Horizon at Sandy Point

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Kenya diary 1982

Mythical Africa - where elephant and zebra, lion, gazelle and cheetahs play!

What is the attraction of "going away" for a honeymoon? What do we look for - is it luxury or solitude, a place where no one knows our name? What do we expect to find there, similarities or differences, something to take us forward, or one day look back on? To find yourself amid strangers? Or to find yourself and the person you have recently committed to? Thirty years ago, just married, we chose Kenya. It was my first real vacation in a few years, but for the groom, it was the opportunity to share an adventure in Africa where he grew up. Via France and Italy, we entered Kenya: a new place for me, a coming home for him.

Ranji as a teenager, in a Masai village

Mini-safari: On Tuesday (October 12, 1982), we left Nairobi at 9 am. Adrienne's car loaded with camping equipment, tent and toiletries. Coffee, milk, bread, sugar, salt, gas, matches, batteries, sweets, from my scant diary of that day. Stopped in Narok - a town in transition from old Maasai cattle collective to modern village. Many tourists. Arrived Keekorok at 1pm, over un-tarmacked roads. Lunch was a cold buffet. Animals seen: deer, giraffe, elephant, lion, zebra and ostrich.

One of the many deer species in Kenya

Wildebeest on migration
Giraffes everywhere!

Family groups traverse the Mara plains.
Later that evening, we pitched tent in Sand River in the Mara. A game warden, John Maine, offered a piece of his topi (Thompson gazelle) which we stewed with potatoes over a campfire. There was sand in the stew but as my father would say, "a bellyful is a belly full." Inside the two-man tent, we were safe as houses, but when we heard a snuffling "mewhhhh" and scampering, Ranji put his finger to his lip and mouthed "lion," before turning over and snoring all night.

Sleeping lions the colour of the grass 

Simba keeps watch

Peeping out of the tent next morning - with a plan to sprint the hundred yards to where the car was parked - we saw water buffalo and beautiful sunshine. Coffee on an open fire is the best. No bathroom but the bush, we headed back to Keekorok to wash in their restrooms. Lunch at the Keekorok canteen was goat, cabbage and potato - a formula for farts.

Waking up on Sand River, Masai Mara

From Keekorok, we took a heading to Mara Serena. Driving fast on a very boggy road did nothing good for the car. Animals seen: rabbit, warthog, hippopotamus, hyena, jackal, baboon. Mara Serena looks out over the plains from a hill; but there was no room for us. Kichwa Tembo (which means head of an elephant) had no room. We were sent on to Mara Sara where the lodge was empty but closed. We could however camp on the bank of the Mara river within the compound.

By the next day, the knocking of the shock on the left rear end could not be ignored. A noisy ride to Kichwa Tembo found a bush mechanic. By mid-morning we were on the road to Lolgorien over the Oloololo escarpment where giraffes and gazelles darted across the rocky road. At times, it felt like the car was picking its way from rock to rock; not surprised at the flat tyre at the top of the scarp. After lunch in Migori, it was on to Rongo where we picked up a policeman heading to Homa Bay.

Rest stop at Homa Bay
There was room in the hotel at Homa Bay - the Kenyan tip of Lake Victoria where they say the fish are man-sized, fat on the victims of Idi Amin's regime. We drained the hotel tanks for bath water. Good thing it rained all night. But the road was turned to a river of mud. Maybe we would have to pay the 30 fellas their price of five shillingi each to push us up the hill. Not yet, as the trusty Peugeot and excellent driving skills took us skidding up the hill. Then we picked up the American Peace Corps Volunteer who talked all the way to Kericho, through Nakuru, Naivasha and on to Nairobi. Seems he was more than half spaz from taking a flying leap for a second floor window on acid. He told his life story, Ranji told his. Not sure which was more colourful.

Masai Mara sculpture

Saturday on the Ngong Hills was cold and breezy. And this haiku: the great rift valley of Africa, drift, rift, divide, deep rift, river ...

From the Kenyan plateau, we headed to the coast, the ancient port of Mombasa and magical offshore island of Lamu.

It's a little amazing in hindsight that we could have set out on life's adventure with so little planning and no reservations.
Early morning on the bank of the Mara River - no bathing, but stories of a hippo that bit a man in two

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