Trip Start Sep 01, 2004
41Trip End Apr 25, 2005
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Our flight from London was long, and was on a fully packed 747. The flight attendant said that they were always full. After the usual airport and taxi games we found our hotel, just in time to go to bed. Another big travel day. The next day we went on a hunt in downtown Nairobi for sleeping bags and pads for the Safari. This was a funny experience since there are really no sporting goods stores in town. We finally found some stuff in a sewing shop that had walls covered with bolts of really beautiful cloth that all of the African women were shopping for. The process was fun and everyone seemed to enjoy the crazy white people bargaining for sleeping pads. After we bought ours, a number of the other women decided that they wanted pads too.
We bought some extra food to take along in case the food was nasty on the Safari. Don got a jar of peanut butter and JoAnn opted for cashews. That night at the hotel we had a pre-meeting and got the first glimpse of our trip mates. Our truck was going to have thirteen travelers and three Kenyan staff. There were three couples and the rest singles. With only three guys, it became apparent who was going to be doing the heavy lifting. JoAnn and I were the oldest by far. They called us the "Old Folks". The age limit is supposed to be 45 but our group was aged 22 to 37 and everyone seemed to accept us. Of course we were the only Americans. Sometimes I feel as if we are the only Americans traveling in this part of the world. There were British, New Zealand, Dutch, German, Irish, and Australians on the Safari.
In Kenya, the Priests give all the Kenyan people "proper" names, so Julius was the trip leader, Joseph was our cook, and Patrict was our driver. I think that some of the kids didn't read the brochures very well since there were lots of long silent gaps when we were told that we were sleeping in tents that we set up, and that everyone had rotating chores that encompassed everything from truck cleaning to dish washing. I think that half of the kids had never slept in a tent, much less set one up. The truck had a huge chassis that had a special built body with lots of storage bins on the bottom and a covered seating area, open on the sides. It looked like it was designed just high enough that the lions couldn't jump in.
The next day was an early one, packing the bags and getting the seating situated, the top priority. We drove to a Super Market, actually about one fourth the size of Senders, and stocked up on the essentials. Three liter bottles of water, toilet paper and digestives. For you non-european folks a digestive resembles a cookie. They only taste like a cookie to someone other than an American. Don doesn't really like digestives unless dinner the night before was vegetarian and only in desperation.
We made our way east and had lunch over looking the great Rift valley. It's this huge valley that from the top edge seems almost fake in it's form and size. It's very beautiful and was a nice first day experience. We feel as if we have entered another dimension.
At this point I have to stop and explain the roads in Kenya. They aren't just BAD, they would be better if they were non-existant. The partially paved portion is about 5 feet narrower than our two lane roads and the potholes can be as deep as 30 inches. There is very little blacktop that separates the potholes. This makes trying to drive between them, next to impossible. I forgot to mention that these are the highways, the secondary roads are worse. It is very dangerous and upon our return to Nairobi we heard that there had been three separate tourist vehicle accidents where many died. There is a system for driving in Kenya. The majority of vehicles are large multi axle trucks that are single trailer. Two to five percent are broken down, in the middle of the road, at the most dangerous turns. Almost no local traffic, other than these small mini type buses with 15-20 people crammed inside. Last but not least, making up maybe 30 percent, are the tourist vehicles which range in size from the mini bus type, to the large Toyota Landcruisers and big trucks like ours. The system for driving seems to revolve around turn signals, brake lights and the horn. I quit trying to understand it after the second day. I suspect you must be Kenyan to drive there. They pass at dangerous times and trying to actually get down the roads is almost a dance. The big trucks have no choice. They just rumble down the road trying to miss as many potholes as possible. Everyone else, us included, get a more free flowing experience. This means that in order to miss the potholes you are allowed to drive on the shoulder, the wrong side of the road or even off the embankment down to a dirt road running parallel to the main road. Of course this makes all four hour trips six hours long.
We drove the first day to Lake Naivasha set up our tents and went on our first game drive. A game drive is a lot like road hunting to you American deer hunters. You drive slowly down dirt roads that are in the middle of nowhere looking carefully for any animals. I have to confess at this point that the African Safari was JoAnn's dream portion and I really only thought that it might be enjoyable. I thought if we could see a few animals, with the binoculars, clearly, over the two weeks I would be satisfied. Was I ever wrong! During the two week safari we saw so many animals, up close, that we constantly had to pinch ourselves. In Africa they call it The Big Five. Thats elephants, rhinos, water buffalo, lion, and leopard, not to mention all of the bird life. We saw them all, many times over, and very close to the truck. When I say close, I mean prides of lions 15 to 20 feet from the truck or water buffalo 10 feet from the truck. I'm sure all of this was possible because our Trip leader/Guide seemed to be able to spot anything and our driver was able to position the truck in just the right places. The first day we saw three of the big five up close. The next day we were at the Masai Mara and saw the huge migration of animals leaving for the Serengeti in Tanzania. Its funny how a herd of thousands of wildebeests don't hold your attention while you look for a leopard with a cub. We also saw so many different animals that JoAnn began writing them down in her notepad, just so she wouldn't forget any. Before returning to Nairobi we stopped at Lake Naivasha again and saw thousands and thousands of pink flamingos along the waters edge. Next time you tune into PBS maybe you'll see us!
We are in Lamu right now and trying to get caught up with our Travelpod entries. The problem is that there is only four computers on the island, all sharing one very poor dial up line. You have to stand in line for at least an hour, just to get a computer. I hope to finish the safari stuff before we leave on Friday and maybe write more before we get to Zanzabar. Remember to vote! You can't believe how much everyone in the rest of the world is praying for Kerry to win. They are all scared shitless that their country is next on Bush's list. It's so sad. They really have nothing, but are afraid of losing the little that they have. Africa really opens your eyes. We hope everyone is doing well and we miss you all. Write us with updates. We enjoy your e-mails a bunch.
Don and JoAnn