Anya (a fellow VSO volunteer based in Kampala) Ann (Anya’s neighbour ) and I set off early one morning on a road trip to Nairobi where Anya and I were to take part in an intensive VSO workshop and Ann was to visit a number of HIV positive children she had supported who had been adopted by Kenyan families. Ann is an impressive woman, she has raised five children and in addition to a full time job spends most of her spare time working for a charity that supports and mentors HIV positive children in Kampala . You can read more about Ann on Anya’s blog
We soon divided up the driving roles – Anya was the weaving through the traffic mainly lorries and diving off road to avoid jams and I specialised in overtaking the vast convoys of trucks that were on the road. Ann was our lookout for the speed bumps that appeared without warning shouting out big mountain, little mountain, serious mountain.
We reached Nakuru at 7 pm, Ann caught a bus onward to Nairobi and Anya and I stayed the night before visiting Lake Nakuru national park the next morning.
We drove through the park around the lake and saw flamingos , rhinoceroses and lots of zebra amongst other animals. We scouted out a couple of campsites which appeared completely open and wild right next to the water’s edge.
After Lake Nakuru it was back on the main road to visit Hells Gate national park for the next night.
A beautiful spot consisting of a winding road though a gorge with sandstone cliff that enthusiasts could climb culminating in a river gorge. You could drive cycle or walk through the park although I would have been a little nervous with the last option given that there were a lot of large single buffalo around who can be aggressive. We camped in a campsite on the side of the gorge overlooking he valley.
A perfect spot sitting by a campfire looking a the animals grazing below drinking our gin and mango juice and eating cold chicken salad. The next day before departing to Nairobi we walked through the gorge being wary of flash floods and the boiling hot water coming out of the rocks in some places.
Some of the route involved scrambling and climbing – I now know how to shimmy up a narrow rock cleft !
We arrived muddy and smelling of wood smoke in the early afternoon at the smart hotel for the workshop and were able to hang the tent out to dry around the swimming pool .
On the return journey we were joined by Ann and Nancy, a VSO staff member from the UK who was visiting her family in Kisumu for the first time in 3 years.
Our conversation turned to HIV/ Aids as Ann filled us in on the young people she had visited in Nairobi and how well they were doing. She talked about the psychological effects of living with HIV/ aids on young teenagers. Many of them get very depressed and have survivor’s guilt and stop taking their medication. Much of her time is spent counselling them. We discussed how the rate of infection was rising again in Uganda from the low point in 2006 of 6.4% to 7.3% last year. Nancy recounted how many in Kenya especially when she was growing up thought of HIV aids as a Ugandan disease that wouldn’t affect them but that was not the case, especially in Western Kenya where infection rates reached 20 % at the height. Male circumcision whilst effective in reducing risk by approximately 40 % has had a kickback effect in that the men circumcised think they are risk free and then indulge un unprotected sex. Preventing mother to child transmission is also seen as a key step but there are mixed views on whether a recent law passed in Uganda criminalising the spread of HIV is a positive step or will reduce the number of people coming forward for testing and treatment.
Although HIV Aids is a major cause of death in Uganda along with TB and Malaria, the biggest cause of death is cancer …..but that is for another blog .
We dropped Nancy off in Kisumu with her family and Ann off at the bus park to get a bus back to Kampala and headed down to the lakeside to find somewhere to stay and supper. We found both a small , cheap guest house to sleep and a much more expensive lodge on the lakeshore where we had a delicious fish supper. The next day an early start arriving in Kampala in the early afternoon feeling very satisfied with our adventure .
There had been much discussion amongst the VSO team about whether it was ‘safe’ for Anya and I to drive. In the end they decided yes and in retrospect, given the current security threats at airports, probably much less risky than flying .