Taken for Granted (Not any more)

I was flicking through the channels on the TV…

Something I usually avoid like the plague is awards programmes and those sycophantic documentaries about Royals or stars. Imagine my surprise then, when I plumped for ‘Prince William‘s Passion: New Father, New Hope’ the other night.

I was interested in this for a couple of reasons; firstly he had just announced he was leaving the military to concentrate on his personal interests which I wanted to hear about, and secondly it was about Africa, where I live (albeit with a short time left).

There were several aspects of the programme I liked, not least the fact that William himself seemed so ‘human’. There was more than that, however. I recognised both people and places in the programme having lived here in Kenya for over two years now.

And that’s what struck me the most. I was sitting there, dumbstruck at the views being shown on the screen in front of me without once thinking that I drive through that very countryside every day.

View from Kilaguni Lodge

View from Kilaguni Lodge, to the South

Over the last few weeks I have driven from Nairobi North up the Rift Valley and back at least twice a week, coming to rest in the shadow of Mt Kenya. And I haven’t even given it a second glance.

How can you drive along the Southern edge of the Aberdares and not feel you’re somewhere special? Drifting past the banana and maize plantations with Kenyans working away, or through the garishly primary and secondary coloured villages with their breize block equivalents of Western Frontiers towns and villages, balconies draped with laundry over the shopfronts proudly proclaiming the wares inside in handwritten Crown paint signs is an experience in itself, even without considering the backdrop to those usually mundane sights.

Then you head onto the plains up to Ol Pejeta and Laikipia with a landscape and sky so vast you realise, finally, just how small a part of everything you are.

Yes, there was a deeper message to the programme, that of the Tusk Conservation Awards awarded by the Tusk Trust of which Prince William is the Patron. I was humbled by those featured in the programme, and hold those whom I’ve met in a new light. I’d love to have the money to devote my time to a conservation project (and believe me you need it) but I’ve resigned myself to being an onlooker to the fantastic work the likes of Mount Kenya Trust, Ol Pejeta and Lewa Conservancy do. Some of the best experiences I’ve had in Kenya have been those where I was touching distance from one of the ‘Big Five’, especially the rhino and elephant. (Not so much the buffalo, they smell awful!)

Walking with Rhino

Wallking with Rhino in Kenya

When I have guests over and we go on safari, I always self drive. I’m often asked if I get bored? How could I! Every day, even in the same area, it’s different. Four days in the Maasai Mara and you’d see four completely different landscapes and have four completely different experiences… Bored? Never. Complacent? I didn’t think so.

I drove up to Mt Kenya this morning with new eyes. The Sun was rising as I headed North from Nairobi through Thika, past Nyeri and up towards the mountain. The colours seemed fresher, the sunlight brighter and even when the clouds came in they couldn’t diminish my newly re-discovered wonder at this land before me.

I’m going to take my camera with me everywhere I go in these last few weeks of my time here. Especially on my safaris each of the next two weekends… I need to capture some more of these memories before I go.

Oh, and here’s one for HRH ;o)

A cheetah relaxing!

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