Nadia and Meredith Take On Hell’s Gate and the Rift Valley

For my last weekend in Kenya, I decided that I needed to venture out of Nairobi one more time. I enlisted Nadia as my partner in crime and we took off for the Rift Valley with our tour guide, George from Bonfire Adventures. Bonfire Adventures has been a great little tour company for me while I have been here because their prices are good and they will come and pick me up at Hirani, which is extremely helpful as I have relied on cab and my feet in Nairobi. Coincidentally, Nadia and I were the only people to sign up for this tour = Private Tour for the Alberta Girls! George was very helpful accommodating all the little changes we wanted to make in our tour so we could squeeze in a safari in Nakuru. It was a full-on busy weekend but after our relaxing and mellow trip in Diani Beach we were ready for some adventure.

Lake Naivasha

Crazy looking Meredith in front of some Zebras

On Friday, Nadia and I started with a boat tour of Lake Naivasha where we saw hippos and oodles of birds. The sky was blue and full of big fluffy white clouds; a beautiful day for a boat ride on the lake. Perfect for photos! We stopped on Crescent Island, a funny little island where giraffes, zebras, gazelles, and waterbuck were imported in from the Maasai Mara for the filming of “Out of Africa” in 1984. I don’t know why but they left all the animals there but now tourists can visit the island and walk among all the “wild” animals. The zebras are so used to humans gawking at them that they continue to just stand in the field and continue to graze while people saunter around them.

Hungry Hungry Hippo! Photo cred: Nadia Moledina

Afterwards, we were taken by George to a little known flamingo hangout on the other side of the lake. There are 2 different types of Flamingos in Africa, the Greater Flamingo and the Lesser Flamingo. Not many flamingos hang out in Lake Nakuru anymore contrary to popular belief.

Flamingo Mere


Flamingo Nadia

Flamingo City!

Nadia's wound from her fight with an Acacia Tree and her bicycle

Then a rainstorm came. It timed out really nicely; we were just finishing messing around with the flamingos when we ducked into our van to escape the downpour. We drove to our final destination of the day – Hell’s Gate National Park. This is the only National Park in Kenya where visitors can tour the park on bicycles. The area is not heavy with wildlife but the scenery is spectacular! Our bikes definitely weren’t top-notch – Nadia found this out the hard way when she hit a ridge and flew into a bush, but it is definitely the most exciting way to experience a national park.

Gearing up for Hell's Gate


Hell's Gate National Park

Nadia & I with our guide Jackson

At the end of our 7 km bike tour we arrived at the Hell’s Gate Gorge. Visitors are taken by a guide to explore the gorge, rock, and mini-hotsprings. Our guide was full of fun little facts; he told us that scenes of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider were filmed there and showed us the hooks used to swing Angelina Jolie through the air. After a busy day, we went to our hotel, The Sopa Lodge, to enjoy a big buffet dinner and quickly fell into a deep sleep at bedtime.

Nadia having some fun in the Gorge

We woke up feeling refreshed and ready for our Nakuru safari; little did we know that Nakuru had a different plan than the one we had envisioned. After a 2 hour drive from Naivasha, because of traffic, we finally arrived. Previously, neither Nadia nor I have had any problems with our working permits which give us the benefit of the waaaaaaay cheaper resident rates. Tourist rates are exorbitant, usually around 5-7 times the price of a resident.

The manager in the ticket office told us that Nadia’s 3 month pass did not qualify her for resident fees, even though we had no problem in Hell’s Gate the day before. Both of us were feeling stubborn and ended up arguing with 2 different Kenyan Wildlife officials outside of the park gate for the next 30 minutes. We were definitely those tourists that kick up a fuss and the tourists/spectators nearby watch in amazement, and then roll their eyes, wish we would shut up and get out of the way so they can get in the park themselves. We lost our battle with the man in the office, who was behind a big thick plastic window probably for his own safety, because I would have chucked his own calculator at his head. What are the chances that in a country FULL of corruption that all the dudes who follow the “rules” work at Nakuru National Park!?

