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Tuesday 10 July 2001

 

Over the past few days I have been taking  photographs of as many people as possible who have sponsored my Street Kids of Africa project. The idea is that when I get to Kenya and after I have helped build the school the children will make a collage for the class room wall. They can then identify with the people who have bought the furniture for their school. Pretty cool!! The final total for the money is £1250. A big thank you to everyone.

For the past few days I have been looking at all the football shirts and wondering how on earth I am going to get them into my Tesco plastic bag that also has to take my tooth brush to say nothing of my home comforts. If I get time I will list what I am taking or better still put a photograph of all the gear on the web site.

Desperately trying to beg or  borrow large kit bags to take the football shirts. I must have something like 200 shirts to pack. I have so many even the pilot will have to sit on a bag!!!

Thursday 12 July 2001

All packed and waiting.......See you after I have .... built the school, climbed Mount Kenya, shook hands with the monkey and swam in the Indian Ocean.

 

FRIDAY 20th July, 2001

 

It is 3:45 local time and we are having the most almighty thunderstorm.  I am lying on my bed listening to the rain bouncing on the roof and the thunder clattering as the lightening cracks the sky.

 

The other noise is the wasp.  I should mention there is a wasp’s nest just above my bunk!! At the moment we are all living quite happily together.  Let’s hope our friendly relationship lasts!!!

 

The flight to Dubai was pleasant as everyone got to know each other, moving from seat to seat.  As we waited for our connection flight to Nairobi there was confusion because Dubai is 3 hour a head but Kenya is only 2 hours.  After leaving home at 1.00 pm 13th I arrived at Nairobi at about 4.00 pm local time Saturday 14th.

 

Luggage collected, but not all, (some was somewhere between Heathrow and Nairobi), we climbed onto trucks, people hanging on the side on the back, you sat or stood wherever, this is Africa.

 

We travelled through Nairobi, large commercial buildings most very modern then we hit Kibera.  You feel the poverty and depravation penetrating your bones as a cold change came over me.  Small children and grown men alike stop to stare at us.  The  roads are busy not so much with cars but people all crisscrossing between cars , buses and the odd bike.  The side of the roads is packed with people, most standing around talking and hawkers selling maize or coal.  Every considerable business is available in the shantytown of Kibera a cross to the left and it looks like one massive tin roof the size of wem town.  One million people live here in a maze of narrow walkways.

 

I arrive at the camp to meet the street children.  It is a shock to the system, 20 people to a dorm and no space.  This is to be my home for the next ten days.  The children prepare my first meal.  I want to eat it but my stomach would not take it- “Ugali,” a solid block of white maize served with a meat stew.  Why I am here? What I am doing this for? Asking my self repeatedly as my stomach turned and I had to quickly move to the hedge.

 

I have been looking forward to this for so long I must not be rude to my new friends they have worked so hard to prepare my meal.

 

I eat a little and hope I can get to used to this new food and African life.

After all it is I who is here to help them.

All the facilities are less than basic and for the first 24 hours have to work hard being positive.  The reaction of the children, their enthusiasm  to learn is infectious and things settle down into a routine.

 

I am working with a group of ten boys and two Kenyan Leaders.  My group is called Embu, the district where they live.

 

They have all been abandoned and later encouraged to leave the streets for St. Stephen’s Mission School where they now leave and go to school.

 

Christopher is just one who has lived on the streets sniffing glue and “doing other drugs”.  He steals at night to feed his habit.

Leaving the streets he finds it difficult to come off drugs.

Cold showers, no space and toilets that...well just a long drop.

Not very nice and they still make me wrench, home comforts not yet.

The school is going up at a tremendous rate.

Your money will have paid for almost everything. I will detail  the items next week. Everyone is so grateful and send their thanks.

This morning I went to the work shop to see them making the table and chairs. A small hut and the work shop is basically the pavement.

The work for the school has provided extra work for local community and much needed revenue. They all thanked me and I pass on their thanks to you.

It is still raining, it is going to be a wet night, but that is the least of these people's worries. Life goes on and working with the street kids is so rewarding.

 

Sat 21 July 2001

Guess what, it is raining so hard I think we might float away! This morning it was a beautiful sunny day.

