It all seemed so distant, the digging in the midst of vast deserts, and being stuck in the mud while driving in armed convoy. The fish eagle had landed on a branch above my head. It was either keeping a keen eye either on the colobus monkey in the opposite tree or on my plate piled high with the finest cakes, I could not decide which was the case. We had been traveling for 177 days. I tried to count back the new routes we had done, and the adventures experienced. It all seemed so innumerous, the only thing that was easy to count was the number of showers I have had, and I concluded I was about to have my 20th. A gentleman appeared by my side, topped up my coffee and placed a piece of lemon cake on my now empty plate. Ahhhhh, bliss. The last few days climbing at Hell’s Gate national park had taken it out on the skin on my fingertips and the coffee cup was far too hot to pick up so I had to settle for the iced lemon juice instead.
Climbing at Hell’s Gate is fantastic. After yet another new route I sat at the top of the cliff looking out over the lower grass and watched warthogs, with tails erect, scamper around the much easier going zebras. The giraffe had moved on further down the valley and a large storm was building so we decided to call it a day and cycle back to Naivasha. Before we left I got involved in a breathtaking experience:
I hung in my harness 10m below Steve. “Ok 5 seconds” He shouted down to me. I lifted the camera to my eye and checked the settings. 30 seconds had passed since his 5 second warning. He noticed my impatience. ” You have to get used to my 5 seconds they are often much longer then they should be”. I let him have this one; after all I was hanging in free space 250m up off the floor. But he had his toes on the edge of the dubious rock above me. ” Three, two” He counted himself down. “ONE”. He jumped and immediately his body shot passed me. My camera was in full flow taking four frames a second. A second had passed, then two, he was still falling. The third second passed and I wondered how long an object takes to hit the floor from 250m. I was about to count 4 and then a massive spread of color appeared in the lens and the sound of his canopy opening echoed around the canyon. He landed safely and I saw others coming up to him to congratulate. “Mad bastard”, I thought to myself. I jugged up the rope and walked off the cliff. I was still shaking from adrenaline when I shook his hand an hour later.
“Excuse me sir”, a man cleared his throat behind me. “More Coffee and cake?” The sun was now coming through the clouds to set on the edge of the rift valley. “What a good idea”. I piled my plate high and forced a bit more cake into my belly. After all it is not often you can sit on the lawn of the late Joy Adam’s (author of Born Free owner of the orphaned lion Elsa) estate, and cram yourself full of cream teas.
Kenya has been a perfect break for us. We have been climbing solidly for the last few weeks putting up new routes all along the edge of the rift valley. In the evenings we settle down to enormous steaks and cold beer. We are on our way north to lake Baringo to take balsa wood boats to Devils Island in the middle of the hippo-infested lake. After this we plan to jump on camels to explore the unclimbed super crags on the edge of the northern desert.
I approached the driver’s door and awoke the driver. “Can you wait here for the next half an hour, pick us up and then drive around the corner and then drop us off?” I can understand why the taxi driver looked confused, I had just woken the poor lad up. “I will pay you 200 KS (about 2 pounds)”. A smile appeared on his face and he looked happy at the fact he would be getting paid to go back to sleep for the next half hour. As I walked away I added “If you see me and my friend running to you can you start the engine up and get ready to make a quick get-away”. The taxi driver’s bemusement took a backseat for his excitement, as he was now our get-away driver!
My other instruction before the others left me was to try to hold the video camera steady and not to shake it. My hands were unsteady with nerves and fatigue from holding it up for the last 5 minutes. Wayne and Johnny stood ready to clear people out of the way if things went wrong, after all we were in the middle of Nairobi on a Saturday afternoon. I looked up and there he was. He had managed to give the security guard the slip and was now standing on the edge of the overhanging concrete skirt circling the top of the Kenyatta tower.
A few pedestrians had seen him and started to stare. BOOM he had jumped and within a second his canopy was starting to fill. I followed him with the camera. At first the guards at the other side of the car park stood rooted, seemingly unable to move. They remained in the same spot as Steve swooped between two buildings 20 ft above the floor and landed on the good side of the fence.
My flip-flops were off and I was running, with the camera still to my eye, to join him. The guards were already on their way over. Luckily the side gate was unlocked and I met Steve as he finished packing his chute into the sack. The guards were now chasing. The taxi driver was there and opening the doors, ready to aid the get-away. The whole street stood still watching the pursuit. People began to clap us as we bundled ourselves into the taxi. The door was not even closed when the car sped off, the taxi driver had picked up his role very well. We had escaped. Just another mini adventure I had this afternoon.
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