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Going Round Mt Kenya - Kenya Trip Report December 2006

Going Round Mt Kenya - Kenya Trip Report December 2006

Jan 4th, 2007, 03:16 PM
  #21  
 
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Kimburu,
Your tangents give great insights. I like the extra info when I'm investigating a potential destination.

That's an amazing honeymoon tale!

Did you think 4 nights at Elsa's was about right? I'm glad you described it as unpretentious. Somehow I had gotten the opposite impression. Maybe cause of the legendary bathroom.

So there really is a dikrenuk or a geredik? It's not just a joke? I saw the photo!

The tortoise family was adorable and the vulturine guinea fowl were spectacular birds. Loved the spying baboon and displaying kori bustard. Nice yellow butterflies. A lovely photo of the two of you. And now I've seen that cute rock hyrax family in three different albums.
atravelynn is offline  
Jan 4th, 2007, 04:22 PM
  #22  
 
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Welcome back and happy new year, kimburu and Mrs. kimburu.

Am just going through your first photographs--wow, the colors and the light are stunning.
Leely is offline  
Jan 4th, 2007, 08:25 PM
  #23  
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Please anyone let me know if you can see the latest post, ending "perfect day". I can see it now in the "post a reply" field, but not in the thread itself...
kimburu is offline  
Jan 5th, 2007, 04:45 AM
  #24  
 
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kimburu,

I cannot see the post ending "perfect day", the last one I have from you was about 48 hours ago.
hguy47 is offline  
Jan 5th, 2007, 10:12 PM
  #25  
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I can still see this post, in "post a reply" but hopefully it will not come up twice - if it does, this is the one to read:

I'm having a lot of trouble posting - may be Fodor's and may be the loss of major undersea cables due to the earthquake off Taiwan... probably a combination.

Anyway... Anthony seems to have a few versions of that story ... all essentially the same but with different "morals" perhaps? And I'm sure all of our versions of other people's versions are slightly different in the details - well, I've realised mine is - Anthony didn't say he winched her out , he said he carried her out I think... the winch was an idea he or I had for getting us across.... but I may still be getting mixed up - we had a lot of "water action" and subsequent discussion about it.

Juan was probably right to keep his mouth shut. I've learned not to interfere with my wife's telling of a story too I should probably keep my mouth shut here.

I am pretty sure that Anthony is correct that there was little danger of the Landrover being swept away, although less certain that his version of "no dnager" is completely accurate. The river is not wide and even IF you were really floating – as opposed to sinking to the bottom while moving sideways - you'd hit the bank and get stuck there...

Kristina... you intervention is very welcome! Now I have learned that we met Mr. Nice at the safari walk! Didn’t know his name. Also you have cleared up why people who are going with Kennedy have such differing descriptions of where the cheetahs are kept. However, the people I talked to were sure the petting is now 100% officially forbidden, even though it still goes on for a price….. or for love – I can admit the possibility.

Lynn...I am not sure if my tangents give great insight, but some may be worth exploring further with a little help from our friends who know more than me.

I would love to tell you that there was rreally a "dikrenuk" and that I was the discoverer of this rare species, but I am afraid it was only a dik-dik which had learned to feed on its hind legs. I was hoping somebody might know if this was common - I suspect it probably isn't that unusual.

Back to my story - which has been further livened by the rescue story...

