I never really thought Africa was for me. Yes, it’s incredible, don’t get me wrong, but there was always something making me feel I couldn’t see myself living there. That was until now. During my three weeks, Borana completely stole my heart. I have seen and done so much this year that I look back and can’t believe it has actually happened. But this last holiday was one of the best yet, and I didn’t want it to end. Maybe it’s because Kenya is familiar now; random police checks for no apparent reason, potholes the whole width of the road and lorries loaded to the hilt no longer have me staring in complete amazement. I finally understand why Flick has made this place her home, not to mention having Borana is your base.
Just after I arrived our places in Marathon des Sables were confirmed. This turned out to be ideal timing as the first 5km training run had me doubled in half contemplating faking an injury. Was I really that unfit? Yes, but I like to think the altitude had a part to play in it too! It was just the wake up I needed, and I very quickly got into a routine of running every morning, even managing a 16km run near the end of my stay.
I loved running with Sam and his rangers. They gave me the name ‘Askari #24’, which I thought was great, considering 24 is my favourite number. I couldn’t understand a thing they said, but they’d chat away, sing and laugh throughout the runs which were far better than listening to Sam’s weird breathing noises beside me! Carrying a GPS they would give updates on time and distance as we were running, always followed by ‘not so good, not so bad’.
Every day we would pass many different types of wildlife, which still blows my mind. Just like a kid, I’d get back to the Lodge and list all the animals I had spotted to Flis. I love that after her eight years of living there she never once seems complacent about spotting the wildlife too (either that or she has a great poker face!). Having to go ‘off-road’ to avoid two rhino less than 50m from had my eyes out on stalks, not to mention hearing a lion roar on one of my runs close to the lodge. Can think of better ways to add speed training to my runs! We jumped in the car and spotted these two not far from the lodge.
On my last run there was quite a crew of us, so we headed out on a longer route. Climbing up the last main hill, we spotted Wilson at the top on his motorbike checking the locations of the surrounding rhino. About 100m from the top Sam suddenly dropped to the ground, quickly followed by everyone else. ‘Peel back, peel back’ came the call as they got up one by one, peeling off and then joining the end of the line then dropping to the ground again and again. I felt like I was running in circles until I got the hang of what was going on; we were practising an ambush! Now that I had figured out where to go I got right into it, pulling out my pretend gun and shouting a few ‘pyew, pyews’ with pointed fingers. After barely five minutes we had a ‘rendezvous’, and the ambush was over, we were in the ‘safe’ zone! Exciting stuff but not too sure I would feel the same if this situation was for real. Adding to that I was now buggered from the surprise sprint training. Sam later told me sometimes they would do this for up to half an hour. Wow, respect for these guys had just tripled. And we were only half way through our run!
The three weeks I was there flew by with many different types of activities including game drives, safaris, gym sessions, walks, horse riding, socialising and the best of all playing auntie Hollie! Briar was the best time-waster, and it was so lovely to spend so much time with her.
One night for a quick break away we headed up to Sarara Camp in the northern frontier to stay with some of Flis and Sam’s friends. It was amazing up there, very arid and dry, quite a contrast from Borana only three hours away. Located on the Savannah plains with the Matthews Range defining the skyline, it was yet another spectacular part of Kenya. It would be an ideal place to train for MdS (just have to watch out for the leopards!) We were lucky enough to spot some elephant on our evening drive as they were heading to the whistling wells to drink. Because they had to put their trunks down into the wells, we watched them lean on their front legs, with one back leg in the air and tail up for balance! Quite surprising for such a large animal!
On one of my final evenings there I crossed another adventure off the list and went paragliding. It was a beautiful evening, and just as the wind died down we took off over the plains of Borana, with views for Africa (ha, sorry couldn’t resist.) It was so peaceful and such an awesome experience. Hunter Marion who took me holds the Kenyan record for the longest solo flight, so I was in very safe hands. Put it on your to-do list if you’re visiting Borana next!
The next three months leading up to Christmas are quieter for me now. Working, running (with no lions to dodge), eating and sleeping will become my life as I try (as much as one can while living in London) to save some money for the next adventure.
“Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up, it knows it must outrun the fastest lion, or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. It doesn't matter whether you're the lion or a gazelle-when the sun comes up, you'd better be running.” ― Christopher McDougall