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Vegimite. Coming to a Masai village near you‏

Up the mountains, down to the coast and return to Zanzibar...AGAIN

Back in Stone Town, Zanzibar! Still absolutely in love with this place. As much as I try to visit other areas and get inland etc, can’t help but come back to the coast. Where was i…..

Arusha turned out not to be AS full on as I’d feared (big town anxiety) and I think especially the area I was staying was definitely not the nice area so people probably just assumed I was not worth bothering. I hadn’t noticed my last time here in April, or the first couple of days this time due to the rain but one day it cleared up and looming over town is the very impressive Mount Meru. It looks especially stunning in the late afternoon as the sun sets and just the tip glows gold. I did some shopping, found ice cream. For my last safari in Africa I joined another group and went to Tarangire National Park. The drive there is really great, alongside Meru and then through dry plains farmed by Masai. Alongside the road are teenage Masai dressed in all black with their faces painted white (as in Ace ventura, I was half expecting Jim Carey to jump out) as this is the traditional dress they wear during the healing period after circumcision, though I would assume these guys would be there just to get photo money. The park is beautiful, dotted with baobabs and perfect ‘umbrella’ acacia’s and with a vary of landscapeds from hilly scrublands to sprawling golden grassy plains. We saw elephants while waiting in the carpark to enter and loads more once inside. Some lovely bird life which usually doesn’t interest me but there are some very pretty colours, also plenty of ostriches, wildebeest, zebras, and a few distant lions. A lot of the time we couldn’t stop for long as we would get swarmed by ‘sleeping flies’ which REALLY hurt when they bite and can carry sleeping sickness. The safari itself was great though and we had all been promised a lot longer (double the time) in the park by the boss.

NOTE to anyone planning to come do a safari in TZ – DO NOT USE AFRICAN SMART SAFARIS!!!

Long story short – you know I’m good at this – we ended up in a huge fight with him and pretty much all the staff, then they all turned on me and said I am the bad person trying to guide the 3 German people also complaining in the wrong direction and I brainwashed them to think they didn’t enjoy it. I was “a very bad girl’, ‘colonial days are over’, we still got to see the animals, whats the problem? “Yes, you had 6 hours, 12:30 – 4:30”…hah this, guy used to be a lawyer yet he can’t count? But my favourite was when I pointed out their contract stating a full day safari recommends AT LEAST 7 hours, and everyone tried to convince me that ‘at least’ means ‘less than 7 hours’. I was having a real laugh. Actually, even better than that was when the boss, in his ridiculous shiny cream pinstripe suit, jumped up and ordered “CALL THE EMBASSY”. Hahah again in hysterics. I was ready to start cursing Arusha, but then as usual after a bad experience someone was able to turn it around and when I went back to my guest house I had a really funny evening with the Masai who run the place, in particularly one woman who I had a real laugh with about marrying her brother as he stood there very nervously laughing. The people working there come from a Masai village a couple of hours away, arriving in Arusha in groups to run the guest house for a couple of months and do various other business such as selling jewellery before returning. She was dressed in her beautiful blue and red shukas, fabulous jewelery, and just kept brushing my hair back and saying “nakupenda sana” “ I like you a lot”. We discussed the details of the marriage and worked out I could go home and study then come back here for work. I had to tell her I would not be able to carry buckets of water etc as I am a lot weaker than Masai women, and told her I have tried before to carry a bag on my head and failed (I did try once and I think i shrunk a couple of cm’s. apparently something you have to do from a child). Then with a goodnight hug she walked me to my room….then entered with me and shut the door behind which had me a little confused as we sat there awkwardly on my bed. Until she presented me with a gold bracelet, and came back a little later with a necklace also. In return I gave her a tube of vegemite, telling her most other nationalities don’t like it but maybe Masai will. She at least pretended to be grateful. She even called me the next morning to make sure I got on the bus safely. We passed Mount Kilimanjaro in Moshi and it would have been the perfect day to stop in Moshi and snap some photo's of it as it was sooo clear...ahhh next time.

