18 July 2018

GeoCaching #3 - The challenge of finding the legendary virtual cache on the equator, "Rift Valley" GC53

At long last, we got some motorbike taxi guys!

Hans-Georg Michner, CO
"GC53, Rift Valley is the earliest virtual GeoCaches and is perhaps the first on the equator. Located on a large sisal plantation, it's relatively easy to reach with an off-road vehicle when it's dry. Plan at least 1½ hours altogether from the main road."

"Because Africa can be tricky and because the place is somewhat remote I will describe the access here in more detail than I would normally provide for a geocache. The idea is that, if somebody has flown thousands of kilometers to reach Kenya and then driven for a day to get close, it would be needlessly frustrating to miss the cache or even to get stuck with the car."

That's how the cache owner, Hans-Georg Michner, described the cache on the app.

However... ignoring his advice about not going during one of Kenya's rainy seasons, my friend, Meidimi (GeoCache name: Nawesmake), and I went during an unusually wet rainy season. We were forced to go by foot early on, as the entire area was saturated with water and there was a lot of flooding.

But we were up the challenge and were 100% determined to accomplish our task!

When we reached this water-logged area on the road, Meidimi parked his car and we went by foot in the hot sun!

The sisal plantation is over 3,000 acres in size and owned by a Greek man.

We walked a long ways in the hot sun!

We were unable to go any further due to the depth of the water and slippery mud below. Too risky to lose our phones!

According to two GPS sources, we were basically on the exact spot! Yippee!

We got permission from this AP police to enter the sisal plantation, in our quest to find the virtual cache.
And... finally! We had some motorbike taxi guys to take us to the area... and not have to walk all the way!

Here I am, standing on the equator, at the spot of the legendary first-ever virtual cache.

The cache owner (CO) keeps a record on his website of people who have found and logged this cache. I must say that I'm rather proud for the two of us to be called 'fearless geocachers' by him!

Hans-Georg Michner's comments about us on the GeoCache app:
"I'd like to congratulate the last finders, who fearlessly entered the area and got to the virtual cache despite the strongest rains the place has seen in many years. I wouldn't even have tried to get to the cache under these conditions. Particular thanks for the interesting descriptions and the equally interesting photos. I've never seen the place with so much water."

Enjoying a cup of chai and the view of Lake Baringo, on another great day of GeoCaching

Excerpts from Meidimi's log:
Wow, this was quite the geocache. I went with my friend Deb who introduced me to this awesome activity. She came up to visit me and suggested we find it; I was very excited to go looking for it since it's the closest geocache in my area. Now we went in the rainy season and its been raining like never before in Kenya but we hoped the weather will be favorable for us to get there.... I tried to see if we could pass through barefoot but the water got deep and very slippery. If you go in the rainy season, please give yourself more than 2 hours. It took us close to 4 hours to reach the cache including traveling to it from 30 minutes away.

Excerpts from my log:
I'm very excited to log this one as my first virtual cache! It will be very memorable for me, as it was quite a fun challenge. It's likely I wouldn't have succeeded on my own, but luckily I was with my friend Meidimi.... After walking along the canal, we got as close as we could to ground zero. However, the entire area was flooded and we simply could go no further. Kenya's 'long rains' this year have been extremely heavy, with some saying it's the most rain in 100 years for all of East Africa. Meidimi (Nawesmake) removed his shoes and tried to wade through the water, but it was simply too slippery. I was wearing gum boots but even they wouldn't have helped the situation. We both feared we could drop our phones in the water... not a good thing!.... On the satellite view of the app, our blue location dot was smack-dab right on top of the cache location. 

Excerpts from Der and Die Holzmichelin (folks who found it just before us)
Achieving a milestone in geocaching has always been something special for us. A few months before our 20,000th find, we thought very carefully about which spectacular cache should be chosen for this jubilee. After extensive research we came across the legendary virtual cache "Rift Valley" listed as the world's first virtual Cache.

First we checked the risks behind this travel adventure on the African continent to Kenya. After an initial contact with the extremely helpful owner, Michna, all existing doubts were dispelled and our idea of a possible visit to the GC53 became a clear YES! We went to Africa!!!.... I am fascinated by our fantastic tour to the spectacular final coordinate 00°00.000 / E036°00.000 and very grateful for this very impressive geocaching experience.

