Camp Malta

Posted Jul 01, 2009 by 7 Comments

Tanari Trust is part of Tanari International, an organization focused on helping all ages of people successfully move through “transition” periods, also known as “rites of passage.” I’m working mostly with their teenage and adolescent programs by interviewing past participants and their parents.

In order to better understand their experience with their rites of passage courses, the folks at Tanari decided it would be best if I visited the camps where courses are held. When they told me I was going out into the Kenyan bush for multiple days at a time for camping and intense hiking, I was so excited!

After flying down the road in a cramped matatu for an hour (an epic tale in itself), my two Tanari coworkers, Micho and Ken, and I unloaded our food supplies and were quickly left in a cloud of dust by the insane driver.

After getting off the matatu, we were in the middle of nowhere!

After getting off the matatu, we were in the middle of nowhere!

As the dust settled, I was hit with the stench of old fish and musty sweat. I was in middle of nowhere surrounded by rural Kenyans trying to sell fresh fruit and not-so-fresh fish to passing traffic. I immediately started to question my previous excitement for “going camping in the bush.”

Micho and Ken made their way over to one of the stands and bartered with toothless woman for several mangoes and oranges. We paid 80 shillings for three freshly picked mangoes and about a dozen fresh oranges.

I quickly did the math and realized we paid just a little over $1 for all of it! Based on how much mangoes cost in the States, I thought it was a steal, but Ken told me we should have only paid half. Apparently these people need the money or else they won’t survive the bad dry season we were currently experiencing.

Two Kenyan boys passing us on the way to Camp Malta.

Two Kenyan boys passing us on the way to Camp Malta.

I thought about this as we started to climb the path up to Camp Malta. I continued to ponder it for a good half hour and we still weren’t up the path. After an hour of hiking up the path, I asked we were close to the camp. The response was a round of laughter from Ken and Micho and joking questions about whether I was going to be able to finish the “short” hike we had planned for the next day.

They didn’t think a mzungu (Swahili for “white person”) from the States could handle a hike through the bush. I knew I had to prove them wrong and break down the stereotypes of mzungus they obviously had. I told them I’d finish the hike with ease and even carry their exhausted selves back to their moms. This elicited cackles of laughter from my coworkers as we walked into Camp Malta.

The spartan appearance of the camp would probably make most Americans want to go home. The main meeting structures lack walls and most of the toilets are literally a hole in the ground… camping in its purest form (Thankfully, I’ve been camping with my dad since I was a wee lad, so the rustic nature of the camp actually excited me!).

One of my artsy pics!

One of my artsy pics!

After seeing the camp, we went on a quick hike down to the dam to settle our minds from the noise and traffic of Nairobi. Ken and Micho meditated and prayed, but I was too excited to be out in the bush. I spent the whole time jumping from rock to rock trying to take artsy pictures with my camera.

When dinner time came around, I was surprised and a little disappointed that my first bush meal was almost identical to most meals I’ve had in Nairobi. But my disappointment melted away with the pure taste and flavor of the dessert we had: fresh mango.

This mango was, and is, like no other fruit I’ve ever had in my entire life! I can’t even put the experience into words… Next time you are in the Kenyan bush, you’ve got to try the mangoes for yourself!

Right after dinner, we headed to bed. It was only 8 PM but I didn’t argue at all because of Ken’s stories from last year’s hike. Apparently, Ken and a group of 40 adolescents got lost and ended up hiking for 14 hours in the rain!

Before going to sleep, Ken joked that it was probably going to rain tomorrow and that he didn’t really know the area too well. Of course, this didn’t worry me at all. I mean, I wrote a small “will” and a “goodbye letter” in my journal that night in case we didn’t make it back, but yeah. I wasn’t worried.

One of the buildings at Camp Malta.

One of the buildings at Camp Malta.

After a quick breakfast at 6am, the sun rose from behind a mountain range and we started our hike. We walked for about 30 minutes before coming to a river. Ken, Wanjau (Camp Malta’s caretaker) and I decided to take off our shoes and wade across. Micho decided to try jumping the river instead. Let’s just say that his attempt ended with the rest of us doubled over in laughter and Micho furious at his wet shoes and clothes…

After the creek, we stopped at a tiny village to talk to the local chieftain. We needed to ask him if we could use some of his village’s land for a camping site in a few weeks. He graciously agreed and bid us farewell as we left.

