Our Tenth Natural Wonder Of The World…SMASH!

Trip Start Jul 24, 2012
Trip End Aug 19, 2012

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Aruba Campsite

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Thursday, July 26, 2012

(Erica) We were roused from our sleep by the sound of the bush and ominous footsteps passing close to the tent.  They sounded human, or so I hoped, thank god I hadn't felt the urge to go to the toilet in the night and had slept quite well knowing that we were in the safe hands of two Masai warriors, complete with spears, who assured us they were guarding the perimeter of our camp (we had been on an exploratory wander at dusk to discover the gate to the African wild savannah wide open and a herd of Zebra, eyes glinting in the torch light close to the tents, it was a little perturbing).  The one season sleeping bags had thankfully been warm enough and the mats supplied by the truck quite simply luxurious – so all in all we had had a comfy night - YAY!

It was 5.45am and still dark but the truck lights were on and people were busy milling around, the smell of breakfast wafting around the site (hopefully not attracting too much wildlife).  By the time we had washed, changed and took the tent down the sun had come up and we were tucking in to beans on toast, cooked by one of the girls Renee, and a mug of hot chocolate to wash it down.  We were all on the truck and good to go by 7.30am and started our long journey towards the world renowned Masai Mara game reserve.  The road was expectedly bumpy, to say the least, thankfully we had managed to bag a couple of seats up front so didn’t have to suffer the agonising jolts at the back where some of the group were thrust more than a foot in the air in some sections of the road.  Having the sides of the truck open made it freezing too and I was starting to regret only bringing one fleece but the Kenya Air blanket did the trick and we felt like a pair of geriatrics with the thing tucked in around our legs for the entire journey.  We started a trend and some of the others sat opposite us got their quality, fleecy Etihad one out and we felt like proper tramps!

Before long we were amazed to see herds of Thompson’s Gazelles and Wildebeest roaming the grasslands.  We also came across Giraffe and Impala on the way to the game reserve, the giraffes crossing right in front of the truck!  It really was incredible. We were also taken aback by the children who would literally chase the truck laughing, smiling and waving at us, all dressed in different coloured school uniforms with water bottles and lunch boxes on their way to school.  We passed lots of schools and the children playing in the playgrounds would all smile and wave, it was so heart warming.  We stopped for lunch at a Masai village and were greeted by the young warriors who performed a welcome dance for us which involved lots of jumping and intimidating stares.  Apparently they wear red as the wild animals are scared off by it – but Andrew was questioning that after being charged by a bull in India when wearing a red t-shirt.  Hilarity!

The men told us about the village, that it was penned in by stick fences and that all the houses were built around a central area as the goats and other livestock were kept there during the night to avoid them being taken by lions.  At 15 the boys become warriors and are sent off to live in the bush for 3 months to hone their skills at battling animals.  Wow, and I struggled with GCSE’s!  The women then did a welcome dance for us and only later did we realise that almost everyone had a baby strapped to their backs in a sheet.  We were allowed to look inside the adobe huts that the families live in too.  They are built by the women of the tribe and take about 3 months to make – out of cow dung.  We were taken in by one of the men and it was so dark, only having a door and a tiny circular ventilation hole where the smoke from the open fire escapes.  We were told to take a seat – but wondered where as we couldn’t see anything, but our eyes soon adjusted to the dark and we perched ourselves on a small bench with a baby goat underneath that bleated away incessantly.  Our host told us that he slept on a small bed with his daughters and the boys slept with their mother.  It seemed that a large portion of the house was reserved for the very small chickens and goats that were too small to graze with the others for fear of being taken by the park animals

The men then gave us a demonstration of how they make fire without using matches. (Andrew taking over for a short while). The guy basically had a soft piece of long wood and a hard piece of wood with notches in and by spinning the long piece of wood created hot ashes and mixed those with elephant dung and straw to get the fire going. Most entertainingly this traditional village where everyone was dressed in traditional dress and living in huts made out of cow poo and walking around in the area where the cattle spent the night pooing one of the blokes had on a digital watch which made me chortle.  Erica edit – what was even funnier was that the oldest man in the village was 93!  Living in shit!

After a quick lunch of cheese triangles and tomato but-buts we hit the road to get into the Masai Mara Game Reserve. There were lots of hawkers at the gate selling tat in a rather aggressive fashion. A lot of the South Koreans and Japanese people in the small trucks had their windows forced open and the women reaching through the window. For us in the big yellow taxi they couldn’t get near other than the constant shouting "hello, hello, hello".  Regardless we were at the gates of the Masai Mara this was going to be brilliant, the chance to fulfil a lifelong dream and see the biggest migration on earth, the migration of the Wildebeest.

The game drive started and we saw lots of Thomson’s Gazelle, Impala and Zebra which itself was just brilliant . We continued and next saw some giraffe all be it at a distance but still we were loving every minute of it. We passed some kind of bird and our guide asked we ring the bell to tell the driver to stop. As we did the truck chug chug chuggered to a stop and the guide said “that didn’t sound good”. He jumped out with the driver before coming back with a quick update “it sounds like there is air in the fuel pump we will transfer all the fuel to the other tank and we will be away”. Soon a local mechanic with a finger missing arrived with an entourage and the five of them transferred the fuel by siphoning into 5 gallon tanks and siphoning back in on the other side. After about an hour and a half they tried to start again but with no result. The answer was to remove the fuel pump and drive it to the local town for fixing. All the while our dreams of reaching the Masai river were fading and those spectacular sights of the crocks  taking the Wildebeest disappeared before our eyes. Loo breaks were taken behind the truck and for those of us still with diahorrea it was a long wait. It lasted over 3 hours in total, but eventually with 30 minutes before the park closed the truck started and we were off. We saw huge herds of Wildebeest (hundreds though not the millions on the other side of the river still), some very close up giraffes and were amazed at their camel like running style. We next came across a herd of elephants including some very young babies which was just brilliant the babies kept knocking each other over it really was good. In theory the park had already closed and as the night drew in we just got more and more hysterical, again huge numbers of Zebra and Wildebeest, a Black Jackal and Topi. It was amazing. The guards left the park open until we got back out about one hour after, theoretically closing time. We camped in the national park again and as we arrived found the night security throwing stones at a herd of Elephants to try and keep them out of the campsite. We dined in the pitch black again with spag bol out of our mess tins chased down with a few tuskers (the local swig) as normal Erica and I were one of the first to bed (outside of the diahorrea crew who hadn’t eaten). It still amazes me that we have two or three Masai who stay awake outside our tents to protect us from animals and thieves. I still wonder how a thin spear can keep away the armed robbers.
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