Next stop - Mtae. Head up the Usambara Mountains to Mtae, a tiny village perched on the ridge of a mountain, without electricity apart from a few generators, no cars or even motorbikes, just bicycles, and the only way out are the 3 daily buses from 4-5am. A few skipped heartbeats along the way, winding along the bumpy, narrow road on the edge of the steep mountains, and certainly not the ideal place for the driver to get out and let a couple of the younger guys working on the bus have a practice. My room at the guesthouse was just big enough for my bag, but to open it I had to take it out into the corridor (outside, next to the huge pot of water constantly heating over a charcoal fire for our warm buckets of shower water). The first morning that I started my hike with Rogeros (?), my guide, was very foggy and COLD and we couldn’t see much so first we climbed down the mountain to see some caves where a traditional healer – still commonly used in the Usambara region – stays, one for living, another for work. Then we climbed back up heading to Mambo view point . I am so unfit, I thought I was going to have to be helicoptered out. It was worth it in the end, as the fog cleared and down below you can see where the gold, green and red Tsavo plains – stretching all the way up to Kenya – are met by the mountains. Passing through villages along the way I came to think it must be the fresh mountain air but people in the mountainous areas seem to be sooooooo nice! Even kids, who don’t ask for anything but for a picture so they can look at themselves. All day I heard “HAAALLLOOOOOO” from all around, even when I could not see anyone, or “UPIGE PICHA” (take a picture). So gorgeous as some really young ones get so excited screaming “HULO” and waving big with both arms up while running to get a closer look they almost lose balance and fall. The houses all have 2 tiny windows and a teeny door – no big mama’s here, life is tough in Mtae – and most are painted a pink-peach colour by mixing water with the earth of the area. I think Mtae is in the lovely phase of just starting to get visitors, but not many and knowing that the few who do come to the area generally go to Lushoto, the nearest town about 3 hours away. Everyone is amazingly welcoming and the kids haven’t been handed out enough money or lollies or pens to start associating these gifts with foreigners. The only not so friendly person was a young kid who I saw throwing around a chameleon on a stick. I told him its not a toy and put it in the bush, and then he ran alongside me for a while angrily chasing me with a stick. Fair enough, it was his toy.

I even met an Australian at the sunset view point which was beautiful (the viewpoint, not him) and his group invited me for dinner. After a tough day hiking, my first question was whether there’d be beer which was funny as he was the only Aussie in the group and apparently the only one who had asked that earlier on as well. I had a another day of hiking, through more mountain top villages, steep farms, fertile green valleys and to the peak of one mountain with the hut and fences of a chief of the area a long time ago “how long Rogeros? How many years ago?”…”many years”, a characteristically well informed guide. Up there I was serenaded with ‘Happy Besssday” by a group of kids and had a quick photoshoot. I couldn't recommend paying this beautiful place a visit more strongly. I felt so at home and the man running the guest house was just the sweetest and treated me like a daughter, as well as the attached mgahawa where the man whips up some great meals (beans comparable to Ilongero, and VEGGIES!) I stayed at Mtitu wa Ndei Guesthouse I here, basic, but all part of the experience and they'll bend over backwards for you.

After Mtae, back to Lushoto, a small town in a fertile valley. I decided to go for a walk around town but after 5-10 minues that’s it. All the hikes are ‘expensive’ as they are ‘cultural tourism’ organizations so they support the community but by this stage I really just wanted to say can’t you just take out the community support fee, I just want cheap cheap? So I just did a day hike through the lovely Magamba Rainforest, but my feet were by then starting to reject this exercise and fall apart so I was happy to get back to town and into my thongs. Good excuse to put the hiking shoes at the bottom of the case and throw the grotty clothes away.

Next stop, Tanga, Tanzania’s 3rd largest town which had me pretty unmotivated. It was actually really laid back. Once you get away from the bus stand, no one really hassles you, the seafront area is nice, and its quite enjoyable. I stayed at a pretty nice place, one of the older men there is Mnyaturu (the tribe from Singida) so Bula was back. Not much to do in Tanga on a rainy day, especially a Sunday. The days are pretty hot and steamy but the evenings so mild and beautiful it’s impossible to stay inside. Ramadan ended while I was here, and being back in the largely Muslim coastal area was nice as there are 3 days for celebration for Eid, especially in the night as everyone goes out for fancy food, the ice cream shops suddenly appear from nowhere bursting with kids and there was such a nice atmosphere. I went for a bite and sat with 2 old ‘spinsters’ who bought me dinner of fried potato slices and delicious coconut chutney (which is also served at the front step of my guest house here in Stone Town). One of those nights I know I'll look back on and feel all warm and fuzzy. When people take you in, when everyone appears happy, it is all about family and love...really kicks those crappy moments and crappy things people do in the world out and replaces them with hope for humanity when you see the core of what life is about and human nature. Ahhhh.

