The following are excerpts taken from Peter Luck’s (Campion School) blog. Campion was part of a composite team made up of fives schools (Stanground, Stonehenge, Banbury and Woodford Lodge). Quite a handful for Leo Biles who was their expedition leader and by all accounts did a fantastic job (as did all the teachers and students that made up this expedition).åÊ I think it would be fair to say that this really sums up how a Camp Kenya expedition runs so thanks Peter for sharing… Wednesday, 21st July Been a favorite day for many as they have all been successful at the practical diving test stage 1 and enjoyed the group preparation for teaching local school children about the importance of preserving the coastal environment. Singing around the beach bonfire under the unfamiliar southern hemisphere stars, it is clear that the group is well integrated and really getting into the expedition experience (despite the horrific things we find inside the tents!). All good.... Saturday, 24th July Lion fish, scorpion fish, giant land hermit crabs, geckos, spiny sea urchin – the list goes on! All of the students passed the exam and completed the last two dives successfully and so are now PADI qualified open water divers! Washing your own clothes is a new experience for most as is the intermittent water supply! All are coping well and there have been no significant problems. Sunday, 25th July At first the 20 students from the nearby school were a little shocked when they arrived at the camp to be entertained and educated by us. They soon relaxed and joined in the beach clean-up where we collected 26 bags of rubbish from the strand line as we walked a mile or so north. Following a 20-a-side football game we returned to camp and the team involved the pupils in a range of activities. Everyone found it very rewarding. One big shock for the team tonight was having to pack their bags for early departure tomorrow – several struggled for some time and needed a lay down afterwards! Food has been generally very good with several options even for the fussy eaters. To recognize the team’s excellent start there are a couple of treats for them before we disappear to the sacred forest camp (kaya) and the hard work starts! Wednesday, 28th July A long and tiring day saw us split into groups and undertake various forest conservation tasks. Some helped build a traditional wood and palm leaf shelter for the foresters; others cleared half a football pitch of forest removing undergrowth and invasive tree species. Later everyone dug a hole and planted a sapling of a native hardwood species. During the day groups had to pull a cart with water containers 1km to pump water and then return and fill the water tank at the camp. After lunch we said goodbye to the school children that had helped us and set off to walk the 6 miles to Makongeni camp. The team has worked very hard over the last two days and unfortunately Vicki has picked up an infection too and so has spent the night at hospital. She should rejoin the group soon. Sunday, 1st August The three bedroom mud hut was our focus today and the team really gelled with groups carrying water, trampling and mixing mud, tying stick lathes, applying mud pats etc. Eventually the team completed the mud wall to a height of four feet on both external and internal walls but the wooden frame is complete to the full height. The Fundis (local skilled workmen who have guided the team) will complete the roof over the next few days. At the end of the afternoon‰Ûªs works (when it again looked like more mud has been applied to flesh than sticks) we were surprised when the widow who will live in the house appeared to look at the progress with her family. It was quite an emotional experience for all! Showers have been a long process and towels are as stained as the clothes worn by the orange mud! It looks like an explosion in a fake tan salon! Tonight we have the camp to ourselves as the venture scout group has moved on so after our Swahili lesson tonight we are having a camp bonfire and then looking forward to the rest day tomorrow back at Diani Beach. So everything here is nzuri sana and we are off to lala salama! Tuesday, 3rd August Our transit to Tsavo was due to take 4 hrs however 7 and a half hours later we arrived exhausted and hungry. A nightmare journey is a phrase often over used but is more than appropriate for today! A long queue at the Mombasa ferry meant an hour delay the there was a delay in our rendezvous with our police escort followed by several traffic jams on what is the main route to Uganda. When we turned off the main road we had 25 km on a red dust track through a very dry acacia scrub land dotted with the dung piles of elephants and scarlet towers of termite colonies. Eventually we arrived at Camp Tsavo in the Rukinga Wildlife Sanctuary of 80,000 sq km. There are two other groups here staying in the tents but we have been fortunate to be allocated the Banda (huts with palm leaf roofs) and all are very happy with this remotest of camps. Our lists of animals seen will be boosted over the next few days but the following need to be