Kenya - Memories of a Gap Year
Friends of Bradfield Travel Award contributed to a very special year
I was very lucky to receive a Travel Award from the Friends of Bradfield. It enabled me to see a part of the world in a depth that I would have never have had the chance to otherwise and kick-started my later travels onto Asia and New Zealand. Here is a brief summary of my time in Kenya.
At the beginning of 2019, I flew out to Nairobi, Kenya as a gap student at Pembroke House School. The culture shock on day one was hard to ignore, as it was as foreign to Bradfield as you can get! The bustle and madness of Nairobi, created an amazing atmosphere. Pembroke House is near the town of Gilgil, the highlights of which include a large Army base, Chawakas supermarket and the Gilgil Country Club. Chawakas was no Sainsburys, and yet despite being small sold everything from TVs and fridges, to hammers and garden chairs. A key feature of Gilgil is the ‘Matumba’ in which other than the mountains of fresh fruit, huge piles of clothes from all walks of life are sold at bargain prices. Ralph Lauren shirts at 80p are a great deal!
Pembroke House School has existed in Gilgil for 90 years, and teaches the UK curriculum. My main task was help in class with the children in the boarding house and also teach hockey. It is safe to say, the U9s did not have a 100% success rate! The school trips were very memorable. ‘Hog Charge’ involved bringing hundreds of children from across Kenya to Nairobi in order to compete in teams, in a bike race across the stunning African scenery. Each school had a stand, and were asked to do something creative with it. Ours was about soaking everyone with icy cold water, which when under the midday sun on the equator, was very welcome! The entire event was a brilliant idea, very enjoyable for pupils, parents and staff. Accommodation for the gap year students was camping and I secured the bed in the back of a pickup truck, looking up at the African night sky. Great until it transpired the next day, also being bitten by hundreds of mosquitos!
Another trip was the staff cricket weekend. The drive to the cricket was around 3-4 hours and the tarmac roads soon turned into dust, and all signs of life gradually faded away. We arrived in Laikipia, at a ranch owned in part by the Vice-President of Kenya, a 60,000 acre property, which was to host the cricket game. The heat was intense and the pitch was incredible, a strip of hessian on the ground as the square, some white painted rocks to denote the bounds, and in the distance, nothing but a solitary tree and the curvature of the earth. The ranch is home to a special Zimbabwe type of cattle, which also provided the BBQ for the first night. A Kenyan tradition of sorts is ‘Sundowners’, and on the first night, the cricketers and all the families headed in a convoy of pickup trucks and jeeps into the bush for this event. Once we found an open stretch, we watched the zebras in the distance and I witnessed one of the best sunsets I am likely to see in my life.
On a trip into the Soysambu Game Conservancy, we met some parents from the school who live inside the reserve. Their house was an old colonial slice of England in the bush, with a swimming pool that drained off into a watering hole for the animals. The lake that is at the centre of the conservancy and is home to thousands of flamingos and provides water to the countless Zebra, Giraffe and Water Buffalo among many other animals. It was an incredible place. Half term was spent at ‘The Coast’ as it is simply known. Landing in Malindi, the sea was as warm as bath water, with stunning white sands and an army of local ‘Boda-boda’ drivers. A boda boda is a motorcycle taxi service, and for around £2.50 will take you anywhere. A highlight of the coast was in the nearby lagoon, in which double decker barges will take you in and around the tributaries and mangroves. We then flew to the stunning tea fields. Finlays tea plantation is vast and incredibly beautiful, surrounded by jungle and waterfalls. We landed on the first airstrip I had seen that was on a steep hill going upwards, then finished our visit with a trek through the rainforest to one of the amazing waterfalls.
I made great friends, and incredible memories, ones that I will always remember.