Sunday, October 31, 2010

Common ground

Wildebeest are indecisive creatures.  I could see it clearly as we sat waiting at the waters edge for their inevitable crossing.  It appeared as though they were fighting an internal struggle.  Their nature dictating who they are, animals who at times must cross the river.  Their judgment bidding them otherwise.  They knew of the dangers, the possible death.  Yet that desire to cross is ingrianed in them.

They would skirt around the water's edge for minutes on end before turning back around, their judgment getting the better of them.  Part of me wondered why they even bothered.  After all, many had just come over to our side of the bank when we arrived.  Why go back?

Then again, maybe it was just a game to them, or a time to conquer fears, like I had done a few days prior at the waterfall.

No matter what the reason was, during the 40 minute wait to watch them cross, I came to the realization that earth's creatures, human or otherwise, all face challenges or struggles. Most importantly, we all have an innate desire to reach the other side of those challenges as conquerors.

(skip to minute 6 to strictly see them crossing the water)

Monday, October 25, 2010

rugged conditions

Camping.  In a tent.  In Africa.

Not everyone is up to the challenge.  Not everyone has a desire to sleep in the bush with only thin sheet of canvas protecting them from the wilds of Africa.  And not everyone is able to forgo modern day amenities.

But I'm not everyone.  And boy, did I rough it.

First, let's talk sleeping arrangements.  Even though the tent was large and spacious, all I had to sleep on was a nice, plush, queen sized bed that was turned down every night.   Hello?? Where's my 4 poster bed??

Second, the toilet.  Granted, it was located inside the tent's bathroom area and had running water to it, meaning it was flush-able.  But it was only an ivory toilet with a wooden seat -- what about the gold plated throne that my royal tush deserves?

Third, the wash basin.  Yes, the hand made copper basin was situated atop a beautiful wooden table, adorned with candle lanterns and a large framed mirror.  But, I was forced to use a pitcher that was regularly filled with hot water to wash my hands.  Honestly, where's the sensor faucet that automatically turns on when I wave my hand beneath it??

Finally, the shower.  This may have been worst of all.  Although two of the camp employees carry a heavy bucket of deliciously warm water to fill the shower basin the moment you're ready to shower; although you're able to revel in the exotic location you're in as you pull on a cord attached to the shower head, allowing the water to release; and although you're able to feel extremely relaxed with the candle lit lanterns flickering on the nearby wash basin table, while showering under the bucket shower filled with warm water... the water eventually runs out! (What does it matter that soft and fluffy towels take the place of the warm water?  All that matters is that it's gone).

So, can't you appreciate all I went through?  The suffering I experienced?  Aren't you glad it was me, not you, that was subjected to the nearly archaic accommodations at the Offbeat Mara Camp?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Luxury Location, part Deux

After bidding adieu to Sosian, I drove two hours to the landing strip, boarded a plane and flew 45 minutes south to the Masai Mara. The stark difference between the two locations were immediately apparent.  The Mara was hot, flat, brown, and a never ending expanse of land in every direction.  And then there were the flies. They swarmed in the thousands... tens of thousands... hundreds of thousands, and especially loved the midday sun.
The Masai Mara is an extension of the Serengeti, near the border of Tanzania.  Twice a year the wildebeest migrate across the border, in the winter they go from the north to the south and the summer from the south to the north.  My trip was timed perfectly, as the wildebeest were at the tail end of their migration north.  They dotted the land as far as the eye could see, yet, Penny, the Offbeat Mara Camp manager, stated it looked nearly empty to her compared to a few weeks prior.

While we waited 20 minutes for the next plane to arrive with 2 more guests at the Mara Camp, Penny suggested we go on a drive.  Not once did I think we'd find anything, with the previous experience I had at Sosian, in only 20 minutes.  But 5 minutes later we sat gawking at a lion cooling itself under the shade of a tree.
I was in awe at the vast number of animals we saw in such short periods of time.  From my tent I was able to see a sea of animals grazing nearby. Every few minutes on drives we'd stop to see yet another animal.The ease in which to see the animals was amazing.  They were everywhere.  And I was thrilled.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

My African family

It sounds strange, I know.  But maybe it was the fact that I was alone and in a way vulnerable, so they pulled me into a protective embrace.  Or, it could have been the all meals, the activities, car rides and nearly every other moment spent together in a new environment.  Then again, it could have just been the Sosian mentality and their naturally friendly attitude.  Whatever it was, after 3 days, it felt like they were family.

