This is Page 4 of the journal of my visit to Cameroon and Kenya.

April-May 2012 Africa
Travel Journal

April, 2009 Korea/Japan
Travel Journal

Page 1 - Arriving in Cameroon >

Page 2 - In Cameroon >

Page 3 - Leaving Cameroon >

Page 4 - Arriving at Mt. Kenya >

Page 5 - On Safari in Kenya >

Page 6 - Leaving Kenya >

South Africa Journal >

I took all of these pictures. Most of them link to very much larger versions of same.


Iris and I first became acquainted back in December 2004. I was working on a web site that sold South African wine and Amarula in the U.S. It had a live chat support feature which I happened to be monitoring when Iris dropped in trying to get delivery of some Amarula to her family in Michigan before Christmas. I helped her out.

She mentioned an Amarula recipe on one of her web sites, which I asked for permission to reprint, Unforgettable Kenya Amarula Mocha Truffles. It only took me a few minutes to insert the new recipe to the site, which achievement compared favorably with her experience dealing with a Nairobi web design service that she had been using.

I pointed out a couple of problems with her site and showed her some sites of mine as examples. Pretty soon, I'd agreed to overhaul her Wildlife Conservancy web site. Later, I also took on the Art Gallery web site. In these two projects, I had a lot of critical help from my web design partner, Mike Hammond. I spent several weeks getting everything up and running. Both of the sites are huge. And then I've been maintaining them both, too, of course.

Through it all, Iris and I became good friends. Up until now, we were friends only of that peculiar modern sort - friends who had never met! So I came to Kenya anxious to meet Iris, and also all the other people that I'd known only through their pictures and stories on the web sites that I'd helped to make.

Kenya at Wikipedia

Location of Kenya - click for Wikipedia entry

Morning in Nairobi, Kenya : February 6, 2007

I slept some on the plane but it was only a 4 hour flight. Now it's 6:30am and I'm sleepily paying another $50 for my visa. The officials are not very friendly here. I saw the same attitude arriving and departing when I was here previously. Nobody asks to see my Yellow Fever innoculation certificate. It cost me enough! I sort of wish that I'd got to put it to some use.

My luggage - with the red first class priority tags - arrives quickly, and I go outside to find Steven, my driver who has been tasked by Iris with bringing me to Nanyuki.

Nairobi Airport

Nairobi airport in the early morning.

Steven is a little shy, and thoroughly pleasant company. But when the Nairobi traffic comes to a complete stop I beg his pardon and climb into the back seat for a nap.

The climate here is radically different from Cameroon. The air is drier and the temperature moderate. Leaving Cameroon at midnight last night it was so hot and humid. This is a great relief.

And the landscape is nothing like the jungles of West Africa. It's so beautiful!

The poverty appears considerably less acute here, too. The markets are more orderly and civilized. Not entirely so, but still better by a wide margin.

Alas, this has not resulted in a better situation in terms of law and order. The U.S. State Dept. issued a new travel advisory this very day, warning that Kenya is too dangerous for Americans to visit. This was prompted by some recent highly-publicized murders of Americans in Nairobi.

I mention something about Iris' web sites and Steven seems to have little idea about them. I ask him if he has ever used the Internet and he says no. I am horrified, of course. I must try to find a mutually convenient time to introduce him to the WWW.

Kenya Highway

The road to Mount Kenya

Kenya coffee plantation

Coffee Plantation in Kenya

The equator in Kenya

The sign at left marks the equator on the highway

I had no idea the equator was so close! So I ask Steven, if I'm over here, now in the Northern Hemisphere, then water drains clockwise but just down the street a ways, it drains the other way? Closer than that. One meter distant, he says, and water moves differently. Who knew?!

Just as we're getting close to the town of Nanyuki - which is significant enough it can be found on Google Earth by just entering "Nanyuki, Kenya" - we turn away in the direction of Mount Kenya and the Wildlife Conservancy. The mountain is entirely obscured by clouds but Steven promises that I will have plenty of opportunity to see it and to photograph it.

Arriving in Nanyuki : February 6, 2007

And our first stop is at Iris and Don Hunt's home. We meet for the first time! It's so funny that because of the Internet some of your best friends are people that you've never met. Until you do eventually meet them. We talk about all kinds of things and it's just about like old friends getting together. We are in the very room that I've seen on the web site where Iris and Don have entertained monarchs and Hollywood movie stars.

I show Iris my painting from Cameroon and she approves my choice. She says he's got genuine talent and that she's happy to have discovered him through me. She's going to stock some of his paintings in her gallery!

After a while, Iris takes me to the guest house. It's just inside the gate to the Mt. Kenya Safari Club. It's much more than I expected. My own loft apartment with a private garden in back. Very comfortable. And I'm right next door to the Mt. Kenya Art Galleries.

After showering and changing out of my sweaty jungle clothes, Iris takes me for a drive around the property. First the Club. It has recently been purchased by a company in Canada which is entirely owned by an Arab Sheik. For various reasons - inadequate money spent on maintenance and a disagreement with the tour companies over pricing - the Club is pretty much empty right now. A new manager has just arrived a couple of days ago.

Mount Kenya

Mount Kenya is the second highest peak in Africa.

It all looks incredibly beautiful to me and I'm amazed there are not a lot of people here. There certainly have been a lot of rich and famous people here in the past. It was founded by actor William Holden, and the Club web site mentions Winston Churchill and Bing Crosby. There were countless others. Iris points out a bungalow, that one was where Bill Holden lived. Holden was Ronald Reagan's best man when he married Nancy.

A small part of the Mount Kenya Game Ranch adjacent to the Club's golf course is residential property. These are either little mansions or big vacation homes. I guess more the latter. Far the major part of the Ranch is dedicated to the Wildlife Conservancy but when extra funding is needed they sell off a plot of land to like minded wildlife enthusiasts to help meet the cost of upkeep of the Conservancy and its environment. Anyway, what use is a view of the golf course to a rhino?

