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Man eating lions? Welcome to Tsavo..

When: February 24th-March 15th with the Leap Where: Rukinga Sanctuary, Tsavo National Park

sunny 38 °C

I've neglected this blog long enough, so with a little (a lot, actually), of persuasion from Babs, I've decided to finally 'update' (I think inform is now the right word) you on the final 3 weeks I spent in Kenya on the Leap.

I'm sitting here with my diary infront of me, reminding myself of the absolutely amazing time I had in Kenya. I'm back home safely now, working (full time!) at American Apparel, seeing my friends, and coming home to fresh BBQs every night. It's very surreal to think that just over a month ago, I was spying on a Cheetah, eating chapati with beans, and loving every minute of my time spent with 10 people I had previously never even knew existed!

So, I'll start writing about what happened all those weeks back! We left Makongeni camp on the morning of February 24th, saying goodbye to all of the people who made our 5 week stay there smooth, easy and enjoyable. The drive to our next destionation; Rukinga Sanctuary, took us about 6 hours, including a stop off to what Duncan calls 'Africa's Biggest Supermarket'.. It was infact just the largest one in Mombassa, but still.. We got to our camp at 2pm, just in time for lunch, and we were then shown around. BOY, was that place luxurious! We were sleeping in Bandas (circular huts) in comfy bunkbeds, and had a new mess area just outside our doors where we ate, worked and chillllled.

During the first week we spent at Rukinga, we went on game drives, cleared the roads and filled in drainage areas the Elephants had destroyed by ripping up water pipes, visited a Masaai Village and planted trees at Sasenyi Primary School. The first game drive we went on was an early morning one where we expected to see many animals awake, bright and early, hunting for their cereals and toast. It was a very eventful drive indeed, including 2 lions, some antelope, giraffe and a tree full of baboons. Oh yeh, and the minor incident of AN ELEPHANT MOCK CHARGING AT US!!! I'm sure I will have told most of you the story by now, it far too mentally scarring to repeat..
We also spent a day in Tsavo East National Park where we saw lots and lots of wildlife, including a gaggle of Zebras, a wounded baboon, a parade of Elephants, and many more animal antics..

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After our first week at Rukinga, we went to the village of Kasigau where we spent 7 days living on the side of Mount Kasigau, working with the villagers every day. We were living very simply this week, sleeping in tents, showering from a water tank, and eating no meat as there was no fridge for storage! Our main project in Kasigau, was to work with the Women Basket Weavers group, helping them to dig the foundations for a small building which they will use to store their baskets for sale to tourists. These women were amazing. They earnt little more than the equivalent to $1 per day by selling the beautiful handmade baskets which took them close to 5 weeks to complete. These baskets are sold to the small number of tourists who venture out of Tsavo to spend the day in a real African village. The weavers were so full of energy and joy, and often sang traditional Kenyan songs to us while we (attempted!) to help them with their weaving. On the last day of weaving, after they'd treated us so kindly and made us feel so welcome, Tilly, Poppy and I sang Amazing Grace and Silent Night to them which I think they really enjoyed. It was sad to leave them, but we all felt like we had helped these women a little bit, even if that was just through brightening up their day by singing them a song!
At the end of the week, we climbed to the top of Mount Kasigau (1600m) which was really fun, and good training for Hattie, Milly and me who would be conquering Mount Kenya later on! We got to the top in 3.5hrs to be greeted by the mother of all rain clouds.. Typical. Very enjoyable trip down, however. We all went flying through the undergrowth, sliding down mud-slips, and dodging giant red spiders whos webs were invisible through the trees. Eugh...

Back at Tsavo camp, we finished up the projects we had started the week before, and spent more time at Sasenyi School planting the trees and doing a bit of teaching. On the last day we spent at Sasenyi, we presented the Headteacher with bags of our clothes, pens/pencils, books, and a football I had carried all the way from home! They really, really apreciated these donations, and pumped the football up right away to play with. George, Orlando, Fi and I joined the schoolboys in a kick around with the new ball, which was so much fun until the ball exploded due to being pumped up too full! It was quite funny at the time, but really dissapointing for the kids who had just recieved a new toy!

At this point, we only had 3 days left with each other! March 13th was Natalie's birthday, so we were hoping that the 2 game drives revealed lots of animals! They really didn't. We drove around for about 2 hours seeing absolutely nothing but some birds. On the way back, about 3 minutes from camp, we were all hushed as the truck came to a hault, and 2 Cheetahs casually walked across the road right in front of us! It was amazing. They were so beautiful, and we were so lucky to have seen them that close to the end of our time in Kenya!
That night, we all dressed up as something related to our 10 weeks in Kenya. The majority of us went as animals, and we had a 'big catwalk' show and danced around to our out-of-date music. MUCHO fun! I have put lots of pictures up on Facebook, so do have a gander!
On March 14th, we spent our last day together, packing, and then heading up to nice spot where we took lots of pictures and watched the sunset one last time as the 11 Leapers.

The day of March 15th had been in my calendar for a long, long time, and after being in Kenya, with the same 11 amazing people for 10 weeks, made it come faster than expected. We all headed to Mombassa airport together, and said our goodbyes at the check in desk. It was all so fast, that it didn't really hit me that we weren't going to see each other for a while, until Milly, Hattie and I were alone together in Nanyuki (Mount Kenya base). We were without the noise and energy of 11 people, the sound of Duncan's "Christine!!!!", the smell of Silus and Titus's food, and the continuous annoyance of little children's "What is your name?"... All to be missed.

Next time: MOUNT KENYAAAAA! 4985m up!

Posted by flynck 08:34 Archived in Kenya Tagged volunteer

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