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Great Walk Camp Life


by  Kate Dernocoeur, guest blogger 

Where you hang your hat—that’s home, to an adventurer. I love my real home, but when I’m away, it’s nice to know there’s a cozy place nearby ready to restore my weary body. Many times in years of wandering, home has consisted of an inflatable camping pad and sleeping bag in a backpacking tent, and that’s always fine with me. I love living in tents. But my perception of tent living was forever shifted when I went to Africa.


African “tent” living is pretty plush! My two trips with Tropical Ice (my exceptional Kenyan safari company) have completely reframed my concept of “roughing” it. For one thing, you can stand up inside their tents. Out front on the veranda (yes, the veranda) is a chair and stool, a hanger for the kerosene lamp, a washbasin, a thermos of fresh water, glasses, towels, even a hanging cubby for your toiletries. Inside is a proper cot with proper sheets and a bedside table. Out back is a proper latrine, and a (gasp!) shower tent. With hot water. And stars overhead. I hear that uber-chic safaris are even fancier, but honestly, who needs it? Sometimes, we napped outside, too.

Every morning promptly at 6:00 a.m. after a night that might include listening to leopards nearby (they sound like logs being sawed) and wondering what might be between you and the latrine for that 3 a.m. visit, the wake-up is a cheerful “Jambo!” as our team brings warm wash water. Heaven is a metal wash basin lightly steaming in the coolness of the new day.

Evenings kicked off with a circle of armchairs by a campfire, with fancy snacks and fine African wines and Tusker beer. The beers were always available, as were soft drinks and plentiful filtered water, perched on a table alongside the impressive field library.

Three times a day (plus tea-time), the most amazing, delicious victuals magically appeared at the mess tent, cooked in Dutch ovens or over open fires. Water was carried from the river (the men escorted for their safety by the armed spotters, in case of errant predators) to be heated for cooking, washing, and evening showers. Meals included eggplant parmesan, a turkey dinner with all the trimmings, delectable Nicoise or Cobb or other salads, curries, old fashion roasts, and much more. When Ellen’s birthday rolled around, there was even a real cake (after she first tried unsuccessfully to cut the frosted elephant turd—these guys have a great sense of humor!). We even had ice cream.

Spoiled, I am. Utterly spoiled.

No, we didn’t have to strike or raise our tents at any of our seven camps; this was done for us by the outstanding and cheerful staff. Yes, we were limited to strictly defined campground boundaries, so we couldn’t wander off to explore on our own. It was adventurous to ford the river to and from our hiking route twice a day, in a bunched-up group (the theory being that crocs and hippos would imagine we were elephants, too large to bother with). And, too, those with tents furthest from the mess tent (usually the one I shared with my adventure travel buddy, Margaret) had to have armed Samburu escorts after dark. But we got through it.


I remain humbly grateful for my good fortune to have the health and means to do things like the Great Walk…and to come home at the end of each day to a comfy camp, a refreshing shower and a good sleep!

Several of these photos come compliments of co-adventurer Jerry McAfee. Thank you, Jerry



Kate Dernocoeur loves living in a tent. Any tent. Anywhere. Any time.

Post Author
Susan J. Smith
Susan's career includes writing for newspapers, lots of community work and a wonderful family life. Now she is enjoying traveling, photography and writing for DesignDestinations and Grand Rapids Magazine. She welcomes you on her journey and appreciates your comments.

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