As people all over the world were contemplating if it was safe to travel again, Nahashon Diaz and his two friends were planning the ultimate post-pandemic trip around Kenya.
Staying at home was becoming deadening and the affordable travel prices coupled with the lack of crowds in major tourism destinations made the trip worth a shot. And so on December 30, 2020, they left on the 29-day road trip, coming back on January 28, 2021.
“Our day-to-day lives can make us forget that there’s a whole world out there waiting to be discovered,” Mr Diaz, says. “When we decide to leave our homes to explore, we have nothing to lose but everything to gain.”
During the month-long trip, Mr Diaz and his friends went through 18 major towns in 35 counties, covering 8,225 kilometres, from the sandy award-winning beaches of Diani, through the scenic Rift Valley, to the 40-degree temperatures that characterise Turkana County.
They hiked serrated mountains and marvelled as the green vegetation thinned into dry lands and finally into the desert, slept in hotels and tents under the cloudless, starry skies to the sounds of wild animals a stone throw away from where their heads lay, met and spoke to hundreds of people and refused to eat out of boxes opting for local meals only.
The ideation to actualisation of the trip took three months. How did they manage to pull it off? The key was in proper planning and curtailing greed, he reveals.
“We had an agenda and a timeframe. To visit as many Unesco sites and national parks as possible within 30 days. This is where curtailing greed comes in. The truth is, you cannot see everything at once. Choose what you’ll see today and leave the rest for tomorrow.” the 30-year-old who is named after Bartolomeu Dias, a Portuguese mariner and explorer, says.
The first leg of the trip began with hiking Mt Suswa before heading to Maasai Mara. From there, they went to Lake Victoria then ventured north to Turkana via Kitale. From Lodwar in Turkana, they drove down exploring the lakes on the floor of the Rift Valley making their way to central Kenya via the Aberdares, then Marsabit then Nairobi to change cars.
The second leg took them to Amboseli National Park, Tsavo East and West, down to Malindi, Diani and then back home.
“We also set a budget for accommodation, spending no more than $100 per day (Sh10,900),” he says adding that accommodation wasn’t booked in advance but daily past 3pm for a maximum of two nights per location, giving them flexibility to travel at their own pace. It would be at an Airbnb, hotel or a campsite.
“Since we were travelling with a curfew in place, we left for the day at 5:30am and aimed to be at the next stop at 6:30pm,” he shares. This guaranteed them adequate rest.
The designer and filmmaker carries with him many fond memories. Narrowing them to five was an arduous task.
“On the fourth day of our trip, January 1, while in Maasai Mara, we saw a leopard. Many people visit without seeing this spotted canine but for 30 minutes, we kept company with one until it disappeared into the bushes,” Mr Diaz recalls.
Climbing to the peak of Mt Elgon, 4,222 metres above sea level, and visiting the George Adamson – the father of lions – gravesite in Kora National Park were also highlights.
Turkana, a place he refers to as the “ultimate destination” with “beauty that’s unmatched” is most memorable. They spent two nights at the Sibiloi National Park, visited the Koobi Fora museum and the Turkana Boy pillar, not forgetting the boat ride to the Central Island in the middle of Lake Turkana.
“With temperatures at 40 degrees, we climbed to the peak of the Nabiyotum crater, a geological wonder also in the middle of Lake Turkana,” he says. It’s only 300 metres but it was an arduous climb. Nonetheless, the majestic view of the three crater lakes – Crocodile, Flamingo and Tilapia - from up there was worth it all.
By the time they were done, they had visited 22 national parks and national reserves including the famed Ol Pejeta Conservancy, 15 museums and national monuments among them the Kakapel National Museum and Cultural Centre in Malaba and the Abasuba Community Peace Museum in Homa Bay County, 14 community-run initiatives, for example, the Hell’s Kitchen in Malindi and nine water bodies among them Lake Solai, Chala and Jipe.
The crocodiles and hippos kept them from swimming in the lakes but a morning stroll along the expansive blue Indian Ocean in Diani, they couldn’t resist.
The whole trip cost Sh850,000 inclusive of car hire, fuel, food and accommodation and entrance to all museums, parks and miscellaneous activities for the three of them.
“Our borders are bursting with unique history and beauty. Before we invest in going elsewhere, let’s begin at home.”