16 January 2011

Game Drive, Car Ride, Ostrich Farm

Sunday, 16 January 2011

I’m lying on my king-size (almost – they are not quite as long as our beds in the States!) bed, listening to the gentle pitter-patter of rain on the thatched roof above me and looking out across a cloudy valley.  Enormous Mt. Kenya is completely shrouded by the clouds, and dusk is almost upon us.  We are back early from our afternoon game drive, as rain, photography, and open-sided safari vehicles are not a great combination.  Rex is reading with his eyes closed and we have a couple of hours before “sundowners” and dinner, so maybe I’ll get another day or two in the bag here!

When I last posted, we were at Kibo Safari Camp and dawn was breaking on Tuesday morning.  The day’s agenda included an early morning game drive, breakfast back at Kibo, then packing and loading up our gear for an another game drive and then a trip to our next stop, the Maasai Ostrich Farm.  The morning’s sunrise was spectacular, and we were quickly entertained by our elephant friends.  We stopped by the site where our fellow travelers had seen a baboon tribe steal a baby gazelle away from a cheetah yesterday afternoon.  The poor mother gazelle was still standing watch, waiting for her baby, who was now dinner for a couple of hungry jackals and who would soon be only bones after the vultures we spied in the trees finished with it.  Frank’s car, with Margie, Alan, Pat, Maxine, and Chris had witnessed the carnage the afternoon before while they were repairing a flat tire.  I’m sort of glad we missed that part…

Mt. Kilimanjaro was visible this morning, so that was a treat!  Our next treat was an hilarious display by a couple of ostriches doing a little mating dance.  Now I know where the Las Vegas feather dancers stole their routines!  More elephants, including the sweetest little baby and its mama, arrived (silently) on the scene, followed by a huge herd who crossed the road directly in front of us!  Talk about up close and personal!!  We watched a couple of elephants go tusk to tusk, until the referee elephant walked by and broke up the fight.  I can’t tell you how fascinating it was to watch these giant animals curl their trunks around the grasses, kicking the roots with their feet if needed, pulling them out of the ground, and then taking them to their mouths.  I observed that most elephants seemed to wave the grasses in the air three times with their trunks before popping them in their mouths, and I guess that is to knock as much dirt off as possible.  John told us that elephants have notoriously bad digestive systems, so most of their day is spent eating so that they can have a hope of getting enough food.  We rounded out the morning with herds of gazelles and lots of birds, and then it was time to bounce down the track back to Kibo.

We were hungry now, as it was about nine and we’d been up since five!  Breakfast at Kibo was served buffet style, as all meals were.  There was a selection of cereal (none for me, thanks!), juices (mango, pineapple, and passion fruit), fruits (mango, pineapple, passion fruit, and some greenish oranges), and brown egg omelets, cooked to order.  There was bacon, sausage links, and meat patties, too.  Pretty typical, and kind of surprising to me, since we were in the middle of the bush!  After eating, we returned to our tents to pack up, and then we loaded up the trucks and by 10:30 we had headed out in search of more game.

Our first stop was to photograph a brilliant blue bird with a lilac colored chest – it was so pretty!  Next, we saw a HUGE herd of elephants in the distance, along with some gazelles right next to us and the occasional wildebeest lurking about.  There were some good dust devils today, too.  They are pretty impressive here at Amboseli (which means dusty place) as they pop up from out of nowhere and rise high in the sky like geysers.  They whirl around like a waterspout or tornado, but it’s just dust and wind, and then they disappear.  Right after we saw the big lot of elephants, a big herd of zebras crossed the road right in front of us.  Zebras are a bit more skittish than elephants, who do not seem to be afraid of anything.  Given that they are bigger than everything else, I guess that makes sense!  The zebras had to get up  their courage to cross the road, and they went in smaller groups.  Probably four or five groups finally galloped across, then stood there eyeing us suspiciously as they grazed and frolicked.  There is a lot of frisky behavior in the animal kingdom!  Our elephant herd was on the move again, but we only knew it because we saw the dust rise up – not a sound!!  Wouldn’t you think that hundreds of heavy elephants would be noisy???

