Jan's Travel-Rama

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Jan's Travel-Rama
Point Arena, CA

August, 1984




After a few days in Nairobi and a night in one of the treetop lodges in the foothills of Mount Kenya, we set off in our safari van for Samburu in the northern parts of Kenya. Samburu was very dry and the drive was about 4 hours long over dirt roads. Not long after we started, we stopped at Nanyuki at the "equator shopping mall". Here we had the opportunity to purchase beads, carvings and other handicrafts and to have our photos taken on the equator. Along the way, before the land became arid, we would see impala and giraffe grazing on the side of the roads as we see cattle, horses and occasionally a deer here in California.
The lodge we stayed at in Samburu was quiet with a pool, lawns and gardens. When we weren't out on our morning or afternoon game drives, we could sit in the lounge chairs and enjoy fruit drinks and other refreshments. One person was enjoying a drink that had a piece of pineapple on the lip of the glass. As she looked away, a Vervet Monkey rushed in, grabbed the pineapple and left.



From Samburu we travelled, via the Mount Kenya Safari Club and Nairobi to the parks nearer Tanzania including Tsavo and Amboselli. Tsavo is a park area with a long history. When the railroad was being built across Kenya, it was very hazardous working in the Tsavo area as the lions had become accustomed to preying upon humans. This, fortunately for us, was long ago but the history remains. Tsavo was a dry, barren area that includes an old volcanic lava flow. One day we drove up on a cinder cone in the lava flow area. When the driver turned off the engine, although there was soil, there wasn't a plant or an animal in sight. The stillness was indescribable and the silence was so loud it hurt your ears. It sounded like two huge seashells were being held on our ears. Never before or since have we heard silence so absolute.
Our lodge at Tsavo was one of those where we were in the building and the animals were outside - period. There was a "knee wall" that kept the larger animals out of the dining room and each of our rooms had a balcony that looked out onto the plain. We were warned not to leave anything on our balcony and to make sure we always closed and locked the balcony door (even above the ground floor) as the baboons often climbed up the balconies, got into the rooms and stole cameras. The lodge staff would then have to go out onto the plain and retrieve the guests' belongings.
At night while we were in Tsavo, we kept hearing coughing from outside our balcony. By then we had been in Africa for over a week and we thought that maybe some of our fellow tourists were wandering around outside. In the morning, as dawn broke, those coughs turned into the rustling of the trees, a thump and a grunt as the baboons (who slept in the trees outside our room) awoke, rolled over and fell out of their trees.



From Tsavo, we journeyed via a Masai village to Amboselli. The Masai village was interesting. The safari guide negotiated with the village chief and we went in to visit their homes and purchase their beadwork. While Jack was photographing this whole event, a number of Masai women placed their beadwork on his arm. When Jack discovered what had happened, he tried to negotiate with the women (who spoke neither English nor Swahili) to purchase a few of the numerous necklaces. Jack chose a few, one woman quoted a number and Jack paid her. When he tried to leave, the women became very upset. Just before a war broke out, our guide and the chief came and intervened. The chief spoke Masai and Swahili. The guide spoke Swahili and English and between the two of them, they discovered that the beads that Jack chose were the product of several women and he had only paid one woman. The guide and the chief negotiated and Jack paid the women a few more shillings.
In the interim, Jan did purchase some beads. However, she was approached many times by Masai warriors who wanted to sell her a spear. Jan didn't want a spear but the warriors kept after her, even demonstrating the the spears came apart to fit in a suitcase. Overall, we were glad to get to Amboselli, Jack with his photos and Jan with her beads and no spear.



