The 1997 expedition saw twenty six Venturers and Leaders set off for
Nairobi, via Edinburgh and Amsterdam in July of 1997.
They spent the first 12 days in Kenya helping to build a Community Nursery
School in the Community of Kiawaithanji close to the town of Nyeri (burial
place of Lord Baden Powell).
They followed this up by the Adventure phase, an ascent of Mt Kenya,
taking 5 days on that phase of the expedition with 19 of the group reaching
Pt Lenana at a height of 4895 metres.
The final phase saw the group White Water rafting, visiting a Game Park,
exploring Lava Tubes and climbing Mt Suswa in the Great Rift Valley before
a return visit to Kiawaithanji for the official opening of the new “Nan Lyle
Work at this stage consisted mainly of mixing mortar; we did the mixing
and our Kenyan hosts did the tricky work of positioning the blocks.
Work went fairly quickly at this stage, with two or three rows of bricks layed in one
day. The other main task consisted of shifting the blocks from where they
had been dumped, to lay them around the outside of the site so they were
handy for the builders.
Work carried on at a steady pace, though as we got higher, we couldn’t
do quite so many rows in a day. Also we needed scaffolding, that was easy, just
cut down a nearby tree, trim it and use the trunk and branches for scaffolding.
As time went on, we were also allowed to get involved in the skilled job
Work continues at a fairly leisurely pace on the building as it got
This photo shows the pace of work, slowing because of the height and
our confidence (or lack of confidence) in the Scaffolding. “Need more scaffolding” … just cut some
more trees down!!
Still, as well as shifting blocks and mixing mortar, we were now allowed
to carry out the skilled task of pointing, to make the internal walls
Our work at Kiawaithanji finished when the building reached the level
of the window Lintel.
We headed off to torture ourselves climbing Mt Kenya, while the locals
got on with the business of finishing their new school building without us
getting in the way.
Kenyan Lintels were very different from what we expected, they go all
the way round the building and tie it all together. What had seemed to us a pretty
dodgy structure until then all of a sudden became quite a solid building.
We returned to Kiawaithanji two weeks later for the official opening
of the new school building.
It really was quite an emotional moment for all of us to return to
Kiawaithanji after a fortnight, firstly for the resounding welcome which we received from
the community. The real delight for us, however, was to see a completed school building.
Then we went through a grand opening ceremony, to find out at the finish
of it all that the locals had decided to name the school after Nan Lyle,
one of our leaders.
So we now claim that our Nan is on a par with George Watson, Mary Erskine
and anyone else who has ever had a school named after them.
( p.s. Cucu means “granny”. )
Our last week in Kenya was spent in a kind of “Wind Down”, visiting a game park and White Water Rafting”. The links below show some photos from The white water rafting. Enjoy the experience, we did!!
Kenya – Summer 2001 – The return
Five Venturers set off for Kenya in July 2001 on holiday. They were Jim McPherson, Nan Lyle,
Pat Sutherland, Callum Sutherland and Ron Sutherland. The route was the same as the 1997
Expedition; Borders &endash; Edinburgh &endash; Amsterdam/Schipol &endash; Nairobi. Amazingly at Amsterdam as in
’97, the plane moved away from the terminal and returned again with a “technical” fault, a very
This time the emphasis of the trip was very definitely on the holiday but we
were to visit Kiawaithanji to see the progress of the school.
Arriving on the Sunday we decided to make straight for the city to see what
it was like now. It was to be a little bit of a shock. We were told in no uncertain terms to get off all
our valuables and baseball caps because they would be stolen. We were warned off some areas
because we would be mugged if we went down that road. It was a much more scary experience
than our last visit. Perhaps going on a Sunday was a bad idea because we were not hidden in the
crowds. We did not spend long there but sheltered in the restaurant at the side of the Stanley Hotel.
It had nice coffee and excellent pizzas on view.
Next day it was off to Naivasha. On the way we mentioned to our driver
that we wanted to see the flamingos there. But there are none there he said. Long pause… I can
offer you a trip for 5000 shillings each!!!! So to Lake Elmenteita we went. At this spot we were
able to see about 5million flamingos. Amazing sight. There were also some sea eagles. They
eat the flamingos.
At Lake Naivasha we went on the sunset cruise and were treated to loads of hippos showing off
their dental configuration. There were also a huge variety of birds, ranging from pied kingfishers and
sea eagles to splendid starlings.
The next morning we were up bright and early for our 6 hour transfer to the Maasai Mara. We
broke our journey at a place called Narok, where we stopped at a petrol station and took on
some refreshment of our own. Shortly after commencing the journey we were warned by Jonah,
our driver that the roads were about to get a little rougher. Pat declared that they could not be any
worse than the potholes we had experienced earlier. Famous last swords!! We were thoroughly
shoogled, bumped, banged and thumped all the way to the gates of Keekorok Lodge, our final
stopping place in the Mara.
