Kenya – land of safaris and friendly people! We landed a ‘sit’ as caretakers on a horse safari farm at the base of Mount Kenya. Here we would be responsible for greeting guests and looking after their needs be it book them on a safari, arrange a massage or just a walk with a local Kenyan elder in the Community. And so our journey begins ……….
We arrived at Olepangi Farm mid December 2019. It is situated 7 km from the main road at Timau and boy, those 7k are rough! The road is in extreme need of repair – holes, bumps and washed-away edges from the short rainy season, that ended up being longer than usual. However, people travel up and down this road in 4 x 4’s, on motorbikes and on foot and still arrive safely. The farm is beautifully situated overlooking the Laikipia Valley where wild animals trudge along the ridge and in the bush. If you want a safe, but wild experience, this is the place to be.
Our duties began on our very first night with a Xmas party for the neighbours – so we were thrown in at the deep end, as they say. It was certainly an experience getting to know everyone and why they lived in this area and what they did. The wine flowed extensively and we did our best to keep the bar going – another of our ‘duties’.
Olepangi Farm is an off-grid, virtually zero carbon emission, eco-friendly farm where guests can relax, unwind or take a safari trip, either on one of the 15 horses from the farm or with a driver and vehicle for the day. The food is out of this world – fresh from the organic garden to the table – a trip of some 10 minutes walk – and cooked by an amazing Masai Mara chef who does not flinch at any pressure even when dealing with a full house.
So, how do you get a ‘sit’ like this? I found a niche website that still sends out its newsletter by post as well as having vacancies on-line called Caretake Gazette. It has a staged subscription which is not expensive. Most of the adverts are for The States, however there are some for other parts of the world too.
One way of travelling from the farm to the local town of Timau is on a Boda Boda (motorcycle taxi). Here is me on the back of James’s bike. You have to be an experienced motorcycle rider to be able to avoid all those holes and bumps. It took half and hour and I can’t say it was in any way comfortable, but I did feel safe in James’s experienced hands.
When doing a ‘sit’ like this you have to be flexible, inter-active and ready to take on almost anything. Throw yourself into the ‘job’ and reap the benefits of being in another land, with amazing people and enjoy the experience. As long as you have reasonably good, manageable, health, there is not reason not to take a journey. You are more likely to get a feeling of intergration on a ‘sit’ than if you are just a tourist.
The type of things to remember when coming to Kenya is that it was once Colonial Britain. This brings about bureaucracy that the English have and sometimes taken to a much further degree. Driving is on the same side as the UK, most people speak some English, although Swahili is the local language – and there are many different versions of this. Be warned – the people are so friendly they are likely to give the impression they understand what you are saying even if they don’t! Be clear in your communication and ask for feedback.
They say you can get a local sim card for your mobile phone easily in most countries. I didn’t feel it was any worse than elsewhere, however, there is the slow, relaxed, way of dealing with things that can be frustrating for westerners eg they don’t take passport ID at the weekends! Go to a reputable Safaricom shop and you will find yet more helpful, friendly staff all too keen to assist and get you set up. Perhaps doing this at the airport may save you a little grief.
So we continue our journey – next stop a 3 day safari with some amazing photos and close-ups of wild, peaceful animals. More to follow ……………