Arrive in Africa - Masai Mara

Trip Start Aug 28, 2008
Trip End Nov 06, 2008

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Saturday, August 30, 2008

We left Nairobi at about 9 in the morning on Sunday, with a five hour drive through the country to the Masai Mara.  We travelled through the slums in Nairobi which was a bit of an eye opener.  The roads in parts were just dust - I'm covered in the stuff.  Our driver Abdul was obviously very experienced, but it's still scary over here.  We drove to the peak of the Rift Valley which was a pretty spectacular view.  Driving down the escarpment was kind of crazy, any side of the road will do and the artic lorries seemed to have problems on the steep hillside.  We saw one at the very bottom overturned in a gorge.  There were about a dozen men passing up boxes out of it.  Once at the bottom of the Rift Valley the road turned to gravel and mud.  It reminded me so much of the Long Way Down and I was quite excited.  We started seeing our first wildlife there too.  We got to the campsite at about 3.30 and got lunch.  There were no fences between us and the wild west but the facilities were good - we had an ensuite shower and toilet to a tent of 3 girls, albeit they were stood on wooden pallets! We went on an afternoon safari when we got there.  We drove past a couple of Masai villages on the way to the National Park and they were exactly how you picture them, something straight out of National Geographic.  I don't know what I was expecting but we were up close to some of the animals - I can't wait to show you all the photos.  I was six feet away from a pride of 5 lions resting along with the usual wildebeest and zebra. 

I thought there was no way of topping that day but we went for a full day safari on Monday.  We saw a rake of jeeps and vultures circling so went to investigate - there was a cheetah right at the side of the road with his fresh kill.  We watched him eat his kill and then wander off for a rest.  Then the vultures came in.... It was amazing.  The carcass disappeared in minutes.  We've seen so much - we saw giraffe, water buffallo, hippos, crocs, secretary birds, eagles, Caribou storks, elephants, hyenas and warthogs....... and much closer than I imagined.  We actually got very close to some elephants after lunch, so close that the mother of a baby put her ears out and starting moving towards us, warning us off.  We took her seriously and left. We headed cross country in our little matatu's across the grassland so that we got right in the middle of the migration - it was crazy seeing all the wildebeest all heading off across acres of land in little streams all in the same direction.  There literally was thousands of them.  After lunch we also found a couple of young lions in some bush - they were probably about two years old and another pride further along.  The male was amazing up close.  I can see why they say they are majestic animals, he had such a serene look in his eyes, kind of like he was looking down on us for disturbing his siesta.

The next day we went for a sunrise safari (yes, I managed to get up on time) and we came on lions eating their breakfast - another wildebeest.  They fought amongst themselves and chased away a jackal and went for a drink.  The lioness was three feet from me when she was drinking, it was something else.  She walked right behind our Matatu and I was in the back seat.  By opening the back window and looking out I was the closest person to her.  And that's our first safari!

On the way back we stopped at a Masai Village.  It was a very strange experience because they obviously opened up their way of life to us but it was difficult to see some of it.  The central area inside the village was where the cattle are kept overnight and because of the recent rains it was basically like walking through a slurry pit.  The children were all walking around barefoot and the men were laughing at us picking our way carefully through it in flip flops, they kept telling us it was good luck to get manure on our feet.  They showed us the traditional dancing that they do - the noises that they make when singing were incredible.  We say how they make fire and we were even invited into their houses to see how they live.  They had stall as big as their house for a calf and lived in cramped, smokey, dark conditions.  But the most incredible thing about the trip was the children.  They were all snotty and dirty and in old clothes but they all had the biggest smiles and loved waving at us and interacting with us whenever possible.  The whole way through Africa we are waved at by children at the sides of the roads, it's like a tradition over here, they are always so excited to see Muzungu - originally travellers, but now used for white people.  It was a pretty amazing experience and really made me think.

We headed back to the outskirts of Nairobi for our first night in our own tents and our driver actually brought us through the slums so we could really get a feel for it.  It was like nothing I've seen before.  Noone really owns anything there so they don't take any pride in the area - there's rubbish spilling down the river banks and the sides of the street.  There was a cow on the side of the road that looked like she was asleep but was actually dead and noone had moved her.  I felt like an imposter going into the area and staring at everything as we passed.

We're off tomorrow to Tanzania - camping proper tonight, so putting down the tents and everything in the morning, making our own breakfasts etc and crossing the border.  The next three days we're on cold showers with the camping sites so I'm guessing we're probably not going to have internet access either.  We're off for another two day tour after that - the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro crater.  I'm hoping to see the last two of the big five - Leopard and Rhino.... fingers crossed. 

I'm sorry that this is an abridged version - it's really expensive in Africa - I'll update properly at some stage!!! 

Miss you all loads but found five other single girls (everyone else is couples) so we're getting on great and I'm thinking this will fly past - they keep us very busy!!!  Take care, I am xxx
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