Apart from a couple of “ghost” kudus, more dik-diks and a growing number of tsetse flies we didn’t see much more on the way down to the Falls. It was thick woodland all the rest of the way… broken by the occasional stream or river … and then suddenly there is an intersection and a steel bridge in front of us, over the Tana River. This bridge is so incongruous out here so many miles from anywhere, and basically going to nowhere since Kora NP, which is on the other side of the bridge, is pretty much undeveloped. The bridge was built, along with a lot of the roads and other infrastructure in Meru NP, with money provided by French development agencies, the UN, IFAW and others. Although this infrastructure may eventually allow tourism throughout Meru NP, and neighboring Bisanadi NR and Kora NP, its main use at the moment is to enable KWS rangers to efficiently patrol this large area, and ensure the encroachment and poaching which ruined the park during the 80s and 90s does not recur. In fact the only vehicle we met coming down here or going back was a KWS supply truck – presumably returning from the Park HQ in Kora. For now Kora and Bisanadi remain essentially shut off to tourists – especially during the wet (but not animals, rangers or researchers). Although there is a camp site in Kora NP, and the compound in which George Adamson lived with his lions is still there, visits are certainly not encouraged (if you want to try you have to talk to the Senior Warden in Meru NP). Before I went I would have said this was not a good thing, but really Meru is basically so quiet and free of tourists already that there really isn’t a need to go to Kora until you’ve bored yourself of Meru first – which would take some time.

Back to the tale…. Kora may be off-limits but like I said, we had a plan… so we drove out onto the bridge to admire the Tana and once there we had to cross – it’s single lane. We then asked the ranger on duty if we could turn out vehicle around there and he duly obliged by raising the barrier. So we can honestly say that we have visited Kora National Park (for all of 45 seconds) I got Joseph to stop so we could take a few pictures of the park and the very unexpected road sign there. It’s very thick woodland at that point, rather similar to Meru in that area of course. We returned to the permitted side and took a walk, admiring the broad, brown Tana River and the devastation it had caused along its banks recently. There were tree trunks 6 feet off the ground and 20 or so metres away from the banks of the river at what was already a “rainy season” level. Some trees had died with their roots totally exposed to the sun by the floods washing away the banks. We took pictures of the falls, better characterized as downhill rapids but very attractive thanks to the heavily wooded banks on the Kora side and the layered and sculpted black and grey stone. There’s a beach on the Meru side at that point and it’s truly a beautiful spot for a picnic, so that’s just what we had. Same breakfast again but no complaints from us. We ate, chatted, and then wandered over the rocks to stand next to the Falls, getting some “barding”, small animal and reptile spotting, and flora lessons along the way. After that Nam Wan finally got her first “bush pee” in this lovely spot – she doesn’t think twice now, although she did learn the hard way that you should try to make sure your feet are not downhill from your bottom.

The drive back to “civilization” - meaning the part of Meru NP in which you might occasionally see another vehicle – was uneventful. We tried to go along the river to Elsa’s grave but the road was too dodgy and so we turned back and came back basically the way we had come. I think this would be a great drive at a drier time, when the road along the river is passable.

Being Joseph, even after the long drive back he just couldn’t resist taking a little detour on the way … just to check out the lion tracks again, seeing as it had been a lucky day so far. We found the tracks but no lion, and returned to the lodge.

Lunch was below par today – just “very good”, and we had a pretty leisurely afternoon since we were heading out for a shorter game drive that evening, starting at 5 o’clock – probably taking in the hippo pool. We went for a swim - the water was really nice since this was the clearest and hottest day we had seen - and then read by the pool for a while before getting ready for the evening drive.

kimburu is offline  
Jan 5th, 2007, 10:23 PM
  #26  
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We left at 5 and Joseph decided he’d go a slightly different way (maybe finding the lions was still on his mind or maybe it was a shortcut). So we headed off across an area with a faint hint of a track visible somewhere under the grass, which was extremely thick and mostly about a metre high. The “road” we were on began to get pretty wet and so Joseph decided to use the “verge” - not worth getting stuck, especially since the bosses were going out for a romantic sundowner tonight (we were at 6 guests, and we were all pretty low maintenance). Suddenly the road seemed to disappear and I could see Joseph wondering whether to turn back or not (he knew the track was there, it was just that it had been completely overgrown to the point that you couldn’t see it anymore). And BANG! Nam Wan and the right rear of the Landrover disappeared momentarily from view and I felt a sharp pain in my left knee as she came back into view, and then they both disappeared again as the rear right hand wheel of the Landrover settled into a huge hole.

