly, I love it when people write about what they didn't like so much, as well as what they loved about their travels. I especially appreciate your thoughts on Sweetwaters, since we'll have a day and a half there next September and I'm interested in some of those "alternate" activities to mix things up a bit. Looking forward to reading more, thanks!
MyDogKyle is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2007, 09:14 AM
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”Hoglets” is a good word, but according to Google it’s mostly used about little hedgehogs.

I’ve got a horrible teaching job that I’m not qualified for at all, but I’m earning “a lot of money” and as long as I’m not fired because of complete incompetence I’m going to Kenya on the 18 – 20 June and staying for 3 weeks. As I’ll only have this horrible job until 15 June I can’t spend Fodorite style money. I want to return to the Mara to see the topis and also go to some park that I haven’t visited yet. When I’ll get the time I’ll post asking for advice. I’ll definitely need an umbrella.
Nyamera is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2007, 09:40 PM
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Qualifications are over-rated Nyamera. Hope you can hang in there until June.

So finally, we move on to Tusk Camp...
The drive from Sweetwaters to Aberdare NP was relatively short but we stopped at the equator (I'm not sure why, because Sweetwaters is right on the equator anyway, but Julius thought Nam Wan wanted to stop and she thought I wanted to stop and so we stopped until we worked out that nobody actually wanted to stop there). We also stopped off in Nyeri to pick up our cook. We couldn't find any postcards at the equator, despite there being 20 souvenir shops, but we got some at a bookshop in Nyeri, which is in a beautiful location, built around a valley (you can see this most clearly from Aberdare NP at night) but manages against the odds to be no more than reasonably attractive. It's certainly a good place to get supplies, cash and so on, but because of the way it's built around the valley/ hillside, it may take longer than you expect to get into and out of town. We picked up our cook for the next 2-3 days there - ESS had suggested we take a cook with us to Tusk Camp (as if we were doing camping with them) and we'd agreed that sounded like a good idea. Although we were disappointed not to try Julius' cooking, I don't think he was very keen. Cook Weston was a clown and good company over the next three days. Since he normally caters for camping trips he has a lot of campfire stories and patter, some of which is credible and some of which is bush legend. Apart from being entertaining, his cooking is pretty good one-flame, two-pots stuff (not up to Elsa’s Kopje but occasionally inspired and you won't go hungry).

I had expected to enter Aberdare NP by the isolated entrance next to Tusk Camp but we had to drive around to the Park HQ to arrange a ranger to accompany us the next day and so we had a little bit of a drive around the lower Salient (where Treetops and the Ark are located. We’d thought the bush was thick in Meru, but realized quickly in the Salient what thick bush really meant. Quite seriously, the only way we could have seen animals in the Salient was if they were on the road or one of the paths or clearings. Green!

At the HQ we met a German couple who were going to camp at the camp site near to Tusk Camp for a night before a night at the Ark, so we’d have neighbours (3 km away buy road, closer as the crow flies). As we moved up through the forest towards Tusk Camp we still didn’t really know what to expect. When we got there we were very, very pleasantly surprised. There are four separate huts, two of which are adjacent and form the bathroom, kitchen and living/dining room complex. The others are divided into four bedrooms. There is also a circular tin hut for your porters but since we had the van we didn’t need that. The bathroom has a shower (with hot water provided you check the caretaker has enough wood to make a fire for the boiler) and a flush toilet, which to conserve water you are entreated not to use unless “necessary” … Since there was an outside long drop toilet, Nam Wan and I debated what might make a flush toilet “necessary” and concluded that it was “necessary” to her while I was happy to use the long drop, which has a “stable door” with two gates meaning that it can easily be converted to a toilet with a view over towards Mount Kenya… lovely, and very clean. I will not eulogise more because some people might be eating as they read this, but suffice to say if you are the type who likes to take a good book with you this will be a delight.

