Rainforests & Land Cruisers

Look, I know what you’re thinking. I get it. A few blog posts in the first few weeks that are happy and filled with pictures, then a mildly depressing piece on mortality proceeded by me disappearing for a few weeks. I apologize. Allow me to take a moment to (start) catching you up to speed.

Kakamega Rainforest

A couple weeks back, the group took our first overnight trip – Kakamega Rainforest – where we stayed at the Rondo Retreat Centre. We were joined by two wonderful people we met at IU House, Steve (a psychiatrist and department head at Georgetown) and Tony (an organic chemist in manufacturing at Eli Lilly). Surrounded by flowers, trees, and wildlife, it was a weekend of rest and relaxation in the rainforest. We started by taking a short, unguided walk where we were able to spot a few monkeys hanging about the treetop. I was enamored. Monkeys have been my favorite animals since I was a youngin and seeing them in the wild was a special moment.

After a quick lunch, the group met up with Jobe, our guide we were required to hire for the longer nature walks/hikes (Jobe – if you’re reading this, and I know you most certainly are not – I apologize if I spelled your name incorrectly). The roughly 3-hour hike brought about more monkeys (there are 4 different kinds at Kakamega), a river, and some gained knowledge about the rainforest. The coolest thing we learned about was the parasitic trees (yup, trees can be parasites) that takeover other trees, growing over their trunks and giving their hosts the middle finger in the process. Survival of the fittest out here, folks. After the hikes, we were treated to afternoon tea and cake, which is quickly becoming one of my new favorite customs in Kenyan culture.

Sunday morning got off to an earrrrly start (like 5 am, or something obnoxious) as we began our quest to reach the highest point in the rainforest before sunrise. With the help of a few headlamps and flashlights, we scurried our way up through the darkness in under an hour. Then we waited. I took this time to walk around alone for a bit and just take in the sounds of the rainforest awaking… birds chirping, monkeys hollering or whatever they do. A billowy fog rolled across the canopy. As the sun slowly rose, the luscious green coloring of the world around me came alive. The group hung out up top for quite a while and Jobe showed us around a few places; we even managed to spot some curious baboons (that were too far away for photos) that ran into the trees shortly after we saw them.

The hike down afforded a stop in a bat cave. I hit my head a few times, cramped caves aren’t notorious for favoring people my height. At the bottom, Tony and I split off from the group to take a peek at the tea fields across from our resort. We rounded the morning out with breakfast before we packed it in and called it a weekend.

One of our pharmacy professors from Purdue, Monica Miller, arrived when we were in Kakamega. She is one of the professors that helps coordinate this Purdue-Kenya partnership program and amongst many, many other responsibilities, is a staple in the pharmacy curriculum as an accomplished educator. Of the three different “teams” that my friends and I represent while on the wards, Monica rounded with my team for her week at MTRH (rounding is when the entire medical team goes around each morning and sees patients, managing their care and deciding their treatment plan). Having Monica with Meg, Lindsey, and me for the week was an absolute blessing, as we were able to learn from her experience and agility as a practitioner. This would end up being the last week we had an actual licensed pharmacist on rounds with us students… the succeeding weeks, we would be “on our own”, calling the shots and making decisions without a preceptor standing over our shoulder (yes, a scary thought indeed).

As the week came to a close on Friday, we geared up for celebrating the medical students’ residency match day and our anticipation for the upcoming trip grew. Our residency match was the following Tuesday and we needed something to take our overly-anxious minds off of it.

Baringo and Bogoria

Two iconic bodies of water, Lake Baringo and Lake Bogoria, were the next stops on our weekend Tour de Kenya. We rose early Saturday morning to take off towards Baringo, which was an especially unpleasant wake-up call after being out at the clubs in downtown Eldoret until 2am (woof). I struggled through eating a banana and some crackers to fuel my sleep-deprived and hungover body, and fortunately slept on and off for most of the drive there. I hadn’t heard much about what to expect this weekend except that we would be taking a boat ride and there would be flamingos, maybe some hippos if we got lucky. What actually happened blew me away.

The drive to the lakes was breathtaking; we had to venture through the Rift Valley to get there and I managed to snap a few of my favorite photos from the trip so far, including the one below with the motorcycle riding towards the mountains.

A quick lunch at Soi Safari Lodge (this weekend’s home) separated us from the drive and our first activity of the day, a snake conservancy. Most of our group was excited about seeing/holding these slithery reptiles except for Naomi, who bravely stood at a safe distance and watched as we took turns draping a 6-foot long python (I think?) around our necks. We also got to see some of them enjoy some chicks for lunch, but I’ve graciously decided to spare you from those photos.

Up next: boat ride! We split into two groups and climbed into some fun little boats for a few hours on the lake. As we skimmed across the water, we learned all the different birds we were seeing. Max (our tour company leader) and the boat drivers bought us a few fish from the local fishermen to put on a show. They raced the boats to a nearby island, spotted the African fish eagle (which looks similar to a bald eagle), and proceeded to call its attention by whistling and throwing a fish into the water near the boats. Moments later, the eagle was in full-on attack mode, swooping down with its talons forward to snag its free afternoon snack. We did this twice and although I am not a wildlife photographer by any stretch of the imagination, I got a few shots I was happy with (shout-out to fancy cameras that shoot 10 frames per second). The next stop was Love Island, which we learned was appropriately named by the owner (I forget his name) who has 3 or 4 wives and 30+ children. That’s a lot of mouths to feed.

Making our way back towards the shallow waters by the shore, we were lucky enough to spot some hippos and a handful of crocodiles before the ride ended. With a few hours before dinner, we scurried over to the pool for some relaxation and, you guessed it, tea & cake. It’s a miracle that I’m actually losing weight here. Exploring the grounds after pool time, we found a pair of ostriches that live there, plus a cranky old tortoise that I affectionately named Frank.

The next morning, I jumped out of bed early to catch the sunrise. Making my way down to the water, I was incredibly fortunate to see a fisherman launching his boat with the sun rising behind him. I have always been a fan of silhouette photos and the one I came away with blew me away. It’s such a blessing to be able to captures moments like that. (PS: this is probably my favorite mini photo set I have taken/edited). You know the old saying: early bird gets the... best photos?

Breakfast stuffed our stomachs yet again and we all jumped into the tan Land Cruiser for an adventure around Lake Bogoria, where we were promised to see flamingos. I was stoked to see these pink beauties take flight and expose their black markings under their wings. As we found various flocks, we stopped and snagged pics, moving closer and closer until they got too nervous and flapped away to safety. With our roof propped up allowing us to stand, and wind smacking our face, the cruiser ripped through mud puddles and stomped over rocks with ease. Aqua waters and green rolling hills made a beautiful backdrop as we teleported into what we thought was Jurassic Park (shout-out to Dayna for the reference, it’s pretty accurate). A smile never left my face the entire ride.

Our next destination on the lake was a hot spring that we couldn’t relax in (the water was literally boiling) but we did buy a dozen fresh eggs in preparation to hard-boil. With our eggs cooking in the water, we took turns standing in the stream of the steam and I snapped some artsy portraits that made it look like we were in a white-out. (Side note: thank you to my friends here that always put up with my shenanigans when I ask them to model and help me make cool images, you guys rock)

So, yeah. A few more weekends in the books and my goodness were they fun. Thanks for keeping up with these blog posts even when I disappear for a few weeks (my b, everybody). I hope you enjoyed this massive photo dump! More posts on the other weekends coming soooon!