The sun is a fussy performer at dawn and dusk. It promises everything, and nothing.
Though we left Vic Hotel at 6:00am, Wanzalla had been awake well before that. Stirred to an anxious wakefulness every hour since he’d retired to bed. He peered at clock and sky before making for the lobby, raring to go.
Our local guide, Mulwa, was sure of the exact time the Kisumu sunrise appears. An assured 6:37 am, he said. Well, it was a pitch dark Friday morning that we ventured into. The sky began to gradually reveal hints of coral as we frantically drove to the spot Wanzalla and Cindy had settled on during the previous night’s recce.
The shot Wanzalla sought required a seamless alignment of the natural and the man-made. And he threw everything into it: life, limb and bag full of lenses.
We later gathered around the camera’s tiny window to marvel at the wonders of nature so ably captured. Swatting off mosquitoes, we made for our next spot, Kiboko Bay. The story goes that a rich developer once built a hotel there but it was razzed to the ground. Too disheartened to put it up again, the locals had flocked to the ruins, attracted to its brilliant view of Lake Victoria and friendly hippos.
Now, about those rotund water dwellers, turns out we were the only ones scared of them. Everyone else quipped, “They are our brothers.” “They know not to bother us.”
One guy who put this faith into action was Godfrey Oluoch. I found him nonchalantly washing his bicycle in the lake’s shallow waters. His eyes were trained on dusty wheels and handlebars and not on the grey and pink creatures lurking in the water.
The 32-year-old former fisherman hails from Nyalenda. Godfrey has had enough encounters with hippos to steel his heart. He now works as a loader at the Port of Kisumu. “Mtoto ndio mjinga. Akiona mtu, anaweza taka kumkaribia. Saa hapo ndio mama anaweza kuwa aggressive.” In short, stay away from baby hippos and you’ll be fine.
I watched for a while as Godfrey scooped up the grey-green waters in cupped hands and rub down the bicycle. This was his personal means of transportation. An entrepreneur, he’s turned a second bicycle into a boda boda. One can only hope it received a similar thorough and loving cleaning that morning, wherever it was.
With black trousers rolled mid-shin, Wanzalla trained his eye on a new subject. He got so lost in the act of clicking that his derriere lightly grazed the waters. Springing up, he quickly pat the seat of his pants. Fishing out phone and wallet, he resumed the position, wet trouser and boxers no longer a concern. Mulwa and Mark had been turned into assistants holding up a flash & umbrella and portable battery.
Soon, it was lunch time. Natural, we made for Lwang’ni in pursuit of the best fish in town. We weren’t disappointed. Not with Maureen in the kitchen anyway. The tall, broad woman has been frying fish for 10 years now.
She reckons 40 to 50 pieces pass through her hands every day. That safely translates to well over 150,000 fish turned golden from grey by her hand. Maureen’s tilapia comes from Bondo and Usenge. It arrives at 7:30am and stays in the hot oil for an average of 10 minutes before it hits the plate. It takes less time than that to reduce it to bones.
We returned to Kiboko Bay by 3:00pm for the day’s final shoot. It was a tricky water-based affair that had Wanzalla use the phrase ‘one last time’ a million times. Tired but happy, we retired to Vic Hotel to plan the next leg of our #UnexpectedKenya journey.
One thing’s for sure though, we’re not spending Saturday night in Kisumu.
Meet the entire Capture Kenya 2015 team here and read more stories from the road!