Sunday, February 25

Nyeri a bridge was to be seen...

This weekend, I decided to take another trip combining dirty inland city with a beautiful national park. This time, I went a couple hours North to Nyeri, the main city in Central Province, close to Mt Kenya, the country's tallest peak. Nyeri is the heart of Kikuyu land, the Kikuyu being Kenya's largest tribe. And apparently Nyeri women are all trouble, so says the DJ I hear on the drive to work. This is what I know of Nyeri.

The matatu ride up started up at normal capacity, which is to say, a tight fit. On the matatu line I took to Nakuru, they stop on the way out of town and have a policeman pat the males down. The women, presumably are allowed to carry weapons on the bus. This bus didn't provide that luxury but we stopped on the outskirts of Nairobi to pick up several more passengers, mostly children, three of whom stood for the whole 2.5 hour trip. My quick estimate put it at at least 21 people for a 15 seat bus.

Nyeri seems about like most Kenyan towns. Not particularly charming, a couple crowded and dirty thoroughfares, ramshackle market stalls, lots of little shops, half of them doing mobile phone-related business (the photo is from a quieter edge of town, where taking a photo runs less chance of provoking a reaction). I dropped some stuff in a room at the not-t00-sketchy Batian Grand Hotel, and headed over to the luxury Outspan hotel, to try to find a trip into the Aberdares National Park down the road.

The Outspan safely houses the whites to be found in the area (I did see one other gringo at the Batian, though zero on the streets of Nyeri), much like the elephants and water buffalo are protected in the National Parks. While I was clearly not playing by the usual Outspan rules, I managed to get a lift over to the park to join a jeep with some nice middle aged English women, very into birdwatching, about to do a tour of the park, and scored some coffee and biscuits at the lodge where it was starting, as well as some prime gringo-watching.

The Aberdares is, I believe, the greenest of Kenya's parks. It's known more for its natural scenery than for its animals, though I did see my first elephant. I'll post a couple pictures rather than try to describe, but it is indeed beautiful. The area was at the center of Mau Mau rebel activity during the independence struggle, and many of them hid out in the Aberdares.

Touring Nyeri didn't take too long, and I made it back to Nairobi by lunch today. Nairobi by the way, while never emitting a particular pleasant odor in the mid-day sun, was particularly pungent today.

From L to R: Elephant, warthog

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