The bedrooms are small and functional, but the beds are comfortable enough, and bedding and towels of dubious quality but certain cleanliness are provided. Despite very cold nighttime temperatures (we are up at over 7000 feet) and nobody to bring us a hot water bottle we slept like babies here. The kitchen is not well equipped but has shelves and space for food preparation as well as running water. The other room has a dining table with four chairs and then four rather worn armchairs around a fireplace, which the caretaker comes and sets for you in the evening. There is no electricity but 4 kerosene lanterns are provided and that was fine for us. This place is great…

I quickly got out onto the lawn to check for signs of life. The buffalo dung is fresh, as is that of a smaller animal (hare possibly), but the elephant dung is a couple of days old…. okay I didn’t really know this, but Julius and I decided between us that it was that old ;-) No sign of the rhino that is reputed to feed here sometimes. Since the lawn area is pretty small this is quite exciting stuff.

After checking things out I decided to go out for a drive with Julius. Nam Wan decided to stay at camp and relax. This was the “everybody’s seeing elephants except for Paul” period that would last until 10.30 the following day.
kimburu is offline  
Jan 23rd, 2007, 04:34 AM
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thanks for continuing, i have been waiting to read about Tusk Camp. i really enjoyed the pictures and was looking forward to the story.

joeyi is offline  
Jan 23rd, 2007, 07:09 AM
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The roads in Aberdare NP are very good, and although Mount Kenya and Meru on teh other side had been having lots of rain over the past few days it hadn't reached here for teh most part, so while it certainly wasn't dry the main tracks were in good condition and it was possible to go down some of the smaller tracks for a way -until we reached a spot where the sun didn't shine and the water was still standing. We were on the lookout for elephants since we had heard from the rangers that a large number were in the Salient (they tend to spend the rainy season in the lowlands - including on people's farms if they can get through the fence - and head up into the highlands in the dry, but there are always elephants in both parts of the park). We weren't seeing much except for bushbuck and some birds of prey, a couple of warthogs (not even bush pigs I think, a few buffalo and a couple of unidentified animals - were they kudu, were they reedbuck, were they imagination - just ghosts of glimpses. No elephants. Nevertheless it was a lovely drive - the park is hilly and beautiful and there are enough open spaces to allow a view from time to time - and every view is a stunner up here! We turned around just before 6 to head back, crossing a lovely mountain stream (you just cannot believe this is Kenya). We followed a loan hyena up the road for a while and then it ran off as we met the German couple. Of course they'd just seen a herd of elephants on the road about 500 meters from where we'd turned around, and reported that they'd met a ranger who had also just seen elephants... we were just a little high... but it was too late to go back. At the entrance to Tusk Camp we found a hyena lying by the side of teh road who was obviously used to people - we guessed she was waiting for after dinner to see if we had a careless chef and she was so laissez faire about people I'm sure she was a sometimes dinner guest at Tusk Camp. She wouldn't be eating with us though - cookie was much too fastiduous about keeping his kitchen clean and his food and waste locked in boxes. Disappointed we went back to camp, consoled that at least I'd seen more than if I'd stayed in camp and that tomorrow we'd be out the whole day.

When we arrived back at camp there was a bit of ascene. The Germans were there grinning from ear to ear, there was a lot of talking and geticulating going on between cookie and the caretaker and Nam Wan was looking breathless. "Did you see the elephants?" she asked me. What elephants? "The ones on the road just over there? Have they gone? The Germans saw them". Turns out a large group of elephants had come out of teh bush just in front of the camp and crossed to the bush on the other side - slowly. They'd finally disappeared from view of the road literally a minute before we arrived. The caretaker had come to get Nam Wan and told her to bring her camera, so she'd filmed the whole thing from the road. It's a classic movie because she had just frozen when she realised what she was doing - standing in the middle of the road filming an ever-growing group of elephants 30 meters away. There was no cover but she was comfortable that the caretaker and Cookie knew what they were doing. They did... when she turned the camera to locate them there's a classic shot of the two of them crouhed down peering around a bush at the elephants, looking pensively at Nam Wan - Cookie later told me he thought she was quite brave but knew what SHE was doing (remember we'd only met a few hours before). The soundtrack on the tape consists of the sounds of the elephants crashing through the bush and short high pitched little sounds coming out of Nam Wan's mouth. She says she's never been so scared and so excited in her life but somehow looking through the lens made it bearable and she knew she had to get the shots... that's the spirit! Anyway, looking at the tape the elephants were very relaxed.

