Tour # 4 begins in Nairobi. There were supposed to be 3 of us but the others cancelled at the last minute. It’s just me !!!! Me and the driver. We’re in a pop-top van this time..no big overland truck.
We take the road through the Rift Valley en route to the Maasai Mara. In the valley below is the Longonot Earth Satelite Station. On the way we stop at a local maasai village where I am taken inside one of the houses. They have no power of course so a fire is lit. Its very hot and I dont want to offend my maasai guide by going outside. We sit on the edge of a bed. Everything is surrounded by dirt. Theres an old lady holding a newborn baby in her arms. Shes the grandmother I’m told. I wonder what sort of life this baby has been born into. Cooking in a pot over the fire is maize..their staple diet. On one side of the house is a room for the parents and the other side for the children. Theres only one bed so they obviously all bunk in together. The next room is for the baby animals…calves and kids and lambs. The cows etc sleep in the centre of all the houses to protect them from lions. Once outside I see an old lady sitting up next to the side of the house making a necklace. I ask to sit beside her and she offers to show me how its done. My guide is pleasantly surprised to see me interacting in this way. There are young children too with flies all over their faces. This is really primitive living but its all they know. The houses are built by the women. They collect the sticks and plaster the sides with cow dung. They are responsible for all the work with cooking and children. They milk the cows and and gather firewood….sometimes from many kilometres away. They fetch water. The men are responsible for the protection of the family and tending the herds !! All manual work is for the women. A man can have 5 wives , or more if he has the cows. It costs 25 cows for one wife. The first wife is decided by his father. He must give equal time to each wife..and can ‘visit’ more than one wife in a night if he chooses. He can do as he pleases with her and she must not complain for fear of a beating by her father. She can produce a baby every 9 months if the man decides he wants another baby. Hence…large and extended families. The elders are not happy about the younger ones getting an education as they dont want the culture to die. All this information I got from a maasai I met a few days later. Some of these men have very refined features and with all their regalia on they look quite stunning. One man let me wear his hat which was made from a lion he had killed. He showed me how he blew a ‘message’ on a buffalo horn. All in all, it was an interesting visit.
We arrive at Keekorok Lodge in the heart of the Mara. It is beautiful and certainly not what I have been accustomed to previously. There are porters running around everywhere. At reception I am given a warm cloth to wipe the hands and face followed by a glass of passionfruit juice. Yay….could get used to this. My room is big and has a definite african flavour. Gorgeous. There’s lots of tourists here and I later hear that I am conspicuous because I am on my own. Some are envious that I have a vehicle to myself. This lodge even has it’s own hippo pool and the hippos wander on the lawn at night. The grounds are like a park. Its lunch time and it’s 3 course !!! Up until now its been lunch on tin plates from the truck. What a difference.
Each day at 3.30pm it’s coffee / tea time and game drives leave at 4pm until sunset. Such organisation. It’s like clockwork. We see 6 large lions right on the side of the road. Up until now I havent really been happy with my photos of male lions but that changes as the beasts saunter right past the van door and sit on the road. My driver is excellent at getting the best vantage point for photos and he stops when and where I ask him…..you can do this when you’re on your own ( perks ). I am the only one looking straight at this male lion with his teeth bared. Got it !!! Next theres 3 cheetahs sleeping on a mound in the afternoon sun. Lazy things wont move though. As the sun sets over the large herd of buffalo, we make our way back to the lodge. A 3 course meal awaits . The bar staff and waiters are very friendly. Its most welcoming, I must say.
A morning game drive begins with coffee / tea at 6am and leaving at 6.30. Again I am the only one in the best place to get a good photo of the elusive black rhino. Got it !!! Next on the list….lions eating their evening kill. All these vans and 4×4’s have radio contact between them and if a good sighting is seen , they all converge on the given spot. Why is eveyone looking at me ? Is it the hair ? No…I am on my own. A yummy breakfast awaits then the day belongs to me so an afternoon siesta is the plan. Now this is how to do a real safari !! The afternoon drive yeilds another lion eating the kill and another black rhino sighting. Back at the lodge I have booked a massage and facial to top off my last tour. Its in a tent at the bottom of the garden. Theres a light rain and its dripping softly on the roof., theres subdued lighting…get the picture ??? When I get to the restaurant for dinner, because I have been here for 2 nights, they have reserved my table just for me. They remember which one and they remember my room number. I am on a fuss. NICE ! This place is packed with people and I am but one single and yet they make me feel special. After dinner we are treated to a display of maasai chanting and their famous jumping dance. I recognise some of them from the village tour . Two taiwanese tourists ask if they can have a photo with me as they have been observing my hair. ” Beautiful woman ” they say. The other tourists look on with smiles and me with disbelief !!
On our way to Lake Nakuru the following day the roads were atrocious. They have a base of rocks and the top layer has worn off so the rocks protrude. The driver goes the same speed as normal and the whole van rattles and shakes. The dust pours in and I can see daylight through the closed door frame. All of a sudden he stops and gets out saying he suspects a flat tyre. Flat tyre indeed !! It is ripped to shreds , smells of burning rubber and smoke is coming out the numerous holes. Needless to say…its knackered. Hakuna Matata….off with the old and on with the new. He has more than one spare..for obvious reasons. Whilst waiting for repairs a maasai warrior emerges from somewhere in the trees and stands to observe, not saying a word. He leans on his stick .
All along the side of the road little children are waving as the van approaches. They live in bad conditions but they still seem happy. Its getting a little greener as we go north. Theres lots of maize and wheat being grown. Donkeys are prevelent and are often seen carrying huge loads of charcoal on their backs. Sometimes they have minders who hit them with a stick to keep them on their path. At the lake it seems the millions of flamingoes have flown to better eating places because of the drought. There are still hundreds here though. White rhinos are common here and they come very close to the vehicles. The first time I have seen this. The little baby is so cute . Its also my first sighting of the beautiful Rothschild giraffe. It has different markings to the other breeds …very clean and neat. My favourite. The animals here are not in good condition and covered in dust from the lake edge. The rains need to come soon.
Only one night is spent at Lake Nakuru then its a long drive with picnic lunch south to Amboseli via Nairobi. Amboseli lies at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro and its usually only in the early morning that it can be seen clearly. I saw it from my bedrrom window !! Wonderful. Getting to Ol Tukai Lodge required a drive across the Kalahari Desert. In the distance you would swear you could see water and yet there is none. An obvious mirage. One very lone giraffe walks slowly in need of water. It will be a long trek for the poor animal.
My first game drive is depressing to say the least. Rain has not fallen in Amboseli for more than 2 years. Everywhere there are dead and dying animals. The rest look sick or thin. The stench is revolting. One buffalo on the side of the road near death ( or so I thought ) was still there the following morning. Apart from a slight twitch of the ear, it showed no signs of life. Its a long and uncomfortable death for these creatures. And yet man cannot tamper with the ways of nature. They are left to be. Even the only two lions we saw looked ill. One half hearted attempt to kill a wildebeest produced nothing. And even if they eat the dead animals, its not healthy for them.
The following morning game drive was much the same. The elephants that are famous in these parts have either gone elsewhere or died. There are no trees for the animals to shelter as they have , in years gone by, been destroyed by the elephants. I declined the afternoon game drive as I didnt want to see any more. Its heartbreaking. And this time I spent talking to the maasai who frequents this beautiful lodge. His information on his culture was very interesting. He told me he had been a World Vision sponsored child but was never allowed to find or know who his sponsor was. He has no idea which country they come from. He has been educated up until his last two unite. He needs 30,000 ksh to finish. He talked about kidnapping his brother from his village and taking him away to school without his fathers knowledge. He wanted to thank his sponsor for giving him the opportunity to learn but is unable to do so. He wrote me a list of swahili words to learn as this is the native language of Kenya. Whenever I use it the people smile and love it. In fact, they love me so much they asked me not to leave….oohhh isnt that nice ? Ol Tukai Lodge is a wonderful place ( apart from the distressed animals outside the fence ) with all the porters and waiters again running after me. When they saw me sitting alone they would always come up and chat. Needless to say…I will be busy e mailing these local guys when I get home as they all want to keep contact. Such friendly people.
My visit to Kenya was short but most memorable. I would have to say its my favourite of the 9 countries I have visited in Africa so far.
I have seen and done so much in my time here and have marvelous memories and thousands of photos. I have made long time friends along the way. One , in fact will be visiting me in NZ in February. My good friend Loes from Holland who shared a large part of my trip with me. Before I came here I was told, more than once, that I would return as there is something special about Africa. I cant put my finger on it, but its true. On leaving here I will be leaving a little part of me.
When I was in Lusaka I bought a beautiful book on African cultural practices and in that book is a quote……” When you come ,you own the journey…..when you leave, the journey owns you ”
How very true.
Kwaheri for now….I shall return.