04.20.2017 25 °C
We got up early for a 7:30 start to our Safari. The first girls we met were from London, but one was originally from Kenya and knew a bit of Swahili so that was interesting. Kay and Anita. Another girl joined us named Aubrey, she's from the Philippines but lives in the Congo doing auditing work through the Red Cross. She had some interesting and frightening stories as she works in areas of armed conflict, and she's even had colleagues die while at work. She was very well spoken and really sweet.
On route out of Nairobi we picked up an older man named Ali from Pakistan, he is a radiologist who works in Saudi Arabia. Really interesting guy to talk to, and well travelled as well with some great stories. The last couple we picked up, Seline and Moritz, from Koln, Germany, 20 and 21 they were young but well travelled. Moritz spent time couch surfing and hitch hiking the west coast and a lot of Vancouver Island, and he said Tofino is one of his favourite places in the world.
James, our driver, was a guy our age originally from a village outside of Nairobi. He packed his bags one day and put himself through college learning about tourism, in particular animals, flora and fauna. Really nice, sweet guy who seemed like he was besties with all of the other safari drivers we met on the way. He was an incredible driver, we drive a standard Toyota safari van with a roof that comes up. He got of out of some tough, muddy situations! You'll see.
So we drove a couple of hours through many small villages, little huts calling themselves salons, bars, hotels. It was pretty eye opening how some villages live with so little. The women were walking and carrying huge jugs of water on their backs with cloth straps wrapped around their forehead. The kids play with sticks in mud on the side of the road, or with an old oil bottle with wheels attached on a stick and they push it around like a toy. It almost feels like it's not real, like it's a show being put on. But it's real life for these people.
We got to the Great Rift Valley part of he highway and stopped for photos, it was a perfect clear day after heavy rains the night before so it was perfect. There were also huge baboons on the side of the road, some of them sitting on the cement medians enjoying the views of the farm lands, it seemed.
We carried on and then stopped for a buffet lunch in Narok. Some of our Safari mates complained that the food in Kenya was bland, but Josh and I really enjoyed it and most of it was vegan, as far as I could tell. Tusker was more expensive than we've had but still only $3.85 a bottle Canadian.
Beside the lunch spot there was a souvenir shop where I bought a couple of bracelets for myself. The man working looked at Josh's tattoo and told us he used to live in one of those huts. He rubbed his skin and asked how long it would last on his arm. Permanent, we said, and he was shocked!
We kept driving through small villages and we finally hit the part of the road that veered off and wasn't paved. It was a bumpy few hours through Masai tribal land and eventually we hit a really muddy spot. Looking ahead we didn't know how bad it was going to be, but James did, and he was driving a rear wheel 2x4 drive. So without notice he GUNS it and we drove through maybe 20 feet of mud, he was overcorrecting to keep the wheels from getting stuck, doing half doughnuts through the mud then swerving back again, and we came within INCHES of trees a couple of times. Josh got a video half way through the drive, but it's not the bad parts! We were all screaming, it was insane. We erupted in applause after realizing we made it through. The car behind us was 4x4 and the other car on our tour, he made it through just fine but they had quite the reaction to having watched our car go through it!
In going through the mud this way we crossed into a "gated" area of Masai land, so our two drivers had to negotiate a price to get out. While they were doing that we handed out candy we had bought to the local kids, they were so cute. There were two kids from Pakistan in the other safari car, and the smaller one wanted to play with the local girl so bad, but her mom kept telling her not to touch her it kind of sad to watch. This local girl had, potentially, only the clothes on her back and these beat up shoes and lived this whole other life but they are just kids who wanted to play. It made me think about how much influence adults have on kids.
We kept driving through more and more rural country. We would see small Masai villages and kids herding sheep and cows out in the plains. There are always people sitting on the side of the road just so smug, straight faced. And then the second you give them a wave their faces light up and they wave quickly back or give you the thumbs up and a huge smile.
We got to our tents and dropped off or stuff, had a Tusker and tea, and then headed out for a couple of hours for a quick game drive where we saw our first taste of animals. The first one we saw was the wildebeest and I was in awe! We also saw a ton of Thompson's gazelles right away, they're so cute and they constantly wag their tails.
Next we saw a bunch of zebras just chilling. All of the animals are so chill their lives are just eating and slowly walking.
Next we saw the first of the big 5, the water buffalo. He was huge and they liked to mean mug us.
We came across the Impalas and little foxes.
Then James got many calls. Ok side note - the Masai Mara is HUGE it would take days to drive the whole thing. And yet they have cell service THROUGHOUT. Unbelievable, we got clear phone calls the whole time from other drivers reporting what they saw so we could meet up with them. Anyways, we went towards a bunch of Safari vans and we saw our first lion, we drove RIGHT up to her and just watched her chill out by a bush. Our van was within 3 feet of her and she didn't mind.
Next we saw a huge group of giraffes, they are huge! And Josh's favourite animal.
After that we stopped for a photo op of the gorgeous plains. Rules are you can't deviate from the road or risk a $200 usd fine, and you also can't really get out of the car. But we made stops when nature called and to get a few photos of the group.
We made our way back to the tents as the sun was setting. We quickly made friends with the local dogs who protect the lodging grounds, they were so sweet and they wagged their tail whenever you made eye contact. They're used to tourists petting them because I don't think they get that kind of love from the Masai who they belong to. The sweetest one of the group was pregnant, and when I talked to her I wished she didn't have to have babies. There's no need to bring more life into this type of world, in my opinion. They're working dogs who sleep outside, they're full of ticks and they don't get the companionship they clearly love since they ran over to Josh and I whenever they saw us.
Dinner was buffet, I really enjoyed it lots of vegan stuff, and then a small bonfire where we chatted with the Masai people who watch over the camp for predators. Off to bed and that concluded our first day of safari!