Anyway, I took a bus to a village about an hour away on the waterfront to see the Tongoni ruins, the remains of a mosque and tombs from the 14th/15th century. Really atmospheric as it is set amongst bush and baobabs near the mangroves and tiny fishing village. The buildings were built from coral reef brought from Persia and some still grow coral. On the way back the driver of the car worried that there would be police up ahead and the car was over-filled, so he made one of the guys put a kitenge on the front of the car “put the flowery one” and told us all to start singing if we see the police as it was still Eid and he hoped they would just let us off. That was funny, another moment when laughter and smiles erase unite EVERYONE.

After Tanga I headed down the coast to Pangani at the mouth of the Pangani river. The beaches aren’t amazing but are lined with coconuts and the odd cow leg. I hired a bike for a couple of days and crossed the river on the ferry to ride to some other beaches and villages. I actually really enjoyed riding around, much nicer than walking and I only fell off once. The only thing is along the main road when trucks or buses pass, they obviously see my stiffness and just as they pass honk the horn and then turn around to look out the window and laugh at my reaction. Mzungu are funny aren't we? The few streets around the river have buildings and doors similar to Zanzibar so that was nice too, little did I know I’d be there/here in a few days.

I was here for the 3rd and final day of Eid and as usual everyone was out and about, the women and girls looking especially fabulous in amazing clothes, makeup and beautiful henna painted up their arms. I was adopted by a couple of young rasta guys who have a tourism office but ended up just helping me as a sister “dada Nicole”. Maybe we bonded because of the state of my hair after the beach, the humidity and wearing a hat which had created a dreadlock appearance. I met a group of brits and have been travelling with them since, getting a boat over to Nungwi - one of the northern beaches of Zanzibar - and although we all thought we were going to die at some point during the trip, arriving on the turquoise waters at the beach made it worth it. I got

to leave my big bags at Rasta Ally’s office in Pangani, and use his tent he left at his rasta friends lodge in Nungwi. We stayed here, and you can imagine a lodge run by a bunch of rastas is quite and experience. The beach here is beeeeeeeeautiful, lots of Masai, lots of Italians and LOTS of white speedo's. A night out at Kendwa Rocks, the beach party, had similar consequences to when I went there on my tour, but was just as fun. Came to Stone Town this week and by chance there is a jazz festival on so a few of us are staying to see that and then head back up to the northern beaches. Yesterday we did a day trip to Changuu Island (Prison Island) where there is a sanctuary for endangered giant tortoises. Also did some snorkelling and wandered around the island. Of course each night I have been at the Forodhani night markets , getting in as many REAL Zanzibar pizzas – as well as learning to cook them - (the copies on the mainland are no good) and as much seafood as possible, and we have found a bar with sunset views and happy hour at the same time so have been there 6 times so far in 3 days. Last night we went to Livingstone’s, a bar on the beach here in Stone Town for the opening night of the festival with some jazz bands which was great and today heading back up to the beaches for Kendwa Rocks again, tonight featuring Michael Jackson! We met him last night, he must’ve had more surgery.

As always, amazing getting lost in the alleyways, admiring the beautiful doors and architecture…I really don’t think I could ever tire of this.

Happy Fathers Day all you Baba’s.

Posted by neerg_08 05:47 Archived in Tanzania Tagged safari zanzibar tanga stone_town nungwi arusha forodhani tarangire_national_park mtae lushoto pangani tongoni_ruins Comments (0)

A Touch of Paradise: Tanzania - Malawi

Arusha, Lake Mayara, Ngorongoro Crater, Serengeti, Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar, Chitimba

