Dated: 19 APR18
Mt Kenya is a large dome rising from the rolling hills of the surrounding highlands. From my vantage point it looks like the vast dome is cratered, but nestled within and rising from its centre is a great plinth of rock reaching skywards casting a shadow on the slopes below. In the lee of this great chimney tuffs of grey smoke like clouds trail south from the peak building in the distance. On the crest of the dome a thin broken dusting of snow is peppered along its leading edge, glistening in the sun it stands out against the dark rocks. Kikuyu mythology holds the summit as the throne of the supreme creator, Ngai, who brought forth Gikuyu the father of the people. With those jagged peaks it looks like it would make for an uncomfortable seat.
I cycle round the base of the mountain occasionally glancing up at the summit, I long to climb it but with a little regret I cant as the gorillas cleared out my bank account; that was one expensive hour! During the uneventful days ride to Kisimas Farm Shop, a spot where they welcome campers and make a superb cappuccino, the clear blue skies to the north of the mountain have a change of mood as the sky turns ominously grey. The ceiling lowers as thick dark clouds sink under the weight of the water. Up until this point I have been surprised at how amendable the wet season has been, on the whole I’ve been dry and even during the short lived downpours I’ve stayed warm. Not this time!
I begin to loose my grip on my handle bars as my fingers turn numb with cold as the wind and the icy rain leach the warmth out of me, a gift from Ngai; I’m shivering despite the my exertion. Paths are now tributaries to rivers that have spontaneously formed through fields. Where the roads intersect them I am forced to ford across. in a futile attempt to preserve some iota of dryness I would raise my feet in the air like a child gaily skirting through puddles if it weren’t for the oncoming traffic sending great waist height waves of this chilled brown water my way, each onslaught threatening to topple me sideways. Now this is how I imagined wet season.
Kisima Farm shop is a delight, I squelch my way round imagining how delicious the homemade chutneys, marmalades and jams would be on a wedge of good crumbly mature cheddar or how sweet the honey complete with comb would taste on a piece of toast lavished with butter. It is the middle aged house wife’s dream and wouldnt be out of place in Devon; the shelves are stacked with tea towels, tea pots, candles and soaps. The rain is hammering on the tin roof as I chat to the girls womening the store. I am more than welcome to camp, but they raise their eyebrows as I assure them that my tent is water proof. Though I must concede that I am not relishing the prospect of camping; my tent may be water proof but the flood of water streaming through the grass may just wash me away.
I’m sat down next door in the canteen shovelling a platter of hot salty chips with one hand whilst with the other cradling a cup of tea for warmth. Chips in hand and tea in mouth I’m staring out at the driving rain when a rather soggy knight in shinning armour arrives. My rescuer, Charlie, is the owner of Kisima Farm, and like his mother before him he routinely invites waifs and strays such as myself to stay with him and his family. So in goes the bike in the back of the pick up and I hop into the cab and off we trundle to the farm house. The Japanese cyclist I met on the road in Namibia received the same treatment.
Next minute I find myself in a little bastion of Britain, like the farm shop it wouldnt be out of place in Devon. Flower beds of lavender mark the start of the garden which encloses a large farm house. On the outside walls are steel signs denoting cities from around the world, London, Paris, Rotterdam and many others, perhaps places the family have visited or from where impromptu house guests are from; I don’t imagine Warminster will get a place of honour on the wall. A well kept lawn has a perfectly manicured hedge row along its edge which opens up to reveal a commanding view of the valley below. I see all this in the morning once the rain has cleared. Its idyllic, I can see why his family have been here since the 1920s.
Once inside I stand by the aga in a large open kitchen cupping a mug in my hands and blowing to cool the scolding hot masala tea which Esther, the maid, has just for me to warm my cockles. Paintings of horses, dogs and country scenes hang beside black an white family photos on the walls. Charlie has just popped to the office to rescue the dogs and to make a quick call. A few of his workers have been forced to walk from a valley or two over, he was unable to reach them in the wash out and they are literally wading their way back. I was expecting two slightly over weight black labs to follow Charlie into the kitchen but in trots a pair of daschund. There is no better farm dog apparently. Gypsy and Molly are bloody adorable, I might steal one and take them as my cycling companion.
Charlie tells me to go and get washed up. Now there is nothing that after a cold and wet day that can beat a bath, especially one drawn by somebody else of your behalf. It’s probably the first bath I have had in years, I’m a two minute shower kinda guy, but I think I could get used to a soak in deep hot water complete with bubble bath. Plus the salts (probably grit from the taps or from the backs of my legs) reach places that I’m far to lazy to. This followed by a TV dinner watching David Attenborough by an open fire is without a doubt how the end of every day should be.
The following day Charlie drops me off at the farm shop, he had offered for me to stay another night but warned that the rains will be back with a vengeance tomorrow so I best be on my way. We catch a glimpse of Mt Kenya which now has a healthy dusting of snow and looks more like a proper mountain. He tells me that they lost almost all the glaciers to climate change. So off I go thinking of the niceties of the night before.
On climbing into bed last night I wrote in my journal, “Oh my days! Esther you’ve out done yourself and made my day, a hot water bottle.”