Africa & the Middle East Forums

Start a new topic Change Forum
Advanced search

Trip Report Nyamera's Double Mara - June/July 2007

Jump to last reply

Here're the pictures: http://www.kodakgallery.com/I.jsp?c=p2uww5u.1zytkvxi&x=0&y=u81ius
WARNING: I had not read Atravelynn's photography advice, nor my big camera manual and I had almost no sun during the trip.

After the horribly un-African year 2006 I went on my 4th trip to Kenya from 20 June to 12 July this year 2007. My itinerary was as follows:

20/6, Hotel Terminal, Nairobi - 2 nights
22/6 Bushbuck Camp, Maasai Mara (Koiyaki-Lemek) - 6 nights
28/6 Hotel Impala, Nairobi - 3 nights
1/7 Mara Intrepids, Maasai Mara - 4 nights
5/7 Karen Camp, Nairobi - 3 nights
8/7 Hotel Terminal, Nairobi - 4 nights
There're reasons my itinerary looks like this, or at least that's what I'm trying to convince myself.

I'll just write what I remember happened.

Day 1
As usual I got up at 1am and left for the airport at 3am. My father was driving me and despite some very heavy fog we saw 2 hares, 8 roedeer and a moose that was munching away on a tree. No foxes or badgers.

I don't remember much about the plane trip and it's not interesting to write about anyway. On the first flight, to Amsterdam, there was only one choice of sandwiches and it wasn't vegetarian - very irritating. On the flight from Amsterdam to Nairobi I got my vegetarian meal without problems. The journey was too quick, I slept almost all the time and didn't read my camera manual. The few minutes I was awake I worried about my lack of planning, my all time fat record and being in an atrocious physical and mental shape - all due to a teaching job that also, must be sad, gave me the money for the trip.

It was dark when I arrived in Nairobi and took a taxi to Hotel Terminal. The shapes of the thorn trees felt unreal, as did the marabous that I saw in the dark because I knew where to look. It was so sad and unavoidable that I'd be leaving in three weeks.

At the Terminal they thought it had just been a year since I last visited. The cleaner, Nelson, now had his own safari company about which he'd talk to me later. I got a double room for the price of a single (1300 shillings this year), but didn't know what to do with the extra bed

  • Report Abuse


    Day 2
    I went out to get myself a pair of flip-flops. The morning was grey and very overcast and with the same time and effort as some people seem to do Sheldrick’s, Giraffe Centre, Blixen Museum and a dinner at the Carnivore, I got myself a pair of lilac flip flops at Bata and visited Zanzibar Shop and The Collector’s Den incognito. There were beautifully flowering trees of which I don’t know the name. Soon all street hustlers knew I was leaving for the Mara with Bushbuck Adventures the following day. To one, the little dreadlocked Chris on Kenyatta Avenue whom I’d asked where to find an alarm clock (I’d only remembered to bring ONE alarm clock), I mentioned that I hadn’t decided where I’d go after the Mara. He showed me the new and long overdue monument to Dedan Kimathi and the exact spot were a suicide bomb had exploded a week earlier. It was a local thing and the bomber had carefully avoided the most central and touristy areas, which sounded a bit too considerate to me. After finding an alarm clock – not an easy task, Chris said that Kenyans woke up to bird song, or their mobile phones -, he took me to two safari operators asking about a departure for Tsavo West or Amboseli. There were no dates that suited me and I wouldn’t have liked a group trip in a minibus anyway. I wanted at least 4 nights in either park and the scheduled departures were all 2 nights Amboseli/1 night Tsavo West. The price for all trips was $90 pppd for camping and $170 pppd for lodge. Chris understood that I wanted a tailor-made trip and his hometown happened to be Mtito Andei. He’d investigate and we’d meet at Simmers at 7pm

    First I went to the City Market to get myself a beach dress. I wasn’t going to the beach, but I thought the weather might become warmer … At the first stall they insisted on selling me a dress that I didn’t want, for 2800 shillings. When I said I already had an almost identical one that I’d paid 800 for I was told by one of the four sellers “yeah, for that we’d eat a whole week”. I felt like telling them that I too was a curio seller and that when I hadn’t sold anything and people wanted better prices I just smiled even if I wanted to strangle them, but I don’t know if that’s 100% true. Then I found the kind of dress that I wanted, but it was too small. The seller said I would not be able to find my size and I decided never to return to the City Market, though later I changed that decision.

    I’d always wanted to visit Simmers, but had found it too crowded to enter there alone. A Congolese band was playing. They were good but too loud. Chris said he’d prefer his bus fare to dinner, so he got both. He told me he had checked with Ngulia and Kilaguni about accommodation, transfers, game drives etc. It sounded expensive and I didn’t want to stay at Tsavo Inn. As I had spent too much money already I decided to go to Lake Naivasha instead. Chris had some ideas about that as well, but I wanted to go on my own. Anyway, he said he could go to Mtito Andei and talk directly with the lodge managers if I paid the return bus fare and I thought it was worth a try – at least as an experiment. Chris had a project in Mtito Andei: a campsite halfway between Nairobi and Mombasa and close to the Tsavo West gate. He already had 2 toilets there. I, as a “teacher”, and especially as Chris’s girlfriend, could start a nursery school there. When I protested that I didn’t know anything about small children (I’m even more clueless about the teenagers I’ve been teaching), Chris said that volunteers would do the work. Small children draw volunteers and then they would pay “us” to go on game drives in Tsavo West. As I got a feeling that Chris was very much after the money I don’t have, I didn’t get that involved – probably a huge mistake.

  • Report Abuse

    Day 3
    I got up at 5, listened to the muezzin of Jamia mosque, and had drinking yoghurt and mini-bananas, which is quicker and better than tea and toast at the Dove Cage. I went down to the reception before 7.30 to wait for Bushbuck to pick me up - and there was Chris from Kenyatta Avenue. He’d been talking to someone in Mtito Andei who, with a small deposit in hand, could arrange a cheaper stay at Kilaguni. At the same time a taxi driver sent by Bushbuck arrived. I did not want to make him wait, so I told Chris we could talk when I got back from the Mara. The taxi driver took me to Westlands where Alice, owner of Bushbuck and wife of Ken with whom I’d been corresponding, Dancan, guide, and Joel, driver, waited. Dancan knew that I liked topis and I considered that a good start.

    The 6+ hour drive began out of Nairobi, and then for a while through some misty exotic cedar woods that reminded a bit too much of home. Then we were stopped by the police. Joel had done something wrong, but I didn’t understand exactly what. We weren’t the only ones stopped. There was a queue and after a while the same policeman who had stopped us asked Joel, “who stopped you and why?” The Rift Valley appeared and this time, as I wasn’t in a bus, I could get off at a “viewpoint”. The view was very foggy, but I was told it would be better on the return to Nairobi that’d be in the afternoon. The truth is that I saw very little of the sun during my stay at Bushbuck, but when it peeked out from behind the clouds it was in the afternoon. Shortly after Maai Mahi the first zebras and tommies could be seen. There was a long stretch of whistling thorns, which I like, and a kori bustard crossed the road in a dangerous way. The state of the road to Narok was really bad, but there was some serious looking roadwork going on. In Narok we stopped at a tourist stop, had some tea and samosas and looked at curios. There were some giraffes identical to the ones I sell. The seller wanted me to buy one for approximately twice as much as my price and that was a good price because “the Americans” paid a lot more. After Narok the road was sensationally good until the turnoff where it says Olerai Ranch. There were wheat fields that at home would have looked idyllic, but here they looked like frightening death bringing monocultures. I saw some maize-stealing baboons, lots of zebras, tommies, giraffes and discovered that neither Alice nor Dancan had heard about the wild dog sightings in late 2006, but I didn’t see Bushbuck Camp until I was inside it.

    The tents are situated in a circle of trees with short grass in the middle. A semi-circle would have had a view, but everything was quite lovely anyway. I’d been “worried” about not having a “self-contained” (en-suite) tent, but I discovered the bathroom indeed was attached to the tent, or right behind it and under the same shade, which to me is self-contained. Also, there was a washstand, a pitcher and a bucket of water all the time. Ken had promised me a medium size mirror, but I’d call the mirror placed between the sleeping tent and the bathroom tent big rather than medium size. There wasn’t enough light to use it though.

    After a late delicious lunch – everything the cook, John, made was delicious – and a short rest we went off on the first game drive and there they were! I hadn’t seen the topis since my last visit to the Mara in 2003. Having to limit myself to one “expensive” place for each trip and needing to become a Kenya expert, I had been to Tsavo East and Samburu, but now I was back without having visited all Kenyan parks. Suddenly a big cheetah leapt up from the grass behind the vehicle. Joel started following him, but the cheetah kept running and running. Dancan said he must have seen lions or people walking, but he was running from the vehicle. There were giraffes, warthogs, zebras, hyenas and jackals, but no lions - very strange as I remembered lions lying about everywhere on my first trip, and cheetahs that were totally unafraid of vehicles. Instead of a whole pop roof there were three openings and I was standing in the front one, on the seat. Joel wasn’t a gentle driver and I got bruises here and there, and a couple of time I nearly smashed my very new and very precious camera. From the beginning I told Dancan I was very interested in learning ALL birds and plants. He was a devoted birder and member of bird watchers Nairobi, so that wouldn’t be problem, but as I was standing up in the wind there wasn’t much communication and I didn’t learn as much as I had intended. From this first game drive, or long before really, it was clear where in the world I wanted to be and my brain kept spinning and spinning trying to find a way to get more time than a few weeks the years that I’m lucky and spending the rest of my time where I don’t want to be, doing what I don’t want to do, but I found no answers. I suppose it’s an experience I share with a lot of people.

    I had dinner with Dancan. That is, my solo travelling extended his workday. I always shower after dinner and had asked for my shower to be filled up some time around dinner, but it wasn’t possible to do it that way. All the time I was asked, “When would you want your water?” before dinner I replied “right now or anytime soon, I’ll shower after dinner” and after dinner I replied “now” and then I couldn’t sit next to the fire without being reminded that the water would get cold. It was like that every evening. Anyway, I managed to learn some Maa words from Steven, the waiter. I also learnt that it’s definitely not true that “smoke follows the one that shits on the road” is a Maasai saying. I’d believed that since my first trip to Kenya.

    I have the custom, which I’m not going to change, of washing my hair every night. I’d been worrying about small bush showers at Bushbuck and appearing wasteful asking for a fill up. It really wasn’t a problem. I even cut my hair a bit and bought leave-in conditioner to make things easier, but as I always had a bucket of cold water, I used one pitcher to wet my hair and shampoo, next pitcher to rinse a bit, then I showered for a few seconds, soaped up (this was a bit too chilly) and rinsed soap and shampoo in the remaining shower water. I had enough cold water left to wash my underwear at night and my face in the morning. I got warm water from Steven in the morning, but I asked for it to be delivered at 6am and not 5am when I really get up and start trying to look decent.

    The night wasn’t as cold as I’d imagined. I heard hyenas woo opping and I thought I heard a lion, but was too much asleep to be sure.

  • Report Abuse

    Day 4
    In the morning when I was awaken by my two alarm clocks I definitely heard a lion, and very close. Though they sound closer than they are. Someone was moving around my tent and soon a little head peeked through the open zipper, and then came a long spotted body and an even longer ringed tail. The genet had a quick look and when I moved a little it ran out of the tent. I’d have liked some quality time with the genet, but it always came when I was very busy getting ready for the morning game drive.

