Flame Trees of Thika

Stephen Quinn
December 9, 2010 share

Dec 1st - - Flying from Kigali to Kenya impressed upon us the environmental change we had traveled through. Rwanda was higher in elevation and green with heavier rainfall. Kenya lower in elevation, drier and gold and ochre with savanna grass. We were met at the airport by Guy Combes, fellow Artists for Conservation member and native to Kenya. His cousin, also born in Kenya, Murray Combes was to be his teammate and, with Guy, our guides while in Kenya. Guy and Murray would prove to be extrodinary guides and, as home grown boys with generations going back to the 1940s, provide us untold stories of the past and unique and personal insights into their country, it's magnificent wildlife, and their family history. Though they were our guides, they were colleagues and shared our passions for art, wildlife and it's protection, so we immediately became fast friends. We boarded Murray's Toyota Landcruiser, a vehicle of which Murray was quite proud, and set out into the Nairobi traffic, and I mean TRAFFIC! The last time I had been in Niarobi was in 1984. At that time the city was restricted to the downtown area, with open savanna, and a few Thompsons gazelles appearing soon after leaving the "town". Now it is a sprawling full fledged metropolis with expansive suburbs, malls and commercial areas. Due to congested commuter traffic, it took us 6 hours to reach the town of Karen on the outskirts of Niarobi. The town is named after Karen Blixen of "Out of Africa" fame and we were to stay a night at the famous Mothaiga Club. Murray and Guy's family are long-standing members. The air was filled with the scent of jasmin and frangipani as we turned from the dusty roadway into the club's front gate. Karen Blixen was a regular visitor the club and was infamous for being the first woman to be served at the club's "men only" bar. She was quite a gal and the region we were in was her coffee estate. Just down the road was the airstrip where her lover, Denys Flinchatton (Robert Redford in the film) hangared his plane. We had a good dinner, a few drinks, and were directed our rooms where we all slept like babies. I was happy to be back in Kenya, and with such good travel companions.

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