Amboseli in the Shadow of the Mighty Kilimanjaro
Trip Start Jan 08, 2007
59Trip End Apr 30, 2007
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Excursion: World Heritage Site Amboseli Game Preserve in the shadow of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa.
Time: Well, of course they told us to be ready at 6:30AM, and naturally we didn't leave the ship until 8AM, which of course meant we were up at 5:30 and ready to leave by 6:30, when we realized there would be a delay. We returned to the ship about 3PM.
Transportation for excursion: Chartered small plane (1 hour each way), bus, & open air safari vehicle. We were really lucky to have a 9-seat jeep and only ourselves and one other couple, so we could stand up and look out the roof to take pictures (just like the tourists you see on TV).
Highlights: our first sighting of herds of animals, including
· ostrich (probably not known as herds),
· flamingos (definitely not known as herds).
This game preserve was different from the others we've seen because it is marshy in places, and of course has the ever-present plains and forest. The marshes are created by snow melt from the mountain. This supports larger herds of animals, and gave us opportunity to watch their daily jaunt from the woods to the marsh and back again.
The sky is big, like Texas sky. The ground is flat except for the mountain looming over it, covered at the top in clouds.
We saw cheetahs lurking under a tree, stalking a herd of impala. However, the impala were wise to them, and never got close enough for the cheetahs to attack.
I've never seen so many flamingos in one place--it was quite amazing and breathtaking. They look quite a bit like the plastic pink flamingos!
We had both a driver and a tracker in our vehicle, and both were native African. The tracker spoke only Swahili, the driver spoke both English and Swahili. The driver had a fabulous accent, and spoke about elephants as "ellies", and pronounced zebra with a short "e", rhymed with Deborah.
Our driver told us how palm trees came to be inland in Kenya. Originally, palms were only on the coast. In fact, so were elephants--as little as 20 years ago, you could see elephants cavorting in the ocean. As the elephants were driven inland by people because the coast is prime real estate, the elephants carried seeds from the coconuts they'd eaten and the seeds were distributed inland via the ellies "poo-poo".
The Africans we saw in Kenya were makedly different than those we saw in Cape Town and Richards Bay. Most noticable was the Kenyan's teeth, which were very white and in excellent condition. Their faces were smaller and rounder, and their bodies were less muscular, as well. The color of their skin was also different, but I don't know how to describe the difference.
Lunch: buffet at Ol Tukai Lodge and a Masai exhibition in native dress. There were flies trying to share the food with us. I tried pumpkin soup (pumpkin is a staple), arrow root (purple and white, bland and kind of chewy), and ??? (brain damage has kicked in, it will come to me eventually). We ate on tableclothes with cloth napkins, drank the ubiquitous bottled water and coke light from bottles.
Before lunch the Masai offered crafts for sale, mostly beaded necklaces and bracelets, displayed on cloths on the ground. The beaded jewelry was a different style than what we'd seen before --the beads were worked around a cylindrical core, and they were very expensive, e.g., $15 for a choker after haggling. I didn't buy anything because I couldn't imagine anyone, including me, wanting to wear it--it was interesting, not beautiful.
The Masai were interesting salespeople--their style differs from those in South Africa and Richard's Bay. They made eye contact, reached out to shake my hand, and introduced themselves, then asked my name. They were depending on creating a personal bond to entice you, rather than promising a bargain. It made me feel creepy.
After we returned to the ship we took a 15 minute bus ride to a local craft cooperative to shop. I use the word "shop" with reservations, since it didn't include any buying. The wood carvings were beautiful - the artists work in teak or ebony and we could have seen the artists at work behind the shop if we'd had more time. Some of the bowls with animal carvings could have been offered at Neiman Marcus, they were so sophisticated and beautiful. I didn't get anything because I'm still a novice shopper, and couldn't decide.
Driving along the roads in Mombasa gave us some idea of the economy and how the local people live. We saw apartments that resembled projects in New York, and other apartments that were quite a bit better, although certainly not luxurious. There were businesses all along the road and many of them were shanties, although many were real buildings, usually constructed from a type of cinder block. The harbor was very busy and there were lots of businesses and shipping containers there. Mombasa appeared more prosperous than Richards Bay, but we didn't go into the countryside in Mombasa, so appearances could be deceiving.
Dress for dinner was country club casual, which I've now figured out is fairly dressy. It's a darn good thing Deborah lent me so much jewelry and sent me shopping for more skirts. We ate in La Veranda again, it was seafood with an Italian flair, but we both had steak with a Tuscan flair because we had lobster last night. Rough life, huh?