The big event today was presenting the football shirts. All the children were so excited I have never seen so many laughing smiling faces, it was absolutely brilliant. Thanks to every team, school, individual who contributed. We had enough to give every child a shirt. Thanks you made 220 children so happy.

A mesage to Sarah. "Your Frank Lampard shirt has gone to a lovely girl and I have the photograph for you".

I have plenty of photos and video with a couple of interviews with street kids explaining what it is like to live on the street.

Later today I hope to go into Nairobi to buy a couple of sewing machines.

The school I must tell you will be finished and Sarah one of the Expedition leaders is organising the collage for the school wall.

 

Sunday 22 July 2001

Brilliant sunshine untill about 6.30pm when the rain came. But not before I taught the children how to play UNO. They enjoyed the game and I gave them a pack to take back to their school.

Earlier I measured the children. They have so little, most just the clothes they stand in, so I thought it a good idea. I will send clothes to their school.

This afternoon we had the football final. Our team Tsavo won the cup. We have kept a full team kit to present to the winners at the closing ceremony tomorrow. This is the last night with the children. It has been a heart tugging experience but very satisfying that I have brought something to their lives. The children tell me they have had the best time of their lives and I have had a brilliant time playing and teaching them arithmetic, cards, and telling stories of Condover and Radbrook.

 

Monday 23 July 2001

Last night the rain came not in buckets, nor cats and dogs but by the container load!!

We should have had a farewell bonfire but the whole camp was under water. Some of the children had to be moved as their tents were flooded.

For the African dancing we all crammed into a small hall. An old man with grey hair who comes from Liverpool said it was like the Cavern, very sweaty with water running down the walls.

The atmosphere was was full of smiles and fun as everyone joined in the singing and dancing. the rain tried but failed by a mile to dampen the party.

By lunch time today I had helped the children to pack their blankets and other bits for their journey home. Packing is a bundle tied with string and the odd pan hanging on the back. Small children hidden under large bundles trundle off to the bus stop. They are going by public transport.

How are they going to cope getting on buses when even without their bundles the buses overflow with people hanging from everywhere.

Before this I gave away the last of the shirts, shorts and socks. What chaos!! Children screaming at me, I am the most popular person on the camp!!

Some scream,"I love Everton just shout Everton Mike". It is difficult for me to explain how much joy a shirt, or a hat, even a pair of socks brings to these children.

 

Tuesday 24 July 2001

It is remarkably quiet as the children have left and I now prepare for the mountain. We have to organise ourselves into tent groups. Fortunately I am with Stephen Pinfold an experienced mountain guide. South Pole, North Pole, Everest, North Borneo, he has done the lot. Phew, I am in safe hands.

 

Wednesday 25 July 2001

All our kit checked, dried food, tents, clothes we set off for the mountain. From Nairobi to Naro Moru, quite a journey.

I travelled in the Nissan, a mini bus. On the way we were stopped by the police. They asked for the driver's documents.

Because they were copies the policeman would not accept them. After much talk and negotiation we paid him 1,000 Kenyan Shillings, about 10 pounds then continued on our way. There had been a recent survey and it is claimed that 120,000 a day is collected by policemen in Kenya every day.

But that is not all. Others travelled by truck and we also hired a bus. The bus lost it's exhaust half way to Nao Moru. Also the back door fell open and haversacks fell onto the open road. Cars flashed and hooted for the bus to stop. Luckily nothing was lost. All arrived safely and we made camp at The Equatorial Catering College.

Thursday 26 July 2001

Sausage, beans, and bread for breakfast then off to the mountain.

I am nervous and excited as we climb onto the Safari Truck. Something like a big army truck. Main roads in this area of Kenya are rubble tracks as you bounce around in the truck. Everyone wants the middle of the road as cars and matatus play roulette, who is going to give way first. A matatu means 3. When they were first introduced you paid any 3 coins for a ride. They are small vehicles usually a Nissan mini bus or small pick up truck. You hang on to the side, back, you even see people lying on the roof!! May be 30 people in a Nissan that has 10 seats.

At the Park Gate to the Mountain we register as everyone going in and out must register. I am signed in so off I go. It is hard but not too bad as we are walking on road. Not a road as we know in England but it is fairly even to start off but quickly the surface deteriates and it gets tough. It is difficult to find my footing. I stop talking as I need every drop of air I can cram into my lungs. Keep going and eventually I arrive at Met Station 10,000 feet.

