Car Racing in Langalanga

Car Racing in Langalanga

Standing on a bit of broken-up tarmac road above Gilgil last week, it was hard to believe that 60 years before this was the place for Kenya’s ‘Petrol Heads’ to gather on weekends and race around the three-mile track in MG-T series sports cars. Old Africa reader, Harry Vialou Clark, drove us around the track in the comfort of his air-conditioned Pajero and he assured me that he had been present as a twelve-year-old at the last race day held at Gilgil’s Langalanga track in 1952. There was a fatal accident that day and the track was closed. Another race track was opened later at Nakuru, also called Langalanga, from a Maasai word loosely translated to mean going around and around. Harry and his wife Allison and friends who are part of the Kariandusi School Trust and the Langalanga Scholarship Fund have been starting schools and sponsoring school fees for students in the area – and a quality primary and secondary school have both been built inside what was the old Langalanga race track. You can read more about the projects and how to help when you read our article about the Langalanga schools and the old racetrack in the April-May issue of Old...

Sailing to Africa

January 1946 A well-traveled ship, the seaworthy freighter Gripsholm would be our home for our trip to North Africa. High cranes and derricks covered its deck with little room to accommodate extra passengers as it crossed the Atlantic Ocean. As a three-year-old, my memories are vague, but dad kept a complete journal. My family – the Donners – climbed the gangplank in January 1946 to board this weathered freighter. The ship prepared to depart with all passengers aboard. My grandparents, church friends and mission personnel stood on the dock to wave us off, excitement conflicting with heavy hearts. Tears flowed amidst the mixed emotions and we wondered if we’d ever see each other again on this earth. Even if we returned safely, it would not be for at least four or five years. As family ties and bonds were broken, emotions ran high with a mixture of love, gladness and anticipation alongside sadness and trepidation. Africa was still regarded as the ‘Dark Continent’ with ‘savage natives,’ wild beasts and rugged unbroken trails into the bush. It was a continent of disease and death. My mom and dad had purposefully chosen to follow this path to Africa in response to God’s call on their lives to serve him in Tanganyika Territory where they would build Bible schools, teach children’s meetings, learn Kisukuma by kerosene lantern and live a humble and simple life in Sukumaland. As the gangplanks were pushed away from the ship’s side and ropes from several tugboats started to pull the ship out of the harbor into the open sea, we looked back at our loved ones until their faces...
Lions in Langata?

Lions in Langata?

It is about a mile from Margaret Downey’s house to the Giraffe Centre. On Saturday 11th February 2012, Margaret rang up the Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) because two large female lions, assumed to be mother and daughter, had been prowling around her plot and her staff were reluctant to cross the lawn from their quarters to her house. KWS arrived and couldn’t find any trace of the lions. But they knew that a pair of lions had wandered away from the Nairobi National Park and had terrorised the Giraffe Centre a few weeks earlier and had actually killed one. KWS visited the Giraffe Centre but they hadn’t seen the lions for the last 24 hours. However, the KWS soon found the lions in the vicinity. Because of walled gardens and closed gates, the only route any animal could take between Margaret’s house and the Giraffe Centre is along the little frequented Milima Road then down the Mbagathi Lane dead end, on through our drive and out onto the track that leads to the Giraffe Centre. To confirm this theory I questioned our German Shepherd, who has a different bark for all types of trespassers; one for humans, another for monkeys and different again for warthogs. The crescendo of noise erupting from the dog in the early hours of the 11th had not hitherto featured in his vocabulary. In fact, the last time I heard a similar bark was four dog generations ago when both leopard and lion were not uncommon nocturnal visitors in Langata. Having read the evidence, the reader will decide whether or not a lion walked up...
Baby Encounters Python

Baby Encounters Python

In l957, my husband Jobst was building a boarding school at the small settlement of Chimala on the Great North road between Iringa and Mbeya.   At the time we lived in Tukuyu, the Headquarters of Rungwe District and about 70 miles from Chimala over a mountainous, rather hair-raising road, which dropped down from the heights of the Poroto Mountains at over 7000 feet to the Usangu plains at around 3000 feet.   Jobst sometimes had to spend two or three days at a time at Chimala. Friends of ours, the Cormack family, ran a small hotel in Chimala, mostly catering for passing Great North road traffic. I occasionally took our baby son, Peter, and went with Jobst to stay at the hotel in Chimala.  One morning as we ate breakfast at the hotel in Chimala, a young herd boy ran in to say there was a large python on the land behind the hotel where he had been herding some of the Cormack’s livestock – mostly calves and sheep.   He had bravely speared the python and come running for help.   We abandoned our breakfast and set off to look for the python – Jobst, Roma Cormack (the daughter of the hotel owners), myself carrying Peter and the herd boy with a wheelbarrow to carry the dead python. On reaching the place where the herd boy had speared the python, we found the spear lying on the ground, but no snake.   It had obviously shaken itself loose.   After scouting around in the fairly thick bush we found the python half way up a tree.   Jobst got hold of a stick, beat...

On Growing Old in Kenya – Part 2

My enthusiasm for all things Kenyan originates from my having been granted my Kenyan citizenship soon after independence and I thus find myself being one of the ‘oldest’ Kenyan cits around. Having spent 37 years of my life as a British citizen and 46 years as a Kenyan citizen, I find myself well placed to compare the advantages and disadvantages of both countries. To conclude my last blog in this vein, I have tried hard to generate interest in a proposition, which would be of tremendous value to Kenya and to the world. As I said in my last blog, Kenyans respect the aged. There is also an unending stream of school-leavers in Kenya who face a future in this country with few job opportunities who could make a career of caring for the aged and retired of the developed world. I am thinking about are those who are E.M.I. – the Elderly, Mentally Impaired of the developed world. I suspect my nomenclature (EMI) might be politically incorrect but I can think of no kinder way of referring to the 10% of the retired people in the developed world who find themselves in a special care home for the mentally sick. These patients suffer from such senile dementia diseases as Alzheimer’s, which require a medically trained person to care for them, 24-7, on a one on one ratio. In the UK, for example, the number of people retiring in this category is increasing by around one million per year. The number of qualified EMI care nurses required to care for also has to increase at the same rate. Why...