Rift Valley and Lake Nakuru National Park

rift valley
images on flickr

My partner, Anita, and I are in Nairobi to attend the International Conference on Urban Health (ICUH). Anita’s brother and wife live in Nairobi so we brought the whole family, including our two daughters and Anita’s parents are here as well. It has been an opportunity for all of us to spend time together and to also experience Kenya. The ICUH last day was on Friday, October 24 and my brother in-law has arrange for us to take a weekend trip to Lake Nakuru National part, which is about a four hour drive west of Nairobi.

Nairobi is 1680 m above sea level and the air is a little thin, but it is cool, lush and not very many mosquitos making the risk of malaria low. As we drove out of Nairobi we saw some of the informal settlements (slums is the non-political term) that are big population growth areas. People moving from the rural areas for economic opportunity or to escape some other life end up living in these informal settlements where the housing is made up of whatever people can lay there hands on. There are 2 million people living in informal settlements in Nairobi and these are the fastest growing areas in the city.(amnesty international report If the streets of Nairobi are clogged with cars, it is not due to the residents who live in the informal settlements. The millions of residents who live there are pedestrians out of necessity.

Nairobi is on a lush cool plateau. Just as we were getting over the excitement of the sites afforded by the Kenyan highways, we came to the edge of the Rift Valley, which is a spectacular site. This huge valley is thought to be the cradle of mankind. When gazing down the valley, I saw how rich and diverse the wildlife is in this area. This is the valley of the Masai people.wikipedia .

Along the road we saw camps of internally displace people (IDP) who had to flee violence after the election in 2007 and still have not been resettled. The issue of IDP is crisis that African Union is grappling with. According to The East African, a weekly publication that reports on the East African region, 11 million of the worlds 25 million IDP are in African. There are 400,000 IDP in Kenya even two years after the post election violence. Internal displament monitoring centre

If the magnitude of social problems in Kenya is great it is matched by the stunning beauty of geography and the warmthand friendliness of the people. When one gets away from the city the people are so friendly. We went to Nakuru Lake National Park.
Wekipedia on Nakuru

Never in my life did I think that I would ever make it to Africa to go on a safari. I have watched my fair share of TV shows about wildlife in Africa, but it has never been a burning passion to come here and see the animals. After going out to the Nakuru National Park I am stunned. Just the richness and diversity of animals is unbelievable. Riding around in the big jeeps in the parks was a treat and one understands what these vehicles are for and what a joke it is that folks are driving these vehicles around in the Vancouver.

Improving the safety for pedestrian and cyclist in Nairobi

Images from Nairobi Kenya 23 October 2009

road allocation

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Improving safety of pedestrians and bicyclists in Nairobi: Japheths Ogendi, part one

Mr. Japheths Ogendi

Nairobi Friday 23 October 2009

I am really surprised at what a transportation geek I morphed into. I have been in Nairobi four days now and with what little I have seen it is stunning. I still have not got my head around the fact that I am actually here.

The smells, the sounds, the light are a treat. The air smells of musty red clay combined with the scent of the flowers with a little tinge of wood smoke. I am sitting out on a patio listening to all the birds as the sun sets and there are few white clouds against the blue sky and I can see the changing colour of clouds as the sun is setting.

The whole car thing here has really bothered me since we arrived. I was trying to be respectful, not being too judgmental about it and trying to understand it, but all the accumulation experiences of cab rides are starting to inform a perception of Nairobi. Continue reading Improving safety of pedestrians and bicyclists in Nairobi: Japheths Ogendi, part one →

Jim Cab ride in Nairobi

Matatu, gridlock, diesel fumes, Nairobi’s built environment and the 8 Millennium Development Goals


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First full day in Nairobi and still jet lagged. They have not had rain in here for over a year and last week they got a welcomed downpour. The city has come alive with hues of green and orange clay. There is a pleasant musty smell in the air.

Ravi, my brother in-law arranged for Anita and me to take a “Jim cab” to the conference (ICUH). It is a more secure company than some of the other taxi companies and security is an issue here. I wanted to take some photos out the car’s window but was advised that this would be unwise; there is chance the camera could be grabbed from the open window. Anyways, I captured some images from inside the car.