Others cheer as I get to our base. Tired legs but I cannot help smiling and  a big warm feeling of satisfaction.I have made it to the Met Station. Everyone thought I was staying at camp, sorry but you have to try.

Stephen gets the hot tea and a good meal cooked. I settle for the night it is 8.00pm I am ready for bed. I have to be up at 5.15am for another hard day tomorrow.

  

 Friday 27 July 2001

I slept well and awoke at 4.50am.

Stephen gets up and tells me to stay in bed till he gets the breakfast going. Up, quick wash, no very quick wash, breakfast, hot tea and get my bag ready.

The weather is not looking good.

Boots , gaiters, wet clothes and I am ready to go.

It is 7.15am. it starts off hard yes but I can cope. William and David our porters carry our big haversacks and Stephen has his.

William picks out the best route as the going gets tougher and my footing is very unsure. I fall on numerous occasions and feel my left ankle is going numb as I continually fall over on my left as left side pains more and my body aches. We take 2/3 minutes rests every half hour. Everyone takes it in turns to support me and I want to go on and keep telling them I am alright. We are into the vertical bog. Very wet heavy mud running through narrow passages of stones, rock bushes and shrubs. My feet sink as the mud covers my boots and squelches over my ankles. The gaiters are keeping my feet dry(thanks Brian (Ashley))without your help I would be extremely wet).

At 9.30am we have climbed to over 11,000. Our progress gets slower as the mud and water takes its toll. I keep telling them, I want to carry on, it doesn't bother me. My left ankle keeps giving way, I'm hot and want to do it.

At 10.30am the 1st group catch us. They started 15 mins after us. They shout over "There,s Michael". Everyone waves, I know they did not expect me to be this high. There is an air of disbelief that I am still going. I was not told but arrangements had been made for me to stay at the Mountain Gate. Gavin did not expect me to be climbing on the second day!!!

At 11.15am after 4 hours of grit and determination the porters and Stephen think it is too dangerous for me to continue. Our progress has slowed and the weather is getting worse. We have been climbing in mist and the rain is due at anytime. They are concerned we will get isolated before reaching McKindersCampwhich is about 13,500ft. I say, "Let's continue, forget the weather". I sense they are not happy, they are also getting tired helping me. It is hard for them also. I have no choice, I have to go down.

Stephen says he will stay with us but I persuade him to to continue. David and William will get me down. Going down was no easier than going up. I had to slide down narrow muddy channels as I could not step down in the normal way as they were too deep and there ws no room for someone to support me.  Four hours of hard work but  not many people can say they have climbed to over 12,000ft.

That is 3 times higher than Ben Nevis the highest mountain in the UK.

Not to worry I tried very hard but it was not to be.

I reached the Met Sation with aches and pains through every part of my body.I thanked William and David for their help, had a hot drink and waited for a lift back to the gate. Tired, aching and disappointed got into the Landrover with a family from Austria. They had turned back when they reached the bog. I had my first HOT SHOWER since leaving home. It was in fact the first hot running water I had experienced for over 2 weeks.

Sat 28/7/01

I awake to a cockerel that needs a Strepsil!! He only has half a cock a doodle do.

Moving is difficult as my body aches and at 7.15am I decide to turn over and go back to sleep.

Up at 9.30am to brilliant sunshine. I am watching some one paint . I ask them why they don't use a paint brush. He tells me the piece of mattress he using is better for painting as it gets into all the little cracks. His hands and the floor have more paint on than the door he is painting.

Another day in Africa.

Sunday 29/7/01

The weather is brilliant sunshine during the day but cold at night. So what about Kenya? Nairobi is busy with millions of people, some wealthy I am sure but the majority very poor.

Street children everywhere and people hanging on buses by their finger tips. Or bodies crammed into a matatu. Here at Nao Moru it is very different. Agriculture, everyone has a cow, or a goat and grow vegetables. Food is plentiful and no street children.The people are friendly and want to chat. Nobody takes notice of time. 20 minutes could mean an hour or even 3 hours. Time has no meaning. The roads are rubble tracks. You are meant to drive on the left but you go wherever the smallest pot hole is. And believe me some holes in the road are 2ft deep!! Then there are the cows and goats to dodge not forgetting you may be in the middle or on the wrong side of the road as a matatu charges towards you!