17 July 2018

GeoCaching #2 - A 'multi-cache' and fascinating sculptures at Nairobi National Museum, plus looking up some history

'Mother and Child' - by Francis Nnaggenda - is a landmark piece at the entrance to the Nairobi National Museum

Francis Xavier Nnaggenda, is recognized as one of the most important artists of his generation in East Africa. His expressionistic work, especially sculptures, have drawn considerable acclaim. Nnaggenda (b. 1936) was raised in rural Buganda, in central Uganda, where he became intimately connected with traditional life. He grieved over the way modernization was undermining the stability of African communities.

From an early age Nnaggenda knew he wanted to become an artist. He felt it was the best and most practical way of raising his voice against a skewed development process that he was witnessing. During the era of Idi Amin, Nnaggenda went into exile and studied art in Germany and France. He attended Freibourg University (Switzerland) and Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts (Germany).

When Nnaggenda moved to Kenya in 1968 to teach art at the University of Nairobi, he met Joseph Murumbi (see picture). Murumbi was Africa’s greatest cultural collector and an ardent supporter of the pioneer artists of East Africa - - those artists who started their careers against all odds, shortly after independence.

Murumbi became an admirer of Nnaggenda's artwork and was one of his first collectors, eventually buying five of his monumental sculptures. Nnaggenda's sculpture ‘Mother and Child’ was commissioned by Murumbi.

Struggling to survive in Africa, Nnaggenda moved to Texas where he lived for 25 years before returning to be Chairman of Fine Arts at Uganda’s Makerere University. Francis Nnaggenda is recognised as one of the most important artists of his generation in East Africa. His expressionistic work, especially sculptures, have drawn considerable acclaim. [Sadly, I was unable to find a photo of Nnaggenda.]

Perhaps (?) this is another one of Nnaggenda's pieces? It's sad nothing is marked outside in the garden areas.

Carved from wood, perhaps directly from a tree

 Pendo la Mama (Mama's Love), appears to be made of scrap iron

It was a bit of a challenge, but I eventually succeeded in finding the multi-cache!

Multi-caches require more time and can be more difficult to locate than are traditional caches, as there are many steps along the way. For this one - named 'Sculptures and Stuff' - I had to first find various numbers located on signs throughout the museum garden. These numbers are then used to complete the GPS coordinates that were only partially given on the app. Once I had the coordinates, then came the task of finding the actual physical cache, all-the-while trying to avoid being seen by other people.

As always, I enjoyed the flowers, 'stopping to smell the roses' so-to-speak.

16 July 2018

Fun GeoCaching, #1 - An inch worm and fragrant flowers at Arboretum, plus Safari Park Hotel with Linet

Linet, Derrick, Jeremy, and I had a fun day GeoCaching at Arboretum near downtown Nairobi.

After enjoying our sack lunch, we became interested in this flowery bush growing nearby and its lovely aroma. Upon googling what its name might be, I discovered the following:

The "Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow" shrub (Brunfelsia) is native to Brazilian rainforests, but can also be seen in Kenya. Its fragrant two-inch flowers last for three days, changing color with each day. The first day they are purple (yesterday), the second day they change to pastel lavender (today), and on the third day they change to white (tomorrow).

Jesus doesn’t change - - yesterday, today, and tomorrow, he’s always the same. 
~ Hebrews 13:8

- - - - - 
On a different day, Linet and I enjoyed GeoCaching at the beautiful grounds of Safari Park Hotel (on Thika Road). Although fascinating, we were unsuccessful discovering anything about this sculpture or the name of the magnificent palm with the orange flowers.

In front of a beautiful stand of bamboo

I love doing fun activities while also hanging out with my friends!

Fun is one of the most important and underrated ingredients in any successful venture. 
If you're not having fun, then it's probably time to call it quits and try something else. 
~ Richard Branson (b.1950), British entrepreneur, philanthropist, and author

13 July 2018

Random shots of friends, a video from downtown Nairobi, a 'Jerrycan party', and c-r-a-z-y fog

Two cool dudes - - Fredrick and his son, Blessed Jason

I had Fredrick, his wife Betty, and their son Jason over for a second time. We roasted hot dogs and marshmallows outside.