    The first thing we saw during the morning game drive that started at 6.30 was a lion walking around some bushes scent marking and then he went inside the bushes. Dancan said he would stay there the whole day. I thought of “The young lions roar after their prey, and seek their meat from God. The sun ariseth, they gather themselves together, and lay them down in their dens.” (Psalm 104, heard on the radio) Not how I remembered the Mara, but I was happy. Some 30 metres away there was a lone buffalo. There were jackals, a secretary bird and, of course, some topis. We had breakfast next to a tree out on the plain with the zebras and some ostriches. I tried to see how close I could get to the topis, but Dancan said they could “beat” me. Then we found a big family of elephants. Most of them were inside some thickets and Joel tried to drive to the other side, but didn’t dare to cross a deep ditch, took another road and there we got stuck in the mud. I was offered a pair of rubber boots to get off the Land Rover, but found it more practical to take off my sandals and then wash my feet in some deep cleanish water. The camp was phoned and soon another vehicle was on its way. It was the Landcruiser we had come in from Nairobi, which had a gear problem. The gear problem got worse and two vehicles were standing not too far from where the elephants were. It was decided that Dancan and I should walk back to the camp, as it was quite close. Since my comfortable leather sandals had disappeared very mysteriously and I didn’t trust my new sandals, I decided to walk barefoot. I was not going to have any foot problems this trip! The walk was longer than I thought, but that might have been because I was so slow. The game viewing wasn’t good – just some Thomson’s gazelles, birds and insects. The lions behaved very biblically hiding in their bushy dens. There was a slithering movement in the grass and I jumped straight up in the air like my cat when she’s surprised by something strange on the ground. Dancan said it was a small non-poisonous snake. I asked if he was sure it wasn’t poisonous. He was not. I wasn’t sure where in the grass the snake was hiding, but I managed not to step on it. Then I found some lion tracks, but they were old. When we got back to camp Alice said that she’d told the guys to ask for help at Kicheche, very close to where we were stuck, but they wanted to fix things themselves.

    In the afternoon we went to the Mara River to have a look at the hippos. On the way we saw the usual suspects plus a fair number of kongoni that are so much rarer (and uglier) than the topi. After some relaxing listening to hippos Dancan got a call from a driver/guide that he had swapped numbers with. This driver was from “Elegant Safaris” (if I remember correctly). Most of the time there were no other vehicles in sight, but this year, unlike 2003, I did see some of the famous “traffic jams”. Most vehicles were from Kicheche that must be a bigger camp than I’d imagined. I also saw one or two Saruni vehicles. They looked really open and nice and I was jealous. Anyway, this driver from Elegant Safaris was seeing some lions not far from where we were. At that moment Joel stopped the car. Something was wrong and had to be fixed. Fortunately there were topis around. When we could continue it was quite late, but we saw two male lions. I’d thought that being back at 6.30pm wouldn’t be that important outside the reserve, but it was, the reason being that the camp was difficult to find in the dark.

    Steven looked very tired, approximately as I felt and as some pupils, in not too nice words, told me that I looked at school. He gave me warm washing water, tea and biscuits at 6am, cleaned my tent during the morning game drive, served lunch and tea again before the afternoon game drive, put paraffin lamps in front of my tent and in the bathroom after dusk and served dinner. That didn’t prevent me from wanting him to contribute to my collection of Maa words after dinner.

    I heard lions the second night as well.

  • Report Abuse

    Day 5
    In the morning, after seeing something red that must have been a bushbuck hiding in a bush, we found some Kicheche vehicles looking at a pride of lions in the thickets. One lioness came out to show herself off for a while. Then there was a lion, a pregnant lioness and two half-grown cubs that ran quickly between the bushes. There were also some more discreet lions. We had breakfast next to some wildebeests. Dancan said nothing about that they could beat me, so they’re probably less dangerous than the topis.

    In the afternoon Dancan wanted me to come and visit his “aunt” in town. Apparently she would be very happy and her children even happier. The aunt, Joyce, was younger and prettier than Dancan and she was Maasai while he was not. She had a very small shop at the entrance to her cow dung house with tin roof, maybe 1.5 m2. Joyce spoke almost no English and my Swahili and Maa are hardly conversational, nor is my English (or Swedish), but that’s another story. There was nothing I could buy in the shop, just maize flour, cooking oil etc. Maybe she just wanted to have a look at me. The children were adorable, but a bit shy. I waited for Dancan to tell me it was OK to take some photos, but he didn’t. Later he told me we would have to go back on the way to Nairobi to get some photos.

    On the way back to camp we encountered some Kicheche vehicles and some lionesses lying about in Edenic style. I heard a Kicheche guide saying that they were part of a pride of 20. I should have been a more active consumer asking Dancan about that kind of things, but I wasn’t sure he’d know.

    As I would like to appear as a Kenya expert I’m not sure if I should write this, but I misunderstood a thing. I thought the “park fees” included in my package were tickets to the National Reserve and that the group ranch fees were smaller and included in the accommodation cost. I asked Dancan when we would enter, but he just said “it’s just 30 minutes from camp, we’ll go there, but now we should visit my aunt, some hippos etc”, until he told me I should talk to Alice. Alice said I’d paid for the Koiyaki-Lemek Group Ranch fees that were $40 per day. To enter the reserve I’d have to pay $40 again and she didn’t recommend it when the migration wasn’t there. And, it was 3 hours to the gate if you did it as a game drive. Then she came back and said that, as Ken had been a bit unclear, I could go inside anyway on a long game drive with lunch. I don’t know if I should have said that I could pay the tickets myself, but I just accepted.

  • Report Abuse

    Day 6
    Next day the plan was to have breakfast in camp at 7am, leave at 8am and be back at 3pm. We left at 7.30am. Suddenly I saw a serval crossing the road. I said “serval”, but heard Dancan and Joel talking about “caracal” and turning pages in the mammal book that was always in the vehicle together with a bird book, “the Guide’s Guide to Guiding” and “How to Handle Food”. Had it been some obscure rodent I would have understood, but this was a cat. I suppose Dancan is a bird specialist. Finally he asked me, “You know what it is?” It was a long drive to the Musiara gate, but not 3 hours, or maybe it was, I don’t remember. On the way there were many topis, zebras, tommies, impalas, and some hyenas, grants, warthogs and baboons. The swampy area after the gate was sprinkled with elephants. I was interested in Governor’s as I’ve heard there’re elephants in camp, but when we saw a glimpse of it there was a terrible chainsaw noise and I was happy I was staying at Bushbuck. There were waterbucks that I hadn’t seen around Bushbuck, and lots of topis. We spent quite some time looking at crocs, hippos and crossing points at different places along the Mara River. Then we went out on the plain.

    On a track parallel to the river, circa 2 kilometres to the east, Joel thought that things were looking a bit too muddy and decided to turn back. He reversed into the grass and a deep, water filled hole. Thankfully my kidneys, of which I have two, and not my only – digital - camera got thumped. We were stuck. Dancan said it was a very bad place to get stuck because there were rules against getting out of the vehicle, patrolling rangers and dangerous animals. I tried to look suitably preoccupied, but thought it was the best thing that could have happened since I didn’t want to return early to Bushbuck and felt like getting out of the vehicle. Joel took off his clothes and put on rubber boots. It was almost exactly 1pm. After a while Dancan took out the lunch table and we - Dancan and I, Joel kept working to “unstick” the car - had some sandwiches, eggs and fruit. I asked what I could do to help and got the job of looking out for animals. My favourite job! When I saw that Joel was putting stones under the wheels I also started looking for stones. That was even better because there was mostly mud and grass and I walked further and further away. I found more bones than stones. As the hours passed, the job of looking for vehicles was added to my tasks. The only animals were some topi and kongoni that took turns looking at us. One elephant came walking towards us, but veered before getting too close. At approximately 5pm – 4 hours after getting stuck – a vehicle was sighted on the horizon. Dancan started waving with a white cloth and I used my yellow jacket. The vehicle signalled with the lights that we’d been seen and started driving towards us, but after a while there was a long stop that made us doubt that we’d really been seen. When the vehicle, that was from Governor’s Camp, reached us they didn’t have a rope and neither did we. “Hakuna kamba” was, BTW, the first expression I learnt on my first trip to Kenya. Soon more vehicles from Governor’s appeared. One had a rope - that looked like a rope, but was white – and it snapped when trying to pull us up. Another had a flat rope of what looked like sackcloth and that worked. Some of the tourists from Governor’s said that I should get new shoes from my safari company – and a new holiday! They’d vouch for me, but I didn’t get their contact info. They also said that there was a cheetah where they had stopped. This day was rather chilly and completely overcast, but I burnt my ears and nose anyway. When the Governor’s vehicles had disappeared and we’d been driving towards the gate for a couple of minutes, there was a new stop. Diesel had to be taken from “the back tank to the front tank” and there was some spitting involved. Jackals were appearing in the grass and things were getting animated. I hoped for a serious vehicle problem, but we soon continued and arrived at the gate at exactly 6.30pm.

    On the way back to camp the young topis were really speeded, running, chasing each other and jumping like mad. There were lots of zebras on the road and quite a few hyenas. We also saw a solitary mongoose-like thing with long legs and a light tail. It must have been a white tailed mongoose, but Dancan didn’t know. Close to camp there were elephants of all sizes everywhere. There was some confusion about which track to choose until some vehicle lights were switched on in the camp. We were back at approximately 7.45pm and Alice had been very worried. She phoned Ken immediately to say I was safe. She asked me if Dancan had tried to phone her. When I had asked he had said there was no coverage.

    I was no longer the only guest as three Frenchmen - Pierre, Richard and Sébastien - had arrived. They smoked and Richard started chasing a frog with his torch. Though later they proved to be better behaved than I’d feared. Pierre talked about how much he liked Thailand and I looked forward to the pleasure of watching him forget all about that country. I thought I had a twig in my hair, but when I tried to remove it I saw an insect sitting on my hand. It was really strong and felt more like steel wire than a normal insect. Then it stung me in the middle finger. I threw it away, it landed on the floor and Steven stepped on it at the same time as I told him not to. I can’t stand people who routinely kill insects, and that means almost all people. It was the second time I was stung by that kind of insect, so I knew the pain would last for a minute or so and then go away. The first time I thought my trip was ruined and I’d have to go to hospital. It’s called a wasp, but doesn’t look like a wasp at all. As my feet and sandals were caked in mud, I asked for an extra bucket of water. I didn’t clean my sandals.

    I heard lions that night as well.

  • Report Abuse

    Day 7
    In the morning we had a new driver, Joshua, who had driven the French guys to the Mara. Alice said it was because Pierre had a bad back. He was very worried about running out of painkillers, but didn’t miss a game drive. We saw some giraffes and the French friends were really impressed. A lone elephant was even better. Then we had breakfast next to the Mara River close to Livingstone where there were lots of hippos. On the way back to camp we saw a herd of buffaloes, warthogs and more giraffes. Steven had cleaned my sandals. They were so clean that I decided not to use them any more during the trip. On game drives I wore leather slippers and in Nairobi I wore extremely comfortable wedge sandals with bronze details. I’d not like to be seen in completely flat shoes in a capital city.

    I had no foot problem during this trip, but I did suffer from “Safari Eye” which is a condition with symptoms ranging from running mascara to complete snow blindness. I didn’t become snow blind, but sometimes my mascara was all over my face and the last mornings at Bushbuck the light of a candle and a torch was painful while applying it.

    In the afternoon we went to the rhino sanctuary and got really close to some guarded white rhinos. One of them was pregnant. On the way we saw some warthog hoglets that weren’t running! After the rhinos we went to visit Joyce and take some photos. All the time I’d been thinking about asking Dancan if we could visit Ron Beaton. For my trip I’d been enquiring about Koiyaki Wilderness Camp that had not yet opened and Ron wrote that I was welcome to pop in for a coffee or drink should I stay at a camp close to his home. That was when I had been writing about making a donation to Koiyaki Guiding School. I might have been less shy if I’d donated more than $55, but I never mentioned it to Dancan and Joel.

    Now the Frenchmen had spent a long time in the Mara without seeing any cats and I was getting worried. On the plain very close to Aitong, Dancan saw something that he thought were lions with a kill. When we came closer we saw that there were only vultures eating what was left of – a lioness. My vehicle companions saw it as the circle of life and lions have to die as well, but I’m still thinking that maybe I should delete the photos. I started imagining that the lioness had been killed by people. We did see a hyena, but that’s not a cat.

    That night I didn’t hear any lions.

