Arriving in Nairobi felt like a completely different world to Zambia’s airport at Lusaka. This international hub had people of every walk of life milling around walking from gate to gate. Nairobi’s airport reflected the fact that we were now in Eastern Africa.
The Nairobi Nature Park runs adjacent to the airport, giraffes could be seen a minute into the exciting drive to the hotel. Two wrecks, alternate route and 20 minutes later, we arrived at the hotel. Though it was not without passing the fabled landfill shanty town that houses from 1.5-3 million people.
Africa is truly the land of contrast. After passing the tin shacks we happened by a school for the elite.
Unfortunately, we only stayed overnight in Nairobi. Up at 4 am to catch a flight to Kisumu. This 45 minute flight was quite possibly in the smallest plane in human history! Putting the tray table down was not an option!
We arrived in Kisumu, picked up our bags outside, which were distributed by a man that wheeled them over in a very large cart. We were met by our hosts Anastacia and Maurice of RECONCILE and the driver, Sammy, of the Kenya Land Alliance. They greeted us warmly and off we went on an adventure to buy bucket parts and calling cards. Kisumu was a large town with lots of shops, Internet cafes, and everything being sold on the street-even underwear.
We stopped for a beautiful lunch of fresh whole fish on Lake Victoria, and then headed off on to our destination: Webuye. The drive was pleasant, though potholes are quite common. The only area where the roads had potholes patched up was in front of the Minister of the highways☺. The scenery made up for the poor condition of the pavement. The land was lush and green, parts of it considered rain forest. People, baboons, goats and cows all traveled, ate, played and hung out on the shoulders of the road.
Upon entering Webuye, we were greeted by an extremely pungent odor of rotten eggs and rotten cabbage. Pan Africa’s paper mill has several “waste” ponds on the outer boundary of the 80,000 person town.
We were also greeted by a spirited man, we called “the director.” Eluid Kakai chairs the local group, Center for Development and Education Program, that has been working to reduce the pollution for some time. Mr. Kakai has worked with Rhoda, who also joined out “toxic tour,” a former Mayor that was ousted from office for being too open about the problems with the paper mill.
During the tour, we walked around the “waste treatment” ponds, which was basically a collection of small bits of paper combined with acids. We hiked up to the effluent and saw a rushing tide of waste water (that looked like Coca Cola) and smelled horrible. Ruth almost lost her lunch after smelling the odors.
The training was intimate and incredible, we really had an opportunity to meet the local leaders. The group did a great job with gender balance, there were four women and three men trained in Bucket Brigade techniques. We also enjoyed the milky chai tea at 10 am and 4 pm, in the afternoon we were also served a delicious donut type thing, yum!
We ate whole fish (eye balls, bones, fins and all), greens & ugali or vegetable curry and chapati for almost every meal. The fish on the lake was the freshest and most delicious. After a morning of taking two adventurous bucket samples, we headed back to Kisumu with two bags of bad air in hand.
On the way we passed through the town of Kakamega. We saw a huge political rally by the opposition party. There was a sea of orange, the party’s colors, shirts and cowboy hats. With people hanging from trees to get a view of the stage. We were told the man speaking was the Orange Democratic Movement Party of Kenya (usually known simply as ODM) candidate for president. The name "orange" originates from the ballot cards in the referendum. A 'Yes' vote was represented by the banana and a 'No' vote was the orange. The parties are a union of those who did not support the referendum at the time. They were then known simply as the "Orange Team", but have since been called and later registered as an official political party which goes by the current title, "ODM–Kenya".
We made our way to the market outside of Kisumu. Kenya has beautiful baskets and incredible beadwork. We bought as many items as we could fit, and still made room for Denny’s Tusker Beer t-shirt.
We left the market and headed for Lake Victoria, the source of the Nile River. Making it to the Lake we went out on a hippo tour on the “Brazilian Special” a long wooden boat with a makeshift canopy. We wanted to see hippos, and hippos we saw. The guidebooks warned that out of water hippos are the top killer of tourists. They are large and can move at 20 mph. Luckily, the hippos we saw were in the water.
Back to Kisumu, then to Nairobi. Another trip to Kenya is already in the works, this time it will be for a couple weeks, not days.