Thursday 23 March 2017

Queens of the Nile


A late night bus ride across the border to Uganda made it easier for us to catch some shut eye here and there to the cadence of the swaying bus. We got to the border in the early morning hours, and were met with a fairly speedy documentation check to push us through in a timely fashion. Uganda welcomed us with rich red fertile soil and lush vegetation. A far cry from drought-affected Kenya. The rains of Uganda had just started a week prior to quench their version of drought quickly. My heart soared over the beauty of the banana plantations as our taxi carried us to our final destination outside of Jinja at Nile River Camp.

This beautiful overlanders’ lodge and campground spread out over multiple acres atop a bluff boasting an expansive view of the Nile River. I was riveted by the calm yet powerful beauty of this meandering snake of water that connected me to my heritage, as my father was born in Cairo, Egypt. I was finally going to be able to unite with my ancient ancestors and pyramids with Egypt being my next destination after our Africa adventure. I found it no coincidence that I was here in Uganda at the source of the Nile, and would end up at its mouth in Alexandria within weeks.

This nice location of a base camp proved to be popular with many international travelers rolling through on their way to safaris, and landscape and animal activities. I engaged in many a conversation with Australians, Germans, and Austrians in the midst of their backpacking and 4x adventures as we exchanged equally exciting tales of the road. It was fun to see overland vehicles with rooftop tents adorning the grounds, tents on the outskirts, and the bandas (tent cottages) that we would be staying in that lined the bluff with views of the Nile. It was an adventurer’s melting pot.

The girls and I jumped right into the use of the facilities with a beautiful and fun kayak jaunt on the river. As we paddled past the mid-river swift current, we slowed down on the other side to explore the reeds and interesting bird life. It was at this pace of curiosity that we then came upon plastic water bottles floating on top in a circular pattern with twine attached to them. Not too far in the distance, we found the owner and maker of these homemade floats, a young fisherman named Grezzo. A 45 minute conversation ensued with this young man describing his life with parents who were lost to HIV at a young age for him. He was raised in a village and had to make his way as a child. Grezzo’s joyful and strong disposition was inspirational proof that it is possible to rise above adversity at any age.

Because of the beauty of the location and wonderful cultural experience of neighboring town Jinja, we decided to stay an extra day. Tiffany and I ventured out on a Boda Boda to run some errands and take in the sights of the colorful villages in between the banana plantations. I was in heaven traveling at a quieter pace to feel the slower rhythm of the villagers in their daily activities of cooking, laundry, and selling their produce and wares to survive. No stress was felt here of people taking on more work than they could handle like those caught in hamster wheels to keep up with bills of bigger cities and more stuff. All had their roles to contribute to a community that had been run this way for a long time without being slaves to machines and mortgages.

We got back in time to frolic in the river with the rope swing, and commune with the river’s wildlife of Vervet monkeys in the trees and Fisher King birds along the shore. Our senses were ignited by all that surrounded us, and we soon dove into the lodge’s delightful open veranda restaurant to fill our bellies and connect with the world with their wifi. We looked at each other in unison across the table and knew what we had to do next…break out the maps to plot our next route. It was time to travel into the hustle and bustle of busy Kampala to reach the excitement of our motorcycle chapter. We were itching to jump into independence by bike, and animals at our fingertips. How delightful that we were in the only country in the world that allows motorcycles to ride alongside the animals of the National Parks, beautiful Uganda.

Sunday 12 March 2017

Getting Our Wild On


Soysambu Wild Festival welcomed us with purple flags waving in the lake breeze, and artist love-fest décor draping the African landscape. Our driver Nelson drove us around looking for the perfect camping spot. We found it away from others on the very outskirts of the festival closest to the lake. We set up camp quickly with Acacias surrounding us and the light azure lake in the distance. Tiffany let me use her tent guy lines and helped me build a quick shelter out of Lorraine’s ground cloth. The skies looked as though they might open up.

We jumped into festivity mode quickly meeting and greeting the mix of white Kenyan upper class and beautiful local black Kenyans connected to different portions of the event. Some were musicians, some cooks, and some locals here to get a taste of the peace and love of animals and humanity that is the heart of this event started by Tom Cholmondeley, who passed away last year. The event had lost its captain, but not its heart. It was clear to see the beauty and message of this gathering would carry on for years to come.

I slipped into my shiny purple leopard cat suit, tail and ears included, to fit into fun festivity mode with all the others who came out to play. The three of us went different directions with two cameras each to get the coverage that this project needed. Every day, I chuckled over the people connections, scenarios and opportunities that lined up for the unfolding of the “Rallying for a Wild Life” story. It was a thrill to capture as much as we could on film with synchronicity as the thread that would weave this beautiful tapestry of a film.

Lorraine was in heaven connecting with old friends and festival participants she met at their event launch last year. Especially Piers Simpkin, an Englishman who has devoted his life to camels and lived with Samburu warriors as part of a project that encouraged African tribes to herd the camels. Lorraine had lived in Egypt, as well, and enjoys the cross connection of animals like the camel that is also found in Northern Kenya, as well as the fruits and vegetables that can be found in both Eastern Africa and Egypt.

My cup of tea was the Zen Zone, where like-minded souls gathered for group meditation, massage and Pranic Healing. Being sensitive to energy, I could feel an insurgence of beauty surrounding us in our group intention as we focused on connecting with others around the world to raise humanity to peace. This feeling of group love continued on into the late afternoon as the grand procession of motorcycle riders, horses, camels and the crowd funneled through the purple horns that created a tunnel and symbolized prosperity to the Masai. We all followed the ones in front of us until we gathered at the lake to the setting sun on the horizon to launch the “boat of intention.” This small canoe was filled with straw and notes of heartfelt farewell messages to Tom to be lit on fire out on the lake with intentions sent to the heavens.

