I had an excellent trip, starting off in Kenya, East Africa, with a visit with my brother to the farm where we grew up. This was in Timboroa, which was a small village when we were last there 22 years ago, but is now much bigger - maybe 2000 people now. The farm we sold to a Co-operative of Kenyans, who worked for 8 years and ran the farm in the same style we ran it, until the debt borrowed from the government was paid off. At this point they chose to sub-divide the farm into plots, one for each of the members of the Co-operative. These worked out at about three acres each. Here each family could build their house and farm their own land separately.
It was a big change from when my father first moved to the area 35 years ago, when nobody cultivated that area. He built our house (now Timboroa secondary school) and was the first to cultivate the land. It was not farmed before because it was considered too cold to live in that area. There are many more places in Kenya that are warmer - Timboroa is at 9000 feet (about 2800 meters) above sea level. However, Kenya has three times as many people now as when we left - and consequently needs more land to grow food than before.
My brother and I met many people there, among them Bernard, our old cook, who was kind enough to take us around the farm and introduce us to the people living there now. We visited his second wife, who lives on his plot (Bernard was one of the original Co-operative members), and also his first wife, who lives in the village of Timboroa.
We visited the school - one of many now on the farm but the only Secondary school, looked around, and made a short speech to the pupils, and left behind some pictures of the house as it was when we lived in it. There was much amusement that the school library used to be the bathroom! It was sad to see that so many of the original old trees on the farm had been cut down - there were a number of sawmills in the area now - but the old Kenya forest department was still intact and owned large tracts of land in that area.
We also visited a second farm that my parents used to own - again it had been sold to a co-operative, and they also had successfully paid off their loan. We were introduced to Mr. Kamau - who had been leader of the co-operative for the first eight years of its life, and he showed us around. When they sub-divided the property, Mr Kamau successfully lobbied to keep 16 acres in the middle of the farm as a community centre, for a school, a medical clinic, and some green space, with the original old trees. Of course this meant that there was that much less land to go around, but it provides a good focus for the community.
We also visited Joseph Njuguno, who had built up his own welding business in Timboroa, borrowing money for his first welder. He now has a large and flourishing business, employing half a dozen people, doing welding and metalwork. He now builds his own equipment - folding machines, a corrugated iron rolling machine, even his biggest welder was constructed at the shop as it was cheaper than buying one. It is very heartening to see private enterprise operating successfully there - there are many obstacles in the way in Kenya, the most significant being widespread corruption in government circles. The international community is becoming aware of this, but I am sorry to say that Kenya is one of the worst. Joseph is now looking to borrow money for an industrial lathe.
My brother Sandy had to return home, so after visiting cousins of ours that live in Nairobi I went down to the Kenya coast to spend 10 days in Lamu, an old swahili trading town in the north. Very pleasant indeed, I met a number of good friends there and made an effort to learn swahili, the language of most of east Africa. Swahili is a mixture of the African Bantu languages and Arabic, and is the primary language of Tanzania. It is the second language (after English) of Kenya and Uganda, and is widely spoken in Rwanda, Burundi, eastern Zaire and Mozambique. I am pleased to say that my efforts paid off, and was very useful for talking to people I met in East Africa.
On 4th November I joined a 4 month overland trip run by a British company, Guerba Expeditions, starting in Nairobi and ending in Dakar, Senegal on the western tip of West Africa. For those that are interested, it worked out at about $30 a day, inclusive of food, transport, accommodation (tents) and certain visits like the Gorillas in Rwanda and a 4 day hike through the Dogon country in Mali. I can thoroughly recommend them for anyone considering a similar trip.
We spent 2 weeks going around the Maasai Mara and Samburu game parks, visiting lakes Naivasha, Nakuru and Baringo. We saw lots of animals, and I got some good photographs.
Then we left for Tanzania and the unforgettable Ngorogoro crater park and the Serengeti National park - still huge expanses of Africa as it always has been, with thousands of wildebeest, buck, predators, and anthills. Dramatic landscapes, skies, and views of game.