On the plus side of things, we saw some Rhinos… the entire reason I went there. And we saw a lot of exotic beautiful birds. Nakuru is Bird Paradise.

Rhinos

George making sure Nadia makes it up the mountain

Sunday was dedicated to climbing Mt. Longonot. Nadia and I have been trying to climb this mountain for months. But every weekend we tried, it rained cats and dogs making it impossible to get up. But this time nature agreed to let us give it a go. It was a fun climb, except Nadia’s boots she bought for climbing Kilimanjaro next weekend were giving her grief. Coincidentally, on Sunday it was my working permit that was called into question and Nadia’s was accepted no problem. We had proof of our resident rates from our Hell’s Gate tickets so in the end it worked out ok. Go figure, I still have no idea what the Kenyan rules are to resident rates. Our guide George, a Kenyan citizen, had never been up Mt. Longonot so we insisted that he come with us. We made it and now I can say I accomplished everything I had wanted to see, except for Mt. Kenya.

View of Rift Valley from Mt. Longonot


Mt. Longonot Crater


Nadia & I in front of the Crater

Holiday in Paradise

Imagine a white sandy beach, a turquoise & sapphire blue Indian ocean, and swaying palm trees right on your doorstep. This was my 4 day vacation to Diani Beach…

Diani Beach is a short airplane ride and taxi ride away from Nairobi; a popular vacation destination for Kenyans and tourists alike because it is a little slice of heaven that is very accessible. Our travel to Diani Beach took a bit longer because we hit CRAZY traffic in Mombasa; suddenly the expected 1 hour taxi ride from the airport turned into a 3 hour drive in a damp, heavy heat. But when we arrived at our accommodation we were quickly rewarded. I stepped out of the van and was blown away… I was staring at a postcard. I immediately wanted to kick off my sandals, run through the fine white sand and plunge into the ocean.

Instead we were greeted by the cottage’s personal chef, Mohammed, with fresh orange passionfruit juice to enjoy on the patio. But I quickly made it into the ocean; I’m a water baby forever and always.

Our cottage was beautiful but still beach friendly- the walls and floors were whitewashed so we could traipse in and out of the house soaking wet no problem. It was modestly decorated but really homey and we immediately settled in as if we had been there for weeks. There was even a lovely little bookshelf so no one would be left without a beach book. Our personal chef was a great, making us breakfast and supper each day we were there. Vendors came to our doorstep to sell us fresh seafood and vegetables; the seafood vendors would take our requests and do their best to catch what we wanted. Over the weekend we had white snapper, crab, and prawns and each meal was divine.

On Saturday we decided to take a break from reading on the beach and go to Leonardo’s, the place to go for gelato. They had at least 24 different flavours! I had a scoop of cashew nut and a scoop of double dark chocolate; I had never had cashew nut gelato and it did not disappoint. The perfect mix of sweet and salty. On the way home we each jumped on a Boda, a taxi motorcycle, to get back to our cottage 3.5 km away. It was so fun to have the water blowing through my hair (Sorry Ma, no helmet… but I’m still alive!) but my hat blew off. I had tapped the driver to say “oh no! my hat! we must turn around!” and looked back to see an SUV coming up quickly behind us, its passenger wheel just about to annihilate my hat. Luckily, they stopped and a man on the side of the road came out and picked up my hat for me. I didn’t even have to leave the back of the motorcycle for that rescue mission!

I spent the rest of the time lounging on the beach and swimming in the ocean. There is so much life in the Indian Ocean! I saw/poked/stepped on jellyfish (thank goodness they weren’t stinging ones!), saw floating coral, seaweed everywhere, and crabs dashing into their holes in the sand. I decided not to go snorkelling to convince/bribe my Papa Bear that we need to go on a nice family vacation to a beautiful lively ocean. This way we can drive the rest of our family crazy by talking incessantly about ocean life together.

