We are sitting on a plane, flying from Nairobi to Kilimanjaro, in Tanzania. We have farewelled Kenya, and all our fellow travellers, sadly. We leave with mixed feelings, sad that the safari is over, looking forward to our next destination, and keen for some down time after a very packed two weeks. We loved every minute of it, it was an amazing, unforgettable adventure. But I’m getting ahead of myself – I’d better fill you in on our last day.
Having still failed in our quest to see the elusive leopard, we added in an unscheduled extra game drive before breakfast. It was a beautiful morning, the sunrise was especially gorgeous, and we just enjoyed being in the park for the very last time. We saw lots of animals, and even spotted a few new birds we hadn’t seen before (that is, our guide John spots them and then we see them), but no leopard. I’m quite sure there were dozens of leopards around, but they saw us first!
Of course it would have been nice to get a good photo of a leopard, but we saw and experienced so much, that there was no possibility of disappointment. I have over 10,000 photos to sort through, and innumerable wonderful memories. We counted at least 48 different animal species and 96 birds that we did see, the highlight (if I had to pick one) being our close encounter with the lion, and every day had its special moments.
We enjoyed one more delicious breakfast by the river bank, and piled into our cars. But the fun wasn’t over yet. Very soon we arrived at a traditional Samburu village. The Samburu are similar to Maasai but live in the north of Kenya. They descended, we were told, from two brothers who settled on either side of Mt Kenya. So their appearance & traditions are similar, but not the same. For one thing, they talk really really fast! They are traditionally nomadic people, but have settled more permanently in recent times so that their children can attend schools. They still live a subsistence existence relying on cattle and living in basic huts made of wood, cow dung & cattle hide. During drought times, the cows die and they have no other income. So they have opened up to tourism and hence we were invited to visit.
We were greeted by the tribal chief, who spoke very good English, and then welcomed by singing and dancing. We were encouraged to take photos, which we did, although it did seem a little voyeuristic. Then they took us inside one of their huts which was much bigger than it looked on the outside, but had no furniture and was very primitive. There was a kitchen area with a fire – no chimney as the smoke from the fire helps deter mosquitoes. There was a small pile of cooking pots, and lots of cow hides on the floor. There was also an old man sleeping on the floor, which was rather odd, and we felt very intrusive. They showed us how to make fire the traditional way, then there was a marketplace set up & we were “encouraged” to purchase something to help support the village. And we all did. Mostly jewellery & carvings, and we are getting better at haggling – though we will never get as good as the locals.
It seems the people are bridging two cultures quite well. One of the Samburu making fire looked quite sheepish when his mobile phone went off! Everyone in Kenya seems to have a mobile phone, even though many of them don’t have electricity at home, so we haven’t quite figured out how they charge them. And one man borrowed a digital camera from one of our group & looked very comfortable with it.
If you remember I wrote about the lack of apparent road rules, but said that I felt comfortable in the traffic chaos. Well, I take it all back! We hurtled back to Nairobi, tackling potholes, bicycles, pedestrians, goats, donkey carts & other drivers in cars, buses & trucks at (apparently) breakneck speed. The close we got to Nairobi, the heavier the traffic, and there was more roadwork and even less adherence to any semblance of lane markings. How there aren’t more collisions I’ll never know. In once incident we saw a car overtaking on a curve in front of on-coming traffic. There clearly wasn’t room, so he just drove onto the shoulder on the opposite side of the road, without slowing down in the slightest. Scary stuff. (Mum, Dad, our driver was excellent and we made it in one piece!)
There seems to be quite a major road building program around Nairobi. When it is finished it should make a big difference, but meanwhile there is even more chaos than usual and it is a complete nightmare. I will never complain about Sydney traffic again! (Actually I probably will – but I shouldn’t).
We eventually arrived at our hotel for the night, after a long day in the car. We chatted and reminisced about our holiday, and our photos and the photo albums (Storybooks) we are all going to make. Our accommodation wasn’t quite up to the standard we have become used to, but we spent very little time there. We all gathered at the nearby Roasters Restaurant for an evening of food & fun & farewells. We were up early to head to the airport for our flight to Tanzania – and now you are all caught up. Except we are not on the plane any more – the flight was so short I only got one paragraph written before we started to descend – and it has taken me until now to get some internet access.
The flight was uneventful, except we got a great view of Mt Kilimanjaro above the clouds as we passed over it. But I’m a little worried about the return trip. Apparently the airline (Precision Air) is known locally as Imprecision Air, and it is unusual for all one’s luggage to arrive at the destination. We had been told by the Tanzanian consulate in Australia that we should have obtained a visa before departure, and were a little worried. But there was a visa counter, we paid our money $US50 each) and our passports were stamped. Very straightforward, and it meant we avoided the much longer queue for those who had visas already. We found a taxi immediately and were on our way to Mike & Katie’s before we knew it. Well, sort of… We were in a taxi, but the driver spoke no English & could not understand the instructions Mike had sent us. Several phone calls, dirt roads & wrong turns later we eventually arrived, much to our relief.
Mike & Katie Taylor, with their children Harry, Miriam & Sam, are Australian missionaries working at the Munguishi Bible College here in Tanzania, near Arusha. The college trains local pastors to equip them to go back to their own churches. We are staying in a little guest house attached to the college. The accommodation is basic but very comfortable, and we are surrounded by lush tropical gardens, with mango trees & banana palms & bougainvillea and lots of other unidentified greenery – it’s a welcome change from the dry dustiness of Kenya. By the time we arrived yesterday, had some lunch & unpacked we were ready for a nanna nap. We had a quiet evening in, catching up & sharing safari stories. (They haven’t seen a leopard either). Looking forward to a very different sort of week. Just about to head to church which is going to be a very different experience, given that it is all in Swahili. I’ll let you know.