Happy New Year everybody!
24.12.2006 - 30.12.2006 22 °C
Thought it was time that I blogged again to let you know about my exciting Christmas. I’d only been here a few days and hadn’t really got friends yet. I have met lots of nice people who will hopefully develop into friends, but most most of them had booked holidays to the coast (near Mombassa). So I was really grateful when the Brazilian UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) intern from upstairs called Napoleon invited me to a little party at a Canadian girls house for 24th night. After attending a carol service at the cathedrale, I made my way to the fun party, complete with Turkey, and reminded me a lot of being in Halls at York with people from all over who had nowhere else to go.
Christmas morning I got up early and not really wanting to hang around in Nairobi with nobody to spend it with I took a Matatu out to Lake Naivasha. A Matatu is a local form of public transport a bit like a smallish minibus, crowded with smelly locals, that drives far too fast. At lake Naivasha I went cycling through Hell’s Gate national park which has some animals stuffed between a beautiful gorge. I saw Zebra, Giraffe’s and Baboons
That evening I went to sleep in a little campsite on top of a hill with a beautiful view over the lake.
Next morning (Boxing Day), after another walk through animals,
I found this Zebra Crossing quite ironic
I visited the house of the lady from the classic film/book Born Free about the lady who hugged a lion called Elsa.
Did a day of work on the 27th, then 28th-30th went on the famous Masai Mara Safari with, again, two girls from upstairs – Claudia and her sister Gabriella (two girls from Bolivia but moved to Sweeden when they were very young). Masai Mara is the pinnacle of African safari experiences. It’s what people come for. All the things you might expect to see in a David Attenburgh documentary, right before your eyes and in July/August it is host to the enormous Wildebeast migration that has recently been designated as one of the 7 natural wonders of the world.
So we left early in the morning, getting a view of the rift valley on the way,
hoping to reach the Mara by early afternoon in time for a few hours of animal spotting. However, a couple of hours along the way we ran into some lorries blocking the road: one broken, the other stuck in mud trying to pass… oh yes, did I mention its been raining heavily and persistently here.
After half an hour or so and some pushing we were on the road for another 20 minutes before reaching another lorry slippage – the blue vehicle had somehow managed to get stuck fully crossing the road.
After another couple of hours in the cue, a path around the lorry was found that involved the minibus slanting at about 40 degrees into the ditch. Needless to say, watching all the human activity surrounding a big blockage was enjoyable with all the people getting very involved.
Also, with Claudia and her sister being the children of a political refugee from Bolivia we had plenty to talk about.
At two further points on the journey we got to unpassable mud splats along the rain drenched road and had to get toed by tractors, jeeps and at one stage toe another minibus ourselves. Along the way we saw a few ostriches and zebra. By the time we reached the Mara, it was already past dark so we had dinner and went to bed.
Next morning we entered the park heavily excited at the thought of finally coming face to face with those lions. With all the rain though, the vehicles had to stick to the main roads through the park and had to therefore hope the animals would come close to us, instead of the other way round. Feeling a little disappointed I have since realised that this is a good thing because the vehicles normally drive all over and cause untold damage to the ecosystem.
Hartebeest were our first spot,
A family of Mongeese
An Aslan like lion
Then a sleepy female lion…
one comment by a fellow tourist is that lions are great, but you rapidly get frustrated with their sleepiness: they spend 18 hours a day sleeping. You want to see blood, the kill, the excitement and the drama. Not just a bunch of lazy oversized pussycats. It’s a bit true, but they really are beautiful anyway.
And it’s incredible how close they’ll come to the vehicle. They are totally un-phased by humans.
A turtle in a puddle
And then we saw a bunch of 10 vehicles in one area and followed down to see what was going on. We couldn’t see anything on this barren hillside…
But, oh, if you look closely, on the far left there’re a couple of hartebeest, and on the right a pair of lions hidden in the undergrowth waiting for the hartebeest to look the other direction. We watched for about half an hour… every now and then they’d sit down and the lion would stand and look excited, but then… nothing. No blood. No runs. But one up still on our other tourist friends.
Next viewing was a bunch of cool elephants.
The baby was cute, throwing dust over itself.
This one’s for Pete.
Next was a pair of lionesses with 5 cubs. So cute, but difficult to get a close up photo.
Then suddenly, the one mother stiffened and prowled off, keeping low and hidden.
The second mother followed
Leaving the cubs looking a little concerned.
We, of course desperate to see blood, trailed the lionesses silently on their hunt in our minibus. One lioness trailed a lone wildebeeast for a kilometre or so, the other followed a warthog. We tried to follow both, but alas, neither was successful at the kill.
That had been an exciting morning. So much life in such a short time and small area. Really, you’d be lucky to drive a couple of kilometres without seeing something cool. And Zebras and antelope are very quickly considered to be too numerous and boring to stop for. It’s incredible.
After a good lunch we headed out again in the rain for a couple more hours, but saw less.
The highlight being a pride of lionesses looking damp and unhappy in the rain.
And a really cool tree.
So, after our first day we’d seen three of the ‘big five’ namely buffalo, lions and elephants. Still lacking the shy leopard and rhino. But what I really wanted to see was a cheetah. The girls and I shared a beer and dinner and went to sleep in our tents, lulled by the gentle rain,
Final morning we left the camp at 6 am in the hope of catching some sights before breakfast. Our driver/ guide, Nick, wanted to leave by 10 am since the road was so bad and he was keen (for safety’s sake) to get back to Nairobi before nightfall.
After a night of rain, it rained all morning. We drove and drove and drove hoping to catch some animals, but there was nothing. Nothing. None of the vehicles were seeing anything (they all keep in touch by radio telling eachother where to look). It was still raining, and we were getting wet in our open topped minibus. We were just giving up when the radio crackled into life… we might be lucky, whispered Nick…. And increased his speed.
And there, round the next corner, she was.
A beautiful cheetah. Sleek, feline, damp sitting on her haunches surrounded by vehicles and lapping up the adoration. We could have watched her for hours. But she got fed up of the attention and stalked off, slowly at first, and then she went for the chase and disappeared behind some bushes. I hope she ate.
I forgot my camera though
On the way home, we got stuck in more mud,
Picnicked in more rain
And said hello to some giraffes