The only resident whom I recognize is Stefanie Powers of Hart to Hart fame. She and Iris are friends. And Stefanie runs the neighboring Education Center.

Then we drive onto the Conservancy's game ranch, a big expanse of grassland where all kinds of native wildlife are living in a fenced enclosure. We enter through a most interesting open space. The bottom is not all that interesting, just pipes laid out laterally so that hooved critters can't cross. The interesting thing is the top, where there are electrified wires dangling. That's to keep out the wild elephants, Iris says. OMG. You mean they run around loose here? Yes. In South Africa they've got all the dangerous creatures locked up - sometimes within fences that run for hundreds of miles. But not here.

There are waterbucks and wildebeeste. The zebras are very interesting. There are some white zebras, which were nearly extinct until the Conservancy saved them. And some zebroids, which are a cross between a horse and zebra - sterile mules. And some regular zebras.

Newborn baby Llama

We discovered a newborn baby llama

There are some llamas here, too. They're mostly for the benefit of the Africans who visit here, including over 10,000 Kenyan school children every year. We spot a baby llama that doesn't look right. It seems barely able to stand. I think it looks newborn but Iris says it's too tall. She makes a call on the radio and somebody comes to check. Turns out it is an especially large newborn. They bring it into the protected animal orphanage area where mother and child will be safe from hyenas.

There are impalas and I'm reminded of my own impala, named Chevy (see my South Africa journal). Iris intends to use that name for an impala one day.

We drive up to the fence and Iris points out the electric wires that prevent the rhinos from breaking out. And the wire itself which has bends in it so that it works like a trampoline when an animal charges it. Very expensive.

We talk about hunting. The irony is that in South Africa the hunters, and the private game reserves used by hunters there, have saved the wildlife. South Africa has much more wildlife now than 100 years ago. In Kenya, there is neither quite as much good sense nor as highly developed a system of privately managed game reserves.

Zebroid - half zebra and half horse

This is a zebroid. It's half zebra and half horse.

The professional hunters working on public lands here themselves used to hold the poaching down to a certain level because it was in their self-interest to do so. But poaching was still a significant problem. The government decided that park rangers would have an easier time controlling poaching if they could know that everybody who is hunting must be a poacher. So now it's all up to government employees to control poaching and the professionals have been sent packing to South Africa or Botswana.

The results have been fairly predictably disastrous. The government game wardens are not able to control the poaching alone and the wildlife has suffered.

And yet the "Bambi lovers" - with the very best of intentions - applaud the government's hunting ban.

Allow animals to be killed so that there will be more animals. It's too counter-intuitive a concept for some people to accept and consequently now all the wildlife is in extreme peril here.

Speaking as a Libertarian, I think governments break most everything they touch and that Kenya should steer toward some sort of self-sustaining market-oriented solution. Which in this case means selling a lot of land for use by hunters. Before the animals are all dead!

Mountain Bongo in Kenya

The mountain bongo are very beautiful, very photogenic. And very rare.

Iris' work here is so difficult. The hopelessly incompetent, cumbersome government bureacracy on the one side and the simple (but good hearted!) PETA types on the other. It's a wonder she has accomplished so much.

The mountain bongo antelope are among Don and Iris' highest achievements. We see them scattered here. They're so beautiful. Well worth saving! They used to live all around Mt. Kenya but they were poached to extinction in the wild. Don Hunt has a big years-long project underway to restore them to the wild. Some mountain bongos were donated back to Kenya by American zoos and its their job to get them, or at least their progeny, ready for life on the mountain, back in the wild where they belong.

Just before dark we locate the herd of cape buffalo. We drive right alongside them. They could tear the SUV apart if they wanted to (and if they could catch us) but they don't bother us. They're massive. I didn't have the opportunity of seeing any when I was in South Africa. And would never have gotten this close in any case.

The fields are so lush and green. Iris says it's not supposed to be like this at this time of year. Global warming. But right here, right now, everything looks perfect.

Mountain Bongo of Mt. Kenya

The Wildlife Conservancy has the job of restoring these antelope back to the wilds of Mt. Kenya. This bongo is pregnant, which helps the cause.

Back to the house before dark for more conversation, and some drinks. Now that I've seen something of how very much is going on here I'm less surprised than I would have been before today when Don mentions they employ between 80 and 100 Kenyans at any given time. He also mentions that each of those employees supports many another. In the past it was about 10 family members. Now, it's more like 20. One thing about Africans is they sure can make a little money go a long ways.

Iris goes on to mention that when Americans come here they sometimes take the view that she has got too many servants, and ought to do with fewer. But as a matter of fact it's good to employ as many as you are able - able to afford and able to find something useful for them to do - because the Kenyans appreciate these jobs, which are a lot better than the available alternatives. And better certainly than begging or stealing, which is common enough. I like hearing this point made because I feel so uncomfortable with the very idea of having "servants."

Don says even their servant have servants! The top maid in their house has a servant at her home who looks after the baby. Africa never ceases to amaze me.

Don says that I must learn 5 new words of Swahili every day while I'm here. He assures me that it is a simple language, and that a little more than 100 words will take me far. Everybody here speaks Swahili, although it is few people's native language. Rather it is the lingua franca of this region of Africa. Quoting from Wikipedia:

Swahili, spoken natively by a tiny, politically insignificant ethnicity strewn along about 1,500 miles of the East African coastline, has become a second language spoken by tens of millions in two countries, Kenya and Tanzania, where it is an official language.

Don and Iris use it all the time.

