Thursday, 16 February 2012

The Journey Home

    Our last night in Kenya was a little brutal, and I again started to feel sick during the night. The hyena sounded closer than ever, and something was splashing in the river right outside of our tent all night long. It was probably a good thing to be getting out of the area at this point. I ended up taking anti-nausea medicines in the middle of the night and again in the morning before we left Ilkeliani. Sami started the drive to the airfield on-time, but I felt like trash by the time we arrived. Unfortunately, Sami had other plans (since we were there so early). My heart sank as he drove past the airstrip on his way to the leopard kill from the night before. I know he had the best intentions, but I was feeling nauseated before we started the trip, and we tacked on an extra half-hour of driving in the hot sun on very bumpy roads running through rancid hippo pools before we finally came back to the airstrip. Thankfully, we had a bit of time sitting in the shade and settling down before we boarded the plane to Nairobi.

An armed Wildlife Ranger

This DC-3 was a lot happier than I was at the time.

    It turned out to be a good thing that we had time to recover from the drive, as the actual flight to Nairobi was very turbulent and there was no AC (the vents were broken). We both felt terrible when we landed, despite zofran and dramamine. We were very happy to see Philip waiting for us with all of our luggage from Kijabe outside Wilson airfield, and we made plans to whittle away the day before our flight out at 11:30pm at night. Our first stop was at Galleria for (most importantly) very cheap drugs for me. This photo was just after downing one of the most bitter pills I've ever had in my life.

...But I was happy to have it.

    We did a little shopping at places I won't mention (I don't want to provide clues as to what we bought), but we ended up at the museum for Karen Blixen. The movie Out of Africa was about her time in Kenya, and there is even a part of Nairobi named for her now. I won't go into the details of her life, but you should look it up sometime. The tour was pretty interesting and ate through a big chunk of our time before we went to dinner.

"Wait. Are you telling me you're on Karen
Blixen's porch?! THE Karen Blixen?!!"

Karen Blixen's Rock Hyrax. I thought he was stuffed.

    We planned to treat Philip to a nice dinner at Carnivore. There are two Carnivore restaurants (the other is in South Africa), and it used to be known as the place to go to eat zebra, gazelle, and giraffe. Unfortunately there are now game meat restrictions in Kenya, so the most exotic meat we could eat would be ostrich, crocodile, and bull testicles. Awesome. The way the meal works is that they bring you appetizers, sides, and sauces at the beginning. They then start to bring you meats of various types on long swords. They'll serve you a piece by forking it off or cutting a slice off with a machete (depending on the meat). This continues indefinitely as long as you leave your table's flag up. When you lay the flag on its side, you are taking a break. When you take the flag out and put it under the flagbase, you are done eating. I was done way before Joe and Philip just because I was still feeling on-edge gastrointestinally (and I didn't want to do anything I would regret during our fast-approaching horrific flight schedule). It ended up being a pretty amazing experience nevertheless.

Cooking the meats

Our flag

Sides and sauces

Another round

Bull testicle

He was braver than I...

For some reason it doesn't look like Philip
ever smiles. He's actually a very happy guy.

The open-air restaurant

The bathroom. No sinks needed?

    After dinner, Philip dropped us off at the airport and we said goodbye. Joe got stopped going through initial security and asked about the transport monitor we were carrying, but no one said anything about the spear he had right next to it. We were forced to take sub-optimal seats on the long flight to London, and we waited a long time in the hot terminal in Nairobi before finally boarding the plane. The flight to London was (thankfully) uneventful, and I got caught up on a few good movies I had been meaning to see. Arriving in London was a crazy experience. Everything in Heathrow was so clean compared to Kenya. I took a few shots in awe before we settled down to charge batteries and upload photos during our five-hour layover.

Sterile civilization!

How I missed you so...

    Our seats for the flight to Chicago were much better (though the plane didn't have movies-on-demand for some reason). Still, it was an easier flight than the one from Nairobi. It was extremely refreshing to finally see the tell-tale signs of being back home (and far from the equator).

Like snow over Canada.

    Our layover in Chicago was only 2-3 hours (just enough time for me to scarf down an expensively delicious Subway club). A short flight later brought us into Nashville and the end of the trip. I can't begin to describe how great it was to see Kate, Quinten and Kira on our arrival. I think we'd both like to go back, but we'll have some stipulations next time about being able to take them.

    I hope you've enjoyed reading the blog over the last month. Joe has 3000 photos (many better than the ones I've posted), and I have lots of great video. We'd both be happy to show some (or all) of it if you are interested and available. Just let us know. Cheers! :)

Life and Death in the Grass

    Our last day of safari started well enough with the usual wake-up call of coffee, tea, and biscuits. We enjoyed them again in the cool moonlight outside the tent entrance.

Tea and Hyena cries

Moonlight in the teacup

    Sami picked us up on time and we headed out again in search of the Rhino. It was particularly cold this morning, and so we were given Masai blankets to keep warm.


70 million Russian housewives can't be wrong...

    Our efforts were again thwarted at finding the Rhino, and we again left the Rhino's turf feeling disappointed and with only one picture of a Sausage Tree to show for our attempts...

A small consolation

    Thankfully, Sami was able to find us some action on the way back. We came across three male cheetahs heading away from a bit of scrub where some hyenas were apparently planning an assault (A hyena would eat a cheetah if it could get ahold of one). We followed them for a bit to get some shots.

