Travel

Whisky in the wilderness

At night, you zip up the tent and listen to chirping birds and forget you are in the city.  photo | courtesy
At night, you zip up the tent and listen to chirping birds and forget you are in the city. photo | courtesy 

It’s almost midday, a little boy rides a bicycle in his little action hero pyjamas.

It’s very cold, 16oC, but he isn’t in anything but his blue action hero pyjamas. But then again he’s British so he’s seen far worse weather.

He pedals his bike on the concrete pathway, through the neat hedges and through the silence, past the green lawns and a couple of garden tents where probably some campers are still curled in their sleeping bags, mouths open.

He goes past the lawned playground area, past the trampolines, volleyball pitch, table tennis, table football, pool table and a small and colourful kiddie house, cycles past metal sculptures of a wildebeest with head bowed down as if can’t just bear the sight for a child in that cold without a jacket, then past another sculpture of a moody buffalo that isn’t moved by the little boy.

He then stops briefly at this massive pond and looks down at the fishes in the clear water, or maybe he’s looking at his reflection, it’s hard to tell, after all he’s a good looking child.

Endless greenery

I was watching this boy while seated on my canvas chair on the veranda at Wildebeest Eco Camp on Mokoyeti Road, Langata. Yes, that’s the thing; it doesn’t feel like you are in Langata, let alone Nairobi. It feels like you are deep in Maasai Mara or Amboseli.

Apart from the occasional drone of passing vehicles on the Southern bypass beyond, it’s silent.

It’s a well kept secret (sort of) that opened its doors in 2012 and consists of mid-range accommodation facilities ideal for backpackers and families.

But what is unique about it is the bush-in-the-city aura, the feeling of getting lost from the hubbub of the city while knowing that you can drive 20 minutes out of the camp and be back in the madness of the city if you chose to.

But you won’t. Not just yet. Now you stare at the yellow-back acacia trees that mark the property, the garden of flowers, the brush and the endless greenery, the swimming pool and the artificial pond.

Birds complete this vista; the giant kingfishers, weaver birds, pied kingfishers, black kite, crested cranes and the noisy hadada ibis that won’t shut its beak.

Occasionally a bunch of teenage cheeky monkeys will amble by off to monkey around somewhere at the main building that is on two wooden decks built by the proprietor, Alan Wickham, wearing a bomber jacket and balancing a full grown Jackson’s Chameleon on his hand to show his son on the bike.

There are bikes for those who want to ride out to Giraffe Park to be kissed by giraffes or to David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage to adopt an elephant.

Or you could just sink on your canvas seat like yours truly and soak it all in.

Earlier I had breakfast on the patio of the open restaurant overlooking the pond and the swimming pool (dinners are quite romantic if you bring someone) and there I watched a lovely Alan’s blind dog — Baney— stumble about.

He’s a beautiful mix of Labrador and Alsatian dog, white, and has the sexiness of a wolf. He’s 10 years old (that must be a lot in dog years) and has snow white eyes.

He looks like something from a Harry Potter flick.

“I think he has some sort of genetic disorder,” Alan says ruefully, their other dog Fatty, lying under his chair. Together with his wife Lynita Harris, they run that tight haven and seem to be having a whale of time doing it.

I don’t want to describe this place as pristine or tranquil or any of those desperate adjectives that one can be tempted to use to describe a place like this.

Glenlivet and greenery

So in the evening, I went to their bar which is basically a small room adjacent to the kitchen. There is a small silver bell on a window that you ring before someone comes and attends to you.

So I rang that bell and ordered a Glenlivet which I carried back to my canvas chair and waited for darkness and the lovely cacophony of froggy croaks from the pond.
There the penny finally dropped.

Camping in the city is more than just the silence and the birds and the flowers and the greenery.

To me beneath all that, it’s innermost soul was revealed almost metaphorically by that boy in pyjamas, riding his bike and ignoring the cold.

It’s what that boy represented; innocence. Such a place evokes a purity of innocence that nature brings and it’s that boy who saw it for what it is and embraced it.

He didn’t have a phone on him to distract him; he had his bike and he had trees and birds in his ears and fresh air in his lungs. That boy was present. And I hated him a little for it.