Kite Surfing

Each night the moon was insanely bright. On Saturday we saw the lunar eclipse over the ocean laying on beach lounge chairs enjoying a pre-dinner Tusker Malt. Early Sunday evening, the moon was bright orange and as it got higher in the sky it got brighter and brighter until it was a spotlight for the ocean. Absolutely stunning…

On Monday, we had to leave in the afternoon to catch our flight in Mombasa. We gave ourselves 4 hours thinking that would be lots of time, but then we reached Mombasa and found a line-up for the ferry that was 3 kilometres long. It could have been less but the amount of people around, honking horns, and the slowness of the ferry only enhanced our potential panic. Our driver first attempted to skip the line and bribe the ferry people to let us on but they weren’t having any of it. So, he made a few calls and found another cab for us to jump into to cross on the ferry. We pulled on the side of the road of a busy intersection and grabbed our bags to run across the street and through some street shops to get to the other car. In the process I was almost completely run over by a matatu. I had my hands on the hood of the car pushed myself away and managed to slip between a slim space between another vehicle and the matatu; simultaneously watching the matatu move forward while exchanging a few profanities with the driver…

I never believed that matatu’s would really ‘not stop’ for pedestrians and I probably pushed my luck a few times in Nairobi. My theory was that it was like Italy and I would just give the driver the stare down while I crossed the street. On Monday, I found out if there are people in a hurry in a stressful environment those things aren’t stopping for NOBODY. Unless you are paying them. But because of our driver’s connections we got to the airport with an hour to spare.

Back to the cool mountain air of Nairobi for my last 10 days in Kenya.

Rainy Day Nairobi Chilli

It has been rainy and cold (for Kenyan standards) all week and I’ve wanted to make chilli. However, it has been too wet to make it to the Corner Store (my favourite vegetable store in Diamond Plaza) until Thursday. Yesterday the rain shower came early; so immediately after work I dodged the puddles and hoofed it to the grocery store. My mission was a success and I started whipping together this hearty chilli as soon as I got home… while enjoying some Belgian chocolate 😉

The Recipe:

1 big can of peeled whole tomatoes
1 regular size can of kidney beans
1 reg. can of brown beans
1 reg. can of butter/white beans
1 reg. can of sweet corn niblets
1 medium butternut squash cubed

4-5 slices of bacon chopped
2 medium white onions chopped
500 grams of ground beef
2 big cloves of garlic finely chopped
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper
2 tsp of chilli powder

Garnish with sliced avocado & a dollop of sour cream

Instructions:

1. Chop up onions and bacon. Caramelize together in a BIG soup pot on medium-high heat. Once onions are soft and bacon is browned, add the ground beef (defrosted if you’ve had it in the freezer) and finely chopped garlic. When the ground beef is fully cooked and your kitchen smells like meaty goodness…

2. Add your canned tomatoes and beans. Be sure to drain the fluid from the can of kidney beans and butter beans.

3. To spice (and you are working with very minimal kitchen tools) make a little cup with the palm of your half and fill half of that with salt and then toss it in the pot. Then ground some pepper into your pot and add your chilli powder. Do the waft test and if your nose says “More spice!” go for it, but taste it along the way to make sure it doesn’t get too intense. This is the fun part!

4. Add the can of corn niblets (be sure to drain the fluid from the can first), then toss in your cubes of butternut squash. Turn your heat down to medium and put the lid 3/4’s over the pot. Let your chilli flavours harmonize and meld together for 60-90 minutes. It’s a big flavour party in that pot!

This recipe was inspired by recipe from Perry’s Plate.

When ready to eat, garnish your bowl of chilli with a big dollop of sour cream and a couple of slices of avocado. Curl up on the couch with a blanket and a good book (or movie) and relish in the fact that you are warm and cozy even while its pouring rain outside.

I was lucky and had a surprise visit from Jonathan, a fellow intern from my university, and he brought carrot cake over! We had a lovely visit about our vastly different experiences here. It definitely turned into a quality Thursday evening and I’m ready to take on my 3rd last weekend in Kenya.

Sunday Fun-day!

The weekends always seem to slip by pretty fast after a busy work week in Kenya; but we usually make the most of it. This weekend I went out with the girls on Friday night and to a Koroga party with my coworker Ferial on Saturday. It is similar in theory to our BBQ’s in Canada. At a koroga, the men are in charge of cooking up a nice hearty stew that is shared with everyone while the women gossip and drink wine. It’s a big friendly party that usually results in a trip to the nightclub. Our party was no exception and ended up at Mercury lounge for dancing and socializing. I wish I had taken pictures, but I forgot my camera!

