Selling Like Hot Cake

Trip Start Nov 29, 2004
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Trip End Dec 27, 2004


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Sunday, December 19, 2004

We got up early today to take advantage of the complementary breakfast. No muffins or croissants here - we are talking about real food. Eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes. The most interesting item was the arrowroot (http:// en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/ Arrowroot). Maybe everyone in the world has these every Tuesday, but I had never heard of them. They were really good and tasted like a cross between a freedom fry and an eggplant. The eggs were like rubber, but I was surprised to find Tabasco sauce, and that really brought out the rubbery, eggy goodness. So, Soph and I sat outside having breakfast and playing with the cameras for a spell, then went back to the room and packed up. After a bit of a wait, Mami, Helen, and Munkai drove up.

Our first stop was Menengai Crater (http:// web.umr.edu/ ~rhagni/ Kenya.html). This is still an active volcano, although it hasn't blown in hundreds of years. There are still occasional steam vents, and the Maasai say that the steam spurts are the spirits of long-dead warriors ascending to heaven. I think that's just for the tourists though.

The ascent was via a long, potholed, dry dirt road. Every now and then, we would pass by a small house, and kids would see me and start running "mzungu mzungu! How are you. How are you." Then a 4x4 truck came barreling down past, momentarily blinding us. Did Munkai slow down? No way! Finally, we arrived at the summit, which is the lip of the crater. It is a spectacular view. You can see almost 360 degrees. The view includes the entire town Nakuru, with the lake in the distance. We were up so high that the eagles were actually flying below us. And there were a lot of them, birds of all types flying high enjoying the updrafts around the volcano. We could also see the recent purchase of Kenyan president Kabaki - a brand new farm! It was quite big, but not the biggest. Nakuru is mostly a bunch of farms actually. The downtown area is quite small.

After that, we decided to go to the national park. Munkai didn't want to make me pay the $23 to get in - that is a lot of money in Nakuru. From his perspective, I think it was like forcing a visitor from Canada to pay $150 to go up in the Space Needle, while we pay $13. So, he swung by a bar to talk to a friend about getting me in at the same price as locals - about $2. But, for whatever reason, that didn't work out. So, we continued on to the NP anyway. On the way, we stopped for some film and cash. The lady at the film store was out of the type of film that I needed, so she actually ran out of the store and down the street trying to find me some film. I imagine her plan was to buy it at another store, then return and charge me double. She must think I am stupid and honest, to try and screw me over and leave me standing there in her store all alone.

Needless to say, that $8 roll of film took some of the best pictures ever! No, of course I am joking. It was the free brand new Nikon that made the pictures look so good.

Again I joke. I did leave the store before she came back, but with nothing more than I had when I came in. Anyhoo, I found some film next to grocery store that was having some sort of a sale. There were three people dressed in teletubby outfits out front, dancing to hip hop. Munkai was nice enough to pick up a pair of binoculars on top of that. We also got some cash and chevda (Indian trail mix) and we were off.

Soon we arrived at the park entrance. Munkai tried to just drive right in, but it turns out you have to go back to a little ranger's station and buy tickets. Munkai hopped out of the car to go get our tickets, and we were mobbed by monkeys.

It was cute at first, these little monkeys curiously approaching the car, and playing with each other. They were really all over the place now that I notice. We started throwing them chevda, which they loved. One climbed on the hood, and even poked his head into the open driver's side window. This sent the back seat into screaming fits. I opened my door and held out my open chevda-laden hand. One brave monkey came up and took it out of my hand. Actually, he would kind of brush my hand with his, causing the chevda to fall to the ground, then he would eat it.

After some time, we all made our way over to the ranger station. Nobody bothered to close the windows, and that was the end of our chevda. We saw the brave one scrambling along with the entire bag, trailing chevda behind him. His friends followed. It was then that I noticed the "please don't feed the monkeys" sign. Oops.

As soon as we entered the park, there was a herd of bushbucks standing there waiting for us. Hey that was worth the twenty-three bucks right there. We drove as close to the lake as we could and got within about 500 feet of some zebras. Everyone knows about zebras, but man, are they weird. I mean, what kind of evolutionary joke are those stripes? And the species in Kenya are less like horses and more like donkeys. Poor devils.

As we continued around Lake Nakuru, we were attacked by a large male baboon. We could tell it was male because he was on our windshield. We were moving at about 20 miles per hour, and this thing actually jumped right up on the hood and hung on, staring at us through the windshield. The girls went nuts of course, and Munkai rolled his window down, trying to shoo him away. I went for the cameras and got some good video of this. Munkai honked, and drove erratically, but the windshield wipers finally did the trick. As we drove off, Munkai yelled "asshole!" at the baboon.

