Bex Currie recently joined the Rift Valley Adventures team. Shortly after picking her from the airport, we were driving across the Laikipia wilderness and hosting a wonderful bunch of students from the International School of Kenya…
I’ve been to Africa before: to South Africa and Tunisia but nothing could prepare me for my first week in Kenya…
The first trip I was scheduled to help run was going to be based out of Ol Gaboli, a cultural village run by the women of the community. I very quickly learned what exactly living in the Kenyan bush meant. Before we arrived at camp we had an hour and a half’s drive through complete wilderness. It was fantastic. I saw elephant, gazelle, giraffe, zebra and so much more. I knew the students on the bus were going to have a field day coming through the bush.
The first day was spent setting up the camp and putting the finishing touches to the bike and kayak routes for the group before they arrived that afternoon. Ol Gaboli sits across a shallow river, one that the school buses couldn’t cross. So, the first challenge for the students was a river crossing. It was a good way of gauging how the group was going to be for the week. Luckily the students kicked off their shoes, rolled up their trousers and got on with it. It was great to watch. After the initial brief one of the students, Meredith, took charge of organising everyone into cooking and cleaning groups. We were off to a flying start so far! A chicken curry was served up in no time and it was delicious. It was early to bed and early rising the next day for the first day of activities.
It was pretty clear in the morning that having to get up early hadn’t occurred to many of the students on camp. It was a slow start but once everyone separated into their activity groups after breakfast it was all go!
Half of the group would spend the day biking, tubing and kayaking while the other half would come with me and ride a camel to the rock climbing site and spend the day climbing some hard routes before heading back.
Over the two days I was super impressed with the determination of these young adults. The climbs were by no means easy but everyone gave it their best shot and they made sure to encourage anyone else who was in the team. It was pretty wonderful to see. It turned out the girls seemed to do better at the climbing with triple the number finishing both the climbs. There was one girl who I challenged to climb blindfolded while her friends directed her. She took that challenge head on and did a fantastic job, even getting to the top of the harder climb. It was a total of 15km of walking/camel trekking on their climbing day and it gave me a great opportunity to chat and get to know the students individually.
By Thursday, I had a pretty good grasp of the group as a whole and knew that the project day would mean a lot to them. They kept to their respective groups for their project and spent half a day building a predator proof enclosure for a local goat herder and the other half building a boma so that the local women could start a business selling bead work and promoting traditional Samburu culture. The day was going to be a hot one and there was lots of work to do but every single person got stuck into it. There were students carrying 9 foot long timber poles, cutting wire, setting the chain link to be attached to the outside of the enclosure, using pliers to attach the guide wire to the chain link and plastering with cow dung!
That night marked the last night of the 5 day trip and boy what a night it was. As a thank you for building the predator proof shelter the goat herder gave us one of his goats. Which meant only one thing…BBQ! Every night at camp so far we’d had a campfire, where we discussed the day’s events and just used the time to wind down after the day. On the Thursday night however, we used that time to reflect on the week and also to bbq the goat!
Everyone made sure to take part and the cooking group were greatly helped that night by the local community. After what can only be described as a feast of epic proportions everyone gathered round the final for the final bit of excitement for the week. The local Maasai had come over to perform a traditional dance. I have never seen so many bright colours or beads or spears or sticks. It was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity for me and probably for the students as well. After the Maasai warriors had performed for a bit they began trying to get everyone else involved. I have to say I was so impressed by the number of students that got up to try the dancing and also the jumping. They really got into it. Finally after the dancing had died down it was the students turn to entertain the Maasai, which they did in spades singing 2 songs as a group. I could definitely feel how special this trip had been for some of the students and I honestly think it’s something they will never forget (and nor will I!)…
Bex Currie (Outdoor Instructor)