14-Mar-2006 -- Continued from 3S 38E.
As our 17-day Kenya sojourn came to an end, we had one final day to visit a tea plantation – or tackle another Kenya confluence. So the plantation visit was postponed until a future trip. While our earlier safari to 2S 36E had been preceded by as much thoughtful preparation as possible, this attempt was more along the lines of spur-of-the-moment, pile in the Land Cruiser and head out with only a general road map of the country. As the crow files, 1S 38 E was a longer distance from our starting point in Nairobi than 2S 36E had been, but the route looked like much more of a straight shot: east northeast on A3 and then a turn to the southeast on C94.
Given the accuracy of many maps of Kenya, it was impossible to tell how close 1S 38E was to a road. I realized we should not be surprised if we found we needed a 10 km hike off-road at the end of our trip. So, with our intrepid local driver Athuman Mohammed Salim at the wheel, we got off to an early start to give ourselves the best chance of returning to the capital before dark. Traffic was heavy, but mostly going in the opposite direction. Only the frequent speed bumps slowed our pace. On the edge of town the countryside was vibrant green, but the further we traveled to the northeast, the lower the elevation and the drier the landscape.
In less than three hours, we stopped roadside by a small farm 500 meters from the confluence point. Although we could see a few people working in the fields, there were no buildings close to the road where we might try to seek permission. That being the case, my wife volunteered to stay with our vehicle, so Mohammed could serve as an interpreter if needed. (Cynthia's decision meant she now has incomplete confluence visits in the northern, southern, eastern, and western hemispheres, as well as on the Equator. Not a lot of folks can claim that distinction!) Mohammed and I navigated around and through a few thorn hedges and shallow ditches, and established the ten zeroes on our first try. As we photographed, one of the landowners, who was still wielding the panga ("machete") she'd been using for brush clearing, walked over to check us out. Mohammed, by now one of Kenya's most veteran confluence hunters, was able to explain our mission, although he reported the woman was a little disappointed, as she had thought we were from "the government", and hoped the GPS might be a device for finding water on her property. We convinced her to be in one of the photos, which she would do only after re-tying her head bandana and putting down her panga.
By 10:45 a.m. we were back at our vehicle and heading towards Nairobi. Almost immediately we passed two matatus driving south on C94. According a one guide book, a matatu is a "minibus with a mega-decibel sound system, seemingly unlimited carrying capacity, and two speeds – stationary and flat out". The ubiquitous matatu is the mainstay of the Kenyan public transportation system, and helps make driving in Nairobi the contact sport it is! We had a great visit by private car, but choosing a matatu as the mode of transportation would make a future visit to 1S 38E twice the adventure...