07 December 2018

Lake Magadi: Indeed "the world is wilder in all directions, dangerous and bitter, extravagant and bright"

It is a pity indeed to travel and not get this essential sense of landscape values. 
You do not need a sixth sense for it.
It is there if you just close your eyes and breathe softly through your nose. 
You will hear the whispered message, for all landscapes ask the same question in the same whisper.
'I am watching you -- are you watching yourself in me?' 

Most travelers hurry too much but the great thing is to try and travel with the eyes of the spirit wide open, 
and not too much factual information. 
To tune in, without reverence, idly -- but with real inward attention. 
It is to be had for the feeling; you can extract the essence of a place once you know how. 
If you just get as still as a needle, you'll be there.
~ Lawrence Durrell (1912-1990), Spirit of Place: Mediterranean Writings

Fredrick, my friend and favorite boda boda driver, standing next to a termite mound

Fredrick chatted with Kuntai. Sadly his responsibility was herding the family's livestock... instead of attending school. 

This river was like an oasis in the midst of a stark landscape. Fredrick wants to come back again and go fishing here.

Fredrick looks through my binoculars at all the pink Flamingos on Lake Magadi

I took this shot of the Flamingos through my binoculars

Such amazing colors on the lake!

Lake Magadi is the southernmost lake in the Kenyan Rift Valley, lying in a catchment of faulted volcanic rocks. During the dry season, it is 80% covered by soda and is well known for its wading birds, including Flamingos.

Lake Magadi, a saline and alkaline lake lying in a basin, is just over 1,000 square feet in size. The water consists of a dense sodium carbonate brine, precipitating vast quantities of the mineral trona. In some places, the salt is up to 130 feet thick. The lake is recharged mainly by saline hot springs, with temperatures up to 190°F, that discharge into alkaline lagoons around the lake margins. There is little surface runoff in this arid region. During the rainy season, a thin (less than 3 feet) layer of brine covers much of the saline pan, but this evaporates rapidly leaving a vast expanse of white salt that cracks to produce large polygons.

A single species of fish (cichlid Alcolapia grahami) inhabits the hot, highly alkaline waters of this lake basin and is commonly seen in some of the hot spring pools around the shoreline, where the water temperature is 110°F.

A path is a prior interpretation of the best way to traverse a landscape.
~ Rebecca Solnit (1961- ), Wanderlust: A History of Walking

You can see part of the Magadi Soda factory on the left, plus more birds on the lake

Magadi town is home to the Magadi Soda factory, owned by Tata India since December 2005. The factory produces soda ash, which has a range of industrial uses. 95% of the soda ash is exported, mostly to India and other parts of Asia. It's used as an ingredient in the manufacture of dyes, coloring agents, synthetic detergents, fertilizers, pulp/paper, and glass.

Magadi is Kenya’s only privately owned town where a company virtually owns, runs, and regulates the social and political lives of its approximately 1,000 residents. The town hospital, both the primary and secondary schools, the roads and streets, police station, gas station, and all the eateries are properties of the company. Tata Chemi­cals Company is Africa’s largest soda ash manufacturer and one of Kenya’s leading exporters.

The lake was featured in Fernando Meirelles's 2005 film, The Constant Gardener, which is based on a book by John le CarrĂ©. In the film, the shots are supposed to be at Lake Turkana.

The world is wilder in all directions, more dangerous and bitter, more extravagant and bright.
Go up into the gaps. If you can find them, they shift and vanish too. 
Stalk the gaps. Squeak into a gap in the soil, turn and unlock a universe. 
This is how you spend this afternoon, and tomorrow morning, and tomorrow afternoon. 
Spend the afternoon. You can’t take it with you.
~ Annie Dillard (1945- ), Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Weaver bird nests, with the opening underneath

I gave these Maasai children some of my homemade cookies, a nice snack as they headed home from school

Photo at Kona Baridi, when we were almost home from our 8.5-hour adventure

There are women to whom nature has granted the gift of silent emotion, 
with the charm of perfect simplicity and truth.
- Sarah Doudney (1841-1926), English novelist

Many are shocked that I rode on the back of a motorbike 60 miles / two hours each way, especially to such a hot place. But I love the sun on my back and the wind in my face! Every day, year-round, the temperature at Magadi hits 90°F by 11am and usually stays at 95-100 all afternoon. (Contrast that to Ngong town's highs rarely reaching over 82°F.)

As Fredrick and I neared the lake and town on his bike, we both suddenly felt the heat at the same time. I live at 6,400 feet at Ngong town. Kona Baridi, where the elevation is 6,660 feet, is 9 miles from my house. From there, the descent is rapid. Eventually we dropped 4,500 feet in less than 50 miles - - down to Magadi's elevation of 1,950 feet. Magadi is the lowest point in East Africa's Rift Valley.

My Mom often reminds me that as a young child, I would say, "Gotta see. All the time gotta see." And that's exactly how I still am at 63; I want to see things with my own eyes! I had tried to reach Lake Magadi three times in the past few years, only to be foiled each and every time by different reasons. Fredrick and I talked about and planned this trip for a long time... and at long last, it happened. 