  • Report Abuse

    Day 8
    Next morning was warmer than other mornings when my fingers had become white and numb and I’d had serious problems pressing the shutter button. We even saw some morning sun. A giraffe was standing right outside the camp. Soon we came across a traffic jam consisting mostly of vehicles from Kicheche, but also two minibuses and some nice un-identified cream coloured open-sided vehicles. Two cheetahs were hunting. They walked and walked. The vehicles were well behaved keeping their distance, except one minibus and one cream-coloured one that drove up a bit too close in front of the cheetahs. After a while Dancan said there was something interesting some 100 metres away. I wasn’t convinced, but we went there. There were a couple of vehicles and two leopards walking! I started zooming in and out trying not to cut heads or tails. Every time I was going to press the shutter the vehicle moved and I lost my balance. That’s one reason I need an open-sided vehicle. The leopards went inside some bushes and I regretted not having learnt how to use my camera. Then I regretted having a camera. Without it I’d have watched the leopards instead of trying to photograph them. Meanwhile the cheetahs had begun running after tommies that were too far away. When they had to have a rest we drove closer and the Frenchmen couldn’t believe what they got on their display screens. Had I been on my own I’d had breakfast and lunch right there waiting for what the leopards would do. Though they probably spent the day in the thickets.

    We had breakfast under a tree on the plain. Some Maasai came on bicycles to sell curios and I bought a bracelet. Then we went on a “village visit”. The cost was 700 shillings. I felt really stupid and touristy, but I suppose that’s what I am. First there was some singing, dancing and jumping, then a visit inside a house and then a curio market. I did say some Maa words, but nobody was that impressed. The worst thing was that I didn’t have enough time to decide what to buy at the market. After the village visit we went to the place of a spring from where we started a walk. We saw mostly zebras, wildebeests, cows and termites. Dancan said that closer to camp there were too many dangerous animals to do this kind of walk. After a while we where picked up by Joshua and went on to photograph giraffes.

    After lunch when I was resting in my tent I heard Joel talking about lions. He asked if we wanted to come and see them and off we went. The drive was about 50 metres to some bushes next to the camp. There were two lionesses in a thicket and in another thicket they had a young giraffe that they’d killed in the morning. Joel had seen its mother looking very bitter. One of the lionesses started to walk towards the kill, but then Pierre somehow climbed up on the sunroof (we were in another, smaller vehicle than the one we used for game drives) and the lioness shrunk and sneaked back into the bushes.

    In the afternoon we spent a lot of time with some buffaloes. The French really liked them, and so did I.

  • Report Abuse

    Day 9
    In the morning I had a pair of mating stick insects in my bathroom. At least that’s what I think they were doing. We were going on a short game drive before breakfast at 8 and the return to Nairobi at 9. On the last game drive we saw a bit of everything, except cats. To keep the tears away, I decided to go to Amboseli instead of Lake Naivasha. We were back in the camp at 8.45am – 15 minutes to have breakfast, put up my hair, wash, reapply mascara etc. Of course, it was impossible. I pretended I was packing. Not having the packing almost finished didn’t make me appear too bright, but at least nobody could say, “we’re late, you don’t have to do that” I gave the tip envelopes to Steven and we were off some time after 10. My vehicle companions were amazed at the amount of animals they’d seen and I didn’t tell them that if anyone had told me they’d spent three nights in the Mara without seeing a male lion, I wouldn’t have believed them. They had never thought about going to Africa before a friend of theirs got a one year IT contract in Nairobi. “Africa” was not what they’d imagined and I didn’t hear anything more about Thailand. Now they were going to Lamu and then Amboseli with their friend who was desperate to find another job in Kenya, but would have to return to France. Alice, who also was going to Nairobi, came with Joel in the Landcruiser with a gear problem behind us. We kept standing with the roof hatches open until the good road to Narok started. In Narok we had some sandwiches and then we continued towards Nairobi. I could imagine that in a hundred years there’d be rhinos among the whistling thorns. I had no idea how it would happen though. There were giraffes. Up at the Rift Valley “viewpoint” I bought three pairs of earrings from the curio seller. The day was very grey and there wasn’t much of a view, but there was a rock hyrax with part of his ear bitten off. I photographed him instead.

    We arrived in Westlands and had tea and coffee at Sarit Centre. When Pierre asked Alice where she preferred to be, she said Nairobi, because of her youngest daughter. Listening to that kind of thing must be the best contraceptive there is! The French were picked up by their friend and Alice told me to phone her if there was anything, and then she sent me off in a taxi to the city centre. I hadn’t booked a room at the Terminal. I’d half planned that it would be fully booked and that I’d check out the Downtown Hotel next door. It would have been disloyal to book the Downtown, but as the Terminal never even have given me a discount, I don’t know why. Anyway, the Terminal was fully booked, as was the Downtown, the Parkside and Kenya Comfort had only expensive “superior” rooms and even the Embassy, that gives me bad luck, was fully booked. There was some sort of women’s convention in town. I decided to try another part of town and the Lonely Planet guide said that the Hillcrest in Westlands was 1300 shillings for a single. The taxi driver had other ideas, but all the hotels he recommended where expensive or in dark places far away from everything. We arrived at the Hillcrest and I was told that their current rate was 3000 for a single! Finally I paid 2500 for the Impala Hotel on Parklands Road, within walking distance, but a bit too far from the shops and travel agents in Westlands. I was not happy with the Impala. My plan had been to check the Internet and send an email to Ol Tukai in Amboseli in the afternoon, go to bed early and in the morning find the perfect Amboseli trip leaving next day. Now it was late and I ordered a vegetable sandwich from the restaurant of the Impala. The sandwich had ham in it and then I got an sms from Chris from Kenyatta Avenue who wanted to know where I was. I answered that I’d decided to go to Amboseli.

  • Report Abuse

    Day 10
    In the morning I discovered that the Impala must have been a grand hotel in the 70s. I found the 60s or 70s psychedelic African wildlife décor in the restaurant – in Spain it would have been psychedelic medieval – very intriguing. Other parts of the hotel looked older, but interior design really isn’t my thing, so I can’t say for sure. Breakfast was included and I probably ate a whole pineapple. Then I went to the reception to leave my key – and there was Chris from Kenyatta Avenue. He had some old looking brochures from Kilaguni and Ngulia Lodge and told me that he’d talked to the managers. I can’t remember the rates. I found them too high, but then I probably ended up paying more for returning to the Mara. Chris had got two bicycle punctures because of the thorns in Tsavo and that had cost him 600 shillings. I don’t think you can ride a bike in a national park, but as I just wanted to be left alone, I gave Chris the money, photographed him and tried to say good bye and run away to Westlands to get things done as fast as possible. Chris followed me there, but then he left me. Somehow I found Sarit Centre – my sense of orientation is really, really bad – and had a look at Bwana Mitch’s Website to find the website of Ol Tukai. The Ol Tukai website didn’t open. I looked for the address of Let’s Go Travel and found it. Their office was just up Waiyaki Way, but on the other side. It was a longer walk than I’d thought, and uphill, but finally I found the office. Ol Tukai was expensive and then I decided I had to return to the Mara. I wanted to know all options, but the girl behind the computer only seemed interested in sending me to Mara Intrepids. I’d been to Samburu Intrepids and knew I didn’t like big, fenced camps with – almost – animal proof luxury tents. I had first thought about leaving next day, Saturday, but it looked like I’d need one more day to find a good package. I got on a matatu to return to Westlands´ shopping centre and on the way I saw a sign that said “Heritage Management”. I had a late lunch at Chowpaty. It’s a 100% vegetarian restaurant, and as I’m not accustomed to that kind of choice, I had to ask the waiter to tell me what to have. The food was really good, but I had too much of it and afterwards I felt like hiding in a thicket. Instead of that I returned to Sarit Centre and visited Twiga Tours where the lady behind the computer quickly showed me different options for four nights in the Mara, all of them extremely expensive. She did feel she had to tell me that 4 nights in the Mara was a bit long, but realized that trying to educate me was useless when I told her I’d finished a 6 nights stay the day before. Then it occurred to me that, as a return costumer, I should get a discount from Heritage. It didn’t work with Basecamp, but I decided to try anyway.

    It was 4.30pm and I knew Kenyan office hours were from 8–5. I would have to take a taxi to where I’d seen the sign. The at other times constant sound of “Taxi, madam?” had stopped and I didn’t see a taxi anywhere. I walked toward Waiyaki Way and saw Jonathan Scott with a big bag on his shoulder. I’d seen him in Tsavo in 2004 when I didn’t have digital TV and didn’t know who he was. As I didn’t know what to say, I didn’t say anything. I found a taxi and was dropped off outside the office of Heritage. Jesse at Heritage told me an astronomical price for a flying package to Mara Intrepids, but if he asked the person who decided these things he could waive the single supplement and give me a special rate on the rest of the package. He could not get hold of that person, but would email me in the morning. He himself could stay for free (!) and did only have to pay the transport, but he never had any time to go to the Mara.

    I walked back to the shopping centre. I was going to eat something at the food court at Sarit Centre, but remembered that I’d already eaten for several days, so I had a passion juice instead. Then I bought some drinking yoghurt and mini-bananas at Uchumi supermarket. I also tasted all kinds of Kenyan cheeses – there are others than “Kenyan yellow cheese” – and felt I should buy a cheese –, which I did. A matatu tout asked me if I was afraid of getting on the matatu. I told him I take matatus all the time, but preferred to walk and then I asked if he was afraid of the Mungiki. It wasn’t a problem. People used to be told not to carry any valuables when out in the evening. Now you just had to leave your head at home.

    The road to the Impala was a bit too dark and I wasn’t sure I was walking in the right direction, but I arrived safely and had some yoghurt before showering and going to bed. Then the singing started. The singer was quite good and I regretted not having stayed up a bit, but he never stopped and it started to irritate me.

  • Report Abuse

    Day 11
    I woke up at 3am and the singer was still singing. I think there were songs all night because when my alarm clocks sounded at 6am people were still singing. They didn’t sound as professional as the first singer though. I had breakfast and ran to the Post Office at Sarit Centre to check my email. They hadn’t opened, but when they did I found an email from Jesse with “You have been offered resident rate” on the “subject line”. I ran to Heritage. Other than waivered single supplement and resident rate, I got an exchange rate (60) that was a lot better than the already devalued US dollar rate when I paid in shillings, but it was still frightingly expensive. I said that Explorer would be even better, but Jesse didn’t get the hint. Then I had lunch at a Lebanese restaurant called the Phoenician. It was hard to find and expensive, but the food was good. I can’t remember what I did in the afternoon, but I wasn’t back at the Impala until after dark. Then I had a soup at the “singing bar”, but I went to bed before the singing started.

  • Report Abuse

    You have me laughing and laughing. This report is so very Nyamera. Although all the biblical references make me think you should come move to the U.S.

    I saw the lion carcass photo and wondered about that as well. I suppose Dancan and the gang didn't have any ideas?

    I can't remember what kind of camera you ended up with. Was it kimburu's? In any case, your photos are beautiful. I am very impressed you got such good bird pics. I can never get those at all.

    Very much looking forward to your next installment.

  • Report Abuse

    Merci beaucoup, Nyama, Patty and Alejandra.

    Leely, the bible is very popular in Kenya as well and the Swedish radio has some religious words early in the morning from a different religion every week. I prefer Islam because of the music (the words are really bland). The young lions “ de unga lejonen ryter efter rov” from the Book of Psalms caught my attention though and I looked them up. It’s probably a hymn to the sun from the beginning. I should start a church in Kenya. That would be a good business! The funniest thing that has ever happened to me in Kenya was when I, in Voi 2004, met a preacher from Nigeria who wanted to pray in my hotel room. I suppose that kind of thing happens all the time in the US.

    I ended up with a new Canon S3. Kimburu’s camera wasn’t in that good shape, at least not the display screen.

    Dancan thought the lioness had been injured while hunting. The carcass was really close to Aitong.

