Things I Miss Back Home
This year has gone by real fast for me. I’m coming to the end of my volunteer service as a student missionary. I only have two months left in Kenya, which is sad to think about, but I also miss being home. Well, I thought I would share some of the things I miss from back in the States. Most of this stuff isn’t important (most has a Kenyan substitute), but I still miss it.
- Driving my car
- Listening to music in the car
- Good roads and highways
- Taco Bell
- Olive Garden
My Photography Book
For the past few months in Kenya, I’ve been working on a black and white photography book highlighting my African safaris. I’ve always wanted to edit and publish my own coffee table book and this is my first step in doing that. After hours of organizing, editing, processing, and soft proofing, the book is finally done.
Shadowlands takes viewers on a visual safari of some of the finest African wildlife on the continent. The book features over 100 photos of all kinds of birds and animals, including the big five. Many of the photos in the book have yet to be seen by anyone other than me. The book is 80 pages long and includes captions and locations of the photographs. The title of the book calls attention to the black and white nature of the book and is inspired by The Lion King, which is quite fitting for photos of African wildlife.
Have a look: www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/3076168
I had the chance to go to the Mara one last time before school. This time in the Mara was a little disappointing because we only saw one lion and no other big cats. I stayed at Mara West camp again and really enjoyed my stay. I love the food and view from the camp. The SMs and I found a few trees and set out our hammocks. It is so peaceful and quiet at the camp. The Mara is such a beautiful place. I hope someday I will get to go back.
Hell’s Gate is another National Park in the Rift Valley I was able to visit during Christmas break. Hell’s Gate is an interesting name for a park, but the description seems to fit. The park is dry and hot! There are man-made watering holes for the animals because there is so little water in the park. Hell’s gate is one of the few parks that you are allowed to walk or bicycle through. The park has many towers and cliffs that make it a popular place for rock climbing and bouldering. Fischer’s tower (pictured above) has a bicycle suspended by ropes near the top of the tower. The challenge for climbers is to reach the bicycle and if you reach the bicycle it’s yours to keep. Hell’s Gate has a beautiful gorge that you can hike through and also many hot springs. Some of the hot springs are so hot that you can boil an egg in the water. Hell’s Gate is neat park and definitely worth a visit!
One of my favorite game parks in Kenya is Lake Nakuru. I recently visited Nakuru with the SMs and had a great time exploring the park. Rhinos are quiet common in park so I finally got a decent photo of a rhino. The sad part about visiting Nakuru was that all the pink flamingos were gone because the water level in the park were up. We stayed at Flamingo Hill Camp, which was beautiful luxury tent camp. The highlight of the trip was finally seeing a leopard. Steve, our driver, spotted a leopard about 20 feet from the car. Unfortunately, a car drove up and scared the leopard away so I was only able to get a few pictures. Now I’ve seen the big five game animals this year in Kenya.
Another trip I made over Christmas was to the Aberdares National Park. Aberdares is quiet different than most parks in Kenya. The park has majestic mountains, moonlands, and waterfalls. I was able to see these moonlands when I climbed to Ol Doinyo Lesatima, which is the highest peak in the park at 13,120ft. I also visited four large waterfalls in the Aberdares. One of which is called Queens cave with a cave behind the waterfall. This is where Queen Elizabeth II had a picnic in 1952 when visiting Kenya. A friendly bushbuck walked up to our group at the falls and was looking for food. Ashley’s mom stretched out her arm and the bushbuck started licking her hand! It was a very neat experience to have a wild bushbuck act so tame.
In the Aberdares, our group stayed in Fishing lodge, which is a nice warm log cabin. I stayed at Fishing lodge as a kid and I have many good memories of staying there. It is good place to fly fish for trout. The Aberdares is home to some of the fanciest resorts in Kenya like The Ark (a giant resort shaped like Noah’s ark) and Treetops (a resort in the trees). Both resorts have watering holes that the animals visit and the resorts ring a bell in your room to let you know when a leopard visits. An interesting fact is that Treetops is known for the resort where Queen Elizabeth II went to bed a princess and awoke a queen. I really enjoyed the Aberdares and would recommend a visit for those traveling to Kenya.