I comment about the surly customs people at the Nairobi airport and it's explained to me, something about them having had their possibilities for corrupt practices curtailed, and that had put them all into a bad mood. The details escape me because I've had just a little too much to drink by now. I've been traveling - by road and then by air - for several days now and I'm in need of a good night's sleep.

Mount Kenya Art Galleries

I found some of my favorite works from the web site here in real life.

The Gallery Shop and my own apartment

Pivot right from the previous photo and my apartment is at the right.

My 24 hour security gate

Pivot right a little more and it's the security gate (which I am on the inside of).

Mount Kenya : February 7, 2007

It's good to have a good nights sleep.

Iris comes around and collects me in the morning and shows me some more of the property. She is anxious to show me Mt. Kenya from in front of the Safari Club. My first unobscured view of the mountain. It's magnificent.

Hatari = Danger

There are wild animals just the other side of the gate

I am completely surprised by how there's this broad area much higher than the surrounding land, with the peak much higher still. The view from here is so perfect. It's no wonder that the rich and famous travel here from all over the world.

The animal orphanage began informally years ago based only upon Iris' reputation as somebody to whom one could bring wild animals in trouble, typically orphaned babies of animals killed by poachers. The all-time favorite of these is Batian the Cheetah, but there have been countless others, and their stories are recounted on the web site Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy.

Guests of the club, and other visitors here, are invited to step across the street and enter Iris' marvelous facility. (There is a small admission fee which helps to cover the costs.) There are a lot of different types of animals, mostly young. Each with a story.

Animal Orphanage Garden

All this food is grown for the animal orphans.

First we pass through the vegetable garden, where food is grown for the animals. It's a particularly healthy looking garden and Iris says credit is owed to the rhinos. Rhinocerous dung is the very best fertilizer. Better than anything. What's more, the rhinos are very considerate to use one particular spot, so it's easy to collect.

Residency in the orphanage changes often but there are some permanent residents, including a fantastically beautiful bird with a bad wing, an enormous tortoise, and the ostriches.

There is a section here reserved for new bongo mothers and babies. It's away at one end and there are shelters because they like their privacy.

I am introduced to the famous Duma Duke, a surprisingly prolific cheetah. Iris feeds the cheetahs live rabbits. Wicked person that I am, I'd really like to see that. There are plans to breed these cheetahs and others already captive in order to restock the dwindling numbers in the wild. So far, the cheetahs have not been fully cooperative in this effort.

There are monkeys in cages and one who hangs around the outside of the cage visiting them. The fantastic birds come and go, except the one that can't fly. There's a baby cape buffalo and his very best friend a baby eland who live here - they're practically inseparable.

And we find the mother and baby llama here, both are quite content. The newborn llama is eager to make friends and we watch him begin to introduce himself to the eland but Oliver the buffalo kicks him with his front legs and chases him back to behind mom.

These animals ordinarily should have little or nothing to do with one another; obviously particularly the South American Llama, but that's only the beginning of the oddities.

Baboons, owls, caracal cats, a mongoose, more monkeys. There are a lot of critters in here! I think the tiny suni antelope are the most surprising. They are so shy. They could almost be mistaken for rabbits.

Donors to the Wildlife Conservancy

Donors get a permanent wall tile

Here is The Wall of Tiles in real life! Up to now, I've only seen the online version. Donations of at least $130 will earn you a permanent tile with your name on it right here where all the animal orphans can read it! And I will personally put your name onto the web site. I never heard of anybody getting very excited about having their name on the web site but to have your name on a wall in East Africa is way cool.

There's an office near the Club which is for the tourists and visitors to learn more (and to donate) but there's also an administrative office here inside the orphanage area. I'm surprised to see an official picture of Kenya's president placed prominently here. Iris says it's Kenyan law, that you need to post the president's official portrait in all places of business. How perfectly bizarre. The buffalo has followed us in to the office which is also kind of bizarre.

At lunch we talk about all kinds of things. Don says the first president, Jomo Kenyatta, was the best leader of Kenya ever. Better than the British. I think most African countries took a quick dive in terms of quality of government following independence but Kenyatta did a terrific job for 15 years. His successor, Daniel arap Moi, regrettably was far more typical of African leaders.

I mention that I was very slightly acquainted with a former U.S. Ambassador to Kenya, Smith Hempstone, who got into trouble with Moi for the offense of having donated to the Kenyan people his personal library of some thousands of books ('imperialist propaganda'). Turns out, the Hunts were great friends with Ambassador Hempstone who often used a house on the property here as his getaway, especially when he needed to lie low after taking a [verbal] shot at the dictator's policies.

Don says that it's only thanks to Hempstone that Kenya today is governed by a freely elected government. There is a lot to be said for political appointees to ambassadorial posts. Sometimes it works out exceptionally well.

The current President means well. He just has tended to put way too much faith in his government ministers. While Cameroon is corrupt by design, Kenya remains corrupt despite the president's best efforts. When U.S. Senator Barack Obama toured Kenya last year, he made anti-corruption his primary theme.

That night I hear something snarl and hiss loudly near my patio door. I do not open the door to investigate.

Wildlife Education Center : February 8, 2007

William Holden Wildlife Foundation

William Holden Wildlife Education Center is host to many thousands of school children every year.

I'm given a tour of the William Holden Wildlife Foundation. It's right next door. William Holden started out as a hunter and then became a world class conservationist. Stefanie Powers is overall in charge of the whole foundation but she's not here right now. My tour guide is the administrator.

Groups of school children come here to visit for a day, or to camp here for a three day program of environmental education. Over 10,000 children last year! The goal is to foster in the next generation of Kenyans an appreciation for their very special environment in the hope that they will do their part in helping to preserve it into the future.

Kenyans living in cities seldom get an opportunity to see animals in the wild. This is their chance.

