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The Kuku That Didn’t Kill Us (culinary adventures in Ithumba & other tales)

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Jul 12th, 2010, 02:03 PM
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The Kuku That Didn’t Kill Us (culinary adventures in Ithumba & other tales)

Itinerary:

June 17 – Holiday Inn/Nairobi
June 18/19/20 – Ithumba Camp/Tsavo East NP
June 21/22/23/24/25 – Finch Hattons/Tsavo West NP

I have to apologize upfront that I’m having trouble focusing on anything right now so the trip report installments will be trickling in pole, pole but I wanted to go ahead and post links to our photos. In the mean time, you can follow June 17-22 of Leely’s trip report http://www.fodors.com/community/afri...ation-tour.cfm (actually I’m hoping she’ll do all the writing for me ) and I’d be happy to answer any questions.

I didn’t take many pics of Ithumba Camp this time but if you want to see what the camp looks like plus get more details about it, you can find them in my trip report from last year http://www.fodors.com/community/afri...y-in-kenya.cfm

Quick thoughts –

Leely is a hoot to travel with and we hope we didn’t give her food poisoning

We were originally supposed to spend 2 nights in Nairobi at the beginning of our trip but due to flight delays (thunderstorms in ATL of all things!) didn’t get there until the following morning. In total it took us 38 hours to get to NBO including a detour to DXB.

It was nice to see everything so green after last year’s drought.

We had a lot more interaction with both groups of ex-orphans at Ithumba this year compared to last year when they had very little extra energy to expend.

Due to the short amount of time we had, we were unable to stay at Sandai this trip so we invited Petra and Sammy down to Ithumba with us (in case you’re wondering about the extra people in the pics).

We again booked through Eastern & Southern except for the Holiday Inn and Ithumba which I booked directly. Julius our guide from 5 previous trips had been promoted so we had a different guide Ben this time who was really fun to travel with and sort of the opposite of Julius (who we did get to see in Nairobi). We kept finding ourselves saying “Julius would never do that” throughout the trip but in a good way.

On to the photos –

Nairobi http://www.kodakgallery.com/gallery/...hotos-_-Sharee

Ithumba
http://www.kodakgallery.com/gallery/...hotos-_-Sharee

Finch Hattons
http://www.kodakgallery.com/gallery/...hotos-_-Sharee
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Jul 12th, 2010, 05:56 PM
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Hi Patty. Ithumba looks a place of joy - really enjoyed looking at the pictures (is Mark taking credits now, though? . The photo of the little one with ears spread in the waterhole is great.
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Jul 12th, 2010, 06:04 PM
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Yay! Great photos--report at your leisure. Food at Ithumba was fantastic. My compliments to the chef.
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Jul 12th, 2010, 06:13 PM
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Oh, that was the wrong emoticon - out of practice! Just a normal smile would be enough! Just looked through the Tsavo West shots and wondered why I'm going to Botswana - so many interesting things to see there, even just after the rains.... although I'm not sure how hard you worked for that.

Oh, and very creative to get the cheetah shot iN Tsavo East!

Why 3 nights East and 5 nights West?
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Jul 12th, 2010, 07:31 PM
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Patty, your photos are a joy to view as always. When will I ever get to Ithumba!
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Jul 12th, 2010, 11:00 PM
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Fabulous photos Patty thanks, Ithumba looks outstanding!
We're now hoping we might be able to go in 2013, better late than never I guess.
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Jul 13th, 2010, 10:52 AM
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Thanks, guys!

kimburu,
You know us, we don't work that hard! During our 5 nights, we took 2 full days and an afternoon off from game drives and just birded/Game Sat™ around camp. Saw baboons, vervets, Sykes monkeys, bushbuck, warthog, giraffe, hippo, crocs, mongoose and a bushbaby in camp. The 3/5 split just worked out due to logistics and having to work within the constraints of both of our frequent flier flights. We wanted a relatively simple and not astronomical way of getting Leely to the Mara next and there's the morning flight from West that connects to the morning Mara flight.
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Jul 20th, 2010, 02:20 PM
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Patty, what a great after dinner treat for me. Appreciated the pictures. The ones of the elephant eye lashes, the orange bellied parrot, and tse tse trophies were extra special to me. Thanks for making my day! Now, gotta get to the Tsavo parks.
Dick
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Jul 21st, 2010, 12:10 PM
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great photos. We follow the ithumba orphans on Sheldrick's as well as the babies at the orphanage in Nairobi. We're looking forward to seeing the orphanage in Sept.
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Jul 21st, 2010, 05:31 PM
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We wanted a relatively simple and not astronomical way of getting Leely to the Mara next

This is Patty's delicate way of putting that they very kindly changed their plans for me. There is an airstrip near Ithumba but it's for charters only.

We saw more "big" game in Tsavo West (even though I was only there one day) but the part of Tsavo East by Ithumba has a real "We're out here entirely by ourselves and if we see anything other than elephants, dik diks, skittish kudu and ground squirrels it will be very special" feel. And so it does feel very special. You somehow naturally recalibrate.
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Jul 25th, 2010, 12:14 AM
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How pole is "pole pole"?
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Jul 27th, 2010, 09:43 AM
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Thanks, Dick and stamiya! Sorry for the delay. We're heading out of town for a bit and I hope to get back into this when we return.
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Jul 29th, 2010, 01:23 PM
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Hi Patty!

