Trip Start Dec 22, 2011
129Trip End Apr 18, 2012
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Oh wonders. Yet another early morning. This time the plan was to meet at 6.30 for some juice and leave at 7 for a walk along the river to see the early risers of the animal world, and have a bush breakfast at some stage.
Mr Ranger duly arrived, in camouflage with a rifle slung casually over his shoulder. He looked in dire need of a square meal. Another two locals took up the rear positions, one with rifle, one with stick and we meandered off. So much poo! And tracks! The wet red mud was like a print workshop for footie prints and they were all there, clear as clear. Spotting two little ears peeking out of the swirling muddy river was terrific.. we had seen the hippo prints, and now here were the ears too! We saw baboons, monkeys, assorted birds and the bush where the leopard was seen... but crocodile spotting was the main sport. Watching them slowly slither into the river and disappear made me take a sharp breath as I remembered how we had crossed the river yesterday in a flimsy rubber dinghy
It felt as if we had walked miles. We turned back to the river and round the next corner was an astonishing sight. Breakfast. A table plus white tablecloth all laid out on a little island in the middle of the river, under the shade of a tree... with another table laid out buffet style with fruit, cereals, etc. etc. discreetly to one side was a cook, ready to take our order for eggs, omelettes, sausage, beans, bacon...
There were eight Kenyans who stood or squatted discreetly under the tree to one side. Two rifle men, one guide, one cook, one head waiter and three assorteds to lug tables, chairs, cooking gear and all the rest to the middle of the river. Bizarre.
At one point, they started a fire, and I windered what they were eating as I would rather have had what they were having. It made us wonder what they must think of us, too.
OK, breakfast was very welcome indeed, but it I also felt acutely uncomfortable. I wondered if I would feel as awkward if the “servants” were white.
Filter coffee and endless toast in a little napkin covered basket? HP, Heinz tomato ketchup, marmite and various jams? Weetabix, corn or bran flakes? All in the middle of nowhere on a tiny spit of sand in the middle of swirling muddy brown river?
Too Hollywood for words
Leaving the detritus (obviously) we strolled off to continue our croc watch.
Getting back to the camp, some of the team went off for a snooze, so we took advantage of the cold pool and had a very welcome splosh. In no time, they were laying out our lunch by the pool in a little banana leaf roofed area, supervised by some of the many inquisitive monkeys.
Another game drive after lunch took us to the west of the camp down tracks which did not look as if they had been driven for a long time. The recent rains meant that the whole of the park was very bushy and well covered; this made the trees, shrubs and bushes very pretty, being of varying shades of yellow... but really hard to spot any game.
As we seemed to go more and more off piste, the three game hunters on the roof were increasingly being wiped off and out by the hanging branches and thorn trees which seemed more and more determined to pierce them and then scrape them off the roof altogether. Nick and I were standing looking out, I of course had to stand on the seat to see out... and we were able just to duck inside when the bad boy branches did their worst. The inside of the landrover was fast filling up with assorted leafage..
Eventually we turned back and retraced our tracks through the dense undergrowth and rocky river beds, before turning left and heading up onto the plateau.
Shock horror! We had an eski full of Tusker lager, but NO BITINGS!
A quick detour back to camp to rectify the situation before we then raced plateauwards.
A few more sightings here, before finally scraping through to the height of the plateau where we sat on massive rocks on the top of the world and watched the sun go down behind Kilimanjaro. What a sight. Inbetween was a vast plain of African nothingness, stretching from the sea to our left, to endless plain on our right. In the middle, winding its way across in an easy manner was the river, curving this way and that with mysterious certainty.
Tuskering (avec bitings) as the sun went down, we watched the sky turn ever more magical colours before it disappeared altogether and the world was shrouded in a misty pink glow.
Back in the landrover, now dark, it was a matter of fighting our way back down the steep rocky track
A few bright eyes shone at us through the night.. bush baby stuff.
Andrew had seen something. We backed up and he got out to carefully invite a chameleon off his perch and come and say hello to everyone in the landrover. It was different colours on each side. So smart! He was put back on the branch and we thundered on under the bright moon and twinkling firmament; onwards to yet another meal.
This time we were ushered down to the monkeys sofas down by the river, where they had lit a fire to keep away the potential handbags from getting too friendly. A good thing, as we heard one slither out, and then splosh back into the river rather closer than was absolutely necessary.
After another hard day of overeating and gazing at animal free bushes, it was a relief to get back to the tent, ablute under the open sky watching the little lizards chasing the flying things, before zipping them all out (hopefully) and falling asleep to the sounds of the night.
[pics to follow]