Mambo,
I am just sitting looking out at Lake Malawi, which is so huge it just seems like the ocean. We have all found it hard to snap out of island mode after Zanzibar, as everyone is so laid back it is infectious. But before getting to that, I’ll start from the beginning…(lucky you, cancel your plans for the day)
Tanzania was been everything I imagined to see in Africa, compacted into one country. We crossed the border from Kenya Saturday (25th) and drove to Arusha. I love photos of the road as I think you see so much of a place by the sides of the roads. There were cow markets, Maasai walking down what seemed like an endless road, with nothing in site but red dirt and of course acacia trees. There must be some walking done over here! People are quite laid back about work, one roadwork area we passed a guy had a green and a red flag for stop and go, and he was waving them both and when we slowed down he was cacking himself that he had messed with us. Everything is “Poa” (Cool) and Hakuna Matata.
We arrived at Arusha at our camp, Snake Park. On Sunday we started our 3 day safari, first day at Lake Manyara national park. I had a really good group in my 4wd, and our driver Jovin was lovely. Lake Manyara was not the best safari we have done, but that is just being spoilt. It was pretty seeing the salt lake from a distance, but other than that the highlight was definitely having elephants come so close to our 4wds and cross the road in between the cars. I was sure one was about to charge as it had a baby with it, but Hakuna Matata. That night we arrived at camp at Karatu, a town seemingly dedicated to Hilary Clinton. There were at least 5 “Hilary Clinton” stalls and shops. Even a “Hilary Clington supermarket” with the g crossed out. Our guides had set up our tents and had cooked dinner ready for us, which was a real treat! There were also some dancers that performed at the site which was great and we got to join in dancing, which doesn’t take much for this group.

Next morning was another early start for Ngorongoro crater which was spectacular! (trying to mix up the describing words) It was so cold and misty driving down to the middle of the crater and once we got down there it was just open plains and more wildebeest, zebras and antelope than I have seen in such density anywhere else. The great migration stared early this year so I think they had already reached the northern part of the Serengeti by the time we were there. I won’t mention all the wildlife we saw again, I’ll save that for the Serengeti. The crater was formed by a volcano ???????????? years ago which erupted. The volcanic ash formed the Serengeti, and the volcano collapsed, forming the crater. After the crater we went to another Maasai village, which was optional but I thought it would be interesting to compare villages. I am glad I did because the location, singing and dancing was fantastic, though they were a bit pushy with their markets and there was a bit of pressure to buy from the person whose hut you went into. The Maasai have more than enough of my money!

We then continued on towards the Serengeti, with an afternoon game drive, which was really just driving towards the location of our camp in the middle of the Serengeti, no fence, no night guard (which luckily I didn’t know until the next day). We saw a leopard with a gazelle dragged up the tree, and a pair of lions on their honeymoon. Apparently when lions first “pair up” they go off for about a week and mate every hour. These 2 lions were on the side of the road and as our 4wd was parked there a few metres away, the female made some ‘sexy lion moves’ and they mated there right in front of us….for a whole 17 seconds! That was pretty cool to see. That night camping I could hear all sorts of noises; hyenas, wild dogs…. in between all the snoring from the nearby tents. Tuesday we woke up early to watch the sunrise over the plains. The safari was great, though I think anything compared to the Maasai Mara is going to come 2nd, as being able to drive off the actual road really made it. We were excited to see a cheetah lying on a rock in the distance, and then further down the road there was one actually sat on the road. They are usually so rare to find so this was lucky. All of our trucks were lined in front of it, and on the other side of the road was another cheetah and the one on the road made this crying noise as it couldn’t see its friend past all of us. Then the other walked over and they met on the road and walked off together. Very cute. After a few break downs and flat tyres we were back to Snake Park.

On Wednesday morning we had a walk around our campsite which, as you may know from the name, has a snake park. I held a baby croc, brown house snake and some other small snake….but big enough. Call me Bindi Irwin. We started the drive on towards Dar es Salaam. The sunset over the distant mountains was amazing as we drove along. I think I am using that word too much. Then we started to see more banana trees and the landscape turned more tropical, like we were back in Uganda. We stopped overnight and had some things stolen from a couple of peoples tents in the campsite, so instead of fixing the fence they sent out a guy with a rifle to stand by our tents all night.

Arriving in Dar es Salaam I was awoken from my long sleep to the sticky humidity. It is by far the most developed city we have been in, more so than Nairobi to my surprise. We got the ferry, as we were told by a guy sitting next to us, from the “good side of town” to the “bad side” and arrived at our campsite on the beach. It was really nice and camping on the beach a lot softer than dirt and rocks. The toilet doors all have signs on them “Inside camp=safe, Outside camp=not safe, Please this is not a joke” and there is about 100m of beach then on either side a big warning sign not to pass that point. But besides all that it really was beautiful and the water was SO warm. Even had hot outdoor salt water showers. Luxury! A dance/acrobatic group came to perform, which was great, drinks on the beach, then we hit the tents for a sticky night sleep.

