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A French-Inspired Garden and Home by Judith Stringham

Africa...Land of Dreams

Friday, February 27, 2015

I had a farm in Africa 
begins a novel of a love story with a man 
and of a love story with Africa.

Home of Karen von Blixen (aka Isak Dinesen), Nairobi, Kenya

"I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills. The Equator runs across these highlands, a hundred miles to the North, and the farm lay at an altitude of over six thousand feet. In the day-time you felt that you had got high up, near to the sun, but the early mornings and evenings were limpid and restful, and the nights were cold."
Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen (aka Karen Blixen)

Africa was a land of dreams 
described in Out of Africa, National Geographic, 
The Snows of Kilimanjaro, Daktari, Tarzan, ...  
A land with acacia trees and a snow-covered peak 
that was labeled as only a legend in Europe when it was 
first reported by explorers in the 1800s. 
Scientists were skeptical about a snow-covered mountain 
so close to the equator. 

As a young girl and woman, movies, books, and television 
filled my head with dreams of an African photo safari. 
One of those dreams that is part of a 
person's unwritten list of lifetime dreams 
that seem beyond reach and never will be fulfilled. 
Just a dream in the margins of one's imagination.

Sunrise over Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania was a dream for a lifetime. 

Then one day my husband's job as a Bible translator needed him to travel to Kenya. 
Just about the time I would be celebrating my 60th birthday. 
With great excitement, we made plans for me to go with him. 
Shots, travel visas, reservations, and vacation days from my job 
as a public school administrator all came together. 

The first wildlife preserve we visited was just outside Nairobi, Kenya. 
Can you see the excitement in my smile? 
Everything was foreign ~ sights, sounds, smells... 
the terrain, the customs, the food... 
and the wildlife! 

Giraffes freely roamed throughout the open range preserve, 
and stared at us as we stared at them. 

Until they got bored and went back to finding lunch. 

Of course, during the first part of our trip 
my husband attended the conference for his work. 

After he finished the conference, we flew south to Amboseli National Park.

Our first view of Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania looming over 
Amboseli National Park, Kenya. 

My dream of Africa became a reality as 
a 60th birthday present from the love of my life, my husband of 35 years.  
And it was truly a trip of a lifetime! 

Here I am, taking photos and standing on the airstrip on which our small commuter plane 
landed after flying low over herds of wildebeest, zebras, and water buffalo. 
The herds had run and swirled away below us just like in National Geographic specials.

See my left foot off the ground?
I was floating on air with excitement, awe, and wonder,
trying to take it all in and to capture the moment forever. 

As our fellow plane passengers climbed aboard a bus, 
our guide approached us and took us to our private Land Cruiser 
with a driver and a Maasai wildlife guide. 
(Could this be real?  Our very own personal Maasai guide?) 

After a full day of traveling across the plains, 
rumbling over rough terrain (no roads), not another soul in sight, 
looking at scores of varieties of wildlife, expertly described by our guide, 
we pulled into our campsite and were greeted with glasses of 
fresh apple juice served by the camp director 
and shared with several of the camp's Maasai guides. 

Our first night we stayed at a tent camp, Porini Camp, 
that stood on an old safari big game hunting campsite. 
Kenya no longer allows game hunting. 

 This was our open air dining area for breakfast and dinner. 

As we ate by candlelight under the tent that first night, 
we visited with the other couple who were also guests. 
The man was the editor of the African Geographic
and his wife was the editor of another African magazine. 
Once again, I thought, "Is this real?" 
Fascinating conversation under a candlelit tent in 
the middle of the African bush... 
The only sounds were hushed conversations 
and sporadic nightlife calls from birds and animals. 
Every minute of the trip was filled with more 
excitement than the previous minute. 

After dinner, our guide and driver took us for a night safari 
that included us sitting around an open fire talking with our guides. 
As we talked another Maasai warrior walked into the light of the campfire, 
out of the darkness, and joined our conversation.  
We talked of a vanishing culture being nurtured by tourist 
revenue that allowed the Maasai to nurture the dwindling wildlife. 
We knew we were lucky to see Africa while wildlife still exists. 

Back in camp that night, the guide zipped us into our private tent 
with warnings not to walk around outside by ourselves, 
always have a guide for protection against wild animals.  
Some of the guides wore a gun. 

We slept in our private tent on a real bed after bathing 
under a shower filled with water from a bucket. 

Tortilis Camp, Amboseli National Park, Kenya, Africa
From Porini Camp we traveled to Tortilis Camp at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro. 
Once again, the day unfolded with even more exciting new events. 

Driving into Tortilis camp, the cluster of thatched roof open air buildings 
looked like a movie set. 

The reception/registration building was beautiful. 
"Is this real?" 

This was the view from the open air dining room located just behind the reception area. 
The equator runs through Kenya making it a warm country, but the altitude 
tempers the warmth creating a climate that allows pleasant open air rooms. 

Luxury Tent #3 was our "room". 
The thatched roof covered a raised platform on which a tent was pitched. 

A king size bed sat in the front area, 
and behind it was a full bathroom with 
a flush toilet, sink with faucets, and a luxurious shower. 
Is this real? 
Yes, it was. 