There is a library and lecture hall. A natural water reclamation system. A composting system. Forest trails with different plant species marked by signs - and a lot of signs indicating bushes planted by students of this or that school.

They like to leave behind something living when they go back home.

A garden growing in a sack

This sack of dirt holds a balcony garden

And there's a trout farm and some rabbits here, serving as examples of food grown in small spaces. I'm surprised to learn how you can grow a small garden in a sack on the balcony of a city apartment.

Surplus rabbits end up being tossed live into the cheetah sanctuary but this item of information is not shared with the young visitors.

There are four big sleeping tents with cots inside, where the children sleep. There's a methane stove and a charcoal refrigerator and a place where they can cook their own food.

And a place where they gather in the evenings. Based on my own experience at camp, I assume this is where they all sing Kumbaya. I find myself recalling what a great experience I had at camp. I'm so happy that Kenyan children have a similar, or even better opportunity.

These grounds are so beautiful. Thanks to William Holden and Stefanie Powers, this is all free for the children and the schools. There is a very tiny reservation fee - which is 100% refundable following the visit. Its only purpose is to prevent schools messing up the schedule here by not showing up when they're expected. The schools do need to provide their own transportation here but if they can't afford to charter a bus then the foundation helps them with those costs.

There are several safari vehicles which take the children onto the grounds of the Game Ranch and over to the Animal Orphanage.

When the administrator drives me back home, I see the rhinos. But they're both facing opposite so I don't get to see the horns.

School children camping at the WHWF

These city kids were so excited and happy to be here! Really an inspiring scene. City kids in Africa get little opportunity to see in person the animals that draw travelers from across the globe.

William Holden Wildlife Foundation students

Three vehicles full of children all begging for pictures to be taken - and my camera batteries died!! There was nothing for me to do but keep on pretending to take pictures.

I've been drinking only bottled water but later in the evening I'm feeling sick. Queasy. This is exactly how I felt in Haiti several times. But never in Cameroon - which is totally surprising. According to my past experience, it will pass quickly.

Game Ranch : February 9, 2007

Two rhinos live on the property

These two rhinos live on the property.

The next day I feel perfectly fine and Iris takes me for another drive through the ranch. This time I get to see the rhinos close up. The female's horn is especially large. Iris thinks it might be some sort of record. They fall off at some point and so maybe she should get it certified or something while it's at its peak?

There used to be three rhinos but one of them fell over an escarpment on the property and rammed its horn into its head. It died.

The male just keeps on eating, ignoring us, but the female trots toward us and at more than a slow pace. Not a charge. But at a good rate of speed. And that horn is just about big enough to go through the door of the SUV and then through all of me. Iris circles around. The female rhino menaces us again, and so we leave. The male never stopped eating.

These two are never apart. They even sleep close together. At night they return of their own accord to an enclosure where they are more easily protected.


This one began to charge the SUV so we left.

I ask about the Rhino Horns. Sometimes, for the protection of the animals, they are sedated and the horns cut off. They then cease to be of any interest ($$$) to the poachers. But they want to avoid doing that here. Instead, there is someone with a radio watching them most all the time. From a tree someplace. (Remember, labor is cheap here.)

Iris doesn't exactly know the going rate, but these horns would bring a price of many thousands of dollars. The Yemenis want to make daggers from them and the Chinese want to make viagra from them. The rhino horn is seen as a way to enhance male power. At the expense of the rhino.

All the vehicles and buildings are equipped with radios. One time they heard an urgent call, "They're coming to kill the rhinos!!" One of the game ranch employees saw a gang armed with AK-47's come onto the property. Soon the man's radio went silent. All the employees went and chased them away, while Iris lured the rhinos to safety with sugar cane. In the end, the employee was kidnapped and held for a few days. Poaching is a nasty business.

At lunch, Don remarks how the male rhino hates him and charges him whenever he drives near. The female never bothers him. Apparently they react differently to differently colored SUV's. Iris mentions how a particular peacock at the Club reacted with extreme ardor whenever he saw her blue SUV.

I learn that Don has what amounts to practically an arsenal of weaponry around here someplace. It's all properly licensed. The funny thing is there's this fiction that attaches to them. He represents that he needs them to protect against dangerous animals (which is certainly not without very considerable validity). And the government pretends to believe they're for that purpose alone and not to protect against the much-more dangerous people around here.

As crime has gotten worse in Nairobi, the police are now more inclined to shoot armed criminals dead. Some human rights groups have taken exception to this policy. Between official corruption, assorted deadly diseases, and violent crime - it's a wonder they get by at all here in Africa.

Gate to the Safari Club

This gate is just a few steps from my apartment. Once in a while it's the scene of a deadly shootout.

When Iris drops me back at my apartment she shows me how to open my patio windows through the bars. The bars seem so unnecessary, since the yard is fenced and there is a gate and a guard so near me. Iris agrees.

They were added at the insistence of a woman who lived here for 10 years while working for Iris. She went without any bars for a long time but she got herself all worried and upset after an armed gang attempted to rob the Club and one of the gangsters ended up being shot dead a little ways beyond this front door.

It's funny the way some people over-react to even a little bitty incident like that, isn't it?

There was clear evidence that the attempted robbery was an inside job, involving the cooperation of an employee of the Club. The funniest part of the story is of the general manager running to hide in the attic. He was made fun of for years after that.

Before the gang got to the Club the same gang came to Iris and Don's house looking for loot but somebody scared them off by shouting to another employee, "Bring the gun!" which was quite a brilliant idea. It worked perfectly in scaring them away, even though there wasn't really any gun readily available.

Visiting Nanyuki : February 10, 2007

Iris is going shopping and so I take my first opportunity to go see the town of Nanyuki.

