I am going to tell you about an aspect of taking family vacations here that gets little attention: Getting There.
Back in Chicago, it's often said that there are 2 seasons: winter and construction. Here in Kenya there is only one season. And it ain't winter.
Most roads in our part of Kenya are either in a state of disrepair or repair. Mainly, you are driving on shoddily constructed roads with crater-like, car-swallowing potholes and sharp unmarked speed bumps, all threatening to destroy your car and strand you on the side of the road. Either that, or you are driving directly through road construction as it happens with only a hint of how avoid the beastly machinery blocking your way. You have to clutch the steering wheel and tell the kids to hold onto their seats as you bump along the "diversion" (read: non-road you use on while the road builders get to work.)
The dust all of this kicks up is of biblical proportions. It's caked on the car so densely you could scrape it off with a knife and you're sneezing it up all evening.
|This is not out of focus.|
But when the road is completed it's ... well.... amazing. Some of your journey is inevitably on fresh road, and you sail by feeling like you're on a high speed train. Like you're time traveling. But don't get too comfortable because this is actually where the worst of the road accidents happen as the absence of potholes, diversions or speed bumps lulls long haul drivers into careless and often lethal complacency.
OK. So the roads are no picnic. And speaking of picnics... you better pack one, because there are no fancy roadside restaurants, drive-throughs or convenient stores. There are tons of roadside vendors, but unless you can make a snack out of a kilogram of potatoes, some tomatoes and an uncut pumpkin, you're out of luck.
|OK. You can easily find a soda. But you'll have to drink it there and return the bottle. My environmentalist heart applauds but my impatient spirit boos.|
|Tea estate in Kericho|
There are no roadside attractions, but the are plenty of on-road attractions, and I'm not just talking about the flipped over truck variety. Generally, I'm talking about a lot of improbably overloaded trucks, livestock strapped to the backs of vehicles or extended families sharing a motorbike. It's the kind of thing you found remarkable when you first moved here but now often forget to notice. Unless, of course, you're planning on writing a blog post on the topic.
|Don't worry. They're dead.|
|I love that despite lack of side walks and uniformly craggily roads, women around Kisumu still brave aspirational shoes.|
|Just a few tweaks and this bad boy will be road worthy again.|
And we always seem to stumble into some kind of misadventure.
This time we stopped in Kericho, a hilly tea-growing area, for lunch. It was at a faded colonial haunt with unintentionally ironic kitsch and intentionally gorgeous gardens. They parked us - the only patrons at the time - in the corner of the restaurant, but by the time our food was served we were enveloped by local businessmen and politicians who descended en masse, as part of some business promotion convention.
Someone clanked a spoon to a glass, the room fell silent and the man at the next table stood up to introduce the Governor (the man with the biggest belly in the room) for some "brief remarks." In desperation, I shoved cookies in Emmet's mouth so as not to interrupt the Governor's speech with uninvited baby whining.
|The guy in the grey suit: Gov'na.|
|Our family. Woefully under-dressed for the business conference we unintentionally crashed.|
Well, I lied. I am going to give you one picture from our game drives. But Warning: this is for mature audiences only. Or, really, immature mature audiences only.
You see, the animals in this part of the world are truly magnificent. They come in surreal colors and patterns, and near paleolithic proportions. You wonder at life's creation itself while watching those seemingly hand painted zebra stripes or stilt-like legs on the giraffe. But after watching several hundred zebra, you stop wondering and start yearning to see something besides these magnificent creatures endlessly chewing their cud.
You want some action. A stalking and a kill. Some fighting. Some mating. You know, the same kind of action you want from an episode of the Real Housewives of Poughkeepsie. Or so I hear.
Well, after half a dozen game drives and no ... um... "action," we finally got some. Real animal behavior in the wild.
A baboon mating.