03-Apr-2005 -- It looked like we were in for an easy one. A really easy one. Just a few dozen miles from central Nairobi, in the pleasant hills around Thika and, according to the roadmap, right next to a good tarmac road. So why had this one not been done yet? True, hunting for Confluences is not exactly the national past time in Kenya (at least not yet), but this looked too easy. Perhaps it wasn't? We'd soon find out.
We drove along the Thika-Mangu road until the arrow on the GPS became perpendicular to the road. It looked like the Confluence was in the rolling hills of a coffee estate. We found a dirt track into the farm, crossed a stream and drove along the track among coffee bushes, past the farm buildings, and up a tree-lined track. We parked the car at the top of a hill, where the track ended, just 520 metres from the Confluence. The plantation formed a regular grid, with rows of coffee bushes transversed by wider, grass-covered tractor trails. It was a pleasant walk along the grassy trails, and clearly it would just be a matter of finding the right intersection of row and column, and we'd score the Confluence with ease.
Alas, it was not to be so simple. As we neared the bottom of the hill, the Confluence still lied to our left, beyond the edge of the plantation. We could see a small valley and another coffee plantation beyond it. Between the two, at the bottom of the valley, was a papyrus swamp. Luck was not on our side: the Confluence was in the swamp. We had to take the plunge. Although we were relieved to note that the soil was dry, close inspection revealed another, altogether less agreeable plant species sharing the swamp with the papyrus. It had long, woody and very spiny stems, and had been charred by a relatively recent fire. We made slow progress through the morass of branches and thorns, going round in circles for a while until we zeroed in on the spot at last. It seemed to be right in the middle of the only untamed patch of landscape for miles around! We took the photos and got out of the swamp as quickly as we could, wondering whether the local herpetofauna was as threatening as the flora.
As we had innocently anticipated a really easy confluence visit, we had planned to have our lunch at the posh Kentmere club, near Tigoni, and wore our Sunday best for the occasion. The burnt vegetation we had to negotiate had made quite an impression on our clothing, and thereby on the members in attendance, who stared in awe and disgust as we made our grand entrance. We devoured our lunch regardless, oblivious to the disapproving looks directed at us from all directions, as we animatedly made plans for our next confluence visit.