Sunday June 8 2014

Height fright and the beautiful moments

An aerial view of

An aerial view of Mombasa. PHOTO BY EDGAR R. BATTE 

By Edgar R. Batte

I first realised my fear for height when I had to make my initial visit to Burundi in 2009. Well, Rwanda has been christened the land of a thousand hills and valleys but Burundi makes Rwanda’s valleys look shallow.

Burundi hills are very steep, for a traveller with bathmophobia, the kind fear of steep slopes, this is the ultimate place to get weak and fumbling. Of course, I preferred to suffer within as the bus driver sped off around the narrow turns all the way.

The scary look on other first-time visitors to Bujumbura did not help matters. Perhaps a few shots of the fine Brandy could have helped blur the vision of this weakling.

It is worse when your neighbour is a sucker for beauty. My neighbour, a bubbly French woman was selfless. She constantly tapped my shoulder every now and then to wake me from my mock nap session, to get me check out how the hills rolled over one another in beautiful green curves.

One peep and the feeling of uneasiness would run all through me, weakening my nerves and deluding of all comfort.

Adventure in Kenya
My recent visit to Kenya on a familiarisation trip courtesy of Kenya Tourism Board was no different. I think there is as much of reckless, or should I say stubborn pilots just as there are matatu drivers.

Not that I was a first time flyer but our connecting flight to Mombasa from Nairobi was one of such nerve-wrecking experiences in an 18-seater which was shaky at take-off, on the rise and when landing. Being in a plane and riding in a train almost felt the same way.

To deal with the bumpy ride, I resorted to some cool music, surrendering to two youthful pilots who seemed to enjoy their time aiming high and higher into the clouds.

Above the clouds
If my white tourist friend enjoys the scenic hills, I love the clouds and they offered a comforting sight given their spongy-like outlook of white, blue and grey shades.

And at the 3,000 something altitude the plane feels like it is still and for a moment I could afford to forget about the fear of not being in control and start snapping away to the beautiful clouds.

The feeling could not last long. Soon we were descending but by that time I had gained strength, enough not to hold onto the seat.

I let go, scrolled through my iPod for some fast-tempo jams, and my choice of Jose Chameleone’s Gimme Gimme, Mun G’s Ssejusa, helped to let the mind wander off. And yes, to give me the guts to take some aerial shots of the enormously beautiful Maasai Mara and Mombasa, from a bird’s eye view.