When you meet a man you like, you take him on a Kenyan safari. It’s a sure and fast way to really get to know someone. The pressures and intensity of long, dusty roads and roughing it in the African bush with little in the way of daily luxuries brings out the very best or worst in a person.
I decided to take Karl to a tree house I had heard about some years ago. With the car full of supplies, and a rough hand-drawn map, we set off towards the Galana Conservancy which runs along the edge of the Tsavo East National Park.
It was a very hot cloudy day and we soon found ourselves in the middle of a rain storm which turned the red, dusty road to mud. I decided then that I had better give Karl another option for the night, seeing as we did not know for sure if the tree house was waterproof let alone still in existence; and on top of this we had the Galana River to cross, which in this rain I had a feeling might be tricky. I asked him if he would like to abandon our original plan and instead head to Bigi’s Camp in Tsavo for a guaranteed soft bed and hot shower. It’s unusual to find someone who is willing to go along with me on an adventure, but to my delight, Karl insisted that we had to carry on and find this tree house.
This piece was originally published in the May 2015 issue of ManAbout world as: “The Adventure: Looking for a tree house (and love) in the Galana Conservancy on the eastern border of Tsavo East National Park, Kenya” We subtitled it: How far would YOU go to impress a guy on your first date? It was written by ManAboutWorld correspondents Dion van Aardt
Wait did someone say “man-eating crocodiles”?! Click “read the rest of this entry” to continue the adventure.
We finally reached the edge of the river and sure enough the causeway was covered over by the muddy brown waters of the great Galana. Neither of us was sure whether the vehicle would make it across the river but as we were so close to the end of the journey and to this mythical tree house I decided to test the waters and walk across before attempting to drive the car though. In normal circumstances I would not have been so foolish. Firstly the river is known for its crocodiles; in fact my father had worked further up this river as a young man and the camp cook had been eaten by one. Secondly, should the river be too deep for a car, it would most certainly be too deep for me. I could see myself, my dignity and possibly my life being washed away. On the other hand, I really wanted to impress Karl and so I took the plunge and walked carefully into the water. I could feel the pull of the current against my legs, but the causeway under foot felt intact and the river, though flowing fast, only came up to just past my knees.
We slowly made the crossing without any problems and carried on our journey as the sun started to set. After driving for another hour in the dark we finally saw a tree and with a little bit of imagination and a lot of optimism, we could make out a very rudimentary tree house on top of it. I must say it did not look altogether inviting. If Karl was also a little apprehensive about our bleak accommodation he did not show it. Instead he clambered up the ladder shouting down that it was dry inside and apart from some cobwebs and a few bugs it seemed fit for human habitation. We set up camp and took an ice-breaking shower both taking turns pouring a can of water over each other’s head. While having our bush bath a herd of very quiet elephants marched right past us. They were as startled by our presence as we were of theirs and luckily we all went running in opposite directions.
We had a much needed bottle of wine and a delicious dinner cooked on our little camp stove and then fell asleep listening to the sounds of hyena and lion in the distance. We awoke the next morning to find ourselves high up in our tree, under a big, blue African sky. It is amazing how a little bit of danger and adventure can bring two men so much closer together.
The best way to get to the Galana Conservancy is to travel by road from Watamu or Malindi to the Sala gate, Tsavo. Turn Right just before the gate heading down to the Galana River and across into the Galana Conservancy. The trip is approximately 155 miles and takes between 3 and 4 hours. You need a 4X4 vehicle to do it especially if you go during the rains that fall in November, May and June. This treehouse is very rustic: There is no water and you have to take everything you need there (and carry out everything, including trash). To find it, ask for a map at the Galana Conservancy gate.
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