Wanderlust = a strong desire or impulse to wander or travel and explore the world

06 December 2018

Trip to Mai Mahui and Narok to visit friends

After alighting from the matatu that brought me to Mai Mahui, I happened upon James. He did a great job ferrying me around.

While waiting for a friend at Cafe Ubuntu, I strolled around their prayer garden and enjoyed the beauty.

Mount Longonot

We’ve lost touch with the natural world and, as a result, lost touch with our own souls. 
I believe we can’t access our full intelligence and wisdom without some real connection to nature! 
Every day we have opportunities to reconnect with God through an encounter with nature,
whether an ordinary sunrise, a starling on a power line, a tree in a park, or a cloud in the sky.
This spirituality doesn’t depend on education or belief;
it almost entirely depends on our capacity for simple presence.
~ Richard Rohr, The Soul, the Natural World, and What Is

Beautiful sunset on the way to Narok (shot from a moving car)

05 December 2018

Hanging out with friends: celebrating Mashujaa (Heroes) Day, seeing orphaned baby elephants, and feeding giraffes

Linet, Derrick, and I had a wonderful time with Masudi, Essy, and baby Jason on Mashujaa Day (October 20th).

Essy's brother (on the left) also joined us, as we all celebrated the national holiday honoring Kenya's heroes.

Baby Jason is a delightful child and brings his parents much joy!

- - - - -
Ben and Vera's family traveled from Kijabe to visit me for a couple of days. We had talked about the idea for a few years, but finally made it happen! We had such a good time together!

Ben, Vera, David, Dorothy, Debra, and Becky

People come from all over the world to see the orphaned elephants at Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (founded in 1977).
Deb, Dorothy, and David (on the far left) eventually got to touch one of the elephants!

It never gets old seeing the orphaned elephants and hearing their stories of being rescued. 

It's a bit daunting at first, but eventually the kids became comfortable feeding the giraffe.
Giraffe Center (at Hardy, Kenya) has been rescuing and breeding endangered Rothschild giraffe since 1979.

04 December 2018

Random shots: one fun picture at church, two new tires, two tin men, three games of Scrabble, plus Handel's Messiah

Fredrick was very grateful for two new tires for his motorbike, provided by friends of mine.
In order to provide for his family of four, he uses his motorbike as a taxi to ferry passengers (including me).

Linet and I enjoyed doing some GeoCaching, and also lunch at Village Market (one of Nairobi's fancy malls).

Shortly after I returned to Kenya in September, Jennifer and I played a game of Scrabble and enjoyed Tuesday's 2-for-1 pizza.

My silly friends and I (plus Rose) finally met again after 8 months. It was great to get caught up with each other...
and to play another game of Scrabble! Emily turned out to be the winner of this game.

Another day... another fun game of Scrabble!

A fun candid shot at church with River and Bev

While Jeri (left) stayed with Gloria for a few weeks, I joined them on three occasions. We had some nice times together.

Linet and I met for lunch one day and also discussed another chapter in our Bible study book. After that, we walked over to Bomas of Kenya to watch the Nairobi Orchestra and mass choir perform Handel's Messiah. It was an absolutely splendid day! Please take a few minutes to enjoy the music on this short video I shot.


01 December 2018

Going on an adventure with Rose: zip-lining and exploring

My first time ever to do zip-lining... and what fun it was! The Forest (Kereita) is a great place!

"You must go on adventures to find out where you belong."
~ Sue Fitzmaurice, New Zealand author and coach

What a great way to celebrate Rose's birthday!

Be sure to watch this fun video of Rose below.

The things you are passionate about are not random, they are your calling.
~ Fabienne Fredrickson, author and business coach

I'm on my way again, this time on the second cable.

... and there I go!

I got this shot of the Rift Valley that evening, at the place where we spent the night near Kijabe.

The following morning we walked in this beautiful area, heading to Mai Mahui.

After walking quite a distance, we got two motorbike guys to take us the rest of our journey. Encounters like this in the video, with all the livestock on the road, are not at all unusual in Kenya :)

Mai Mahiu Catholic Church, also known as the ‘Travelers Church’, was built by Italian prisoners of war in 1942. It's the smallest church in the country.

The pentagon-shaped building has four small wooden pews, capable of holding 12 people. The interior is about 15x15 feet and also has a small altar with a pulpit.

The church sits on the escarpment road overlooking the Great Rift Valley.

I had been here one other time, but it was fun to stop again. Rose read some Scripture from one of the Bibles and we both said a prayer. We also found a GeoCache there.

Great captions on the lorry's mudflaps: God of another chance, as we head up the escarpment on boda bodas

The Great Rift Valley is 6,000 miles long!

This piece of highway is rather dangerous, with many accidents and mechanical breakdowns (especially with the lorries)

The Great Rift Valley is ALWAYS a stunning sight!