The next two days were spent driving around the National Park viewing a wonderful variety of
wildlife. The highlights of this were seeing a black rhino (one of 29 left in the area), a lion eating
a newly killed wildebeest, another lion killing a newborn hartebeest and last but not least, driving
alongside the migration of the wildebeest. What a spectacle the migration is. I can still hear the
noise, the smell and the unbelievable number of animals in a never-ending stream coming across
the plains from Tanzania.
Kenya 1997 : Overall Timetable
The actual expedition took place from Sunday 6th (Wed 2nd for Advance Party) July to Sunday 3rd August 1997. To get a flavour of the scale of the undertaking, the following Diary gives some idea of the scale and commitment of everyone involved, both Venturers and Leaders alike.
|November||Initial idea: proposal put forward|
|November|| Approval Meeting: Denholm|
|February 7th|| Potential Leader Meeting 1: Selkirk|
|February 21st|| Potential Leader Meeting 2: Selkirk|
|March|| Leader Selection Weekend: Newmill Hall|
|April 25th|| Venturer Selection Day: Galashiels|
|May||Leader Team Meeting: Hawick|
|June|| Leader Team Meeting: Selkirk|
|June 25th|| Training Day – Abbey Row, Kelso. Canoe Challenge|
Town Investigation / Report, Graveyard Navigation
|4th|| Leader Meeting: Selkirk|
|12th|| Leader Meeting: Training Weekend Planning|
|26th||BEG Meeting: Denholm|
|30th/31st/1st Sep.|| 1st Training Weekend: Newmill |
Fund raising practice at Hawick Walking Festival
Blindfold Orienteering, Tent pitching practice, Campcraft
|September 1996||11th || Leader Team Meeting: Minto||18th || Leader Team Meeting: Selkirk
||21st || Walk at Cappercleuch Training Weekend Recce.||23rd || Expedition Leaders – Social Phase – Neil, Ron, Trish
||October 1996||4th/5th/6th || 2nd Training Weekend – Cappercleuch|
Route Cards, Fitness, Gorge Walk, Overnight Bivvy,
3 Groups walk back – different checkpoints.
|| Leader Meeting: Hawick
||22nd|| BEG Meeting: Denholm: Progress Report||26th || Expedition Leader – Training||26th || Tower Trophy: Set Up||27th || Tower Trophy Challenge – Schools Event||November 1996||13th || Leader Meeting: Selkirk||22nd || Selkirk Cluster Group: Ceilidh: Yarrow
||29th/30th/1st Dec. || 3rd Training Weekend – Mellerstain|
Friday – Decide on Groupings for Phases
Set up Base Camp – Rope Skills, River Crossing
Camp Fire – Funky Chicken
Debrief by Training Team, Break Camp
|December 1997||4th || Leader Meeting: Selkirk||9th || BEG Meeting: Denholm
||29th || BEG BBQ: Bedrule||1997
||January 1997|| 1997 IS HERE – REALISATION – IMMINENT||8th|| Leader Meeting: Hawick: our first meeting with|
SCARGILL! Jim is transfixed.
|29th || Leader meeting: Minto: friendly cats!
||February 1997||7th/8th/9th || 4th Training Weekend – Riddell
||12th || Leader Meeting: Selkirk||14th || Fund-raising Quiz Night – Drumlanrig Primary School||19th || BEG Meeting: Denholm||26th || Leader Meeting: Selkirk||28th || Fund-raising Concert: Drumlanrig Primary School
||March 1997||5th || Parents Evening – Selkirk High School||6th || Yellow Fever Injections – OUCH!||14/15/16th || Training Weekend – Cappercleuch Mk2|
Route Cards, Walk Southern Upland Way
Camp at Traquair – Walk to Selkirk Rugby Club
|20th || Fund Raising Quiz: Kelso
||24th || Leader Meeting: Hawick||30th || Fund Raising: Border Abbeys Walk
||April 1997||5th || Fund Raising: Casino Night: Hawick||6th || Fund Raising: Golf Tournament: Woll||18th || Fund Raising: Quiz Night: Melrose||21st || B.E.G. AGM: Denholm
||26th || Tower Trophy Business Challenge: Set Up||27th || Tower Trophy Business Challenge: Event||30th || Leader meeting: Environment: Hawick||May 1997||2nd || Fund Raising Quiz: Selkirk||7th || Leader Meeting: Safety: Selkirk||16th || Fund Raising Quiz: Final: Selkirk
||28th || Leader Meeting: Selkirk||30/31/1st June|| Final Training Weekend: Selkirk|
Photography, Wall Building, First Aid,
Rules formulation, Camping
|June 1997||4th || Leader Meeting: Hawick||9th || Swahili & Scottish Dancing lessons: St Boswells
||11th || Leader Meeting: Selkirk||16th || Swahili & Scottish Dancing lessons: St Boswells||19th || Leader Meeting: Hawick||23rd || Swahili & Scottish Dancing lessons: St Boswells
||29th || Packing Day: Selkirk Rugby Club
||July 1997||2nd || Advance Party (Nan & PJ) Depart
||6th || Assemble at Edinburgh Airport: Final Packing