Today I stood on the Equator. we did the water test. It goes straight down the plug hole. South of the Equator, which is it, clockwise or anticlockwise? All run to the sink to find out!!

Bought some presents. Haggling over the price was good fun. One stall wanted me to buy a Solitaire Game. The price 1,500KS. I bet him that if I can do the solitaire he gives me the game free. If I fail I pay 500KS. The crowds gathered, Yes you guessed I am good at Solitaire!!!

Later went to Game Reserve called Sweet Waters. Saw girraffes, wart hogs, a rhino which I feed some grass to by hand. I have the photo to prove it. Elephants, impalla (like deer) zebra, water bucks, orex, (long horns and grey like deer), plus lots of birds.

We were stationery when a girraffe walked in front of us. It took  a look then carried on it's way. Similarly the elephants. We were almost within touching distance as a herd with babies wandered by. I forgot to tell you that when I was camping on Mt. Kenya a herd of Buffalow ran between the tents. It was scarry as the earth shook. In the morning deep imprint of their hooves were scattered between the tents. Last week a leopard injured a woman. Rangers from the mountain were deployed to catch the leopard. On the floor of the ranger's hut was leopard skin with 4 round holes in its side. They told me it had been killed by another animal. They did not know I had been reading the Ranger's log report!! The leopard was killed in the area where I am staying tonight. Better put an extra security lock on my tent! I also read of a herd of elephants (20) causing damage to local farm land. The rangers were sent off to move them. The bullets used would not harm the elephants just frighten them and move them to safer ground for all concerned. Crime in the area is low but I tell you that if a boy of 16 stole a camera. If he goes to court he could be jailed for 7 years. On the other hand if his family pay the police or even the magistrate he will just get a beating and 7 days in the police jail. Corruption has caused coffee, cotton and maize industry to collapse. It is alledged. Entrance to a Park may be advertised at 1,500KS. It is claimed that 100KS will get you in. That is a drop from about 15 pds to 1 pd. They say business is about negotiating, come sit at my business table.

Kenya......So different.

Monday 30/7/01

Today I will meet up with those who reached the top of Mt. Kenya.If I still feel the way I do now, disappointed after I get home I will come back and try again. I feel a bit cheated and I have some unfinished business. But don't tell my mum.

On Wednesday we go back to Nairobi when the school be officially opened.

I will let you know exactly what your money has bought next time I get in touch.

Leave a mesage on the message board, I will enjoy reading them when I get home. And I promise to reply.

Come to Africa it is so different and you will enjoy the experience.

Monday 30 July 2001

I went by matatu to Nara Moru a small town 2km from where I was staying. The ride was fun, as I was shoe horned into a Nissan. Speaking with the other passengers, they were interested to learn where I came from and did I like Kenya?

The ride was extremely bumpy as we swayed from side to side. The side door was open because two people were standing outside by hanging onto the roof and their feet perched on the narrow door runner. I counted 25 people and 10 seats!! I can assure you it was not full and no one is ever left behind.

Nara Moru has half a dozen streets all so badly in need of repair it looks like a war zone.  Large craters in the roads that are littered with boulders. Walking is difficult and as for cars, they move very slowly meandering from one side of the road to the other carefully picking their route. The lane running through Weston Heath is comparable to the main roads of Kenya. During the rainy season the roads just get washed away but very few repairs are done.  

By lunchtime those who made it to the top of Mt Kenya returned to our camp at The Equatorial Catering College grounds. A small enterprise operated by Mr. Ndiritu Ritho and his wife. They have no electricity or fresh water. Next week 8 youths will be attending a residential course for bakery skills. They will learn to bake bread and cakes; taking these new skills back to their villages.  The idea is they have a new skill      that will enable them to earn a living by baking at home and selling their bread etc from the side of the road.                               

Tuesday 31 July 2001

We packed up and made our way to Nyeri the main town in the central region. The main crop here is coffee. It was very busy with more commercial business such as insurance offices, banks, solicitors and of course bumpy roads. Although nothing adverse occurred it was the only town where I felt uncomfortable with regard to the people. Later I was told that it is not a safe area and you should not walk alone but in groups.