Well, after that brush with death, we came upon the Sarova Lion Hill Lodge. And by the way: http://www.kws.org/nakuru.htm. This is supposedly the best lodge in Kenya, according to my guidebook. So, we wanted to have a look. The cool think about the lodge is that it wasn't one building. Each room is a separate manyatta (house). They look like little traditional manyattas but have everything you would need inside. They are connected by a maze of stone sidewalks. There is also a very welcoming front desk, gift shop, huge fancy restaurant, nice pool/sauna, and a large bar/party area. The view from the pool was of the savannah. Just like a postcard. Soph and I want to stay there next time, and we may also send her parents there for their anniversary.

So, we drove on. We saw more monkeys, baboons, and bushbucks. We stopped at one point where we thought we could get close to the lake. Munkai and I walked ahead, the girls stayed in the car. The walk was treacherous, with many ruts and holes, strange noises and unrelenting insects. But soon, we reached the edge of the lake. There were flamingos everywhere. They are very peaceful creatures, standing there up to their ankles in the lake, occasionally sampling a bit of this or that from the water. They sounded kind of quiet but elegant. Like a seagull from Bellevue. As I approached one, to see how close I could get, I finally learned my lesson. African animals are not afraid of me. I turned and ran as fast as my little feet would carry me, all the while picturing that horrible crooked beak ripping into my backside. I don't know when he stopped chasing me, but I made it back to the car in record time. Munkai chose to stay at the edge of the lake. So, I used the opportunity to get the camera. Hey, this could be one for America's Funniest.

Back at the lake, I kept my distance and got some good video of them flying around in a big circle. That sounds dumb but it was really awe inspiring to be that close to all those birds. You know it just struck me how interesting it would be to put some of those plastic garden flamingos in the midst of the real ones, just to see what they would do.

And so we continued. It was about halfway around the lake, when the worst finally happened. The car broke. We came to a stop right in the direct sun. There we were, hotter than Kansas, hadn't seen a soul in hours (unless baboons have souls (which they do)) and we were stuck. Do they have AAA in Kenya? Of course not. Then it would be called AAK. But they do have a mechanic named ... well I don't know his name but Munkai called him and ... sprang into action. Four hours later, we were rescued. In the meantime, the baboons chased me and the girls back into the car, but Munkai chased the baboons away. He is one tough cookie. He actually left the road and started wandering about in the forest. This is a "monkeys and lions and all sorts of wildlife most of which are bigger than humans" kind of forest, so you see how it was. We also pushed the car to a shady spot, that helped a lot. After come confusion about directions, ... finally arrived and attached us to the thinnest of ropes. If you were to bet on the car or the rope, you would choose the car. Yet, the rope held. We all, except for Munkai, hopped into ...'s car to keep the weight down. In the car, there was a little sign that said " The Angles will protect us." Hey, I'm just reporting the facts.

Once we got to the nearest exit, they told us that we had to drive all the way back to the entrance where we came in! Can you imagine, making us turn around and tow that car halfway around the lake? Unbelievable. It was getting late in the day so we decided to drive to town first, so me, Mami, and Soph could catch a mat. We untied the car and left. I don't know what those guys had to do to get that car out, but it probably wasn't fun. The issue, you see, is that ... didn't pay to get in, and he entered through the same entrance we did. All he had was a slip of paper, kind of an African hall pass. I'm not sure why that meant he had to go back to the main entrance, but apparently that makes sense to somebody.

So, we made it back to the mat station on time. It was just as crazy as in Nairobi. On the way home, it was dusk as we passed the various lakes and beautiful ridgelines at dusk. There was also a giant billboard for a certain brand of shoe that proclaimed the shoes were "selling like hot cake." If you don't think that's funny, you are dead. That's kind of like "butt naked" and "duck tape." Anyway, it was dark when we arrived in Nairobi. We trundled for a few blocks to find the matatu that would take us to Rongai. On the way, we walked right by the site where the American embassy used to be. This is the one that was bombed several years ago. The bomb must have been massive. The building covered about half a city block, and the blast blew out windows of every nearby building, including the post office. Which, is where Mami was at the time. She was hit by some flying glass, but was OK. Wow. Now, the place is a memorial park.

We found the mat. It was so big and comfortable I had to wonder why they don't use these to go to Nakuru? Poor Mami found some vomit on her seat, she had to move. Then, we were pulled over in a police inspection. Don't worry, Angles will protect us.
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