Posted on May 11, 2014
I love road trips. I mean really love road trips. To me, there is almost nothing better than driving somewhere, soaking up the journey along the way to the destination. Something about seeing God’s creation from the view of a dashboard, watching sunsets and sunrises, seeing neon signs flicker as I go by, something about that is good for my soul. Something about that allows me time to slow down, reflect, and enjoy all that is before me. Rich Mullins sings, “so much beauty before me and just two eyes to see” and that is exactly how I feel when I’m on a road trip.
Since moving to Kenya, I haven’t gotten to do any real road trips. The rules are just different here. It’s simply not a good idea to hop in the car and “see where the road takes me” like I did so many times in the US. Triple A does not exist here, there’s no safety net for breakdowns, and there is no guarantee the road that exists on the map will actually exist in real life. Add to this the fact my Swahili is at about the level of a 3-year-old, and it isn’t a good idea for me to go somewhere far by myself. Which is a real bummer, because there are so many places in Kenya I would love to see. So many places that are simply waiting for me to explore, if only I could find a traveling partner.
All of the above is part of what makes last Saturday so awesome. I was spending time with my friend Kanyi, who is also my car mechanic. He had done some work on my car and finished with plenty of time left in the day for an adventure. I had heard of a place called Lake Baringo, which is far from Eburru, but not so far from Nakuru, and definitely well within road trip range (although for me, almost everything is well within road trip range). I convinced Kanyi it would be a fun adventure and soon we were on our way. Armed with a full tank of gas, a Coke, and googlemaps giving us turn by turn directions (I know, what can’t google do?), we headed out to see what we could see.
Along the way I saw an entirely different part of the Kenyan landscape. It was so dry, and hot, and arid. The only crop I saw growing is a plant called sisal which is used to make fiber for string like bailing twine. Acres and acres and acres of sisal, but nothing else. We saw cows that looked like they hadn’t eaten for days, more dust than I can quantify, and people selling honey by the side of the road. We would drive a few kilometers and see a honey stand, drive a few more and see another stand, all the way to Lake Baringo people were selling honey. People had learned what would do well in the dry climate and had figured out a way to survive; by selling honey and growing sisal.
This is a different kind of poverty than what I experience in Eburru. A poverty based on geographic circumstance it seems. I also saw an IDP camp, which surprised me because of the state of the camp. People were living in “tents” they had made from plastic bags, strung together over pieces of wood. These were not the white tents provided by NGOs helping those in IDP camps, it was almost as if these people had been forgotten completely.
And yet, here they were, along the road walking with their goats, sheep and cows, and standing in their honey stands hoping someone would stop and buy something from them.
We crossed the equator about halfway through our trip, which is always a fun thing to do. There were shops and stands all called “equator souvenirs” or “equator gifts” wanting you to buy something from the equator because if it comes from the equator it must be good.
We kept going, for a long time, and finally reached our destination. Beautiful Lake Baringo:
We decided to go for a boat ride so we could see hippos and crocodiles. I know that sounds crazy, but it really isn’t as crazy as it seems. All you do is hop into a tiny little fishing boat and cruise out on the open water looking for predatory animals, nothing crazy about that at all. We did manage to see three crocodiles, which was actually really cool and terrifying all at the same time. We didn’t find any hippos, I guess they were off sleeping somewhere in the water since it was so hot outside. We also managed to feed a fish eagle, which was really super cool. The best part for me about the boat ride though is just being out on the water relaxing. The lake is so clear, the water is almost turquoise in color. If it weren’t for the crocodiles I would have wanted to go for a swim. Our guide was amazing, and kind, and told us all sorts of stuff about the lake before taking us back to shore. It was an hour well spent, for sure.
Once we got back to the entrance gate of the lake, Kanyi convinced me to go to the snake park and take his picture while he was holding a giant python. I am still a little confused as to how I let myself get talked into doing this given my absolute, unequivocal, complete fear of snakes, but I agreed. I only got as close as I needed to to take the picture, which wasn’t very close at all, but still much closer than I ever want to be to a snake that is alive and not inside a cage. Did I mention the snake was huge? I mean really huge, at least 10 feet long, and no, that is not an exaggeration. Kanyi even told me it sounded like the snake was growling at him while he was holding it. I would post the picture here, but that would mean I would have to look at it again, and I just don’t want to do that. It would also mean the picture would live on the internet forever, which is also something I don’t want. Just suffice it to say I was terrified the entire time, wanted to leave as quickly as possible, didn’t care the Kenyans thought I was being ridiculous because of being scared; and at the same time I was completely filled with joy at seeing Kanyi smile from ear to ear as he did this. He was so happy, and so proud of himself, what’s not to love about that scenario?
We left the lake and the kind people and headed back to Nakuru. Along the way we stopped and bought some honey and saw a giant tortoise eating by the side of the road:
All in all it was a fantastic adventure. I am so glad I was able to see a new part of Kenya, to experience something new with a great friend, and to take in even more of God’s amazing creation and beauty. Here’s to more trips just like this one.