Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Camp Muhaka - new home in Kenya

PROJECT: Community & Conservation
WRITTEN BY: Bronte Anthony

Jambo from Kenya!

We have successfully survived for a week in this foreign land, battling both the blistering heat and mischievous mosquitoes, and competently doing so with new found levels of courage and independence.

Our departure from Sydney International Airport almost seems like an age ago. We left our teary parents behind and boarded our flight, embracing our journey into the African unknown. On our way however, there was the inevitable stop over in Dubai, after the 14 hour journey from Australia. During which time we spent the best part of five hours in transit wandering around looking for the best wifi signal...yes shamefully, we did have a fair amount of electronic equipment in our possession.

In any case, we soon found ourselves upon the next Emirates flight from Dubai to Nairobi - a 5 hour trip filled with movie watching and lazy dozing in our seats. And then we landed. We were in Africa!

Immediately we felt an eruption of heat and humidity from inside the shabby International Airport. After picking up our luggage, bravely trudging across the road to the Domestic Terminal (and very nearly missing our 4:30pm flight as a result of a rather large queue), we made it onto the 'Air Kenya' plane to Mombasa. There is no denying that this coastal city was not exactly as we'd expected. From our bus windows, the dirty and litter strewn streets flew past, while the local people continued about their business, occasionally staring at this vehicle full of tourists.

Eventually the traffic (or should I say, non-existent traffic), gave way to a quieter dirt road, which wound its way through the street side stalls that were slowly being lit as the darkness of the Kenyan night crept in. The sparkling stars were our guide, and soon we spied the gates of Camp Muhaka, and could see the welcoming sign - 'Karibu Camp Kenya' - our new home.

In short; the camp was magnificent. We were greeted by the infamous Eustace, our in-country agent, and soon met the cooks and other camp helpers, before devouring a massive dinner of spaghetti with a vegetable sauce (the servings here are truly ginormous), and then proceeding to endure the first of our many cold showers.

Unpacking and setting up 'camp' in our cabins was minimal that evening, as bed was much more desirable (even beds covered in mosquito nets, almost encapsulating us against the evil bugs of this African world). The chattering monkeys and bush babies of the camp didn't even stop us from falling asleep that night.

Since that first evening, we have awoken each morning to the crow of roosters outside and the streams of light from the sun, sneakily peeping in through our chicken wire windows. A breakfast of soggy toast, with the rotational accompaniment of either eggs, beans, or if we're lucky, pancakes, generally sustains us for the working day.

Project work begins at 8:30am, and is conveniently situated right on our front doorstep. Armed with sunscreen, insect repellent and water bottles, we attack our work of digging, plastering, mixing concrete, filling plastic bottles with dirt, slashing grass, planting beans or painting with energetic enthusiasm!

The lunch break at 12pm is always welcome, however the mass amount of carbs (whether potato, bread, rice or pasta) they load onto our plates are not always specifically favoured - nonetheless they do the job of sustaining us. Afternoon work starts again at 2pm and continues until 4pm. Following this, one can play with the local children, engage in a game of football or netball with the secondary school teenagers, go for a run around the area, shower, wash clothing, or sit with a cup of Kenyan tea-bag tea and wait anxiously for dinner at 7:00pm. The list of late afternoon activities is seemingly endless!

Our 'rest and relaxation' is spent on the weekends, and so far we have enjoyed two blissful days on the pure white beaches of Diani, taking in the warm sun and salty air that the East African coastline has to offer.

Inevitably, there have been the occasional down moments, where talk of home comforts, food (especially food!), family and friends are brought up. These don't last long however, especially when we are reminded that we're all in this together. Furthermore, there is always a constant level of upbeat chatter and 'banter' from the new friendships that we have formed with the 17 or so other young people from England, Wales, Scotland, Austria and Holland, and so it is almost impossible for one to stay seemingly upset or lonely for long.

We travel to Camp Tsavo next week, where some intense safari action will no doubt take place. Expect to see plenty of photos!

Lots of love from Kenya :)

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