17.06.2010 - 17.06.2010 24 °C
Thursday 17th June, 2010
Maasai Mara-Karen Blixen Camp
Since our arrival here yesterday evening, my wish list boxes are being ticked over and over.
In his posting of the blog this morning, David described the long, dusty and at times quite harrowing road trip we took from the Lake Victoria town of Kisumu to the Masai Mara National Park. I have usually not been someone who has enjoyed long road trips, but somehow, the ones we have taken in East Africa, have flown by with so much to see and look at along the way. Countryside life has been so fascinating to observe and document, and we have both so enjoyed the chance and opportunity to glimpse these very friendly people's lives- to smell and taste and feel the life of the real East African.
We arrived, EVENTUALLY?(!!!!!), to be welcomed by the manager, Raymond, a half Canadian, half Kenyan man who has been running this camp for 6 years after having studied in Sydney for 2 years. He had warm towels and papaya juice for us and we we immediately drawn to the resident hippo grunting noise- about 60 hippo- and the loud bubbling water noise, all right here past the dining/lounge tent and just under the patio. We have continued to hear these hippos all day and night. After a short briefing , we were shown to our tent, where I was so looking forward to a hot bath.
If I could have ordered an 'Out of Africa' experience, this was it.
Wooden floored curtained and oh so luxurious tent with a divided section at the back for the bathroom, and yes no bath awaited, instead an outside shower surrounded by reeds.(Does this sound familiar Gabi?) The lanterns and lamps are electric and there is 24 hour electricity. The plush crisp white linen bed and bed-box chest as the mini-bar, all contributed to the truly authentic, luxury camp scenario.
Before dinner we met the other guests of the camp around the roaring fire pit on the patio.(one of wish list boxes) An English couple, Jill and Peter, in their sixties, with their adult children living in Australia. He is an academic in the Dentistry department of his local university and according to his wife he doesn't like patients .He has been a keen photographer since he was 16 and on the morning game drive today he was told by his wife after photographing the lion, to sit down and breathe- he was that excited.
The other guests with whom we had a really lovely chat were a mother and daughter also from the U.K The daughter, Rose, is a travel agent living in Nairobi and specialising in travel within East Africa. She is about to begin working on horse safaris- something our daughter Shira would absolutely love. Her mother Camilla was visiting and it sounds like she has enjoyed these parts for years .
Dinner was delicious and we returned to our tent to find the beds turned down with hot water bottles tucked away inside them. My Earl Grey tea- my choice of drink anywhere, any time,- was soon delivered, we had the great Jazz sounds of Diana Krall playing on my iphone, the hippos grunting in the background- these night sounds of the African bush are so superb- I was reading a novel, A Durable Fire-about 3 English friends set in Kenya in the 60's-what a wonderful indulgence it is to read and be so enriched by the journey- I was in this truly beautiful location , travelling to unknown and never before visited places and my special, wonderful and magical husband beside me- For me it just doesn't get any better than this!
A wake up call by the local Masai guard at 6.00 began this great day. Nester, the Masai guide/driver was so knowledgeable and informative. Having grown up close by , he was again able to shed some light on the traditions and culture of his people. Currently single, he intends marrying 2 women, and was quite emphatic that no man can really manage without 2- for practical reasons he added. His chief has 18 wives and over 40 children!!! Discussions about children, succession, earning a living – he's ready to immigrate to Australia when he heard about the minimum wage as he earns only $200.00 a month- and female and male circumcision were the talk throughout the later all day game drive. The sun was rising and we shortly encountered the giraffe creche- a giraffe mum with some babies whom she cares for whilst the other mums are out feeding for the day. The young were about 2 months old, and only seen against the size of the adult , were we able to understand how new born they really were.
A pride of lion, excluding the males, were our next spotting. About 4 lionesses ,a couple of teenage boys and then about 8 cubs, we were about 10 meters from them, and it was wonderful to witness. We also saw many Topi, an antelope endemic to the Mara, which has leg markings on it resembling blue jeans and yellow socks.
Back in camp for breakfast and to warm up after a chilly morning, to put on the walking shoes, take the binoculars and head out for a game walk. I was glad of the mundaneness of it as this wasn't too far from the spotting of the lion earlier. When we encountered a lone male buffalo, our guide and his spear-carrying Masai man- a skolly as he was called- led us in another direction. This male animal is not to be messed with.
Nester collected us half way to the Mara National Park and once through the unfenced park we travelled about 1 hour before driving into a massive herd of elephants. There were about 40 of all ages and he commented that the extremely large tusks were evidence of the superb ranging services throughout the reserve. Poachers were a thing of the past and he told us that the Masai were offered double the amount of cows that were taken by lion- this was to prevent them from killing the lion themselves.
On information from a passing vehicle from another camp, we were directed to 3 cheetah brothers who were lying 2 meters from our vehicle, resting having just killed a teenage wildebeest. The cheetah were quite magnificent and we stopped and watched them for over an hour , whilst they pulled and tugged at the carcass of their prey. This is the way of the African bush- kill and survive. The vultures were beginning to arrive and we were told that once these cheetah had had their fill of up to 15 kgs of meat, they would leave the carcass to the hyenas and vultures.
We then drove about 10 kms away stooped for a late picnic lunch, which was quite civilised at a table and chairs. Back at camp, after a rest and shower which despite the chilly outside was boiling hot and very pleasant, and another delicious dinner, we are about to get some sleep before a 4.30am start for the Balloon Safari in the morning. Hope we will see the rhino , to complete the viewing of the 'big 5' on this trip.