22 January 2015

Christmas road-trip: Hanging out in Kisumu

At an area on Lake Victoria known as Tilapia Beach (near downtown Kisumu), a person can  enjoy a meal of freshly-caught fish from one of numerous crudely built cafés or buy cheap trinkets from roaming hawkers. You can also have your car washed - right in the lake. I'm not so sure, though, about the environmental impact of driving the cars and even large trucks right into the water.

Judging by his wobbly legs, this little one must have been only a day or two old.

Hannah and I enjoyed a stroll around Impala Sanctuary. It has many caged animals, but Vervet monkeys (above) and Impala antelope (below) roam freely.

A nice close-up of this leopard, who had just been fed a chunk of raw meat for lunch.

When we attended church at Calvary Chapel, Dave (far right), was asked by Charlie to illustrate a point in the sermon.

Enjoying a cool chocolate milkshake, on a hot day, at Al-Noor Café.

We watched a beautiful sunset at Kiboko Bay on our last day of the trip.

All photos except the last one were taken by my friend, Hannah.

21 January 2015

Christmas road-trip: Hiking at Ndere Island

Dave and Hannah

Ndere Island (1.5 square miles) is in Winam Gulf of Lake Victoria, 25 miles west of Kisumu. It's covered with savannah grass and forest. Since 1986, when it was gazetted as a national park, it's been uninhabited. Ndere means "meeting place" in Dholuo, the local language. As you can see in the top photo, there were many smaller islands within view.

My American missionary friend, Dave, joined Hannah and I on a very enjoyable outing at the island. We spent several hours hiking and exploring.

We watched this herd of zebra quite a bit, as they grazed and ran across the tall grass.

Such stunning views every direction! These are the majestic Homa Hills.

We took a short boat ride from the mainland to the island, alighting and boarding at Director's and Kingfisher Jetties

The head plume indicates this Little Egret is breeding.

Except for the top photo; all other photos were taken by my friend, Hannah.

20 January 2015

Christmas road-trip: A boat ride on Lake Victoria and fun at Dunga Beach

Hannah and I spent three and a half days at Kisumu, much of which was on or around Lake Victoria. I was happy to see there was much less Water Hyacinth on the lake than previous times I was there. It had become quite a nuisance for many years, blocking fishing and commuting boats.

Lake Victoria is the largest tropical lake in the world. Measured by surface area, it's the second largest body of fresh water, second only to Lake Superior in the United States. Beside Kenya (at only 6%), its shoreline is also shared by Uganda (45%) and Tanzania (49%). It's one of the sources of the River Nile.

The photo above and the following five are from a very enjoyable two-hour boat ride we started at sunrise.

Early in the morning, the lake was as smooth as glass.                                                                                                         Overnight fishermen are resting in their boat until Dunga Beach opens for business at 9am.

We saw many small boats with fishermen.

Pied Kingfishers are known for hovering over lakes before diving for fish.

Hammerkops build huge nests up to four feet wide and with up to 10,000 sticks.

African Fish Eagle - Females can weigh up to 8 pounds, males 5.5 pounds.

After our boat ride, we spent several hours at Dunga Beach.

The overnight fishermen come in at 9am with their catch of Omena and Tilapia. Ready to greet them is a throng of female fishmongers, ready to bargain hard to fill their plastic basins full of fish. Once they've made their purchase, they disperse to various neighborhoods or fish markets to sell them - thus earning their daily bread. It was quite a fascinating scene to watch! Later in the afternoon, the day fishermen come in with their catch of Nile Perch and a different group of women come to buy from them.

One of the many fishmongers

As the fishermen approach the shore, they drop their sails and row the last bit.

Yellow-Billed Storks can reach over 40 inches in height.

We had lunch at one of the restaurants at Dunga Beach. This is the comical remains of Hannah's Nile Perch.

All photos were taken by my friend, Hannah

19 January 2015

Christmas road-trip: Kerio View Hotel and paragliders

Hannah and I enjoyed a wonderful 10-day road trip over Christmas. It was a mix of ministry (as seen in the previous two posts) and pleasure. Christmas Day found us at Kerio View Hotel just outside of Iten, Kenya (near Eldoret). It was a first-time visit for both of us and we loved it! The view is absolutely stunning and the food was delicious.

Coincidentally there were about a dozen German para-gliders enjoying their sport.

Baglefect Weaver

Such an incredible view of Kerio Valley, part of the Great Rift Valley

Village several hundred feet below us

Iten is the home and training ground of many of the world's top marathoners.

