If you’ve been following Travel Tuesday here, you’d know that rarely do our trips go without an issue or hitch of some kind. This one though, it was all sorts of divine. Moments seemed ordained as door got opened and serendipity played her part beautifully. I am jumping gun here, let me start from the beginning. This was a @OnetouchLive trip. You can follow on Instagram to have an idea of where we go and if you’d like to join in on a trip.
The night before we left for Samburu, we were 5 people going. By departure time in the morning, we were 4 people going. Great start. At least we had lots of spare space. We had to pack very light for this one because I had no roof rack on Luanda (my Landie) it’s undergoing an improvement and will be re-installed bigger and better (photos when it’s back). So anyway, we had to pack extra light to make sure everything fits for the 4 of us for 3 days in Samburu. At 7am or thereabout we were headed out of the city on Thika Road to Samburu.
My essentials. Camera gear, camping gear, music and food prep mambo jumbo.
Interestingly, or tragically, I had fried Luanda’s electricals the day before. Lights were working but no wipers and air-con. So we prayed hard that it wouldn’t rain. God was on our side for the most part :). We had planned to buy fruits near Nyeri along the way and soon, we were in Nanyuki where we did our main shopping for food and essentials for camping and a coffee top up into the system. Timau was going to be a great stopover but the wheat was baby wheat so we didn’t stop over to shoot. From here it was a downward drive to Isiolo and then Samburu. We were there at about 2pm and very hungry. We decided to get into the first restaurant we saw to eat. Archer’s Post in Samburu is quite popular because of all the tourists that go there. It’s a small flourishing town with money moving around. The restaurant we ate at had an “upper room” like a VIP section with sofas :), naturally that’s where we sat and had our Ugali and mbuzi.
We were relying on Lonely Planet to get a campsite so I went back to ask the owner of the restaurant about the campsites. The one we were interested in is called Umoja. According to Lonely planet, it is a campsite that supports a community/village of women only in Samburu (how interesting), more on that later. When I asked her (she is called Briana by the way, Briana Enekuyatei), she was excited and asks if we have reservations there. Of course we didn’t and she immediately calls the woman who runs the camp. That woman is her mother in law. I was tripping over how interesting this was getting. So thanks to her, we get our camping fees slashed from 800 to 500 per person. Fantastic. Shortly, she asks me what my name was, I say Mutua, she asks “Mutua who?” I say Mutua Matheka. She asks “truthslinger?” and I just couldn’t take it any more. It was ridiculous. I didn’t think we’d meet anyone who was on Instagram in Samburu, let alone anyone who knows and follows my work on Instagram. Shortly after we went to Umoja Campsite which is right by the river Ewaso Nyiro. A fantastic campsite with awesome views, electricity and all facilities. And it is very close to Archer’s Post, you could walk there. Very convenient.
Camping by the river. They have many private areas to camp if you need to be hidden away from the open. We didn’t. We wanted the beach front property.
Baked earth on the shores of the Ewaso Nyiro.
The beautiful sandy shores of the river Ewaso Nyiro. We do have to be vigilant and watch for crocs though.
We had a very specific agenda in Samburu, portraits and landscapes. We wanted to find Samburu people to talk to and photograph and explore the landscape of Samburu as much as possible. First agenda, ask about any manyattas we could visit and shoot (for a fee). Mercy, the lady who takes care of the campsite, introduced us to the lady in charge of the Umoja community of women. Their story is interesting because these are women who ran away from their homes and husbands because of battering. They took their kids and ran to this community that is a woman only community for safety. No men are allowed here. The women call the cops if any men come to their perimeter. Their male children have to leave the community once they are done with high school. They make ornaments for sale, have a school & and museum and have the campsite, which they make money from to earn a living. And photos from tourists and people like us.
So we spoke to Rose Lekata who is their spokes person and struck a deal for taking photos. We were keen to help and pay to best of our ability. That afternoon, we visited their village and learnt a lot about how they live without men and the consequences of fraternizing with men. You do get kicked out if you choose to have a boyfriend or husband. Well, not kicked out, more like you now move on to that stage of life. We got to hear them sing, buy some ornaments and plan for a sundown shoot and sunrise shoot. It looked like rain so we weren’t sure we’d do anything that evening. Luckily the clouds cleared later and we squeezed in the last bit of light into the shots. We photographed Nagusii Lolomu & Nagaram Lasakalbo. They did complain a lot that we were taking too many photos. The Samburu and Maasai have this belief that every photo you take, takes a bit of your blood so they don’t want their blood finished by taking many photos because then you die young. [I will post the portraits here later in the week.]
