Sunday, August 7, 2011

East Africa Day 74 (Tues July 26): Maasai Mara Day 2

We all woke up this AM, had a full breakfast in the dining area, and then took off for a full day in the park!! Snapped this one from inside of our van, about to enter through the main gate to the park.

I recorded this video inside the park ...

We drove around all morning, looking for animals. Each time our driver, John would pass by another vehicle he would converse with the other vehicle's driver. I presume they were exchanging info about where the animals had been spotted so that the guests could see as much as possible. Who knows - my Swahili hasn't really improved in weeks, unfortunately. John looked for animals, the Italians' guide looked for animals, and everyone else on our vehicle looked for animals. Anytime someone thought that they saw something, they'd call it out and point, and we'd stop the van to get a better look. Sometimes it was a rock, sometimes a tree, but most of the time the eagle eyes on my van found a lot of animals! I spotted our first crocodile:) Surveying the land and looking for animals was actually just as much fun as actually seeing the animals themselves:)

Another indicator that there were animals in the vicinity was a gathering of tour vans all in one spot, with tourists pointing their cameras in the same direction. In this way we found a group of lions in the AM, lazily sleeping not that far from the road. When we passed by the spot later in the day, the lions were not only still there, but they were even closer to the road. I watched one lioness sneeze three times, within five feet of me.

She was with a male lion, who walked right next to me and in front of the van. I experienced a fleeting feeling of fear, and was thankful that I was higher up, inside the van. (You cannot get out of the van, inside the park, for this very reason.)

We saw so many lions that day - including very young cubs, the youngest maybe two months old. Most of the wildlife were sleeping, the rest were eating. We otherwise saw no action - including no wildebeest crossing the Mara River, though we spotted a few dead bodies halfway submerged in the river. I was happy that we didn't see the crossing - I'd heard that many are injured and die in the crossing, and are washed downstream. I didn't really feel the need to witness that tragedy. In fact, I was going to skip the Mara entirely, because of it - glad that I didn't! The crossing, while advertised as this big thing, was actually a very small part of the whole three-day safari experience - the rest of it in itself was amazing! We also saw hippos, cheetah, more kinds of antelope, more buffalo, elephant, zebra, birds ... giraffe ...

Stopped in the AM at a view point, where we took a photo of the group in front of our van. Elien took the photo, so unfortunately she's not in it.

She tried to get a photo of me jumping, but that didn't work out so well, even though the attempts were quite fun!

The next time we stopped and were able to get out of the van was for our lunch break, which we took on the top of a hill without anyone else in sight - OK, we saw a van or two driving on a distant road. Our cook had packed us each a lunch. I had a hard boiled egg in my packed lunch, which seems to be a standard snack here. Everyone else had a meat sandwich, and no egg. I guess the egg was supposed to be my protein. Jacques was happy to take it off of my hands. I was very conscious of the amount of food that we were fed during our entire trip, and the western flush toilets, and hot water in our showers. Flush toilets even in the middle of the park, on the airstrip, where we stopped to use the bathrooms in the AM, and where I bought a pair of earrings from a Maasi man who had laid out some (tourist) wares. Where does this waste water go? I wonder even here in Nairobi. I have never seen a western storm drain, but there are either dirt or paved canals on the roadsides. I've seen so many people washing in the waterways this summer - clothes, mainly - I don't even know what the water supply must be like, here, aside from the parasites in the water.

But! I digress. I was sitting in the very back row of seats today, in a corner. I found the most fun and comfortable spot was if I stuck my upper torso out of the top of the van, with my butt resting on the headrest of the seat in front of me, feet resting on a rim on the inside of the van along the side (feet not allowed on the seat), and my head sort of leaning out beyond the edge reach of the roof. (Though when it rained for a few minutes in the afternoon, we closed the top, so I had to be satisfied with looking out of the windows on the side of the van, which actually was perhaps a better view but not nearly as fun as having the wind blowing around you, and a 180 degree view of the Mara:) I am lucky I am small - otherwise I wouldn't have fit in the place that I'd wedged my body, for the day. (I woke up the next morning with a bit of a sore rib cage, but it was worth it.) Anyway - was just a fun day!

One of the fun things about staying at the campsite and doing the whole safari was meeting so many people from all over, who had all come for the Mara. About 1/3 of our trip had just come to Kenya for our safari. Over dinner we met an Israeli woman who told us why Israel needs to exist. I know it by heart, but the Belgians in my group had never heard it, and thanked the woman for sharing her perspective. It so easy to take things for granted. Towards the end of the night a bunch of us were sitting outside in the grass, in a circle, where we were joined by more people from other groups. Two young American women from Mass who work with autistic students in Abu Dhabi, two Australian brothers - one is a professional modern dancer and ballerina in a company in Munich, and his brother does hotel marketing in Dubai but has previously worked in London and another place that I forget ... he said maybe Thailand next. I can't explain how much I enjoyed meeting a professional ballerina:)

I didn't sleep too well at night, which meant I was up to hear the animals. They were LOUD! I couldn't tell if some of them were dogs, or what but it was fun knowing that we were that close to the park and the wildlife! Maybe a five minute drive from the entrance to the park. (There are about 5 gates to the park, by the way - we used the gate closest to our camp site.)

Another adventure in Kenya!

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