Sunday morning, my roomies and I decided that it was time we went out for brunch. Canadians love a good brunch and we have been diligent that our tradition of enjoying a late, lazy breakfast does not fall by the wayside. The company was entertaining as usual and the food was a great start to the day. Afterwards, we decided to continue our gallivant in Westlands and stop by Spinner’s Web gift market for a coffee and some Christmas shopping. I couldn’t be happier with my purchases. The handicrafts in Kenya are beautiful and unique. I have just under a month left in Kenya and I know I am going to miss all my new friends very much. Here’s some photo evidence of all the fun we have together 😉

Abyssinia: My Introduction to Ethiopian Food

Last night, after I made some muffins (wow! I am getting so domestic), I met my friend and co-worker Ferial and her sister Noren for dinner at Abyssinia. This is their favourite Ethiopian restaurant in Nairobi. Actually, I think it is their favourite restaurant handsdown.

The atmosphere was lovely with a nice patio and friendly service. The food is presented in an impressive manner for sharing the experience with friends and family. Eating from one plate signifies the bonds of loyalty and friendship. The injera bread serves at the base for a giant platter which various meats, salads, curries, and sauces are then served on. Then the sauces are served separately in cast-iron pots that have coals underneath to make sure it stays warm, bubbly, and aromatic.

mmm Ethiopian Platter of Yum!

The waiter and the manager found out this was my first experience with Ethiopian cuisine so they made sure they were around for my first bite. I was taught that the trick to eating this tasty, taaaasty food is to flop the injera onto the sauce, pick the injera up with 5 fingers to get the optimal amount sauce, then grab up some grilled meat and toss it in your mouth. Aahhh – It was so good! There are a variety of sauces to choose from with varying degrees of spiciness. My favourite was an orange one that was made of chickpeas and unique spices, that was pretty mild because I am wussy with spice here.

From a quick internet search of Ethiopian cuisine I found out some interesting facts:

1. “Injera” is the staple flatbread made of a fine grain called “Teff“, which is unique to Ethiopia. The teff is fermented, so the bread is nice and light but expands in your belly when it is being digested and suddenly you find yourself very full.

2. A big part of Ethiopian food is “Wot“, which is a stew that consists of a lot of red onions, some cooking oil, berbere (a chilli pepper sauce), meat such as chicken, beef, lamb, or goat, and then veggies such as legumes, lentils, potatoes, carrots, and chard in different combinations.

3. Ethiopian food uses a variety of cooking oils such as sesame and safflower.

4. Many of their dishes are vegan because the Ethiopian Orthodox Church requires a number of fasting periods.

5. “Tibs“, which is what I had last night, is meat such as beef, chicken, lamb, or goat and veggies that are sautéed with salad as an accompaniment. I really enjoyed having the injera, sauce, meat and some salad in one bite.

6. Food is served under a Mesob, which is like a little straw woven hat for the plate to keep the food warm.

7. Ethiopian food is meant to be eaten with your hands. The right hand is used to rip off a piece of injera and pick up all the fixin’s and then eaten. There is a tradition called Goorsha, where one would prepare a bite of food in this way BUT then feed it to their friend as a display of friendship. The bigger the Goorsha, the stronger the friendship.

8. Ethiopia is famous for excellent coffee and it is a big part of the dining experience and at the end of every meal a coffee ceremony is prepared and enjoyed.

For more info check out this website!

I recommend everyone to look up a good Ethiopian restaurant and try it out one night… Food Adventure! Prepare yourselves friends … I’m introducing you to Ethiopian when I get home. And I am definitely going back to Abyssinia before I leave Nairobi 🙂

“Hey Meredith! A little less food, a little more Nairobi”

My mom left me this comment on my last post:

“Hey Honey, I know your blog is supposed to be focused around food and drink but don’t you think your readers would like to hear/see more about your work there? Just a thought, of course it’s up to you. Love, Mom”

Now, my mother is a wise lady and if she is wondering about my work and life in Nairobi there are probably a few more people who are as well. Maybe residents in Lougheed have asked her what I have been up to… or my Grandma is getting sick of all the recipes? I gave the issue some deep thought this morning and I have come up with a few reasons why food has been a constant for me in Nairobi.

