Kenya in a Little Red Suzuki

For me, entering the world of the gainfully employed meant making the transition from freelance writer and professional beach bum, to Nairobi urbanite. It was a good move. I am now the associate editor of Destination Magazine. An occupation that allows me to combine a few of my favourite things – East African lifestyle, travel, and writing. This is however a lifestyle for which you need to look the part, and for this you need the right vehicle. You need to find your perfect match, a wagon to make a statement about you, a stallion to accompany you on adventures far and wide. Many choose the ubiquitous Land Cruiser. The flashy ones, choose a Prado. Not me. No, my 4 wheeled companion is a little red suzuki. She’s as light as a feather with the grit of a soldier.

Together we have fought many foes: pot holes the size of craters, flash floods that submerge Nairobi’s roundabouts, even the battle worn matatus who think just because we’re small they can bully us. Well they can’t. Together, the scarlet pimpernel and I are invincible, protected by a talisman that doubles up as an air freshener – a palm tree cut-out in shades of the American flag, with Obama’s head inexpicably positioned as one of the coconuts. Everyday, as I drive down the roads and glimpse Obama bouncing in front of the sun drenched windows, I wonder in what board room in what country, that idea was conceived.

 

Our most recent adventure was with my best friend Daisy, who is over from London. We originally planned to go the Aberdares – the lush forest near Mount Kenya where Elizabeth II ‘went up a Princess and came down a Queen’. It is said to be a phenomenal fishing destination. We were sold. However, we then noticed a few flaws in the plan -  I don’t like seeing things die, I also don’t know how to fish. The plan never came to fruition. Instead we headed to Carnelley’s and picked up a hitchhiking Maasai on the way to whom we taught the joys of singing along to Bonnie Tyler. Carnelley’s is a refuge for backpacker’s and the social hub of the Naivasha area offering great food and an amazing view of lush green grass and yellow fever trees all the way to the lake’s edge.

 

Daisy and I headed straight to the water’s edge where we fell asleep on a picnic blanket, only to be woken an hour later by colobus monkeys jumping in the trees above and ververt monkeys loitering suspiciously close to our bottle of wine. We protectively put it back in our bag and headed to the bar only to be joined by Chrissy Carnelley, the hostess with the mostest. Before we knew it, we were putting the world to rights and singing the praises of M-PESA – Kenya’s phone-banking system. Soon after, we were interrupted in our flow by a pack of Dutch flower farmers. Apparently they are as common in these parts as the roses themselves! They had just been thrown out of the next door bar for trying to set it on fire. We were most certainly in questionable company, but confident in our capability of holding our own. The conversation became increasingly surreal as we were told that our choice of drink was unattractive, to which we took great offence and responded with comments far to fowl to repeat. It was time to call it a night.

 

Hungover the next morning we opted for the leisurely activity of taking a boat ride around Lake Naivasha. Pink flamingoes fed and flew around us, while we snapped away. We then saw two hippoes mating, which was both incredible and highly disturbing. We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing in Sanctuary Farm, which is both as expected, a sanctuary and a farm. We could have rode horses but instead we took the lazy option, once again bringing out the picnic blanket and allowing the giraffe, impala and zebra to come to us.

 

We felt we had done Naivasha well, and there was only one more thing Daisy had on her itinery. She wanted to eat local food… This is not the food poisoning story some people might expect, but instead this whim of Daisy’s ended up with two drunk sisters (not of the nun variety) requesting a lift home from the fine establishment we had chosen to eat in. We couldn’t say no, and soon enough the little red suzuki was full of women. The women in the back touching our hair all the way. We were welcomed into their home to meet their mother and only allowed to leave once we had accepted a big bag of plums – not a bad deal! And with the little Suzuki stinking of nyama choma (cooked meat) and fresh plums, we were on our way back to the city. My tolerant and patient car got us back without a hiccup, not even a complaint after all it had been through… So much for dog being man’s best friend.

 

Love Kenya? Check out our current article on the Masai Mara by Africa Geographic founder Peter Borchert

 

Keen to visit Kenya? Check out Kipungani Lamu, one of Africa Geographic's Special Places.

About Isabella Monson

Isabella Monson is a freelance journalist who writes travel pieces for newspapers and magazines in Nairobi. More recently she has begun writing a biography in Naivasha. After completing an Anthropology degree in London, Isabella returned to Kenya where her mother was raised. Following in her father’s footsteps, she decided to pursue a career in writing. Although she loves nothing more than to follow her globally nomadic tendencies, she finds there is always something to scribble about in Kenya. Nairobi especially supplies a torrent of fuel for the writing fire, and she recommends this dynamic city to any wayward traveler.

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  • http://www.bigfig.com Harriet Nimmo

    LOVE this story and Isabella’s charming writing style. Can’t wait for the next chapter!