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Volunteer doctors working in our new home

Posted on 23 Nov 2014 | 8 comments

We had only moved into our new home 7 days before our first visitors arrived. Nick and Anna-Maria had been volunteering in a remote, understaffed hospital in Tanzania and after some sightseeing in Tanzania they arrived in Nairobi by bus to do another (unfortunately slightly shorter) volunteering stint at our place. Perfect timing as we could do with some help with some homely chores.

Nick is a pretty good mountaineer, so he was great for hanging up the curtains and lampshades whilst Anna is a great cook and bread maker so she was put to work in the kitchen, creating a whole range of breads, muesli, soups and dinners.

Nick helping with hanging the new curtains

Nick hanging the new curtains

Luckily they stayed for 2 weeks, including two full weekends, giving us plenty of opportunity to explore the country with them as well as trying to loose a bit of weight from our stay at the Serena Hotel. We went running and mountain biking in Karura Forest, and within our compound we tested the gym, the pool, the sauna and even created our own training circuit. You are more than welcome to join us when you are here too.

One weekend we went for an early morning run on the lower slopes of Mt Kenya with the Swaras running club. It was a run-until-you-drop course, where you are picked up if you don’t want to (can’t) run anymore. The course was 56km and they had 3 cars doing the rounds, handing out water and fruit and picking up anybody who had had enough. A great way to test your endurance for sure! Jon, Jude and Anna all managed half a marathon and Nick got picked up around 28km. The course was picture perfect, through forests and remote villages, which at least distracted us from all the climbing.

Anna-Maria and Jude at the start of the 'run-till-you-drop' Swaras run

Anna-Maria and Jude at the start of the ‘run-till-you-drop’ Swaras run

Nick and Anna still going strong on the Swaras run

Nick and Anna still going strong on the Swaras run

We then went on to our camp site on the Laikipia Plateau in the Ngare Ndare Forest. An amazing private conservancy with the longest tree top walk in East Africa on their property. It was a rather damp and foggy arrival, but luckily the next morning we had a sunny day for a hike into the forest. After seeing a lot of birds and even huge skid marks (!) from elephants on the trail we actually saw a small family of elephants. It’s quite nerve wracking when you find yourself in their company without the protection of being in a car.

skid marks from an elephant!!!

skid marks from an elephant!!!

seeing an elephant when you are on foot is a complete different story from seeing them when in your car!

seeing an elephant when you are on foot is a complete different story from seeing them when in your car!

longest tree top walk in East Africa

longest tree top walk in East Africa

Continuing our active weekends we went to Hells Gate National Park to explore the gorge we hiked previously with Jon’s colleagues. This time we continued further down the gorge, determined to find some of the geysers we had heard about. Not deterred by the many large hyena foot prints we trudged on through the creek, giving up on dry feet after a while, and just as we were about to turn around as it was getting late we saw the clouds of steam wafting up from amongst the trees. We had found the bubbling mud and steam vents.

great gorge in Hell's Gate

great gorge in Hell’s Gate


Jon and Anna-Maria in Hell’s Gate

on our way to the geysers in Hell's Gate

on our way to the geysers in Hell’s Gate

plenty of hyena prints around in Hell's Gate

plenty of hyena prints around in Hell’s Gate

we found them! (the geysers, not the hyenas)

we found them! (the geysers, not the hyenas)

That night we camped in Hell’s Gate NP on one of the ridges overlooking the valley floor where a few herds of zebra and impala were on their way to a safe place for the night. We lit a fire and enjoyed our drinks watching the sun go down and the stars appear. Quite special.

sundowners at the edge of our camp site in Hell's Gate

sundowners at the edge of our camp site in Hell’s Gate

The next day we did a small game drive before heading out to our next destination, the extinct volcano Longonot which dominates the Rift Valley. It’s another National Park, but here the main focus is on hiking to the summit, admiring the amazing crater and walking around the crater rim which makes a perfect circle. It’s a very dusty affair with amazing views, but unfortunately littered with plastic bottles. The first National Park we have seen where the littering was even worse than on the public roads. We picked up as many as we could carry, but had to leave hundreds. According to the rangers that was just the result of one weekend, as they head up in the week to remove them all…

view of the crater of Mt Longonot

view of the crater of Mt Longonot

highest point on Mt Longonot - a dusty affair getting there

highest point on Mt Longonot – a dusty affair getting there

After 2 weeks Nick and Anna went on to Rwanda and Uganda and we (use of the term ‘we’ now includes Evalyne, our house angel who does 99% of the work around here!) prepared the spare bedroom for our next visitor who would be arriving in 3 days.

the equator is not far from us

a quick stop at the equator, just north of Nairobi. The buckets are to demonstrate that water does indeed drain in different directions on either side…


  1. Dear Jon & Jude,

    I came across your awesome blog in the course of my research for a television documentary series for the UK broadcaster, Channel 4. I hope you won’t mind me contacting you out of the blue.