||7th (Saba Saba day)|| Main Group Depart for Kenya|
July 2nd to August 3rd – The Expedition
|August 1997||3rd || Return from Kenya
||September 1997||8th || Leader Meeting: Hawick||12th/13th/14th || Reunion & Reporting Weekend + Disco
||October 1997||8th || BEG Meeting: 1st Presentation & Talk
||November 1997||5th || Leader Meeting: Hawick||19th || Editing Meeting: Selkirk
||December 1997||9th || Public Presentation (Postponed)
||1998||February 14 || Editing Meeting: Selkirk
||2000||January || Report Publication
Kenya ’97 – Expedition Timetable
| 2 July 1997 || Wednesday||Advance Party leave
The Kenya ’97 Advance Party – Nan Lyle and Jim (PJ) Shepherd leave Edinburgh Airport
via Amsterdam for Nairobi
| 3 July 1997 || Thursday||Arrival|
After an overnight flight, they are met at Nairobi Airport by Pastor Charles Macharia
and head off. Collect an army field tent from British Army (Nairobi) then some more normal shopping.
Reach Kiawaithanji late afternoon.
| 4 July 1997 || Friday||Supplies|
A day in Nyeri buying the essentials for a fortnight’s camp – stoves, pans etc.
| 5 July 1997 || Saturday||The quarry
Supplies with a difference today. Time spent arranging sand, blocks cement etc in fact everything needed to build our very own school
|6 July 1997||Sunday||THE BEGINNING|
The advance party attend a local church service as guests of honour.
The rest of the group are leaving homes all over the Borders to meet at Edinburgh Airport at 10pm
final packing of rucsacks and other kit into big orange bivvy bags; settle down for night
and early morning flight.
| 7 July 1997 || Monday|| Saba Saba Day|
The Main group flew Edinburgh – Amsterdam – Nairobi arriving at 10:30pm
Unknown to them, the advance party (Nan & PJ) were in the middle of some “civil unrest”
| 8 July 1997 || Tuesday|| THERE|
Breakfast, then off to Kiawaithanji; first experience of Matatu driving; loads of roadblocks
Arrived Kia to a great welcome; food and the “Mama’s” choir;
set up tents organised campsite; Army tent and basecamp
| 9 July 1997 || Wednesday|| “REALISATION
First day building site; split into 3 way rota; each group spent 2 days building, one day on Camp site duties.
Foundations already done, building started – great progress due to “low level” work
| 10 July 1997|| Thursday||THE BRICKIES LABOURERS|
Day 2 on building site; still making good progress but having to lift the blocks higher – so not quite so speedy progress.
| 11 July 1997 || Friday||Barclays birthday|
Day 3 building; now we can see where the windows will go – we’re leaving big spaces!! in the wall.
| 12 July 1997 || Saturday ||The Mountain Lodge|
A day off building; leader group made breakfast, then off to Mountain Lodge for the day. Spent an amazing afternoon watching
animals at a waterhole. Elephant; water buck, gazelle and many more.
| 13 July 1997|| Sunday||International Football|
A varied day; everyone in their “Sunday Best” – group photos – off to church for a service in Swahili, Kikuyu and English;
a football match in the afternoon (we got cuffed) and then some home visits & hospitality
|14 July 1997 || Monday ||Stick making
Day 4 more building work; scaffolding needed now due to height; nearby trees became scaffolding poles!!
our main job now is pointing and helping with building kitchen area
| 15 July 1997 || Tuesday || Cook duty|
Day 5 on the Building site – even more pointing; shifting blocks for kitchen; wiring up reinforcing
frames for the Lintels
| 16 July 1997 || Wednesday || The Lintels|
Day 6 building – pointing mainly; walls now reaching a precarious height; tree scaffolding gives no feeling of security at all
| 17 July 1997 || Thursday || Tree climbing|
Day 7 building even higher now; more scaffolding needed; up the nearest tree with a machete – Voila more scaffolding
Shuttering put in place for cement to be poured the next day.
| 18 July 1997 || Friday || Last day on site & the Ceilidh|
Day 8 – our last day on the site; finishing touches made to shuttering; started mixing a mountain of cement (by hand) then a chain
| 19 July 1997 || Saturday || Nyeri & BP’s Grave|
A rest day; dismantle substantial part of the camp site including hike tents; barbeque tea; night spent in big tent or outside.
lots of visitors and swapping of addresses for the future.
| 20 July 1997 || Sunday|| The chameleon trek
Dismantle camp site completely; assemble a pile of cooking equipment etc to be left with Kia community.
