February 27th 2009, 12:00

My face wasn’t much better when I woke up the next morning. What wasn’t peeling off was red and raw and I was in a bad mood so I didn’t say much as Francis drove us out of Nairobi towards the Ngong hills, past the towns of Kiserian and Rongai Ongata, to the small holiday resort that is Whistling Thorns. It’s named after the acacia trees that populate the surrounding landscape. Ants make holes in the seeds and, as the wind blows, it causes them to whistle. Acacia trees also have bloody great thorns.

It’s a sweet little place with a pool and small but comfortable chalet type rooms. It also has a not quite horizontal pool table with different sized balls and most importantly, for us, a bar. It’s run by a middle-aged Dutch battleaxe with a loud voice and all the charm of a spell in prison. As we had our first cold beer, she was having a business meeting, shouting “don’t mess me about” whenever possible. She soured the charm of the place somewhat (as did my face) but several expensive cold beers numbed us very effectively. 

We went on a walk with a guide, Imanu, up the hills, through the valleys and across dried up skeletons of rivers, our first foot bound experience in the Kenyan countryside. It reminded me of walking in The Lakes, albeit without any water, and rather more gazelles and zebras and we worked up a healthy appetite. Dinner was a triumph of quantity over quality, but by the end of the night, we’d had a pleasant time, I’d nearly forgotten that I looked like a pizza, and we were ready for the epic journey, involving 4 matatus and a bus, to find Gracia Guesthouse, our home during our internship at Pamoja Trust.

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