Category Archives: Adventures

We Are Moving the Worms and the Bananas

Every once in a while when I can get off my lazy ass and finish the tens and tonnes of research snippets I have strewn all over, we sit by the camp fire and exchange stories of yore. We shake our heads at our politics, our apathy, our blindness, the friendzone, and bananas. A lot of the time, we celebrate utter badassery and nongiveafuckery. We do this because heroes need to be celebrated, because if a guy takes a bullet to the groin and still drags a bleeding pair of testicles to deliver a message to HQ, songs deserve to be written about him. That man is a citizen of the world, no matter what his passport says.

We talk about the weird eccentrics who look social norms in the eye and go ‘Fuck that! Imma be weird!’ and they dye their hair, shave one eyebrow, eat moles, wear two watches, and make carrying bones stylish again. Ever heard about the guy who milked an elephant? Or the one we feted as a long-lost freedom fighter?

On other days we go and on about animals that might not be aware of our hubris that we are superior beings. We do this because conservation, we are nature’s spouses, and if we do not take care of her she will not seek a divorce, she will go all ape shit on us. Do you want to wake up with a knife in the throat just because you dehorned rhinos and maimed lions? I know I don’t…

We sit and imbibe as we share lists, get to know each other, learn a few things and support civilization. We do this because it’s never that serious, even when it is. We laugh when we shouldn’t, and suddenly become philosophical in the middle of jokes. We have been at home here for three years and the lethargy is showing: no one has brought new firewood for a while, the pile of trash is now a little mountain, the pet dogs are skinnier than me, and we keep growing, huddling over a small bonfire. Our inner children no longer play and laugh in the shadows created in the background, and catch a cold when the midnight breeze bends the flames. We are growing up, and someone needs to put a stop to this.

alaskan campfire

There are so many stories we can’t tell in this little camp. Our neighbors are odieros, and everyone here is so well behaved. We can’t make noise, we can’t scream epithets properly, and there are nosy neighbors who will not let the rhinos remain horny. There is the local stray that bit someone and now she has rabies, and the local madman who stole one of the little stories we share here. He chopped up our stories and mutilated them, hid them far far in the forest hoping we will not hear their dying screams as he replaces their eyes and drives nails through their fingertips. But we have big ears, so we send a drone or two, call them out, tell them that when you steal a mannequin, improve it at least. No need torturing poor stories and hanging them from spikes like they have done you wrong.

It is because this camp is free, and you know what they say about free things, no one really cares about them. Before long the government forgets about the slum upgrading and the free garbage collection ends, potholes appear everywhere, former street kids revert to being current street kids, the police land rover runs out of fuel, such and such. It is only a matter of time before a flying toilet crash lands on someone, and we will have none of that shit here. Crude pun wholly coincidental.

A bigger, better camp is due – a nirvana of sorts – where we can throw more lists, dig up more hidden facts, scour Kenyan history together and eat lots and lots of the little yellow heavens. In that camp we can light a bigger fire, cause more havoc, maybe roast a swine or two, or a goat for those among you whose prophets of choice deem swine unclean. There we can call each other names and pretend we know how the world should run, even when the biggest thing we’ve ever run is this little camp. Our neighbors there are far, they make far more noise than we do currently so we need to sing songs of protest, and love, and desperation, until we outdo them or we lose our voices. YOLO, the kids say nowadays… Unless you are a feline then YOLNT!

Sasa ni kuhama, twende twende! Fold up your shuka and hold on to your poison, let us surge to carry a few cockroaches from here, someone. Our new camp will need a few insects. Leave the bananas, we have more than enough where we are going. Forward ho!

Stop by the BAKE Website and vote! vote! Vote. One can never vote too many times, just so you know.





Posted by on March 13, 2014 in Adventures, Inspiration Hunts


7 Most Famous Kenyan Wild Animals

It is probably not a surprise that most of the animals here are more famous outside Kenya than within. It is the same story with human Kenyan celebrities such as Lupita and Mutu, we never really give you time and space unless an outside validates you first. The cuter animal friendships are grouped together, while the one with psychopathic tendencies gets an entry on its own, as does the slithery one that might roll up under your bed tonight. Please check before you sleep.

#7 Nicky the Blind Rhino


With rhino poaching having wiped out the larger part of the population in Kenya, it is something of a surprise that the most famous one is a blind baby rhino called Nicky. He is a gorgeous rhino inflicted with cataracts since birth that cannot be treated by surgery. 

Rhinos generally have poor eyesight, relying more on smell and sound than sight. Although there are two blind rhinos, Nicky from Lewa Conservancy and Alfie from Ol Jogi, Nicky is the more famous of the two. He was saved by Mike Watson, the Lewa Conservancy CEO after he was spotted bumping into trees and straying away from his mother. 

