A Travellerspoint blog


Kenya:Nairobi National Park: Birds, Baboons and Baby Animals

November 11, 2013

semi-overcast 75 °F

After Ruby's volunteering in the Masai Mara we were ready to explore Nairobi National Park (which we had skipped on our last trip to Kenya). This is quite possibly the only national park located inside a major city! This reserve is so close that the animals can be photographed with the city in the background! The entrance to the park was about $40 pp and we easily hired a driver and guide for a tour of the park for about $100 total for the day.

As we drove around we saw some gorgeous baby animals (which of course are Ruby's favorite)!


We drove around and spotted tons of beautiful birds!


We went for a walk in the park with an armed guard. . . during that walk we realized that we were only about 100 yards away from 2 sleeping black rhinos! We also saw a huge nile croc and hippo skull :)


Monkeys galore!


It was a beautiful day and we saw lots of other cool creatures too. . .like a dik-dik (the world's smallest antelope), a pumba, wildebeest and a huge lizard that looked like a kimodo dragon.

We had a perfect end to the day with a nice dinner catching up with our friends Doc, Maria and Piety at our fave Indian restaurant in Nairobi (Haandi).


Posted by Tony.Ruby 05:30 Archived in Kenya Comments (2)

Kenya: South Narok: Practicing Dermatology in the Mara

November 2-10, 2013

sunny 85 °F

Having already been to Africa several times, I couldn't wait to show my good friend Andrea all of the beautiful things that make Africa such a great place to visit (and volunteer)! Thanks to Free the Children, Me to We and Medicis I would get the opportunity! We left New York and hopped on a total of an 18 hour journey and landed in Nairobi just in time to go to bed at the gorgeous Tribe hotel! That next morning we had a chance to visit the Giraffe sanctuary and meet our team before hopping on a small plane that would carry us over the Great Rift Valley and land on a tiny dirt airstrip in the Masai Mara. . . and from there our journey would be begin. We would be spending 10 days seeing dermatology patients in the Masai Mara with a team of 15 other volunteers from the US (a combination of dermatologists, MAs, PAs and even an ER doc).


Some of the highlights of this 10 day trip included:

1. The stunning vistas which I can never get enough of . . . including rural villages, sunflower farms, grazing animals under big skies and even heart shaped clouds! Do you see the heart or am I the only romantic?

2. The welcoming and friendly people, especially, the schoolchildren and villagers who would wave their hands furiously as we drove by, singing and dancing on the side of the road to show their appreciation for our visit! The patients were also extremely appreciative and offered shy smiles and held back their laughter as they listened to our funny attempts at speaking Swahili. The local clinic staff was extremely patient, hard-working and motivated to assist us in any way necessary. . even when there were 30 patients waiting for their medications or 100 patients sitting on the lawn waiting to be seen.
Our facilitators Kate, Tobiko and Breanna from Me to We were phenomenal and made sure we had a comfortable, educational and productive experience!

3. The Way of Life that is so different from our own: much slower and also much more labor intensive. . . we learned this on our morning walks with our Masai warrior guides. We also had a fireside story night where Steven, David and Peter shared quite a bit about their way of living over popcorn! We experienced some of their hardships firsthand when we walked to a village and attempted to carry jerry cans filled with either 25 or 50 lbs of water from the Mara River back to Mama Jane's house the traditional way. . . with a rope tied to the can and balanced across our forehead. Can you believe she makes the trip to collect water 5 times a day?!? Thanks to Free the Children hopefully she will not be doing that for long thanks to the up and coming Clean Water projects. Seeing the transformation of the old school with it's dirt floors and desks made of splintered wood to the newly built school for the children really made me proud to be a part of this project.

4. The Wildlife: Always beautiful new things to see, every journey we take . . .some faves were the goat who ate my flowers right out of my hand, the zebras we encountered on our morning Masai walk on one of our first days there, the loud group of yellow weavers birds fixing up their nests, a pile of lazy sunning hippos and of course 3 men and a goat on a motorcycle LOL!

At the end of the trip, we felt very fortunate to have made amazing friends and memories. . . we are already trying to plan our next trip back to the Baraka clinic! That is exactly what I wished for as I tied my ribbon onto this wishing tree. .

