Kenya 1997

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 Academy".


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 of pointing.

Window Level

Work continues at a fairly leisurely pace on the building as it got higher.

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 smoother.

The Lintel

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.

The Opening

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 scary coincidence.

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
August 1996
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 Overnight Camp Tent pitching in the dark, Raft building,
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.
9th 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
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
Project Rehearsal, Wild Cooking, Food search
Bivvy Preparation, Casualty Carry, River crossing
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)
February 14 Editing Meeting: Selkirk
January Report Publication

Kenya '97 - Expedition Timetable
2 July 1997 WednesdayAdvance Party leave
The Kenya '97 Advance Party - Nan Lyle and Jim (PJ) Shepherd leave Edinburgh Airport via Amsterdam for Nairobi
3 July 1997 ThursdayArrival
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 FridaySupplies
A day in Nyeri buying the essentials for a fortnight's camp - stoves, pans etc.
5 July 1997 SaturdayThe 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 1997SundayTHE 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" and panicking we may not come at all. On arrival, we were rushed to our hotel and told to stay off the streets!!
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
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 FridayBarclays 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 SundayInternational 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 but the locals climb all over it showing no concern at all. Shifted wood for "Lintel shutering" from a nearby store to building site.
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 was formed to lift it up into place. Finished "some time" later - late lunch.
Back to campsite - prepare for our Hospitality evening allow Kenyans to see and take part in a Ceilidh. A great evening even if they thought our dancing was somewhat strange
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 join up with the group of 4 who left 3 days before. All aboard bus for an eventful bus journey back to Nanyuki and the luxury of a comfy bed for a night.
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 a Leech made an appearance attached to a Venturer's leg. Retired to nearby lodge to finish swimming in an artificial pool. Back to campsite for a "sunset" game drive.
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.