Africa changes people.
It’s not every day that we get to set foot on a brand new continent and there are fewer to choose from now. Only South America and Antarctica left.
We went there full of trepidation, full of worries about crime and disease and drinking water. Did as much research as we could beforehand, getting travel books from the library, looking all over the net. But at the end, it worked out just fine.
Yes Nairobi can be dangerous, but it’s no more dangerous than Bangkok or Rome or New York. Watch out for pickpockets, follow the traffic, don’t go to certain areas, be careful after dark. As a tourist expect to be harassed to buy stuff. People were friendly, with a purpose, but never hostile. Bargain for souvenirs and walk away if an agreement can’t be made. See? Not so different.
The flight arrived early in the morning and we got settled into the hotel. The first day in Nairobi was no more than a filler, to get used to the country, to have a bit of a tour round the city, visit the shops and museums.
Dinner at a restaurant called Carnivore. A rather touristy place but then again we were tourists, so embrace the label. On the menu were all sorts of meat, grilled on skewers in a giant BBQ pit. The usual lamb, beef, sausages, chicken, but as a local flavour there was zebra, hartbeest, eland and crodocile. We tried everything, the game meats were a bit tough, at the end we decided we like the lamb best.
From Nairobi it was a long drive south, made worse by the conditions of the roads which at some point, resembled the lunar surface. The journey drove home the vastness of Kenya as we passed the Great Rift Valley, past the town of Narok and across acres upon acres of farmland onto the arid plains of the Masai Mara Game Reserve.
Four, or was it five hours of bumping and we finally arrived at our camp. To call it a mere camp is like calling Disneyland a park. Lush surroundings, pool and well kept gardens were a big contrast to the emptiness outside the fence. Living quarters were tents but these were large fixed affairs with proper beds and an ensuite bathroom. The meshed openings at the sides served as windows and there was even a small sitting area out in the front.
But no TV.
At night with the window coverings in place and no lights outside it was eerie lying in bed and hearing the sounds of nature so close by. Birds and insects mainly. But we knew there were monkeys on the grounds and did a leopard manage to get in? The imagination can go into overdrive there. The uncertainty of what was outside the canvas walls added to the sense of adventure.
Game drives were early in the morning and late in the afternoon. Other times the animals tended to hide and sleep so it would be hard to spot them. The drives took place in white minivans with a roof that opened up. So whenever the driver spotted an interesting animal we would all scramble up and peek over the top of the van at the animals.
Buffalos, wilderbeests, gazelle, elephant:
The big cats: