From the copper-red rapids of the Tana River to the wide smiles of hundreds of African children, members of the Kenya Trek 2007 experienced the full diversity of Kenya’s beauty.
Over winter break, thirty HBS students and partners spent almost two weeks pursuing adventure, volunteering, and seeing many of Africa’s big game. The adventure began with four hours of whitewater rafting down the Tana River. The class 4+ rapids did not deter the group, although a few of the rafters found themselves going for a nice swim! Along the way, almost everyone chose to jump off a 30 foot cliff next to a massive waterfall. Nga Chiem (NJ) displayed high creativity by entering the water nearly sideways. A few days later, eight people would end up opting to bungee jump over the Tana River overlooking these rapids, Craig Lund (NH), Tariq Yasin (NF), Craig Canton (NJ), Nga Chiem (NJ), Nate Faust (NF), Ethan Kurzweil (NH), Noel Yi (NH) and Cory Whitaker (NH) all decided to take the plunge-some, literally, in the Tana River on the way down!
Heading north, the group endured a bumpy five hour drive over dirt roads to Samburu National Reserve, home to elephants, zebra, giraffes, lions, jaguars, and countless other African mammals. Here, the group drove through miles of wilderness in search of the big five. A high point was discovering six lions-two mothers and four babies-waking up from a nights sleep. The group’s favorite animal though, was the tiny dik dik, a relative of the antelope, and native only to East Africa (and forever an inside joke).
From Samburu, the group headed back south for a most unusual camel trek. After dining on camel meat (tastes like chicken), the trekkers spent the night in traditional Somali huts. Large enough for a 5’8″ tall person to fully stand in, the huts are also light enough to be transported in full form by two camels. Perhaps the group would have been better off spending the day watching the camels transport huts, as the camels clearly did not want to transport people. On that note, the “camel rider of the year” award goes to John Bard (NC), as he managed to stay on his camel despite its best attempts to continually buck him off. The runner up award goes to Shirlene Song (NJ), who narrowly escaped death when her sitting camel decided to roll over on top of her.
After the camel trek, the group headed south to volunteer at a Kenyan primary school. The group built desks for the classrooms and split up to teach lessons for different age groups the following day. As exciting for the trekkers as it was for the school children, the second day culminated in a football (soccer) game between the kids and the HBSers. Not surprisingly, the kids won. (Although Cory Whitaker would probably disagree.)
The trek’s final stop was Hell’s Gate national park, in the southern part of the country. In addition to visiting Crater Lake, we visited one of the eight natural wonders of the world-Rift Valley, on the way back over the Equator. On one of the most physically intense days of the trip, everyone geared up for a full day of rock climbing, mountain biking, and gorge hiking-all in a row! We were ecstatic to mountain bike alongside zebras and giraffes, and to finally spot some hippos before leaving the park. Enjoying a “civilized” dinner of ostrich meatballs and game meat at Carnivore restaurant in Nairobi, complete with Skydeck presentations, was definitely the perfect way to end the trip!