Nicky has two full time minders, Yusuf and Tonga. He is a diva who enjoys his mudbaths a little too much, and hangs out with a Yellow Labrador in one of those animal friendships that flip at the natural order of things. 

#6 Odd Wild Animal Friendships

— Owen the Hippo and Mzee the Tortoise

When the tsunami waves hit the Kenyan coast in late 2004, they dragged back with them a young hippo out to sea. He was stranded on a reef from here he had to be captured using nets, ropes, boats and cars. As if this wasn’t enough, it took a rugby tackle by a volunteer who does not watch Animal Planet enough to bring the hippo down. In recognition of this act of who-cares-if-this-wild-animal-goes-apeshit-nuts, the hippo was named after him, Owen.

Most likely due to space issues, Owen the hippo had to share a habitat with a 130-year old Aldabra giant tortoise called Mzee. The two struck an odd mother-son relationship, bathing together and sleeping together. Owen would lick Mzee’s face and become protective if anyone approached the tortoise. Apparently, he had called dibs on licking the old tortoise’s face just quick enough to be faster than its reaction. Mzee learnt to live with the crazy young hippo, or maybe took too long to plan his revenge.

"One day I will definitely kill this fat guy. Yup! I love him and all, he is fun and all, but he pisses me off so so much." Image Credit

“One day I will definitely kill this fat guy. Yup! I love him and all, he is fun and all, but he pisses me off so so much.”
Image Credit

They had to be separated in 2007 as Owen grew bigger and Mzee’s safety as he ran the risk of being smothered with just enough smooches and love by his bigger but younger sidekick to kill him. He was introduced to a female hippo called Cleo while Mzee was introduced to another tortoise called Toto.

Sidenote: Who names these animals? They deserve a presidential commendation.

— Gakii the Bushbaby

All levels of awesome and mushy. Image credit Veronica Marchina

All levels of awesome and mushy.
Image credit Veronica Marchina

When Gakii, a three-month-old bushbaby was rescued in Nyeri and placed in the Nairobi Animal Orphanage, no one thought she would find a mother figure outside her species, a yellow baboon nonetheless. The odd friendship between the primates dumbfounded animal experts as they are not considered socially compatible. Yellow baboons live on Savannahs while Galagos are native to continental Africa. It has been implied that the baboon in question has better maternal skills than Casey Anthony.

—Omni and Digby

In another charming animal friendship story, an abandoned rhino calf christened Omni struck an odd friendship with Digby, a warthog. Omni and Digby started a talk show and became comedy hosts, they got wasted together and then exchanged the last letters of their names just for fun. Okay they didn’t. Wait, are there talk shows in the animal world? Or is it a King Julien kind of tyranny all the way?

Their friendship was apparently not founded on looks as they were Perhaps not the cutest couple, but heart-warming nonetheless.” Every night, Digby the warthog would sleep on the back of the Omni the baby rhino, both covered by a large blanket. Tell me that did not get you all mushy mushy.

#5 Mountain Bull, MT Bull

Among farmers whose crops have been ravaged by MT Bull, the elephant is a nuisance that should have died years ago. The bull is a hero among his peers, having forced everyone to reconsider the true origin of human-animal conflict. I don’t know how they fete heroes in the elephant world, but this guy deserves whatever is the equivalent of the Nobel Peace Prize for calling BS on human settlement.

The 46-year bull is a celebrity for his utter dedication to using traditional elephant migration routes. MT Bull, like the rest of his kind, is motivated by the three “s”s: Sex, safety, and sustenance. His instincts drove him to snap fence wires and crash gates in a bid to follow those migration routes, bringing him in direct conflict with the human beings who settled on that course. MT Bull became that guy, yanking fences, opening gates, tearing down things, throwing a proper ratchet party. Alone. Sometimes with company. Like a Boss. An Elephant Boss.

Lewa Conservancy spearheaded efforts to protect the famous elephant from his instincts, trimming its tusks in 2012 and tracking him using Google Earth Interface. His Mafia days gone, MT Bull’s efforts almost single-handedly led to the construction of the famous elephant underpass which took a decade to build and is the first of its kind in Africa.

You can tell that elephant at the back is all about the ladies!

You can tell that elephant at the back is all about the ladies! He is checking out the ratio.

He did not use the underpass for two years, only using it first in January 2013; he was evidently waiting to see whether it was worth his time.

"Hhhhmm, this is not so bad. It would be better with a transit stop over, a bar maybe, anyone?" Image Credit

“Hhhhmm, this is not so bad. It would be better with a transit stop over, a bar maybe, anyone?”
Image Credit

MT Bull was featured in the BBC’s  “The secret life of elephants.”

