A Travellerspoint blog

Motorcycling and Hell's Gate

January 2011

Tuesday, Jan. 25th:

I had a fantastic time being home for the holidays this year. Got to spend tons of time with family, especially Henry, and friends. But alas, after some long flights, I was back in Kenya and suffering from jet lag.

What's the best cure for sleep deprivation...motorcycling! It was my buddy Philip's bday, so a group decided to rent motorcycles (and their drivers) for an afternoon of exploring Kitengela. Kitengela is a "suburb" of Nairobi, where Lindsey once lived and still has many friends. Driving around was exciting because you never know what you'll find. The town borders the Nairobi National Park to the south, and the government has decided that this area doesn't need a fence. Meaning, lions sometimes get into the cattle and goat herds, leading to trouble!

Luckily, the most dangerous animals we spotted during our ride were donkeys and zebra. Yeah!

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One of the highlights of being outside of Nairobi are the kids. They are fascinated by mzungus (white people) and can stare for hours!

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Kitengela town, one of the many side streets. The area is known for its cement factory, only adding a little bit more dust to the air!

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Brokering the deal. How many bikes, how many riders, how much.

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Midway through the ride we stop for a break. One of Lindsey's friends is in the process of building some bandas (small homes) to use for tourists to come and see an authentic Maasai village. You can see one of our bikes through the window in the hut.

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Lindsey taking a breather.

After Philip's bday, it was time to celebrate my own! We had the 4th annual fried chicken and bowling extravaganza. It was a great time filled with good friends, food and fun!

Then, this past weekend, I set out for Naivasha with two friends, Lindsey and Devon. We decided to camp (my first time using my new tent) and visit Hell's Gate, another Kenya national park. This one is unique, however, in that you can rock climb, hike and bike throughout the park. "Usually there are no predators," says my guide book. But, according to Jackson, our hired ranger, they've spotted hyena, wild dogs, and even a cheetah recently. But don't worry, no lions until August!

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Lake Naivasha in the distance.

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Entrance to the park. This is supposedly the inspiration behind Pride Rock in The Lion King.

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Steep cliffs covered in vulture poop!

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There weren't too many animals, but I can never resist another picture of giraffes and zebra!

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The crew: Lindsey, myself and Devon

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Went spalunking (cave exploring?), officially, for the first time!

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The area is full of hot springs. Kenya has been using the springs for power sources. Smart thinking!

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Getting ready for the hike! That's Fischer's Tower in the background!

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Lindsey preparing to descend into the gorge.

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There were tons of waterfalls throughout the hike!

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Lindsey and me in the gorge!

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Hot springs! You can boil eggs in some of the pools!

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High walls all around

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View from the top, we're almost done!

Anyways, the 2 hour hike was an adventure! The gorge is a combination of steep climbs, waterfalls, hot springs, and high cliffs. Our group gradually grew in size as some without a guide realized what a help Jackson was, especially when climbing down ravines! On our way back up, we walked through his village, blessed some of the kids, and headed back to the cars. Overall, a great day!

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Come on Devon, time to change gears!

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Acacia tree's buds.

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Jackson and Lindsey trying to pinch the tower.

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Hands up and breathe!

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Maasai Village.

Posted by BlakeSims 21:37 Comments (0)

Wow, I'm behind just a little bit!

Saturday, Dec. 4th:

School, wedding, and life have been keeping me busy! My photos from Egypt have been on the blog, but not officially introduced via a blog yet. Yikes, that was almost two months ago!!!

Egypt Highlights!
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Marissa and me on our room's balcony across the street from the Egyptian National Museum and only 2 blocks from the Nile!

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Traffic was EVEN crazier than Nairobi...and playing frogger to cross the street was quite an adventure!

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Trying to balance the pyramid on my hand...not exactly a great success!

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Watch out for the local police!

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Posing in "classic" Egyptian poses.

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One of the oldest step pyramids.

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The ladies among the columns.

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Our favorite, and well-edited guide: Albie. Pyramids, sphinx, and so much more, all in 3 hours!

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You can see them from the many highways!

What have I been up to these days? Last week/weekend was a wedding bonanza like I've never seen before! My friend Amy, 2nd grade teacher and American from ISK, married Sammie, a Kenya gentleman and great dancer! Who knew that after months of meeting and participating on their "committee" to help plan and combine the two cultures into one event, that I would still be so exhausted!?

Back track to committees: it's common here to select a group of friends, hopefully responsible and punctual ones, to help the bride and groom plan their wedding. I guess typically those in charge of decorations (me for Amy's wedding) would go out, meet with possible decorators, pick the best options and then present my findings to the bride and groom at a board meeting. However, when this tradition meets an American bride, there is a lot less work for me and more just helping on the day. Sounded like no problem.

However, on the day of the wedding, which was suppose to be outside, under a gazebo, near a waterfall at a local resort, the downpour an hour before we were set to begin didn't help much. In the midst of hanging fabric to block out the jacuzzi sign, my friend Lindsey and I, along with the opinions of many others not including the couple, needed a backup plan. Aren't outdoor weddings supposed to have one of these? Especially if being held during one of Kenya's rainy seasons?!

Anyways, without a backup plan to work with, it was a bunch of last minute decisions and heightened adrenaline. We rushed the 150 chairs upstairs to the reception hall and rearranged all of the tables we had just set up to accommodate the ceremony indoors. Once it was all done, THEN it was time to inform the couple...the jaw on the floor only lasted a few seconds before the "hakkunah matata" attitude took over. In the end, while exhausted by 2 pm, it was all worth it. The wedding went off great, and was quite a learning experience for me!

