Kenyan Savannah in a Wheelchair
The Savannah is like a free thought in a mind, it has no barriers and can give you an omnipotent feeling of freedom. Now picture the wheels that run through it, raising the red dust of its beaten tracks to the sky, are those of two wheelchairs and the thoughts are those of two special and courageous boys like Danilo and Luca from Viaggio Italia.
For the two adventurous disabled that we have already followed in the first stage of their Kenyan tour organized by Africa Eclectic, the time has come to compete with the majestic animal Kingdom and the infinite spaces of the equatorial landscape.
Before leaving Nairobi for Voi, they start with a cultural appetizer: a visit to the Karen Blixen museum, followed by an emotional experience at the Giraffe Center, the place where these splendid specimens with long necks and eyelashes are the guest stars. Moving on to the fantastic nursery of the Sheldrick Foundation for a close encounter with orphaned elephants, a rendezvous that reciprocates amazement and pleasure of being in the presence of such purity.
More wild animals to be seen as they enter the Tsavo National Park aboard the comfortable off-road vehicles of Afreeca Eclectic…
But Danilo and Luca are only satisfied as they protrude with the electric wheelchairs of their design, right in the middle of it, feel free at the navel of the world. Alongside the cameramen and their guardian angels, Alberto Jean Pierre and Silvia they become KWS rangers. It is the scene they had dreamed of for so long, the desired Africa and the thrill they so often imagined.
“The Savannah immediately puts me completely at ease, says Danilo, giving me a feeling of serenity and making me think about how much beauty there is in the world, so much nature and so many spaces that have not yet been spoiled by the human hand; fulling my lungs and letting my body enjoying the purity of the air “.
An unforgettable day can only have a significant epilogue: aperitif at sunset and dinner among the acacias, the red earth, under the infinite celestial vault.
Not much to add as for anyone who has crossed the Tsavo knows the incredible eternal effect that it has over the heart, over the soothing of wounds and ability to experience the meaning of life. Much like offering two pairs of wings to those that cannot walk but feel free and happy like the zebras and the antelopes that they see darting through the green expanses of Aruba.
Danilo and Luca’s next Kenyan encounter for Sunday is landing at the Indian Ocean, in Mambrui.
Kenya beyond limits
How to organize a trip to Kenya? Must be one of those real, soul-enriching experiences that makes the adrenaline rise and fills the heart with excitement. Whether you choose to wander the disconnected lanes of the slum of Kibera, the splendor of Tsavo with the sense of freedom of the savannah, or experiencing an encounter with elephants and lions. Maybe you will find yourself landing on the shores of the Indian Ocean, enjoy the reception of Mambrui or the golden beach of Chale with its dunes ready to be challenged with the quad. Well, how about immersing yourself in the marine nature of the fascinating creek of Kilifi aboard waterjets? Discovering the Malindi market where they encounter a sea of smiles from the locals. No doubt about it, it is a varied, well-structured tour!
But there is something even more incredible: the protagonists of this “safari” are two “special” guys: Danilo Ragona and Luca Paiardi experiencing all aboard “off-road” wheelchairs designed by themselves.
Both in their forties, disabled since they were twenty, they have adapted and reinvented an alternative life, placing voyaging at the center as existential medicine as well as trying to empower others dealing with the same condition.
Danilo and Luca have created “Viaggio Italia”, a traveling format around the world that shows how anyone can have this experience despite having physical limitations and problems that for many appear as insurmountable barriers.
The Italian TV channel Rai broadcast “Kilimanjaro” documentary this year showing the two guys struggling with surfing and other beach sports in Fuerteventura. The crew filmed the Himalayan adventure with them and finally, thanks to the organization of Afreeca Eclectic, a tour was born to support these projects, with a strong philanthropic vocation and with “packages” dedicated to different abilities, crowned with the dream of Kenya.
The two believe that what might seem limited doesn’t mean it’s impossible, but that certain conditions can be overcome and Africa, for the first time for both, has put them to the test from this point of view. This trip convinced them even more of their mission and fortune that they were able to build in the shadow of their disability.
“Our trip to Kenya was also the ideal mold to start new projects, says Danilo, who is an industrial designer and designed among other things the wheelchairs; to create travel packages that, thanks to Afreeca Eclectic, many other people like us will be able to experience. We believe we are traveling experiments and want to turn our ideas and experiences into reality for others “.