Along the way she points out some squatters on property adjacent to the game ranch. Some of them are quite well put together homes so these particular squatters are rather confident. Sometimes they're thrown off of land, and sometimes there are politicians who make hay (votes) by promising to get the land given to them. The bottom line is the politicians always profit and the squatters always end up with little or nothing.

We also pass a Catholic monastary. It doesn't have the best reputation around here.

The road is not good. But Iris points out a side street that is of excellent quality. A city councilman has recently moved in down there.

Nanyuki street

The upscale shopping section of Nanyuki, Kenya

Our first stop is the butchers. Unfortunately, it's currently illegal to transport animals to slaughter on account of the ongoing Rift Valley Fever outbreak. Iris buys some of the remaining frozen meat, including some camel meat for her dogs.

The owner is an Indian who is both a vetrinarian and a butcher, which is quite a surprising combination, including the Indian component. Many of the successful businesses here are owned by Indians.

We meet a woman who is organizing a fundraiser for the local hospital this afternoon at the airfield. Her husband launched a successful tiny airline based there. Iris says the airport is surprisingly nice now, thanks to him, and wine is promised at the party. The social event of the season!

The hospital is extremely important to the area, she says. I gather the government hospital is unspeakably bad here.

The shopping district here is much better looking than what I got used to in Cameroon. There are proper sidewalks and proper stores. Not glamorous, but a lot better than wooden frames in mud.

The vegetable market is small and very popular. It's the only market of its kind in Nanyuki. Nobody saw the need for a store like this before because everybody was thought to grow all of their own fruits and veggies, and yet this new store is a big success. There are people selling such things on every corner in Cameroon so I'm surprised that this kind of store is new here.

We bump into a semi-retired German doctor. He was very prominent in his particular field back home. Now he arranges for medical equipment that's being replaced in Germany to be donated to hospitals in Kenya. He asks me to come by his house for a drink and to help him with his computer. I like him and I agree. He lives in one of the homes next to the Game Ranch.

Grocery store in Nanyuki, Kenya

This grocery store looked to me like it belonged in Mayberry.

Next stop is the SUPERMARKET (give or take a little). It's very Mayberry. Iris is shopping not only for herself and Don, and me, but also for their nephew who is arriving tomorrow with his wife and two sons. They will occupy another of the houses next to the ranch.

Iris piles up her purchases on the counter and the Indian who owns the store - get this! - uses a pad with carbon paper to write out the name of every item and its price. When we're done then he adds it all up and Iris signs each page (it's gone to several pages). He bills her monthly. It's very quaint.

We stop at another Indian-run SUPERMARKET where I'm introduced to a woman who has recently taken the store over from her parents. Her brother and sister are professionals working in London. This little store paid for the educations which launched their respective careers. Iris says the parents have run this store "forever." I try not to stare at the creepy dot on the mother's forehead. She looks very, very Indian. The daughter is wearing jeans and no dot. Cultural homogenization is universal, I guess.

We drive further back into the town, away from the highway, and it becomes more African. Iris doesn't find much reason to come back here so it's new to both of us. One section has traffic blocked off and the streets are filled with litter. Housing is very cramped.

We pass a soldier holding a rifle and he's near where some children are playing. Just as we pass the soldier fires his gun into the trunk of a tree and all the children cry out in alarm. Iris punches the gas. Partly in keeping with my policy of avoiding taking pictures of men carrying guns, and partly because I got all flustered, I have no photographic record of this unsettling event. Iris points out he may or may not have been a real soldier. The real ones may be undisciplined and there are plenty of fake ones. Welcome to Africa.

We drop groceries at the house the nephew's family will use. The house was built by a big time movie producer. He entertained Hollywood people here. Besides the main house there are several guest cottages. Altogether, the property can sleep 14 easily. It's magnificent, of course.

Don and Iris bought the house. They'd like to sell it to somebody who would be their good neighbor. I ask why they don't rent it for big bucks by the week. She says that would be too much trouble and she has more than enough work to do (which I know to be true).

Guest house at the game ranch

The guest house at the game ranch.

Guest House grounds

This may go up for sale before long.

In the afternoon I come back with Don and Iris to Nanyuki and the airport, located barely inside of the Southern Hemisphere. So many SUV's that it looks like a California car dealership.

The Great Rift Valley is over there

During a party at the Nanyuki airfield, I noticed this great sunset. The Great Rift Valley is the other side of these mountains, presently infamous for the ongoing outbreak of deadly Rift Valley Fever.

Both the setting and the people are very nice. Iris points out a woman in a blue corduroy shirt and cowboy hat dancing vigorously to the music of the live jazz band. That's the German doctor's wife. She comes over to greet us and volunteers that she's been drinking wine for three hours. And she's entertaining some people at home this evening. ROFL. Good luck with that! She's looking forward to my visit. So am I.

I sit with on a bale of hay with Iris' office manager and her boyfriend. She introduces me saying I bought a painting in Cameroon that's "The Bomb!" She was born here of American parents and he came from New Zealand. We pool our Kenyan Shillings and buy a bottle of red wine, and do some people-watching. It's a fun crowd. Also quite a drunk crowd, but not in a bad way at all. These are the elite of Nanyuki society after all. I meet lots of them. It's a good party.

On the way home at dusk, I see two large animals that move like canines run across the road in front of us. I think they're hyenas but nobody else saw them. A small animal that we all see is just a mongoose. Iris hopes I'm wrong about the hyenas because they're such a nuissance. Llamas here have learned to fight off hyenas. They're tough when they need to be. A number of them died during their learning curve.