Posted by Tony.Ruby 12:54 Archived in Kenya Tagged animals Comments (4)

Kenya/Tanzania: Tony the Tout Magnet

April 21, 2011

rain 74 °F

We awoke from our dreams of sleeping outside in the desert to a strange sound…an alarm clock! Not the normal donkey or camel sounds we’ve become accustomed to over the last few days. We struggled to get our stuff together and took a cab into the city to catch the Dar Express Bus. This bus is much nicer than the one we rode up to Kenya a few weeks ago and we would recommend it over that 20 seat battered school bus that only takes the back roads! At the border Tony stuck out like a bright light to every person selling something or offering to help (for a tip of course). Ruby walked away for one minute and when she looked back there was a guy walking with Tony telling him he was with the bus company. If you ever make it to Africa know that the people that work for the bus company don’t really care if you make it back on the bus in time. . . so if someone tells you to follow them, it is their way of saying “you look like a tourist that I could get a few bucks from”! Well we made it out with only spending around $1USD. Ruby really couldn’t say anything because at 5:30am at the bus station she forgot the conversion rate of the Kenyan Shilling and gave our cab driver a $20 US tip! :( Well, the rainy season has officially started in Tanzania so most of the drive has been nice and cool. On one of the frenzied pit stops Ruby met a Kenyan girl and they both balked at the state of the bathrooms at these bus stations! She offered Ruby tissues as Ruby offered her hand sanitizer. . . and just like that a new friend was made.

The bus ride was pretty frantic--the driver kept switching into the other lane to pass cars and we hit tons of traffic on the way to Dar. This was probably due to a combination of the upcoming Easter holiday and the rain! Just like Californians, Kenyans and Tanzanians don’t know what to do when it starts to rain!? We finally made it to Dar but we were so exhausted that we could hardly think. Luckily for us Wairimu, a stage actress from Nairobi and Ruby’s new “bathroom friend” was kind enough to have her driver give us a ride to the hotel. We quickly ate some delicious spicy lemon chicken and passed out for our flight the next day! Sorry no photos for today. . . I think we were just too tired.

Posted by Tony.Ruby 15:11 Archived in Kenya Comments (2)

Kenya: Nairobi: Ruby and the Elephant Foot!--FOODIE ALERT

April 9, 2011

sunny 82 °F

Dr. Bansil had to go into work for a few hours so we got up and started our day with the important stuff like doing the budget, filing taxes and paying bills online. You know . . . all the things people do when they’re not on vacation for 7 months! :) Doc and Maria arrived to the house around 1pm and we checked out the newspaper. . they were just featured giving advice on how to obtain safe and effective skincare treatments! After a few photos on his elephant foot stool (yes it’s real) we drove over to the local mall for a little window shopping and some lunch. The mall was just as nice as anything in the US and just as expensive. Maria is such a sweetheart and wanted to pick us up some fresh passion fruits for our trip tonight. We stopped for drinks at one of Maria’s favorite spots that had an interesting red pepper martini drink and Ruby’s favorite lychee martinis! :) Pani puris were mentioned and doc took us over to Haandi Uddpi Restaurant to get exactly those. Who knew mall food could be so good? Even at the mall restaurant Doc knew the owner who even came out to meet us and see if there was anything we needed! We had the most delicious masala dosa (South Indian thin wafer like bread with spicy potatoes) and pani puris and left happy as clams. We made our way back to Doc’s house for a little rest before the big night of BINGO. Maria was already there with her whole family. We chatted with Maria’s daughter Priscilla about her starting work as a lawyer on Monday. Unfortunately we didn’t hit the big jackpot but maybe next time! At a little past midnight Doc dropped us off at the Nairobi airport and we were on our way to Ethiopia for a painfully early flight (3:30am). We can’t thank Dr. Bansil enough and hope that someday we can return the amazing hospitality he’s shown us!


Posted by Tony.Ruby 14:29 Archived in Kenya Comments (2)

Kenya: Nairobi: Bead Factory Bingo!--FOODIE ALERT

April 8, 2011

sunny 80 °F

Ruby got up early to head over to Kenyatta hospital for a chance to visit the main dermatology clinic. There are actually only about 20 dermatologists in the entire country of Kenya so she felt lucky to meet several of them during this visit. She was met by Dr. Makuri who happens to be one of the top guys—he was super nice and was happy to show Ruby some of the interesting cases. EVERY patient that walked in the door was different and she even got to take some pictures (we'll spare showing you those!). She was shocked to find out this government hospital does not provide cryotherapy treatment which is very common in dermatology and that patients have to go to a private physician and pay cash if they’d like to be treated.