Mount Kilimanjaro with clouds overlooking a herd of zebras
Two full days of private safaris with Maasai guides were filled with 
herds and herds of wildlife that largely ignored us. 
Except for the zebras. 
There were always several that stared at us. 

Our guide also arranged for us to visit a local Maasai village 
that was enclosed by an 8-10 feet tall by 5-6 feet wide fence 
made of thorny bushes to keep out the wildlife, especially lions. 

The one-room houses were made from mud, had no furniture, and no electricity. 
The village did not have a well, and villagers walked several miles to the 
closest well to collect water in buckets. 

Our last day on safari, our guide asked what we wanted to see that we had not seen. 

He drove us to another area of the national preserve where he found a den 
with two sets of cubs, five cubs total, guarded by unseen male lions in tall grass.  
While this photo looks like we were really close, we were much farther away 
and took photos using telephoto lenses. 

Africa was a land of dreams for me, 
and it took my breath away day after day. 
We arrived home the night before my 60th birthday. 
Life has never been the same since. 
How grateful I am for the trip of my lifetime dreams 
with the love of my life.  

The African Geographic editor asked me 
how I would celebrate my 70th birthday since 
my 60th birthday celebration was so spectacular. 
He asked how could I top going to Africa. 
I don't know what life has in store for me, 
just like I did not know I would go to Africa.

Anything is possible... 
if you dream it.  


  1. Africa is definitely the land of dreams. When I was a little girl, about 8yo, God gave me a dream and a heart for Africa...Passion, I grew up with it...this passion grew with me. Little did I know that God will grant me the desires of my heart, 1. I married a handsome godly man, 2. I got to live in Botswana (Southern Africa)...everything is possible if you believe it <3 loved your pictures :)

  2. Bonjour Judith! What a delightfully WARM post for me this cold morning....thank you! And I too have always thought of Africa as a wonderland of possibilities, to see animals that only exist on a page in a book, a documentary, or in my imagination. My husband was in South Africa several years ago, and was able to pet a lion cub at one of the parks....he said it felt like sandpaper! HAHAHAHAHHAAH

    I LOVE the African people. I worked with the most impressive woman from West Africa. Kind, SMART as all get out, fluent in at least five languages, and so beautiful. Her parents came to visit at the school one day (they had flown in from Senegal), and what regal folks there are. They looked like a king and a queen.

    What fond memories we all cherish and carry with us. Write them down. Enjoy your weekend! Anita

  3. I love it when people's dreams come true. This sounds like an amazing adventure, and I can't think of a better way to celebrate a milestone birthday than to make your dreams a reality.

  4. oh my gosh, amazing. what a fabulous adventure. a safari is on my travel bucket list, thank you for taking me along via these pictures.

  5. Judith, it sounds like a perfect way to begin a new decade. I've never been to Africa, and don't anticipate that I ever will. We had an opportunity a few years ago, but passed it by. I'm thrilled that you had this dream come true. Your photos are spectacular.
    Been thinking of you. Stay warm and cozy!

  6. Oh my, Judith! What wonderful adventures you have had! Gorgeous photos of a trip of a lifetime!

  7. Exhilarating to read about your adventure, Judith. Truly amazing and beautiful!!!

  8. Oh Judith, I held onto every word you wrote here, I to have this out of Africa dream more like when you stayed in that wonderful tent that I have always wanted in my back yard for this out of Africa camp-outs in the back yard. Really I totally could hear this excitement in your words as to how you must have felt went you approached that tent....I would have gasped for my breathe and would have I visioned it in my yard with all the white bedding and linens and British type of furnishings I would fill it with.

    I had a friend who's husband much like yours went to Africa to a remote area, he a pasture and translator doing some missionary work fell ill with their red clay dirt, he traveled home with gifts as he did the past couple of other times her went bringing a stuffed monkey home to watch over there site.
    This last trip 10 years ago left him weekend with this virus and illness that ened up fately taking his life when a blog lot traveled to his lungs.

    It is wonderful to hear that your dream came true making it to Africa, and one I am sure you will never forget. I invission animal prints on French chairs in your home tucked here and there, special reading spots in your home..... Still in keeping of all things French :)

    Well, if this trip doesn't happen for me soon at my 60th I will then count it out, but take pleasure in the ones who tell their stories of Africa so beautifully.

    Blessed you were.


  9. Oooop's, darn that spell check.... I meant to spell PASTOR ! Not pasture! Oh well you get it.


  10. That is completely beautiful! What a neat place to stay too! Thank you for sharing at Home Sweet Home!

  11. Beautiful pictures!!, and I am so glad you were able to make this special trip!
    We are closely tied with Wycliffe Bible Translators...are you folks part of that organization?
    Blessings to you,

  12. I'm so glad you pointed me to this post, Judith! I can only imagine what it must be like to see those magnificent animals in person.

    In my head I can hear Meryl Streep saying, "I had a farm at the foot of the Ngong Hills.."

  13. Oh my. What an amazing trip. Congratulations. What a sweet, sweet post. Blessings to you for your 70th.

  14. What an amazing experience! I remember you sharing the "glamping" tent photo recently, but I'm so glad I got to read the original post. Your photos really capture your adventure.


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