5:30 am – I am awake. It is pitch black. In 10 minutes the mullah will start calling the faithful to prayer. The cockerels are warming up for a good old rousing start to the day and the lion in the impala park at the end of the street is clearing his throat. This is just a prelude to the dawn chorus – all those multi-coloured birds who inhabit this aviary have something to say about the joy of their existence for another day and it seems like everyone else has to get in on the act – the crickets, a lot of dogs, then the lorries, cars, motor bikes and something unrecognisable with a piercing call. So no chance of dozing then! It is loud because the windows are invariably open, apart from during the storms. Even at this hour with the windows wide open, it is hot.
As arranged, we were all assembled ready for breakfast at 6:30, out of the door by 7 and boarding our boat at Hippo Point at 7:20. Pippa’s friends Titus and Fisherman John were taking us out, John steering and Titus (a walking natural science encyclopaedia) guiding. Charlie agreed with them that the trip would last an hour.
Once seated in the converted wooden fishing boat, we headed straight towards an overhanging tree full of nests and stopped about 3 feet away, cameras ready. Right in front of us were cranes, weaver birds, egrets, kingfishers and fish eagles. This was our own natural aviary. As we turned and motored up the coast, Titus pointed out the flora and fauna, giving us background information and stories. Fairly soon we came across a family of about 8 hippos. My shot of one yawning was much more luck than camera prowess but I was still chuffed with it. Hippos are dangerous creatures and it was slightly unsettling to be circling them in a fairly flimsy craft but they ignored us.
As we went on, we hugged the shoreline. There were almost biblical scenes of fishermen hauling in their nets or bringing their catch to shore. Everyone smiled and waved. Some women washed their clothes from the bank; a naked man stood on a rock washing himself, head to toe; other women came down to collect water in large pots which they carried back, balanced on their heads. The villages comprised mud huts and corrugated iron shacks.
We sailed on to the floating mangrove forest – full of pythons and cobras, so Titus informed us. He spotted a basking monitor lizard, about 2 metres long. We cut the motor and drifted in very close, getting some good pictures before the lizard had enough of us and crawled off.
As we drifted past the trees, 2 of the most beautiful, tiny but perfect kingfishers swooped across the lake from branch to branch. Their colours were so vibrant – deep iridescent blues and reds.
After this, the boat was finally turned round and we headed back to Hippo Point, arriving 20 minutes later. Our ‘hour’ ride finished 2 ½ hours after we had set out.
John told Pippa to pay him what she wanted to. The 5 of us from the UK paid 1000 shillings each (£8). We reminded ourselves that both men have 5 children each to feed.
After breakfast back at base, we drove back to New Life where we helped feed the babies. The staff were very grateful. To sponsor another member of staff, to cover both shifts, would cost about £2000 a year. We talked about how we could make this happen when we return to England.
We went back to the house for lunch and continued writing up our notes from the training sessions, to leave for the staff. We returned to the home to say our goodbyes. The staff thanked us for coming; they blessed us and our families and sent greetings to our partners and children. It was very emotional saying goodbye to the special needs girls – Edwina, Lina, Ashley and Rhoda, all of whom we had become very attached to over the last 10 days.
Our meal that evening was Talitha, a local fish, served with mixed vegetables and mashed bananas. Mary, the house maid had prepared this for us. It was delicious.
Tomorrow, we leave for Nairobi, some sightseeing and the opportunity to visit projects in the slums. It has been an amazing experience here in Kisumu. We have met some amazing people, experienced wonderful hospitality and been moved by much of what we have seen and heard.