One of my favorite hikes as a child was climbing Mt. Longonot. I’ve been able to climb the volcano twice since I’ve been here. Mt. Longonot has a perfect volcanic crater with a rim you can walk around. The trip is 11km long and the climb up to the peak is quiet a work out. The hike is dusty and hot with slippery volcanic rock. I preferred hiking up Mt. Kenya because the cooler weather is more enjoyable for hiking. Mt. Longonot is next to Mt. Suswa and makes up one of the many volcanos in the Rift Valley. Maxwell uses Mt. Longonot as a preparation hike for climbing Mt. Kenya.
I had the chance to go to Lake Naivasha again, but this time I was able to go to Crescent Island. The island is a small stretch of land off the shore shaped like a crescent moon. Animals and wildlife have purposely been placed on the island for the purpose of filming movies. There are over a 1000 animals living on the small island! Movies such as Out of Africa, Sheena: Queen of the Jungle, Gorillas in the Mist, and Tomb Raider have been filmed on crescent island. We were able to do a walking safari around the island with a guide and see all the different animals up close and personal. It was crazy being 30ft from giraffes and surrounded by zebras while walking on foot. The owner of the island is a polo player so his horses were roaming the island. Ashley’s mom loves horses, so she had us stop and take some photos with the horses (pictured above). Crescent island has a strange paradise feeling. I really enjoyed walking along side the wild animals. It reminded me of how we will walk in heaven with the animals one day.
During break, I was able to go to Amboseli National Park. Amboseli is known for elephants and view of Mt. Kilimanjaro. The mountain is just across the border in Tanzania and creates for a great backdrop for photographing wildlife. Unfortunately, Mt. Kilimanjaro is often covered by the clouds and I was only able to see the entire mountain early in the morning. Eric, Jeanna, Jillian, and I were the SMs who went to Amboseli. The others got sick with a stomach bug the morning we were leaving. While in park, we saw elephants, hyena, monkeys, warthogs, and many of the more common animals. The only big cats we found were two cheetahs. I hope to go back to Amboseli to get some better photographs of Mt. Kilimanjaro.
For New Years, the student missionaries went to Mombasa. We decided to head down to the beach to check out the beautiful Indian ocean and the rich coastal culture of Mombasa. As a child, I always wanted to ride the famous Mombasa train down to the coast, but never got the chance. This is the famous British railroad, which faced problems with man eating lions in Tsavo during construction. We decided that we would try something new and take the train. The train was delayed about 3 hours in Nairobi due to engine trouble so we waited for hours in the train station. The train made many stops along the journey and moved quiet slow for a train. The arrival time in Mombasa was 9am, but we arrived at 3pm. We were served dinner and breakfast in the dining car. Our small room on the train had two bench seats and two fold down beds. In the morning, the group got together and played cards in one of the rooms. The train experience was a lot of fun! It was hot and there was no air conditioning, but still quiet enjoyable despite the many hours we were on the train.
Once we were in Mombasa, we drove 100km North to Watamu. There is an Adventist Beach Resort on the shore of the Watamu Marine National Park, which gave us a good deal as student missionaries from Maxwell. The resort was a lot nicer than I expected. It was simple, but had the usual things you would expect at a resort such as a pool. The beach was beautiful with a nice view of the rocky islands from the resort. Watamu beach is where Ernest Hemingway wrote The Old Man and The Sea. There were lots of beach store attendants selling souvenirs to tourists. The culture of the coast was quiet interesting and the people were friendly and easy going. James (pictured with Jillian above) gave me a small gift from his shop because he thought I looked like Jesus with my beard. The group also tried snorkeling and we were able to bright colorful fish, starfish, and coral. Watamu was originally an Italian settlers city and many Italian visit and still live there. One of my favorite things in Watamu was a busy little Italian ice cream store with the best gelato I’ve ever tasted! The journey to the coast was a great trip full of new experiences and well worth the time.