19.06.2010 28 °C
Friday, 18th June, 2010
By 5.00am we were on our way to the Masiera Gate of the Masai Mara National Park. Most of the journey was in the dark and once we reached the gate- about 45 minutes- to be met with huge confusion. There were 2 balloon companies ready to drive us to their balloon launching sites. Our tour operator from Nairobi had not given us their name and the Karen Blixen camp had assumed that the closer company would be the one. This was soon sorted out and in the dark with a driver from Adventures Aloft Balloon Company, we drove a further hour to a far away camp, Fig Tree Camp, where the balloon was already inflating. Within 5 minutes of arriving we and 8 other people including the pilot, an ex- Zimbabwean named Andrew, were off and up. The sun was just rising, and the whole Mara it seemed was still, quiet and so very peaceful. Up in the morning sky, the wide expanse of high- grassed savannah was flat and vast and it appeared like it went on forever. We flew at about 150 feet above the ground and covered about 15 kilometres. The balance of the passengers were Americans on a 'Vintage Africa' trip- we both felt sprightly and young. Andrew pointed out in the far distance-about 20kms away- that the wildebeest migration had begun. That's all David needed to hear – he would be asking Nester the driver to be heading there after the balloon ride, that's for sure! We spotted a lone walking cheetah, elephant, a huge herd of buffalo and lots of Topi and buck. The landing was very smooth and champagne breakfast was in the absolute middle of this wild African bush, was delicious and oh so civilised. By the time we returned to Fig Tree camp we were so excited- the wildebeest had also arrived and had travelled the 20 or so kms to exactly where we were. We wasted no time and were off into the Talek gate, but not before we stopped at a community souvenir shed to buy 2 'shukas' Masai blankets. They will now adorn my outside lounge couches as throws and be a permanent reminder of this magical holiday.
Nothing could have prepared us for the magnitude and size of the herd we were about to see. This was only the beginning of the arrival of one and a half million wildebeest and in a quick 'head' count, it appeared that there were about 100-200 thousand in front of us.
We had missed this sight in the Serengeti, and were so excited to see it now. The photos of this phenomenal sight tell it all. Despite not having seen a river crossing of these animals, this was enough!
What a great addition to our last safari day and what an advantage to the earlier confusion of the balloon company. We probably wouldn't have gone so far had we not taken the Balloon from Fig Tree Camp.
As we had been gone from the camp since 5.00am it was good to return after a picnic lunch, have some tea, catch up with Shira on a very erratic Skype and we returned to our tent to find the masseuse's bed on our porch- complimentary massages were warmly welcomed. Preparations for our departure early the following morning were made with packed breakfasts ordered. As we sat around the roaring camp fire on the veranda of the camp, we realised that our last night in this special spot in the world, in this spectacular National Park, was slowly fading away.
19th June, 2010
As dawn broke we were back on this 85km very corrugated and potholed dirt road, then onto the so called highway to Nairobi. This time a lot more prepared for what lay ahead- no signage, confusion of the direction, hordes of people, unannounced speed bumps as you approach small villages and generally the hustle and bustle of daily African rural life. The escarpment was quite magnificent, and we were able to enjoy the lookouts from a number of windy roads up the various mountains- this was after we took it slow as we drove at a snails pace behind truck after truck . As this is the main road for all of Kenya as well as Uganda to reach the coast, our fellow travellers were mostly long-haul trucks and matutas- Hi-Ace taxis- which form the backbone of the East African transportation system both in cities and towns and between them. Our trusted GPS kicked in as we neared Nairobi, and together with the mud map that Julius had drawn , we cruised into the Village Market Shopping precinct where our hotel for the night, The Tribe, was located.
The hotel was truly 'Modern African' at its best. Our last day in East Africa was luxuriously spent in this brand new oasis- I could have imported the setting, the furnishing, the artwork and the design, home to Perth. This is truly the feel of décor that sits best with me- the melding of the traditional African, its skins, fabrics, wood ,stone and metal work, with the best of technology, lighting and modern fittings. I was at home!
On our first night in Nairobi as we started our journey, we had met a few very hospitable Nairobi natives, 3 Indian couples members of YPO/WPO. We were now off to tour the chemical factory of one of these men. We were now seasoned travellers and made the 45 minute journey to the industrial area of Nairobi without any hitches.
This 22 acre factory was an eye-opener, and with the chemical engineer giving us a tour, we marvelled at this company started 30 years ago and which is a detergent and bleach manufacturer. The company produces many of the base materials for their products, as well as manufacturing and printing the packaging, bags and bottles- it is the whole process from start to finish. It is hoped that something in the importation or exportation to and from our West Australian company will happen.
We entered the Village Market Shopping precinct, a western style centre, with large open areas, as the World cup soccer match between Australia and Ghana was being played and screened. Its amazing as we have travelled through our journey, how the World Cup has united people – no matter the language, nationality and race, people have united to watch , enjoy and shout for their favourite team- usually over a beer. The Africans we saw were of course shouting for every African nation and we did not ,in this case, volunteer our team of allegiance, and as the Socceroos were not performing at their best, perhaps this was for the better. Even the simplest, uneducated market stall holder had an opinion about the teams and were following the outcomes of each and every game.
We enjoyed a great dinner in the hotel restaurant and reminisced and discussed the highlights of the wonderful 3 weeks we had just enjoyed together.
20th June, 2010
Jambo – Hello
Flying Air Kenya back to Oliver Tambo Airport, Johannesburg we can only feel absolute joy at the time we have experienced. This began as the celebration trip for our 30 years of marriage which we celebrated on the 18th May this year. And what a celebration journey this has been!
This magical holiday has not been about the destinations, but about the journeys.
The journeys were all about the people, the taxis and motorbikes, the roads, the guides, the bumps and potholes in the roads, shocking and disgusting toilets, the dusty red dirt of the African soil, the high grasses of the savannah's, the surreal sunrises and sunsets.
The destinations have been loaded with fun, laughter, tears of joy, exhilaration, fascination, surprise and bewilderment. Early mornings, comfy and not-so- comfy places to spend the nights, malaria tablets, subdued lazy lions and their prides, humongous 'cuddly' looking gorillas in the thick of a forest, cheetahs gorging over their kill, herds of elephant, buffalo and wildebeest, the sounds and smells of the hippo pools with sunning crocodiles on the river banks, magnificent birds of stunning colours, the elegant sprinting of the impala, the regal long- necked giraffe,white water rapids, balloon baskets,the strength and power of the army green Land Cruisers- this car can go anywhere- the 'African back massage' as we jolted along the road, the quick dry safari look we were both sporting, smiling black children shouting “Give me sweets”,the thousands of churches and schools all with such English sounding names, the sound of 'Mazunga- white man' following us , the pitch black, thin Masai man alongside his stick , herding his Brahman cattle,scrawny sheep and goats bleating.....and the memories go on and on....
Alongside the man of my life, my husband David, this has been a journey of a lifetime, on the continent of our births. This is the ground where it all began for us and the very land that makes our souls alive and sing. I feel truly blessed to have celebrated our 30 years of marriage with these 21 incredible never to be forgotten days. Asanti Sana- Thank you- We made it- Le Chaim Babe!