African Trails

Trip Start Feb 05, 2006
Trip End Jun 24, 2006

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Thursday, March 16, 2006

Hi everyone,
Hope you are all well. We are now in Kenya and loving it! We arrived here at 4am and were picked up at the airport by Smiley and we soon realised why this was his name as even at this ungodly hour he laughed all the way to the camp we were staying at! We saw some zebras as soon as we left the airport just wandering along the road so that was so exciting. We stayed for a couple of nights in Nairobi and then me, Tim, Bridgette (who we met in Nairobi) and Jason an American guy left in a vehicle resembling a van for transporting prisoners and were on our way to Nakuru. It was only 170km from Nairobi to Nakuru but it took 7 hours because of the roads which had massive potholes, stones, limited bitumen, sandstorm, roadblocks and animals! The baboons were all over the road and were sooo cute although some of the males are quite large and aggressive so when they approached the van we had to quickly shut the windows. After the baboon encounter we got stuck in a sandstorm which resulted in no visibility at all but the funny thing was that our driver just kept driving into it and laughing and saying "I can't see where I'm going!" We eventually made it to Nakuru where we met up with the overland truck which we have been on for the past week. There are 10 of us altogether including, Gavin our driver. Gavin is more adventurous than all of us put together and has been working as a tour operator in the outback of Australia for the past 10 years. He recently lost the top of his finger to a burrowing asp snake which he was trying to pat! He doesn't stick to itineraries or rules, has no fear and makes the trip up as he goes which has resulted in us having many crazy adventures! The other passengers on our trip include, 3 poms, 2 Aussies, 2 kiwis, a saffa and an American all different ages which has added to the madness of this past week! Also, before we left Nairobi we met these two crazy English boys who were half way through an 8 month trip through east and west African and told us not to bother taking malaria tablets as they don't work and lot's of people they met had got malaria several times and just overcame it, there other tips included drinking the tap water as it will save us loads of money on bottled water (ummm not quite ready to risk Guardia yet)!!

At Nakuru we did an all day game drive where we saw giraffe, zebra, rhino (and a baby one!), gazelle, impala, thousands of pink flamingoes and pelicans, maribu stalk, lizards, monkeys, Buffalo, baboons, ostriches, eagles, and elan.. whew!! It was so exciting there were cameras and video cameras clicking everywhere and we were jabbering away like excited school kids. We were so close to the animals I couldn't believe it. I was so happy because even though I expected to see animals here in Africa nothing prepares you for the buzz to see them in the wild and to be able to be so close to them.

From Nakuru we drove across the floor of the rift valley to lake Naivasha where we camped for 3 nights and were lucky enough to see hippo! The camp is protected by an electric fence which stops the hippo's coming too close as sadly a lady was killed there by one recently. Apparently they are the most dangerous animals in Africa after the elephant. We also went on a walk where we were able to walk among giraffe and zebra. Tim climbed Mount Longonot and caught in a torrential downpour and Jason (the American) climbed it in jandals (thongs for you Aussies) and also managed to get his balls caught in the barbwire fence as they scaled down the backside of the mountain in the mud!! He is ok now though! I gave the mountain a miss since I was still recovering from the climb a few days beforehand up Mount Sinai in Egypt and biked through Hell's Gate National Park instead where there are usually tonnes of animals except it has been so dry recently that most of the animals we saw were dead so that was a shame! We did have a close encounter with 3 bulls though and thought they were going to charge at us because the girl, Bridgette that I was with was wearing red shorts and a red fleece. We didn't get charged but were a bit wobbly on our bikes as we rode off and the bulls kept looking at us the whole time.
We also visited Elsemere which is where Joy and George Adamson lived and was home to Elsa (the Lion) from the book and movie called Born Free. They have converted the house into a museum which is really interesting and also put on this great afternoon tea in the front garden which is filled with birds and colubus monkeys, you have to be careful though because those monkeys sure are cheeky and will steal your food as soon as you turn your head! One of them dashed off up a tree with my orange - so funny.

After Naivasha we headed to the Masai Mara Game Reserve which was fantastic, we got to see elephant and three lions so we were all VERY excited about that. We also went for a walk along the Mara River where the animals cross during the migration and saw crocodiles and hippo which was cool. That night we got bogged in the mud and after several hours of trying to get ourselves out a tractor came along and pulled us out only for us to get stuck again a few kms further along. So there we were, bogged in the middle of the Masai Mara (a lion infested game reserve), darkness approaching, raining, windy, mud up to our knees and to top it off it was our turn to cook - can you believe it! So there in the mud we set up camp for the night with all of us crammed into the truck as we were all too scared to sleep in our tents for fare of being eaten, me, Tim and Bridgette cooking tea in the rain and mud over a fire - the others passing sympathy beers out the window of the truck...what an adventure! The next day as Gavin was making us pancakes over the fire the ranger showed up all worried about us - we think he expected us to be huddled afraid in the truck but instead there we were eating pancakes and drinking coffee! A few hours later a tractor towing two hot air balloon baskets came over to tow us out and this time they got us out for good much to our relief. It was quite the operation though with about 10 guys from the hot airballoon company all shouting and waving their hands and then Tim and a couple of the guys from our truck helping as well.

Since we were now behind schedule Gavin decided to drive through the night to get us to the next destination (he has some craaaazy ideas sometimes!) and so we were in the back in our sleeping bags bouncing around all over the place, you had to hang onto the back of the seat while you tried to sleep otherwise you would bounce right off! It was pretty funny as the roads in Kenya are SO bad and the suspension in the old Leyland was prehistoric which meant we had a pretty uncomfortable ride!

We left the truck in Arusha and camped the night at a village called Karatu among the Mbulu people on the edge of the Serengeti and from here we went to Nrongogoro Crater which is a collapsed, extinct volcano, thousands of years old and now supporting a wide range of animals which have taken their own eco system and no animals leave the boundaries of the crater except bird life. There is a high concentration of animals here and so we got to see more animals including a family of lions which was the highlight! One of them wandered over to the land rover that we were in and so we got a really close up look.

We took a flight to Zanzibar Island. Over the centuries trade between Africa and Arabia has resulted in the blending of Arabs and Africans into a beautiful Swahili culture with wooden sailing dhows crossing the ocean, coconut plantations and fishing villages with mosques on the beaches. We explored the world heritage site of Stonetown where you see the old slave chambers and plantations. We then spent a couple of nights at the north of the island where we just relaxed on the palm fringed white sands and swam in the clear waters of the India ocean. Sounds like paradise doesn't it, well it was awesome until we got a nasty bout of the runs!!

Meeting up with Mum and Dad back in London so looking forward to that. Take care and will be in touch again soon.
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