Our bus is quite large and even though its suspension is high I have no idea how we traversed terrain that frankly would have been difficult on a scrambler motorbike, but we did, and here we are in Got Kochola Beach. The introductions to the Beach Management Unit (BMU) complete, it seems like every child in the village has turned out to greet us too. We’re ushered into a small dark hut and although basic, everything is clean and ordered. Signs on the wall list the membership of this BMU headed by Chairman, Secretary and so on. I can’t keep my eyes of the kids as they queue up to have a look in the door or the window, whispering Muzungus, and laughing mischievously. Every so often the chairman hollers and they scamper for cover only to reappear seconds later.
We have our set list of questions; how many in the village; how many fishermen; size and type of catch; quantity of kerosene used; cooking methods; house lighting etc. Oh you can tell they’ve heard them all before but we must collect the data and all write feverishly. The warmth of their welcome is almost embarrassing as I know we don’t yet have the money to fund this project yet I know we must go through the process if we are to be effective and secure the funding.
As the meeting concludes we get to see the ‘evil’ ice truck from the Indian owned processing plant in Nairobi, parked outside – knowing the road we’ve travelled, I wonder how they’ve made it and indeed how they will make it when the rains have come. Fanned out across this tiny village we’re introduced to the people like celebrities before we beat a retreat to our bus and hit the ‘road’ again.
We repeat this process again and again until we reach our last fishing village as darkness sets in. Larger than before, this one hums with activity and in the centre is perched a large EU Sponsored Refrigeration plant. We’re told it’s one of eighteen such units across Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda and today it’s the venue for our meeting. I’m curious as to why this unit is not operational; it’s been here eighteen months but was never commissioned apparently. I stroll into the refrigeration area and see two spanking new fridge units. Upon closer examination I notice they require three phase electricity supply (thanks for the education Dad) which I don’t recall seeing on the road before we entered. Sure enough when we go back out to look, its single phase supply throughout the village and that’s if you can afford the KES35, 000 connection fee. It’s shocking that this could be the case and really a sad reflection on Western development aid although I’m sure, or should that be hope, there are other parts to the story of which we are not aware.
It’s dark as we set of for our hotel and it’s only now I’m beginning to realise the scale of the journey we have undertaken. We still have several hours to travel, slowing to a crawl every so often as the ‘road’ turns into something resembling an army assault course. At 8pm we arrive at a village and the bus draws to a halt – we’re at the hotel I thought; but no, we’re going to visit a Child Protection Project which is run by Pastor Gilberts’ wife. We receive another warm Kenyan welcome as the group leaders take it in turn to explain the activities of the project. We hear of the devastation that Aids has wrought on the community leaving orphaned children to be cared for by their grandparents or projects such as this. The walls are covered in brightly illustrated posters with messages about corruption and sexual abuse. I certainly had not expected this remote area to share the problems so common in western society – alcohol and drug abuse was endemic – jobs in the local sugar processing factory brought money and with it all of the problems we normally associate with large cities. One young girl, I think about 15, sat silently in the corner; she was briefly introduced as a resident, offered shelter from the sexual abuse she was enduring at home at the hands of an alcoholic father.
We gathered for a group photo before departing on a further two hour journey to our hotel. As we arrived in the village we were greeted by the stunning vista of scores of fishing boats on the Lake with the flickering lights of their lanterns spread out as far as the eye could see. These were the people this journey was all about and now I could see them for the first time, going about their nightly routine.
Everyone was exhausted when we finally reached the hotel; the restaurant was closed so the Muzungus had a quick beer before retiring to bed – another day of incredible memories draws to a close.