We are still new enough to Nairobi that entering a township is a wonderful thing. After 6 years in Cape Town when even the thought of entering a local village struck fear into my heart, to be able to drive through Ngong on a busy market day Saturday morning was an experience the whole family relished. The kids enjoyed spying donkeys, stalls of live chickens and second hand Frozen and Batman shirts, whilst, for me, the magic was in the hustle and bustle surrounding the food stalls; the multi-coloured dress of both women and men and the general feeling of vibrancy as music pumped out from every shop and car enlivening people even as they went about the most mundane of chores.
Upon leaving Ngong the trip to Lake Magadi is a loooong journey through largely desolate Maasai country. The landscape changes little, the sand from red to white, the trees grow sparser and less green, but the tedium of an otherwise rather dull journey is relieved by frequent glimpses of the Maasai settlements offering an insight into their lives. On this morning we witnessed many Maasai waited by the side of the road for Boda Boda to deliver their monthly bags of flour, each dressed impeccably in a rainbow of traditional dress (this was embellished further on the way back with the addition of tribal jewellery the silver disks of which twinkled like stars in the setting sun). The journey made the trip for us, despite being a long 3 hours there and faster 2 hours back.
Lake Magadi hot springs were, in fact, a disappointment, I wasn’t expecting the carefully curated swimming pools of South Africa but at least a few rock pools that I could sit in and relax. After a fairly exhilarating ride across the saltpans we came to an area slick with mud, salt and algae, and about 50 Maasai hawkers who tried to sell us beads the entire time. We found one small pool of water in which to immerse ourselves waist deep, it was 37 degrees outside and 45 in the pool so needless to stay the dip in and out was very short-lived and the experiment certainly more tepid that the springs. It’s worth noting however, that we are in the middle of a severe drought so expecting cascades of water was a little unrealistic. I’d like to think that the hot springs are a little more robust and exciting in a normal/wet season.
Lunch was at the Lake Magadi Sports Club; reached not long after you enter Lake Magadi and 10Km before the hot springs it’s a run down old place, which was uninspiring at first. It massively redeemed itself with the friendliest service, cheap and very good food (I had the chicken Dhania which was a riot of flavour and meaty goodness), reggae music, a pool for the kids, sultry heat and a couple of glasses of wine. All in we were as happy as pigs in mud. We left reluctantly and headed home, sunburned, salty, slightly tipsy and warmed by our latest adventure.