After giving Patrick a lift back to the National Park gate, I set off north with the intention of staying at the Saiwa Swamp National Park, as recommended by Jonatan and Sophie who i met at the Masai Mara. The Saiwa Swamp National Park is Kenya’s smallest national park – just 3 km² – and was created to protect the habitat of the Sitatunga, a rare wetlands antelope.
I stopped off for a bite to eat in Kitale, which is a sleepy and pleasant town two hours from Kakamega and close to Saiwa Swamp. After a tasty chicken quesadia and latte (yes, really) at the Coffee House, I made my way to the supermarket to stock up on supplies. A young guy approached me asked if it was the Landrover was my vehicle. I was ready for him to try to get some money from me, as often happens in Kenya. However, he proved my assumptions wrong by pointing out the slow puncture on my back tyre before heading on his way. The constant attempts to relieve a muzungu (white person) of money can wear you down at times, but when someone goes out of their way to be kind to you it picks you right back up again.
At the garage the mechanic was quick to find the air leak, coming from the valve. He told me it would be KSH 350 to fix it (no idea at all if that is the correct price, but it sounded ok) and I asked him to proceed. After removing the tyre from the wheel he said he had made a mistake, and a different valve would be needed at the cost of KSH 500. I told him that KSH 350 was the price we agreed upon, and he should fix it for that or not at all. I was glad he decided to go ahead, as I had already been to two other garages and they didn’t have an air pump, so I would have had to have used the spare.
My journey from the Mara to Kitale, via Kissi, Kisumu and Kakemega, looked like this (click to enlarge map):
After fixing the wheel back to the vehicle, we realised that the high-lift jack supplied with the vehicle was faulty, and we couldn’t lower the vehicle to the ground. This was fixed Kenya-style, with everyone joining in to lift the Landrover, whilst the jack was kicked out from underneath.
After stocking up on supplies I made my way to Saiwa Swamp, with the aim of staying in the treehouse accommodation that had been recommended to me. The dirt track to the reserve is in good condition, and it’s great fun waving to all the kids playing at the roadside along the way. I paid my entrance fee to enter the park, but they couldn’t find the keys to the treehouse accommodation. I pitched my tent as night fell and looked forward exploring the swamp the following morning.