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National Park

Hike In A ‘Park’ Of Lies

Watching the news lately has been a ride on an emotional rollercoaster. There is always something so wrong and something so unimaginable going on, not just in Kenya but also outside the country. The political arena has become an improved version of the appalling political games we are used to. The social dome has become an institution of moral decay. Journalist are becoming victims of the very horrible stories that they report.

All this is sad.

I, however, believe that in every shade of darkness, there is a glimpse of light. In this, it’s Trevor Ombija’s voice. All he has to do is introduce himself with that deep intoxicating voice, keep talking and am all ears. Not to listen to the news, but to listen to his voice. I can hear the news as background noise. What intrigues me is how his vocal codes produce such an impeccable sound. He doesn’t even have to try.

Anyway this story isn’t about Trevor’s voice. Not even a little bit. I just had to put it out there. Maybe one of my readers has some direct contact with him. To that reader, just let Trevor know his voice is a blessing to the fourth estate.

The main point in my story, this isn’t much of a story as it is a rant, is a hike.

During the Easter holidays, we hosted some visitors from abroad. There is a certain interest in adventure that most visitors have whenever they visit our country. Our visitors had done their own research and noted down the areas they wanted to visit while in Kenya. They used Google Maps to search for the nearest wildlife sanctuary that they could visit. Due to the location we were at, they settled for Ndere Island National Park.

Before we go further let me just let you all know that in my own personal opinion; all factors considered, together with a little bit of emotional backstory that highly involves regret in cash spent, this is one place that does not deserve the name ‘National Park’. I don’t know what criteria KWS in conjunction with the ministry of tourism uses while categorizing national parks, but I strongly believe that this particular one was overrated.

We left home at 10am. According to our approximation, we were supposed to be in the since-they-insist-on-calling-it-a-national-park park, in an hour at most. We took more than an hour. When you go online, it is written that there is easy access to Ndere Island National Park from Kisumu. What a big lie! The road leading to the park is terrible. 90% of our journey was full of us (just read this as me) holding our breath as the driver tried to find a passable area in the road that would not see us plunging into ditches or getting stuck in knee deep mud puddles. I should not have ridden shotgun. You would think that I learnt my lesson when I rode shotgun on one of the buses in Nairobi. But no, I didn’t learn. Anyway that’s a story for another day. The point is, there was nothing easy about accessing the park.

We got to the park headquarters at noon. The rates were sort of ok for Kenyan citizens. They were not kind to the visitors; obviously. They didn’t mind for they had come for an adventure. They were going to board a boat crossing Lake Victoria for the first time. I was surprised how much that was a big deal to them. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I live with the Lake in my backyard both in town and at home. I can walk to the Lake anytime am in town and anytime am home. I have never thought anyone would be so thrilled to see and cross the Lake that much. It’s so unfortunate that the Lake wasn’t happy to see them, or anyone at that. It was green. Yes, the lake is green. Not a nice green, a filthy green. The kind that you find in sewage formed swamps. I was embarrassed for all of us (Kenyans). I am still embarrassed for us. That was not a good site. Something needs to be done. Am still not sure what yet, but let’s research and find a lasting solution.

The boatman was very quick to offer his services as a guide through the Island. An offer we had to politely decline because one, we had been told there are footpaths to guide visitors and two, he needed a lot of money to guide us.

Am going to summarize our visit to the Island so simply. It was a waste of time, money and energy.

I am not much of a fitness enthusiast. I don’t work out. I don’t eat healthy. My favourite activity is sitting down with my laptop and phone. I love eating junk food except for pizza. I just feel that it’s some sort of mockery to our chapattis. But that’s just my opinion. With all these in mind, imagine my shock when I realized all the island had to offer was an expensive hike. We spent alot of money just to walk through an island that’s characterized by hills and valleys, with the sun determined to show us who’s boss and the ‘many animals’ we had been told we would see being just a pack of Zebras who ran away at the first sight of strangers. We only got a glimpse of them as they ran away but saw enough of their shit as we were hiking.

That was an expensive hike.

Had I known prior that I would be paying to involuntarily work out without pleasing my eyes in any way, I would have atleast packed something other than one bottle of water to keep me going. At the information desk, the KWS people were so kind as to tell us we would see the animals kept there the moment we docked. The few Zebras that saw us and started running away from us, were spotted almost 45minutes into the hike. From a distance. Such lies!

Because I like complaining, I spent the most part of the journey back home complaining about the day. And because of that, I have a few recommendations for KWS regarding Ndere Island. One, the road, something has to be done about the road. Two, let’s stop misleading people. The name of that Island should be ‘Ndere Island Hiking and Camping Site’ or just anything else. Anything but a national park. That’s very misleading.

The next morning as I was out brushing my teeth, the herdsman was taking the sheep out of their shed. The last two sheep decided to take advantage of their slow pace and have a quickie right before my eyes. Animals have no shame. They don’t care about the size of their ummm, property? There is no seduction, no foreplay either; they just get on with it. The ram jumped on the ewe and in less than 5seconds he was done and was walking away. 5seconds people! Five! I got to see a sight I can never unsee, and it was free. Am not complaining. That was consolation enough for the time, energy and money we had spent on the Island.

Maybe I just complain too much.

Anyway, about Trevor Ombija’s voice, we all agree that it’s really something. Right?