Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Donder & Blixen

Part 1

The short rains have as yet still not arrived. Central Africa is suffering in the grasp of a stifling drought. On Saturday night there was briefly a bit of thunder and lighting, and a short, big shower fell, the large drops pounding into the parched earth for a brief spell. Throughout the evening a soft rain ensued, but by the morning the lack of puddles next to the road exposed the feeble attempt. People that have returned from Masai Mara have reported that there have been few crossings and most of the wildebeest left early. This pic illustrates what the rift valley looks like now:

It was an interesting day for me, Saturday, although I worked most of the day, I had my 1st ride in a matatu and a tuk tuk. R 10 for the tuk tuk, R 1 for the matatu and R 40 for a taxi, all for the same journey!

On Saturday I went to the Carnivore restaurant with another mzungu whom I met during the course of the weeks meetings and consumed several species. We asked about game, and were told that the president decreed that there be no “wild” served, because “there are not enough”. Great to see a conservation ethic in evidence here. Apparently hunting is now banned throughout Kenya, but the Masaai still defend their cattle against the lions using spears! It is said that the lions fear the Masaai. About an hour after hitting the sack I awoke, unable to sleep, due to my stomach not being used to the sudden intake of protein. Or perhaps from too much wine.
There's a Thompson's gazelle somewhere in this pic but i cant find it now

On Sunday morning I was picked up by a SA couple, Dave and Priscilla, who are mates of my neighbour Nico. They drove me to an archaeological site called Olorgesailie in the Rift Valley, about 70 km (1½ hours drive) from here. Here’s what Wiki has to say about it (because I know you are not going to look it up):

Human tools are the most prominent of all fossils in the area. The abundant hand axes are characteristic of the Acheulean period, made by hominids between about 600,000 and 900,000 years ago along what was then the shore of a now dried-up lake. Fossils of various animals have also been found, including those of extinct species of hippo, elephant, zebra, giraffe, and baboon, likely butchered using the hand axes.

In June 2003, a team led by Potts discovered a frontal bone in situ. Other parts of the small skull were found in following months. It is 900,000-970,000 years old and probably belongs to Homo erectus, (settle down ladies) making it the first human fossil found on the site. The fossil remains were in the same stratigraphic level as two hand axes and several flakes, near dense deposits of hand axes.

Hand axe workshop

Fossilised 982 000 year old prehistoric elephant humerus (not funny). That's a a regular elephant humerus at the back

Some authentic Masaai women selling hand made trinkets. I bought some bracelets so I could take a photo, but they still demanded money for the photo. Who taught them to be celebs?

Part 2

“I had a farm in Africa; at the foot of the Ngong Hills”. Remember those pretentious utterings by Meryl Streep in “Out of Africa”?

Upon the return journey we visited the Karen Blixen museum in the suburb Karen, named after the Danish author Karen Blixen; also known variously as Baroness Karen von Blixen-Finecke; Karen Christenze Dinesen and Isak Dinesen. (Apparently it was uncool for ladies to be authors then). Here is a photo of what she really looked like (I think you can see why they cast Meryl Streep in the role)

And this is the original farmhouse. Those are my kind hosts Dave and Priscilla.

What else can I report… I have finally convinced Grace to lay off the dhal and rice for a while, but then several days of tilapia and rice followed. Not bad at first, but after a few days of curried tilapia for lunch and supper… anyway, when I return I will move straight into my new digs without a housekeeper, which will probably be better for me.

So I will be home again on Friday night (woo hoo!). Looking fwd to Slanghoek mountain to mountain race on Saturday and Oak Valley on Sunday; and leaving for Swazi Frontier on Wednesday. After that I either go to Pasadena in the USA for a work issue or driving Souxi Sioux up here.


  1. Dick, this is Grace. I am so hurt you don't like my cooking

  2. Well, I forgave you burning my favourate trousers. And the pasta was almost nice (it was pasta wasn't it?)

  3. On'gon'go rothi! Bunga baiskeli mwanaume!

  4. I think you should write a book using this. It is informative, humorous, and most inspiring to read.
    You are a talented person! (Must be in the genes... heh heh heh).

  5. Is your eye still bigger than your tummy? :)

  6. and in a bizarre twist of fate:
    on monday 5th of october i visited the karen blixen museum too.

    well not quite, but i did ride past it. yes the one in denmark. i jumped on a dutch bike that had been sitting in the rain for 6months, gooied some sky in the rounds and headed from copenhagen to helsingor(AKA hamlet's castle). karen/izak's house is on the way

  7. BTW, if anyone is wondering what "Grace" meant by "On'gon'go rothi! Bunga baiskeli mwanaume!", its Swahili for "Ugly pants! Silly bicycle man!"


  8. Ah Dick, I just loved those photo's of Karen Blixen what a treat, and the original farm stead too...

    As you know Out of Africa is my favourite film, I think I must visit Kenya and get this Karen Blixen thing out of my system!!!!!