Monday, October 11, 2010


Kenya is the home of two tribal groups, the Maasai and the Samburu - the latter being an offshoot of the former.  In the Laikipia region, the Samburu tribe is more prominent.  Both tribes, however, are cattle herders.  They do have to follow regulations and keep their cattle in certain areas, because the bells of the cows scare off the wild game. Other than that, the land is just is much theirs as it is the animals' that roam free.

After seeing Samburu tribesmen walking on foot with no weapons for protection, I had asked Annabell how many tribesmen die from elephant attacks (or any other animal for that matter).  She replied, on average, there are 2 tribesmen a year that die, but having a knowledge of the land and the animals, they're usually quite careful while walking in the bush. 

On the way to the waterfall, Albie and I had to slow down due to an elephant bull in the road.  The bull moved over and hid himself behind a bush.  Hid as in, he positioned himself in a way that people on the road can't see him, but he can see them. A few moments later I spotted a few Samburu tribesmen.  Albie spoke to them in Swahili and the next thing I knew we had 3 extra people in the car with us.  
We turned around and drove them safely past the elephant.  They got out and thanked us before going on their way.  When we passed the elephant again, you could see in his eyes and in his posture that he was on the hunt, waiting for an unsuspecting victim.  Who knows what could have happened had we not driven them past the bull.

The night of my birthday we were able to visit a local Samburu village. As we drove into the village they all greeted us with a handshake.  It appeared as though they were all excited to see us, and welcomed us warmly.  They sang and danced for us, and grabbed our hands to join along.  We were invited inside one of their mud huts, which lacks any light except for the small fire they had burning on the floor inside. Their humble conditions were even worse than what I had seen while living in Brazil.  But what amazed me in Brazil and more so during the visit to the Samburu village, is that their meager dwelling didn't stop them from having wonderfully happy countenances.

After getting a shot of the first person I took a picture of, I turned my camera around so they could see how it turned out.  They laughed and pointed, and others gathered around as well.  There came a moment when the image screen was so full of fingerprints I wondered how they could even see the picture anymore. After that, one person after another would request I take their picture so they could see it afterward. When I switched from my camera to my camcorder, a few boys started gathering around me. Although I had doubts if the Samburu people had ever seen the pictures taken of them before, I was well aware, in the way the boys were in awe, that they had never seen streaming video from a camcorder.  It was such a beautiful experience, to see the excitement in their eyes for something we (from first world countries) have come to take advantage of.

(What's not beautiful is being unable to download my video directly to my blog, but having to go through YouTube in order to do so.   P.S.  I know the video is long, so I won't be offended if you skip through most of it).

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A Sosian Birthday

Tea time was every day at 4pm.  Before we even arrived at the veranda, where tea was served, the table would be full of cups, plates, warm tea, and cake - a different cake each day, to be precise.  The day of my birthday, however, was different.

The plates were out, the cups were out, the tea was out... but there was no cake to be found.  I knew something was going on.  Annabell, the manager, was rushing around, whispering to one employee or another.  I thought, "Oh cute.  They're going to light candles on the cake for me.

Boy did I underestimate the extent of my cake surprise!

Friday, October 1, 2010

African sunrise

Every morning on safari was the same.  Up at 6am when the sun is just starting to show itself in the horizon and out the door by 6:30 when the sunrise is at its peak in brilliant colors.  The wake-up call is provided by someone at the lodge or camp with greetings for a good morning, and a tray waiting outside your door with a drink of your choice.

I'm not a morning person.  I'm far from it.  But if I was greeted every morning the way I was on safari, I'd be up at 6am, without complaint, every morning for the rest of my life.