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Easter with the Monkeys!

April 7, 2010

What with the long weekend, 3 hour meetings, feeling sick again, and international phone interviews,  I have been incredibly delinquent in writing updates! I actually have 3 posts that I want to write, but I haven’t found the time yet, so I’m going to settle for a look back on my Easter weekend in the rainforest.

 Here’s the big news – In the past 5 days, I’ve taken over 200 pictures and 4 videos. These will be uploaded later today (or as soon as I can afford to buy more internet time!)

 For the long Easter weekend, we had our FSD midterm retreat trip to the Kakamega Rain Forest. My weekend started with the glorious ability to sleep in… until 8:30 am when my body told me it was time to be awake! “Don’t you see the sun Erin – it’s Kenya time!!” (My body and I are currently not getting along…) After an enjoyable bucket bath, packing, a quick breakfast and some cartoons, I ventured into KK Town to the cyber where I spent and hour and a half finishing up essays for a job application. Yes, the Sudanese conflict over oil really is that interesting! Met up with Kirsten and Nick at the cyber, went for a delicious bite of samosas and “pizza” at a local bakery, then headed to Mama Watoto for snacks and supplies for the trip. $15 dollars later, I walked away with 3 liters of water, a bag of Haribo gummies, a delicious bottle of South African wine, a small flask of vodka and a coke. Needless to say, the exchange rate is definitely in our favor! In retrospect, I probably should have skipped the vodka and just gotten another bottle of wine – so much tastier!

 Peter drove us the hour to the rainforest. Thankfully, it hadn’t rained recently and the road had been redone in the past couple of months, so the trip was actually one of the smoothest I’ve been on since coming to Kenya! We got to KEEP (Kakamega Environmental Education Program and the place where we were staying for the weekend) and moved into our hut/banda thing. Sans electricity or running water – basically a round wall topped with a grass roof and with a detached pit latrine. Surprisingly dry and comfortable, but definitely the opposite of what we would consider “American luxury”.  That night was really low key – too late to do much in the forest, so we just ate dinner, drank the wine etc., and told ridiculous stories.

 Unfortunately, we all over slept and ended up missing breakfast the next morning (Saturday). I was sad about this… until I saw the MONKEYS! There were at least 20 of them right in the yard and trees around where we were staying. There were both Blue Monkeys (not really blue, more of a grey color and small — so cute) and the awesomely weird looking Black and White Colobus Monkeys – see pictures – too incredible to describe. I think one of my favorite things about getting to see this many monkeys up close was their facial expressions and watching them scurry up and down trees so gracefully. Definitely a great photo op.

 For lunch on Saturday, we walked the 3km to Rondo, a snotty, upscale former British colony house that’s been turned into a rainforest resort for those able to afford it – mostly Europeans. Benefits of Rondo: delicious spaghetti and meat sauce, awesome landscaping and flowers, and getting to feel hoity-toity for an afternoon! Nick and I decided that 6 km of walking wasn’t enough in one day, so we hired a guide and went on a short trek into the forest, where I was bitten no less than 10 times by mosquitoes and other insects, despite the 40% DEET bug spray that I had on. Still got to see some cool stuff – but no wildlife as it was early evening and raining (obviously).

 Not one to be discouraged by a less than spectacular journey into the rainforest, Nick decided that the 5 AM sunrise hike sounded like fun, and of course I couldn’t be outdone by Nick, so I said I’d go too even though I highly dislike waking up early. At 4:15 the next morning (Sunday), we were woken up… not by alarms or the tour guide, but by a little RAT bugger scampering around in our bag of trash. Thanks rat, I didn’t have to be up for another half an hour, but by that point it wasn’t worth going back to sleep. The trek to see the sunrise began with a piki piki ride (yikes!! ) to Rondo where we took off on foot for the next hour or so through the rainforest and then straight up the side of a mountain. I though I was in pretty good shape, but damn, not running for the last month has evidently deteriorated my stamina because the hike up the 30 degree incline slope almost winded me.

 It was all worth it. The sunrise was one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen and looking down on the canopy of the rainforest was breathtaking.  Even the grass covered hill where we took a break to watch the sun come up was gorgeous and impossible to describe in mere words. I told Nick that if I had food and a blanket I could have stayed on that hill for the rest of the day. Eventually, however, we trekked back to camp, but not until I had slipped on the mud path and completely wiped out in the middle of the rainforest. So worth it!

 We crashed asleep for several hours (comatose is the best word to describe it) and spent the rest of the afternoon eating and doing nothing at all which was great. The only thing we didn’t do the entire weekend was shower….  So I was very excited to get back to my home in KK and take a bucket bath! Overall, a great trip, even though I probably got some disease from the bugs. The rest of the weekend was spent teaching my host family how to play cards and reading a 500 page book in a day!

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