Here is the Part 2 from my recent trip to Kenya, from 8th to 19th June 2013. You can read Part 1 here.
Take a look below for a little gallery of photos relating to this entry…
My first of many taxi journeys took myself and the two girls to Ashley, my brother, who I could see sitting down in the distance when we stopped for a forceful security check that seemed to take an age; he was so close yet so far away! Upon getting closer he seemed to be with two people, Ben and Sophie, who I was introduced to before walking together to a restaurant for lunch. It was so nice to see my brother after such a long time apart and he quickly welcomed me to Nairobi and told me about this ‘Village Market’ place. During lunch I had my first Tusker beer, which was a welcome treat in the hot Kenyan weather, and we caught up on lost time.
After lunch we visited the supermarket in the Village and stocked up with a big crate of Tusker and plenty of tonic to accompany the gin I had bought Ashley. We then took a taxi back (a regular theme to my stay, due to the extremely reasonable fares) to Peponi and made a start on the Tusker, talking long into the night.
Usually, such an early start would have been unwelcome, yet it wasn’t a problem this particular morning with the prospect of my first proper safari. The surprising lack of hangover also spurred me on and we were soon on our way in our safari vehicle, which had picked us up from a car park in the centre of Nairobi. We passed through such a variety of different towns and villages, each with people everywhere you looked, with the common theme being speed bumps (even the motorways have speed bumps!) and livestock running along and across the roads. The road surfaces deteriorated the closer we got to the Mara, with rocky and dusty trucks actually making being a passenger quite painful! We had stopped at the Great Rift Valley viewpoint but it was very misty and so we vowed to stop on the way back if it was clear.
An hour before the National Park checkpoints, our driver pulled into a car park in a sizeable town so that we could pay for our park fees in a bank that sold the permits. We were well prepared and had brought with us the $80 (7000 Kenyan Shillings) required so that we could quickly and effortlessly sort our entry into the Park; unfortunately that wasn’t the case, as the driver suddenly told us that we’d need two permits. After a few phone calls to the person at the safari company, who had originally told us that just the one pass was needed, we hadn’t progressed any further towards getting what was promised and so we had no choice but to pay double. We asked to go to the bank ourselves and pay, rather than giving the money to the driver as he had requested, just in case we were somehow being swindled. The bank was so insanely packed with people queueing up for a kiosk and when the driver insisted we pushed straight to the front we thought it a good time to leave.
Five hours, and after hundreds of songs played through my Minirig speaker, later we began ‘proper’ off-roading and after being chucked around the vehicle for 20 minutes we saw a sign for a camp. Upon arrival the driver turned around and said “I think this is the place”, to which we looked a bit worried and he smiled to reveal his subtle sense of humour! We were shown to our huge tents and told that it was two per tent but, as there were six of us (Ashley, Ben, Freya, Katie, Sophie and myself) and three beds in each tent, we thought it made sense to split it boys and girls. After choosing beds and putting our luggage in the tents we got straight back into the vehicle (which had been opened up at the top to allow us to stand up) for our first Mara safari drive.
At the National Park entrance gate (one of them, anyway!) we were able to purchase our passes (after our driver had told us to tell the guards at the earlier checkpoint that our passes were being flown in later that day, allowing us to proceed!) and enter the Mara after being hounded by local tribeswomen selling a range of handmade goods. Within two minutes of entering we were met with lots of zebra and within 15 minutes we had bagged ourselves a rare sighting of a Black Rhino! I suddenly noticed the sky and it instantly added validation to what so many say about Kenya, if not East Africa in general, that the sky is so large. It sounds strange, and I thought it strange before I saw it in person, but it somehow seems much more immersive than our ‘home skies’.
Elephants were next, graciously and majestically moving through the long grass with their young, followed by a long stop near four beautiful lionesses, that started off hidden in a stream and slowly came up onto land to see why a couple of vehicles had crowded around them. I was able to take so many good quality photos due to how close we were, while the lionesses posed as if auditioning for a part in a David Attenborough documentary.
As the light was fading we came across some sizeable buffalo crossing in front of us, with their respective birds providing a grooming service in return for free food, their calves hesitantly trotting in tow. We got back to the camp in complete darkness and enjoyed a homely meal of tomato soup, a spicy chicken dish and then fruit to finish us off, brought to us by local Maasai tribesmen holding torches. We stumbled back to our tents, satisfied and full, ready for what the next day’s safari had in store for us…