After 30 seconds of the three of us shouting “are you sure you’re all right?” at each other, Nam Wan and I just broke out laughing. Joseph was still not sure it was okay (he may have been worried we were in shock) but a couple of hakuna matatas got him back in a good mood and he called for rescue – from the angle of the vehicle it was quite clear we weren’t going to drive out – the front wheels weren’t flat on the ground. Joseph got out to survey the damage and we looked over the edge to see what had happened and sure enough our rear wheel had fallen into a hole about the size of one of those big reclining armchairs beloved of couch potatoes – you could have hidden chair and couch potato in it quite comfortably. The Landrover was fortunately only slightly damaged since it was all earth and grass. We were told not to get out of the vehicle because there were a lot of ticks in the grass at the moment so we stayed put. After about 15 minutes Anthony, Emma and two friends showed up all dressed nicely for their sundowner, complete with picnic hamper. Of course they were very concerned at first, especially since we’d already been soaked and frozen on our game drives, but we were unhurt and smiling – Nam Wan was in the mood now and claimed later that driving into a hole was just what she needed to remind her that this was Africa and she loved it. Then Emma, who was nicely dressed in white trousers and a nice top for her sundowner fell in another hole on the way over to commiserate with us. With the grass being so long it was really wet down there and poor Emma’s white trousers turned into “sheer trousers with attractive red-brown and green patterns”. Surprisingly it was pretty easy to pull the Landrover out using Anthony’s and really, although I could tell we all thought there should be something else to do, there was absolutely no reason why we shouldn’t all carry on our merry way – well, except perhaps for Emma who was going to be freezing by sundown if she stayed in those trousers.

So we carried on with our game drive and the Landrover seemed not too much the worse for wear. We didn’t have much time left and Joseph was on strict “home before dark” instructions, so we didn’t get to see a lot in the end. But there was a beautiful sunset which we shared with some zebras and a displaying kori bustard, who was still displaying the next morning (could he have been at it since Patty’s visit?).

We discussed the holes with Anthony and concluded they must have been part of a burrow system that had collapsed in the heavy rain. Anthony thanked us for taking it so well and pointed out the conservation value of helping to open up roads like that, because if they get overgrown and dangerous they could be lost forever, which would hurt tourism and therefore the chances of conserving the area long-term… I publicly think that was spinning it a bit too far, but am still secretly glad for my contribution to conservation. ;-) We had dinner on the lawn again, this time properly under stars, and decided it had been a very oddly perfect day.

We decide to get up a little late on Tuesday (5.45) since we found we had more than enough time to have our coffee and a shower before our activity. Elsa’s grave is down near the backs of the … River, about 90 minutes drive. However, we are once again going through woodland and the tsetses are out in force this morning, so Joseph speeds a bit – they seem to like him even more than me. Nam Wan isn’t getting bitten much at all today – although they do keep on getting caught in her hair - and she claims it is because she is wearing a non-toxic lemongrass-based mosquito repellent. We both doubt her, but when we try it have to admit that it does seem to work – or that suddenly where there used to be tsetses there are none. Again we see no vehicles, and in this thick woodland, with all the tsetses, very few animals or birds. Although this is partially because we are going very fast, Joseph says you don’t ever see much game down here. The woods get less thick and we see a kopje which Joseph says is that used in the film “Born Free” and then a short time later the woodland opens up completely into a beautiful clearing next to the river – Elsa’s grave and the site of one of George Adamson’s camps (I note with Joseph there is always a lot of talk about George and little about Joy but this is George’s home turf so to speak and so perhaps that is not surprising). You can see the area in my pictures if you are interested – it is just like that – 80 meters or so of clear space next to the river, with Elsa’s grave at one end of it. Of course one comes down here to get all nostalgic, and a bit choky and sniffly - Elsa’s death is after all a sad story as told by George via Joy - but I have to say it was a very, very peaceful place here and almost worth coming in its own right – definitely so if you could combine it with a drive along the river to Adamson’s Falls.

