The Great Rift Valley
The Great Rift Valley
Student’s Name: Tiger Barbee
A few years ago, I discovered that my family and friends had nicknamed me “The African Tiger”. When I came to learn of it I was bitter with them and for several weeks I shut them from my life and lived a quiet, peaceful life. “How can someone make fun of me because of my name? How can my mother and father who gave me same name mock me?” I asked myself. To make matters worse, my girlfriend once sent me a postcard with a picture of an African Tiger on it. It felt insulted. When such a thing occurs, separation is inevitable!
Everyone I met in school, supermarket, hospital, restaurants etc used to growl like an African tiger instead of calling me by name. It was not until my little sister, Michelle told me that the reason people growl when they meet me is because of my love for flora and fauna and the fact that I have spent half of my life traversing the parks, valley’s and mountains in Africa. This made me smile.
My love for flora and fauna started way back even before I was born. I remember when I was in my mother’s womb, every time I heard a cat meow, a dog bark; birds chirp I would kick her hard. To her she thought it was because she was in her last trimester of her pregnancy. The truth is the sound of the animals made me excited and I dreamt of the day I will interact with them. And every time she went for walk in the park, I would remain as still as the waters of Lake Victoria. All I whispered was “I wish I was in Africa”. Nine months down the line, I was named Tiger. What a coincidence! This was the beginning of my love for flora and fauna as well as my adventure in Africa.
While in school, geography, zoology and ethnology were my favourite subject; my friends thought I was crazy because to them to they preferred to concentrate on computer science and other “soft” subjects. One may ask, why the passion in such a subject? The answer is simple; I wanted to get grasp each and everything detail about the flora and fauna in the world. Even thou my interest was in Africa, Kenya to be specific. I came to learn from one of my uncles that Kenya is the country with the richest flora and fauna in the world and the best place one can tour. I promised myself that one day, I will visit this great nation.
Most parents give promises they cannot fulfill and when they are forced to do so they feel uneasy, my dad is one of them. This wise old man called my dad assured me that if I emerged the best in my final college exams then he will take care of a one month fully paid trip to any corner of the world. What a challenge! I think he assumed I am like my elder brother who is so thick that he can’t even spell his own name and so his money was safe. The final exams came and went. Then the results were announced. Just like President Obama had shocked the world by becoming the first black America president, so did this young man nicknamed “The African Tiger” shock his dad. I was the best, not only in my class but in all the streams. Time to pack my bags and my dream destination was Kenya.
The First Experience
The wise men once said “The first cut is the deepest”. Please don’t ask which cut is being referred to because those are not my words. I am just a messenger. My air trip was not enjoyable for the obvious reasons that I am used to flying. The adventure began when I touched down at the country’s main airport, Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. It is named after the countries first prime minister and president, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta. My guide for the month was to be plump, dark middle aged man called Peter Marangi. I have to admit that this young man who hails from the country’s central province possesses excellent command of the English language and therefore I was sure communication won’t be as hard as I thought.
The Road Trip
To kill two birds with one stone, my guide advised me that we visit the Lake Nakuru National Park instead of the Nairobi National Park. The reason for this is that we would get a chance to sample the various tourists’ sites before reaching our destination. He was right. From the airport we went straight to the bus terminal to take transport to Nakuru. In this part of the world, there are no intercity trains and air plans instead commuters use 14 passenger vehicles called matatus. Unfortunately I didn’t want to arrive at my destination in a rush so I opted for car hire service, we settled for Mitsubishi Mini Pajero at a cost of $50. Not a bad figure.
The trip was amazing and I had a chance to have a clear view of the Great Rift Valley. I had a chance to sample, the Menengai Crater, one of the biggest volcanic calderas in the world. One thing I learnt from the locals is that very few people have the courage to go down the crater because it is believed to be a haunted place. We had our lunch which comprised of roast goat meat, ugali and something called kachumbari at Naivasha, a place called Hell’s Gate. Kachumbari is a mixture of onions, tomatoes, pepper, lemon etc etc. Trust me it’s so delicious. We passed by Lake Elementaita on our way to Nakuru town. Even thou the lake is not as big as Lake Nakuru, it has a sizeable population of flamingoes. At 1800hrs, we had arrived at our destination, my guide wanted to book me into a five star hotel but I turned the offer down. I preferred a location where I would feel the real Nakuru by night, before I could go and sample the Africa’s flora and fauna the following day.
The Night Life
In this part of the world, people never sleep. Night clubs operate the whole night and liquor is available to anyone irrespective of the age. The same case goes with fast food restaurants and street hawkers, they operate 24/7. The show stoppers of the night however were the Nakuru women. I envy my African brothers. They have the most beautiful, friendly women I have ever seen and met, perfect bodies and they all possess killer smiles. What a beauty! On a sad note thou there were endless traffic jams, hawkers were all over the place and street families. I had been warned of street urchin. My encounter with them sent a chill of fear down my spine as well as a sense of pity. Kids as young as five years roaming the streets day and night while sniffing glue, I understand some of them use human waste to extort money from the members of the public. Dare you resist giving them what they want! That is the only negative thing I noticed in during my visit.
The Great Rift Valley
The D-day came. I have to admit I was very nervous because I was not sure if I would see the big five or not. The park is located 10 Km (around 6 miles) from the town centre, from the entrance one can feel the cool, relaxing atmosphere. Different species of monkey’s can be seen jumping and dancing along the fence and on trees. I assumed they were welcoming us to their territory. The park charges different rates for its visitors, local pay less as compared to foreigners. I was impressed by how well organized and efficient the Kenya Wildlife Service is. All their systems are computerized. I salute them. We hired an extra guide to take us around the expansive park.
Barely 30 minutes into the park, my dream come true when I got a chance to see the big five; lion, elephant, leopard, buffalo and rhino from close range and all at the Lake Nakuru National Park. I was filled with joy, passion and emotions. I wished I could practically hug these animals. I had read so much about them and here I was standing less than a meter away from them! Unbelievable. It felt better than shaking hands with the Queen of England. This was barely 48 hours after I had landed in Kenya. Don’t be lied to. These animals are not as “small” as they appear to be on the television.
The elephant is a huge gigantic animal, just like a mountain but at the same time it’s the most gentle and sensitive animal. I have to admit that buffaloes are a bit ugly and scary; the same goes with the rhino. The next stop was Lake Nakuru. This lake is practically pink in colour. It is covered with flamingoes of all sizes and the water levels in this alkaline saline lake are amazing. I could believe that this is the same lake whose life was in danger a few months ago because of receding water levels. From my guide I learnt it was because some people were destroying the main water catchment area like the Mau forests.
I admired the rich flora and learnt a lot about the history of the park from the wardens. Apart from the big five other animals that I got a chance to see were the giraffes, zebras, warthogs just but to mention a few. Time did not allow us to take a boat tour on the lake but from my guide I learnt there is a lot in store for me for the next one month, not forgetting the trip to Lake Victoria, the Thompson falls and finally down the coast. That is a short for another day.