What I did on my holidays - 2005/6 travel blog

Warning sign

A hippo out of water

Don't pull this tail

Colobus monkeys

Chasing monkeys

Weather: clear, with warm days; cool nights

Landscape: the Rift Valley

One ride in a Kenyan matatu (minivan bus) is enough to remind me why I did this trip by overland truck. I have a few days spare at the end of the trip for relaxing and generally recovering. I had planned to go into Uganda and could have done the trip by minibuses, but it's a long way to be that uncomfortable.

There's not much to keep you in Nairobi, especially since the only sight listed in Lonely Planet has closed down, so I scan the guide book for options nearby and the obvious choice is Lake Naivasha. I leave my bags at the hostel and head off for a couple of nights up at the lake.

It's theoretically only an hour and a half away by two matatus, but there are lengthy delays waiting for the first matatu to fill up in Nairobi, and for the second to do the same in Naivasha town. At least I have a good book ("How to be Good" by Nick Hornby). My legs are too long for the seats, and the spare space in the aisle is taken up by small children, who apparently don't count towards the matatu's stated 14 passenger limit. And neither do the huge cardboard boxes occupying two and a half seats. Matatus must be the public transport they have in hell.

The benefit of being so crammed in is that you can't see out of the front to see how dangerously fast the driver is driving. You can tell the speed from looking out of the side windows, but the volcanic Rift Valley scenery is spectacular, and does its best to distract you from your imminent death.

Lake Naivasha itself is nothing special, but there's a nice campsite next to it and it's a relaxing spot. Hippos graze on the lawn at night, and early in the morning, but there is a low electric fence to keep them at arm's length. Water-skiing is available, but with all those hippos about I give it a miss.

Nearby, about two hours down a sandy road by bike, is Crater Lake. It's a beautiful spot, a crater of a small exploded volcano inhabited by flamingos, monkeys and wealthy tourists. The bike ride there is a little sandy but you do see zebras, buffaloes, giraffes and camels by the roadside. I go along for the ride with Trevor, a Canadian. On this trip I've seen animals from a truck, car, canoe and on foot, but game viewing by bicycle is a new one for me.

Back at the camp, the hippos are submerged, but monkey warfare has broken out between the Colobus and Vervet clans. Local kids join in to harass both sides, but no one gets hurt. The only casualty is Trevor's Lonely Planet, whose cover is eaten clean off by a passing cow as we photograph the monkeys jumping from tree to tree.

And that's the end of the trip, folks. It's nearly Christmas. I can tell by all the Christmas music and black santas everywhere, although the weather doesn't feel very Christmassy round here. Nairobi is cool, at 1300m high, but Jack Frost isn't nipping at any noses anywhere near here.

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