On the way back we took a different route, to “reopen” some more of the roads that hadn’t been used for a while, and with the good weather if felt as if we were leaving (due next day) at just the wrong time. On the way down we had seen a few lion tracks, and on the return we found more – we were able to see that it was a number of lions – maybe as many as five. We followed the tracks for a couple of miles – they were quite clear – until we came to the river again, where the trail went cold as the lions seemed to have walked onto the rocks on the banks of the river. Since there is a ford at that spot Joseph guessed that they had crossed the river – he said it was unlikely they would hang around on our side anyway because the game was thin and the tsetses would drive them nuts. Although it was disappointing not to find the lions, it had been a lot of fun tracking them in this way, guessing how old they were and so on. I’ll have to try this again sometime on foot. We gave up and drove up towards the Rojeweru River where we were going to have breakfast and then look for some more game – most of which we had seen near to, or north of that river. We visited a big baobab tree on the way, where Joseph showed us signs of poachers who had probably used it as a hideout in the 90s. On the way up we met another Elsa’s vehicle and they told us they had met a lion in the road half an hour ago. Since it had already left the road and disappeared into the bush, Joseph said he’d check it out after breakfast.

After crossing the Rojeweru we visited a pool where we saw hippo and some colourful birds, including two types of kingfisher and two types of weaver. Baboons and vervets around too, of course. Our breakfast spot was only a very short distance up the road and as Joseph announced our arrival I switched my camera off since I was worried about my batteries (long story why). I rarely do this on a game drive, and of course as soon as I did Joseph stopped the Landrover and whispered ‘leopard’.. and there was a leopard sitting in the long grass right at the entrance to the “viewpoint” which was our picnic site, looking at us. I turned the camera on but it takes a couple of seconds for it to work and a couple more to check the settings, and then when I pointed at the leopard to shoot I couldn’t focus – the long grass was fooling the autofocus… aarrgh!… so I had to turn it to manual focus and SO SLOWLY the leopard came into clear view and I shot it. The moment I did the leopard got up and I watched it walk across the road (no chance to get another shot with it moving, manual focus on and the vehicle in the way) – and no way we were ever going to find it again in that bush. Phew... And at the same time, I wish I had had more time to look at the leopard - I tried very hard on this trip to make sure I either shot once or twice and then viewed "in person", or viewed first and shot when I'd had my fill - it's too easy to see everything only through the lens and in the context of what might make a good photo. With the long grass making autofocus unreliable and "clear" shots nearly impossible at times... and the whole process slow... this proved difficult to maintain, and I missed a lot of shots doing it, but I'm glad I did (except in the case of the leopard).
kimburu is offline  
Jan 6th, 2007, 05:56 AM
  #27  
 
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You had a harrowing trip to Elsa's grave. The single shot of the leopard was a good one.
atravelynn is offline  
Jan 6th, 2007, 07:27 PM
  #28  
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Going off at another tangent .. but just a little way... the Cheli & Peacock Web site draws attention to the fact that there are now only 8 female Grevy's zebras left in Meru since the last male was killed by a lion, and that KWS currently has no plans to introduce more. This has been mentioned elsewhere and I asked about it while in Meru, but it seems that there is nothing more to the story - it is simply a case of KWS not seeing it as a priority comapred to other projects they ahve going, and so no funding is available now. Since there are currently no foals among the group of 8 (who we saw all together) Grevy's will become extinct In Meru NP soon, which is a real pity because they are not there unnaturally. Of course if the local lions have got a real taste for them their time may be extremely limited, and they may need quite a number to build up a sustainable herd. In both Aberdare NP and Ol Pejeta Conservancy we found that lion numbers had been deliberately reduced because prides had developed specialist skills for hunting locally rare animals (Bongo and Jackson's hartebeeste, respectively). I wondered if that was teh case in Meru NP, but the person I asked said there was no real evidence of that, and that it was more that the numbers were never that large to begin with (expert scientists were called in when Meru was being regenreated to calculate what numbers of everything would be required to make a balanced and stable ecosystem - for the most part the animals returned naturally as the park became a more secure area for them, or were already there, but in some cases there were imports of native species from elsewhere... but perhaps such calculations can never take evertything into account). Anthony seems to toss this information out relatively often in the hope that some guests will be in a position to fund a translocation from Lewa Downs, where Grevy's are bred for just this purpose... I didn't ask how much it would cost, but if anyone is interested I'm sure Anthony and Emma would arrange to throw in a couple of free nights in Elsa's oh-so-beautiful House to take the sting out of it ;-)
kimburu is offline  
Jan 7th, 2007, 01:43 AM
  #29  
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I added the rest of the photos (Shaba, Samburu, Sweetwaters, Tusk Camp, Mountain Lodge) - still editing, but they should be there while I do that - from No. 84 onwards...