added from the last few days – mud skippers, fiddler crabs, whip scorpions, locusts and the very noisy bush babies! (Apparently they climb up to the top of the palm trees and drink the naturally fermented sap getting louder and wilder with their screams often ending in them falling out of the trees and scampering of madly into the bush!). Safari Tsavo East Wednesday, 4th August The team split this morning into two activities reversing in the afternoon. The first involved undoing a huge pile of wire snares collected by the rangers that had been set by poachers to trap all sorts of animals including elephants. They are then attached to a life size metal framework of an elephant. This will eventually be displayed around the region and cities to highlight the problem of poachers. The second project was an opportunity to produce elephant dung paper from start to finish and see how this is being used to generate income by the local community. Everyone enjoyed making their personalised paper with some intricate designs. An interesting array of creatures have been seen today or should I say last night and mainly in the bandas! Geckos, lizards, very large spiders (that even the boys have asked for staff to remove them), bats, so many birds and insects and best of all a gennet (try google!) Saturday, 7th August This morning we departed for Imani camp which is a new and basic tented camp (with bucket showers) on the site of the Imani women’s group facilities. After meeting the camp manager, Danson, we had lunch of fish curry with potatoes and vegetables. The fish used is Tilapia, a freshwater fish that is being farmed widely to supplement the protein intake of many Africans. Many meals are curry based with rice or potatoes or even a type of noodle and nearly always supplemented with green beans and carrots. Spicy bean dishes are common as is a special herb potato and kidney bean mash. It is noticeable that fussier eaters have become quieter as not only is there little in the way of alternatives but awareness of the Kenyan‰Ûªs dietary difficulties makes us aware of our usual privileged existence. Back to today – after lunch we met the very impressive founding member of the Imani Women’s group, Mama Mercy, who gave a talk on the group‰Ûªs projects. She and her group of 60 ladies (and their families) have managed to get funding from various organizations including World Vision to buy this plot of land, build a community hall and other buildings. They are very entrepreneurial with projects like renting rooms to teachers at the local school, growing oyster mushrooms on elephant dung, making and selling bracelets and clothing, making and firing bricks for sale and a host of other initiatives. They now have a Camp Kenya camp here and the teams provide the labour for some of the communities projects. The Imani group have trained members of the community to go out and teach about HIV awareness, and on dietary, social and other health issues. They have successfully reduced the transmission rates of HIV and reduced the stigma attached to sufferers and their families. They give financial and practical support to AIDS orphans and taken men who marry underage or very young girls to court. This is just a brief summary of what they do. Back to today – again! We then were invited to participate in various cultural activities and split into groups. Some pounded maize in the giant African pestle and mortar, others ground maize to flour on the simple hand-turned stone mill and some made beads bracelets. Later the women performed dances and sung their welcome and appreciation of the work we are to do during our stay. Imani camp is high above the plains where we saw the elephants and zebra yesterday and the night will be cooler and much windier than previously. Before we were treated to a wonderful sunset silhouetting the gneiss peaks against an orange-pink sky we beat the local football team 4-2 on a pitch that looked like it had just been ploughed by a team of oxen. Monday, 9th August Black backed jackal, snake head eagle, mongoose, eland, black faced monkey, and Cheetahs! Other groups were very jealous of our close encounter of the furred kind. We watched cheetah for some time sitting in the shade and then it got up and walked towards the road and slowly crossed in front of us! Photos to follow of this and a close encounter with elephants too! Safari Tsavo East We started out from Imani camp at 6.00 am and many thought this was the camp they felt was making the biggest difference to the community. As a result the team decided to make a donation to Mama Mercy that was enough to fund masons for a weeks work on the nursery school. After the safari we returned to Camp Tsavo which feels like home to many and looked forward to a nights sleep in proper beds! Wednesday, 11th August This morning was an early start as we were to be working in the open in a completely cloudless equatorial sky. Bottles filled, sunscreen applied and with hats glasses and boots we left the camp on foot with armed rangers and guides. We walked the 400 metres to the nearby waterhole and were divided into 3 