I asked many questions about the relevance of village chiefs and learned about the social hierarchy of the bush. The chiefs are consulted on nearly all matters regarding their land are always the first ones to be approached by outsiders, local police, and local politicians. Even in the 21st century, the chief is still central to all aspects of bush life.

The rest of the day was spent mapping out hiking routes and exchanging stories. I told my companions stories and tales from my life. At other times I listened as Wanjau told stories from his own life in Swahili. Listening to his stories may have been one of the highlights of my trip to Camp Malta. Even though I didn’t understand a word of what Wanjau was saying, I still felt the wisdom in stories and enjoyed laughing with my Kenyan companions.

After hiking for more than four hours, we started to head back to the camp. That’s when I realized that I had survived the hike! I knew I could and I did!

The best avacados in the world!

The best avacados in the world!

I smiled victoriously to myself and that’s when Ken dropped a bomb on me. When we are with groups of campers, we take them on hikes that last 8-10 hours! I couldn’t help but laugh, realizing just how tired I was from our “short” hike.

As we walked through the last bit of farmland towards Camp Malta, I told Micho how much I love fresh fruit like the mango we had the night before. He ended up buying avocados from a lady who had picked them that morning. As with the mango, I can’t even begin to tell you how amazing they were!

As we returned to dusty and polluted Nairobi, I thought about how awesome it was to get an experience like that. A couple of years ago I never would have thought I’d be able to do something as unique and outlandish as hiking around rural Kenya, rubbing shoulders with a local chieftain and eating some of the freshest foods on Earth, but there I was… smack in the middle of Camp Malta.

It was an experience I won’t soon forget…

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About the Author: Scott Quigley was a summer intern with World Next Door in 2009. He is a Junior at American University majoring in Anthropology. Scott loves studying international cultures and has a mortal fear of vending machines.

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Comments

  1. Linda Quigley said... 

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    July 1st, 2009 at 3:59 pm  

    Thanks for the journey, Scott….and oh, how I’ve missed you making me laugh!! I know you’re back at that camp right now for five days….I pray that you’re surviving the hikes….or will they have to carry you back to your mom???

  2. Dave Quigley said... 

    Reply

    July 1st, 2009 at 6:06 pm  

    Love the humor and your insights! Thanks also for defending our mzungu’ honor out there! Next time I take a 4 hour hike in the bush in Kenya – I WILL try the mangos and avocados!!!

  3. Jo Nading said... 

    Reply

    July 6th, 2009 at 7:47 pm  

    Can’t wait to see more pics from this trip. I was trying to imagine what things might look like – and your pictures were so helpful. I read this one on my phone without pics, so I was WAY OFF when I was trying to picture “the bush” and the camp. What does one do for 8-10 hours on a hike??? Maybe you will get to tell us about one of those hikes…large animals perhaps? Now I’m imagining Lion King meets Jungle Book meets ….SCOTT QUIGLEY! Am so loving being a part of your journey. Keep up the great work, the awesome pictures, and all that you are learning about God and yourself.

  4. Gloria Hansen said... 

    Reply

    July 8th, 2009 at 7:48 am  

    What a wonderful way to see Africa (through your eyes). Scott if you remember Hal and I did go to Africa and I can vividly remember that “ride” over African “roads”. You tell such a great story with wit and insight. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Marcia Zgirta said... 

    Reply

    July 8th, 2009 at 12:06 pm  

    Wow! You are a true missionary. Thanks for the stories of what you are seeing God do in the remote parts of Kenya.
    May God continue to give you strength and compassion as you continue on.

  6. rob said... 

    Reply

    July 9th, 2009 at 12:13 pm  

    I’ll think I’ll hike through the bush (to my car in the lot) and make my way over to the mango stand (Kroger) for some fresh (shipped from who knows where) fruit.

  7. Austin Siebert said... 

    Reply

    July 12th, 2009 at 9:48 am  

    And I get mad when I the shuttle doesn’t come and I half to walk back to campus from the Tenley Town. Great job!

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