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end of the road

There are few good options for those who want to tour Kenya on a shoestring. Walking, horseback, or camelback safaris are a good alternative for exploring the bush, but to see big game up close a vehicle and driver are a must. Comfortable budget lodgings are also hard to come by. There are dozens of high-end all-inclusive safari lodges and self-catering camping is possible in some parks, but there is virtually nothing in between.

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The Sandai farmhouse is one exception. Located on a private ranch near the Aberdares National Park, it is also a stone’s throw from the Solio rhino conservancy, both within easy driving distance from Nairobi. S’s mom stayed at Sandai while we climbed Mt. Kenya and gave such rave reviews that we decided to go back when S’s friend Niki visited in August. Unfortunately, Niki’s visit coincided with the end of the rainy season. We barely made it up the 8km dirt track that connects Sandai to the main paved road and decided not to push our luck, returning to Nairobi without visiting either Solio or the Aberdares.

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With D’s family in town, we went back to Sandai to give Solio and the Aberdares another shot. Although it did not pour as hard this time, even a little rain is enough to turn the road to Sandai into a nightmare of slippery mud. The rough road winds its way tiredly through a few Kikuyu villages before exhausting itself at the entrance to the Sandai ranch. We made half a dozen trips between Sandai and the paved road and each time the path changed, as the ruts made by other vehicles dried and hardened in the morning before getting washed out with the afternoon rains.

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Despite nearly sliding off the path into the ditch a couple of times, we managed to navigate the Sandai road without any major incident. Even so, all that rattling and sliding could not have been good for the car, and we can’t help but wonder if it precipitated our mishap in Solio.

Thanks to D’s sister for the photos.

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