Stayin alive

In it's element shot 1

And shot 2

All three cats

    Feeling satisfied that we had gotten some good shots, we drove a little ways away from the three to some ostriches on a hilltop. It seemed like a morning of fast animals.

Run Away!

Ostrich in his element

    While we were looking at the Ostrich, Sami noticed that the three cheetah were going to be coming around the side of a different small bit of brush to where some Topi and Thompson's Gazelle were grazing. He quickly put us in position to see what happened. The first cheetah around immediately perked up when he saw the game, and the other two cheetah caught his intentions and went straight into the scrub. What happened next was so fast and well-coordinated that my description won't do it justice, but the video I took will. The first cheetah acted as a distraction as all the game focused on him coming around the scrub. The second cheetah then burst out of the edge of the scrub a short distance to the Thompson's gazelle. The gazelle, being caught completely off-guard by a second cheetah, jumped straight up in the air and then ran quickly into the scrub to make his escape. What he didn't know was that the third cheetah was in the scrub waiting. The gazelle didn't have a chance. I finally got my still camera out when Sami got us in prime position to watch the feast, but the video is definitely worth seeing.

Cheetah 3 still killing the gazelle
while cheetah 2 starts to eat.

Everybody eating

Cheetah 3 on the lookout for hyena

The rest of the animals getting as
far from the cheetah as possible

    We came back to the camp for another great lunch. Unfortunately, the bees also wanted a taste, and we were constantly swatting them away. I finally caught one and left him trapped for a while as a warning to others.

So angry

Finally! A photo of the Black Rhino!

The appetizer

Our main dish


    At lunch, our waiter told us that we would be leaving at 3pm instead of 4pm for the evening game drive. No complains here, as another two hours in the tent was all we could handle of the heat anyways. When we met Sami for the 3pm start, he told us that the reason we were to leave early was that there were some lions eating a hippo, and that it would take awhile to get there. I probably would have been okay with leaving at 1pm, but whatever. We quickly got to the car and set out on the long drive to the Mara River.

The scrub tunnel at the camp entrance

Move! Didn't you hear about the lions eating!

    It took us a bit to find the right spot when we got near the river, but we were soon rewarded with the sight of a large pride of female and cub lions making their way down from the hippo to a water hole to quench that unavoidable post-hippo thirst.

"Man, that was good hippo..."


Female lion on the move.

Orderly drinking

Post meal nap

    We asked Sami if we could see the hippo, and he agreed. He started to drive away from the area the hippo would have to be, but we soon discovered why when he drove us right up to not one but FOUR huge male lions resting in the shade. The lions are apparently brothers, and their father is the actual pride leader (but was off defending territory or something). We obviously spent a long time taking photos of them, and only left to see the hippo briefly (and check on any crocs in the Mara River) before returning to get some more humorous shots.

Bushed from eating hippo

Tummy rubs?

On second thought...

Nice teeth, who's
your dental hygienist?

Close enough, mom?

We thought about putting a lamb in
there to test the old biblical saying.

Hippo no more

The Mara River... Sans Crocs

Back to the four lions


"Don't mind my leg, bro."

Tickle Tickle

    We left the lions and started the drive back. Recognizing that this would be our last game drive, we started requesting to see everything we could to stretch out the time. We actually ended up packing a good bit into the trip back, and it was probably the best game drive of the whole trip.

Baby hyena near their den

Momma elephant with baby

Proof I was there

Close-up of a protective mother

With the Mara clouds above

Back at the hippo pool

In case you were wondering...
I was there.

A leopard kill. We waited 15 minutes for
the cat to return, but it was getting too late

A stork. See? We even started
asking about birds... Desperate.

A commotion up ahead

Our final cheetah

Big lenses and cheetah at sunset.
This picture captures the Mara.

I forgot what these birds were. 
I was just trying to make it last.

Really trying...

...As was Joe. 

Masai herdsman with spear

Masai driver with ear

Me, accepting that it was about over and enjoying the evening.
Joe, accepting nothing and continuing to photograph everything.

Final Sunset over the Masai Mara

   We went straight up to the lookout platform when we returned for a few more photos of the evening's arrival before dinner. Joe took a slew of pictures while I talked with Kate. Our old friend the hippo returned in the river below us, and we eventually headed to dinner.


Brett, Kate, Kenya, and Tanzania.

"Yeah, honey. Even now
he's still taking pictures." 

The hippo!

    Dinner was great (I photographed it this time!), and we went to the lounge before bed to spend an hour or so drinking Tusker and chatting with some Canadian missionary pilots (husband and wife) we had met about their time in South Sudan. The wife had a pretty interesting story she told about them seeing the Sudanese women drying clothes on thorny scrub bushes. She said they set up clotheslines and taught the women how to dry clothes without tearing them on thorns, and that the women were very grateful for the aid. She then went on to say how disappointed she was when they returned to the area a short time later to find that the clotheslines were missing and the clothes were back on the bushes. The wife said she was really frustrated at first, but that this is how things are in Africa: you can spend years making changes that disappear as soon as you look away. It makes me wonder about how the nurse anesthetist students are doing in Kijabe now that we are gone. While we were talking, I got a shot of a bat that was happily picking at the myriad of bugs swarming in the tent above us. We finally went to our tent and packed before going to bed for the evening.



The bat is just to the left of the picture center.