Just a teaser. I will handle the portraits in a different blog post.
Luanda and Ololokwe in a face off.
Seba on shooting mode.
The road there is beautifully designed. The approach to the mountain is so scenic.
It rained for a bit but that just cooled down the hotness of Samburu. That was a great night of rosemary chicken choma with bread grilled over an open flame by the river. We hoped the crocs would not be attracted by the light. They weren’t. [I plan to do a food specific blog post on how to prep and eat easily while camping. What we did and what not]
Just a taste of things to come.
The next morning we woke up to the most intense burst of color on the horizon at 6am. No one was speaking to each other. The only sound was that of the flowing river and clicking shutters. Occasionally pierced by wild animals from across the river, which is the “Samburu national Reserve”. The remaining ladies were there by 6.30am so we photographed them on the banks of Ewaso Nyiro, again while praying hard that crocs don’t come and eat us. Strangely enough, the locals were much more scared of the crocs than us. After the shoot, we had breakfast and then went out exploring. We found this old quarry they muct have used while building the road. Naturally, we took Luanda for a spin on the black rocks. Lunch was at Briana’s restaurant where we made plans to go explore the hills looking for a cool spot to catch the sunrise the next day. When we got to camp it started raining heavily so we chilled and took naps at the camps chill space which has several sofas. This was a mistake because we totally blacked out and woke up at 5.30pm. But you know how that sweet that sleep usually is when you catch that nap in the afternoon after an early morning.
You know when you are driving in the bushes and happen upon such a magnificent play area? You play. This happens to us, a lot!
We made plans to come back to the quarry later in the afternoon but alas, that nap. Yes. That nap.
When I opened my tent that morning, this is what I saw. I had to scream and tell everyone they had better wake up if they wanted to catch this.
In about 15 min, the colorful display was over.
We headed out to chase the sunset and find a sunrise location. We kept getting distracted by how cool Mt. Ololokwe looked with the road seemingly piercing right through the mountain. This is a well designed road guys. They made the approach to the mountain fantastic. It feels like you will drive into in then it turns to go around the mountain. Very cool. Just after Ololokwe, we saw a rough road leading into a smaller hill, by now you should know us. We took the road. It was dark right now and we decided to just drive up and see where it would head. It was so rough with big boulders and galleys (clearly no one uses it, at all), we did though. And from what we saw, we decided it would be a cool place to shoot the sunrise so we turned back with plans to leave camp at 4.45am so that we could be there by 5.30am.
Mt Ololokwe in that evening fading light.
The strangest thing happened here. We saw 2 giraffes crossing the road. It happened so fast that I only had time for one shot. It even looks photoshopped. I guess this is why they have “Animal crossing” signs everywhere.
Luanda and the mighty Ololokwe. (I feel like I should mention that Land Rover does in no way sponsor me to take these shots. I love Landies so much and mine is a huge part of my adventure travel life)
I think that is Mt. Kenya you can see in the far back. From Samburu you can see Nanyuki and the wheat fields of Timau.
4.45am on Wednesday found us pulling out from Umoja campsite to go to the roof of Samburu. At least one of the roofs of Samburu. We were less fearful of the road in the morning after having used it the night before. This time, we went all the way to the top. Where the communications mast was. On the way up, we saw, for the briefest moment, a leopard cub. Once we shone our lights on the leopard it quickly scampered into the bushes leaving us with one thought, where is the mother leopard? The view at the top was breathtaking. The road was like a small black snake on the green landscape. The color of the sky was alive with blue hues that were pierced with purple, red and yellow clouds streaking the skies. And the sun was not even out. We’d even forgotten about the prospects of a mother leopard. It was a beautiful morning. We explored that hill top for a few hours and even had breakfast at one point on top of it all. Breakfast with a view And what a view that was.
Photographed by Steve while he dealt with his height issues. (Not how tall he is but how high he is from the ground level)
Breakfast with a view
The best part of the road up the hill was this one.
Later on we left Samburu with very satisfied smiles. We had a big big lunch in Isiolo and coffee in Nanyuki and headed to Nairobi. Oh and on the way to nairobi, just after Nanyuki, it rained. Oh it rained. Damn!!
God bless you guys. I hope you have an adventurous day.