Our original plan for Saturday went something like this:
- Leave early (5:30ish)
- Arrive at Guka's (8:30ish); talk & eat
- Leave Guka's (11 or 12ish)
- Arrive at the cottages in Naivasha (1 or 2ish) to meet up with the rest of the family, have a late lunch, hang out, and eat a leisurely dinner
Well, THAT was a pipe dream! The reality was a little more like this:
- Leave early (5:30ish) At least we got THAT right!
- Arrive at Guka's (10ish); talk & eat
- Leave Guka's (2ish)
- Arrive in Naivasha proper (5ish)
- Drive alllllllll the way to the opposite side of the lake and then around a tinier lake, drive waaaaaaaay past the entrance to the cottages in the pouring rain, backtrack in the darkening twilight, and finally arrive at the cottages exhausted and stressed (6:45ish)
- Eat dinner (8ish)
Even though we were in the van much longer than we'd expected, it was still fun just to be together and to see some more of the appealing surroundings.
And because we were away from the city, there were vistas I hadn't yet seen: Patchwork quilts of green with furrowed crops like rows of varied stitching...Regal stands of long-limbed trees...Groves of acacias stretching their flat canopies...Dark forested hills reclining behind a joyous wedding party, the white-ruffled flower girls swinging cheerfully under the grey moody sky...Gatherings of cactus masquerading as trees...Jutting cliffs patched with lush bursts of greenery...
All of this beauty AND the promise (and eventual arrival) of rain?! I was a happy girl.
When we reached the city of Naivasha around 5:00, I was thinking, "Oh good - we're close!" My head had started aching and I was feeling increasingly anxious about arriving so late for our family gathering. Even though everyone knew we were coming from Guka's, I still felt guilty that we would be getting to the cottages so much later than everyone else, and I was eager to finally join the rest of the family there. Little did I know that it would be another two hours until we'd actually arrive!
The city of Naivasha lies on the northeast corner of Lake Naivasha, which is about three times the size of Lake Mendota (for those in the Madison, WI area) or half the size of Lake Red Rock (for those acquainted with Pella, IA).
Here's the best way to imagine our journey from the city to the cottages where we'd be staying: Picture Lake Naivasha as a Dali-esque melting clock. We started somewhere around the 2:00 mark and slowwwwwly wound around to the 7:30 mark, where the lake suddenly stretched west like an ugly appendage. We passed along the southern edge of this appendage until it came to an end, then continued driving west through a little bit of the national park that surrounds the lake. Our long drive was punctuated by occasional animal sightings, which excited me and Lisa every single time. (Other people, not so much.)
We then began traveling alongside the southern side of a much smaller lake. I'm probably going to lose some of you on this one, but picture this smaller lake as a silhouette of a surly man facing left (the guy from the old Lockhorns cartoon is a perfect fit). We jogged our way northwest along his neck, his jowls, his frown, and curved north and then east around his bulbous nose. The Ole-Itiko Cottages were perched right on top of his nose. Unfortunately we didn't realize that until we'd driven past his eyes and sizable vertical forehead and started east across his hairline. Only then, jouncing along a deeply-rutted dirt road that was quickly becoming slippery, muddy soup, did we talk to one of the brothers and discover we'd gone waaaaay past the mark. We turned around (no easy feat, but Mark handled it wonderfully) and retraced our path in the quickly-darkening night until we reached the entrance gate to the property around the cottages and were rewarded with another exciting glimpse of an animal I'm used to seeing only in the pages of National Geographic.
When we finally - FINALLY! - pulled into the long driveway that actually led to the cottages, I thought I'd cry from relief. And when I saw the lanky visitor who seemed to have been waiting to greet us, my tension suddenly evaporated. Now THIS is what I'm talkin' about! AFRICA!
After our tall spotted friend cleared the way, we parked in front of our cottage and began unloading. The compound contained four guest cottages; the pictures below are from the cottage where Harry and I, Mark and Wabi, and Shiru and Lisa all slept. As soon as the kids hopped out of the vehicle, they ran in and out of each cottage checking things out, then raced to find their other cousins. We grownups took time to move all the bags into the cottage and get a little organized before making our way to the main cottage to greet the family members who were socializing there.
We found everyone gathered on the vast but cozy patio of the main cottage where there was a lot of comfortable furniture as well as two long dining tables. Patrice and Edgar were playing chess, and everyone else was talking and laughing, with Courtney and Mum each obeying doctor's orders by staying seated with their feet up.
Part of the arrangement at this particular group of cottages is that guests provide the food and on-site chefs prepare and serve it. So we all got to relax while a team of talented cooks chopped, mixed, grilled, and cooked. AWESOME.
They first served us kebabs of grilled goat and vegetables. Then we could choose from steaks and more goat, potatoes, vegetables, salad, chapati, kachambari, and many other things I don't remember.
I loved catching sight of Harry delivering food to his mom so she wouldn't have to get up, then sitting down after dinner to chat with her one-on-one. I pray this is how my boys treat me when they're grown.
Sometimes when I'm with a group of people, I feel unbearably, sharply lonely. I can love the people I'm with and intellectually appreciate the situation, but still be overwhelmed by a sorrowful detachment. When I felt this way after dinner, I glanced down at the table and was so riveted by the juxtaposition of my red brush-stroked mug against the teal plaid cloth that I was suddenly and surprisingly comforted. This kind of thing is why I appreciate color and design, and am convinced they are a direct reflection of a benevolent and imaginative Creator.
The kids could have carried on playing games and doing card tricks all night, but the grownups were tired so we sternly warned the kids that they needed to get into bed and be silent by (10:00? 10:15? can't remember now) or else Cucu would punish them. Their eyes were wide as they nodded soberly in agreement, and we walked the stone path to our separate cottage and collapsed into the mosquito-net-draped bed. It had been a long but satisfying day, and we were asleep in minutes.