All photos were taken by my friend, Hannah.

15 January 2015

Christmas road-trip: Hiking at Mount Elgon

Endebess Bluff (8,400 feet in elevation)

“We are now in the mountains and they are in us, kindling enthusiasm, 
making every nerve quiver, filling every pore and cell of us.”
~ John Muir

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. 
Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. 
The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, 
while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.”
~ John Muir

We had a lovely lunch break on Elephant Platform, with such a stunning view. Uncle John was our guide for the day.

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people 
are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; 
that wildness is a necessity”
~ John Muir

Out in the distance is Uganda

Mount Elgon is an extinct volcano, west of Kitale and straddling the border of Uganda and Kenya, with a high point of 14,000 feet. It's the oldest and largest solitary volcano in East Africa, covering an area of 1,350 square miles. We spent most of a day hiking around certain areas. Getting up to Endebess Bluff was quite steep, but a good challenge.

Photographing a waterfall as I stand inside Kitum Cave

We saw a LOT of recent elephant footprints in both dust and mud (photo on left) and MANY piles of dung... but we didn't see elephants. I read that they mostly come at night. The skull is from a young elephant that apparently fell and didn't make it out.

Kitum Cave is 200 feet wide and 650 feet deep. It contains salt deposits and it is frequented by elephants, buffalo, bushbuck, and hyena. The elephants gouge the walls with their tusks, which exposes the salt. The smaller animals eat the pieces the elephants leave behind.

Colorful pond inside the cave

Beautiful flower, maybe a thistle?

Large troop of baboons

Waterbuck, a beautiful large antelope

14 January 2015

Christmas road-trip: Laban's party to celebrate being circumcised

Laban is the firstborn son of my friends, Nathan and Alice. For the 8.5 years I had my mud hut, they lived just a short distance down the hill. During those years, they had me over for dinner numerous times - always for chicken and ugali. Nathan also used to take care of my house whenever I was away.

Like many other Bukusu boys his age, Laban was circumcised a few months ago. It's typically done among this people group in August of every even-numbered year.

The following December (during the long school vacation), a celebration party is usually held. Friends and family bring gifts, and also bless the boys and pray for them.

Hannah and I were privileged to be in attendance at this special occasion in a village called Fafaral.

The event was held at Nathan and Alice's home, where they constructed a covering for the attendees.

The Bukusu are one of the Luhya sub-tribes; the Luhya are the third largest tribe in Kenya (after Kikuyu and Luo). They mostly live in the western part of Kenya. The Bukusu practice male circumcision, a traditional rite of passage for boys moving from childhood to adulthood. In their language, it's called khukhwingila, which whens means 'to enter'.

Traditionally it has been done outdoors, as a lengthy overnight event. The boys were circumcised in age-groups and the practice had a lot of traditional rituals associated with it. However, in modern times, more families are taking their boys to proper medical clinics for the procedure and the traditional beliefs are being replaced with a Christian viewpoint.

The party was held outside under the canopy. Those that didn't get seats, found a spot on the ground. Some folks hadn't seen each other for a long time, so there was a lot of joy. There was also lots of singing praise and worship songs. The music and the speeches were carried throughout the neighborhood with loud speakers.

There's always a special time for giving gifts, accompanied by lots of dancing and celebration. I gave Laban a new Bible; he was also given small cash gifts, a blanket, a large bunch of bananas, and this goat.

After the ceremony, everyone enjoyed a nice lunch and later - chai and mandazi (fried bread).

Laban's mom, Alice (middle foreground), and others enjoyed dancing and praising the Lord.

A bit part of any gathering in Kenya is speeches or 'saying a few words'. This is a small sample of those that greeted the crowd and addressed some comments to Laban: a 'mzee' (older gentleman), myself, Laban's young friend, a pastor friend of Nathan's, and Bishop (Nathan's older brother and Laban's uncle). 

It rained during the last part of the ceremony, so some people squeezed inside the house for lunch.

Others sat under the canopy.

Some found a spot wherever they could manage.

Proud parents and excellent host and hostess, Nathan and Alice

Jonas (Bishop and Nathan's oldest sister) who I had not seen for several years, and Laban

Just some of the many friends that came for the special occasion. I've known Pastor Job (center) for many years.

A few fun shots of the many children that attended
. . .

All of the photos were taken by my friend, Hannah, but I filmed the video clips.