http://www.kodakgallery.com/I.jsp?c=...&x=0&y=-aegjde
kimburu is offline  
Jan 7th, 2007, 05:51 AM
  #30  
 
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Enjoyed the rest of your photos. Looks like you toured the same village in Samburu I recognized some of the woman. I am will curious to read your opinion of it.

You really have some nice bird photographs; I’m still wondering how you shot that liliac-breasted roller. And who’s kitty cat was that out on the road? You sure had good luck in finding the big cats. Also glad to see you really got to explore the Abedares the waterfall shots are great and the buffalos at the waterhole.
joeyi is offline  
Jan 7th, 2007, 08:23 AM
  #31  
 
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Thanks for the info on the Grevy's Zebra. The mother-baby vervet shots were adorable. Some very close closeups of the rhino. The gerenuk bookends were great. The running Jackson's Hartebeest was lovely.
atravelynn is offline  
Jan 7th, 2007, 04:12 PM
  #32  
 
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Loved the hartebeest in action. Your Aberdare photos brought back very fond memories. Hope you enjoyed your time there. You have me daydreaming about a "next" Kenya trip already (Meru, Abedares, Tsavo West & East would be on the itinerary). What's the antelope in your Mountain Lodge photos? I can't wait for your "no Moses" day installment.
Patty is offline  
Jan 7th, 2007, 09:21 PM
  #33  
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Sorry for not responding to comments - amd still having a lot of trouble posting or even reading.

Lynn... 4 nights at Elsa's is probably just right if you like the sound of the park and Elsa's itself. If you are keen on long drives and picnics and taking the time to track the lions with the guides, etc. even longer would be fine. They do walks too when the ticks are not out in force. And if you like to sit and read/meditate in perfect solitude too, book a week!