    I used unethical methods for some of the bird photos, like baiting with chilli crisps. The superb starlings liked it. Maybe I shouldn’t have told this …

  • Report Abuse

    This is a wondeful report. So natural and funny and I feel I am there. I have read you want a new career. If I could think of a magazine etc that used your style of report I would definitely subscribe to it. Thanks for the entertainment - more please
    Julie

  • Report Abuse

    Nyamera, you have kept me entertained all afternoon with your prose and poetry of Kenya.
    I am a bit worried though that you did not see more game in the Mara as I was hoping to be there next year at the same time.
    Maybe I will just fly in as you and "wing it" ..sounds like quite an experience! D.

  • Report Abuse

    Just wanted to commend you on the title. I´ll be readig the report and looking at the photos about Aug 1.

    Double Mara sounds like a drink for around the bonfire, or better yet, a gooey dessert.

  • Report Abuse

    Nyamera,

    I am so enjoying reading about your adventures. Good pictures too! I haven't had a chance to look at all of them yet but will savour them after I read your next installment.

    CW

  • Report Abuse

    Wonderful pictures, Susanna! Your pictures were my lunchtime slidehow, no keyboard needed while eating Vietnamese food - just let it show on the screen and dig into the food!

    I haven't read the report yet, I am dying too, but I must read the trip reports in order and I am behind! But when I catch up, and read this, I am sure it will be enjoyable!

  • Report Abuse

    Nyamera - This is a great report and the pictures are wonderful. Thanks for sharing. Also, baiting birds for a better shot puts you in good stead with photojournalists everywhere! :-D

  • Report Abuse

    Nyamera,

    Nice pictures!!! Enjoyed the three cheetah boys.....they look a bit youngish still, so hopefully they turn into killing machines in the upcoming years....

    Rgds,
    Hari

  • Report Abuse

    Julie, good idea! I’ll start a magazine. I’d have to go to Kenya every month to write a report. How much would you pay for the subscription? ;)

    Dana, the game wasn’t bad. It’s just that I remembered guaranteed lions and cheetahs every day. In 2003 I didn’t see a single leopard and this year I saw 5. Though one might have been the same one on two different occasions.

    Lynn, maybe passion juice and milk in a big glass? It’ll probably curdle and become really disgusting.

    CW, thanks! I hope to finish part 2 before I become really busy with awful things.

    Moremiles, ((K))

    MyDogKyle, asante sana. The last days of the trip were really stupid. I hope I can describe them.

    Kimburu, you must know how uninteresting Thailand is. ;)

    Dennis, I hope you speak Italian. “Brava” is fierce in Spanish. ((K))

    Lynda, Good! Be very methodical. I have a lot of catching up to do.

    Joyce, who allowed you to sneak preview? ;)

    Favor, I’ve been thinking about this and I didn’t really bait the birds. The demanded food, I fed them and then I took some pictures. I found this when googling to find out if chilli crisps are good bird feed: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=469620&in_page_id=1770
    But, mine were potato chilli crisps …

    Maxwell, thanks, not everybody does. I believe you have some reports that I need to read.

    Hari, killing machines is exactly what they need – and will - turn into! A certain hyena is warned.

    GreenDrake, thanks for the words “wry” and “life lessons”. I’ll use them.

    ShayTay, aha, it was YWCA. I’ve never understood what they and YMCA really do, besides running hostels. The song by Village People gives some clues though.

  • Report Abuse

    Yes Nyamera, it was Italian. I even "Encarted" it to be sure I was using the right word, and I was:
    bra·va
    interjection,
    noun (plural bra·vas)
    Definition:

    shout of approval: a cry of approval for a woman or girl performer by members of a theater audience


    [Early 19th century. < Italian, "excellent"]

    so I say it again, "BRAVA"!

  • Report Abuse

    I will not be able to marvel at your skill with the Canon S3 for a couple of weeks. That's when I'll be able to check to Kodak site.

    But I thoroughly enjoyed your report. You have your own unique style of wit and of relating life lessons. (OK I stole that from GreenDrake.)

    I am so glad you started with your trademark of the game drive to the airport with your father and a list of the species seen.

    Glad you saw your beloved topis so soon in the trip. Accompanied by a big cheetah only adds to the sight.

    I can attest to the fallacy of that Maasai saying about who the smoke follows.

    How lucky to have your own personal genet visitor in your tent.

    I can just picture you walking barefoot through the Maasai Mara with shiny clean hair (due to your excellent hair hygiene) and jumping straight in the air like a serval.

    I was amazed at the amount of work you did on Day 6 from animal to vehicle watching at the vehicle breakdown.

    Your story of the Frenchmen, Thailand, and the wasp was the best yet. What a thoughtful vignette.

    The lack of a lot of lion viewing this time but 5 leopards shows how you just cannot predict wildlife.

    Your comment upon arrival, about knowing you will be leaving relatively soon, will ring true for most of us. Thanks for sharing your prose and observations in the form of a trip report.

  • Report Abuse

    I am marveling much sooner than anticipated. You mastered that S3 very well and should be writing your own tips. Even good bird shots, plus dramatic sunrises/sets. I knew it wouldn´t be long into the slide show until the first topi appeared and I was right. And topi shots were sprinkled nicely throughout. Even the flat footed topi tracks. Your breakdown and rescue were documented well. You are doing leopards and cheetah by doubles, maybe all part of the Double Mara theme. The zebra shots were especially good. The lionesses and male and female lion were also very captivating. Where did you see the rhino? Sorry if I forgot that in the report.

  • Report Abuse

    Thanks Kevin and Bat!

    Lynn, I’d decided not to post anything before finishing part 2 of my report, but now I have to answer your question. I saw the white rhinos at a rhino sanctuary north of Maasai Mara NR. I didn’t see any wild black rhinos, only Shida at Sheldrick’s ...

    To my defence I have to say that I carried a couple of stones on day 6. ;)

    I made notes of the game on the way to the airport and the rest is from my memory. I’m having problem with the stupid last days that are a bit blurred.

  • Report Abuse

    Part 2

    Day 12
    In the morning I was very worried about my heavy bag. I had not planned any domestic flights. Compared to other expenses, what you have to pay for overweight is irritating but negligible, at least with Air Kenya. It’s an image problem – real travellers travel light. My bag keeps getting heavier for each trip and at Arlanda airport it had weighed 19 kilos. I decided to put all books and some big bottled cosmetics– that had had to travel in my big bag because of the “problem” with liquid terrorism in Europe – in the hand luggage. I packed the cheese and decided to donate it to the kitchen of Mara Intrepids.

    The receptionist phoned a taxi driver that she knew and he was there in a minute. I never got to know the reason for all the singing. I mentioned it to the receptionist, but she just smiled. On the way to Wilson Airport, somewhere along Uhuru Highway, there were marabous on both sides of the road. One of them decided to cross the road from one tree to another and a lion wouldn’t have been more striking.

    This time I was flying with Safarilink. I was told my bag was 18 kilos, but not a word about having to pay for that. I prefer them to Air Kenya. The x-rays where out of order, so there was a long queue for manual control of the bags. The control consisted in opening and having a peek. The packing wasn’t disturbed in any way. A group of six very pretty American ladies were on the same flight as I. Their eye make-up looked like it would stay in place during very long game drives. I was amazed to hear they were teachers. They had a lot of luggage, but most of it was school material for a school near Kichwa Tembo where they were going for the third time. One of them put her palm on the wall of the plane saying, “Jesus, bless this plane and everyone in it”, or something similar. Then she said she wasn’t afraid as she was going with God. Completely insane, almost Kenyan, I regretted I wasn’t going to Kichwa Tembo instead of Intrepids! Between the numerous clouds, after Nairobi Kenya looked like a wilderness with the occasional Maasai village. On a road trip you see people everywhere. I was supposed to get off the 18-seater at the Serena airstrip and get on a 13-seater to Ol Kiombo, and so I did. The pilot couldn’t find my bag, but as I’d identified it outside the plane before taking off I knew it must be in the luggage compartment. After unloading all other bags it was found. Ol Kiombo was a 2 minutes’ drive from Intrepids. Two middle-aged couples and one young honeymoon couple from Scotland arrived at the same time as I. We were given some juice and information, and taken to our tents. Mine was number 7. More than a tent, it felt like some luxury cabin on a ship, but I don’t know if there’re four-poster beds on ships. There were 3 big mirrors and lots of lamps everywhere. It was a bit irritating that the tent was made animal proof and that the camp was fenced. The animals are the reason people are there. I thought the fence was because the camp was big and it wasn’t possible to keep an eye on all stupid guests, but later I asked and it was because so many nice things had been constructed and elephants could break everything in 15 minutes. There were some vervets and dik-dik in the camp though. Lunch was soup, buffet and dessert, and as tasty as expected. The waiter would guard my water bottle till dinner. That way I couldn’t do like in Samburu were I had a tiny beverage bill because I took the bottle with me and then I used the water bottles that the tent steward kept putting in the tent for people decadent enough to brush their teeth with bottled water. I tried out the suspension bridge over the Talek River. It was very elastic, but the sign saying “maximum capacity 3 pax” was a bit worrying.

    The afternoon game drive was at 3.30 and before it there was tea/coffee and cake. I was wondering with whom I’d be sharing the game drives, and it was sorted out in the best possible way – the three couples from Scotland in one vehicle, and I in another. My driver/guide was Dennis, not very experienced but a most pleasant and good-looking young man from Nairobi, and with him he had Jacob, who was training to become a guide and who shared Dennis’ characteristics, except that he was a Maasai from a place just north of Bushbuck. At last I had an open-sided vehicle, and all to myself. I don’t think we saw any cats on the first game drive, but there were topis and a multitude of less glamorous antelopes. We also saw ground hornbills and a pair of secretaries in their nest. Returning to the Mara was the best idea I’d ever had.

    Before the 4-course dinner I sat down by the fire next to the swimming pool. There must have been around 40 guests all the time I was at Mara Intrepids, but I was the only one showing any interest in the fire. The pool attendant, Isaiah, was from the shores of Lake Victoria and when he told me about it, it sounded as if that was the reason he got the job. His way of talking reminded me very much of the night watchman in Darwin’s Nightmare. Then I saw that a slideshow had started in the conference room. I went there to see what the “naturalist”, Johnson, had to tell. One other tourist was there, the only other solo traveller during my stay at Intrepids – a man (amazing as they usually don’t dare to travel on their own) from an unidentified European country. Johnson talked about the Maasai way of life. At the end he asked if we had any questions. There’s a lot I’d like to know, but I never have any questions when people ask me. There’s also the problem that I don’t know what might cause offence, but from experience I know that painful body modification is something most Maasai like to talk about. The only thing I could think of was to ask Johnson why his earlobes weren’t enlarged. It was because his teacher had asked him not to enlarge them. The teaching would go through the holes in his earlobes instead of into his head. Johnson also told us that circumcision was worse than the removal of incisors, and he talked about the drugs that make warriors cry and cry. Since they used a mixture, he didn’t know from which plant that drug came. I didn’t ask why anyone would want a drug that makes you cry. We went to dinner and the other solo guest commented horrified (quite rightfully) that he hadn’t known that the Maasai practised female circumcision. Johnson had mentioned it and maybe I should have directed my questions in that way. The waiter asked if we’d like a table for two, but the other solo guest said, “I’ll sit at my table”. Just as well as he was half-fat and dorky (much like myself) and I wouldn’t have liked people to think we were a couple. A bushbaby appeared on the rafters. Everybody was photographing and feeding it, so I decided to bring my camera next night. It must have been very used to flashes, but I’m not sure it’s the right thing to do. There were at least two bushbabies, first a normal grey one and later a black bushbaby. They were never there at the same time. Then I heard that the Scots had seen baby hyenas in the afternoon.

    I think that at the arrival info we where told there wasn’t any hot water after 8pm, but I always had plenty of hot water, and in my bed there was a hot water bottle.