We left early the next morning, back to the good side of town to get the ferry to ZANZIBAR! We checked into Safari Lodge in Stone Town then headed out to do whatever we wanted to do….FREEDOM! I think that was half the draw of Zanzibar, being able to do whatever with whoever and having no time limits, no cook group, and no packing up tents at 5am. I went shopping at Gizenga St markets which was fun, buying some scarves to cover my shoulders. I loved Stone Town and wish I had more time there. Through the dark winding alley ways dodging speeding motorbikes and street touts, lined by worn out crumbling buildings, all with absolutely beautiful huge wooden doors. We went to the Night Markets to sample the fresh seafood. Fisherman Johnson was very entertaining and described absolutely everything he had to offer, then went and found a beer for a couple of us from a bar and found us ‘V.I.P seating’ which he dusted off for us….we later noticed we were sitting next to prostitutes haha. The food was amazing and I had a fresh lobster skewer for $2, squid, barracuda, calamari…..so much. It was nice to take our minds off the humidity for a while. Also they have these pizzas but they make them with egg mixed in, they are like a pizza omelette and they are so good!!! It’s worth going to Zanzibar just for that. More drinks on the beach at Livingstone’s.

This brings me to last Saturday (only a week to go).
A big group of us did the Stone Town Spice & Slave tour. It was such a great day and only looking back I realise how much variety was packed in. We stopped at a few sites in Stone town, the Old Fort, House of Wonders and Dr Livinstone’s house from before he set off on his expedition (Livingstone is very highly respected in Zanzibar for his role in the abolishment of the slave trade), we drove by Freddie Mercury’s childhood house (he was born and lived in Stone Town until around 8y/o) and the went into the first Anglican cathedral in East Africa. The cathedral was built on the site of the old slave markets, with the alter built on the spot where the whipping post used to be. Here the slaved were whipped, and their sell price would depend on the amount they cried. We went down into the slave chambers and just 15 of us were cramped and stuffy, but 70 slaves would be left there for 2-3 days without food or water, thinking that any who died were too weak anyway.
Then we stopped at Darajani Markets….fishy, but fun wandering off down the side streets which are so full of character. We drove inland to the spice & fruit plantations and were taken around on the tour showing us which part of the plants the spices came from. The aroma around the place was lovely. Also got to try all of these fruits….have you tried Durian? It is FOUL! Apparently it tastes delicious but even if you don’t sniff when you put it in your mouth, the scent comes through and it is like bad foot mixed with any other bad smell you can think of and was with me for the rest of the day. It still makes me shudder thinking about it. We went to our guides friends’ house for lunch, all sat on the floor in a little concrete room in a little village of half ruined concrete homes. Then drove up the coast to our destination, Nungwi on the North Coast. I met some very interesting characters along the beach, Captain Dolphin and Captain Computer Error were just a few. “Captain Computer?” “No, Captain Computer Error”. A few of us headed a bit further down the coast to Kendwa for the big beach party which was a lot of fun. There were plenty of “Maasai” guys there which was funny seeing them try to pick up and see some girls swoon. The next day was torrential rain, which was a nice excuse to sleep off the cocktails and get a massage. Had the most delicious fresh king prawns on the beach for dinner watching the sunset.

On Monday Jess, Jayne and I got a taxi down to Matemwe on the east coast. The taxi ride was so funny and it was great to be able to have a laugh with the driver and his friend along the way, although they didn’t speak any English and we know just as much Swahili. They dropped us off at some beach bungalows on the beach (my big $16 splurge) which was the easiest bargaining of my life. “$60 for room” “”Can you do for $50?” “Ok Cool, Hakuna Matata”. Matemwe is a fishing village and the walking down the beach there was so much to see. To the left in the water and on the shores women picking and drying seaweed, and to the right men building fishing boats. We sat at the Bob Marley shrine of a bar for a drink and were wondering where everyone was, then noticed it was only 10am. After having our door kicked in for us when the key wouldn’t work by Bob Marleys biggest fan, we arranged to go out on a fishing boat when they finished for the day. We didn’t realise at the time but out room was right next to the fish markets. We sure noticed the next morning. The boat took us out snorkelling at Mnemba Atoll which was beautiful. So many fish, also a sea snake and massive bluey/purple jellyfish. It was worth the scary boat ride over as the water was pretty choppy the boat tipping so much that if our elbows were on the edge the would dip into the water. We were actually at the stage of discussing what to do if we flipped, but “Hakuna Matata”, sometimes I wish they WOULD worry. Something about me and boats in Africa always has me on edge! After some more amazing seafood for lunch and dinner we skipped the stoner bar and had a few quiet drinks in our room.
We watched the sunrise over the beach in the morning which was so pink and after Jess got a slight electrocution from out light switch we got a Dalladalla with the local ladies down to Stone Town. (since we splurged on accommodation we thought we’d save the $8 taxi ride and get this for $1.50). It was worth every cent haha. It was so funny, a dalladalla is like an open sided van, with a lower roof so you have to crouch, and at one stage we counted 27 people squashed in, plus the money man hanging on the back. It was priceless to see peoples’ faces as they got in, see Jayne first and do a double take at the Mzungu, then see me and Jess squished at the back and do another double take, then laugh. Arriving in Stone Town nice and sweaty we got the ferry back to Dar es Salaam.

