Saturday, 2 March 2013

The Southern Cross - African dawn with no power

Days 3 to 6 - (10th -13th Aug) Nairobi to Lake Naivasha, Lake Naivasha to Masai Mara

Woke up at sparrows today with no electricity. Great start to get us used to what is install for us on the rest of our African adventure. Showering by torchlight was interesting, at least we could check for any horrible spiders! We figured this would not be the last time we would be doing this. By 6am we were packed and ready to get our taxi to Heron Hotel where we would meet other people on our tour. At the hotel we met our Welsh guide for the day Leana who was taking us to the giraffe sanctuary, elephant orphanage and then onto Lake Naivasha where our tour truck was waiting for us to join the rest of the group we would be travelling with. Joining us at the hotel was Christain, an American from New Mexico living in Cairo and Justin and Rolindi, from Oz, although Rolindi was originally from Joburg.
Our first stop was the Giraffe Sanctuary. We fed a giraffe called Lynne, the tallest and friendliest one out of all of them. You could also get her to lick your face with that enormous big smile and purple tongue if you held the pellet in your lips you…We certainly did not want to be ”kissed” but.a few people tried and the best was watching a couple trying to get a photo of the other being “kissed” however each time the guy would say to his wife i’m sorry dear but I missed the perfect timing can we try that again….He did this about 4 times to her! We were laughing.

The elephant orphanage was founded by Daphne Sheldrick who is world famous for the development of the first care regime to successfully keep orphaned elephants alive and including the required milk formula on which young elephants depend for over a year. It is a great concept and the elephants were all well looked after with the aim of rehabilitation into the wild. The youngest and newest member at the orphanage was 3 months old!

After our fill of giraffes and elephants for the day we started our long drive to Lake Naivasha to start our life on the big yellow truck for the next 37 days. On route we stopped at the Great African Rift Valley for a spectacular view. We were persuaded by a local to buy a wooden soap dish of the Rift Valley. We caved in and bought it - good salesman! We were met by our new tour leader Susan, who explained life on the truck and what to expect. Our yellow truck we are on is called Pluto, and our driver is Steven and our cook is Goodluck. We were showed how to put up the tents that was to be our ”home”. Once she had put the tent up we were all eyeing up this tent that had been put up thinking ”great if we get this tent we won’t need to put a tent up tonight”. Wrong! Susan promptly started taking the tent apart and packing it up. Oh well, a tent we need to now put up. It was actually one of the easiest tents we have ever put up. Once we had gotten to grips on everything the others who had already had a week of travelling on Pluto arrived at the camp and introduced themselves. They are all lovely people and we all got on really well. We have Ozzies, Kiwis, English, American and one German. Names will be mentioned later as the trip continues. We all went on a hippo cruise on Lake Naivasha.

We were told that we all have chores to do on the truck each day with one day off. Dave landed the jackpot and had his first day off, me on the other hand was told that the next day I was on the cooking team which meant being up to prepare for breakfast at 5.30am so we could leave for Masai Mara at 6.30am. Breakfast on early days like these mainly consisted of cereal only. Quick and easy!
After our first night in the tent, and after an early breakfast we left for Masai Mara. Half way there we stopped at a town to exchange money and get lunches for the next few days. Lunches mainly consisted of fruit, crackers, cream cheese or two minute noodles. We did manage to find humus in a tin and are still trying to find the perfect avocado!

 The mobile bank! Awesome and it even worked, no worry of cards being swallowed either.

We stopped at a Masai village and learnt about the Masai culture. The men were all dressed in the traditional red Masai blankets for which they are famous for. They danced and sang in their language called Ma. They were very welcoming on showing us their way of life and traditions. They grabbed some of us to dance with them. Must say they were the better dancers. They then demonstrated the jumping competitions that they have. I think we all under estimated how high they could jump. It was very impressive. The Masai women came out in traditional wear and danced for us too. We were all then led into their compound as they called it. They showed us how they make fire and a few tried it out. As with most African tradition, most men have more than one wife and we were explained this and also about labola. We were shown inside one of the houses that has been built with cow dung and ashes and lasted an average of 5 years before a new home needed to be rebuilt.. There were cow skins as blankets on the beds. The Masai explained that it was the Masai women’s job to build the house and maintain it. We were both amazed at how the Masai have managed to keep all their traditions especially with the amount of other tribes not only in Kenya but other African countries becoming increasingly westernised and the vast majority of traditions being lost. We did leave feeling that this was not the ''true'' Masai, and it was all a show for the tourists but none the less it was good to see.

