My time as a volunteer at GoWild was an exciting adventure from arrival to departure – via the lovely Karanja’s taxi service from Nairobi.
There are too many anecdotes to recount here, but to get an idea of life at Olepangi Farm, this is a typical day:
After a brilliant nights sleep, (always!) breakfast is served on the deck at 7.30am. If you are lucky you will see elephants in the neighbouring Ole Naisho reserve. Breakfast is an important meal and you’ll develop an unhealthy appetite for porridge which MUST be eaten with cream and Jaggery, (unrefined sugar). There is then bacon, eggs, tomatoes and toast, but note that this is all secondary to the sacred porridge…
By 8.30am you are out with the syces exercising the horses, (and the porridge is sitting uncomfortably in your tummy!) Of the 16 safari horses you will soon make your favourites, but don’t underestimate the oldies – they all, wonderfully, have spirit.
Lunch when there are guests is down by the river, or otherwise outside the Party House at 1pm. Joseph and Margaret make a lovely quiche or soup with fresh salad from the veg garden. After lunch there might be time for a little rest or you might need to go into Nanyuki for a food shop. I LOVED Nanyuki. It is a small buzzing town where anything seems possible, although Clinton might not agree with plenty of ‘Africa wins again!’ moments. However to me shopping is seamless. After driving around dropping off lists at the Butchers, Green Groceries & General Stores, you have time to relax over a coffee at Dormans or lunch at Barney’s, before doing the rounds again to collect your shopping. Much more civilised than pushing a shopping trolly around Sainsbury’s. Back at the farm you might be able to persuade Clinton and Elizabeth to give a polo lesson. It’s an addictive and highly competitive sport and the ponies were very patient with us.
If there was time I often went for a jog around 5pm, either a loop outside of the farm – which involved a keen following of watotos; or around the polo pitch with the dogs, although Lawrence isn’t much of a runner!
6pm is sundowners on the deck outside the Party House. A ‘Colonel Lawrence’ was a very popular cocktail with the guests, although my favourite was an ‘Olepangi Sunset.’ ‘Bitings’ are Kenyan nibbles which accompany the cocktails and are served at 6.30pm. If you are lucky one of the guests will be knowledgable about the star consolations which come out as soon as the sun has disappeared below the horizon, and shine so bright. Otherwise there’s a brilliant App called ‘Night Sky 2,’ download it! When it gets too cold you can retreat inside the Party House where there’s a roaring fire, (the resident bats, Bruce and Alfred,) and supper served at 7.30pm. Some guests will stay up listening to the night calls of hyena, zebra and sometimes lions or the resident leopard. Often however your bed is calling by 10pm. It’s early to bed, early to rise living at the equator. However there is one last job… herding 3 Jack Russels and a South African Boerbul up to the Round House without the smaller ones becoming leopard-bait or Lawrence terrorising the Askaris. It was a bit of a pantomime which never went according to plan.
Aside from life at the farm there are also frequent trips with guests to the nearby game reserves of Lolldaiga, Ol Pejeta and Samburu; the waterfalls at Ngare Ndare Forest; a trip with Clinton and Elizabeth to the polo at Kisima; or Timau Sports Club on a Wednesday night. Mount Kenya is also on your doorstep so if you fancy climbing it then pack accordingly – plenty of warm layers.
It’s been an incredible couple of months and I’m very sad to be going home to a wet British summer – one request to the next volunteer, please feed the tortoises! They like lettuce, there were 7 when I left…