1. Food Culture is HUGE here! My social life revolves around food and restaurants. Feeling like going out? We might as well make an evening of it and go for dinner and then drinks at a nearby bar/nightclub. Kenyan people love to gather and chat over some great food and drink. Nairobi has a fun food culture that is very accessible for visitors. The food restaurant website Eat Out Kenya provides the location and reviews of many, many restaurants. Most special events held in the city have an area dedicated to buy food and drink, sit at picnic table and relax in the sunshine. There is a wonderful event, that I haven’t had a chance to attend yet, called Blankets and Wine, where people bring their blankets to an outdoor park, watch live performances of Kenya’s rich music scene and enjoy a few glasses of wine while showing off their hippest clothes. Football is HUGE here, and it is common to go to local sport’s club (our’s is K1) to watch the game, drink some Tuskers, and eat some Nyama Choma or chicken wings.

Stuffing our faces, drinking beer, and watching Liverpool vs. Man. U on 3 big screens


Or, if I am looking for a quiet Sunday morning, I hop in a matatu or taxi with the girls and head up to a mall to have a quiet Sunday tea or Vanilla Latte in the sunshine on the patio of ArtCafé.

Enjoying a Vanilla Latte

2. Too Tired to Go Out? This happens fairly often. I keep pretty busy at AKUH working on the redesign of the Pediatrics’ print media and by the time Friday comes around I want to stay in the house, do some yoga, make something sweet & yummy and watch a movie. Or, there are days where I really don’t feel like putting in the effort of getting beautiful, calling a cab, and then rejecting the advances of men at the bar who want to buy me for 5 goats… kidding! That doesn’t happen.

3. No Power? Muffins are the solution. There are days when we wake up in the morning and there is no power. This means no tea (because our oven is electric… wait, everything in our house is electric!), no toast, and lukewarm juice or yogurt. As result our house is full grumpy girls who don’t want to go to work. My solution is to make muffins almost once a week. Now, the girls and I can each grab a yummy banana muffin, then go to work and enjoy a tea with warm milk there. Problem solved!

Work is going really well though. I am well on my way to accomplishing the goals I laid out for myself and I have met a lot of very nice and fun people who are teaching me a lot about Communications as well as life in Kenya.

I realized this week I only have 5 weekends left in Kenya! It seems a lot shorter when I think about it in terms of weekends as opposed to weeks. So I sat down and made a list of things I NEED to do before I leave: see flamingo’s and rhinos, climb Mt. Kenya and Mt. Longonot, ride a bicycle through Hell’s Gate National Park, and have a beach holiday on the South Coast. After doing some research and arranging, all of my weekends are booked up from now until I leave on December 22. It’s going to be a whirlwind! And this means that my dear friends and family are going to get a break from reading recipes 😉

On another note, a giant beetle bug flew into our house Sunday morning. Of course I documented it.

Giant Beetle Bug


"Jess! Act Terrified!"


Close-up of the Giant Beetle Bug

My name is Meredith and I am a juice addict.

One of my favourite things about Kenya is Juice. All sorts of fresh juices are available here, some that I have never even heard of! Tree Tomato, Mango, Passionfruit, Pineapple + Mint… the flavours are numerous and the combinations are endless.

I love going to Diamond Plaza and sitting in the food court enjoying a fresh glass of Tree Tomato + Mango juice with the girls sharing a plate of cheese samosas (something else I didn’t know existed.. maybe this is Kenyan thing?). Anyways, these cheese samosas are amazing… and I actually find that I crave them. I’m craving juice right now… and sunshine. After this I am going to gather up the girls for a juice date. Here are some pictures of us at our favourite local ice cream parlour/juice bar/cheese samosa overdose haunt.