We got Tiffany to join us for the goddess triangle of dance as we shook our booties to the sounds of local Kenyan musicians and quick-handed DJs. I was enthralled to see many single people on the dance floor dancing by themselves to express their love of movement to the alluring beat. Self-consciousness was thrown out the window as all of us melted together to form one giant family of dancing fools sharing the love.

The three day festivity tightened the bond between all involved with the by-products of the fun being ear-to-ear smiles, sore muscles from dancing all the nights, and contact info exchanged between many. As we piled into our next taxi, we waved goodbye to Soysambu Conservancy knowing it had our hearts and the magnetic pull for a return trip for the next one. 

Sunday 5 March 2017

I'm Back in the Saddle Again

LORRAINE: Some people will think I’m taking unnecessary risks by riding a motorcycle less than a year about an accident that left me with a bad concussion. (Cause of accident? My mind wandered, I fell.) The number one reason for returning to the saddle is Rallying for A Wild Life, a film I’ve been working on for two years. I want people to come to Africa and experience wildlife. And the WILD in their souls. If that’s not possible, then to take part in helping wildlife exist in our crazy world - either in Africa or their OWN country. Even though mainstream media shows that Africa is 180 degrees opposite to the West, full of mud huts and people wearing little more than colourful beadwork, you will see striking parallels in what Tiffany, Nicole and I post. There’s shopping malls galore and human-wildlife conflicts very similar to ranches all over the world. Stay tuned. It’s going to be a WILD RIDE! I'm riding, I'm shining up my saddle! (Photo Tiffany Coates)

African Sunrises and Sunsets

Tiffany : It's fantastic to be back in East Africa with all the amazing sights, smells, people and landscapes not to mention the incredible animals.
I flew into Nairobi, Kenya and caught up with Lorraine and Nicole at Karen Camp. It's been a whirlwind since then starting with the elephant orphanage,

the KSPCA centre (for abandoned and mistreated animals)

and a re-introduction to life in Africa including the boda boda rides - small motorbikes that act as taxis.
We went on to Soysambu Conservancy -
We spent some time seeing the behind the scenes work that goes on -this is a lion collar with a transmitter.
 Rowena is one of the main people in the Lion Project  - driving through the bush in her 30 year old landrover.

We spent several days riding and exploring the conservation area, seeing all the animals including close encounters with zebra and giraffe as well as seeing  gazelles, impala, water buck, eland and warthogs. The highlight though was getting the chance to see the lions.

Wednesday 1 March 2017

The Goddess Triangle Takes on Husaberg 390ccs


Tiffany has now joined us, and we are that much stronger as a solid goddess triangle now. How wonderful it is to have her with us finally. We have whisked her away to Punda Milias resort that is sheer heaven with bouganvilla, cacti and acacia trees painting the grounds. Each of us have our own separate bandas, tent cottages, with luxurious beds and mosquito netting for us to nest at the end of our “senses-on-full-tilt” days. Open showers allow us to rinse the dust off under the beauty of the bamboo after a day exploring Soysambu Conservancy on Husaberg 390s. This was the first time I did dirt on a very tall bike, and boy was it a confidence builder after a kick ass day by the three of us.

Netta, our tour guide extraordinaire of Soysambu and owner of Dusty Helmets, an adventure moto safari company, gave us the private Conservancy tour of a lifetime. This beautiful soul is so connected to the land, animals and locals that this private “farm” would definitely bog down without her. She is the oil, the love and the inspiration of this entire operation. I am changed forever for having been introduced to her and this gorgeous African landscape and sanctuary for wild animals.

She and her right-hand man, John, let us loose on their 3 super-responsive Husaberg 390s, to ride through open bush with John leading and Netta as sweep. Our mouths we’re lined with dust as jaws dropped to ride past giraffe, baboons, zebra and gazelle. It was quite a surreal experience to realize that we were actually here in Africa together working on a project so dear to the hearts of many. Serendipity would ride pillion day after day as people, animals and accommodations lined up in full beauty to greet the three of us and our cameras.

The staff at Punda Milias welcomed us with huge smiles at the end of our riding day with menus in hand and chilled Tuskers (local beer) on the ready. I got the girls hooked on our custom smoothies of banana, passion fruit and what I called “Wicky Wicky,” kale called Skuma Wiki, which means push vegetables for a week with only 1 day a week of meat. I would be slow to learn Swahili by picking up only the basics with “sawa sawa,” or “OK,” “asante” “thank you,” and “pole pole,” or “slowly slowly” like the take-it-easy attitude these beautiful locals carry within.

Lorraine, Tiffany and I make a beautiful team with each of us bringing to the table a strong varying background that would lend something special to this project. With three riders shooting this film ourselves with no support vehicle or crew, we all juggle lots of jobs to keep it moving forward seamlessly. We take on at least four cameras a day with many SD cards that have to be labeled and downloaded before we take on the next day of shooting. Finding accommodations with electricity is a luxury as we come with our international outlet adapters and multi USB port adapters ready to charge batteries and connect card readers. We pre-purchase a “dongle” wifi connector that gives us access to the internet wherever we land.

I am usually the last one to bed as I download my heart out, and categorize the day’s footage onto both Lorraine and my external hard drives. It’ll be so much easier in the editing room with footage labeled while it’s still fresh in our minds. Ahh, the luxuries of the road: a nice bed, a shower and our beloved electricity. Time seems to be slipping away, as days seem like weeks with this way of life stealing my heart.Rallying for a Wild Life