  • Report Abuse

    Day 13
    I was up at 5 and on the other side of the suspension bridge before 6.30. I’m pretty disorientated, but it’s better to start from there when you’re going to the eastern side of the Talek River. I’d planned to bring a map of the Maasai Mara and to ask the guide exactly where we were, all the time, but I forgot it at home. Before the heavy rains in December, Intrepids used to have a concrete vehicle bridge in the camp, but it was washed away. For a while the rain was so bad that they could only do game drives between the Olare Orok and Talek rivers. We were going on a long game drive with breakfast boxes. Both Dennis and Jacob seemed to think that the Talek area had the best game. Close to Talek Gate there was a traffic jam of mostly white minibuses. We were a couple of hundred metres away, but could see that there were lions in front of the vehicles. Then the steering went dead. We had to stop, as Dennis couldn’t turn the wheels at all and we had to wait to be picked up and taken to the gate where we would wait for some mechanics. It was a bit silly as we were very close to the gate and there were only topis, waterbucks and impalas along the way. Soon an Explorer vehicle with two German tourists turned up and took us to the picnic tables next to Talek curio shop. The Germans said that there had been lots of lion cubs playing wildly, but that they wanted to leave because of the traffic jam. We had breakfast while waiting and all kinds of birds turned up demanding food. I’ve always wanted a good picture of a superb starling and thanks to my breakfast bread I got some that were acceptable. After a while the Scots who also were going to have breakfast next to the curio shop joined us. I thought they could have chosen a nicer spot, but I didn’t say anything. In the morning they had seen a pair of mating lions and a leopard with a kill in a tree close to camp. I really should have supported a fellow curio seller, but I didn’t. I also regret not having checked out Aruba and Riverside Camp.

    The mechanics turned up in an Explorer vehicle and we drove to the vehicle without steering and left them there. Then we encountered some lions in a big grove of thorn apples. They were lying absolutely flat and didn’t move. There was a big ostrich harem and then I became obsessed with having a picture with one Thomson’s and one Grant’s gazelle in it. Suddenly a male lion crossed the road and started to walk towards a herd of topis. He just walked straight through where they were and continued towards some thickets. The topis followed him and then he disappeared into the thickets. On the way back to camp we saw a congregation of 18 giraffes. Two people were going to join me for the afternoon game drive and I started rehearsing how to greet them. Maybe, “this is my vehicle and there’re certain rules you should know.”

    After lunch I saw a bushbuck at the other side of the river. Then, after a brief siesta and some freshing up, on my way to the afternoon game drive, I saw vervet monkeys inside the Scottish honeymooners’ tent. I told them to get out of there and behave themselves, but then they came against me in a threatening way. I took some pictures of the vervets with stolen fruit and then I closed the tent and put all the veranda furniture in front of the zipper with velcro and knots.

    The people who were supposed to join me hadn’t showed up. First we went to look at some hippos, and I didn’t manage to photograph any of them with an open mouth. Then we saw an Intrepids vehicle next to a lone tree and a leopard in the tree. A bit further away there were two Intrepids vehicles looking at the honeymooning lions. They were lying flat in the grass and we could hardly see them. After a while Dennis heard on the radio that another vehicle had found cheetahs and we went there. On the way we saw a poor hyena that was throwing up and limping. My first thought when I saw the three young cheetah brothers was, “Honey’s cubs”, but Dennis said that their mother wasn’t dead. She had killed a tommie for them and then she’d left. The cheetahs were lying flat on the ground as well, but when they saw the hyena they became a bit more alert. Some elephants passed by. The brothers weren’t interested in them. Without radios we might have stayed with one kind of cat to see what that cat was up to, or we might not have seen any cats except the serval that I spotted on the way back to camp after having had another look at the very sleepy leopard. The reason I spotted the serval was that, even with an open-sided vehicle, I was standing up all the time, except when we were close to some interesting animal that I wanted to be at the same level as. Dennis told me that, as he hadn’t been able to talk to the new guests, we’d have two short game drives the following morning.

    Johnson joined me next to the fire. Steven had told me fire is “enkema” in Maa. It’s easy to remember because, in Spanish, “quema” means “it burns”. Johnson wanted to know the cost of my flight from Sweden and was horrified at my answer. He’d have bought a good number of cows instead. One cow costs 7000 – 9000 shillings and my return flight was almost 70000 shillings. There was a new couple at dinner, but I was too shy to talk to them. After dinner I became more and more irritated at having breakfast in camp. I asked the waiters if it was too late to order five breakfast boxes. There was really no reason to prefer two short game drives, so I could decide for the new couple. It was too late. Had it just been me, I’d have taken all the early morning biscuit with me on the game drive and that would have been quite sufficient.

  • Report Abuse

    Day 14
    I didn’t say anything about my vehicle rules, in part because I hadn’t decided what they were. Anyway, the couple, Jo and Darren from England, didn’t need to hear the rules. I think I was quite lucky. They were very interesting as an example of extreme sexual dimorphism, one anorexic and the other anabolic. Though, as they didn’t seem mentally disturbed – I was a bit worried when they didn’t recognize the topi, but they soon learned - it was probably natural and healthy variations, and both were quite attractive. When we came across a secretary bird, Jo said that she’d seen one being fed at a zoo where the keepers had to throw a plastic snake for it to stamp on before it would eat the meat it was being served. Jo and Darren were coming from Samburu and where on their way to Zanzibar. In Samburu they’d spent the entire last day on an unsuccessful search for a leopard and they were a bit too eager to find that kind of cat - something that can easily bring bad luck. We came across the honeymooning lions again and this time they were a bit more visible and even got up for some sniffing and I got a flehmen photo. A male hanger-on was lying in the grass a couple of metres away. Then we found the three brothers and could have stayed with them instead of going back to camp for breakfast. We also spotted a Basecamp vehicle. The driver was Tonkei, my driver from 2003, but as he didn’t seem to recognise me, I didn’t say anything.

    Breakfast in camp wasn’t that bad. I had lots of pineapple. The Scots were leaving and that was just as well as they’d seen leopard cubs.

    After breakfast we saw plenty of giraffes and some elephants and zebras. Darren got a good shot of a lilac breasted roller. Compared to the area around Bushbuck there were far fewer zebras inside the reserve and I didn’t see a single wildebeest.

    After lunch I used the very expensive Internet at Intrepids to find the website of Karen Camp and send an enquiry. It had caught my attention because it was next to a riding school, I thought it would be in the countryside and that I’d have some riding opportunities, and also that I’d be close to Sheldrick’s and other interesting sites. I used to hang around horses many years ago and I’ve been missing it all the time. I asked for the reply to be sms:ed to my mobile phone and in the evening I had a reply saying that it was 1590 shillings for a single with bathroom. I replied that I’d be there on Thursday afternoon.

    In the afternoon we went to the Mara River for hippos and crocodiles. Darren got a photo of two hippos fighting with open mouths. Had I known about continuous mode, I too might have got that kind of photo. I still don’t know how to use continuous mode, but I’ll find out as soon as I’ve finished this report. I wanted to stay in that part of the Mara forever. I’d thought the Serena was a big lodge, but when I saw it there on the other side of the river on its hill, it looked like an enchanted Maasai castle. A mysterious mist rising up from the river intensified the enchantment, but Dennis said that was from the generator. The elands were very real though, and straight out of a fairy tale. We came across an elephant family with two tiny, tiny calves that were barely visibly in the grass. And then there were a couple of grumpy old buffalo bulls. The strange thing about them was that one of them wasn’t old at all; he looked very young, but was so irritated with us that I was afraid he’d have a heart attack. He must have been suffering from precocious senility, or else he would have been with the herd. Dennis said that the herd probably wasn’t far away. I started “seeing” leopards everywhere and discovered that it was a good way to be able to stay out longer.

    In the evening I had to reanimate the fire myself. Not even the staff showed any interest.

  • Report Abuse

    Day 15
    This morning we had breakfast boxes and were going on a “village visit” after breakfast. First we went to the Talek area and on the way we saw the elephant family from the evening before, jackals, hyenas, lots of topis etc. Near Talek Gate the big lion pride had a buffalo kill out on the plain. For some reason it was not permitted to drive out there. I never understood where it’s permitted to drive and where it’s not. To me it seemed like Dennis was driving just everywhere. It was probably an area in extra need of regeneration. A minibus drove up close to the lions anyway, but I was glad we were better behaved. We did see a lioness in a thicket and, for a second, two of the tiniest cubs I’ve ever seen showed themselves before disappearing again. Dennis thought we’d have a better view from the other side of the thicket, but when we got there we couldn’t see the lioness. The Talek curio shop was on the way to the village, so we had breakfast there and met up with another Intrepids vehicle with one British and one German couple that were going to the “village visit”. When I ran out of bread I started feeding the birds chilli crisps, and the superb starlings liked them.

    When Dennis had asked if wanted to do the village visit, I just thought, “why not?” At 1000 shillings it was a bit more expensive than the previous one. The set-up was almost identical, but at this place you were forced to dance. I wish I’d known so that I could have practised a year or so in advance.

    At lunch I was invited to the table of 16 American women with their 3 guides from Origins Safaris. These Americans were almost like normal people, only so much nicer.

    In the afternoon Jo and Darren were on their way to Zanzibar without having seen a leopard. I’d thought about telling them about the Zanzibari leopard, but, as it’s extinct, I kept quiet.

    I was back on the Paradise Plains without “intruders” in the vehicle. There were elands and topis and I thought everything was quite perfect. I even thought I had got the best wildlife photo ever - a mother and calf topi picture that looked fabulous on the display screen, but turned out a bit grainy on the computer. Nevertheless Dennis and Jacob were worried about the absence of cats. Then we got the message that an Origins vehicle had found a leopard. Dennis had a problem. The leopard was a bit further away, we were a long way from the camp and it was getting late. He chose the leopard. It was a small leopard, barely visible where it was sitting in the grass. The Origins driver had been alerted to its presence by an impala. Suddenly the leopard got up, walked a few steps, and jumped in a long leap up on a stone from where it jumped high like a serval pouncing on something in the grass. The animal pounced at got away and the leopard continued walking. At almost exactly 6pm we started the direct drive back to the camp. We stopped for a few seconds next to some buffaloes and we were back in camp at 6.45.

    At dinner I didn’t understand who was who of the 16 women or what they were talking about. I think they were a group of friends who did a trip together every second year. My only contribution was, when one suggested Sweden for their next destination, to half-scream “no, don’t!” Maybe I should check out the official tourism site, if there is one, to learn to say, “we have lots of lakes, sometimes you see a moose and, and, and …” It was the 4th of July and those who celebrated that day were invited to toast in Amarula. I celebrated. One of the women told the guide, Felix, about guerrilla tactics against the British, and he associated to the Mau Mau. I don’t know too much about these things, so I had problems fitting the Native Americans into the picture.

  • Report Abuse

    Day 16
    When Jesse had asked me if I wanted the morning or the afternoon flight, I had said, quite logically, that I wanted the morning flight to the Mara and the afternoon flight back. I had to be out of my tent at 10am, so I left my bags packed before the last game drive at 6.30. I hadn’t remembered to donate my cheese and now it had been unsuitably stored a bit too long. I let it stay in my bag.

    Soon we came across a leopard in a tree. It was a very tired leopard, he only looked up for a while when he heard lions. A rhino had been sighted, so we went on a long unsuccessful rhino search while the giraffes looked at us as if we were really stupid and before driving towards Lookout Hill. On the way there we saw bat-eared foxes. Lookout Hill had a view into Tanzania and some very photogenic agama lizards. I’d recommend it for a boxed breakfast. Jacob said that for white people it was easier to learn Maa than Kikuyu, and some other questionable things.

