HAKUNA MATATA PHILOSOPHY
On the first of June, Kenya celebrates its Independence Day. This year, Independence day came on a Friday and that meant it was going to be a long weekend. One of the first things you will notice about Kenyans is our penchant for a good time… and oh boy! can we party. A Kenyan calendar consists of about twelve public holidays including religious holidays. As a matter of fact, the first of last month was a public holiday. It was Labour day.
Of course in anticipation of the long weekend holiday, people begin to make plans. A few female trotters and I came together and made a weekend getaway for ourselves all through the internet. It was Rioba’s idea and Wendy got us a great deal for a Taita Taveta trip. We finally met for the first time a week prior to our Taita Taveta travels on an Instagram meetup with Victoria thestylishtrotter . She had just landed in Nairobi as one of her world tour destinations. Intriguing, right?!
Then the day had finally dawned on us.
MEETING THE GIRLS
5.45 in the morning, I had just gotten to our meet up point, in front of the Bata store at the Hilton hotel, right on time. The spot is a popular meet up point. There were other groups going to places like the Maasai Mara meeting up there too.
Temi and Welma had already arrived. This was the first time meeting up with these two lovely ladies. A few minutes later, Shiku arrived. She was dressed prepared for the cold carrying a sturdy backpack. You could tell she had finessed the lifestyle of travel. It was quite a chilly morning and I may have been a little under dressed for the weather. Finally Wendy followed by Elsie and Rioba joined us and shortly after, Shkwela. We were welcomed by our kind driver who also doubled as our tour guide. The eight of us packed ourselves comfortably in the four by four van. Thus begun our journey to a well deserved Taita Taveta weekend off.
DAY 1: THE GIRLS, A SAFARI AND A HIT & RUN
We stopped by a petrol station to pick up Tobias, our host and the manager of River Lumi Resort, in Taita Taveta , where we were going to call home for two nights. The long trip begun, people introduced themselves, conversations and jokes flowed freely. We knew we would all get along. The group had very different personalities. We had the expressive, outgoing, reserved and shy, but all were very kind and easy going.
WHAT WERE THEY DOING?
Landscapes had changed and we were obviously not in the city, let alone a town anymore. In the distance you could see a few herds of grazing wild animals. Then we spotted an overturned truck at the side of the road.
Fortunately, nobody seemed hurt, actually there wasn’t a soul anywhere close to that truck. A few meters away from the lorry, there were two ‘matatus’ packed at the side of the road and four men suspiciously kneeling at the ditch. They were butchering a giraffe, a damn giraffe! So it seemed like the heavily loaded truck overturned after hitting the giraffe on the highway. One thing that still baffles me to date is how those men got those machetes that early in the morning. Also, where were they taking all that meat they got from the dead giraffe on the side of the road?
WILD CARNATIONS AND A TRAIN
The wild is a beautiful place. It’s quiet, uninhabited, clean, unique and serene. We spotted the famed SGR train moving fast on its tracks on its way to the Kenyan coast of Mombasa. Noticeably the grounds had been decorated by white weeds that stretched for miles in farms and wild grass. It looked very beautiful and could have fooled me for a plantation. The guide/driver was keen to note that the weed was a nightmare for farmers. It stretched from Athi River to farms in Taita Taveta.
ANIMALS AND HILLS AT THE SAFARI
Hours had passed, climate and vegetation had changed. It was hotter, drier and sandier. We stopped for lunch and a restroom break at Mtito Andei for an hour. Afterwards, we got into the car for a two minute drive to the entrance of Tsavo West National Park. I have never grown tired of a safari game drive. Each one is unique in it’s own right. In this particular one, the ease of animal sightings combined with the beautiful landscape did it for me. We were all in awe!
A TREK IN MZIMA SPRINGS
Finally, we got to the beautiful Mzima Springs. We trekked around the park, and I can promise you no one wanted to leave. The lake sources its water from an underground river. You can imagine how clear the lake is. Everything was so calm. A huge contrast from the city. The girls involuntarily conversed in soft whispers perhaps influenced by their surroundings.
There were monkeys jumping from tree to tree, crocodiles slyly camouflaged as rocks in the lake and hippos grunting at each other. It was getting late and we needed to start heading out of the National park to the resort.
CAR PROBLEMS, TANZANIA AND ELEPHANTS
Unfortunately, we got into some engine problems with our car at the exit of the park at Ziwani gate. A few good lads helped us out. We switched vans and begun heading ‘home’. This trip definitely requires a 4×4 vehicle.
Taita Taveta is very close to Tanzania. That meant we were very close to the border of Tanzania. Safaricom was kind enough to send us a welcome message to Tanzania.
The murram road to the resort was quite bumpy, but the sight of the full moon, shimmering stars in the wide open sky, and elephants in grazing in the bushes made it a little bit pleasurable for us. After having dinner and a shower, my room mate Shiku and I were out for the day.
