When looking off the balcony of the main house at Fiwagoh, we were able to immediately see to our left the Ugali Hills.
Breathtaking and beautiful in the distance. We stood and took in the view. This is a very popular hiking spot for tourists and I found out while staying that there are several lodges in very close proximity to the orphanage that cater to hikers. My research indicates that to get to the top of the Ugali Hill takes about 6-9 hours (roundtrip) depending on your level of fitness.
However, once we were told the nickname for the hills, we promptly forgot the given name and only referred to it as the Sleeping Warrior. If you are having difficulty seeing the sleeping warrior, the head is in the center of the photo, (chin jutting to the sky) and the warriors body follows to the left, as he lies on his back sleeping.
To the right of the property when the haze has lifted, is Lake Elementaita. The lake is a soda lake, (a salt lake with high contents of sodium) located near the town of Gilgil. Elementaita is a word derived from the Masaai word for muteita "dust place" which in the seasons of July - October and January and February, the lake is very low and dry. During our visit the lake was very shallow and was bordered by mud flats. Typically this is a wonderful season to see wildlife in their natural habitat (zebras, warthogs etc) because they have to go further out from the vegetation get to the watering holes. However when you are walking with 275+ of your closest friends and family, I believe that the wildlife runs and hides!!
Upon arriving to the lake, the view was spectacular! It was a bright clear day.
This lake has been known for many years as an attraction for flamingos. Many photos and paintings have been done from this lake location depicting 100's of visiting flamingos.
Currently you can find over 400 varieties of birds in this surrounding area. The story of the decrease in the flamingos visiting this place is somewhat sad. They used to flock to this area when transitioning towards Tanzania. In 1962 however Tilapia were introduced to this lake, and the flamingo population decreased significantly because the Tilapia brought birds of prey that ate the flamingo eggs and chicks. Now the flamingos are said to be seeking refuge at Lake Natron in Tanzania.
Lake Elementaita also used to be the home of rhinos. However because of poaching and because of their increased aggressive behavior, all the rhinos have been removed from Lake Elementaita and relocated to other lakes in the surrounding areas (with less human visitors) or to preserves.
The mud flats were plentiful, but as I said the wild life scarce. That did not deter my group of young women doing their best to find some "wildlife".
Salome pulled this small organism from the shallowest of the waters by a mudflat.
This was the only "print" that we saw in the mud, and we confirmed that is was just your standard variety cow from the neighbors farm.
Some grasses growing that would allow the wildlife a snack and a drink at the same time.
While we were walking all the children talked about the hot springs. We were not sure what the hot springs were or where they were located, but the next day were blessed to take 164 of the children (ages 5-13) on a walk that Pastor Benson described as "just a small walk, over the highway 104".
Eager to not miss any part of the beauty surrounding us, we lined them all up, counted them off and started out on a trip that was a little further than "just over there"... we estimate that the total round trip hike, uphill was about 5.5 miles. But oh were the views amazing!!
We traveled a bit further up hill to the start of the hot springs, and this is when the boys all went for a "real"swim. The girls after waiting patiently for their turn, then took of their shirts and pulled up their skirts for modesty and went for their swim. I did feel bad for the locals as they shared the swimming hole with 164 super excited kids!!
Like one would expect, there was some difficulty rounding up the children, having them find their shoes and shirts and get back in line to begin the return trek. I was struck by the forward thinking that some of them had. Many boys wore two pairs of shorts to the hot springs, so they could swim in one and have a dry pair for the walk back! One young man even carried that ball the entire time just so he could play with it in the springs. Some brought bottled water. Others extra shirts. Again, there was hardly a complaint amongst them. We witnessed many helping each other out with piggyback rides and holding hands to get back to the main road. This is a family thrown together by misfortune, but that looks after it's own in all instances!
While I was unsure for the majority of the walk back to Fiwagoh, if we had the same number returning home as we brought... it seems that everyone was accounted for by the gate keeper upon our return!!
Another item of interest so close to the orphanage, that we observed on this hike, were large deposits of diatomite. I do not have any photos of this mineral, however I did a bit of research prior to writing this, and here is what I discovered. Diatomite is a deposit in the earth made up from skeletons of billion of single cell organisms, algae and phytoplankton. It is 85% pure silica, the material that is found in quartz sand. They have been mining it in Africa since 1950. Additionally, the material is uses as a filter aid, and in cleaning agent for stainless steel, and as an insecticide. It is odorless, white in color, non toxic to humans and soft to the touch.
The cactus and trees in the area area also amazing and lush. Right now I am a bit upset with myself for not taking more photos and having more beauty to share with you!
I can share with you that I had a lot of interaction with one type of tree in particular that was not my friend at all! The Acacai tree! The Acacai tree was referred to by the older children and adults as the "African tooth pick tree" because all the branches and the trunk of the tree are covered in sharp prickly thorns about an inch long. As the tree dies and dries out the thorns are easy to break off. (Similar to de-thorning a rose.) However, even with closed toed shoes, and gloves, those thorns found their way into your feet and hands and arms. If you were lucky they just brushed by you and scratched you. For those of us not so lucky, they could come through the soles of your shoes and stick in your feet or any other body part that was exposed. Speaking from experience, they hurt going in, but hurt more coming out, and left a welt under the skin for about three days.
It is amazing in reflection, how the world that we live in is so vast and so different from state to state and country to country. The Lord has provided for such vastness and uniqueness I believe so that we can not only enjoy new and exciting things when we travel or move, but so that we can also view our everyday surroundings with a renewed sense of awe and expectation.
In Genesis 1 you will find the creation story:
Day one: Night and Day
Day two: Sky and Sea
Day three: Land and Vegitation
Day four: Stars, Sun and Moon
Day five: Sea Creatures and Birds
Day six: Animals and Man
It is such a simple story, but when you start to look at the vast and unique areas of the world, and put into perspective all the types of birds and sea creatures, the many many land masses and plants it can be a bit overwhelming to consider all this was done in six days. No wonder the 7th day was a day for rest!
Rejoicing in the vastness of the world I live in and the beauty that surrounds me! I am so glad I don't have to make this stuff up, because my imagination is not this grand!