Joyce... the roller arrived and started dust-bathing in the road right in front of us while we were stopped to look at something else... easy.
kimburu is offline  
Jan 8th, 2007, 12:42 AM
  #34  
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We’d had good weather most of the time we’d been in Meru, despite a couple of very heavy showers and the constant threat of more serious stuff. However, on the last night I was woken at 2 a.m. by heavy rain. I got back to sleep but at 5 woke again and got up to have a look. Rain was dripping into the room and so I moved any stuff away from the area we appeared to have a leak in (a honeymooner wasn’t so lucky with his I-Pod; I got the impression these thatched roofs leak slightly if the rain is very heavy and sustained – attractive and generally reliable as they are). The rain continued until after 7 but really it didn’t seem that bad. Still we were glad that Julius from ESS (who had arrived the night before) had insisted we leave early rather than having a last game drive – he was worried about the weather. We packed up and had our first breakfast at Elsa’s – we’d had packed breakfasts every day. There’s very good muesli and the like, bread, pastries, toast and a cooked breakfast with eggs made to order. Basic stuff but fine. At 8.15 we were ready to leave. Goodbyes are warm at Elsa’s – we’d like to think they were especially warm for us, but I suspect this is just the way they do it – with some warmth and the sincere wish that you’ll be back this way soon. Anthony, Emma and Joseph waved us off and we’re finally on our way… off to Shaba. The roads are really quite wet and the minivan is slipping and sliding a bit – no cause for alarm though. We meet a car coming the other way and the driver stops to talk to Julius. Julius says he couldn’t get across the ford up ahead but not to worry, since we have a better set up for fording than he does. However, when we get to the ford he looks considerably more concerned – what was a trickle has become a bit of a torrent. It’s not that deep, but it is 3 times as wide as it was and moving very fast. We decide to wait because it’s not raining and some Elsa’s vehicles are coming behind us, taking staff on leave. When the Elsa’s vehicles arrive 10 minutes later, the water has already visibly risen. Everybody gets out and has a look, and thinks about it – after all they have a big truck there. But in the end nobody wants quite to take the risk – it’ll go down soon is the consensus so let’s wait. After a while Joseph and Anthony show up – guests are due to arrive at the airport and they need to see if they have a chance of getting to meet them. But the river just keeps on rising. Anthony twice tried to wade across – to see how powerful it was – but abandoned the attempts – just as well since we’d seen pretty big bits of trees hurtling past. When it started to rain again and we’d all been there about 4 hours it was decided we should all go back to Elsa’s and wait a couple of hours – the new arrivals had already been picked up by vehicles from Leopard Rock Lodge and taken for lunch. There was some reluctance to leave – it would be nearly an hour’s drive back to Elsa’s in this weather – and everyone was kind of slow to move. Then someone comes running with the news that the river behind us is rising rapidly now and we’d all better get across it quickly – we were actually on a kind of island between three rivers. We all jumped in the Landrovers – leaving the minivan – and found that the other river had indeed risen significantly and was moving very fast. Anthony got his Landrover across, taking the ford at an angle to compensate for the pressure of the water. He got across safely, if not comfortably. Joseph was driving us and we were find for two-thirds of the way, when the current suddenly started to take us rapidly with it. Although Nam Wan claims she was sure we were going to die, we of course made the bank with literally inches to spare – another foot to the left and we would not have been able to climb the bank due to it’s steepness. Whoooo!

The roads were just pure mud by now and we were driving sections sideways, like crabs, with roaring engines… We just left the road at one point and used Elsa’s airstrip – which was like a swamp and was like driving on ice - but we made it back without getting stuck. Joseph seemed to be enjoying himself immensely – his passengers slightly less so. Back at Elsa’s we got a report. A French couple who were staying at the KWS bandas were stuck with us since they couldn’t get home. Elsa’s new guests were all at Leopard Rock Lodge having lunch. We had KWS rangers stranded with us too. Elsa’s staff would try again to make it out later. In the meantime, we’d all have lunch and have another go later in the afternoon.

Throughout the afternoon we got reports as various people went out to check how things were. We’d know we were due an update when we saw Anthony in yet another set of clothes. By 4 it was clear it would be extremely risky to try and get out. The French couple would try again at 7 p.m. since their banda was just across the river, but we were going nowhere. Elsa’s new guests had been checked in at Leopard Rock Lodge already.

I knew this was going to cost us because our itinerary meant we passed from Elsa’s care when Julius picked us up, rather than at the airfield. Serah called and she had already been in touch with Cheli & Peacock and Sarova (where we were booked to spend that night). The best she could do was a FB only rate of $450 for two (with rescue thrown in!) from Cheli & Peacock and a partial refund from Sarova (she eventually got us $150 back). Still, this was another blow to the shopping funds!

