The Great Lake Robbery

4 06 2009


                   “I have this strange craving for a salad…”     (Lake Naivasha, Kenya)

Being a city boy subjected to constant noise, I relish the near that comes in the wilderness. There’s a magic to hearing nothing more than the rustle of trees and the trill of cicadas or crickets or of staring at the heavens and catching a glimpse of infinity. It’s that escape from the constant sensory assault of everyday life that’s always one of the most rewarding aspects of travel, but sometimes the things that go bump in the night tend to go bump in a way that put even cities to shame!

 Lake Naivasha is a serene spot in the Great Rift Valley. With a comfortable climate and the blue waters of the lake as a backdrop, Naivasha became a popular spot with Kenya’s Happy Valley white settlers. The lake’s shorelines are filled with swaying reeds while the lapping waters gently nudge at moored boats and rickety wooden jetties. Hippos wallow from the heat and come ashore to dine on the grasses at night. The surrounding plains are full of antelope and gazelles while the trees are filled with colobus monkeys and hundreds of colourful birds. Naivasha is a delicious escape from the heat and dust of safari.

After dinner and a campfire chat, we retired for the night. We were pitched on a large tree-shaded lawn with the lake at one end and farmland on either side. Serenaded by snorting hippos, I fell asleep the moment my head hit the pillow.

The noise began just after 2am. I awoke with a violent start to the sound of a man shouting. He was very agitated and closeby. I lay on my back staring into the darkness of my tent. The shouting continued and was soon accompanied by shrill blasts on a whistle…and then more shouts. I could hear people running and soon the performance escalated into an absolute cacophony as though the world had exploded. Vehicles started racing around, their horns blasting.

Clearly, we were under siege.

Lying flat on my stomach I inched towards my tent flap and silently undid the zipper. I was about to poke out my head when pounding feet raced through our campsite and around our tents chased by more shouts. The vehicles continued to roar around, the shouts and whistles and footfalls increased. I quietly dressed and once again edged to the flaps and poked out my head.

All was silent. Everything was dark. I eased myself out and, staying low to the ground, continued my survey. Even in the eerie half-light of a waxing moon, everything was still. There was no sign of the earlier turmoil and drama. Confused, I used the opportunity to visit the toilets, carefully watching as I went…but still nothing. After completing my inspection I returned to my tent and fell fast asleep.

The next morning we all gathered for breakfast and the obvious topic of conversation was the night’s entertainment. Our guide joined us over a mug of hot tea.

“Asparagus thieves,” he explained as though it was the most normal event in the world. “The night watchman on the farm saw someone in the fields and blew his whistle. All the pickers raced out to protect their livelihood. They chased them with the farm truck and they ran off through our campsite.”

“Happens all the time.”


Photo and post by: Simon Vaughan © 2009


Travel Photography 101 7.5/18

19 12 2008

Confessions, tips and musings from a snap-happy wanderer.




Never let yourself regret not taking a photograph.


When travelling between Nairobi and the Masai Mara Reserve in Kenya, the road winds precipitously down the escarpment of the Great Rift Valley. On one side there is the steep cliff side of the valley wall, whilst on the other a dramatic drop to the plains below. The view itself is spectacular as it sweeps away to the Mara and the Serengeti beyond. Towards the bottom of the steep road there is a small chapel tucked against the side of the cliff. With such a gripping view on the opposite side, it’s not surprising that it often goes unnoticed. The chapel had been constructed by Italian Prisoners of War during the Second World War while building the road that now carries hundreds of thousands of tourists each year on their way to the great game parks in the south.


I had passed the chapel while travelling back to Nairobi. The road is narrow with no opportunity to stop until you reach a lookout close to the top. With my camera tucked in the bag at my feet, I could do nothing but watch it disappear behind us. It was such an incongruous sight that I kicked myself for months afterwards that I hadn’t had my camera ready to snap a quick pic as we drove by. I assumed the opportunity was lost forever.


Fortunately, a few years later I found myself travelling the same road to again reach the Masai Mara. With my camera now ready and loaded beside me, as everyone else gazed at the great view to the left, I watched for the chapel on my right. The photo I snapped is not particularly good and means nothing to anyone else, but for me, it’s as good as any I took on that entire trip.


And more importantly, my list of ‘missed photos’ had become one shorter.



Photo and post by: Simon Vaughan