Obamamania International HQ : February 10, 2007

A side note. Kenyans consider Barack Obama one of their own. The New York Times, reporting on his recent tour of his father's homeland, said Kenyans went wild and treated him like a rock star everyplace he appeared. I find Obama far the least objectionable presidential candidate among the leading contenders [I like Joe Biden very, very much but I am practically alone in that sentiment] so I'm glad to be here when he formally announced his candidacy. Comparing himself to an earlier president from Illinois with a similarly thin resumé Obama said:

"The life of a tall, gangly, self-made Springfield lawyer tells us that a different future is possible. He tells us that there is power in words. He tells us that there is power in conviction. That beneath all the differences of race and region, faith and station, we are one people. He tells us that there is power in hope."

The Safari Club : February 11, 2007

Rose Garden at Mt. Kenya Safari Club

The Rose Garden at Mt. Kenya Safari Club.
Reportedly, the equator runs right along the center of this stream.

I never go to hoity-toity receptions in Las Vegas but in Africa I go to them all the time. It must mean something but I'm not sure exactly what. This afternoon at the Safari Club hotel it's out with the old and in with the new. The old manager, a black Kenyan, is being transferred to another hotel in Nairobi. The new manager is a Frenchman. This event is mostly for the locals, the people living on the adjacent property. And the mayor of Nanyuki is invited, too.

We're being served drinks and hors d'oeuvres by formally dressed waiters and waitresses in the rose garden. The pathway into here had been strewn with authentic rose petals. Hoity toity for sure.

I meet some people for the first time, including John Hurt's ex wife. They were only married for about a year when he left her here. She got to keep the million dollar house. She was a barmaid in Texas before. She has done all right. John doesn't come to visit anymore. Iris misses him.

I meet the doctor and wife again, and we make firm plans for my visit on Tuesday morning. He just needs the computer to write his memoirs and the wife just needs to check email. I'll see what I can do for them.

Grounds of the Safari Club

Safari Club grounds

Iris enjoys introducing me to people as a man she met on the Internet.

When the mayor shows up, I have to comment that while I fully expected that the mayor here would BE corrupt I do not understand why must he go out of his way to LOOK so corrupt. He and his staff probably all carry concealed weapons so in keeping with my rule I don't take any pictures of them.

Iris has given the old manager a gift, which I think is awfully nice of her. The new manager announces details of the $15 million expansion. I wonder that the French manager of a Kenyan hotel owned by a Canadian company whose sole owner is an Arab Sheik would speak of expenditures in terms of U.S. dollars... but anyway, it sounds like good news for the Club and its members.

I am pre-occupied by how much he sounds like Inspector Clousseau but Iris thinks his idea of keeping labradors on the grounds and making them available for guests to walk and play with is inspired, and that he has a real feel for what this historic place ought to be again.

I've been perusing a book about the Mt. Kenya Safari Club. What an amazing place. I think it's still marvelous but Iris says it has declined enormously since its glory days. It opened with Winston Churchill and Bing Crosby as founding members.

Ownership has changed a few times over the years. One owner actually won it in a poker game.

The manager plans to put the $15 million to good use. I just hope he gets the high speed wireless in here sooner rather than later. It was supposed to be installed before I arrived and I had been counting on getting to use it, but it's still not working right. I promised Iris that high speed Internet will change her life.

I think the Club should hire a staff historian to blog all the goings on here. I could be qualified except for that ill-considered Clousseau remark above. Darn. MAMBM.

Working Vacation : February 12, 2007

At lunch, I meet Don's nephew from Michigan. He was here 20 years ago as a child and now he's back for the first time in all these years with his wife and two boys nearly the age he was when he visited. They're all anticipating lots of adventures. Don and Iris scare the kids with a story about an elephant attack on a Game Ranch employee a few years back. Iris puts the kids chances of surviving their vacation at 60%. Don nods agreement.

Other than that, not much adventure for me today. I get a few things done in the way of computer and Internet stuff for the Art Gallery.

Lunching with Germans : February 13, 2007

The German doctor collects me soon after I wake up and he drives me 1/4 mile to his house. All the homes here are fenced and gated but his property is unique in that the gate opens right onto the wide open game ranch, the area where the wild-ish animals roam freely. The other homes are on side roads that are theoretically easily accessible by the animals, but they seldom go in there.

These days, the doctor is retired but in the past he used to come to Kenya often, both to help the people and, naturally, because of his own love for Africa. I notice a picture of him on the wall as a much younger man attending to a young African mother and child. Iris told me that he's very good about calling upon his contacts in Germany for the donation of older medical equipment and also needed medicine.

I'm here to help him a little with his computers. The house is truly amazing. It's his dream home that he built in 1998. The center of the house is an open-air courtyard. Opposite the front door, across the courtyard which includes a fountain, is his expansive two-story library and office. And beyond that is his magnifent view of Mt. Kenya.

This is a good place to live. If I lived here I could just about learn to do without Internet access. It's that good.

After lunch on the patio facing the mountain, his wife shows me around the huge property. Way in the back is an electrified fence - which one absolutely needs here when one's property is up against the national park. That's because of the elephants. Don said that despite everybody's best efforts, elephants get onto the property a couple of times a year and it's a real problem getting them out again.

Anyway, I am fascinated to see wooden steps going up to a viewing platform with comfortable chairs and drinks tables. They can sit here and watch the elephants at play in the mud below them, right at the edge of their back yard! What a life. I ask, and they promise to call the nephew to hurry over here with the kids the next time the elephants appear.

I walk home. It's only a ten minute walk through the game ranch. It's quite a different experience seeing zebra and wildebeast at eye level on foot with nothing but flowing grass to stand between us.

Along the way, I pause to have a look at the two pygmy hippos. They're only doing what hippos usually do, sitting quietly mostly submerged in water.

Pygmy Hippos at Wikipedia. I've encouraged Iris to get onto Wikipedia and contribute her knowledge and her photos. She is agreeable, but it's a question of finding sufficient time.

