Friday, 14 January 2011
This evening, I’m sitting at a desk in a proper room overlooking Mt. Kenya, the highest mountain in Kenya and the second highest peak in Africa. I’m gazing down on the thatched roofs of the other huts on the beautifully landscaped terraced hillside of Rhino Watch Lodge. As we arrived here this afternoon, a thunderstorm arose, so now all the air is clear and water droplets glisten off the brightly colored flowers dotting the hillside. We’re in mountain country now – where the world-famous Kenyan marathoners live and train – and the air is thin and mercifully, cooler! We’ve just unpacked, as we will be here for four nights, and had a spot of tea with the rest of the group. I’m using the time before happy hour and dinner to do a little catch up blogging! If the roads were a bit smoother, I would have had plenty of time in the Range Rover today (and several other days) but I quickly realized that would be futile. I have a new appreciation for our roads and it will be a long time before I whinge about potholes again!
So, where did I leave off? I believe we need to go back to Monday morning at Kibo Safari Tent Camp and the Amboseli National Park….
Safaris are not for the lazy! Our day starts at 5 AM, as we are to be on the road by 6:00 so that we can catch the animals in the subdued light of daybreak. I’ve learned that showering in the morning is not for the faint, either, as solar powered hot water is not a peak strength before dawn. So, a cold shower it was! Those who know me well will know that means I was either really hot or really dirty to subject myself to that, and the answer to that is that I was BOTH! I had not slept all that well, which is to be expected on the first full day of a time zone 9 hours ahead of the one I’d left. Add to that the heat of the day and the excitement of the whole trip and my normal bad sleeping habits and, well, there you have it! We met at the Karibu Bar (karibu means ‘welcome’ in Swahili) for tea and we were piling in John’s jeep by six. Today, Jess was with us, and I got to have first play with the 600 mm lens! WOW!! Am I ever spoiled!
It didn’t take long for us to come upon our first photo opportunities, between the sunrise and a herd of elephants, including several nursing babies. And then the real show started, as one of the bull elephants was feeling a little frisky, if you catch my drift! It was a sight, I can tell you that!! We passed a wildebeest and some gazelles, and then we caught another of the ‘Big Five’ – a LION!! The Big Five refers to Elephants, Lions, Rhinos, Leopards, and Cape Buffalo – the common prey of big game hunters. So, two down, three to go! Next sightings were gorgeous crested cranes, many more elephants, a fat hyena and friends, gazelles, ostriches, and a glimpse of snowy Mt. Kilimanjaro peeking through the clouds. We saw a Goliath heron and a herd of Cape Buffalo (check!) On our way up to the lookout atop Noomotio Hill, where we were to have breakfast, we saw a stunning blue bird. We took tons of pictures of this bird, called a superb starling, and when we got to the top of the hill, there were dozens of the same bird, foraging in the rubbish like common old US starlings…
We had a box breakfast that had toast (with butter and jam), fruit (orange and pineapple), a meat patty, a sausage link, a hard-boiled egg, some biscuits (cookies), a chocolate mint candy, orange juice, and of course, coffee and tea. As we looked down onto the steppes below, we could see the Cape buffalo, pelicans, three zebras, and bunches of birds, but by far the cutest thing was a line of elephants (including two babies) doing an elephant walk, tail to trunk, through the reeds in the swamp below! One of the first things we saw once we were back on the road was a herd of zebra at a water hole, including several young ones, who have brown stripes instead of black. We passed the Cape buffalo and saw a few random wildebeests, and then we caught a glimpse of some mostly submerged hippos. A spectacular African fish eagle was perched on a log – it is very similar to a bald eagle in looks and size. We watched some Cape buffaloes ‘lock horns’ and then even more elephants joined the party. Our surprise sighting this morning started with a solitary giraffe that seemed to just appear at the side of the road, and then we saw a whole herd of them, munching away on nearby acacia trees. On our way back to Kibo for lunch and siesta time, we saw more gazelles, wildebeests, and elephants – pretty good for a morning’s work, I’d say!
We were again greeted with cool wet cloths at Kibo, and we needed them. This is a hot, dusty place! We dropped off gear at our tents then met for a buffet lunch. It was really hot, so we decided to take a swim – the water was great, but the steps into the pool (that really slick ceramic tile!) were so slippery that I stepped one foot on the top step and slid on my bum to the third step. And I’ve got the bruise to prove it! I’m sure it was ultra-graceful. Always happy to provide the humor….
By three o’clock, we had rested and cooled off enough for another game drive. This afternoon, we saw gazelles, ostriches (including a mating dance), elephants, lots of birds, including crested cranes and pelicans, a jackal, hyenas, and some hippos. Rex had the big lens for a time and got awesome pix of the hippos in water. After sunset, we were back at Kibo for dinner and then bedtime. Tomorrow will be another early morning start!
Counting elephants in my sleep,