By Sarah Halvorson
As the endless miles of scenery passed outside my window, I had one thought on my mind: we were going camping. This was the one thing I had been looking forward to most over Christmas break, and now it was finally happening. I was most excited because I had been to this campsite before, but not for camping. About two months earlier I had gone up to Timau, near Mt. Kenya, with my school for Cultural Field Studies where we served at a school. One day we went to this camping area, Ngare Ndare Forest Trust, and I immediately fell in love with the beauty of the place. I had recommended it to my family, and now we were going camping there.
The four hour car ride up was on smooth roads. We stopped in the small town of Timau to get a few last minute supplies and then we turned off onto a dirt road which should have led to Ngare Ndare Forest. . . or so we thought. The problem was, we were following Google Maps. And Google Maps isn’t perfect, especially in the middle of Kenya.
After several turns onto different roads that were getting progressively worse, we realised we were lost. I, being the only one who had been there before, was reading my book quietly in the back of the car, in a world of my own. Meanwhile, the rest of my family was trying to navigate through up country Kenya. They would occasionally ask if the road looked right, but even I was lost. After a while we started asking people alongside the road where Ngare Ndare was. Eventually we ended up following a man on a motorbike with a sack of potatoes on the back. He led us to the town of Ngare Ndare, nowhere near where we wanted to be. We had been asking for the wrong place. We wanted to go to Ngare Ndare Forest Trust, not the town. Fortunately, in the rural town of Ngare Ndare, there was a man called Jehosephat, who worked at Ngare Ndare Forest Trust. Even though he was home for a Christmas break, he agreed to lead us to there.
Jehosephat got on his motorbike and led us out of town. It was 4:30 in the afternoon. We had been lost for a good hour or so, and now we were trusting a random stranger in the middle of nowhere to take us to our campsite. He led us up the side of a mountain. The view was breathtaking. The endless plains and farmlands created a patchwork of greens and yellows and browns. On the hillside were giraffe and zebras. With the windows down and the wind tangling my hair, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of peace, despite the situation.
After a few kilometres, Jehosephat led us to a ditch with some water running through it. He drove down and up the other side. No road was to be seen. My Dad got out to figure out what to do. Jehosephat was trying to lead us into the forest by a back road, a short cut. But for all we knew, he was leading us away from the road so he could rob and highjack our car. Once again we decided to trust him. After off-roading it for a few hundred metres, we joined up to another dirt road and within minutes were at the campsite.
Now, we had made a slight mistake before leaving, which would cause some serious problems in the end. We never called before coming. This meant that we didn’t know the prices or even if the campground was full or not. Most campsites we’ve been to in Kenya have been relatively cheap, at the most, $60 a night for a nice campground. When we arrived at Ngare Ndare Forest Trust, they gave us the price: $20 a night per person, plus $10 for an armed guard. With a family of six, that quickly adds up to $130 a night, and we planned on staying 3 nights.
As Abraham put it, “A patch of grass, some sticks, a river for your water, and a long drop for only $130.”
It was 5 in the afternoon by now, with only an hour of sunlight left. We had no choice. We would have to stay. We were all disappointed and feeling totally ripped off. But, we had a choice. We could complain and have a miserable time, or we could make every shilling count. We decided to make the most of it. After all, how often do you get to be out in the middle of Kenya under the stars with a huge roaring fire?
We set up tents, started a fire, and cooked up some spaghetti over an open flame. The stars hovered above us in a multitude of brilliant light, pinholes into heaven, as a friend of mine put it. And we talked and laughed and told stories and played games around that fire out in the middle of nowhere.
Fortunately, we were able to get a better deal for the next two nights, which meant we could stay. We were about 100 metres away from a gurgling creek where we got our water each day, and high above the creek was a hanging walkway in the trees. A few kilometres away were huge waterfalls. We all braved the cold water and jumped from the cliffs, some at least 5 meters high. Abraham, Lydia, and I explored the river, going up stream, rock climbing up waterfalls and wading through water. In the day we could hear and see beautiful birds chirping happily in the trees, and at night, we could hear baboons and monkeys by the river. The guide told us we had to watch out for water buffalo. Each day I found myself constantly in wonder of God’s creation, and I never wanted leave.
On the ride home, after three days of adventure and fun as a family, I had the time to think and reflect. When things come your way that you don’t expect, such as challenges, hard times, or even expensive campgrounds, it’s a choice to be content. When all the world seems evil and everything you know comes crashing down around you, it’s a choice to look for good, it’s a choice to be content.
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