We left Amboselli by air, destined for Kichwa Tembo, a tented camp in the Masai Mara. As we approached the Kichwa Tembo airport, our airplane had to make a low-level pass over the runway to scare off the zebra, wildebeest and giraffe that were grazing on the grass airstrip. As we finally landed, our plane was escorted by two safari vehicles (one on each side) that drove slightly ahead of us to keep the animals from returning to the runway. It was a lot like in the old Africa movies.
Little did we know when we began our safari that with each new lodge, we would be staying closer and closer to the animals, eventually living in their midst at Kichwa Tembo. Kichwa Tembo was a magical place. The herd of grazing animals were just beyond the edge of the resort and there was no fence or other barrier to keep them out. There was a placard in our room warning that the African Cape Buffalo was very dangerous, despite its vacant look and slow appearance. There were armed guards to escort us to our tent every night after dinner. And it was not unusual to be awakened in the middle of the night with a buffalo or a hippopotamus rubbing against the ropes of your tent.
Our tent looked directly out onto the Masai Mara plain - the northern extension of the Serengeti. The great herd of zebra and wildebeest were in the Mara while we were there that year. On this plain it might have been 20 miles or more to the horizon; as far as we could see, there were lines of animals walking two and three abreast. The line zigzagged across the plain from one side of the horizon to the other and back. A very crude calculation told us that there were probably 250,000 wildebeest and 25,000 zebra within our view. There were also hundreds of elephant, buffalo, giraffe and gazelle and tens of lions and cheetah. Closer to home there were red, blue and green swallowtail butterflies and giant African beetles.
One evening, Jan was crossing the compound going through the forest to another tent. She heard a low buzzing sound that stopped abruptly quite close to her. She was relieved until she looked down and found a Giant African Beetle landing on her leg - wham! It was about 6 inches long and almost knocked her over as it landed. Jan always carried a small purse with her. She began hitting the beetle with the purse and it looked at her and asked for more abuse. She finally got the purse under the beetle and pried it off her slacks. Another conquest for mankind (and a good story).
Probably our most memorable game drive was one morning when our driver found a cheetah sitting on a small hill. As we drove up, the cat began running. We followed in the safari vehicle but couldn't drive as fast as the cat could run. When we arrived at the cheetah again, it had just caught a baby Thomson's Gazelle (Our guide estimated it to be a week old.) The mother gazelle was a few yards away, watching, and the rest of the herd of gazelle and zebra was returning to their grazing. We watched as the cheetah suffocated the baby by puting its mouth on the baby's muzzle. The cheetah then did what came naturally and satisfied its hunger. This was the first animal we had ever seen killed. While we have seen several since, the loss of a baby so young and so innocent still tugs at our hearts.



At Kichwa Tembo we fell in love with Africa and the concept of camping with the animals. As we left Kichwa Tembo for the flight back to Nairobi (and eventually home), we hoped to return to Africa, as here we had found a simpler and more tranquil existence that nourished our often overstressed spirits.

The End

equator shopping center

Equator shopping center at Nanyuki.

mosque in northern kenya

A mosque in northern Kenya.

samburu giraffe 1

The reticulated giraffe in Samburu look stenciled.

samburu monkey 1

This infant vervet monkey was munching a piece of tree bark.

samburu dancer

One afternoon we were treated to dancing by the local villagers.

samburu hornbill

Hornbills were everywhere at the resort in Samburu.

samburu resort

Relaxing by the pool at our resort at Samburu.

samburu giraffe 2

One of our dawn game drives in Samburu.

mount kenya safari club

Gardens of the Mount Kenya Safari Club

mount kenya at dawn

Marabou Stork and Mount Kenya at dawn.

chinia falls

While on the road, we stopped at Chinia Falls for photos.

sunset at tsavo

We arrived at Tsavo in time to see a magnificent sunset.

view from hotel at tsavo

The view from our hotel at Tsavo.

lava field at tsavo

The Shetani Lava Flow at Tsavo.

elephant of amboselli

At Amboselli we got close to the elephants.

migration of the great herd

On the Masai Mara, as far as we could see, there were animals migrating.

view from our tent at kichwa tembo

The view from our tent at Kichwa Tembo was wonderful.

sunset at kichwa tembo

The sunsets at Kichwa Tembo were even better.

tent at kichwa tembo

Our home while we were at Kichwa Tembo.

water heater at kichwa tembo

Our hot water heater was quite effective.

crossing a river

While searching for game, we had to cross rivers.

rhinoceros in masai mara

We saw several rhinoceros in the Masai Mara.

cape buffalo

The African Cape Buffalo is very dangerous.


Topi are the "antelope in blue jeans".

masai mara lion 1

This lion was sleeping under a tree.

masai mara lion 2

And these cubs were playing nearby.

masai mara cheetah

Cheetah with baby gazelle.

masai mara zebra

Zebra and topi on the Masai Mara.



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