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Driving up to the Saruni Samburu

A few weeks ago, we decided to go up to Samburu again. This time around, we were going mostly to experience the Saruni Samburu—will have a review of that later. Also, this time, we drove. Altogether, it took about five hours.

Timing included a lovely stop at Barney’s, a cafe next to the Nanyuki airfield. I don’t have too many pictures from that, but here are some:

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At the airfield

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Sculptures outside of Barney’s

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The Landy at the parking lot

That was about three hours into the drive. The road was excellent the whole way up to Nanyuki. Actually, the road was excellent all the way up to the Kalama Gate at Samburu. That’s where you turn off to head up the rough road to the Saruni. That’s when our Land Rover Defender really got to be used.

Word to the wise, and they will advise you at the gate, you cannot make it up to the Saruni without a proper SUV. It’s can’t be any car that is a 4×4. You need high clearance off the ground. A proper SUV or truck will work fine. Leave the sedan and station wagon at the gate.

From the gate, it took about an hour, driving slowly and carefully. We used the GoPro to record the ride up. I sped things up so you can see the ride in about six minutes.

It was a fun trip over all and the ride was pleasant. The Landy did well, but I think next time we’ll take the Fortuner.

Review: Flying Foxes

In earlier posts I wrote about our trip to The Forest and our bad experience mountain biking there with Limitless Outdoors. This post is about the FANTASTIC experience we had with doing the zip lines with Flying Foxes at The Forest. It was so great!

Safety first! Flying Foxes has an ambulance at the ready just in case. But, most likely you won’t ever need it.

The equipment and lines are top notch. The staff is well trained and really knows their stuff. These are experts. Also, you go through a short training before you get to the line. They make sure you know exactly what you’re doing before you’re allowed to go. They take safety seriously. The main photo shows the training area of the zip line.

Now, the fun! The lines take you across beautiful canopies of Kenyan forest. It’s breathtaking.

This was my second zip line and it was the biggest one I’ve done. At first I was a bit scared, but after about three seconds, I got over it and enjoyed the rush and the view. It was so amazing.

No photos, as you need both hands and you don’t want to drop anything. No video as the GoPro wasn’t set up right. We’ll try it again and hopefully get some footage.

We will definitely go back for the zip line. We did the two line package as we wanted to test things out. We will go for the six line package for sure next time.

 

Review: Limitless Outdoors

In prior post, I mentioned that we to The Forest, an adventure park an hour and a half away. We did the zip line (which was fantastic) and we did the mountain biking, run by Limitless Outdoors, which was terrible. Why was it so bad? The best way to describe it is to sum up the four points of failure.

Failure Point 1: Unqualified Staff

We were very clear with the guy who set us up on the bikes. We told him we are experienced road cyclists but have little to no experience mountain biking. He knew our level of expertise, which was low.

We asked about the trails. If we hadn’t asked, he wouldn’t have told us anything. We were able to get the distance for each trail out of him, that’s it.

He then sent us off, but not before being wishy washy with the advice on trails. He first said to do blue to orange and then purple. Then he said to do orange first. Then he went back to blue first. Then, just as we got on the bikes and headed to the starting point, he yelled out for us to start with purple.

Purple is the hardest trail. It is a technical trail. It’s steep (both up and down), narrow, and there is a lot of fallen branches on the trail. Plus, in the narrow parts, you have the choice of getting scraped by a rock wall or by a thorny bush. Do not do this unless you are experienced…oh wait, there’s another reason not to do it….

Failure Point 2: Lack of Signage

At a certain point, we realized the trail wouldn’t get easier, but doubling back wasn’t an option as there was no way we could make it back up the narrow, steep hill. (FYI, there’s a lot of animal dung so walking the bike up would mean walking through fresh feces.) So, we kept going, getting on and off the bikes as needed.

We kept following the signs…until they stopped. The signs just stop. Maybe there was once more signs, but they are no longer there. (This is the type of terrain in which Limitless Outdoors should check the signs DAILY as a lot can happen to signs between the animals, weather and flora/fauna.)

We figured if there were no more signs, we should follow the main path. This lead us to the main road, which is murram. Let me tell you about murram.

It’s slippery and not good for the average mountain biking tire. J. brought his own bike with super grippy tires. My rental from Limitless Outdoors had standard tires that got zero traction.

I am an experienced road cyclist and could not get the bike under control. After my second wipe out on that road (third overall as I wiped out once on the trail), I put my bike up to the side and called for help. We were far from The Forest site and we needed a car to come get us.

I specifically asked for a car….

Failure Point 3: Ignoring the Request for Help

After calling The Forest reception for a car to come get us, we walked toward the site as we waited. 15 minutes passed and no one came. I had to call again to request a car. We kept walking. Another 15 minutes passed.

Then someone on a bicycle came. I told him I asked for a car. He said to take his bike and follow a certain path. I told him I didn’t trust him to send us the right way and that I didn’t trust the path to be clearly marked. Why should I?

I said to call in to have a car. He told us we were now too close for a car to some. Seriously. So we walked another 20 minutes to the site.