    Given your interest in living overseas and adventuring off to see the world, I thought you might be well placed to pass on a few suggestions if I let you know a bit more about the project I’m working on…

    I work for a television production company in London, where we make a Channel 4 programme called ‘Escape to the Wild.’ It tells the remarkable and inspirational stories of British families and couples who have quit the rat race and moved overseas to live a more pared-back existence, off-the-grid, and closer to nature.

    The first series was fronted by the architectural designer and television presenter, Kevin McCloud. You will, no doubt, be able to find the four episodes and trailers on YouTube if you are curious to take a look from Kenya. Or here’s the official UK link to the programmes from the first series:

    We’re currently gearing up to make a second series of ‘Escape to the Wild,’ so I’m looking for suitable stories and locations to feature in the programmes.

    I wondered whether you might know of any British families or couples who’ve opted to live sustainably, off-the-grid, in places you have lived or visited? Possibly Brits with whom you’ve done homestays? People running little camps and eco lodges off the beaten track? Diving instructors, trekking guides? Even if no one comes to mind, you might be able to give me a few pointers or send me in a helpful direction. Often just spreading the word is useful because somebody might know someone, who knows someone… That tends to be how the best case studies come to light.

    Here are a few criteria we aim to meet in our search for suitable participants for the programme:
    • British family or couple
    • Quit the “rat race” or made the choice to leave behind a conventional lifestyle in the UK
    • Now live overseas
    • Have built their own home, or live in a simple structure
    • Off the beaten track or in a remote location
    • Self-sufficient in growing food, keeping chickens, catching fish etc.
    • Living “off-the-grid” (i.e. not hooked up to mains water or electricity)

    The documentaries explore the appeal of escaping the daily grind in favour of a more sustainable way of life in some of the most breath-taking places on the planet. In the first series, our presenter experienced the new lives of British families who’ve built their own home in the jungle of southern Belize, beside a volcano in Chile, on a tropical island in the South Pacific (in Tonga), and in subarctic Sweden. Think along the lines of: homes crafted from local materials (an earthbag roundhouse, a clifftop home built from beach rocks, a log cabin); growing edible plants, fruits, and vegetables; fishing for supper, harnessing renewable energies, collecting rainwater… a world away from electricity pylons, highways, and shopping malls.

    The tone of the series is insightful and aspirational, and the families with whom we filmed last year found it to be a very positive experience.

    I shall be more than happy to answer any questions (or send our FAQs), should you – or someone you know – simply wish to find out a bit more information, without any pressure to be involved further.

    Many thanks for any suggestions you can share.

    Best regards,

    • Hi Ruth, no worries and thanks for the compliment about the blog 🙂 I will send you an email, it will be later this week as we have just returned from a mini-holiday and need to get some urgent things done first. Hope that’s ok. Thanks, Jude

  2. Love your adventures. Glad you’ve got time for the odd blog post again. Those hyenas would scare the hell out of me though… Are those campsites fenced off?

    • Thanks! Happy you’re enjoying the stories. Some lodges and hotels are fenced off, some are not, self camp sites are generally not fenced off, but some have guards (most don’t…). Animals leave you alone when you’re in a tent, they are more scared of us than we are of them! 🙂

  3. Is it too far away to be planning for a visit in July 2016??!!!!


    • it’s never too far away to plan a visit!!!! that would be sooo awesome!! let’s get the calendars out! xoxo

  4. Hello from Krabi;

    I am working in Krabi as usual and building new facilities in Koh Tao, Thiland.
    I believe you two are fine and going strong.

    I am trying to set up new products (soft adventures tours) plus memorable experiences in Thailand.
    Do stop by or give me a call whenever you are in Thailand.


    • Hi Chul! Great to hear from you and good to know you are still going strong! We will definitely visit when we are next in Thailand, but not sure yet how long that will be before we can come back! Keep in touch until we do!! Cheers, Jon & Jude

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