teams each was given a section to work on by either reinforcing banks, excavating dried sediment or building new retaining walls. The work with our usual tools of African hoe, shovel, pickaxe and wheelbarrow was hot tiring and dusty but all the teams worked flat-out on what is our last hard day’s work. Frequent stops for water were essential. The waterhole is basically dried out apart from a small concrete trough at one end that always has a small amount available. The work we are doing now will allow more water to be held from the wet season in May through the bulk of the dry season that we are clearly in now. Most trees are currently bare branches and all ground vegetation is dead except for the occasional deep rooted shrub that stands out in the brown and red desert forest. Comments had been passed by some that the job of armed ranger guard was ‘ a bit of a doss’ but suffice it to say they have a different view of the role now! Two and a half hours into our mornings work the rangers shouted short command to one another and then came running towards us saying firmly ‘elephants elephants, haraka, haraka!’ (No translation needed). We turned and there was the huge head of a bull elephant looking at us. We stared in amazement and almost in frustration of us not departing immediately he took several large steps forward from the cover of the Acacias and revealed another six or so huge animals behind him! The tools were dumped and we were shepherded along the path rapidly. The Kenyans use the phrase ‘pole pole’ a great deal meaning slowly slowly but there was no pole pole in their faces or voices and we gathered pace until we were a safe 300 metres away before they allowed to stop and take pictures. The sight was amazing as these were the biggest elephants we had seen and many were moved by the experience. It seemed to us as though they had come to inspect the work we had done and say thanks and goodbye. It was certainly a real ‘once in a lifetime’ experience! The value of our efforts here had been emphatically underlined. After lunch we have been given a bush survival session were groups have to design and build an emergency survival shelter without tools or assistance. Later tonight we are celebrating our last night in camp with a fancy dress evening and some of the ideas are already making me nervous! Thursday, 12th August Last night was our last in camp and was celebrated with a fancy dress evening! Cross-dressing, chippendales, lookie-likes, lollipop lady and zebra crossing, manic masai and Harry Potter all featured in what was a slight bizarre and disturbing array. There was even an appearance of the ghost that had apparently haunted Pat and others the night previously causing them to adjust their sleeping arrangements!! Following this we held a presentation of awards for both serious and more light-hearted contributions to our expedition. The evening concluded with our usual session of star-gazing (there is only electricity between 6 and 10 in the evenings and no towns within dozens of miles). Visibility at night is astounding with the Milky Way clearly visible along with orbiting satellites and shooting stars. In the morning the traditional choral rendition of birthday greetings to James Talbot wore thin after the 15 time! We were due for a relaxed start to the day as our transport to the hotel in Mombasa was not due until 12 midday. Unfortunately this was delayed until 2. During the morning all students and staff completed feedback forms and we had a group discussion and reflection of the expedition. It is a fair summary to say that all have valued the adventure and feel they have made a real contribution to communities and conservation. There were suggestions for improvements such as fewer projects but seeing them through to conclusion, less kidney beans and other minor points. All of the team have clearly benefited whether in developing their confidence, leadership skills, understanding of 3rd world issues, teamwork and especially in helping them not to take things for granted in our privileged existence in the UK. They have appreciated the opportunity of putting in to practice our gospel values in a very real way and understanding they can make a difference in our world and their role in the stewardship of his creation. How long this will last and how deep the effect is obviously down to each individual but all of them will have found themselves permanently changed by their time in Kenya. Camp Makongeni Our flight to Nairobi will leave around 5.30 and arrive an hour later. Four hours later we will leave to arrive at Heathrow on the evening of the 13th. We shall confirm our arrival time at Campion when we land. I would like to publicly thank on your behalf Expedition leader, Leo Biles, and teachers from our partner schools, Nick Randall and Carrie Scott who have assisted Maria and I in making sure the team enjoyed the experience to the full! I know this is getting like an Oscars speech but all the Camp Kenyan staff need a mention as they have worked so hard for us and without exception been helpful, cheerful and welcoming. Asante sana!