I am in the middle of packing for a two weeks’ trip to the UK.
It is supposed to be a holiday but, what with driving on choked motorways between one relative’s home and another, another, another – and walking the crowded streets of London – I reckon it will be much more tiring than work.
Then there will be the walks: ploughing across fields, tramping through woods, scrambling up hills, and having to keep telling the scurrying grandchildren not to go so fast.
I reckon the best way to enjoy the scenery is through the windows of a car ...
But, seriously, having places to walk is something many expats miss when they come to stay in Kenya.
Back there, they have had the public footpaths across the countryside and the parks in the towns – especially in London.
And, apart from in certain districts in the cities after dark, you never have to think about risks of being mugged.
Here, I reckon the only places some expats get to walk are around their fenced gardens and in the guarded shopping malls.
The other day, though, after a visit to the Kazuri Beads factory in Karen and with a couple of hours to spare, we decided to go a bit further along the Karen Road and to the Oloolua Nature Trail – for a walk.
The trail is within the 250 hectares estate of the Institute of Primate Research, which is one of the many institutions of the National Museum.
There are five kilometres of sign-posted footpaths that meander through an unspoilt indigenous dryland forest.
One tourist brochure calls it “an oasis of tranquillity for city residents looking to escape the city hustle and bustle”.
True. The only sounds we heard in there were the gurgles of water over rocks, and the chirpings and chortles of forest birds.
I wasn’t up to the full five kilometres – my young colleague might have been – so we decided to take only the path that runs at the east of the forest and along the Mbagathi River.
You park the car at the entrance, pay the small fee, and walk across a bridge. As you turn left and go down to the river, there is a wooden tower, ringed with picnic seats.
This is a hide, erected for watching the nest of a Crowned Eagle. We climbed the rickety stairs. The eagle had flown – perhaps long ago.
But it was still a nice experience to be right at the tree canopy. Half-way up there is a glass display case with animal skulls and bird feathers – interesting, but it needs a dusting and a tidying.
At the point where you join the river path there is a waterfall and the fairly unobtrusive constructions for generating electricity.
Down the slope, you come to the Bamboo Cliff, where there are more benches in a circle and where there are better views of the river through the dense vegetation.
Across the river, you can see the walled gardens of the lucky people who live in this secluded place.
Mau Mau hideout
Further on, there is the cave, said to be once used by the Mau Mau fighters. Whether it was – such an obvious hiding place and so close to the city – is open to question.
(It certainly makes a good marketing ploy for the tour operators!) You have to bend double to get under the entrance ledge – and then you can see that the tunnels run some way underground. But there is little incentive to explore further, given the dank atmosphere and the smell of bat droppings.
Had we gone further along the river we would have reached a papyrus swamp.
From there the path turns up the slopes, into the thick tangle of trees that opens in glades that make good picnic and camping sites.
Fortunately, there were no scurrying grandchildren to force the pace. So it was a relaxed saunter through the trees and by the river. I can recommend it – it is well worth the drive from the city.
John Fox is managing Director of iDC