Luca, an architect with a passion for tennis (still playing) and music, also considers the African adventure the launch of a great initiative to be repeated and promoted: “This experience in Kenya, organized in this way, in great safety and with people experienced and passionate, is certainly to be recommended and must become a classic “.
Certainly, the adventure, which malindikenya.net will tell in episodes in the coming days, will become a documentary project and will probably be televised.
“We are really excited to have had Danilo and Luca as the first testimonials of our special trips, comments the Afreeca Eclectic staff, and as organizers we are particularly happy to have found great willingness to launch this type of “safari” in Kenya and the entrepreneurs in the tourism sector, in particular, Ashnil Hotels, Kola Beach of Mambrui and Olimpia Club of Malindi and Kilifi “.
The disabled people of Viaggio Italia from the last of Kibera
They have never been to Africa, but they have dreamed it, just as they have always dreamed of freedom, adventure. Not an easy thing to achieve when life has challenged them since they were still boys. Danilo Ragona and Luca Paiardi met at the age of twenty at the Turin Spinal Unit.
The first was about to be discharged after the accident had forced him into a wheelchair for life, the second was yet to process the drama that had struck him. Two accidents, one in a car and one on a motorcycle, a friendship that developed into a courageous, praiseworthy idea: to reinvent life and be an example to those in the same condition.
Now Danilo and Luca, after having experienced the inexorable poverty of India and the less desperate poverty of Brazil, are about to visit one of the poorest and most derelict neighborhoods in the world, the Kibera slum.
While they walk through the congested and disconnected lanes, among the rivulets of open drains, tin shacks, sharp stones, and brushwood, they are welcomed with smiles of astonishment and by a reception to which perhaps they were not prepared.
The Afreeca Eclectic team, which organizes social safaris, innovative and out of the classic style of the “mal d’Afrique”, has decided to “baptize” them with the most emotionally powerful, most touching visit.
The slum crowd gather to see these two “mzungu” with cross wheelchairs, go through the founding of Stuart Mc Grevy, an Englishman who created a rugby school and a social project that encourages learning through study and feeds a few hundred kids from Kibera.
Danilo and Luca experience the mix of strong sensations that the biggest slum of Nairobi reserve to those who immerse themselves as spectators.
“Contact with life in the slum was a very engaging experience, Luca admits, and it was constructive to be able to compare oneself with the associations that work to improve the lives of these people. They have our same philosophy, to give a signal of positivity, a possibility and, a solution even when faced with difficulties “.
But the emotional climax for the two special protagonists of Viaggio Italia was yet to come; having left Kibera, they pay a visit to the young patients of the Nairobi Spinal Injury Hospital. A leap in the dark also brings chills for the expert guides of Afreeca Eclectic, who thanks to the courage and positivity of Danilo and Luca wanted to experience something new: the encounter between two disabilities so apparently different, but so substantially equal.
“The impact on entering the spinal center of Nairobi was very hard, ice cold, tells Alberto Michieli of Afreeca Eclectic, Kenyan disabled children initially welcomed those visitors in wheelchairs with coldness as if they were privileged. But Danilo and Luca, after an understandable moment of disorientation, took the situation in hand and opened up to the patients of the centre, answering all the questions, even the most embarrassing ones. After a while, the atmosphere took a turn when personal experiences shared, when speaking about the intimate implications of the life of those who have to deal with serious motor disabilities. The “mzungu” with “very cool” wheelchairs have become more than friends, an example to follow, a hope.
“Deep, touching and really useful, having had an unfiltered comparison with the patients of the spinal center”, says Danilo. Unfortunately, the means and tools to make life more peaceful for those who had the same fate have not yet arrived here, but it has significantly gratified us to become a reason for learning and awareness for them “.
The first days on African soil was full of emotions and incredibly authentic, in a climate of tranquility and security, but also tiring for Danilo and Luca. It is time to rest and mentally review all the images, words and sounds that go through their heads.
The next opportunity is to experience another aspect of Kenya, among friendly giraffes, baby elephants and the splendor of the savannah!
Between the ocean and the beach: peace of Mambrui
From the savannah of East Tsavo to one of the virgin beaches of the Indian Ocean, one sense of freedom to another, all in one country: Kenya. A country which offers the traveler so much from for the variety of landscapes, nature to the ideal climate. If we then add the encounter with different cultures, different social situations and various ways of interacting and cooperating, few nations in the world can guarantee a similar tonality.
