Leaving Aberdare National Park, we headed North towards, according to the itinerary, Lake Nakuru National Park; we would get there eventually, but there were, it turned out, a few pleasant stops on the way. Again, I wish I’d taken more pictures of the land we travelled through, but I pretty much spent most of the time on the road staring out the window and just plain admiring the sun drenched view.
As the mountainous terrain of Aberdare flattened out to our left we began to pass through tea fields. First pineapples and now tea. We actually stopped beside one of the fields and bought some tea from the kids who worked the land. I’m not a big tea drinker, but I know some martians who are and they were very appreciative when I got home.
Having stretched our legs, played with the kids and bought our tea, we climbed back aboard our vehicles and continued North. I can’t remember what distracted me from the view, possibly witty banter from the friendly atmosphere within the cruiser. I just remember that turning to look back out the window and being utterly astounded. Previously, the land had been rolling past my side of the cruiser. Now, it was gone. Instead, there was The Great Rift Valley.
Now, I know, this photo doesn’t do it justice. I doubt any picture I could take could capture the sheer scale of what I was looking at. I remember looking down into the valley, then lifting my gaze as I scanned into the distance and it felt like the land would eventually curve upwards and overhead. Like something out of a Larry Niven novel. This thing – if you can call a country spanning geological feature a ‘thing’ – is huge. It’s what the word ‘vast’ was probably created to describe. In fact, I shall never call anything else vast again. In my mind:
“Vast”=The Great Rift Valley, Africa
We were driving right along the edge of the GRV and I had the window seat. Looking down into it I could see fields, homes and, perhaps a little oddly, swimming pools. I spent at least twenty minutes glued to the window, staring in jaw dropped awe at the sheer volume of space that lay before me. Vast.
Eventually, though, the lay of the land and the route of the road changed enough that I was no longer poised on the brink of a beautiful green abyss. In fact, the scenery quickly reverted to sandy coloured scrub land. We pulled off the road at another souvenir shop, but this one had slightly more significance than the others.
This little stop, at the Equator of the world, was probably the most – perhaps the only – gimmicky point in the holiday. There was the zebra painted little shop with the usual selection of fine goods, but the focus of this stop was, what I shall call, the Equator Show.
Warning: The following section contains sarcasm and not a little bit of pretentiousness on the part of the author.
The Equator Show involved a man taking groups of visitors over to the prominent sign pictured above which marks the Equator. There he would, with the aid of a bowl with a hole, some water and a matchstick, demonstrate the Coriolis Effect and prove that we were indeed on the Equator.
First, we hunkered down about three meters to the North of the signpost. The bowl was filled with water then allowed to drain out through a hole in the bottom. The matchstick was dropped onto the surface of the water and, lo-and-behold, the match spun in a clockwise direction.
Next, we moved three meters to the South of the sign and repeated the ‘experiment’. Amazement followed as, even though we all logically expected it, the matchstick this time spun in a counter-clockwise direction.
Finally, we gathered beneath the sign itself, right on top of the equator. Sounds of awe and appreciation escaped the small crowd as here, in the no man’s land between North and South, the matchstick remained completely still and the water drained away without any rotation whatsoever.
If more proof were needed, there was even a certificate.
To be honest, I was rather impressed with how I kept my mouth shut through the ‘experiment’. All props to the guy, his performance was flawless – even knowing what to look for there was no obvious twist of the match before it hit the water. Yes, the Coriolis Effect is real, but it only affects things on a grand scale, like the weather. To clarify, despite popular (and, unfortunately, even scientific) opinion, water does not spiral down a plug hole one way in the Northern Hemisphere and the opposite way in the Southern.
No it doesn’t.
However, I played along, impressed with the show even if I was disappointed at the continuing dissemination of the myth. I even bought the cheapy certificate. Then I moved away to the side and took a moment to actually look at where I was. I’m glad I did. To me, the Equator isn’t a spinning matchsticks and lies. To me, the Equator is a wide, brown scrub land with dust, kids and goats. It’s a moment of reflection in Africa.
It’s also where some folk make a living off tourists, but that’s fine too.
We climbed back aboard the cruisers and within about half an hour we went from brown scrub and farmland to this:
Thomson Falls, as discovered by Scottish geologist and naturalist Joseph Thomson in the 1880’s. Okay, not discovered by him, the Kenyans probably noticed it before then, but he was the first European to see it. This place was green. There was a nice little shop with parkland and picnic tables nearby. We all sat and enjoyed the break, the weather, the view and even a man playing an accordion. It was an exceedingly pleasant afternoon.
There was still more travelling to do. Our destination was Lake Nakuru National Park, still a good couple of hours away, so off we went. Despite the travelling, it never felt like a slog. The frequent stops and the incredible scenery kept me occupied the whole time.