Maps: Poster Book is available now from all good bookshops - put the world on your wall today.My name is Stephanie, and in 2010 I spent an incredible, unforgettable month in Kenya…
I decided to take a ‘gap month’ before University, facing the challenge of an expedition which would see me cope with a bucket for a shower, climb Mount Kenya, volunteer at an orphanage, go on safaris and spend a day with the Masaai tribe.
Those four challenging but wonderful weeks left me with a longing to go back…
The people I met were amazing. Despite having very little, their spirits were always high and on the whole, they were so friendly.
And the children I met at St. Stephen’s orphanage in the village of Timau were unforgettable. On the first day, we listened to them excitedly tell us everything they knew about England - mainly that we were rubbish at football but that Beckham was ‘cool’. We painted their bedrooms, looked after the babies and taught the older children English. One day, as a thank you, they took us on a surprise trip. After walking for at least an hour, we arrived at a beautiful waterfall hidden by lush foliage. This was their secret hideaway, and to be shown it by them was incredibly moving. But they had one more treat in store for us to show their gratitude, presenting us each with a hand sculpted wooden elephant to remind us forever of our ‘friends’ in Kenya.
Asides from the people, it was the wildlife and the landscape that stood out for me. From the bitter cold of Mount Kenya, the friendly feel in the rural villages, to the hustle and bustle of Nairobi – Kenya is a hugely varied country.
At first (and perhaps expectedly after a long flight) the African landscape looked bleak, and it took a while to get used to the expanse of yellow grass with only the occasional shrub and acai tree. By the end of the trip, I had fallen in love.
Seeing wildlife like zebra, giraffe, wildebeest, warthogs, gazelle, rhino and snakes in the wild is a sight you simply cannot compare to seeing them behind bars. Even now, going to the zoo to see animals like these is bittersweet. And on safari, there is always the hope that you might see something incredible – rather than have it listed on a guide. Like the time we were on our way home, only for our guide to drive the jeep through the undergrowth until we hit a sudden stop. With branches poking into our windows, we peered out to see the end of a trunk winding itself around a bundle of leaves. Through the gaps in the trees was the visible outline of an elephant. It was incredible.
Just like the entire trip. And camping for a month in Africa sounds like a bit of a nightmare, but honestly, falling asleep under the stars, having eaten dinner around a campfire and listening to the sounds of the African bush is absolutely magical.