Some of my favorite Kenyan additions:
1. Signing Mamas: a group of older village women who pickup the bride from her home, demand dowry from the men, and then escort her to the wedding all the while singing and dancing. Our version involved a hotel room, a grand staircase, and about 20 women dressed in a variety of traditional and western styles surrounding Amy, her parents, and bridesmaids.
2. Mama's teach Amy a lesson: who knew that on your wedding day you would learn what the groom's family expects you to do to take care of their boy?! Amy learned how to carry a bag of "food" on her head, wash and choose the best beans, mash them into his dinner, and then serve him with a smile. Don't know how much of that will actually be happening anytime soon!
3. My all time favorite, some good ol' kuku dancing. Basically, the chicken dance, but to African beats...all night long. Love the knee actions and pecking!

Photos of the big day to come!

Posted by BlakeSims 22:19 Comments (0)

The ladies arrive!

Porter, Marie and Marissa make it safe and sound!

Tuesday, October 12th:

While, sadly, the girls are currently on safari without me, we did have a fabulous weekend. It was almost like being back in college, minus the cheap beer and late night nachos!

Highlights so far, including pictures and BRIEF captions! More to come soon because they're in the Mara right now, seeing tons of stuff! Yesterday, they saw lions taking a buffalo back to the den for the cubs to eat and elephants 10 feet away. Awesome!!!!!

On the plane!
Who gets the middle seat?!

Who gets the middle seat?!

Tour of my house:
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Out at Gypsies and sampling the local variety of Tusker beers:
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Late night kuku (chicken) with fries and sausages!
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Out around Nairobi:
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Blake's school:
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Classic Kenyan dinner and out to watch a cover band, the Itch at Black Diamond:
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Drive out to the Great Rift Valley, according to Marie, the most visible geographic landmark that can be seen from space, over 4000 miles long! (She is a scientist!!!)
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Walking tour around Crescent Island, an animal sanctuary with no predators, so it's safe to walk!
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And finally, dinner at Blake's favorite Ethiopian restaurant, Habesha!!!
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More adventures to come soon!

Posted by BlakeSims 07:13 Comments (0)

Maasai Mara, here we come!

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Saturday, September 11th:

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Who doesn't love a three-day weekend. especially a last minute day to celebrate the signing of Kenya's constitution!? To avoid the masses of people gathering in Nairobi for the momentous event, four other ladies from school and I drove out to the Mara, a conservatory connecting the Serengeti in Tanzania and Kenya.

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August-October is the perfect time to witness the great migration: thousands and thousands of water buffalo (for the most part) cross the Mara River to move parks in search of food. Along the way, hundreds are killed by waiting alligators. It is quite a site!

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However, actually getting to the Mara is no easy feat. We leave early on Friday morning, with fog so heavy we can barely see the donkeys and pull-carts blocking our lane until we're literally about to run them over. However, a highlight of the 5 hour drive was Lindsey mesmerized by the John Deere combines and waving fields of wheat. You can take the girl out of the countryside, but not the other way around! Finally, we make it to one of the gates, after driving on washboards roads for 60 minutes. I can barely feel my butt!

Oh, and did I mention the car trouble?! It was a weekend full of mishaps. We got to meet some very helpful mechanics throughout the weekend, one that even sucked directly onto the engine to remove the gunk. Gross!

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Anyways, the real reason for going, of course, was to see the animals. We drove around ourselves, and had the misfortune of not seeing any leopards or cheetahs, although other friends of ours who were in the same park saw plenty of both. We did see TONS of lions, including a huge papa and many cubs. Almost cute enough to attempt venturing out of the car.

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While we did not stay at this local establishment, our lodging wasn't much better!
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Especially when after a downpour, safari ants attacked! We were stripping left and right, pulling the biters off of us! Then, the Maasai showed us the trick to getting rid of them once and for all: petrol gasoline! After dousing the room with gas, we thought it wise for our health and safety to switch "banda" in order to survive the night!

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And last, but not least, the Maasai mamas selling their wares.
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A wonderful vacation, even with a few bumps and bruises along the way!

Posted by BlakeSims 06:35 Comments (0)

Summer in the City

July 29th:

How time flies when you're having fun! After 6 weeks home in Chicago, with a few side trips up to WI, I'm now back in Nairobi, adjusting to "winter" and the chaos that is Africa. A quick glimpse at some of the highlights from being home:

Got to spend a lot of time with Henry and Sarah this summer, which was awesome. Photos from his baptism:
Henry and mom.
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The Sims clan
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I think solid colors are the look of the season!
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Anna's getting married! I got to hang out with high school friends at Anna's bachelorette party in Chicago and at the beautiful wedding at the Terrace in Madison:
What b-rette party is complete without toilet paper dresses?
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Or an inappropriately decorated cake?!
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The blushing bride!
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Jud and Jackie, aka Lady Gaga, at the wedding
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Surprise!
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Everyone loves to be licked sometimes.
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I also got to spend some quality time in Madison with Porter, Sae and Marie on a weekend adventure!
First stop: Terrace
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for some DELICIOUS spotted cows
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Hanging out on State Street
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Strawberry-infused vodka at the City
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Lounging on the capitol
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And some crop circle wheat at the Dane!
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Even Nick and Rob joined us for an evening of debauchery!
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And finally, some peace and quiet with the fam:
Auntie C and Henry
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The next e-trade baby, complete with tie and blackberry
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Night out at Ravinia
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Me and Henry
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And a sneak peak at the family Christmas card
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And now, I'm back in Nairobi, settling into my new house, and preparing for school to start.
Me and Kobi in my new kitchen:
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Off on some Kenya adventures...be prepared!

Posted by BlakeSims 06:41 Comments (0)

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