Waking at 3:15 to pack up tents and leave at 4am was a real wake up call that we were back on the road. And a 15 hour drive day. We drove through Mikumi National Park on the way to Malawi and saw some more wildlife. Yesterday (Thursday) we crossed into Malawi and stopped at Chitimba Beach on the shores of Lake Malawi. What a gorgeous country and the reputation as the nicest people is well deserved. I know I am going to spend a lot of money here on woodwork as the carvings are just beautiful and most things can be personalised. I would come back just to buy more!
Ok so now you know literally everything, minute to minute of my last couple of weeks.

Posted by neerg_08 03:37 Archived in Malawi Tagged town lake safari zanzibar stone tanzania malawi crater es serengeti ngorongoro dar nungwi arusha kendwa salaam matemwe chitimba mayara Comments (0)

The Maasai Mara: Kenya

Nairobi, Maasai Mara

sunny

JAMBO!
Well I hope I can remember everything that I have seen in the last few loooong days. I’ll try to start at the beginning. My accommodation at Karen Camp, Nairobi, where I stayed the first night that I arrived and tonight isn’t too bad. The first night I had a dorm room all to myself which was nice. There is hot water (when you time your shower right) and electricity so I am happy. Everyone has been very friendly so far, and happy to give a bit of a guided tour when I am picked up/dropped off. Nairobi city centre is pretty urban, plenty of traffic though I haven’t spent time actually wandering around, maybe when we head back through on the tour. As modern as the city is, while you are sitting in traffic it is like a drive through supermarket. You could be offered anything from fruits and veggies, newspaper, school world maps and body charts or balloon animals. I was driving down the highway on Friday and Shakira’s Africa song came on, I nearly cried I was so happy to be here finally….or maybe it was the dirt in my eyes.

The Maasai Mara tour…..
There were 6 in our van for the Safari, from 6 different countries (Australia, USA, France, Latvia, Ecuador, Kazakhstan and the driver Kenya, quite the variety). They are all here on some sort of work as well so it has been interesting hearing different opinions and experiences depending on where their work is based. The drive to Maasai was about 5-6 hours, we drove through the Rift Valley which was hard to capture in the morning fog. “Looking is free” seems to be the main catchphrase here to lure you into the shops.
The last 2 hours of the drive was … not relaxing. Let’s just say you know a road is bad when you are driving next to it instead of on it. My first “African Massage”. Entering Maasai land either side of the road there are herds of cattle or goats being looked after by kids in their red dress, no older than 10! How easy I had it growing up in Sydney!

We arrived at our tented lodge in the afternoon, had the local Maasai men who work at the lodge take our bags to our tents (with its own BATHROOM!) and went for an afternoon game drive. It has lived up to all of my expectations of a safari and more. We spotted a couple of prides of Lions, Zebra, Wildebeest, Hartebeest, Dobi, Gazelle, Thompsons Gazelle, Mongoose, Impala, Elephants, Giraffe and Buffalo – not bad for a couple of hours. And this isn’t just spotting them from a distance. As we were able to go off road we got so close and the animals were completely unphased. (Being parked a few metres away from lions and elephants was very cool). Our driver, Nathaniel, was great and could tell what an animal was from the horizon – Maasai eyes! The drivers are all on radio so when a rarer animal is found you can see vans and 4wd’s speeding from all directions. We got bogged and had to lift the van out of the ditch, which was part of the fun…just keeping an eye out for lions. The sun going down over the park with the dark clouds on the horizon was beautiful.