    After a brief stop at the Mara River we were on the way back to camp when we found an army of topis that was being approached by an army/harem of impalas. It was an impressive sight and I wondered what would happen. Some topi representatives came forward nodding their heads and the impalas felt safe (I’m not Richard D. Estes). Dennis pointed to vultures circling in the air a bit further away. They were a sign there was a kill, as were a couple of Intrepids vehicles. “Or would you like to look at the topis?” he asked. I contemplated the topis a few seconds more and then we went to have a look at who had killed whom. It was the three brothers that were eating an unidentifiable animal. Suddenly a hyena jumped in and started biting at their kill, and the brothers started growling – at each other! Then the hyena took the kill and galloped away. The hyena was an animal looking for food, but it’s impudence made it so human-like that I was quite upset. The brothers had red faces and round bellies. The bellies weren’t round enough though; they should have looked heavily pregnant. A heap of vultures descended on some intestines that were lying about. There were interested jackals in the grass and some bat-eared foxes that I thought were insectivores – they must be curious insectivores. The cheetah brothers started walking with frequent stops to lick each other’s faces and we returned to the topis. We saw a lone elephant and then we were back in camp.

    I no longer had a tent. I knew it was international hotel rules and that new guests had arrived, but being thrown out of my tented palace was quite irritating. I decided to set up residence in the ladies’ toilet next to the reception where I spread out my thing and started to undress, wash myself, put up my hair etc. Just one person, an Intrepids employee, entered the toilet while I was there. Then I went to lunch and the American women showed me a film of two leopard cubs that they had seen in the morning!

    I had to wait to be taken to the airstrip while other people were waiting to go on the afternoon game drive, and the plane was late. When we finally arrived at the airstrip after the 2-minute drive, I had to wait some more, pretending I was just leaving a holiday destination. Dennis and Jacob probably noticed that leaving the Mara was a tragedy of epic proportions because they said that they would never forget me, and that I had to come and visit them even if I was staying in another camp next time. I tried to concentrate on the horses of Karen and the hippos of Lake Naivasha. The plane was an hour late and it was a 13-seater.

    At Wilson Airport a taxi driver soon found me. Thanks to my LP-guide we knew approximately where to find Karen Camp and arrived there after some asking. The front lawn was sprinkled with huge vehicles and the bar/reception area was full of scruffy looking people that were smoking. I asked a man behind the counter if he was Josh. He wasn’t and Josh was Australian, but he showed me to my room. The room looked nice, there was a big bed with a mosquito net, but there was no mirror in the bathroom. The only mirror was in a dark place on the wall between two wardrobes. I’d have to use my torch like at Bushbuck. There was no towel, so I went down to the bar to get one. One of the many signs on the walls was about fresh-squeezed guava juice, but the only juice available for the moment was prepacked orange juice of which I had a glass. I felt a bit awkward as everybody else had a group of friends and I was even to shy to pat the big overfed dogs that were lying on the floor. I went to check out the garden and found a tree full of guavas. There were quite a few igloo tents with people crawling in and out of them, so I went to the front where the watchmen let me out on the street that was very dark and empty. I returned to my room and fell asleep for an hour and so, and then I went down to the bar to have something to eat and was told it wasn’t possible as the kitchen closed at 9pm. I’m sure I’d got something to eat if I’d insisted, there was a sign about Mars bars for example, but I’d overeaten at Mara Intrepids and wasn’t that hungry, so I went to my room and had a shower and then I went to bed.

  • Report Abuse

    Day 17
    The morning was chilly. My plan was to visit Kazuri Beads and then have a look at some other sights around Karen. I didn’t know what to do with my cheese. I didn’t want to throw it away so I thought about cutting it into pieces and throwing it out of the window for some animal to eat, but as there were people everywhere in the garden they’d probably wonder what I was doing. I just wrapped it in a plastic bag and threw it in the bin. I went down to the bar and asked about Josh who was asleep, 23 and “slightly better looking than I am” (told by a man reading a newspaper). Then I had breakfast: tea and toast that wasn’t included but added to my tab. The dogs came to sniff me out and were quite nice. I wouldn’t say they were obese, but their backs could have been used as tables. A white South African with no hair and no body fat, on his way overland to China, was horrified at my “long” stay in the Mara. He would have been bored. I told him I’m bored anywhere else, which is almost true. Then Josh appeared and he fitted the description that I had heard. He was going to the shops and could take me to Kazuri.

    I got off Josh’s car at Kazuri thinking I’d find my way back to Karen Camp. The main objective of my visit was to find out if there was anything that could be of interest to Nyamera Kenya Imports. First I went to the shop. I liked touching all the necklaces hanging there in different colours, but then I thought that I would not like to have those big cold things around my neck, and that they were made of clay, would chip and break, and that I then would be pestered by angry people wanting their money back. There was a portrait of the founder of Kazuri with a big flower arrangement in front of it. I was irritated for a few seconds until I saw that she had died in 2006. I asked for a guided tour of the workshop. There were hundreds of workers, almost all single mothers, I was told, and the work looked repetitive and boring, though most jobs I’ve had have been worse. The guide told me the women were “bussed” from the slums. I would not feel grateful about being bussed from the slums while my employer, even if dead, had a ****-ing altar. I should have asked how much the women were paid. The thing I liked the most at Kazuri was the oven. I didn’t want to leave it. I returned to the shop. There were some American women literally shrieking with joy at the beads and my interest in doing business with Kazuri was reawakened. Last summer I experienced that reaction at my cow horn jewellery. Then I just had ridiculously big sizes left, but ordered more from my supplier who ignored me until after the tourist season. That’s why I went incognito to The Collector’s Den. I didn’t do any business other than buying a reticulated giraffe patterned necklace and earrings for myself. A bracelet would have been more useful, but there was none in the giraffe design. Maybe the workers live in the slums because they prioritise a first class education for their children. It is a fair trade project anyway.

    I exited the gates of Kazuri and remembered what direction I’d come from. I had a life-saving easily foldable map called “Tourist’s Kenya- Kenya’s Elite Guide for Tourists - Map an Guide”. It’s not much of a guide, but there’re maps of the City Centre, Westlands/Parklands and Karen/Langata. My intention was to walk down Marula Lane to get to Karen Road walking past Karen Camp learning its location and sneaking back to my room to powder my red nose on the way, but I would not have walked past Karen Camp even if I’d been on Marula Lane. I saw big hedges, big gates and tall trees with blue monkeys in them. When I reached Karen Road I saw that I’d been walking on Forest Road between the Blixen Museum and Karen Blixen Coffee Garden. Once on Karen Road it was easy to find the way to the shops and, thanks to my map, I felt quite safe that I was walking in the right direction. On Langata road there were more people walking. The walk was considerably longer then I’d thought and there wasn’t much to see at the shops, or, more probably, I missed everything interesting. I checked my email at a price twice as high as in the city centre, bought some chocolate at Nakumatt, and then I had lunch at a Mexican fast food place where they lost my order and I was freezing. I should either just have had mini-bananas for lunch or eaten at the Horseman. I must stop wasting my money eating at not so interesting places.

    Then I took a matatu back to where Marula Lane started and walked to the end of that road, where I thought I’d find Karen Camp. I knew it should be just a little bit off the road, so when I’d walked for a while I asked a watchman at a gate if I was on the right way and he said I was. Then I started to suspect I was walking down Mbagathi Ridge towards Kazuri and asked a woman with an enormous Nakumatt plastic bag on her head. She confirmed my suspicion and I had to turn around to walk back uphill.

  • Report Abuse

    Near the end of Mbagathi Ridge I asked a young woman - with a baby on her stomach instead of on her back, and a furry jacket that must have cost the life of several blue teddy bears - if I was on the right way. I was, Karen Camp was just down a smaller road that was like a continuation of Marula Lane. The woman’s name was Purity and the baby, Sunset, was only 7 months old, but already had braided hair. Two watchmen were standing nearby and there was a driveway with horses grazing to one side and that ended in a big gate. Purity told me that Sunset’s father, a Botswanan named Daniel, was hiding behind the gate at the home of his employer, a Belgian named Michel M, and that the watchmen were lying to protect him. She handed me a baby blanket and asked me to hold it. The watchmen started talking in Swahili and Purity said that now they were saying that Daniel and Michel had moved to Malindi. Earlier they had said that they’d moved back to Botswana. The watchmen walked to the gate and Purity started crying. Her father had thrown her out of the house when she got pregnant. A teenage boy with a bike was standing on the other side of the road. He was a neighbour of where Purity was staying now and she told him to go for a ride to see what he could find out. I had no idea what to do. I can’t even solve small problems. Purity thought about a hunger strike, but couldn’t do it while she was breastfeeding. I said we could try getting into the garden through the bushes, but Purity had already tried that. She was caught trespassing and was taken away by a security firm. Then Purity thought about Robina, a European woman who knew everything about where everyone in Karen was living. She wouldn’t be suspicious if someone with a European accent phoned her to ask where Michel M. had moved. I told Purity I wouldn’t know what to say and that I’d just get Michel’s mobile number, but she insisted, so I phoned saying that Michel had lent me some mountain bikes that I was going to return, that I was at his place and that the watchmen were saying he had moved, but that they didn’t know where to and that a neighbour had given me her number. Robina thought he had moved to Ndege Road, but she wasn’t sure and she asked me if I had his number. I said I’d lost it. She would sms it to me and I hung up. Purity said Ndege was a very long road and that she would have to ask at every gate. I remembered having read that Ndege Road had been Denys Finch-Hatton’s airstrip, but that knowledge felt a bit irrelevant. We stood there for several hours and Purity enquired with most people who came walking and talked about contacting Botswana’s Embassy and Sunset’s grandmother in Botswana. A man on a horse passed by twice, each time with a different young white girl behind him on another horse. Purity asked him as well, but he didn’t know anything. I suppose he was from Karen Riding School and that you got a better view of the hidden Karen houses from the horseback, but I had imagined more of a countryside environment. I would have felt silly riding a horse on Mbagathi Ridge. One of the watchmen, a Maasai – I knew because he had enlarged earlobes and because Purity called him “Maasai”-came back. He told us he hadn’t said anything about Malindi. Then came the dog trainer. He was walking a fat old Labrador. He said sit and the Labrador sat, but when he continued walking the Labrador got up and he wasn’t supposed to. He told us he was a dog trainer and Purity asked him to phone the water company to ask where Michel M. had moved. He did, but didn’t get any information. Then he went back up Mbagathi Ridge. After a while he was back saying he had found a gardener who knew where Michel and Daniel had moved. He was obviously a better detective than dog trainer. We followed him to the gardener who told us they had moved to Nakumatt Junction. It was far away and Purity needed to get a lift. A car was approaching, but when Purity saw that the driver was white there was no use trying to stop him. White people never give anyone a lift. Then came another car. Purity knew the driver who was going to drop off a child and then come back. A third car stopped a bit down the road and a door was opened. Purity said the people in it were from Karen Camp and wanted to give me a lift. When her friend was back she took the baby blanket from my hands and got into his car while throwing kisses at me, and I got into the car that had stopped. During the whole time Sunset had only cried a little bit and then Purity got a breast out for her and she was happy again. “My” driver looked Indian and the two passengers were an elderly black couple. They weren’t from Karen Camp. I was asked who I was and where I was going and the driver told me he was a landowner and a wildlife photographer and painter and that the elderly couple had worked for him for 20 years and were like his family. Karen Camp was maybe a hundred metres away and I got off there. Only later did it occur to me that I should have told Purity to stop losing her time with Daniel and to concentrate on contacting the grandmother in Botswana instead. I should have thought of getting a good picture of Sunset to send to Botswana.