I also get some close up photos of the zebroids. I'm very proud of my achievement, having crossed the wilderness unscathed, unbitten, untrampled. I boast of it to everybody who will listen. (Nobody is impressed.)

In the late afternoon, Iris wants to go take some "natural habitat" photos for her upcoming presentation in India and I ride along. She collects her very trusted employee, Bongee. He's going to show us exactly the place where the famous elephant attack took place.

There were two female elephants found to be on the game ranch, in a densely forested area, and a few employees went to chase them out. They had no idea there was also an angry bull elephant waiting in the forest. They ran away from it, naturally, and hid off to one side of the path. The elephant chased them but, luckily, missed when they jumped to the side. Not luckily, it turned back. It charged past Bongee, our guide today, and went directly for another man from the Conservancy, Muraya.

Muraya hid over there

Bongee points to where Muraya hid from the rampaging bull elephant.

The details at this point become unspeakably gory...

Around this time there is only the grievously injured Muraya with the elephant and the others are further back. But they've still got their radios. The injured man is hiding behind a fallen log in a position where the bull elephant cannot get at him any more. Bungee had shot his rifle hoping to frighten the elephant away but they're not real bullets. And they did not have the desired effect.

On the radio, with all the ranch listening, the Muraya reports that he is safe for the moment but his intestines have spilled out of his torn abdomen. Despite this, he warns the other men to stay back because it's not safe for them while the elephant is still nearby. Iris, meanwhile, orders a mattress to be placed into the back of a truck and brought to the vicinity; and makes a call to the highly respected local Indian doctor to be ready.

By this point, as Don tells the story, everybody has accepted that Muraya has no chance of survival but they go through all the appropriate motions just as if there were even the slightest possibility. The doctor receives his patient. He operates on the man - in far less than ideal circumstances, as you might imagine - for the next six hours.

Dense forest at Mt. Kenya

Inside the fence is the Game Ranch. [Usually only] outside are the elephants. Trees are cut back to keep out leopards.

Next morning they go to visit the dying man and find him sitting up in bed! Turns out the heroic surgery has saved his life. Within a few days he is quite thoroughly enjoying not only having nurses to order around but also enjoying his new status as a living legend. When, a couple of weeks later, he goes to his home village to recuperate, he receives literally hundreds of awe-struck visitors.

He's still employed at the ranch but, as luck would have it, he is away on leave at present. I still hope to meet him when he comes back.

And this place is where it all happened. I could never have imagined that elephants could navigate this dense forest but Iris and Bongee's insistence overcome my doubts. So, naturally, I'm a little worried now because there could be more elephants here, who knows?

The forest really is beautiful, and there is a river nearby. The fence has electric wires on the outside and the river is beyond it. Their property line actually extends halfway across the river so sometimes the fence reaches there so as to allow the bongos, and other animals, access to drinking water. This forest terrain is ideal for the mountain bongo and so it serves as a sort of halfway house between the Game Ranch and the true wildnerness for bongos about to be released into the park at Mt. Kenya.

Iris gets the pictures that she needs for her presentation.

As we walk along the fence, I look both ways and ask her what are we going to do if an elephant appears. She says she'll figure it out if and when the time comes. I find only slight comfort in this statement and fold my arms across my belly.

On the way back, we stop to see the hippos because they happen to be out of the water and eating. When they see Iris they come over and open their mouths wide eager for her to drop something sweet into there. But she doesn't have any sugar cane with her today. Their open sloppy mouths are perfectly hideous!

These two pygmy hippos were a gift from the president of Liberia to the president of Kenya, but they were very poorly cared for by the government and they ended up here. Now that they've been restored to good health, the government would like them back.

Hungry hippos

The two hippos were excited to see Iris. They held open their mouths hoping for sugar cane.

Rhinos asleep

An inseparable rhino couple, asleep before dark.

And we make another quick stop to see the rhinos asleep next to one another just before dark. They really do seem an inseparable couple. They always come back to this spot at night, which is more easily guarded. And they've got their own mud hole to wallow in here. And, of course, their manure pile. "Best fertilizer manure in the world," says Iris.

Lions! - February 14, 2007

In 2002, Iris got a call from somebody in the Wildlide Dept. in Nairobi. There were two orphan baby lion cubs in need of a home. That whole story is here: Lions in My Lap. Today, the lions are nearly full grown and we go to meet them. First we collect the nephew and his family.

Bedroom in the shape of Mt. Kenya

A bedroom with a view of lions

It's really unbelievable. The Italians have a perfectly splendid vacation home which includes a cheetah enclosure in the back. One aging cheetah lives there. Iris looks after him for them. In addition, they bought another large lot across the road from their main home. A narrow bridge spans the road giving convenient access to their bedroom. The bedroom is a fake-rock replica of Mt. Kenya, two stories high.

And the balcony upstairs gives a view of their private lion enclosure, where we go to see the two now-grown formerly-cuddly lion siblings.

Iris - who is expert in such matters - says this enclosure is as good as life gets for captive lions. The Italians spared no expense and Iris saw to it that their money was spent in the best interests of the lions.

We are greeted by the lion keeper. The enclosure is a high and very secure fence including electric wires. Inside are some smaller areas which can allow certain areas to be closed off at need. And in the center is some more fake rock which allows the lions to climb around. There is an area in the center which is accessible through an underground tunnel. It's all extremely elaborate.

The keeper appears from the center structure with a bucket of meat, and uses it to lure the female over to where we're all watching fascinated. It's not the usual feeding time and the male cannot be enticed to move. So we all walk around in the direction of the male, instead.

... which is when it gets pretty interesting.

Up to now, the lioness has been interested only in the bucket of meat. Both lions have been carefully trained- first by Iris when they were tiny and later on by the keeper - to stay away from food until they hear the shout of "GO!" so she has kept well back from the keeper and his bucket.