DAY 2: WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD
We woke up very well rested at eight in the morning. I jumped out of bed and walked out for some fresh air in anticipation to view Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest free-standing mountain in the world. It was a cloudy morning and the mountain was covered. The air was crisp and the best wake up call I had had in a while. I took a shower and went to meet the girls at the gazebo where we had a bountiful breakfast.
LAKE JIPE & USAMBARA MOUNTAINS
10 in the morning we left the resort on our way to Lake Jipe. Out on the bumpy road we were… a few of us having a little drinking party of our own. We could see the Usambara Mountains in the Tanzanian territory as clear as day.
The picturesque Usambara Mountains are over two billion years and stretch to about 90 kilometers long. The block mountains were formed through faulting and uplifting. They are part of the Uluguru mountains in Tanzania.
The road to Lake Jipe was bumpy, red and sandy. There wasn’t a clear path road and at times we had to drive into the forest and create our own path… it was quite an adventure of it’s own. The locals use the lake for fishing. Across the shore lies Tanzania, under the Usambara Mountains. Unfortunately, the locals fish out even small fishlings instead of returning them back to the lake. The lake is also home to hippos, but we didn’t get to see any. We got to see a small girl’s catch of the day, a catfish.
After negotiating a reasonable price for an hour’s boat ride, we went to explore the lake.
OUT OF TIME & A CASTLE
It was well past lunch time. We had spent so much time at the lake and we had to forego some of the activities and sights we had planned to see earlier. We passed by one of them, the Grogon castle. It is a huge mansion at the top of the hill.
We got back home and had a quick lunch. One thing was for sure, we all wanted to see Lake Chala and we were very determined.
STOP US ON OUR TRACKS, LAKE CHALA
It was one hour to sunset and we jumped into the van on our way to Lake Chala. Thankfully, it was only a twenty minutes drive. The van ascended up a rocky hill. Due to inaccessibility, we had to trek up the hill the rest of the way. It was semi-arid, nothing exceptional to see from where we stood.
We heard Wendy shriek from the top of the hill. “Oh! My! God!”, she shouted.
I was still setting up my camera with Rioba next to the van. Everyone else was sprinting up the hill and finally each of the girls let out their own clamour of amazement. We followed shortly behind.
Inching up the gravel filled path of the hill felt like this gradual lift to an entire new world, enshrouded in green tropical vegetation illustrating the hushed stories of this gem.
There are a few places in the world that can put forward an authentic, warranted claim to be the most beautiful place on earth. Among the ones that claim that honour, you would usually see crowds of tourists, travelers and overpriced souvenir booths. Not lake Chala though. We were the only visitors and travelers there, and what a view!
For a minute, everything stopped for all of us. We just stood there and took it all in. Then, in true millennial spirit, we used technology to make the moments last. Hence the multitude of photos here. You should have seen out Instagram stories that day. This place should be the pride of Taita Taveta.
We hiked down to the lake. The water was clear, combined with the reflection of the sunset light… golden hour. The water was calm and home to a few red crabs. I can speak for all of us when I say we will forever remember Lake Chala.
CAMPERS AND SECRETS
Toby had promised to start a bonfire for the eight of us when we got back home. On arrival, we were met by a crowd of people pitching tents at the garden and a huge white overland truck.
We showered off the dust and sweat from the busy, adventurous day and had our dinner at the dining hall. Shkwela, Rih, Wendy, Shiku and I met in our room for a few drinks as we waited for the bonfire. We shared a lot of stories and laughs as girls do. Then Temi joined us. Elsie and Welma had already fallen asleep. We headed out to our cosy bonfire for games and guess what? … more indulgence.
A lot of secrets were shared, open even to the campers who later joined in the bonfire. The party went on till the wee hours of the morning. The last person was going to bed at four in the morning.
Needless to say, it was quite a day.
DAY 3: ADIEU! TAITA TAVETA
Mount Kilimanjaro was out in all it’s glory. Everyone out with cameras and smart phones snapping away at the beautiful sight of the mountain. What a farewell!
We made a few friends from the camping group. They packed and left for Lake Chala and we chilled out in the garden.
Six of us walked to River Lumi… the other two were paying for the previous night’s sins.
The town is named after the river. It is a short stream with very clear water next to a cattle dip. Mount Kilimanjaro was still out. The snowy Kibo peak looked stunning reflecting the sunrise alongside Mawenzi peak.
We got back to the resort had breakfast and begun checking out. It was time for us to head out, back to the city life, back to our normal lives. I can’t wait for the next travel. I’m so glad we murdered the stereotype that girl teams can’t get along.
Taita Taveta is a beautiful place. I would highly recommend paying a visit there.
Have you ever visted Taita Taveta? Which was your favourite spot?