Today marks the half-way point of our time in Kenya. We are beyond half-way through our time in Oloika, so a slightly somber tone enveloped us at breakfast this morning. However, to be honest, it feels as though we’ve been here in Oloika for weeks. We’re completely adjusted to the camp and the daily routine, but we’ll have to let it go in a few days.
“Half-way” does not just arouse these mixed emotions, but it also calls for some reflection and rest. Today we had a rest day away from the work site and school, and we traveled to Ewaso Nyira River, about an hour-long drive from our camp in Oloika. Departing promptly at 8:30 AM, we squeezed everyone into two safari vehicles, the only cars that can brave these uneven roads which exemplify the phrase “off the beaten path.” The ride to the river actually took about two and a half hours, but that was due to frequent slow-downs and detours to view wild animals along the way.
In addition to spotting gazelles, wildebeests, giraffes, baby giraffes, zebras, and guinea fowl (fast, black birds that run along the ground), we saw countless breathtaking landscapes. The skyline full of mountains appeared a shade of blue tinted with periwinkle, and the dirt on the ground, a deep burnt orange. Needless to say, the 2.5 hour drive was not tedious, but fun and exhilarating at times. The exhilarating adrenaline rush emerged because we had to dodge several thorny acacia trees (we all sat on the roof of the safari vehicle!), and the large bumps in the road threatened our balance atop the van.
As we finally neared the river, we could tell we were close, as the landscape was no longer brown and dry, but lush and full of trees. Julia described it as “the most green [she’s] ever seen!” We continued into the forest, and unfortunately, we had to jump off the roof into the vehicle. There were many low branches which crossed our path, so it was lucky that Fred warned us to get in the car.
Soon we reached the river, tucked between the trees, which created a shady canopy over the Ewaso Nyira. We jumped in immediately, realizing the water was cool, due to the shade. It felt great, though some thought it was a little too cold. The current was fairly strong, so we floated downstream and walked back. However, it didn’t take us long to realize the bottom of the river is composed of a dark, muddy sand. Of course, this led to mud fights, which resulted in bodies covered in dirt, teams formed, and lots of laughter and fun. We washed off from the battle, got out of the water, and walked upstream to a picnic.
On our way to the picnic, Shani told us Ewaso Nyira River translates to “The Brown River” in Maa. This name is appropriate, for the river was brown, but that did not hinder this area’s beauty. The sprawling roots of the trees were visible on the banks of the river, and the green leaves appeared never-ending. There were small pockets of light in areas the trees did not cover, and we gathered in one bright place for lunch, sitting on logs in the sun.
After lunch, we had a discussion moderated by Laurie, called “Marketplace of Ideas.” The “Marketplace” consisted of brainstorming ideas of ways to take our trip back to the United States. By this, I mean we sought to find ways to remember, to not move on once we’re home, and mainly, to fundraise with a purpose. We split off into groups and came up with the Who, What, When, Where, and How of our ideas, then each group pitched our idea, as though in a marketplace, to the group. We came up with many great ideas, and hopefully you’ll see the products of our brainstorming when we return.
After our discussion, we returned to the site. This time, the drive took about one hour, for we didn’t take any detours for sightseeing. When we got back, we realized we were dirtier and more tired than we’ve been so far on this trip. It was a “rest day” tinged with irony.
I hope everyone is doing well! We’ll be home soon.