We take for granted a lot of the technological advances of the last century. Take the example of our ability to ‘zoom out of earth’ and view this beautiful landmass from a vantage point. Flying offers you the chance to do this. I always take cognizance of the fact that most of humanity throughout history never had this chance while some would literally give their life to get a chance to be airborne.
Depending on the destination and time of day, you get to view a variety of spectacular sights. A recent flight to Kisumu offered such sights in plenty. We took off from JKIA at a quarter past 6 in the evening, a golden hour for photography due to the saturation of colours from the sun setting. I cursed myself for not carrying a camera. The gloom that characterized the cloudy Nairobi day disappeared as soon as we rose above the clouds.
Mt. Kenya, the first geographical feature of note came into view. The slopes were engulfed in clouds as is the norm at this time of the day. A few minutes flying West saw the clouds change from a light shade of gray to menacing dark clouds that rose higher into the sky. My geography tells me we are flying above the Aberdares highlands, the Eastern escarpment of the Great Rift Valley that forms part of the Kenyan highlands. The geography of the Rift Valley is such that the escarpments – Mau and Aberdares – are elevated with a valley in between. (Why the highlands maintain that name to date is baffling. I support the move to have the ranges named after freedom fighters given the history of the freedom struggle in the ranges)
Now here’s the interesting part. As soon as you fly past the Aberdares, the clouds magically disappear and the Rift Valley is unveiled far below. I spot Lake Naivasha and can’t hold back the excitement. I let out a small cheer that saw fellow passengers give me weird looks. Lake Naivasha is distinct from the other Rift Valley lakes due to its unique crescent island near the Western shores of the lake.
I’ve barely finished enjoying the view of the valley below before more dark clouds appear ahead. That must be Mau, I think to myself. It then hits me that the clouds parted in between the two escarpments to create a ‘Rift Valley’ in the air to mirror the actual Rift below! This is geography porn! We approach the clouds and soon as we penetrate it, the pilot announces the start of our descent into Kisumu. Turbulence shakes me back to reality.
We fly through the clouds and a short while later, the footprint of humanity that is city lights appear below. After enjoying the natural beauty of mother earth, the man made marvel of the city lights offered a contrasting type of beauty. We land in Kisumu and I’m buzzing. I’m left wondering how exciting it must be for a pilot who flies around the world and gets to experience all this at a grander level. The thought is soon dwarfed when I imagine an astronaut’s life staring down this rock in space from the most supreme of vantage points. I zoom back to earth and thank God for being born in this era.