#4 Kamunyak, the Blessed One (Lioness)

If there ever was a sociopath among animals, it would have to be Kamunyak the Lioness. Her given name means The Blessed One in Samburu. In 2002, the lonely lioness was spotted cuddling up with five baby antelopes she had cradle snatched from their frightened mothers.

She adopted at least 6 oryx calves who should have been food as soon as she met them.  After securing a newborn, the lioness would lie down next to the baby and, like any protective mother, ward off strangers, antelopes and antelope-eaters alike.”

This was so strange that one animal behaviourist said of KamunyakThis lion has to have a mental disorder. To understand this, we’d have to study the history of this lioness. We’d have to put her on the couch.”Coincidentally, that’s what they say about people with psychopathic tendencies. She was all nutcase for the festivities as ”local newspapers have noted that all three adoptions occurred on significant days – Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Good Friday.” 

It turns out she might have been playing with food the way we poke around the sheep right before we kill it. Or let the chicken run so we can hunt it down like our cave ancestors. Kamunyak ate one of her adoptees shortly after the young oryx died of starvation. Another one was eaten by other lions who knew better than to play with food, while another was taken from her care before the Blessed One starved her to death by loving her and not feeding her.

Kamunyak was last sighted in February 2004 and has never been seen since. She either went the Raymond Reddington way or was killed by a professional Oryx hit squad known as…you know the answer to this question…the Oryxes! Bam! Her story was featured in the film Heart of a Lioness.

This phenomenon has happened elsewhere in Uganda but that is now thought to be a strategy by lions. All cats are psychopaths, FYI.


#3 Ahmed the Elephant, King of Marsabit

Image Credit

Image Credit

Arguably the most famous elephant in Kenya, Ahmed the Elephant died in 1974 at the retirement age of 55. The male elephant was born at the Marsabit National Reserve sometime in 1919. In 1970, as the threat of poaching to extinction became more grim, President Jomo Kenyatta placed Marsabit’s royalty under his protection by presidential decree. Ahmed was thus declared a living monument to be protected by at least 2 armed guards day and night. 

Rich and famous elephant, all he needed was a limo and love. Image Credit

Rich and famous elephant, all he needed was a limo and love.
Image Credit

When he died in 1974, a cast of his body was made, leading to rumors that he was actually preserved in ice to be resurrected later when elephants are either extinct or have evolved a third tusk that shoots back at poachers.

Ahmed’s full-size replica still stands at the Kenya National Museum today. 

#2  Elsa the Lioness (1956 to 1961)

Incredibly Photogenic Lioness? Image Credit

Incredibly Photogenic Lioness?
Image Credit

Elsa the Lioness was a film and book celebrity. She was also a lioness with a really really hot name, and a penchant for the camera and the red carpet. Brought up by Joy Adamson and her husband, game warden George Adamson, Elsa is the subject of the movie Born Free (1966). She and her sisters, Lustica and Big One, were adopted by the couple after George shot and killed their mother. The two sisters were sent to the Rotterdam Zoo in the Netherlands, while Elsa became a superstar. Lustica sounds like a stripper’s name, doesn’t it? But Big One is even worse, WWE, anyone? Anyway, little is publicly known about their life’s history in the Netherlands.

Elsa first became famous in 1960 when, following a visit by BBC Presenter David Attenborough, the book Born Free was released. The book sold 5 million copies and was translated into 24 languages.

It was turned into a movie Born Free, which  features Joy Adamson’s efforts to train Elsa to live in the wild. In Living free (1972), a sequel to the movie, Elsa becomes a mother to three cubs, Little Elsa, Gopa and Jespah. She is also featured in a 25 minute-long series of footage called Elma and her Cubs.

Such badassery has never been captured in Kenya before. Image Credit

Such badassery has never been captured in Kenya before.
Image Credit

Her humans were both murdered; Joy Adamson in the Shaba National Reserve on 3 January 1980 and George 9 years later in the Kora National Park.

#1 Omieri the Serpent

Image Credit

Image Credit

Omieri the serpent strolled into Benta Atieno’s home in Wasare, a village on the banks of Lake Victoria in early 2003, causing a media flurry that brought the 16-foot python to international fame.  Thought to be a harbinger of good tidings in traditional Luo folklore, Omieri is not a specific snake but a manifestation. She has reappeared many times before 2003 and 2006, the most controversial being in 1987 during the controversial burial of criminal lawyer SM Otieno.

In the 1987 case, there was a furore when Omieri was airlifted to Nairobi for treatment after her bush nesting place was set ablaze. Residents demanded that she be moved back to Nyanza as the SM burial case pitting his wife Wambui Otieno and SM’s clan became headline news. Omieri was moved back to Kisumu where she died. She was given a proper burial, with a condolence book placed at the Kariokor Social Hall.

