Rupi Mangat: Travelling to the Future
Rupi Mangat is a traveller, writer and recently a blogger. She has been to every nook and cranny in Kenya and she has amazing stories to tell through her numerous adventures. She has close to two decades’ experience as a travel writer for traditional print publications, and has slowly learnt to embrace new media. You can now keep up with stories of this bubbly African trotter on her new website www.rupimangat.co.ke.
KENYABUZZ: Where are some of the places in Kenya you have travelled to?
RUPI: Better to ask where l haven’t been – Mandera, Wajir, Lorian Swamp, Lokichogio. I’m sure l was born with an itch in my foot. So, in Kenya – pretty much all over the place.
KENYABUZZ: What is the one place in Kenya that you found to be uniquely memorable?
RUPI: There are quite a few – but for starters: Mathews Range. It’s magical. This chain of mountains stretching 80kms in northern Kenya is so little explored and full of endemic plants like the cycad, Encephalarctos tegulaneus that’s dubbed the ‘living fossil’ – it can withstand fire and grows barely five millimetres a year. A 15-foot cycad could easily be several hundreds of years old. And if you want to see the only species of cactus indigenous to Africa, this is the place to head to. The cactus – Rhipsalis baccifera – is a departure from the normal cactus, and grows like an epiphyte on the higher branches of trees. There are no access roads beyond the forest at 5000 feet (highest peak is the Warges at 8000ft) and little touched by the human hand. So, it’s one of the most intact forests left in Kenya – virtually an island forest in the desert – with elephants, some lions, spectacular trees, the crystal-clear river The Ng’eng, that’s the lifeline there.
Sarara Camp, Matthews Range (Courtesy: www.bushtracks.com)
Then there’s Taita Hills – the mist mountains – the home of a little songbird Taita Apalis that can become Kenya’s first bird to become extinct if we don’t start to restore the forest patches. Then l love the ocean – Kenya’s amazing Indian Ocean and its islands with the fascinating history going back 2000 years and the ocean life, the coral gardens, the whales, sharks, dolphins, turtles… the more remote the ocean, the better it gets.
KENYABUZZ: Which place(s) in Kenya would you recommend for a weekend getaway?
RUPI: Weekend getaway – I guess you mean from Nairobi? Because if l was at the coast or in Kisumu or in Maralal, my answers would be very different. So, from Nairobi, if it’s cold, Olorgesailie the prehistoric site 60km south of Nairobi on the floor of the Great Rift Valley. It’s got everything – birds, bigger wildlife like antelopes to look out for and the mountain to climb (never climbed it though). It’s the site of our ancestor Homo erectus living around there about a million years ago and starting the first, so to speak, industrial factory – for hand axes that have been found and kept on site. It’s an amazing, amazing place. And if you hang around with the researchers the intrigue deepens.
If it’s hot and l want a cooler place, Nairobi National Park for a game drive. I’m still awed by this little wild spot on our doorstep that still has lions and leopards, critically endangered vultures. And then, just the beauty of space, to be away from the crowds.
KENYABUZZ: How long have you been blogging?
RUPI: Serious blogging, about two years. Technology hasn’t been my strongest point. I’ve been travel writing for the Saturday Nation magazine since the first copy in 1998. Next year, 20 years.
KENYABUZZ: What inspired you to start blogging?
RUPI: To keep up with the times. l was so old-school just happy to be published in newspapers and magazines. But l kept getting asked to put my stuff online by mostly youngsters. So, l had to learn how to do a blog. Now I’m working on getting a smartphone and getting on Instagram – yeah, I’m really ‘old world’.
KENYABUZZ: How would you describe your blog?
RUPI: It’s very simple to navigate. It’s all about my travels and researchers telling me what they are doing. I have to upload stuff from two decades ago – working on that. Travel is all about learning, becoming aware and taking care of the planet that we call home, so in my travels I’ve met and keep meeting researchers, naturalists and people who just really love what they do – and it’s their passion that l put into words for people to become aware and to care for the earth and all its beauty.
KENYABUZZ: What is your nationality? (and age if you do not mind)
RUPI: Honey, I’m a true blue-blood Kenyan – born, raised, educated – everything in Nairobi. I’m hitting 56 this year – but I forget that most of the time, till l have to think about it like now. Most days I feel 16.
KENYABUZZ: Apart from blogging what else do you do?
RUPI: Travel – I’m planning my next trip now to Tanzania by bus. Dreaming about where to go next after I finish the articles. I never write while travelling – I just like to stare out of the window, talk to people etc. I write for magazines like the East African magazine – Nation; Swara – The East African Wild Life Society. So, it involves research, traveling to sites, meeting people. I started helping out the Wildlife Clubs of Kenya (a youth organization started out in 1968 for youngsters interested in wildlife) in 1990. It’s where l ‘trained’ to write because the magazine Komba was struggling. Today, it’s the oldest magazine for the youth on wildlife and environment conservation – nearly hitting half a decade! And I’m still the ‘self-appointed editor’. And l work out like mad. When I’m in Nairobi, it’s the gym every other day. Got to stay in shape!