    I went up to my room to try to freshen up. Nobody had been there and the cheese was still in the bin. When I was a bit cleaner and had made the bed, I went down to see if there was anything I could have for dinner. I felt so much more uncomfortable being alone than I’d felt at any other place in Kenya. I ordered vegetable sauce with pasta and sat down outside. It wasn’t as cold as in the morning. A white man leaning on a walking frame without wheels and kind of swimming with his legs came and sat down next to me. He asked, with great difficulty as his face was half-paralysed or something in that way, how my dinner was and I exaggerated saying it was very nice. I asked what had happened to him and it had been a head on collision. When, after some confusion involving Sweden and Switzerland, I asked Burns, as was his first name because of a Scottish mother, where he was from he pointed to the ground and said, “all my life”. I didn’t know if it was the building, Karen or Kenya. It was Africa because then he showed me a cigarette case with a badge of what looked like a post horn on it, but was from the Rhodesian infantry where Burns had spent many years. As he hadn’t been able to speak for 9 years after the accident – his right arm was useless as well and he had been right-handed- and also had spent many years alone on a farm, Burns liked very much to talk. I’m not the greatest conversationalist and regretted more than ever not having a collection of different stories to tell people. I just talked about Purity. The only person involved that was known by Burns was the dog trainer. Burns was smoking all the time and kept asking me if the smoke bothered me, and as I didn’t want him to leave, I said it didn’t. Burns admitted to being a smoke junkie, but said he only drank at night. He thought I should have a drink as well and I don’t know why I didn’t want to. Maybe because I hadn’t yet started the “theme drinking” that I would take up at the end of my trip. I could have had a cup of tea though. I told Burns the obvious, that he should get a walking frame with wheels (rollator in Swedish) on it, but it wasn’t that obvious. Since his legs were so bad he would fall flat on his stomach and there were no walking frames with wheels on them in Kenya. The one he had was his “wife” that had been with him to Botswana, Borneo and some other place beginning with b. After some time, Burns’ driver thought it was time to leave and Burns thought it necessarily to explain that the only reason he had a driver was because he couldn’t drive. When he had left, I went to bed. The tree hyraxes were screeching.

  • Report Abuse

    Day 18
    It was my 4th trip to Kenya and this time I was determined to visit the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Elephant and Rhino Orphanage. I walked down Marula Lane, turned onto Karen Road and reached Langata Road 30 minutes after leaving Karen Camp. Looking at a map you get the impression that this walk would be less than 5 minutes. I only had a short break for goat photography. I didn’t even wait for the goats to pose. Then I got on a matatu down to Magadi Road where I took another matatu to Mbagathi Gate. This was extremely quick and convenient. The only problem with matatus is the low ceiling that makes you a bit claustrophobic when sitting in the back. I was let in at the gate and started the long dusty walk to Sheldrick’s. I saw a warthog and two bushbucks that ran away. In the bushes there were vervet and blue monkeys. Half-way a car with a young white girl stopped and the girl asked me if a was going to Sheldrick’s and told me to hop in as it was a long dusty road and there were baboons and warthogs. “And bushbucks”, I added. The girl was working at Sheldrick’s and she told me to wait on a bench behind a rope. After a long wait I was let in together with as swarm of other people. There must have been at least a hundred visitors. As a foster parent I suppose I could have visited in the afternoon instead, but I didn’t know how to make an appointment, and I didn’t ask. The girl who had given me a lift was collecting the donations. First came the smallest babies and they played some football (soccer). There were several handlers spread out giving information, but I didn’t catch much of what they were saying. I did manage to touch one of the elephants, but it was not like Voi were I could touch them as much as I wanted to, except some “pushy” ones that I was told to be careful with. There was no “rhino show” as Maxwell was having an eye operation and Shida could break someone’s leg. We did see Shida at a distance and a Japanese woman sneaked in to get a close shot of him. Then came the older babies who had milk and a mud bath. Of course my skirt got splashed with red mud. When all the elephants had left I looked at a DVD for sale called “The Tsavo Story” but it was “region 1”. Then I waited for the toilet queue to disappear before I started to wash my skirt under the tap. It was thin and wide and would dry quickly. When I got out I tried to photograph a spider. I need more practise. There were no people around, so I could have been sneaking around for a while, but instead I walked towards the road. Shida was outside the stables, but trotted away when he saw me.

    The way back to Magadi Road was long and dusty and the sun had come out for once. I was wearing a Columbia shirt that I bought for my first trip to Kenya when I thought I needed that kind of thing. I can normally only wear cotton, but as the morning was chilly I thought I could wear it anyway with a pashmina (viscose really) over it. On Magadi Road it was hot, I had to take off my pashmina, my shirt felt like plastic, I had to walk uphill and all matatus were full. After a long walk I found a matatu stage (stop) opposite Banda Gate. A woman, Mary, who looked like a black version of my ex-neighbour in Spain, said that the matatus were full because so many people were coming from Rongai. Finally we got on a matatu and got off at Bogani Road that I’d thought of as a nice Karen-style road, but really was a dust road. I was going to Utamaduni and Mary was visiting a friend. When I told her I was a tourist she said I was courageous for moving around on my own. Nobody would say that to a tourist in Spain and there’s not really any difference. Some animals are a bit more dangerous, but people are generally gentler than in Spain.

    At Utamaduni I asked for the toilet at the restaurant and started washing off the red dust. For a while the bathroom looked like a mud bath, but I left it exactly as I’d found it, minus some toilet paper. Then I fell down onto a restaurant chair and had some passion juice. As I was too tired to move, I had lunch as well - spinach-filled ravioli. It would have been more interesting to sit in the garden, but I couldn’t move. After some time resting, I had a look at the shops. Since Utamaduni is supposed to be an expensive place it was interesting to see exactly what’s supposed to be a high price. There were quite a few shops, but not as many as I had imagined. I bought a book called “Bush Friendly Tips For Girls” thinking I’d get some tips about mascara on game drives, but instead I got an explanation to Purity’s theory about white people. The authors are two white women who have lived most of their lives in Kenya and in the section “Safety Tips For Driving In Kenya” it says, “Never give strangers lifts or help of any kind, no matter how innocent they look.” I suppose the girl at Sheldrick’s hadn’t read that book. When I had seen Utamaduni I searched my bag for my Elite Map. I couldn’t find it! I told the waiters it looked like a worn rubbish piece of paper, but was extremely important to me. They hadn’t seen it. The only map available at the shops was “Nairobi A-Z” that is quite confusing and heavy. I bought it anyway. At the counter, after having paid, I was asked if I’d lost a map. They had it in the restaurant and I was saved!

    Then I took a matatu to Karen Shopping Centre to check my email. I should have gone to the Giraffe Centre instead, but I felt too dusty. I had an early sandwich dinner in a back alley and then I returned to Karen Camp: matatu to where Marula Lane starts, walk uphill and then, the last 100 metres, I got a lift with a white woman with a golf playing son. She wondered if I was staying at “the overlander place” and I became worried. How dusty did I look? From the Lonely Planet guide you get the impression that Karen Camp is for backpackers. It isn’t. Backpackers don’t have vehicles and it’s not suitable at all for people without vehicles. It’s an overlander place.

    This evening there was fresh guava juice at Karen Camp. I had decided to leave for Lake Naivasha the following day. One of the waiters said that, as he would be free, he could come with me on the matatu to the Eldoret Express bus stop and that we’d have to leave before 8am. That sounded really good as it would be a solution to my bag problem. I needed to pack some clothes that I’d sent to the laundry service. The waiter took a torch and showed me where they were hanging on a line outside, significantly more creased than if I would have washed and hanged them myself. I asked him if we could find some tree hyraxes with the torch, but they were high up in the trees. The waiter said we could talk about how to get to Fisherman’s Camp from Naivasha – after midnight when the bar closed. It didn’t sound like a great idea as I wouldn’t get any sleep, but I got up to my room to pack and stay awake. I fell asleep anyway and woke up when the waiter knocked at my door. He said he could come with me to Naivasha and put his hand on my fat thigh. I became really bored and said I’d prefer to sleep longer and take a taxi to the City Centre. Then I washed my hair and went to sleep again. The cheese was still in the bin.

  • Report Abuse

    Day 19
    I woke up early, got ready and took my bags down to the bar. When I was going to pay my bill, I saw that the room was 1950 shillings instead of 1590. That was the price, but as Josh had said 1590 it was changed. The waiter phoned a taxi that I shared, part of the way, with the South African girlfriend of an overlander. The taxi driver wanted to know if she was Zulu and she said she was Xhosa. It was snowing everywhere in South Africa and I was glad I was obsessed with a country on the equator. It doesn’t prevent me from nearly freezing to death, but at least there’s no snow.

    They had rooms available at the Terminal and the charismatic cleaner, Nelson, gave me his business card. He had some interesting business ideas, for example, buying ridiculously cheap earrings to help the Kamba community. I was interested.

    As I had to do some shopping for myself and for Nyamera Kenya Imports, I decided to stay in Nairobi and go to Lake Naivasha some other time. I hate shopping.

    As the last days of my trip weren’t that interesting I’ll try to condense the report to get it ready some time soon.

  • Report Abuse

    Day 20
    My plan was to go to Village Market, Nairobi’s biggest shopping mall, and a place where I hadn’t been. I walked around enquiring at the huge matatu stage next to the railway station for an hour or so, but couldn’t find a matatu going to Village Market, so I went to Yaya Centre in Hurlingham instead. It was smaller than Sarit Centre, but there was an excellent Italian restaurant. I think it was called Basilica, but I’m not sure. Then I returned to the City Centre without having explored Hurlingham.

    In the afternoon I bought some batiks for my brother and a white striped Maasai blanket for the table of Nyamera Kenya Imports. The batik seller wanted to have dinner with me. It didn’t have to be the Norfolk. I tried to explain that I could go anywhere on my own and that I’d prefer the Norfolk on my own to an inexpensive place with someone I don’t know. I understand exactly how bored people who ask me these things must be and we have A LOT in common, but they don’t understand how bored I am. Maybe I should print a list with circumstances under which I’d invite someone from the street to dinner, like if they could offer a serious over-dinner lesson in Swahili or some other Kenyan language.

    I don’t know what I did later in the afternoon. I suppose I just walked. Tourists are not advised to walk the streets of Nairobi after dark, but I’ve always done it – with my heart in my throat, but now I felt completely safe. There were more streetlights and the security guards were so bored they begged me to stop and talk to them. Before, they had sometimes had to take action, but it didn’t happen any more. There are dangerous places in Nairobi, but the City Centre is probably among the safest in the world. I’d feel more nervous in Stockholm.

    I had dinner at the Thorn Tree Café and it was not a good idea. There’s always nice live music and the toilet is very clean, but the food was less interesting. I had a Greek salad. It should not have had lettuce, but that’s something I expect at a restaurant. Worse was that it didn’t have any onion and that the dressing was sweet and slimy instead of acid and salty. Quite disgusting, but I ate it anyway. I had two glasses of fruit juice and expected them to cost 100 shillings or so each, but the price was 300 shillings/glass – the most expensive juice in Kenya and ten times as expensive as in Lamu.

  • Report Abuse

    Day 21
    I was looking for a specific kind of dress and met Chris from Kenyatta Avenue who would take me to Eastleigh for 500 shillings. I told him I could go there on my own for a lot less and that’s what I should have done as a Somali in Sweden had recommended it to me saying it was like a “little Mogadishu”. It’s on my list for next trip. I should have done something with Chris though. I have to send him an SMS. Anyway, I found the dress and at a reasonable price. Then I went to the City Market so that the sellers could tell me what a bad person I am.

    Nelson went to fetch a Kamba lady with a basket full of earrings that she spread out on my bed. I bought quite a few for Nyamera Kenya Imports. Some earrings were made of porcupine quills and I hope I stated very clearly why I didn’t want to buy those. The seller, Catherine, told me that polythene bags would soon be banned!

    In the afternoon I went to Westlands and Sarit Centre to buy a Neutrogena sun block that isn’t available in Sweden and have a look at the Banana Box that’s good quality and fair trade. I decided to send them an email when I got back home.

    Outside Sarit Centre there’re always children looking for sponsors for their school uniforms. Two of them approached me saying they’d share a donation. They were very happy with about a tenth of the cost of my sun block. Then came ten more children and I started running saying that they were too many and they kept saying, “Madam, don’t leave (or live?) like this”. It’s the worst thing that ever happens in Kenya and I have no idea what to do.

    I had dinner at Havana. The menu was vaguely Mexican and I decided to have something light – an avocado and tomato salad and then pineapple fritters for dessert. The salad was just that, avocado and tomato. They could have thrown in some onions at least, but it was quite tasty anyway, as where the pineapple fritters. Cuba and Kenya made me think of Hemingway and daiquiris, so I ordered a strawberry daiquiri – the first alcoholic beverage I’ve had at my own initiative in Kenya. Also, I wanted to be able to say that it’s perfectly safe to drink and then take a nighttime matatu. It was, but then the daiquiri had more strawberry than rum and when I was getting off the matatu on University Way, my hair got caught on something sticking out from the ceiling and someone with mental or drug problems kept following me saying “I’m a good guy, I’m a good guy”. I would have been worried if he’d said, “I’m a bad guy”.

