"OUR FLIGHT TO KENYA SOULD HAVE BEEN A REAL PLEASURE"
Less than a third full, not too long and full of Virgin Atlantic’s usual customer care. Unfortunately I was still suffering the effects of a cold, so I found an empty row of seats and tried my best to will away the time, feeling rather sorry for myself.
"THE FIRST THOUGHT I AHD WHEN HITTING THE WATER WAS ONE OF POWER."
Warm clean air and a host of smiling locals greeted us on arrival and we were relieved to see all our kit approaching on the back of a wee tractor. Why is it that I only ever have airport issues in the UK?
Tired, yet happy to be there, we loaded our shiny Dropzones onto the ancient yet reliable 4×4. Lexi, our driver, chatted about all things Kenya while we headed north. About an hour out of Nairobi we stopped to scout a couple of 60 footers and although they looked good to go, we settled for a local beer and some food, probably the wise choice as we were still feeling the effects of 24 hours travelling.
"THE RIVER, AFTER HAVING ITS WAY WITH ME, WAS SPORTING ENOUGH TO DEPOSIT ME ON SOME ROCKS"
The first thought I had when hitting the water was one of power. The river was still relatively narrow and calm, yet the volume and power were a world apart from the Scottish ditches we usually bash. Ibra, our guide, lead us down some pleasantly bouncy grade two and then eddied us out above a pretty considerable horizon line. Feeling well off my game and weakened by what I was now calling “man flu” I was pretty apprehensive. Ibra assured me it was a simple grade 3 and that the line was “just over there, I will be fine”… yet...
"THE RISING MIST AND THUNDEROUS NOISE DID NOT FILL ME WITH MUCH CONFIDENCE."Sitting behind an island in mid stream, not far from the lip, there was nothing for it and I had to follow my mates as they disappeared. Some choice words crossed my mind as I reached the lip and eyed the rapid before me. Couple of big hits and I was looking at the African sky, just long enough to enjoy the vibrant blue, before being engulfed in warm, murky brown water. Several roll attempts, some stopper time and I was swimming. The river, after having its way with me, was sporting enough to deposit me on some rocks just upstream of a large recirculating eddy where it was kind enough to put the rest of my kit, including my shoes. Back in the saddle, and entirely convinced this would not be the gentle warm up I had hoped, we continued downstream.
Feeling decidedly delicate I made a couple of tactical portages whilst James, Ian and Ibra lapped up the stunning and near continuous rapids that this river had to offer. Slides, drops, holes, waves…simple big volume brilliance. I watched enviously as they enjoyed the main events. If Kenyan boating didn’t get any better than this the trip still would have been worth it. As we cruised into the camp at the bottom of the run I was pleased to have survived and, feeling pretty sketchy, headed for bed, feeling less elated than my paddling partners who had so enjoyed the stretch. Was I just being a bit soft or did I really have manflu? Well maybe not manflu (thats pretty serious)...
"THE FOLLOWING DAY I WAS IN HOSPITAL WITH PNEUMONIA"No more paddling for my trip the doctor insisted! I translated that to mean one day reading Harry Potter and second playing shuttle bunny before heading back to enjoy the Tana that had got the better of me on day one. Feeling better, due mainly to a lot of drugs, we went out and nailed the glorious rapids it had to offer. What a river and just the start of many more as our Kenyan exploration continued…