Baden Powell, founder of the scouts is buried here. His former home that he had built is a magnificent colonial house, now converted to an upmarket hotel. It is in beautiful grounds and serves excellent food. I sampled lunch, but only a small one.

Lunch completed we continued onto Kiemechimbi, a small village. Here they grow coffee and each small holding some with less than an acre are part of a cooperative selling to the Kenyan Coffee Board. Speaking to the villagers they complained of low prices and corruption. They have very little but the village community spirit is strong as they help each other.  This can be best demonstrated by their joint efforts to finance one of the youths in the village. He has qualified for Nairobi University but his family cannot afford the costs hence the combined efforts of the village.

We have been invited to the homestead of Geoffrey pronounced Joffrey. His family and the villagers have prepared a magnificent feast of food and dancing in our honour. To honour us they slaughtered a goat and offered us its fresh blood to drink. It was not something I particularly enjoyed, although it should be mentioned it was dealt with very quickly. Drinking the blood was not something I felt a particular urge to do and so passed on that one. The goat was skinned and cooked. Its meat was very tough and not a dish I would recommend. Although, I did eat testicle, it has a very soft texture and little taste. It was quite an experience and the villagers had obviously worked very hard to prepare the food and organise the singing and dancing by the children.

Wednesday 1 August 200

We were up early and on the road back to Rowallan Camp. The next two days were spent relaxing in readiness for Friday’s Game Drive in Tsavo Park East.

But not before; a Kenyan Government Minister officially opened the school / training centre, by cutting the tape. Numerous Kenyan and African scout officials plus the secretary to the British High Commissionaire also attended the ceremony. I took a photograph of all these important people sitting at small school desks. They were rather taken back when I asked everyone to sit at the desks and stop talking.

“Now pay attention”, I shouted. They eventually saw the funny side and smiled for the photograph.

The building has now been passed over to the Kenyan Scouts. Gavin Bate said he would continue to assist them with any practical help in order to get the project up and running ASAP. He explained that things do not move very quickly. Last year the project was a medical centre. It has taken 12 months for it to become fully operational with a full time nurse and and access to a continual supply of medication. Back to the school, one of the scout commissionaires promised to keep me informed of the school’s progress.

I have seen a draft of how your £1,250 was to be spent. When I receive the final account I will post it on the web site so everyone can see how your money has been spent. What I can say is it has been well spent and without it the project may have struggled.

Friday 3 August 2001

Today is Nana McC’s birthday. Happy Birthday Nana, have a great day and few whiskeys. Love Mike.

Tsavo is an expanse of 24,000 sq. kilometres of National Reserve Parkland. Lions, African buffalo, water buffalo, zebra, elephant, giraffe, were the big ones we saw.

The lions by the way were a small dots resting under a tree some 200 yards away from a watering hole.

We called at Voi Lodge for a break, relaxing on the balcony overlooking a watering hole.  A herd of elephants and some water buffalo splashed about cooling from the hot sun. It was amusing to watch the small elephants playing as their mothers sprayed them with water. I don’t know how many of you are aware that each herd of elephants has their own midwife. Also a death is mourned and there are elephant graves. The elephant will travel the same route each year. If they come across the skeleton of of one of their herd, they will move the bones away to a place they consider more appropriate.

There was also the cheeky baboon. I placed a glass of orange juice on the wall. Up jumped the baboon with a baby clinging to its stomach, picked up my drink and drank it in one!!! It took everyone by surprise, as we looked on with our mouths open. Unfortunately no one caught the moment on camera. 

That night we camped at the Ranger’s Training School. This is where all the Kenyan park rangers are trained. It is run on a military basis, everyone running and singing; 1,2  - 3,4  - 3,4 – 1,2.

Saturday 4 August 2001

Needless to say we were woken at six to marching and singing. Not to worry at least the showers were good. It goes without saying they were cold but the water did spurt out at a reasonable rate.

To day was even hotter and the roads dusty as we made our way to Abua Swamp. A swamp no more!!! Completely dry and void of large animals just the occasional lion looking for a meal. The area is an observation post for lions. The 2 people conducting the survey were not pleased to see us. In fact the husband was down right rude.