On arrival in the Masai Mara we were met with thousands of Zebra and Wildebeest. We have never seen so many, every where you looked you could could see more of them for miles and miles across the plains. Luckily for us the migration this year was late due to the rains and a vast amount of land that caught fire in the Serengeti. We knew there would be a lot of animals for the migration but I think we under estimated the sheer scale of it all. We managed to spot some lions on our way through Masai Mara to our camp. On arrival at our camp Susan advised us to be careful at night when wandering to the toilets or showers as the animals are able to roam freely. After dinner a few of us went to the bar for a few drinks, we wanted to get to chat to the others we were travelling with. That night we got to know Rebecca and Sherri, two sisters from Melbourne, Justine and Rolindi mentioned earlier and Patrick from Germany. Little did we know that the sisters and Patrick had already formed the ”Tusker drinking team” and we were soon part of the gang. Tusker is the local Kenyan beer that everyone loved! After a few bevvies, Justine, Rolindi, Dave and myself decided to call it a night as we had a full days game drive the next day. On our way back the four of us mastered the call of the hyena, ( wwwwwwwwwhooop). We thought we could scare the others that had already gone to bed however we didn’t hear screams or see torches shining out the tent. We did however manage to keep the Masai guards on their toes as we soon saw them rushing around the camp for with torches looking for these hyenas. We figured we’d stop or else the Masai guys would get annoyed with us.
The next morning we woke early to start our full game drive. After about 10 minutes we spotted some lion(to be honest we spotted the rows of safari vehicles first before deciding it was one of the big game everyone wanted to see),one of them had just caught a small gazelle (small deer). Darn we just missed a kill, but managed to get some good pictures of the lioness eating her morning snack. It was not soon after we left the lions that we came around a corner and found some vehicles just parked looking into the long grass. As we approached we saw a cheetah lying in the grass. We waited and watched for about half an hour, eventually the cheetah got up and walked over to our truck and stopped to drink some water in a gully. We were very lucky to have been that close to the cheetah. Through out the day we saw hippos, cerval, more zebra, more wildebeest, giraffe, hyenas and a herd of about 18 elephant. We stopped for lunch near the Mara river, famously known as the river separating the Serengeti with Masai Mara and the river the animals cross during the migration. We were escorted with armed guides along part of the Mara river where we saw many animals that were dead in the river from either drowning or being trampled on. We won’t mention the stench of rotting meat in 30 degree heat! After a long day we returned to camp after sun down. Dave needed to hold my hand to the showers as the hyenas were already making noises. They were probably far away but its always nice to have someone with you.

All the tiny black speckled dots in the distance are more wildebeest and zebra! They went for miles and miles. We knew the migration was going to be big but nothing prepares you for the sheer magnitude of it in reality.

 Easy to spot one of the big cats - look for the vans lined up!

I wouldn't mind owning a lense like this someday!

Border of Masai Mara and Serengeti.

 Armed walk along the Mara River, famous for the migration crossing.

Dead migrants cooking in the 30 degree heat - smelled something terrible!

 Some of the spoor we saw on our walk down the river!

 Colourful little guy! 

 Our big yellow truck - Pluto.

 How rare to see a cerval in broad daylight! 
Largest matriarch-led herd of elephants we have ever seen.

Classic ''great migration'' picture.

Its just a giraffe right?? But the patterns are very unusal - not the familiar egg shell
Bottle of Moet given to us by Adam & Mel as a farewell gift - it survived the plane! What better way than to crack it open after a full day safari in Masai Mara at sundowners. We saw a family of mongeese flurry across the river to their den, while the evening calls of lions and hyenas beckoning in the distance.

The next day we left to go back to Nairobi but went through Masai Mara to get back to the main road. We hope no one is getting sick of reading this but we saw a lone male lion, with a beautiful thick dark mane. We stopped for a bit to get some pictures as we were very close. After a few moments he suddenly looked up, got up and started running towards the road, past our truck over to the other side. Next thing we saw lots of vultures leaping and flying away, some weren’t quick enough and the lion jumped up to grab one of the vultures. Wow what an incredible moment to witness. We then watched for half an hour as it dragged its zebra kill from the early hours of the morning back to where he was sitting. The muscles and the power he had to drag, the zebra must have weighed a minimum of 200kg (440lbs). We entered the Masai Mara in style and leaving on a high note hoping Ngorogoro Crater and the Serengeti lives up to all we have seen in this amazing place!

 Morning hot air ballons going up over Mara and Serengeti.

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