Country number: 61
Territory number: 67
When? July 2002, East Africa Tour
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. 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 eighteen 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 nasty little green tent I have to pitch on my own. The ground is hard and I have to help with the washing up and sweeping….The reward for all my tribulations – the treat of spending a night in the total open air, in the bush, under the stars. After riding a camel for four hours. (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.
So far, we’ve been to Naivasha (walking safari, fraternising with giraffes and sitting in Robert Redford’s chair where they did the filming for Out of Africa), Nakuru (truck gets bogged down in mud and they put me on lion watch while they dig it out), Baringo (feeding fish eagles), Rumirutu (aforesaid camel safari) and on a side trip Jinja in Uganda white water rafting.
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. 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.
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 Landrover. 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 bit bored with them now, leaping in front of the truck all the time.