One day when I called Fredrick to pick me up, he had just gotten his son from school... so we all squeezed on the motorbike.

Willi is a struggling artist; his small studio is just down the road from where I live.

While Linet and I were on our way to visit Masudi and his family, I took this video as we waited for our bus to fill with passengers. It was 8am on a Saturday, so the activity was quite sedate. One of these days, I should film from the same spot on a weekday evening when things are more chaotic.

Proud Baba Masudi with his son, Jason Mwakidudu Masudi

My neighbors and I went 6 days without water in our taps! Fortunately the construction crew next door filled up our jerrycans!

Kim and I hiked up at Ngong Hills again. It never disappoints, and is always stunning!

Throughout the day, the fog was absolutely crazy! This is just one example.

21 May 2018

The day an angel walked with me, and I was unaware

While recently visiting my friends in Narok, fellow missionaries Dave and Sue, I headed out for a walk. I wasn't interested in the busy and noisy town center or the highway through town, so I simply 'followed my nose'. Eventually I realized I had entered the town quarry. Left with only two choices - continue walking through the quarry or retrace my steps a short distance back to their house - I opted to continue in the same direction.

Because such places are often frequented by a 'rough' crowd, I whispered a prayer to God asking him to protect me. I wasn't at all fearful, but simply wanted to be vigilant.

Ever the adventurer, I very much enjoyed myself, following the various twists and turns on the footpaths. Every so often, I asked someone if I was headed in the right direction to get back to town. Everywhere there were guys - and ladies - cutting stone out of the ground. They used nothing but hand tools, grit, and the sweat of their brow. There were a few crudely-built shacks acting as 'hotelies', offering a cup of chai and something to bite.

A few people greeted me, but mostly they kept at their back-breaking work, trying to earn enough to feed their families. I continued my un-mapped and unplanned journey, continuing to confirm I was headed back in the eventual direction of town.

Eventually I came to the river and started hearing sounds of town. Soon I could see buildings and houses, a church or two, or a petrol station. I paused for a nice chat with a guy named Samson; after confirming I was going the right way, he said he hoped we might meet again some day.

Shortly after talking to him, another guy came along on the path. He greeted me and then asked, "Where is your friend? I responded, "I'm just out here alone, taking a walk."

"But I've seen two wazungu. Where's the other one?" He even turned around looking in the direction from where I had come, saying, "Where is he? There were two of you. I saw two white people walking together."

I informed him again, "But it's just me; I'm alone and now I'm talking to you." I subtly changed the subject, saying I wanted to continue my journey and we parted company.

As I continued on my way, going down a steep hill just near town and then forcing my way through a large herd of goats, it suddenly occurred to me that what the guy had seen was an angel walking with me. I wasn't aware of it at the time, but I firmly believe that is what had transpired.

Some have entertained angels unaware. 
Hebrews 13:2

God does do that sort of thing, you know. There are so many instances in the Bible where God sends a message through an angel, sends an angel to fight our battles in the spiritual realm, or sends an whole army of angels to fight a physical battle and opens the eyes of a human so he could see them and believe.

When I got back to the house, I told Sue and her friend, Phoebe, my story. They both confirmed that the quarry can be a rough place, but also firmly believed that God indeed did send an angel.

I headed into the guestroom to work on my cross-stitch project and turned on my music playlist. A song from Psalm 91 came up, giving more confirmation. Please read it from the Message version and  listen to the song on the YouTube video below.

Later that evening, I treated Dave and Sue to dinner at the local coffee house for their anniversary. When I told Dave the story, he had the exact same reaction - "Yeah, that quarry is a dangerous place. And I believe God did send an angel to walk alongside you."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Psalm 91 (Message)
You who sit down in the High God’s presence, spend the night in Shaddai’s shadow,
Say this: “God, you’re my refuge. I trust in you and I’m safe!”
That’s right - he rescues you from hidden traps, shields you from deadly hazards.
His huge outstretched arms protect you - under them you’re perfectly safe; his arms fend off all harm.
Fear nothing - not wild wolves in the night, not flying arrows in the day,
Not disease that prowls through the darkness, not disaster that erupts at high noon.
Even though others succumb all around, drop like flies right and left, no harm will even graze you.
You’ll stand untouched, watch it all from a distance, watch the wicked turn into corpses.
Yes, because God’s your refuge, the High God your very own home,
Evil can’t get close to you, harm can’t get through the door.