In the 2003 manifestation, government authorities were more sensitive to the community’s connection with the snake. Kenya Wildlife Service sent officers to assess the situation and recommend proper foods the nesting female snake was to be fed.

"If you could add Cola, some rum, and let my guy Nyakach and I meet from time to time, that'ld be nice." Image Credit

“If you could add Cola, some rum, and let my guy Nyakach and I meet from time to time, that’ld be nice.”
Image Credit

Other people wanted to make a meal of her. According to some reports, there was an offer of a very tempting KES 20, 000 by a crew of foreign engineers who wanted to turn Omieri into a cuisine. It was, of course, turned down. Her eggs began to hatch in May and she disappeared back to wherever she had come after surviving floods said to have been caused by rain she had brought. She resurfaced in Ombeyi village in Kano, Nyando District, in February 2006.

Among the Taita, another snake, christened Sadu the Serpent god, is the custodian of the Taita culture and wealth. 


Owaahh, 2014 ©


Posted by on January 22, 2014 in Adventures, Animals, Causes, Discourse, Kenya, Lists


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#CaptureKenya: The Water Bottle

There is something about living in Nairobi that often makes us forget the concepts of family and sharing on which this country’s real roots are founded. The surprising thing is that nearer to the sea, to the cities and towns that have survived capitalism and our five-decade freefall (sometimes tempered with a few glows), one’s faith in Kenya’s ability to be a family is restored. Not even by the open sea or the constant greetings and social warmth, but by this reused 3-litre bottle…


We sat outside a small hotel while waiting for a potential model to report to his place of work. The hotel is on the main street, known officially as Harambee Avenue, overlooking the sea and the jetties. While the rest of #TeamMigz went down the sea barrier to get spontaneous shots, I lagged behind to watch the bags-it reminds me of my first school trip in high school. It was a drama trip, and I was so excited, only to be designated the unofficial security person for the costumes and bags when everyone else was out chasing the sister school. This was different though. We had woken up at 4.30 to get some sunrise shots; the sun rises so early in Lamu, almost as if it is eager to go somewhere. A five-minute video of the horizon would look like a time-lapse video of the orange ball just hurtling its way up the sky.


Its only 5.45 am in the morning….

Anyway, on the table where we had established base, I spotted the reused empty bottle. They were empty when I got there, and probably shouldn’t have attracted my attention. Then I noticed that every few minutes, a passerby stops, checks the bottle, finds it empty, and moves onwards. It turns out that this is the culture in Lamu; almost everyone with a table on the main street places a bottle of water and a plastic cup for any thirst passerby. No cost, no formalities, just a courtesy for everyone by everyone.

Lamu's famous Old Town's streets are narrow. If this was anywhere else, I'ldbe scared of what lurks in the corner...

Lamu’s famous Old Town’s streets are narrow. If this was anywhere else, I’ldbe scared of what lurks in the corner…

It is not much, and they probably don’t have to, but they still do. Such random acts of kindness, especially where they fulfill someone else’s banal needs at no cost to themselves, are probably the most salient thing missing from our everyday transactions. I pondered over how Nairobi would be such a culture shock for anyone who has been a Lamu resident his entire life since there is no free drinking water, and if there were, no one would drink it.

Lamu is a one big warm family.  In our three days here, we have made impromptu decisions severally, at times leaving the first person who approached us with a deal for his friend with either a better one or a better boat. No one ever gets angry; it’s almost suspicious how easily they take it. It’s as if capitalism reached the island in such a mild form that its murderous tentacles are missing from the real natives of Lamu.

Blessed with a calm shoreline and direct access to the high seas, Lamu’s main street is the Central Business District (CBD) with several banks, airline offices, government offices, the donkey sanctuary, numerous shops and hotels, and always teeming with groups of idling men. The men are not really idling, however, as this is the widest street in Lamu and most frequented by tourists. The speedboats tied to the jetties are owned or run by these men here, and once in a while, you will pass a group of men singing together or playing a board game.

Lamu's main street. Its a seafront affair...

Lamu’s main street. Its a seafront affair…

The bank aisles are almost empty, and the teller will happily chat with you about why you are in Lamu while she processes your money. No one is in a hurry, except our de facto tour guide and casting director, Cisqo (he is a slave driver this one, sharp and on his bare feet all the time).

I spotted a poster offering a 30*40 plot of land for KES 200, 000, in case your quest to enter the land bubble brings you here. But come only if you promise to visit or live only if you promise to place a bottle of water outside your door. 

Owaahh©, 2013. 

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Posted by on October 31, 2013 in Adventures, Kenya, Random Musings


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