About this blog
The purpose of this blog is to document, describe and share activities undertaken on the Taita Field Course (30.1.2018 – 11.2.2018). Preliminary sessions for the course were organized between November 2017 and January 2018, and followup sessions will be organized in February 2018. This blog only covers the field work part of the course.
The course is a part of Geoinformatics Masters Program (University of Helsinki), with a total of 15 students. Twelve of us major in Geography. Additionally, singular students of Forest Sciences, Biology and Geology participate on the course. Prof. Pellikka, Rikkinen and Phd. Johansson form the teaching staff of the course, so our group totals 18 finns.
Fieldwork is mostly undertaken in pairs of students. These working pairs also take daily responsibility of updating the blog. Feel free to make questions and comments or share this blog during the course!
The journey to Taita 30.1 – 31.1
Students and teachers flew on three different airlines, departing from Helsinki between 7 and 9am on Tuesday 30.1. Flight time (including intermediate landings) varied between 12 and 14 hours. Flight logistics worked out suprizingly well, since only one of the flights was a couple of hours late.
The arrival night was spent at Anglican Church of Kenya Guesthouse in central Nairobi. Accomodation was very pleasant, including warm shower and abundant breakfast. The last student group arrived at ACK guesthouse at 3:30am on Wednesday.
The terrestrial journey towards Taita Hills started on 31.1.2018 at 9am. The area is located approx. 350 km southeast of Nairobi, which equals 6-8 hours of driving in Kenyan traffic conditions. For transportation our group relies on a minibus owned and operated by Jackan, a skillfull and joyfull local driver. The bus even has AC and WIFI – unfortunately the former is broken while the latter is available for professors only…
The drive from Nairobi to Taita Hills via the town of Voi went very smoothly despite heavy traffic. After midday we stopped for a short lunch break at a Sikhi temple in Makindu. Religious practices required us to cover our heads during the dining. The vegetarian food at the temple was excellent and essentially free of charge. Our satisfied group left donations of 200-300Ksh (3-4 euros) per person as a token of gratitude.
Even though sleep deprivation was a common inconvinience among us students, interesting scenery kept most of us awake during the drive. The highway lies next to the newly built Nairobi-Mombasa railway line, which is expected to have a major impact on traffic flows in Kenya and abroad. Dozens of new railway bridges, embankments and station buildings highlighted the magnitude of this infrastructure project.
For physical geographers, variation in climatic conditions between Nairobi and Taita was interesting to observe. Nairobi is situated inland and at an elevation of approx. 1800 meters above sea level, while Mwatate (Capital of Taita-Taveta County) is closer to the Indian Ocean and at almost 1000 meters lower altitude. Surrounding landscape varied from lush woodland to arid savannah during the drive. Some big mammals, including elephants, giraffes and zebras were spotted by the highway.
After a long day of driving, our bus arrived at the village of Wundanyi inTaita Hills at around 6pm. Timing was optimal, since there was still around one hour of sunlight remaining. We received a warm welcome from the stations staff. The rest of the evening was spend while settling down, eating a delicious meal and last but not least… sauna!
Good to be here!