So wet and feeling rather poor we followed an apologetic Anthony (he of course has no real say over who pays what) to our new room. However, it wasn’t a room - Emma had told Anthony to put us in the house – Elsa’s Private House that is – as a kind of “sorry”. I’d always thought of this as being away somewhere from the rest of Elsa’s and possibly a little sterile or “child friendly” but the place is near reception and absolutely fantastic. I don’t know quite where to start with it…

I’ll tell a little more later …. Want to post this before the Internet gremlins strike again.

kimburu is offline  
Jan 8th, 2007, 04:49 AM
  #35  
 
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wow, i wasn't expecting that story. i guess if you have to get stuck staying in Elsa's house must have been very cool
joeyi is offline  
Jan 8th, 2007, 06:40 AM
  #36  
 
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Why couldn't it have been us?
Patty is offline  
Jan 8th, 2007, 07:09 AM
  #37  
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Life is bad Patty.. 5 days at Elsa’s Kopje … would I swap if for your flying though?

The Private House is totally enclosed at the back for privacy and totally open at the front for the view. It is built in a gentle curve around the pool deck and lawn which border the private swimming pool (a dead ringer fro the main one) and surrounded by rocks and trees. The view is one of the better ones at Elsa’s, out to the Nyambeni Hills and the caldera. The rooms are big and beautifully furnished and decorated, with the twin bedroom being much the lesser of the two bedrooms (but still very, very nice for that). It’s light and bright for the most part and ever so tasteful. It has its own dining table and bar, and so you can live down here if you want, completely apart from everyone, with your house butler to take care of things. Around the pool on the rocks and trees there are even more hyraxes than elsewhere, including a white one - but not albino as far as I can tell - as if there are even special hyrax for the house. All the furniture is nicer, newer and better than that in the cottages and in fact I’d say it was quite a step up from the cottages to the house (which is saying something, and surely a matter of opinion). There is a beautiful big indoor bath with a view and an outdoor shower with an even better view. I could go on (it’s own library, the little lawn with its shady tree) but better just to say it’s just amazing. Even from the point of view of cost, while I could never afford to stay here as a couple, if I was in a foursome or with two kids who needed their own room I’d consider it something close to good value - seriously. And I doubt you’ll stay anywhere better in your life - different or more to your taste perhaps, but not better per se.

By the way we did not get a discount so that I would write nice things about the Private House ;-) It just wowed us that much…

After our rather arduous day, we spent the next 3 hours enjoying the minor royalty lifestyle, sampling our bar and watching the hyraxes, which are even less wary of people her than elsewhere around Elsa’s… one even came through the house to get to a tree on the other side of the pool… sniffing our shoes and Nam Wan’s foot on the way. We tore ourselves away to go to dinner and see what had happened to the Ferench couple and other refugees.

Basically no-one had got anywhere and the stranded French couple had to stay the night (poor them… although I do not honestly know if they got a cottage or a place on a sofa somewhere, they could have found a worse place to get stuck!). The Elsa’s guests stuck on the other side were being put up by Leopard Rock Lodge - fortunately they had rooms available. We had another chat with Anthony and the French couple but left early since we had to try out the bath and the swimming pool. Both work perfectly and swimming in the starlight (the sky had cleared) has never been better.

In the morning, we decided to make an early start - even though it was hard to tear ourselves away, there were other things to see. The roads were still wet but definitely better and we had a breakfast report that the French couple had made it across the rivers without problem. We drove out and found Julius’ minibus still where he’d left it and apparently none the worse for its night out, said our goodbyes to the lovely Joseph (who had managed to steer his guests’ game drive past us to check we were all okay and the minibus was going to start - not just for us; he is very fond of Julius too) and were on our way. The roads were pretty wet in places but we made it without any scares and were at the park gate by 9.30.

