A Photographer's Trip To Kenya
Africa Trip - 18th - 30th May 17
I always wanted to go to Africa. It had been a place I was drawn to despite never having travelled there before. I suppose it was the vast unexplored lands, variable environments and the excitement of possibly visiting places that not many (if any) westerners had walked before. So I packed my gear and went.
Everything I need
Day One - London to Nairobi
It was an early start on the 18th May 2017. It took me one taxi ride, one coach and a long walk through London Heathrow to get to my terminal, where my plane was waiting for me. Everything went very smoothly. I got on the plane and I was on my way! It was a long flight but it was made much more bearable by drinking ginger ale and sleeping. This was repeated every time the trolley came past knocking my elbow and waking me up.
I landed in Nairobi late in the evening where I was catching a connecting flight to Kisumu. Unfortunately there was an 8 hour wait in between and no proper waiting area at the airport, so I decided to find a hotel for the night. I left the arrivals terminal to go outside after eventually getting through immigration (which by the way costs $50 for a visa that can be pre purchased online or on arrival just be prepared to wait). Immediately outside there was a coffee shop who's staff were very friendly. They made great lattes and helped me find a local but affordable (although more expensive than I expected) hotel where I could crash for the night - which is exactly what I did...
Day Two - African roads
I was meeting my father and friend Howard at Kisumu airport which is only a short connecting flight. They had already in Africa for a few weeks and had already spent time in Rwanda and Uganda. They were now into their second week in Kenya which is where I joined them. They have been going to Africa for many years now and were doing some incredible things out there. If you want to follow their journey visit their site at timeoutmission.org.
Kisumu International Airport
Eventually we set off towards our next destination, into the depths of a Africa, a place called Bungoma. The car journey was going to be around 4 hours, but I didn't mind one bit as the drive was very interesting. It was my first insight into the real Africa,
outside the grasp of big city walls and nicely paved roads. It was beautiful! Along the whole way people were waving and shouting 'Muzingo' which means white man in Swahili. The local people were out conducting their day to day business, from harvesting crops to selling them on the side of the road - corn seemed to be the most common.
It took 4 hours of travelling on 'African' roads - which means pot holes and no tarmac (a real test of the Toyota's suspension and our pain thresholds!) but we finally made it into Bungoma in the early afternoon. We would be staying for the next few days with Martin and his family. Martin is an extraordinary man and was our host for the duration of the trip. They were all very welcoming and instantly I felt right at home. Not long after, we were fed and served up the finest Kenyan tea in my life. It was a real homely brew, one made very different to the British tea we make back home. In fact, if you would like the recipe and method let me know and I'll talk you through it. It was so nice I think I probably averaged around 5 to 6 cups of it a day - that's a lot of tea!
Last cup of Kenyan tea before hitting the hay
Day Three - Unwanted Attention
The following day begun with a helping of Kenyan tea.
All this time I had been chauffeured around by our driver and friend Hudson, but I wanted to get a feel of the local town by walking through it. So me and my dad Mike took a stroll through the outskirts of Bungoma, which is a busy Kenyan village where we were at the time.
Two white men strolling through a remote African town is definitely going to attract some attention - to a point where guys riding motorcycles would see us, drive past us and then continue to stare at us as they were driving the opposite direction! It wasn't rude, I just don't think they have seen many westerners in their town. It was a great experience walking the streets, speaking to people and finding out their individual stories. We met a guy who was surrounded by hundreds of beautifully polished black shoes which he had been shining all day sat under a tree for shade, ready to sell them at market.
Day Four - Bungoma Hospital
Today I was meeting a great guy called Alex. He helped at the local hospital as a councillor and was changing the lives of many people with a wide variation of issues: from suffering abuse to struggling with sickness. It's people like Alex who are the real rocks of the community, as people come to him to seek advice or simply if they need comforting - which he offers in abundance.
Day Five & Six - Travel by any means
These days were spent in Bungoma trying out the different modes of transport. You have the cheapest option which is jumping on the back of a bicycle while someone cycles you to your desired destination. The cost of which is the equivalent of 10-20p. Second was a motorcycle, which cost more in the region of 50p and the Tuk Tuk was only a little bit more. The motorcycle had got to be the most fun (and deadly) by far.
