This story begins with a wedding…well, that’s not entirely true: this story begins with the history of my childhood and with a vision, conceived long before that…but the wedding seems an appropriate place to start for me – after all, it was my wedding.
On 22nd September 2007, I married Ian on the balcony of the house my father built in our very own piece of paradise, bordering the Tsavo National Park in Kenya and overlooking the confluence of the Athi and Mtito rivers. The house is named ‘Kulafumbi’, which in Kiswahili means “eat dust”, a reference to the conditions in this tinder-dry, remote part of Kenya.
This house where Ian and I now live (whose style is indescribable – the Flintstones meet unconventional Moorish influences meet organic eco-building) began as a dream – my father’s dream to own a piece of land and build a house overlooking a river in Africa. We all grew up in Africa, you see – my father has been on this continent since he was seven years old, and my brother and I have spent our whole lives here – give or take a few years.
This - our corner - is a piece of wilderness, peopled by Africa’s majestic wildlife, from elephants and buffalo to hippos and crocodiles, a bewildering myriad of birds, insects, amphibians and reptiles. It’s a chunk of grey thorny bushland bordered by a river of unparalleled beauty, fringed by white sand banks, Doum Palms and Fig Trees – a meandering green oasis line through the dry country. Overlooking this river sits the house with its breathtaking views – like a widescreen TV permanently set to the National Geographic channel.
Kulafumbi – the house and the land – truly is a paradise and we are lucky to live here and call it our home – unspeakably lucky. But paradise comes at a price, I have learned, and not always a financial one. Ian and I fought our private battles in our decision to come back here to Africa, the place where our hearts return to, time after time, no matter where we are in the world. We have just spent three years in Scotland and, for me in particular, for very personal reasons, it was a difficult decision to come back home. Ultimately, after all the deliberations and heartache, it all came down to this: If you have the chance to live an extraordinary life, you have to take it, whatever the cost. The alternative, which is to choose the mundane, is not life, in the real sense of the word... If you’ve got the chance, you’ve got to take it.
So, here we are now, Ian and I, newly married (though not newly acquainted), in our magical home called Kulafumbi. Every day, whichever direction you look or travel from the house, nature is playing out her many dramas. This is where life happens. The natural world, one soon comes to realise, is the cornerstone of everything.
In words and pictures, I’m going to try to share it with you, this Nature’s Paradise, and introduce you to our many cohabitants – you might call them neighbours – the myriad residents of the river and its environs, the trees and plants, both indoors and out, the animals who have moved into our house with us, and those who pass by unseen in the night – come on this journey with me, and you’ll soon get to know them all.