Late afternoon we saw most of the big animals while during the day it was more of the smaller ones and birds. It was dark when we arrived at Buffalo Camp, an upmarket Safari Hotel.  Unfortunately I was not in one of the lodges, just my tent with extra floor protection from the hard thorny ground. My bed!!! Hope it is keeping well for my return? Hot shower, mustn’t think bad thoughts!!

Late in the evening we did take a walk down to the river to see if any crocodiles were about. Just one small fellow lay motionless on the bank. I did not want to disturb him so whispered good night and left.

Sunday 5 August 2001

By 8 o’clock we were on our way to Malindi.White beaches, hot sun and the clear warm water’s of the Indian Ocean. The roads were dusty, bumpy, long and straight. You could see the road ahead rising and falling for miles in front of you. This is bandit country!

We passed through areas where large fires had been lit across the road. When this happens you have two alternatives: drive through the fire or stop. Most people stop before or shortly after because the car is on fire!!! You are then robbed of all your possessions. FACT, not fiction.

 

I forgot to mention the magnificent sunset on Thursday evening.

Travelling through Tsavo there was the most amazing sunset. The sun slowly lowered itself below the horizon, still smiling and throwing massive yellow rays upward. The fading light was keeping pace as it completely dipped below the horizon. A few minutes later on the opposite side the moon pushed itself up above the horizon. It was like a big beach ball as it hauled itself effortlessly to full size. Then you almost expected the moon to wink at you with an expression of, “How about that then”.                  

Something I assume you could only see at the equator?

A few elephant and buffalo later we arrived at Silver Sands Beach Resort, Malindi. Within 10 minutes I was in the water and tasting, (yes, I got a mouthful), the warm Indian Ocean.

Malindi

Relaxing times, swimming, snorkelling, football, volleyball and generally being lazy. I went to Mombassa on Wednesday. It’s a hot steamy, bustling place that seems to sap your energy just being there. Visited the spice market and walked through the old town. So many people, all on the move and competing with buses, cars and matatus for the same space, whether it’s on the road or the pavement.   

This morning I went snorkelling off a coral reef. The water was so clear with thousands of fish. Some were feeding from my hand. You think you can pick one up there are so many. Foolish to try …but I did.

For lunch I have just had the most delicious, mouth watering, freshly made Italian pizza. Just to remind you I am in Kenya.

I have kept my word, no photos of the hippo that disappeared, got one of a crocodile instead!! Honest it was there but as I clicked it went under. No, but I do have a photo of me grappling with a crocodile. OK, it was not fully-grown, but it did have a full set of teeth. Also the python all 20 feet of it wrapped around my neck. And yes I have the photos.

So have I completed my aims for the last 4 weeks?

Helped the street kids, they were ecstatic about the shirts and the school is better off for your support.

Climbed Mt Kenya to 12,000ft not as far as I intended but much higher than anybody in the group expected. They all thought I was dipping out of the mountain section.

Tried to shake hands with monkey but it stole my drink instead. But I did feed a fully-grown Rhino by hand and still have all my fingers, wrestled with the croc and grappled with the python.

Swam in the Indian Ocean and swallowed some for good measure.

Everton are still in the Premier League and have loads of new supporters in Kenya, so what more could I ask for?

Thank you for all your support. Just one disaster. How do I tell Brian the Brickie I have lost his spoon and his mess tins in London or Devon? But; I have washed your gaiters Brian, they look sparkling!!!!

A beard? What do you think? Shall I come home clean shaven or the smelly back packer I have been for the last 4 weeks?

For the last few days I will wallow in the sun with cool coke.

The trip has been fantastic and I would say to every young person get out there and enjoy Africa. It is a beautiful place with so much to offer. Plush hotels are fine for your mum and dad but the real thing with fun and adventure is really the only way to see “Black Africa”.     

Mike McCarthy

Below is a photo and report taken from http://www.africamppost.com/

THE CLOSING CEREMONY (MONDAY 23rd)

 

(ABOVE) The winning team from Muthuwa proudly show off the shirts they won for first prize.

The prize giving was part of the closing ceremony, which also included a parade, singing, music and speeches by visiting digniteries.

The shirts were provided by Michael McCarthy who wrote to UK football clubs asking for donations.