Today is the real start of our exploration of part of Kenya. So, we launch ourselves into the maelstrom of traffic and try to find our way out of the City and find the road North towards Thika. Sounds easy ? Try it when you are playing dodgem cars or without any road name / direction signs when the roads are being dug up. All I can say is thank goodness for a Sat Nav and Tracks4Africa maps. Without it we would have, inadvertently, seen more of the City than we needed and have taken many hours to orchestrate our escape.
Much of the road North seemed to be in the process of being improved which slowed us down but as the Landy seems not to like going over 70KPH, it's not too much of a problem. Very gradually we left the urban sprawl and the traffic gradually thinned out as we entered the more rural environment. We stopped for a tea break at Apple Lea Resort - a grand name for a basic cafe cum butchers with a few rooms attached. However, it had shaded tables in the garden and the tea was very freshing. As we found later was the normal way it was served by way of thermos flasks with milk, sugar & tea bags served separately Had we wanted a more substantial meal we could have selected one of the chickens from the cage in the garden.
On with the journey, we passed many small farms / small holdings and the occasional small town where all life seems to be conducted on the narrow dirt strip between the road and the spectrum of small shops./ tables in garden / chickens in cage for dinner. Almost inevitably, the was a request for some retail therapy when we came across a massive craft centre - it had a very impressive range of goods but seemed to lack any great number of clients. Hunger getting the best of us, we stopped on the side of verdant deep ravine at the bottom of which we could see but not hear water. However, as we eat a steady number of locals passed us with empty containers returning after a short time bent under the weight of the water now in their container. The lucky ones were on cycles which took the strain.
As the afternoon passed, the schools finished and we saw streams of children, most in smart uniforms walking home. They seemed to range from 15/16 year olds to those who seemed barely beyond toddling. Villages gave way to rolling high moors reminiscent of North York Moors. The constant throughout the journey (and for the rest of our time in Kenya) was the blur of Matutus as they speed past. These are small mini-buses river that, on fixed routes, cram in many more bodies their original design originally envisioned. They have a notoriously bad safety record and despite being subjected to many many police checks. It's often difficult to tell when you pass the check whether they are waving us in or a vehicle behind. It got to the stage that we largely ignored them but checked in the rear mirrors that the police weren't running for their cars to chase us !
Across the moors was our accommodation for the night - Colobus Cottage at the Trout Tree Restaurant The restaurant is well known and is built of a number of platforms in a massive Fig Tree looking down at a fish farm pools down the rest of the wooded valley. The accommodation, recommended via a contact on the Trip Advisor site who was aware of its presence but nothing more, was an unknown. As we bumped down the rough track to the restaurant, we saw the corrugated sheet roofs of some small dwellings - our first assumption was these modest places were our next home.
Little did we know - the cottage is in fact the home from home the enterprise's directors when they visited from Nairobi. We were directed through a rough little gate onto a balcony in front of a large wooden cottage. The balcony had a dinning table and a selection of soft lounging chairs & sofas. The front doors (there were two) led into a large lounge with another large table and evening more lounging opportunities. The latter were congregated around a large open fire place. There were two large double bedrooms, a single room and another with bunks. So, a room each, a choice of toilets and a massive deep stone bath / shower. It appeared that at part of the Cottage's electricity was derived from a hydro generator on the large stream that fell down the valley and fed the fish farm's various pools.
Having explored the Cottage we set off into the grounds, restaurant and fish farm - all set in the green valley with trees populated by elegant black and white Colobus monkeys. Back and the Cottage we were served afternoon tea on the balcony and offered the restaurant's menu from which to order our evening meal. At the edge of the balcony was a red Bottle Brush Tree full of brilliant Sun Birds sipping flower nectar,
After 1600, the restaurant closed and we had the whole place to ourselves - apart from Nancy who was to cook and look after us. Our evening meal was served on the balcony lit by kerosene lamps. Afterwards it became a bit chilly and, feeling full and very satisfied with our home for the night, we retired in doors to fester in front of the roaring log fire.