Transport arrives for the next phase- pile aboard and leave – head for Sirinom route up Mt Kenya
First camp at “old Moses” Late start results in tents being put up in the dark.
| 21 July 1997 || Monday || THE LOST VALLEY|
Second day on Mt Kenya – from “old Moses” to “Liki North” the altitude is beginning to tell
One leader returns to “Moses”; some venturers struggling due to Asthma & Altitude.
| 22 July 1997 || Tuesday || Higher & higher
Day starts with disappointment of 3 Venturers and 1 Leader heading back down to Old Moses
Others make progress to Shiptons camp; highlight of night being Neil’s “originallity” in getting the mob next door to shut up and let the others sleep.
| 23 July 1997 || Wednesday || The Summit|
A very early start (2:00am) for the attempt on the summit. : 19 folk eventually made it to Pt Lenana (the highest bit you can trek to) well in time to watch a magnificent Sunrise.
Then head back down; One group stayed at Shipton’s (Ill Venturer) the others headed back to Old Moses
| 24 July 1997 || Thursday|| Regroup|
Group from Shipton’s head back down, join up with second group a Old Moses, then all head back down to Park Gates to
| 25 July 1997 || Friday || THIS REALLY IS AFRICA|
Celebations went on ’til early morning, then re-united group heads off for “Adventure” phase; starting with 2 days in the
Samburu game reserve. Campsite has baboons in nearby trees, Crocodiles in nearby river and armed guards.
| 26 July 1997 || Saturday || The Leech|
Up early (6:00am) for an early morning game drive; then breakfast on to Silver Springs (natural pool) for a Swim – going great ’til
| 27 July 1997 || Sunday || LEAVING THE SAMBURU|
Another early game drive; highlight of which was changing the bus tyre with 3 lions some 200m away. Who was the “brave soul”
who offered to keep watch on the lions from the top of the bus, while others changed the wheel. Back for breakfast. then on to Sagana
| 28 July 1997 || Monday || White water rafting||After a relatively luxurious night in a bunk house; its off to go White Water rafting. The safety briefing on Crocs and snakes|
rather concentrated the minds on the task ahead. The rafting was truly memorable hard work and exhilirating rapids. All went well until about a mile
from the finish – the waterfall jump – about 8m – OK if you don’t go for the parachutist’s “free fall” position as one venturer did.
| 29 July 1997 || Tuesday || Suzie’s leap
Another day’s rafting; miss out the flat stretch at the start; more surfing; hard work etc – but only one went for the waterfall jump this time.
| 30 July 1997 || Wednesday || Drive in the dust|
Off to Mt Suswa; a long dusty drive, then head up a mountain – over bare rock – in the bus. Past Masai villages & cattle; camped high up the mountain.
| 31 July 1997 || Thursday || Mt Suswa
An early start to climb Mt Suswa – everyone made this one; an easier climb, not such high altitude and lightly laden. Biggest problem were thorn bushes
which left socks full of seeds & thorns. Also explored Lava tubes
| 1 August 1997 || Friday || The Carnivore|
Breakfast – break camp, then off to Nairobi where we booked into the Silver Springs Hotel Luxury – a sit down lunch then off into central Nairobi
to the city market – souvenir hunting time – haggling was the order of the day – some did better than others. Friday night – off to the Carnivore
restaurant – not a place for the vegetarians; Hartebeeste; Eland and Ostrich are on the Menu – who said “the ostrich tasted foul”
| 2 August 1997 || Saturday || Return to Kiawaithanji
Our last day in Kenya – a bus is booked to take us back to Kiawaithanji for the officail opening of the school. This bus has a seat for everybody!
The last few miles are nerve racking, will the school be finished – a sight that will stay with me for ever is the last few yards into Kia and we are finally able to
see a roof on the school – it is finished. A magnificent welcome back; a spectacular opening ceremony loads of photos; more address swapping;
then back to Nairobi; a burger at “steers” then of to the Airport for the flight home.
| 3 August || Sunday ||Home Again||Nairobi – Amsterdam – Edinburgh – we arrived back to a waiting posse of parents, friends and BEG folk.|
The last lap home to the Borders was in sight – back to our comfortable existence. Our time in Kenya let us see a completely differnt style of living
with very different priorities and values. Life for the participants in this expedition, would never be the same again.