Sagana

Rafiki means “Friend” in Swahili

Sagana is a small town located in the Kirinyaga West district of Central Kenya, 100km (52 mi) north of Nairobi.  Its name is derived from the Tana River, also called  Thagana, which is the longest river in Kenya at 708 km (440 miles).

Around 10am, Mital started crowing like a rooster and we slowly woke up one by one in our cozy tents.  We had a full leisure day with no set itinerary to follow for once, and so we were all looking forward to doing a whole lot of nothing.

William, our caretaker, had bought some fresh produce from the local farms for our breakfast.  We cooked omelets and toast (Natalya made omelet toast!) over a small camp stove.

After breakfast, we wandered around the area and headed to check out the small waterfall nearby.  There were large boulders scattered around an open grassy field, and it resembled the kind of tranquil and remote place people would go to practice yoga.

Roza found a small area with a thatched roof covering and a wooden chair overlooking the waterfall, and she settled down to read a book.  I ventured to the edge of the Tana River, and chilled on a rock as I observed two young men washing their clothes in the water.

Later, the group went for a swim in the Tana River in a small natural pool.  The water was extremely baridi (cold) and it probably wasn’t the best idea for me to go in the water while I was still a bit sick.  However, I never pass up the opportunity to do “Little Mermaid” poses with hair flips.

After playing around in the water and riding the currents, we laid out on a rock to sunbathe and warm up.  I dozed off fairly quickly as I was still feeling ill and exhausted… but I still don’t regret going in the water!

In the afternoon, we took a drive out to town to buy supplies for dinner, and I had my head sticking out of the window the whole ride to try to cool down my fever.  We stopped by a small stand to buy waters and sodas, and the shop owner was so happy with our purchases that she offered to accompany us to the market to buy groceries.

She took us to a local market full of randomly assorted wooden stalls parked in the dirt.  Everyone turned to stare at the strange Msungus (literally “European/white person” but loosely refers to all foreigners) who entered the market, as it was apparently rare for non locals to stop there.  As we walked through the marketplace, we garnered an entourage of little boys who were tailing us out of curiosity.

Natalya and Roza took charge of the shopping expedition while Herman and I launched a photo session of our entourage.  Mital pointed to Herman and told the boys “Kichina” (Chinese) in Swahili.  In response, the boys immediately started doing kung fu poses for the camera.  Our models were all extremely excited to be photographed and would laugh happily upon seeing their images on my camera.

It was clear these children had not been exposed to many tourists as they all lived on local farms.  None of the children were begging for money; all they wanted from us was for us to shoot more photographs and show them the results.

Mital then announced to the group that he would buy them all candy and the kids all cheered loudly and took off running towards the candy stand.  Mital attempted to get them to stand in a single file line to receive their candy piece, but it quickly fell into disarray as the boys scrambled over one another to grab at any candy piece that fell onto the ground.  Mital then handed the rest of the candy bag to a girl who was calmly standing nearby.  She looked to be the oldest of all the kids, and Mital told her to distribute it amongst the girls.  The girl took the candy and walked off as a group of girls quickly surrounded her to protect their prize from the swarming group of boys.

After we left the local market, we drove to the Treetops Hotel, which is a famous hotel located in the heart of Kenya.  The hotel originally was built into the tops of the trees of Aberdare National Park as a tree house.  It has since expanded to a 50 room hotel, and now serves as a luxury accommodation for the rich and famous.  The President of Kenya and important ministers all stay here, and it is also where Princess Elizabeth was visiting in 1952 and acceded to the throne upon the death of her father George VI.  The resting place of Lord Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts, is also here.

We strolled through the pleasant and sprawling gardens, and approached a small area that was constructed for guests to explore how natives used to live in the area.  Built onto the dark red sand were several mud huts, and each hut had its own purpose.  There was a hut for sleeping, another to hold the armory, one for the kitchen, and even a hut for sheep.  We later had some tea at the local cafe until our driver Richard came to pick us up.

We returned to the campsite around 8:30pm, and we started to prepare dinner with the fresh organize produce we bought from the local market earlier.  We made salad, roasted vegetables, and had green bananas for dessert.  The clouds had cleared, and for once we were able to see the bright stars of the Milky Way overhead.  We sat around the campfire listening to the rushing water of the Tana River and the cackling of the fire until we all dozed off and headed to bed.

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