Posted by: TheAuthor | 21/12/2010

Heart of Africa

As the four tonne truck bounced down the tarmac road, I merrily peered out around. Staring at the mix of scrub land and steel or concrete buildings. Street sellers by the side of the road, waiting for a passer-by. Rudimentary bridges over ditches to hand car washes. Even a guy in a bright purple suit with a fancy cane and hat, strutting down the pavement.

I was in Kenya, at the start of my three-week live firing exercise in preparation for Herrick 6. Unbeknownst to me yet, was the hardship to come, for now the pleasure of seeing a new country was ours to enjoy.

Shortly before leaving the ‘built up areas’ we saw a nice little 4* hotel by the side of the road. Corrugated steel walls and roofing, single storey and probably 100sqft. Sadly, this wasn’t our destination. Ours was a place imaginatively named ‘Archers Post’ (Or Archer’s Roast as it has come to be known) which lays roughly 8 hours, on dirt tracks, in the bush, amongst the Maasai Tribe.

We pitched up in a tented camp, surrounded by hills and the bizarre tree’s native to hot climates – who’s needles are used as nails by the locals. A few men had been hired as guards at night, so they built up a 5 foot perimeter wall around the camp to keep out the wild life (I.e. Lions and Hyena’s) and stood guard (albeit under the influence of natural drugs from chewing roots).

One night, whilst my platoon and I were sleeping in our mosquito nets, our platoon commander came storming in. He ranted and raved; yelling at us to keep quiet and stop laughing and joking, as we were keeping him up. We awoke with surprise and asked him what on earth he was on about, then the tent fell silent. A wild laughing sound could be heard, close by. Hyena’s, playing amongst themselves and sounding exactly the same as young children laughing. Eerie.

Later on, during the live firing we progressed to company attacks (from individual skills and drills upwards) and during one such attack, lasting 48 hours, we climbed a mountain. Not Anything special, but pretty high none the less. The trail, a mere 2-3 feet wide, was sporadically littered with elephant dung. A surprise to find let me tell you. Looking down from here, onto the plains, you can see Baboons; Zebra; Termite mounds; Elephants and all sorts of wildlife. It was spectacular and a real treat to preserve in the mind.

This adventure wasn’t purely a sight-seeing trek. The work was tough and enduring, it needed to be. It got us used to living out of a daysack; sleeping rough and in the dirt; to pushing through mental blocks in heat, thirst and fatigue; and above all, to keep soldiering skills at very high professional standards throughout. It was a learning experience, especially to get hands on with some superb firepower (and setting fire to the bush!) such as the grenade machine gun (GMG) and .50cal machine gun.

If you get the opportunity, get to Kenya, go to the bush and see the wildlife in its natural environment. I promise, you will not regret it. Apart from, perhaps, the Mosquito’s. At least the Lariam pills (note some of the side effects) will keep you entertained.


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