Well this hotel is very different than I expected. Heck, Africa is different than I expected. There is no air-conditioning here and yet at night you need the wool blanket they gave you. You need a light jacket once it is dark. This is Spring here and the weather so far has been beautiful. We did get rained out of going inside the Masai Village yesterday, so we will go back today. The roads, when it rains are very scary, but that is another story. The hotel has slats covered with screen next to the sliding doors and the same on the opposite side of the room. The screen covered slats lets the air in and keep mosquitoes out. I haven’t actually seen a mosquito yet, but I know they are out there. The breeze here is soft, but, of course, enough to keep our balloon from flying yesterday, we did learn that we will get a balloon ride in Amboseli. I will never watch an African documentary the same way again. I always envisioned that the camera crew had to hide, keep silence as to not scare the animals. These animals are now so used to people watching that they carry on their normal daily lives as if we didn’t exist. If allowed, and we were brave enough, we could have reached out and touched the lion pride yesterday. None of us ever expected that. Now I know when watching films of Africa there are probably ten safari vans of tourists watching the activities right in the animal faces. The game rangers are also out in force. This is actually all good because all of the safari drivers, no matter what company they work for, will share the animal sightings. That is how we found the male lion and the black rhino yesterday. By the way, they tell us it is easy to find the female lion pride but difficult to find the male. He sees no need to baby sit bratty kids, and just shows up for dinner and when other services are needed. Usually two female lions come in heat at the same time. That way if one female dies the other will suckle her cubs. Animals are amazing!
Well what can I possibly say about today! We saw a cheetah, a herd of over 3000 or more wildebeest, etc, etc and the most spectacular part was the Serengeti Migration where the wildebeest and zebra cross the Mara River. Oh my, this email was interrupted to video and shoot elephants right out side our hotel room window. I didn’t hit the panic button. OK back to the migration. Wildebeest have become one of my favorite African animals because they play such an important role on the African plains, but I won’t go into that now. You have all seen the migration on TV, but I tell you watching in person was, well, I have no words. We were all cheering for each animal that made it across. I am glad we watched a later crossing because I guess the early crossings the crocs are lined up waiting. We saw only one croc attack; Tom has some awesome photos of it. That wildebeest actually broke free but the croc immediately turned and had the baby. Most crocs are now fat and full so really didn’t bother. In fact we saw one croc just watching. Also the animals crossed where the current was calmer so most were able to fight the current. One momma zebra swam on the rough side keeping her baby next to her so it didn’t have to fight the current. Tom has fantastic photos of the two making it all the way across. Now Tom to get good photos stood for a fraction of a second on the roof of the van. One other person was doing it so seemed like a good idea. No, he was caught and it caused all sorts of trauma. I will let him write about that experience, but the good news is he is here with me tonight and not in a Kenya jail. It was a little tense. All is well. Tom’s side, I did get pulled into the Kenya Park Rangers station with our three guides and four Kenya Police and some park rangers. A lot of Swahili language was being tossed around and I kept hearing six months and $500. This started our negotiation. I did not want our driver/guide to get in trouble so I kept telling them I was the problem, I am a dumb tourist, watching one of the seven natural wonders of the world, and got carried away with the excitement. It was not our guides fault. They were threatening to take his license and keep him out of all parks in Kenya, plus punishing me. There were six Kenya Park Rangers and the four Kenya Police in the room plus our three drivers and me. When I finally found out that they were talking about six months in a Kenya jail and a $500 fine I really started negotiating, actually got quite nervous. A long story short after a lot of bickering back and forth, only one of the park rangers spoke English, and I sure as hell don’t speak Swahili, we ended up shaking hands and the head ranger wishing me an enjoyable stay in Kenya, just don’t screw up again. Our driver wasn’t punished at all, he told me this was a typical shake down and we survived it well, actually surprised that we got out of it without any penalty. I figure this is all part of the travel experience and was a big topic around dinner tonight. All is well that ends well. I laugh now but am very glad that our journey continues tomorrow. The downer is that all of this negotiation wasted about two hour’s of our animal viewing time, but the upside is that I did get some fabulous photos and our driver/ guide is going to get a great tip from me for putting him through this fiasco.
Then we moved on to the Masai village. They shared their life with us, the men danced and then the women and then finally took us inside. I have no words for the village. The villages in the Amazon lived in mansions in comparison. The huts are made out of cattle dung, walls, roof, etc. There are no windows and they are pitch dark. I couldn’t stand being inside. Flies covered a baby’s face and were all over its milk bottle. One child had sores all over it face. The kids in the Amazon were dirty but no sores that I saw. Tom says he has never seen anything like it ever, not Vietnam anywhere. They raise cattle and their cattle looked in horrible condition. I was surprised because the wildebeest and all of the other animals are super fat and look in great condition.
We fly back to Nairobi tomorrow morning, and then take land rovers to Amboseli where we will spend two nights, there probably will not be an e-mail tomorrow because we will be arriving late after traveling all day, but will e-mail the next day.
Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. Ralph Waldo Emerson