Follow by Email

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Day 31 Kakamega Forest June 8, 2011


Today was spent being a tourist.  Hezron picked me up at the guest house at eleven and we headed for the Kakamega Forest National Reserve.  Hezron decided to take a short cut instead of taking the main road into the forest reserve.  This road has to take the prize for one of the worst roads in Kenya.  Thirty minutes of a car pounding ride.  I am surprised that the wheels were not pulled out from under the car.  Upon arrival at the forest reserve we happen to run across our guide Dave on the side of the road.  We picked him up and proceeded into the forest.  After paying the required park fee Dave took us on our tour.

Since it rains everyday the rain forest trails were wet and the air was damp.  In the shade of the forest it was pretty comfortable.  After going through a very small piece of the forest we came out into a tea plantation.  Dave explained to me that this had been planted as a buffer between human settlement and the forest.  This is meant to help prevent the locals from coming in and destroying the last of Kenya’s rainforest.  Dave then explained the picking of the tea.  Only the top three leaves are picked.  To tell which leaves to pick there is a leaf that is still rolled up and forms a point.  It is this leaf and the two directly under it.  Then he told me that there is a machine that separates the three leaves for the market.  The middle or pointy leaf is processed for export.  It is the most valuable of the leaves and is destined to become some of the finest tea in the world.  The next leaf down is the second most valuable and what is destined to be processed for consumption and sold here in the supermarkets throughout Africa.  The last leaf is the least valuable and is what is processed to be sold on the side of the road and local markets.  I asked why the good leaf is sent away and the answer was that Kenyans cannot afford to pay the price for the good leaf.  Kenya is the third largest producer of tea in the world behind China and India.

Tea Plantation

The three tea leaves the best being the pointy one

After the tea plantation we went back into the forest and Dave explained all sorts of vegetation and animal species in the forest.  He showed me medicinal plants, vegetable plants, vines, and weeds.  As he was explaining this he stopped and showed me the various plants he was talking about.  I could tell the vines but the medicinal plants and the vegetables looked no different from the weeds.  Dave pointed out a medicinal plant that helped with breathing if you are stopped up.  He had me try it and it was almost like taking medicine.  It had a cooling effect on my throat and somewhat menthol.  He pointed out what was edible and what was poisonous.  I guess this takes many years of trial and error.  Dave also pointed out a plant that is used to treat any snake bite.  The forest is home to over 20 species of snakes including some of the most poisonous snakes in the world.  Hezron picked a couple of the leaves to take home and see if they are anywhere around his house.  Hezron asked Dave what proof that the plant cures a snake bite.  I responded by saying if you live it works and if you die it don’t.  We continued our tour of the forest and found it to be very interesting.

Africa has its big five animals and the forest is home to the big five trees.  It is not that they are big but big in importance.  One of these trees is what I will call the cannibal tree.  The first example of this tree that we came across was a tree that had already devoured its meal.  We ran across other examples on the trails of this tree in various states of eating another tree.  Essentially this cannibal tree will grow on the outside of another tree completely encircling it and the inside tree eventually dies and disappears leaving the hallow cannibal tree.  It has another name but I can’t remember what it was.  Some of the others are the African Mahogany and the Red Stinkwood. 

Hollow cannibal tree

In the process of devouring another tree

This tree is slowly disappearing

Somewhere in there is another tree

We continued through the forest and Dave explained some more about the animal and butterfly species found in the forest.  There was an abundance of bird sounds and rustling of the branches from all the monkeys flying around the branches.  We saw a few different types of monkeys but the two main ones were the blue monkey and the colobus monkey.  We had left the main trail and went through the brush to look at the monkeys and I was thinking where all those snakes were.  I really would have liked to see one coiled up in a branch or something.  I asked Dave and he says they are abundant in the forest but seldom seen.  He hadn’t seen a snake in over a year.  After a few hours our tour was over and Dave asked if we wanted to go to the highest point in the park to get a birds eye view of the forest and surrounding area.  He also said there was an old Gold mine up there that we could go in. 

Blue Monkey

Just yesterday I was saying that I did not know if I would go into one but opportunity knocks and my curiosity has taken the best of me.  Dave said this mine is only about 50 meters deep and mining had been stopped when the forest preserve had been established.  We were able to drive a way up the road to the old worn down volcanic cinder cone before a tree in the road forced us to walk the rest of the way.  We walked very slowly through the forest until we came to an opening in the canopy where this really big grassy hill was.  Up that hill was the mine and the top was a panoramic view of the entire area.  Hezron asked if I was going to be able to make it.  I knew it was not wise for me to do this but I can’t stand not being able to do these things anymore.  We moved on and of course I had no business doing this and had to stop every 10 to 20 steps or so to rest and catch my breath.  My heart was pounding and I could not breathe but I could see the mine opening up the hill and I was determined to get there.  Once we made it to the mine opening I was able to rest and regain my breath and strength.  The sign to the entrance said it was a bat cave and to enter at your own risk.  Well I did not come all this way to not go in.  Dave took us in and we descended the 50 meters to the end of the mine.  We did not have flashlights and the mine was really just a 50 meter tube a little taller and wider then I was.  I could feel the bats flying around my head and upper torso.  I could not see them but I knew they were there.  Every now and then I could feel a wing brush by on my head and then I felt a wing brush past my ear.  It felt kind of smooth like suede and I thanked God that I could not see how many were circling my head.  We reached the end of the tube and stopped and looked back to the light at the end of the tunnel.  At that point I could see the bats up the mine shaft and some flying around us.  So of course it was time for some pictures and here they are.

Entrance to the old gold mine

Looking back up the shaft to the entrance

We came out of the mine and Hezron asked if I could make it to the top of the hill and not wanting to be a wimp we went on.  I did not make it 20 feet up the hill until I had to sit down on a rock and rest.  After what seemed like an eternity we made it to the top of the hill.  The trip was well worth it.  We could see to the Nandi escarpment and for many miles in every direction.  The forest canopy was below us and we stayed up there for a while before it was decided to come down because the afternoon storms were coming in over the escarpment and we did not want to get stuck in the mud.  We then headed back down the hill without any problems dropped off Dave and we headed back to Kakamega.

Towards Nandi hills and the Nandi Escarpment with forest

Kakamega forest

Old farm land being taken over by the forest

The forest canopy

On the way back to Kakamega Hezron asked me if I wanted to see the world famous Kakamega crying stone.  I said sure lets go.  So on the way back we stopped at the crying stone.  This stone has a hole in the top under another big rock that continually emits water even during the dry season.  Hezron told me that a group of Europeans had come in to try and remove the boulder on top of the crying stone but were unsuccessful.  Why do we always have to come in and change things? 

The famous Kakamega crying stone

A closer look with the storm coming in

Hezron got me back to the guest house just as the afternoon torrential rains came down.  I went to my room and of course the power was still out and I crashed for a couple of hours.  I know I am no longer capable of doing some of these things but I can’t help myself and I continue to test my limits.  Tomorrow back to the orchard site and some more research into potential partners to fund our micro-finance operations.  I sent out 10 emails and only got one response and it was a response that the mail was not deliverable.  I also made phone calls to the other 2 but have gotten no answer.  I pray that I am successful in finding someone to partner with.

Take care and God bless


No comments:

Post a Comment