Mercy has to admit, this spot under the trees is as good a place as any to while away weekend hours while snapping ‘outin-nature’ selfies for Instagram.
Why go on holiday?” asks Chris, throwing his arms out wide and breathing in the scenery as Mercy settles herself down onto the Maasai rug. A duck squawks as it lands picturesquely on a lily pad across the dam and a dozen cormorants sun themselves on the far bank, lazily spreading their wings as they bask.
Mercy has to admit, this spot under the trees is as good a place as any to while away weekend hours while snapping ‘outin-nature’ selfies for Instagram. Although not the ideal outfit for a forest sanctuary date, Mercy is pleased to be camera-ready in her newest dress and full make-up. Chris sits down companionably as they crack open a soda.
Moments later, a gorgeous couple jog past, all lycra running gear with ball caps and probably a nice town house in Karen thanks to good jobs in finance and no kids yet. A small, yappy dog dashes over to the seated couple, spreading footprints over the rug and upturning a soda. Florence, the dog’s owner, yells, “No, Tito, no!” But it’s too late. Soda has spilled over Mercy’s lap as the couple frantically search for tissue to mop up the mess.
The forest path leads through the woods in an 8km circuit. A little further along, a family group with baby in a sling, large dog, mum, dad, grandpa and toddler have stopped at a clearing for a short rest on a bench. Mum hands out rusks and sippy cups to the younger members of the party as little Tommy empties mud out of his boot. Grandpa wishes his daughter had brought a rusk and sippy cup for him too.
“Are we almost half way?” he asks.
“Not now Dad.” Grandpa’s daughter admonishes.
“Tommy will hear.” A crested eagle swoops overhead, coming in to land on the high branch of a croton tree. Dad, David, is excited and passes around binoculars.
“It’s rare to see one of those,” he says, opening the Birds of East Africa app on his iPhone.
“Crested or Crowned? I’m not sure which.”
“Time to go,” says Mum, sensing a delay.
Further on, forest grounds-man, Silas, is doing controlled burning in preparation for the rains. He works year round, clearing paths, weed and ground cover for the enhanced enjoyment of the public. The fire starts low level but after gusts of wind, the flames are gaining ground at alarming speed. A pair of workers from a nearby plant nursery have come to help, damping out sparks with leafy branches. Silas runs out of the woods in heavy boots to phone for backup. Fortunately the ranger at the gate has already received word and sirens can be heard along the new bypass.
The gate is flung open and a red fire truck careers along a dirt track inside the forest reserve. Uniformed security staff wearing helmets fall out of the vehicle and begin hurriedly unravelling the hose and start a noisy, onboard generator to provide pressure to the pump. A sense of panic pervades as flames lick yet further into the woods, wrapping round tree trunks and flickering through the bush.
“Over here!” shouts Silas, sweat covered face and char smeared overalls, directing the hose operator on where to go. Soon the fire crew have the fire under control and smiles break out across a smouldering scene that was fraught only moments before.
Meanwhile, Mercy takes selfies by the dam with her man, blissfully unaware of the drama not a kilometer away. “Tito, Tito!” The middle class professionals search for their disobedient dog in the woods. Tommy and grandpa climb gratefully into the car, having found a handy shortcut, while Mum, Dad and Baby follow not far behind.
*Forest Sanctuaries in Nairobi include Karura Forest and Sigiria – Karura Forest, Ngong Forest Sanctuary and Oloolua Nature Trail. Entrance fees apply.
Frances Woodhams is author of the blog: www.africaexpatwivesclub.com