Book Review – Kenya: A mountain to Climb, by Rod Wood

Five years after a life changing journey to “The Roof of Africa”, Rod Wood fulfils a promise to himself to return to East Africa. He undertakes to climb the continents second highest peak, Mount Kenya…”

As the book begins, we meet Rod as he is starting to prepare to travel to Kenya with his fiancée Jane; the ideal flights he had booked and itinerary they were going to do including mountain trekking, safaris and a relaxing in a beach club and spa. Except that trip ends up being way too expensive, so they had to forget that one and find cheaper ways to visit Kenya. After a few struggles (to the point where we, and I imagine Rod too, wondered if they were ever going to make this journey), and realisations that Jane could no longer go, the trip was arranged. Even when Rod developed a medical event that required surgery close to his flying out date, due to his resilience and passion for it, everything thankfully went ahead as planned.

Once we reach the chapters when Rod makes it to Africa, it becomes clear he demonstrates a gift of describing what he sees so eloquently. The reader can easily imagine being there with him, and is like the readers eyes are opened in a new way. The itinerary starts in Africa by travelling to Naro Moru and climbing up Mount Kenya. We get to meet his travelling guides and hear about their views on climate change and politics, which is always current on everyone’s mind’s in the country. It is written well in that you feel like you are beside Rod when he deals with the cold temperatures encountered, the long days of trekking, and altitude sickness. It seemed to me that climbing Mount Kenya was more of a bonus experience that was planned rather than the main aim, as Rod explains “…And this wasn’t all I had come for, I had come back to Africa to see its wildlife.”

He then returns to Nairobi and visits the Mara National Reserve, which is an area of preserved wilderness, allowing the wildlife to roam free as nature intended. Here he gets to see wildebeests, zebras and giraffes amongst other animals as he had always dreamed of. Throughout the book, you can feel his love of animals. Not only because of his profession as a vet, but also by the childlike awe-ish way you read about him wishing to see the wildlife and his way of describing them to us. After these experiences, he travels to Nakuru (which he explains was very dry for the season due to climate change) and then Amboseli where he sees his beloved elephants.

I found myself getting into the story more the further I read of the book as it feels to me personally as if the author relaxes more as the story goes on and more of his personality is shown in his writing. As with many tasks in life, you can plan successfully, but you will feel more at ease with the longer the event goes on, and you can start to tell jokes and friendly quips as the author does here, including a pun on having crocodile meat: “I was quite happy to turn down the croc next time it came around, and that wasn’t a snap decision!”

Structurally, a refreshing touch to the book is that the author includes some photographs of the trip which is a nice way to break up the writing but also gives the story some authenticity and feels more like a friend sharing his story with you.

Overall, I got the feeling that although parts of Africa’s political status is dire and changeable, his journey meeting the locals and seeing the wildlife was quite peaceful and you get a sense of freedom with it. As so much happened to Rod on a daily basis, as you can imagine some the chapters are quite long and detailed, but you come away with a rewarding feeling similar to going through the experience yourself. I actually learnt some pub quizworthy facts by reading this book ( who knew a group of giraffes was called a tower?!. I didn’t). This is a book I was kindly gifted and previously haven’t come across any of the author’s work before, but since reading “Kenya: A Mountain to Climb”, I may pick up Rod’s previous title “Kilimajaro, My Story” to learn how his love for Kenya started, and first journey evolved into an adventure worth sharing.

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