Later in the afternoon, Maria’s driver Anthony picked us up and took us directly to the Kazuri bead factory. We can't escape wildlife because there were some adorable vervet monkeys hanging outside. Maria’s husband Piety is the CEO and it was great to get a personal tour-- we found out that the clay is collected from the base of Mt. Kenya and then dried to form hand-painted beads in the shop. We actually watched the workers individually hand-shaping and painting the beads. The company employs over 340 women (mainly single mothers), and disadvantaged members of Kenyan society. The beaded jewelry and ceramic pottery were gorgeous in every color of the rainbow. Needless to say, Ruby loves buying things—especially if it’s authentic and for a good cause. Tony had to drag Ruby out of there before she spent our entire daily budget!

Maria's driver Anthony then took us to an art gallery called Matbronze. This gallery is famous for their bronze sculptures, they were incredible! We will definitely be coming back when we have a house (and more money) since both of us fell in love with two HUGE crowned cranes that definitely were NOT in our budget nor would they fit in our bags! Anthony then drove us to Dr. Bansil’s house and on the way showed us Nairobi National Park just a few kilometers away. We didn’t know that he (or the city) was just one kilometer from the Big 5! Maria and Piety came over and after a few drinks we drove to a restaurant called Nargis for some delicious chicken. Eating with Doc (Dr. Bansil) is something truly special! As soon as we walk in the door the owner Yosuf stops what he’s doing and comes over to meet all of us. The service was amazing and even the cooks in the kitchen came out to ask how we would like our food. Tony didn’t want to be like a typical “white guy” so he told them that medium spice would be ok. This may not have been the best idea because their version of medium was more like burning hot! They even have a hot sauce that they made custom for our table called Kill Me Now! Tony must have had a few gallons of water but survived the spicy dinner! Doc then took us out to a casino for a night of BINGO. I wish we had photos because it was so much fun but the casino had a no photo policy! :( Unfortunately we didn’t win the big jackpot but had an amazing night anyway!


Posted by Tony.Ruby 13:58 Archived in Kenya Comments (1)

Kenya: Nairobi's Only Punjabi Dermatologist--FOODIE ALERT

April 7, 2011

sunny 80 °F

We got up early today and quickly realized that Ruby didn’t really bring any “work” clothes with her on this trip. She was planning on visiting her friend Pooja’s dad who’s a Punjabi dermatologist here in Nairobi. We spent almost a half hour agonizing on what to wear until she found something that looked semi-professional. We quickly caught a cab to Nairobi Hospital and while Tony sat at the coffee shop she went up to meet Dr. Bansil. He has a super nice office which reminded Ruby a lot of the BSI in Palo Alto (he just finished renovating). We made plans to meet for dinner after work since his patients are not the type to like observers. Dr. Bansil helped Ruby set up a day of shadowing at Kenyatta hospital for tomorrow. Tony plans on spending most of the day updating the blog. . . if we can find some decent internet! After checking into the Wildebeest Lodge we organized our clothes and finally got a chance to update some days on the blog. Time went by so fast that before we knew it we had to meet back up with Dr. Bansil for dinner. We arrived at his office just as they were finishing up the day. He invited us to his assistant Maria’s house for some pre-dinner drinks. Maria and her husband Piety have a gorgeous house with tons of collectibles and they are Goan (from the Indian state of Goa) so we had plenty to chat about. Tony got to drink his Amarula with ice and Ruby happily accepted the red Italian wine that Maria offered. and we had a blast chatting about our time in Goa. Afterwards Dr. Bansil treated us to a delicious long dinner at an Indian Food restaurant called Haandi. Kenyan Indian food is delicious but much spicier than the Indian food we’re used to. The fish tikka, panner tikka, aloo gobi, and coriander naan went great with the bottle of red we enjoyed over dinner :)


Posted by Tony.Ruby 13:21 Archived in Kenya Comments (0)

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