Country number: 61
Territory number: 67
When? July 2002, East Africa Tour, first leg, with a side trip to Jinja, Uganda
Who? Group tour
‘When the missionaries came to Africa, they had the Bible and we had the land. They taught us to pray with our eyes closed. When we opened them, we had the Bible in our hand, and they had the land.’
I am on a tour of the African bush, on an overland truck. This trip is led by a husband and wife team, Caz and Jim. They do all the main jobs between them, driver, chef, quartermaster. This is their last trip and they’ve got very good at delegating. They also seem to have given up caring. We are their nine noisy children who are they pack into the back of their truck under sufferance.
I’m covered in red dust, as is everything I own. My diet has consisted of fruit and boiled eggs with the odd lump of cheese thrown in when I’ve been really good. Occasionally, if the budget will allow, we are fed warthog chops or zebra steaks to keep us going. I have a green ridge tent I share with Alsion -it’s not very easy to pitch. The ground is hard and I have to help with the washing up and sweeping.The reward for all my tribulations – lots of lovely wildlife.
So far, we’ve been to :
- Naivasha for a walking safari on Crescent Island, fraternising with giraffes and sitting in Robert Redford’s chair where they did the filming for Out of Africa. It’s idyllic camping by the lake shore, except that American Mel who’s had her very short hair done in cornrows, snores.
- Nakuru for the amazing flamingos turning the lake candy floss pink, white rhino, warthogs, impala and hirax, amongst others. This leg isn’t without adventure, there’s a leopard on the road to start with and then lashings of rain. The truck gets bogged down in mud and they put me on lion watch while the others dig it out. Foraging monkeys invade our camp and have just been driven out when a buffalo arrives. These are skittish and must not be antagonised. I’m not enjoying my middle of the night trips to the toilet block.
- Rumirutu – to my consternation we’re doing a camel safari for two days here. I missed that bit in the itinerary. The treat of spending a night in the total open air, in the bush, under the stars. besieged by mosquitoes. After riding a camel for four hours., elephants crossing in front of us – there are young bulls in musk around. (Don’t ask about the blisters). No toilet, well I’m used to my little trowel now. Everyone just goes by the side of the bus and sod it. Somehow I slept through the hyenas visiting and the lions roaring. Apparently, everyone else got up in the middle of the night, made a huge fire and hid behind the camels. In the confusion, I’ve managed to lose my sleeping bag sack, a lens from my sunglasses, my padlock key and my precious toilet roll.
- Lake Baringo, a boat trip, feeding swooping fish eagles, more flamingos, monitor lizards, crocodiles, Goliath herons, snuffling hippos and a 65 year old giant tortoise. I”m attacked in the eye by a thorn bush, find my padlock key and then lose it again.
- Eldoret, up winding mountain roads, with stunning views across the Rift Valley. We wave to school children. Some wave back. Some give us the finger.
- Jinja in Uganda – a side trip .
The Masai Mara
- Through high rolling tea country with Brooke Bond signs. The Masai Mara is a brilliant finale to Kenya. Not least because it involves glamping (tents with bathrooms and hot water) with Masai warriors on sentry duty and silver service dining under the stars. ‘Do you have your knife?’ the guard inquires as he walks us back to the tent at night. Each year around the same time, the circular great wildebeest migration begins in the Ngorongoro in the southern Serengeti in Tanzania and loops in a clockwise direction through the Serengeti National Park and north towards the Masai Mara reserve in Kenya. This migration involves 260,000 zebra, about 1.7 million wildebeest and the following hundreds of thousands of other plains game, including around 470,000 gazelles. The herds arrive in Kenya in late July to August and here we are watching them. Wikipedia says that about a quarter of a million wildebeest die on the 500 mile journey. This is safari, just like you see on TV. There are flat topped acacias on plains teeming with topi, eland, Grant’s and Thompson gazelles, zebra, giraffe, wildebeest and warthog. Hyena, cheetah, lion, elephant, hippo and rhino, all put in an appearance.
- I worried before I came out that the zoom on my camera might not be good enough on safari. But I’ve taken photos of rhino, lion and elephant that filled my frame without using the zoom at all. Elephant was the most disconcerting. For one horrible moment I thought it was going to lift me clean out of the Land-rover. I panicked so much I forgot to take any photos. I’m told others have them. Just the whites of the eyes. The elephant that is. I’m very fond of the graceful giraffes and the flamingos, carpets of them, are gorgeously flamboyant. The impala are pretty, though we’re a little bored with them now, leaping in front of the truck all the time.
- Our last night in Kenya is spent at a once fine country hotel, now sadly in need of renovation. We’ve erected our tents on the front lawn. Alison, American Mike and John, the youngest of us, are all sick.
- Over the border to Tanzania…