My last trip to Kenya consisted of a night in Nairobi and then a short flight to the Mara for 10 days of game drives. The Mara is beautiful.  A great experience, but I didn‘t really see “Kenya”.

This visit to Kenya is vastly different. We are visiting 7 different locations, and for the most part touring by safari vehicle.  We’ve gone south, east, north and west.  

Distances in all directions from the equator

The roads have taken us through cities, towns, villages and into the wild. Life whizzes by the window in all shapes and forms.

Roads are “closed” with scattered large rocks, people transport most everything via motorbike, donkeys and ducks stand in the middle of the road. Herds of cattle and goats with their shepherds graze on the shoulder, and even camels meander about.

I’m convinced to take an alternate route. I think it takes more work to close the road than to fix it?

Our drivers had numerous challenges.

The horns on these cows were huge – apparently hollow.

Lots of camels between Nairobi and Samburu.

Speed Bumps

Life slows down as we enter a town. No matter how big or small the town and no matter how big or small the road, there are speed bumps to slow traffic. Even the major highways (if you can call them that) have speed bumps. It is crazy to proceed at a speed greater than 10 mph. At these speed bumps, as the vehicle slows, the local entrepreneurs seize the opportunity to sell their wares.  Do you need fruit or vegetables for dinner – you can grab a bag of potatoes or a bunch of bananas. Gift shopping for friend? – pick up a necklace or scarf.  You can do a quick purchase as you slow down for the “bump”.

The small local bananas are sweet and delicious. Even Jeff who hates bananas ate more than one.

You can imagine what this does to the traffic situation. Road trips that may map out as 3-4 hours, quickly become and all day affair.

The Project

Fascinated by these different snapshots of life in Kenya, I pulled out my camera. Could I capture these vignettes of life as we drove through town?  I am not quick on the trigger so this was a huge challenge. Could I capture a scene, traveling at 15-35 miles an hour through a small window?

Do to the size of the windows, I could not pan the camera or anticipate the shot. I had to shoot the instant I saw the scene. There was no time to assess whether or not it was photo worthy. No time to adjust the focus or composition. Just “Click.”

I had nothing to lose. I surely wasn’t going anywhere quick.

It was warm and sunny, and the hum of the engines along with the rocking about in the vehicle was enough to put most of us to sleep. Suddenly, I had a project – a camera in hand and I found I was no longer tired.

The Settings

I pulled out the camera, attached the 24-70mm lens, and put the focal length around 50mm. I started with a shutter speed of 1/400, but the images were blurry. I tried 1/800 of a second, and those were still a bit soft. Finally, I settled on 1/1250 with auto ISO, an aperture setting of f/8. It was a bright sunny day, the ISO was low and I was off to the races.


It wasn’t until I looked at the photo later that I noticed the young child playing with a wheel

I call these “cactus trees”, the tops look like limbs of a cactus.

The local “royal” hotel sits in between furniture shop and “modern centre”. Or maybe the front yard is the hotel?

Local markets

On Safari

The roads were …. well… hard to call roads. Here’s a couple of snapshots so you can surmise the experience.

Three wheels, no problem

Rivers, rocks, easy peasy


The project continued into Uganda. Only the wealthy and the tourists ride in motor vehicles. Everyone else walks or travels by motorbike, if they can afford it. We were celebrities. As the children heard our vehicle approaching they would run out of the house and up to the road to “wave”. Often they shouted “hi” or “how are you”.

Uganda was much like Kenya in that life existed on the streets and on every corner. The houses were different, the scenery was different, but the windows into peoples lives remained very much the same.

Young cattle shepherds.

Beating corn to create maize for the staple dish of Ugali (a local version of polenta)

Local basket weavers

Scene found on the Uganda 20000 Shilling note, worth about five dollars US

I found that life in Africa is so different and for that reason fascinating. I hope you enjoyed the ride.