Day Seven - To the Maasai Mara
This was a particularly exciting day because it was our journey to the deep south, into the lands of the Masai people. It was a long way... over 8 hours ( I lost count after 8). The journey was to going to take us south to the Kenyan Tanzania border.
224.85km as the crow flies to our destination
It was an interesting journey as we crossed the equator, drove past the awesome fishing village of Kisumu, saw hyena's and got stopped by a police checkpoint (who were clearly drunk and up to no good). After all the drama and discomfort, we arrived in Lolgorien. Here we met our local contacts, who soon became our friends and provided us with many cups of Kenyan tea that same evening.
Equator across Kenya
Day Eight & Nine - Meeting and Dancing with the Masai
Day eight began by meeting the locals and hosting numerous conferences, where mostly Mike and Howard were speaking at. Everyone was so welcoming and took care of us from transport, food, drink and entertainment. The small groups of the Masai Mara tribes, who lived many miles away, came to greet us and welcome us to their lands. This was particularly exciting because meeting them had been something that I had always wanted to do, as well as the totally unique photographic opportunity it presented.
Our days were busy ones, with the conferences happening morning and evening. I was particularly busy because I was the media guy for these. In between consisted of meeting people, being supplied with an endless amount of Kenyan tea and sleeping!
The evening of day nine was even more special because we got to witness the Masai perform their famous dance. It was dark outside and we were inside the community church building, which was by far the largest building around with bare beams holding up the tall tin roof. The music came on and many of the Masai put on large colourful neck jewellery which they incorporated into the dance by shrugging their shoulders and making the jewellery jump - it was really interesting to watch and also very difficult to do! Clearly they learn from a young age as the children had gathered and were dancing around the room gracefully to African music. Me, Mike and Howard were all welcomed to get up and dance with them which was a real honour. The dancing lasted for what seemed hours but everyone was having too much of a good time. I didn't get as many photos as I would have liked because I was immersed in the culture. Maybe some things are best experienced in person (well thats my excuse anyway).
Day Ten - Masai Markets
Day ten was different. Instead of conferences we went out into the local town to see the Masai market, which happened once a week. They sold all sorts of things: from hand crafted jewellery, tunics and dresses. It was a colourful sight. Also for sale were grains and local harvests. These were all fronted by the women while the men socialised separately. I met a man who was dressed in a traditional red tartan tunic. He was a man of few words but wanted to say hi and was more than happy to pose for the camera. In fact, one of my favourite shots of the trip was one that I took of him.
Day Eleven & Twelve - Nairobi Slums and Home
This was our final time with the Masai as we were planning to leave in the morning as soon as possible because we had a long trip ahead of us to Nairobi. We wouldn't be leaving without a proper goodbye and thats exactly what happened. There was a huge turn out of people to our final conference, all dressed in their traditional clothing and all their jewellery: from head pieces, necklaces, ear rings, you name it they looked stunning. As a parting gift we were called to the front and they came to us, took off one of their neckpieces of put them around our necks. It was a real blessing.
Eventually we said our goodbyes and hit the road, all the way to Nairobi where we would be meeting a friend to stay at his house before flying back to the UK.
The road was a bumpy one but we finally made it to Nairobi late at night, where we were collected by our friend Benson, enjoyed dinner and a good nights sleep.
Home time. So much had happened and I was just about ready to go home but not before a couple of stops along the way to the airport. First, we went through a Nairobi slum. We drove straight through the middle of it and it was a staggering sight. Nairobi has 200 slum settlements with an estimated population of 2.5 million people living in them and we were driving through just one of them. It stretched as far as the eye could see, with alleyways running off in all directions. It was a real eye opener. I even caught a family on the back of a motorcycle happily cruising through.
After completing a few other engagements we were finally heading to the airport. I was feeling happy to be going home but a part of me will always remain in Kenya. It was such an amazing experience, I met the most incredible people with real heartfelt stories and others that made me laugh.
See you all on the next adventure.