He orders his angels to guard you wherever you go.

If you stumble, they’ll catch you; their job is to keep you from falling.
You’ll walk unharmed among lions and snakes, and kick young lions and serpents from the path.
“If you’ll hold on to me for dear life,” says God, “I’ll get you out of any trouble.
I’ll give you the best of care if you’ll only get to know and trust me.
Call me and I’ll answer, be at your side in bad times; I’ll rescue you, then throw you a party.
I’ll give you a long life, give you a long drink of salvation!”

After I got back to the house I looked on Google maps to see where I had been, as I had not carried my phone with me during the walk. Dave and Sue's house is at the small red square. From there, I followed the white road heading south. The arrow is where I realized I was walking into to a quarry and asked God to protect me. The squiggly line represents my meandering in the quarry, following various twisting footpaths. The star represents where I met the guy who had seen two of us walking.

[Note: Photos are from the internet.]

16 May 2018

Road trip: Eldoret to Moyale, Ethiopia - Fifth (and final) leg, back to Nairobi

Market day in Marsabit. The men barter for the cattle on one side of the highway...

... and the women sell the camels and goats on the other side. [Sorry I didn't get any pictures of that.]

We saw many swollen and gushing rivers! Sadly, many lost their lives because of them.

When we stopped along the way, we got some boiled maize - - a nice snack.

Robai saw a crocodile for her first time ever!

We stopped at Thika and hiked around the area of Chania Falls.

The day before we left Eldoret, Robai and I had also traveled 75 miles (one way) to Kocholia to visit Agnes and her boys (just 5 miles from Malaba on the Uganda border).

Once she and I returned to Nairobi, she had another trip back to Eldoret and I headed home to Ngong town. We had traveled over 1,500 miles in the span of two weeks - - all of it via public transportation.

We certainly saw a lot of Kenya. It was an amazing trip!

- - - - -

"Travel makes one modest; you see what a tiny place you occupy in the world."
   ~ Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880), French novelist

14 May 2018

Road trip: Eldoret to Moyale, Ethiopia - Fourth leg, crossing the border

While waiting for our meal at Koket Borena (Moyale, Ethiopia), I hung out with these very cheerful groomsmen

At the border with Kenya and Ethiopia there are two towns called Moyale, one in each country. I was told I could walk across the border with no visa, so the girls and I made a plan to eat at Koket Borena restaurant - the best spot in town. Robai and Safia had never been in a foreign country and were very excited at the prospect. After arriving at Moyale on the Kenya side, we found a café to have some chai and mandazi. And then... we excitedly set off for the border crossing!

However, we discovered that it was not that easy to cross the border without a visa. Eventually though, after a lot of patient conversation, the official allowed me to cross - - but only if I left my passport with him and if we promised to not stay too long.

Along the way, at one of the many police roadblocks with barriers, this lorry had backed into a police truck.

Beautiful scenery and typical homes along the highway

After we walked across the border, we hopped on a tuk-tuk and headed to the restaurant.

The official language in Ethiopia is Amharic, a Semitic language spoken by 9 million people

Doro wat (Amharic: ዶሮ ወጥ)

This type of stewed meat, boiled eggs, vegetables, etc, is the traditional food in Ethiopia. It is typically eaten in a group sharing a communal platter of injera, a spongy flat bread made from fermented teff flour. When it was served, we ate it using our fingers.

Water fountain at the restaurant

Yummy Ethiopian Spris fruit drinks (pronounced spreece), made with avocado, mango, beets, papaya, and other fruit

A farewell sign at the border on the Ethiopia side

A friendly group of guys hanging out, and surprised to see a mzungu :)

The immigration official that reluctantly allowed me to enter Ethiopia without a visa. 

When we returned to Kenya, we found another vehicle and headed back to Marsabit for one last night.

Herds of camels nonchalantly cross the highway. It's actually quite a problem for the drivers. [See my two videos below.]

Marsabit to Moyale - 150 miles
(making a total of 700 miles one-way Eldoret to Moyale)

"Travel makes one modest; you see what a tiny place you occupy in the world."
   ~ Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880), French novelist