  • Report Abuse

    Day 22
    I don’t know what I did in the morning. Probably just walking around visiting shops and seeing that almost all with marked prices had salads sets and similar items at a lower price than the wholesale price I’d got from my supplier in 2006. Then I had lunch at the Java Coffee House near Terminal Hotel. As I’m not a coffee drinker I hadn’t been there. Of course, I had to have coffee - a caffe latte with scoops of sugar to be able to swallow it. The coffee didn’t make me any more alert. I had a serious slow reaction problem that I’m not going to describe in detail.

    Nelson was worried for me. To the Kamba marriage is not that important, but it’s absolutely necessary to have at least one child. Even if I weren’t a Kamba, I would become old and not have anyone to take care of me. I tried to explain that a child would be very expensive and the last thing I’d want, as I wouldn’t be able to travel to Kenya. I said that what I needed was a rich Kenyan husband and asked if he could help me to find one. He could not because it would get me into serious problems as all rich Kenyans have at least six wives and they would only marry me to be able to show off a Mzungu wife. What he could do was finding me a good husband from his village. We had talked about working in Kenya earlier and Nelson kept saying it was very possible for me to get a work permit and a good job, but he couldn’t give me any concrete advice how to go about it. Before leaving he asked me not to leave any tip in the room as someone else could take it, as he wouldn’t be at the hotel early in the morning. Then he said that next year I had to take a child with me to Kenya. I could leave it to be brought up in his village. It would be very cheap.

    I was so irritated over not being any closer to finding a way to live in Kenya. The whole trip felt like a gigantic waste of money. I bought some passion fruit at Nakumatt Lifestyle. It’s probably the most expensive place to buy fruit, but it was still a tenth of a reasonable price in Sweden. Then I had a near perfect pizza at Trattoria.

  • Report Abuse

    Day 23
    I got up at 5 and got almost everything ready. My plan was to leave for the airport at 7.30, but my hair didn’t behave and I left at 8 instead. It wouldn’t have been possible if I’d bee travelling with someone else, or if I’d had pre-arranged airport transport. I took the oldest looking taxi outside Terminal Hotel and on the way there were marabous and ibises. The police stopped us twice. The queue at the check-in wasn’t bad. My bag was 25 kilos, but I didn’t have to pay. At the departure visa/passport counter I said I wanted to stay in Kenya and was told an extension could be arranged in a moment. Then the controller said I’d been to Kenya many times. I don’t think he felt sorry for me. I had to go to the gate almost immediately. Once in the plane there was a long wait because of a technical problem with the toilets. It was raining. Almost the whole trip had been overcast, but the only rain I’d seen lasted a few minutes in the evening of day 6. I was sitting right behind the wing. At the tip of it there was a light and a pin where a superb starling sat down to iridescent in the light. When it flew away there was nothing more to write about.

  • Report Abuse

    Nyamera,

    Just read the second half of your report. Your writing is brilliant! I think you should write novels. When you become rich, you can move to Kenya and write there. You include details, but yet, there is more to the stories than we know, and our imagination takes over.

    So glad you got a private vehicle for part of the trip, loved the topi/impala meeting, and the accounts of your encounters. Loved the line: "It’s an image problem – real travellers travel light." Thank you.

    CW

  • Report Abuse

    nyamera, you know I agree with cw. Magazine or book -I'll buy it. I have been checking in often, desperate for the rest of your report - and it didn't disappoint ! Thanks for all your hard work writing it.


    Julie

  • Report Abuse

    Nyamera, thanks for finishing up your report -- I love your writing style and sense of humor, and I really enjoyed reading about this latest adventure! Thanks again for spending this much time on writing up all your experiences and insights, and I hope you make it to Kenya again very soon.

  • Report Abuse

    Well, I'm going to try to avoid hyperbole and my usual bloated prose, but your voice is unique and this report is thoroughly engaging from start to finish. Excellent, fascinating!

    Lots of unanswered questions, though.

  • Report Abuse

    Nyamera-EXCELLENT!!! Love your style! Excellent telling of your many adventures. So many laughs, Thank You!

    "The whole trip felt like a gigantic waste of money.
    you really don't mean this do you? You had such a good time, someday you'll make it happen!

  • Report Abuse

    CW, Julie, MyDogKyle, Patty, Nyama, Leely, Dennis ((K)) ((K)) ((K)) ((K)) ((K)) ((K)) ((K)) *
    Maybe I should start writing a novel. :-? But, I think I need more praise first. ;) And I’d have to live in Kenya first to get enough “writing material”.
    Constructive criticism is welcome as well, like ideas how to behave less stupidly in Kenya, write less about which roads I walk on or treat the English language better.

    It’d be easy to find out what happened to the cheese. Just go to Karen Camp and if there’s an unpleasant smell emanating from room 8, it’s still there.

    Dennis, I don’t know. I hope it was an important investment. ;)

    *The reason I’m using these silly kissing-smilies is that some weeks ago there was a new poster who ended her posts with “x” and I remembered being told that it means “kiss”, at least to British people. Then I looked for a smiley.

  • Report Abuse

    Here comes more praise, topi girl. I've been gone for awhile and had to catch up on Fofors, but I couldn't stop reading your prose and poetry. Mycket bra gjort! You kept me up all night. You write very well in English (from one Swede to another); you should be published. Bytheway, my mother tells me that she no longer feels safe in Stockholm at night anymore. I wouldn't hang out in certain areas downtown Seattle at night either. Any big city is like that. Why should Nairobi be any different. I must however say, that you are extraordinary brave to travel alone like you do and on the fly. You must be more carefull when speaking to strangers, now hear!
    I have enjoyed your trip report very much and your style rocks!

  • Report Abuse

    Puss på dig, Safarimama. This trip I didn’t meet any bad people at all, but there was a con man on day 2 that I forgot to write about. He told me he was working at the hotel were I was staying and had run out of petrol when taking vegetables to the hotel, and he wasn’t carrying any money. I said that I was very bad at remembering names and faces, but if he worked at Hotel Embassy… “Yes, Hotel Embassy”, he said. I was staying at Terminal Hotel, so I was actually worse than he was. It was easy to be suspicious though; we were very close to the hotel, there is no restaurant at the Terminal and I would have remembered someone with only one tooth in his mouth. I really didn’t meet a single bad person. My main problem was being too careful with strangers, especially on day 22. Your mother should move to Nairobi!

    Leely, the kisses are silly not ironic. I’ll be earning “a lot of money” from Monday until 20 December, so I think I’ll be able to return to Kenya in June next year. I’ll start a separate thread about this. ((K)) ((K)) ((K))


  • Report Abuse

    Nyamera,
    I'm still half asleep hoping the tea will kick in and you've already managed to make me laugh and want to see what you've seen.

    I must earmark this great report, as I've only read and seen just a few pics.
    These bad people here are trying to make me leave to go kayaking - not much motivation, as I'd rather keep reading and looking at your Topi's.
    Thanks for posting the link.

  • Report Abuse

    I've read up to the sexual dimorphism. What a hoot. I'm glad your return to the Mara is the best decision you ever made. With your plane being blessed, it had to turn out well. ;) It was the bouncy bridge that really needed the blessing.

    Good job on the serval spotting. Based on my own serval spottings and that of others I've known I have theory. Since most tourists in Africa are accustommed to domestic cats wandering around, our eyes and brain pick up the serval image more readily than other animals.

    More vehicle problems! You've had more than your share. It seemed to have been taken care of without much down time.

    Looking forward to the rest of the report with your new vehicle mates that don't need the rules explained.

  • Report Abuse

    I have finished this masterpiece which happens to be about travel.

    I liked your stragegy of prolonging game drives by seeing leopards everywhere.

    Felix was my Origins guide. Did you notice a beret? He looked very official with it on. When I first met him I stood at attention and was prepared to salute.

    Your break from the topis on Day 16 was very successful. You may not be Richard D. Estes but your conclusions on animal behavior are amusing.

    When I read about you taking up residence in the ladies' toilet I almost disrupted an important work meeting with an outburst.

    Good question on what happened to the cheese. I was becoming as interested in this dairy product as the wildlife.

    The stories of your acquaintances and encounters are fascinating and sometimes disturbing. You do such an excellent job of sharing them.

    Your ending is brilliant. I actually felt a bit depressed. That's meant as the highest form of praise.

    With your new decent paying job, you have more adventures in Africa to look forward to and we have more Nyamera tales to look forward to.

  • Report Abuse

    Sherry, kayaking sounds awful!

    Lynn, interesting serval theory. I’m spotting domestic cats all the time.

    I didn’t notice a beret. Had I known about it, I’d asked Felix to put it on.

    I’m glad you felt a bit depressed. Then I’ve made myself understood. It never happens in the “real” world.

    Unless things turn out really disastrous after Christmas I’m definitely returning to Africa (probably Kenya again) next year.

    Favor, you’ve understood the kisses. Very clever! ((K))

  • Report Abuse

    I don’t dare to start a planning thread until after Christmas, but I could start a pre-planning thread. What I need right now is some teaching advice. To hide from easily disturbed parents, I’ll have to parasitise sneaking questions into the serious travel thread of some innocent Fodorite.

    Where are the jaguars?

  • Report Abuse

    I finally read your report and looked at your pictures and they are both great! You sure did a great job with your new camera--made me feel like a klutz. I am so jealous of all the leopards you saw and I especially enjoyed those and the hippo and bird and mother/baby pics. Thanks for sharing.

  • Report Abuse

    Thanks, Twoteachers. I really don’t feel any less klutzy than you, at least not as a photographer. Though I haven’t broken any toilets in Africa yet. :-D Next time I’ll have to get more pictures of people’s faces.

    Lynn, I was exaggerating the need of discretion. The parents of the kids I’m teaching wont find my posts and it’s not that much of a problem if Fodorites get upset telling me I shouldn’t be teaching. Basically, I agree with them and I quite enjoy having my name in a headline.
    I did see your “jaguars” after writing that question, but I have my own theory about them. ;)

74 Replies |Back to top

| Add a Reply

Sign in to comment.

Recent Activity

  • Announcement: Writers Needed for Morocco Guidebook
    by Emily_D Fodor's Editor | Posted on Apr 11, 14 at 05:51 PM
View all Africa & the Middle East activity »
  1. 1 Maldives, Seychelles or Mauritius??
  2. 2 Memory cards for camera
  3. 3 Sabi Sands camps
  4. 4 Generic malarone now availbale in Canada
  5. 5 Safari and Beach Honeymoon in September
  6. 6 Morocco for 2 nights
  7. 7 Hotels in Nairobi
  8. 8 Who Plans and Packs for Your Bucket List Travel (Safari)
  9. 9 trip report, morocco
  10. 10 Trip Report Rwanda trip report
  11. 11 Tel Aviv beaches
  12. 12 Marrakech to Fes by bus
  13. 13 Trip Report MAGICAL, MEZMERIZING MOROCCO (Revised)
  14. 14 A Couple of Questions Regarding My Itinerary
  15. 15 Petra in August, Petra by Night?
  16. 16 israel and petra
  17. 17 Tentative Israel/Jordan Itinerary...help
  18. 18 Help with Kruger Park itinerary
  19. 19 Israel and Petra
  20. 20 Eilat - Petra and the Dead Sea
  21. 21 Self Drive SA, Botswana, Zimbabwe - help, 4x4 hire/border restrictions
  22. 22 Need Help Organizing our time in Cape Town - 3.5 days in June
  23. 23 HELP..visiting Oman and Qatar from Dubai
  24. 24 Trip Report 6 Days in the Danakil Depression - An Experience of a Life Time!
  25. 25 Have you been to East Africa ?Ethiopia?
View next 25 » Back to the top