The roads are clogged with cars. There are a handful of pedestrians on the roadside, but most are waiting for Matatus. Matatus are commuter vans that hold around 8 passengers, although some seemed packed beyond capacity. The name Matatus is from back in the day when it cost only 3 schillings for a ride. The drivers of Matatus are notorious with the other divers for their risky driving practices.
story about matatus and pop culture.

The roads are busy with vendors selling flowers and newspapers with pedestrians crossing where they can, however, the main users of the roads are cars and the matatus. I did see a couple of bikes. The musty smell of the wet clay soon gave way to the suffocating reek of diesel fumes. Continue reading Matatu, gridlock, diesel fumes, Nairobi’s built environment and the 8 Millennium Development Goals →

On our way to Nairobi

1ronald ngala steet

Heading towards Nairobi for the International Conference Urban Health (ICUH). The conference started yesterday with a key note address from , former mayor of Bogotá, Columbia, Enrique Peñalosa.

I read an online a report from the Daily National by Steven Bull entitled: “Man who transformed Bogota’s infrastructure gives tips to Nairobi planners.”

The main point of Mr. Peñalosa’s key note address was that transportation planning can address inequalities in civil society, which will have an impact on crime. Creating better infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclist has a powerful effect on the reducing of crime and addressing social inequalities in civil society. Peñalosa is quoted as saying: “Up to 95 per cent of people in under-developed cities do not drive to work, and almost as many don’t even own a vehicle, so why are we so focused on expanding roads for this elite five per cent? That’s not democracy,”

The main point being by spending on roads for cars which only serve the very rich of most developing countries is direction in spending priorities and allocation of national resources.

Mr. Peñalosa was mayor for only three years and the was a huge change in the transportation infrastructure and a significant change in the crime rate.

Daily National Story

Rats, sounds like it was a real inspiring talk. I heard Gill Peñalosa, Enrique’s brother and also Commissioner of Transportatin when he was Mayor, give a talk at Vancouver City Hall before the report on lane allocation on Burrard Bridge which was stunning in its impact. All the bike advocates on our side of the gallery were falling out of seats with amazement.

We are hanging out in Schipol at the moment waiting to board our flight. No free wifi here so I will have to wait till we arrive in Nairobi to post the story. It is a ten hour flight and even after two days in Amsterdam I still on Vancouver time.

Images from 19 October Amsterdam

Bike Mom

Amsterday 19.10.09

Seriously Jet Lagged in Amsterdam

museumplein amsterdam

museumplein amsterdam

Everyone is taking a nap after a brutal night. Here all the images from first day.

18.10.09 Amsterdam

Seriously Jet Lagged in Amsterdam

Arrived safely in Amsterdam, but seriously feeling the time difference. I must have blocked this from my memory or perhaps being stuck in 100 square feet with an 11and nine year old all night makes jet lag all the more poignant.

Okay, vibrant animated public space is something all cities strive for, but basketball at 2 AM is too much. When we arrived at the hotel at 9 pm there were kids playing football on the street. Where were all the fussy bourgeois Dutch when you need them?

Everyone is taking a nap as I write this after a largely sleepless night. We went to bed around 9 PM. Saffi could not keep her eyes open at the restaurant. Then we wake up at 1 AM to the chimes of the church across the street. The church (will find out the name today) was so beautiful in the afternoon light with its gilded clock against the blue grey sky, but last night chiming every half hour and then Malli asking: “what time is it in Vancouver?”, was mediaeval discipline that I could live without at night. Fussy noise adverse West Enders could not hack it here. Continue reading Seriously Jet Lagged in Amsterdam →

Leaving on a jet plane

I have extricated myself from Vancouver. I made few last calls on Friday to ensure the projects that I follow as President of the West End Residents Association (WERA) are not going to Council when I am away. I have handed over the codes for WERA’s secret weapons to Christine Ackermann who is going to take the point for the group.

I am on my way to 2009 International Urban Health Conference in Nairobi, Kenya. The conference was in Vancouver last year and my partner Anita was the President of the International Society of Urban Health and responsible for the 2008 conference. The whole family is headed to Nairobi: Anita as well as our daughters Saffrin and Mallika. We are going to stop in Amsterdam enroute to Kenya. Anita and I were in Amsterdam in 2006 for the same conference. We had such a wonderful time and just fell in love with the city. We told the girls that we have to bring them there one day and it is finally coming true.

My plan for the blog is to document this trip with photos and post them here, but also to pick up info that could be interesting to Vancouver. First observation: free wifi at YVR rocks.