We spied a hyena, slinking around as usual, and soon we were near the watering hole beneath the lookout where we ate breakfast yesterday.  Lots more birds to photograph, but then Frank urged John to keep us moving, as we had miles to go!  It’s hard to resist the stunning crested cranes, though, and then we spotted a majestic fish eagle!  Alas, we got one shot and then had to go!  But, our next treat was a fun one – we drove along a dried lake bottom that reminded Rex and me of the Bonneville Salt Flats.  It was nice to be able to go fast and have a pretty smooth ride!  All too soon, we were back on a dirt road, passing an abandoned Maasai village before leaving Amboseli National Park (and more chances to buy trinkets at the gate!)  John pointed out the border between Kenya and Tanzania to our left as we turned to head north for the evening.  I was sort of surprised to see that there was an armed crossing.  We drove for some time and then stopped for lunch about 1:30 at a little restaurant and shop in Nmunga where we sat on the patio and ate our box lunches from Kibo.  We were able to order a beer or soft drink and there were flush toilets with seats and paper!!  Isn’t it funny how easily pleased we can be!

At the restaurant, Rex and I were amused to see an Obama – Biden bumper sticker on the door.  We were told Obama is very highly regarded in Kenya.  There was an intricate mural painted on the wall around the patio, and the bougainvillea was loaded with blooms and was so pretty!  It was a nice change from the poverty we had been seeing along the road.  We spotted a beautiful bird that had nests in the trellis above the patio, and Frank told us it was a Paradise Flycatcher.  We spent a good bit of time trying to get a good picture of one!  After lunch, Pat called me over to have a look at something in the dirt, and at first glance it looked like a sea urchin.  Since I thought that was pretty unlikely, I looked closer and realized it was a little hedgehog!  And there were two of them.  We had fun photographing them and watching them curl up to protect themselves.  After lunch we had a chance to shop for curios with no pressure this time!

We were back on the road by 2:30, headed for the Maasai Ostrich Farm.  Most of us snoozed, read, chatted, or culled photos off of our cameras to pass the time.  I tried to work on the computer, but it was way too bumpy for that!  We had brought our lunch leftovers along with us in hopes of finding some children who might want them.  That turned out to be harder than we expected!  The children in Kenya go to school at an early age (as young as three!) and they wear the most colorful school uniforms.  We saw some young boys and tried to give them the food, but even with John speaking to them in Swahili, they were terrified and ran away.  We finally found some other boys whose mothers were nearby, and they were so happy to have our leftover juice boxes and cookies!  About 4:45 we rolled up to the Ostrich Farm, which had beautiful grounds and main building.  Signs on the property called it a “Haven of Peace”, and it was very restful.  We were greeted with delicious passion fruit juice and shown to our tents.  We had a little mix-up, as our key wouldn’t open the lock on our tent, so we got moved.  We had to rush, though, as we were getting a tour of the ostrich farm.

We first had to sanitize the soles of our shoes, and then we were shown some actual ostrich eggs, which are equivalent to about two dozen chicken eggs!!  Then we got to see the baby ostriches, which are so ugly they are cute!!  We saw five or six pens of different aged chicks, and then we saw the breeders.  The male ostriches had bright pink legs and black feathers, while the female has gray feathers and cream colored legs.  They were pretty funny!  The guy doing our tour said they had more than 6000 ostriches on the farm.  Most are slaughtered at 8 months and sold for meat.  Once we had finished our tour, we all hit the swimming pool, which was pretty chilly!!  We were so hot that it felt perfect!  We cooled off, then cleaned up for our buffet dinner of salad, goat stew, ostrich, lamb, and several side dishes.  For dessert, we had creme caramel and bananas and chocolate sauce.  Yum!  Off to bed we went, with another EARLY morning wake up call on the horizon.

Wondering how God decided to make a bird like an ostrich,


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