But now, as we move along the fence along in the direction of the male, she notices for the first time the younger of the two boys.

Lioness stalking a child

Lioness shows extreme fascination with a meal-sized boy.

I'm watching her closely, because she's fascinating of course, when suddenly she drops into the grass and instantly becomes extremely intensely focused on the boy. She has gone unmistakably to her stalking mode. Just like you see on TV when they're working their way closer to a zebra or something.

Iris is alarmed. She points out how the lioness' attention flicks momentarily to the electric wire and appears to be weighing her chances of being able to get through it to the child. Iris keeps the smaller of the two boys to her side, further from the fence. And I've got the other boy to my side. The lioness follows us, continuing in its hunter mode.

The older boy doesn't go without some considerable notice but the younger one is clearly her preferred prey.

Iris is worried the lioness may lose control and make a dive at the fence. She orders the boys back to the front.

I stay behind with Iris. She is here to take some more pictures for her India presentation, and I'm here to take pictures too. We go on to where the male lion has, all this time, ignored everything and everybody. He still doesn't have his mane but he does look more imposing than the female.

It's hard to believe that Iris used to play with them on her bed.

Iris points out the tree where they climb up and spend much of their day gazing out at the wildebeeste and zebra and bongo on the Game Ranch. She says they're fascinated watching these animals.

I ask what would happen if she pushed a live zebra into their enclosure? She says it would be messy because they've never killed before. And zebra are strong, they can kick hard, so there would be a strong chance of injury to the lions.

Young male lion

Iris used to play with this lion and his sister on her bed. That would be imprudent now.

Iris with Cheetah Sultan

Sultan and Iris greet one another

Iris tells us that there was a time after they were transferred to this enclosure when she would go inside with them just like the keeper is in there now. One time, she was climbing on the rocks with them when she fell. This, she says, was a scary moment.

She immediately shouted at them harshly, "NO!" - which may have helped to deter their natural instinct to attack vunerable prey. She did not continue visiting them after that, and she would not dare to go in there now. They show no indication that they remember her now at all.

We thank the lion keeper - brave man! And we all walk back across the road to the main house and to the cheetah enclosure in back.

Iris goes inside with the keeper. She rubs the cheetah's face hard and he loves it. This is Sultan. He is happy to see her. The cheetah does pace back and forth across in front of us, either inspecting us or showing off or both.

Sultan shows no special interest in the children.

The ageing cheetah is a little too skinny, says Iris. After consulting with the keeper for a while in Swahili she instructs him to increase Sultan's food to a little more than the usual 2 kilos per day.

Newborn baby bongo

You could adopt and name this baby bongo

After dropping the family, Iris takes me for a look at her Valentine's Day present. A new baby bongo was born early this morning! It's just a two minute walk from my apartment. Mother and child are doing well.

Nobody knew when exactly to expect delivery so it turns out the baby was born right next to the caracal cats' fence. The bongos are perfectly calm but the cats are beside themselves, pacing and staring anxiously. Iris radios for somebody to bring some bones to the cats so they will have a distraction.

The bongo will be given a name when it's been "adopted" by a donor to the Wildlife Conservancy. I don't know the going rate. Information: Donations to the Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy. Nobody wants to disturb the baby yet so its gender remains undetermined.

I enjoy lunch with Don and Iris and two visiting vetrinarians from Nairobi. They're here to do some check-ups of animals in the orphanage, to trim the hooves of the American bongos, and to perform a certain delicate procedure on the young male cape buffalo. He's not quite so male this afternoon as he was this morning.

They talk about all kinds of things. Including the old days with Joy Adamson and Elsa - who may be the most famous lion ever - of Born Free fame. They swear to me that one Elsa story that never made it into the book or the movie is that Elsa killed one of the Adamsons' cooks.

Iris says when it's a lions' dinner time, then dinner better be ready. Or else.

They all strongly recommend that I see the old John Wayne classic film, Hatari!" (In the 1962 movie, John Wayne has the job that Don Hunt had in real life - that of capturing wild animals to stock zoos!)

They also talk a lot about silly people who get hold of wild animals and think they can take proper care of them. Sometimes the Animal Orphange ends up getting posession of such animals. In particular, a lot of ill-prepared people end up with baby chimps, such as picking them up on the side of the highway after the mother has been struck by a car. They try to raise them as if they were children, with unhappy consequences. It's all very funny. My only contribution is to remind them of the old Ronald Reagan film, Bedtime for Bonzo.

They also talk about how hard it is dealing with governments on issues relating to wild animals. Iris is trying to breed cheetahs here while in Namibia it's illegal to breed them. She and Don recently visited a facility there which has about 80 cheetahs, with the males kept far removed from the females. If the people running that place are discovered to have bred cheetahs then the government could legally come in and kill all of them.

But the government also will not allow them to be exported, as Iris would like. It's a terrible mess.

Something similar is happening with Asiatic Lions in India - which is the the concern of the conference that Iris will soon be attending. The lions exist in the wild only in one Indian state, and that state has too many. For the health and well-being of the animals they should have another disctinct locale where they can live in the wild, and there is exactly such a place available. Only it's located in another state. So the first state's officials are reluctant to let any lions be moved. Messy again.

Don and Iris have been fighting such battles as these for 40 years in Africa.

April-May 2012 Africa
Travel Journal

April, 2009 Korea/Japan
Travel Journal

Page 1 - Arriving in Cameroon >

Page 2 - In Cameroon >

Page 3 - Leaving Cameroon >

Page 4 - Arriving at Mt. Kenya >

Page 5 - On Safari in Kenya >

Page 6 - Leaving Kenya >

South Africa Journal >

I took all of these pictures. Most of them link to very much larger versions of same.