At night you can hear footsteps on the gravel outside the tent as the Maasai patrol the camp. It is actually comforting as the camp isn’t entirely fenced (fences are tree branches).

Day 2 was a full day game viewing starting at 7:30. Besides the usual Wildebeest and Gazelles, our first exciting find of the day was a Cheetah, which along with Leopard and Black Rhino, are one of the hardest to see. The reserve in the morning is pretty spectacular and everything I imagined when I think of the African savannah. As well as everything we saw the first day, we were lucky enough to see a Leopard up in a birds nest, Ostrich, Hippos in the Mara River, Crocs, Crown Prince bird, some bird of prey and Lion cubs. Very cute, and yes I do want one. There were 30 or so Hippos in the river, in 3 groups, and to hear them communicating was pretty funny. One group would make these noises like a man with a really deep voice chuckling, then the 2nd group and then the 3rd group down the river would respond. I am sure they were laughing at us and daring us to come closer to the edge of the river. We were able to get within 10m of them. We drove to the border with Tanzania, this marks where the Maasai Mara (Kenya) becomes the Serengeti (Tanz) and 2m either side of the post is no mans’ land. We ditched the usual designated lunch spot for an acacia tree away from everyone else, with a view over the savannah. In the afternoon, while watching some giraffe’s with their babies we found 2 males fighting. Fast Fact: Giraffes don’t have vocal chords. So it was a silent fight watching them swing their necks in what seemed like slow motion and slam into the others neck. The only sound actually was the necks hitting. They would take it in turns hitting the other, a very polite fight, and then stand there calmly for a while as we took bets on who would be first to swing again. This went on for over 10 minutes and was still going as we left. Men! Also saw some baboons and Secretary birds, some sort of feral little monkeys and warthogs. We arrived back to the camp around 6 and headed straight to a local Maasai village.

IN the village there are about 200 people, 20 families. The chief has 4 wives. It was very interesting and they were really friendly and encouraged us to ask questions and take as many photos as we could. I of course did. They are open to anything, someone even asked about Female Genital Mutilation and whether they still practise that, which apparently they stopped last year. The kids go to school from 5-10 (apparently, though I find this hard to believe when you see all the kids with the animals all day) – I think it is much to the parents discression whether they want them to help out with the chores or send them to school. Also, the big holes in the ears is a sign of beauty though it is up to the parent whether or not they have them stretched. At the age of 10 the boys are circumcised and at 15 they go off into the mountains along for 5 years, to practice their jump and become a man. They will try to kill a lion to return to the village to prove this. The chief’s son, Alex, introduced us and several men performed a welcome dance, but I was more distracted by the kids jumping about following along behind them. They showed us how they make fire and assured us they don’t use matches or lighter (but mobile phones are common haha) and showed us leaves they use as nail files, plants used as Mosquito repellent, which actually smell like aeroguard, and the plant used to dye the blankets they wear red (the traditional ones, I am sure the ones they were all wearing were made in China). They took each of us into separate homes, I felt a bit intrusive. I wasn’t sure I’d fit through the front door hole. The mud huts are VERY warm inside as the fire is going and the heat is contained. There is a room for the fire, and a room separated by a cooking fire, and the family sleeps either side. Then behind where I sat was an inside stable for the calves to be kept away from lions and hyenas.

So 750 photos down I was ready for the final day. The dogs in the camp were going crazy this night so I didn’t sleep much, not so much from that nose, but more what they were barking at. The mind wanders………..

Today we started our game drive at 6 and had a couple of hours. My 5:30am cold shower really woke me up. First sight was a couple of jackals. Then all the usual gang. The pride of lions we saw today were actually on the move which was nice for the photos, as they are so lazy apparently sleep 20 hours of the day, so happy to catch them awake.
Then the bumpy ride back to Nairobi. The camp the last few nights only had hot water for a couple of hours morning and night, which we never experienced and now learned you have to ask them to turn yours on, and the electricity is also only on for a few hours, so I am on the way to developing night vision.
Back at Karen Camp now and having an early night before the Oasis tour starts tomorrow. Looking forward to it!

Posted by neerg_08 06:30 Archived in Kenya Tagged safari kenya maasai masai nairobi Comments (0)

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