So Meru? Great park. Even in the wet we saw cheetah, lion (twice), leopard, bat eared foxes, and everything you’d expect to see in a good reserve except for elephants (which were probably in Bisanadi rather than Angola…) and crocodiles - well I saw a young one scurrying across a ford so they are there - but including lesser kudu. We could have seen rhino if we had wanted to, but we had a full program without a visit to the rhino sanctuary and we were visiting Ol Pejeta anyway. Birds were great - I have read somewhere that it could be difficult to see them because of the heavy cover, and that was probably true, but we saw plenty, especially birds of prey. And the cover couldn’t have been much heavier. The scenery puts most places to shame - it might not be everyone’s preference for an African landscape, but it is gorgeous. If it hadn’t been so wet we’d have had even more diverse habitats. The animals are quite skittish for the most part but that makes it all the more exciting when you do get close and they are not so skittish as to make viewing or photography impossible - they just want a bit more space than most in the Mara or Samburu. Do nto expect to see what you’d see in the Mara - the places are not comparable. This is a game viewing destination requiring a bit of character - not much, it is very seductive ;-) Would I go back … in a heartbeat! Would I stay at Elsa’s Kopje? Frankly, I suspect Leopard Rock Lodge may be better located for game, but absolutely. My second choice would be the KWS bandas - although I didn‘t get to visit them as planned I got a report on the “poorer“ of the two sets of bandas from the stranded French couple and it sounded fine - although I’d maybe go for the ones at the gate which have more ‘amenities‘.

Things to do if you do visit Elsa’s/Meru:

Game drives: If you are set on making Meru into a game viewing destination, make game drives long and take a packed breakfast to get the most out of it - 4 hours at a time was not a long time.

Adamson’s Falls - well worth the trip for the nature boy/girl - wild country.

Elsa’s Grave - only for nostalgia - this is a pretty rough drive and you won’t see much… but if the roads allow it to be combined with Adamson’s Falls it’d be a very interesting way to come back from there.

Bush walks - I couldn’t but maybe you can if you go in the dry.

Swimming - don’t miss using the pool

Night drives - KWS only extend your license to stay out until 8 p.m. or so (okay, anyone can get “lost” says Joseph, so let’s say 8.30). Nevertheless this is a really nice way to extend your game drives - be prepared for insect appetizers though if you are spotlighting. Nothing spectacular for us with all that thick bush, but others will be luckier.

Sundowners - Elsa’s know where to go and what to do… leave it to them. Sunsets were not at their best while we were there but lovely nonetheless.

Rojewero View Point (I think that’s the name).. Lovely picnic spot with benches by the river - again leave it to Elsa’s and you’ll probably end up here anyway.

Relaxation - take the time to smell the roses and admire the views…..



I think that part of my report has disappeared into the ether….to very briefly cover what is missing… we went on a night game drive (properly prepared this time) and found out we had to do our own spotlighting. We saw some impala, an owl, a bush baby and a lion … not much of a haul but it was fun despite the insects - if you are spotlighting while driving do not open your mouth ;-)

The lion was the same as one we had seen the previous day on the way back from the leopard encounter - a young male with a short black mane - it is normally very hot in Meru.

On the last evening we went for a sundowner - it was a memorable experience but I won’t give away the surprises….

This report is getting VERY long - but I'll hop through Shaba and Samburu.
kimburu is offline  
Jan 8th, 2007, 09:33 PM
  #38  
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Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 1,252
Patty... the antelope is a bushbuck... that's the one you mean? The males in the area of Mountain lodge have that lovely long dark brown coat and the nice stripes and spots.

By the way, you are not considering that next Kenya trip for 2008 are you? that would jsut be too much.... our tentative plans have switched 2008 from Botswana to a week in Tsavo East and West, a week in Masaai Mara or Serengeti, and one other place (we're in dispute over that).
kimburu is offline  
Jan 8th, 2007, 10:04 PM
  #39  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Yes, that's the one. I thought it might have been a type of bushbuck but wasn't sure.

I have a hard time seriously thinking that far ahead, but 2008 is a possibility. You're not thinking of going in May are you?
Patty is offline  
Jan 8th, 2007, 10:06 PM
  #40  
 
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BTW how's Namibia coming along?
Patty is offline  

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