After a busy first week of the internship it was great to have a planned trip out of town for the weekend. Earlier in the week we were invited by a group of the medical students to join them on a trip to Lake Baringo and Bagorio for the weekend. We packed our 4x4 Mutatu (Kenyan for large passenger van that is typically overstuffed … the going joke in Kenya is “how many people can you fit in a mutatu?” with the answer always being “one more”), and started out on our 4 hour trip to the lakes. As we approached the edge of the Rift Valley it became clear why my lungs were bursting on my morning runs.
The plateau/mountains dropped thousands of feet as we made our way down the winding roads to the bottom of the valley. The beautiful views and winding roads left me wishing I was in the audi with the windows down for a bit of spirited driving.
As we winded through a number of villages along the way we were met with kids waving and chasing the car shouting “mzungus?!?!” (Swahili for white people) … it was clear that many of the people outside of the cities very rarely see white people … needless to say a whole van full of us! As we reached the road to Baringo, it was evident that we were in a far different region than Eldoret … it was much hotter and dryer at the lower altitude. In fact we crossed a number of riverbeds that were arid. It was clear, however, that when the region does get rain that it is intense given that almost every bridge was washed out. Arriving at water edges, we were met with a boat that took us to our campsite for the weekend.
After a 15 minute boat ride we arrived at an island in the middle of the lake. What they call camping, I will call a resort! I will use the term campsite loosely from this point on, as what we did was not “camping”. We were “princess camping” as my friend Beth put it best. The island has about 25 sites that have a concrete slab and nice bathroom with big tents that house 3 beds and a wardrobe all of which is covered by a thatched roof hut. Best of all, each site has a porch that overlooked the water.
Arriving just in time for dinner, we made our way to dining hut and had a great dinner. After a few Tuskers at the bar hut (as you can clearly tell this is not roughing it) we retired for the night.
At 6am we were greeted by a woman that served us fresh coffee and digestives (a cookie of sorts) and joined our friends at their tent to watch the sunrise over the mountains. I don’t think we could have slept any longer if we wanted to as the 250+ species of birds on the island made it clear that it was time to get up. We all set up our chairs and kicked back to watch what is likely the most beautiful sunrise I have ever seen. Shortly thereafter we split up for our morning activities … a number of people went on a morning boat ride around the island, a few went back to bed and my friend Beth and I went on a guided hike and birdwatch.
The island was absolutely beautiful and I was introduced to animals and plants that I have never seen before. After a couple of hours we headed back to the dining hut where we met our friends for a feast of a breakfast. The rest of the day was spent reading, relaxing by the pool, sunbathing (obviously I was not a part of that crowd) and swimming.
At 5:30pm we hopped on a boat and headed to another island for a sunset cruise. On the way we saw a few hippos bathing in the shallows and threw fish to eagles that would swoop from their nests for a chance to snap the perfect photo. As we arrived on the island we ascended to the cliffs above where we were met by staff that greeted us with cocktails (Pims+Sprite+Lemon+Cucumber … delicious) and watched the sun set over the opposing mountains.
Words do not do justice to how awesome the sunset was. After dinner we headed back to the island for a traditional nyamachoma (sp?), which is a large BBQ that included fresh tilapia, mutton, beef, chicken and veggies, and had a few Tuskers as we watched the stars shine brightly over the lake.The next morning those of us that skipped the prior morning’s boat ride jumped on a boat at 7:30am and toured the island where we saw 1000’s of birds, a few crocodiles and hippos. After arriving back at the island and filling up on breakfast we packed our gear and set off for Lake Bagorio. Lake Bagorio was a pretty unique place. The lake is fed by natural hot springs and geysers that make the lake warm to the touch and is likely the reason that the lake is home to nearly a million flamingos.
Literally the shallows of the entire lake were packed with flamingos as far as the eye could see. While at Bagorio we also saw zebras, baboons, impalas, warthogs, gazelles and a few other native animals. Tired from the sun and pack lunch, we jumped back into the mutatu for our trip home … I wish I could say that it was eventful but I slept most of the way! Arriving back in Eldoret, I was already excited to get back to work and looking forward to what we will plan for the next weekend!