We walked close to an hour to get back. Full sun and no shade. Lots of hills. We were exhausted but had no choice.

When I got back, I demanded to speak to a manager…

Failure Point 4: Not Caring About The Customer

At first they sent me someone else (not the manager) who told me, “Please don’t be angry.”

Really? I told him I had every right to be angry and that I wanted the manager straight away. Finally, Bobby, the manager arrived.

I explained the situation to him. He said he would look into it. Later, while we were eating lunch he came by.

He said there was a communication failure between the reception desk and his group. Yeah no kidding.

Bobby: We do rescues.

Me: You didn’t for us.

Bobby: But usually we do.

Me: BUT YOU DIDN’T FOR US

Bobby: Well, this was our first one.

Me: Well, you failed.

Bobby blinked and moved on to the next point. He said it’s a “he said she said” issue with the guy who set us up as he claimed he told us everything we needed to know. I told Bobby that I realize it’s “he said she said” but that his employee didn’t tell us. They guy flat out lied and the manager chose to not believe the customer.

He then told us he knew exactly where we got lost and that there is a sign. We told him neither of us saw the sign. He kept insisting this was our fault. It’s not. It’s up to Limitless Outdoors to keep signage visible.

In the end, he bought me a bottle of water and J. a juice to “meet you halfway.” As though that does anything. He then said, “I hope you’ll give us another try. And give me feedback. It is better? Is it worse?”

As though quality control is my job? Are you kidding me?

I stopped him short and explained that we will never use them again and will strongly advise people to not use them. So, here I am, strongly advising you to not use them. The experience was that bad and Limitless Outdoors was so terrible that had we done the mountain biking first, we would have skipped the zip line because we wouldn’t have trusted the safety.

Do not use Limitless Outdoors. Be very careful should you do anything in The Forest that is off on the trails. If something happens to you, no one will come to your rescue.

Review: The Forest

The other week, we took a day off and went up to The Forest. The Forest is an outdoor adventure park that’s about an hour and a half outside Nairobi. (The website says it’s an hour, but from Kitisuru it took longer.) There are numerous activities including archery, zip lining, and mountain biking. We did the zip line (excellent) and the mountain biking (terrible and I strongly advise against it). I’ll review both of those activities later.

Entrance to The Forest is free. You only pay for the activities. I recommend reserving ahead of time as things do get booked. Even weekdays are busy as this place is popular for corporate events.

Overall, we like The Forest. It’s pretty. The zip line, the main attraction, is safe and well managed. The views are great. The restaurant is fantastic.

Here are some pictures of the restaurant area:

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I would not give The Forest a 10 out of 10. I’d give it an 8. Why does it lose two points?

I will go into detail in my review of the mountain biking. To sum it up, we needed a rescue and it didn’t happen. I had to call TWICE to get anyone to come out. I was very clear that we needed a car to come get it – so very clear. They eventually sent someone on bicycle and so we had to walk back a rather long way. The mountain biking organization (Limitless Outdoors) is mostly at fault for the issue, but for the call it’s totally on the reception desk at The Forest.

I shouldn’t have had to call twice. They should have sent a car. This was a major failure.

What does this tell me? If you are out on the trails or the main road, you are on your own if anything happens. The Forest staff and management will not do much to help you. If you have an injury (like a sprained ankle) that limits movement or something more serious, you are 100% screwed. 

This is a big problem.

I wouldn’t not to go The Forest. In fact I plan to go back. But, I would only do the zip line (run by Flying Foxes). If you’re into archery, you can also do that as it’s on site. But I wouldn’t do anything that takes you onto the trails.

Style Evolution

Our sense of style changes over time. We develop it as we get older. Life events like parenthood (human or animal kids), job changes, and such affect it. And in the case of the expat, moving to a new place also changes it. Maybe it’s a different culture or climate. Maybe it’s both.

For me, for the most part, my style is the same. But I’ve noticed some changes:

  • I’m still mostly wearing black and gray and otherwise monochrome. But, I have some splashes of color and some pieces from kitenge and kikoy fabrics.
  • I’m wearing heels less often unless they’re wedges. I still break them out for a night out…but it depends on where we’re going. Cobblestone, gravel, lawns, and uneven sidewalk are not friends to heels.
  • Layering, while always needed in NY, is now an absolute must. The temperature severely drops when the sun goes down.
  • Because I’m no longer going into an office, I need and have fewer dressy everyday clothes. I’m more casual and…well…even doing a bit of athleisure.
  • Actually, let me append to that last bullet. I’m doing a lot more athleisure.
  • Having dogs and going to Karura Forest almost everyday, I have a set mini-wardrobe I refer to as my Karura Wear. That’s sort of a mix of old jeans, clothes for safari, and old gym clothing.
  • While I don’t need as much formal office wear, I do need more formal wear. Ball gowns are now part of my closet.
  • Last note, I’ve discovered what is my most valued (read: I need tons of these) item: the long-sleeve t-shirt. It’s the most useful garment for me in Nairobi. I find myself wearing this 80 percent of the time.

Are you an expat in Nairobi or elsewhere? Has your style changed at all? I’d love to hear from others.