So that's the sad story of the day everybody saw elephants except Paul and Julius who were looking for them, and perhaps there's a lesson there.

Aftert he excitement the caretaker set the fire and we had a sundowner on the porch (they even have a little porch - how good is that for $100 per night for the camp?)and got a hot shower before dinner, which was packet soup (yuck, but of course it always tastes fine at night at 7000 feet) a stew with lots of vegetables with pasta - good - and fruit. Real camping food but quite okay.

After dinner I went out "spotlighting" with my torch in the grounds and saw a civet and three hares. There were lots of hyenas around and although I could see the lights of Nyeri way down in the valley there was no sense that we were anywhere but vompletely in the bush. We then shared a bottle of wine with Cookie while Julius had his ginger beer and told some stories in front of the fire. Nam Wan also persuaded Julius to come to Thailand - she thinks, but I bet he says that to all the girls. ;-) With his beanie on in the firelight we realise that Julius bears more than a passing resemblance to Samuel L Jackson... or was that just the wine? Anyway it was a really nice evening and made us think really hard about doing some camping next time (okay, comfortable camping ... but it's a big step forward for Nam Wan when the only stumbling block left is the toilets) ... and most of all deciding that the next time is not going to be very far in the future at all. After watching the stars until we started to shiver uncontrollably we went to bed.
kimburu is offline  
Jan 23rd, 2007, 10:01 AM
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I've been waiting for this part. How exciting to have the eles in front of the camp!

It sounds like Tusk Camp would be booked by only one party at the time, is that correct? After staying at Tusk Camp and seeing Fishing Lodge, which would you recommend?
Patty is offline  
Jan 23rd, 2007, 04:55 PM
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Yes, Patty...only one party - it's all yours. That's a difficult question about which one. The Fishing Lodges (there are two) are real houses with way more luxury, as the price suggests. They are really convenient for the high moors and the waterfall circuit, so if you were planning on hiking or fishing it's the place to be - especially since there is a hiking trail and a river right there. There is a clearer view because the vegetation is not thick in that area - in fact it is pretty reminiscient of European highlands right there - just with very strange plants, elephants, buffalo and the like. Fishing Lodge is more isolated (except for your neighbours, if any, you are miles from anyone) whereas Tusk Camp is a couple of km away from a park entrance and a camp site and you can actually se the boundary fence 100m away. You can also see the lights of Nyeri, but as I mentioned that does not really detract that much from the experience - it is far enough away that it doesn't affect the star gazing. Fishing Lodge is quite exposed and it is certainly colder and wetter up there (we were chilled and wet up there at the same time our caretaker could have been sunbathing down at Tusk Camp). Tusk Camp is really convenient for the Salient and that is where there is more wildlife is. I would probably stay at TYusk Camp again, but having said that if it was full and I got shunted to Fishing Lodge I would not be too disappointed. It's win-win.
kimburu is offline  
Jan 25th, 2007, 05:08 PM
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Thanks, Paul. Speaking of comfortable camping, have you seen this? www.karisia.com
Patty is offline  
Jan 25th, 2007, 05:32 PM
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Nice link Patty. Good packages for two. Trying to get me interested again? Not too difficult!
kimburu is offline  
Feb 13th, 2007, 11:57 AM
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We're oh-so-close to the end. Don't quit now!
Patty is offline  
Feb 13th, 2007, 06:40 PM
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Not giving up - just taking a rest after managing to get to Tusk Camp and add it to places reviewed on Fodor's. Will round up the last 3 days (uneventful) soon. Am busy doing my Namibian bookings at the moment.. will post my itinerary today for no good reason.
kimburu is offline  

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