Going to Kenya must have been very exciting for the whole party – I know Matt was very much looking forward to the experience. However, I wonder if they realised that food was going to be quite so limited. Anyone who has been a parent to a teenager can surely testify as to how the fridge suddenly becomes a very important part of life during those adolescent years. I soon learned that the only way to avoid that first thing in the morning frustration of finding out that today’s lunch had been eaten the night before was to keep a well stocked fridge at all times – and even then it was touch and go!
Day 6 – July 21st
“It is hard to describe how good sausages taste after so long living on grains and vegetables. Callum’s and my creative accounting had allowed us 3 nights, complete with cooked breakfast (1 sausage and 1 egg) at Hotel Janus in Nakuru. Today we went to Lake Nakuru National Park for our first day of safari. As I deal with the cashflow for the group, I got out of the bus and went with Robert to pay the entrance fee. Unfortunately, the cashier wanted an extra 1500 shillings than we had budgeted for because of the size of our vehicle. After a ten minute argument, we ended with phrases like “you’re robbing us” and “now we won’t eat tomorrow”. Much later we called up our transport provider and persuaded him at length to reimburse us. Everyone here is only after one thing! The safari however turned out to be more than worth it. After driving for a few minutes we had already seen most if not all of the spectacular animals from Hell’s Gate.
Soon after we found ourselves in the middle of an enormous herd of cape buffalo, a surreal experience at first. Cape buffalo are basically large dark brown/black cows with enormous brow ridges and horns. Robert told us they are basically colourblind, but they will charge if they smell you.
We also saw a few far off glimpses of rhinos, which were what we were trying to find today. The excitement really started however when we stopped just short of an enormous black rhino crossing the road in front of us. Lake Nakuru has black and white rhinos, both of which are extremely endangered. This particular beast was absolutely magnificent, weighing in at about 4,000 kg it was at least 3 m long from nose to tail. Speaking of its nose, it had a perfect unchipped horn that looked as lethal as any tooth or claw, especially with 4 tons of rhinoceros behind it at 40 mph.
We moved on after many pictures and struck out in search of more big game. We saw several eagles circling high above, and some flamingos from a distance. We slowly approached a family of baboons as the terrain turned from savannah to jungle. There were some very young ones clinging to their mothers, and adolescents with boundless energy jumping and swinging about.
We came to the edge of a cliff and got out of the bus. The view was the most extraordinary I have ever seen, out onto the Lake Nakuru and surrounding jungle.
There were several extremely vivid green trees which stood out, Robert called these ‘Marula’, or sometimes colloquially ‘Elephant Trees’. These trees have alcoholic fruit which elephants get to by knocking the whole tree down and then devouring. This leads to drunk elephants trumpeting and staggering around for several hours. The viewpoint where we were standing was also where the movie “Out of Africa” was filmed. After exploring the viewpoint for a while (including witnessing Robert speaking with some Spanish tourists after which we learned he is fluent in Spanish and Japanese as well as English and Swahili) we moved on in search of lions. Along the way we came across an ostrich; much larger than I previously realized.
We were on the trail of lions for at least an hour; Robert kept calling other guides to compare notes on where the lions could be found and stopping to talk to other drivers. Slowly we converged with the other vehicles on a spot where a single other bus was parked, with people inside it pointing and staring. And there they were, the kings of the jungle. Less than 3 m away from our position, a full pride of about 10 lions. There were several lionesses one of which we decided was the alpha female as she was the largest and most alert. There were 2 cubs playing with each other, and several adolescent male lions. There was also a large alpha male just visible under the thick foliage. Seeing so many lions from so close was a dream come true for me, a once in a lifetime experience that few people are lucky enough to have.
That was enough safari for one day, so we headed back to the Hotel Janus. Callum and I have been accounting our fingers off, and Chris and I have pretty much been robbing everyone we’ve done business with, so we have a decent pool of free money. Chris and I decided to talk to the manager Mary and see if we could do a deal for dinner for the remaining two nights. The hotel serves fried chicken and chips at 750 shillings per night, and Mary suggested we have some traditional Kenyan ugali, a maize based dish designed to fill us up but at extra cost. We bargained for a while before playing the “2 nights” card, and eventually got her down to the larger meal at 500 shillings per person per night. During dinner Craig accidentally nearly let slip that we have a birthday cake for Simran, but just managed to cover up by stumbling onto the topic of cyber cafes. Tomorrow is the second and last day of safari.”