This is well known by the Tour Operator “Afreeca Eclectic” which organizes special safaris, which combine the exciting and intrinsic beauty, knowledge, encounter and social issues. It is now known to the two special friends of “Afreeca Eclectic” and Kenya, Danilo Ragona and Luca Paiardi, through their testimonial with “Italy Journey” program which experienced a truly unique week.
So from the Ashnil Lodge of Aruba, the greenest heart of the savannah, the two men walk through the Galana valley until they reach Mambrui, at the foot of the beautiful golden beach of Chale and its wild dunes, awaited here by a sunny and colorful marine world: the “southern” world. Where they encounter smiles, simplicity and dignified poverty, compared to the desperate and lawless slum.
Waiting for them is Antonello Di Mauro, owner of the Kola Beach Resort, a resort chosen by Afreeca Eclectic to better accommodate the two and their crew and to allow them to capture this journey whose testimonials will become a document to be broadcast on television. How best to continue but with an Italian style meal relaxing in the company of fellow countrymen. Followed by the excitement of a ride on a tuk-tuk, with local drivers who give them their driving seat, arranging a rudimentary but effective “handbrake”, but above all the adventure on the endless shoreline of the golden beach.
“ We were greeted by a beautiful surprise: two quads with which we could go to beaches and the hut villages. A fantastic sensation being guided by instinct while surrounded by nature and driving with the sole reference of the sun hid behind the ocean, says Danilo, instinct shows you the way before anything else. When we listen to instinct we find ourselves again. It is a terrible mistake to let any natural, physical or mental impulse stagnate as instinct knows no obstacles, but illuminates our life and that of those around us “.
In the peace of Mambrui, pampered by the Kola, Danilo and Luca found time to visit the Mambrui Primary and Secondary school.
“In this school funded by both student fees and donations from international associations (including Italy), boys and girls from all over the region study. They also have a division for disabled students, although with few resources, explains Luca, studying is the most important resource: the real, authentic rebels, are those who study: with rigor, passion, and responsibility “.
Jetskis and the Malindi welcome.
The fantastic Danilo and Luca of “Viaggio Italia” who, thanks to the Tour Operator “Afreeca Eclectic”, had a taste of how diverse Kenya is, could only end their unforgettable holiday on a high and in a truly unique way.
The two entrepreneurs who have created a television format and even designed the special wheelchairs on which they travel the world, they have climbed the Himalayas, fought with the wind and the Canarian waves, danced among the colors, the beauty and poverty of Brazil, discovered the most dubious sides of India and now first glimpse of the African exploration. But was missing was experiencing riding a jet ski since in Europe, venturing on a jet ski is not accommodated for a disabled person.
It is not common knowledge to most that Kilifi creek allows such an experience in safety.
Alberto Michieli, Jean Pierre Monti and Silvia Boschetti of “Afreeca Eclectic” have relied on Olimpia Club, which from Malindi organizes the excursion, with accommodation in the Houseboat anchored on the bay and where above all you can taste the freshest and tastiest oysters off the coast Kenyan, as well as other local cuisine specialties, prepared by the patron Pasquale Pes.
This is how yet another memorable adventure emerged, demonstrating that safaris in Kenya may have no limits.
“Sport is an instrument of health and social cohesion, and it is an important point in the fight against discrimination, the guys from Viaggio Italia explain. Swapping a wheelchair for a jet ski can present some challenges, but once on it … it’s pure adrenaline! The folds, the wind in your face and splashes, but also the possibility of reaching or seeing points that cannot be reached from inland. Using the sport itself to talk about accessibility can create an opportunity to improve the conditions of many “.
Last by not least the experience of a local orphanage, with the help of Italian friends, and a visit to the Malindi fruit and vegetable market.
“The Malindi market is one of the pulsating places of the city, tell Danilo and Luca, where you can really find everything, surrounded by a multitude of colors and flavors”.
With wheels that have covered miles of stony alleys, savannah clay, golden sand, coral paths; eyes that have absorbed the wonder of the sky, of the endless expanses, of plants and trees, of ocean waves, gaze that has met the eyes of smiling children, hopeful young people, hands shook with social workers, doctors, rangers and many, many Kenyans who have welcomed them in the best way, it must be said that this is the setting for an absolute, surprising and unique holiday that Kenya has to offer.