Just got back from Mongolia a few days ago*, and I'm so happy to see your pictures and your report. Looks like you guys had a fabulous time, too! This especially makes me want to visit Ithumba someday... Thanks for sharing!!


* (We had an amazing trip -- I've now affirmatively answered this question for myself: "Can I ever love a place as much as I love Africa?")
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Jul 31st, 2010, 10:32 AM
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Will this be a joint report compliments of Patty and Leely? Welcome back MyDogKyle!
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Mar 29th, 2012, 07:58 AM
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As it turned out pole, pole meant extremely pole, pole but here's my very belated trip report almost 2 years later. Don't know if anyone is still even interested in reading it anymore and I might run of out steam again (no promises ) but here's at least the start of it.

Flight @#%& and Nairobi
Thunderstorms in ATL forced a ground stop at the airport. It didn’t last too long so I was still hopeful that we would make our AMS connection as we set underway. Unfortunately the taxi queue was so long that we started running low on fuel. Back to the gate to refuel and realizing we were never going to make it to NBO by the following day, I started rearranging our hotel accommodations. I had booked our first night at the Holiday Inn and our second at the Hilton (including a second room for Leely) due to having hotel points in different accounts (I have a habit of doing this often, creating more hassle for myself). First call was to the Holiday Inn and while we couldn’t cancel, they did let us move our reservation to the following night. I also had to add a second room and cancel our Hilton reservation. This was accomplished with Joyce’s help as I didn’t know when they were going to ask us to turn our phones off again. I was emailing Joyce as I was on hold. Not sure if I had a chance to inform Leely or if she was surprised when her E&S driver dropped her off at a different hotel.

Our flight reaccommodation was as smooth as can be expected with someone waiting at our arrival gate at AMS with our new boarding passes routed through DXB. At the lounge I tried to change to the evening KQ nonstop but there was no space. In any case, the DXB flight actually got in a little earlier. Boarding in DXB was an interesting experience. I’ve never seen such a free for all rush with so much pushing and shoving. We finally arrived in NBO at 6:50am 2 days after leaving LAX and were amazed to be reunited with our bags! We were met by our new guide Ben and set off just before 7:30am. What to do now? Since we’d never been to Nairobi National Park this seemed like the perfect thing to do. Traffic was pretty heavy and it took about an hour and a half to get to the main gate (remember we hadn’t planned on this or we probably could’ve entered through some other gate). We paid our $40 per person plus 1300 KES for the vehicle entry fee and set off on a couple of hours game drive. We managed to see giraffe, Coke’s hartebeest, ostrich, zebra, buffalo, impala, hippo, crowned crane, kori bustard, helmeted guinea fowl, hammerkop and saddle billed stork. No rhino. Back out the main gate and we headed to Sheldrick to pay for our stay at Ithumba. I also bought a fleece jacket as it was cold and wet in Nairobi and I hadn’t brought anything heavy because we were spending all of our time in Tsavo. We also learned a bit about the new Umani Springs camp under construction.

We had arranged to have lunch with Serah and Julius of Eastern and Southern at the Verandah restaurant at Utamaduni prior to our departure so that was our next destination. We had a nice lunch of Zanzibar soup and curry chicken while talking about the southern Rift Valley and future vehicle acquisition. It was good to see them both again and we gave Julius a small travel guitar that Mark had built. After lunch we headed to the Sarit Centre where Mark got some furry Bata boots and I picked up some recycled paper necklaces from Banana Box. We checked into the Holiday Inn in the late afternoon and Leely arrived a couple of hours later direct from Rwanda. This is a lovely hotel in Westlands with multiple 2 story buildings spread out over a garden setting. It’s also no longer a Holiday Inn and is now the Southern Sun Mayfair. The 3 of us grabbed dinner at the hotel which I can only describe as Kenyan style Tex Mex while Leely raved about her gorilla trekking experiences. Off to bed by 8:00pm and amazed we stayed awake this long.
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Mar 29th, 2012, 08:00 AM
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Off to Ithumba
We set off just after 7:00am stopping at a Nakumatt on the way out of the city to provision for Ithumba. Not having been to Ithumba, Ben and Leely were concerned about a) starvation and b) running out of toilet paper. Mark or I would grab one pack of something and they’d quickly grab another. We ended up way overbuying and left a lot of food for the guys working there and enough toilet paper for the remainder of the year

There were some detours for construction on the Mombasa Hwy and traffic was completely stopped the other direction just before Machakos as the presidential motorcade was heading there. We reached Kibwezi shortly after 1:00pm, refueled and turned off the highway. Even with the rains in May, the road was not much worse than the previous drought year. We arrived at the Kasala gate around 3:30pm and saw our first herd of wild eles by a waterhole. Some ground squirrels, lesser kudu and dik dik were spotted on the short drive to the park headquarters. After checking in at the HQ (they don’t do it at the gate here), we proceeded to drive the short distance to Ithumba camp meeting up with Wendi’s group along the way. Wendi came right up to the vehicle and proceeded to sniff me all over with her trunk through the hatch covering me in red Tsavo dust. What a welcome! There was a little bit of playful shoving of the vehicle too but eventually the herd moved aside and we continued to camp.
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Mar 29th, 2012, 02:40 PM
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Finally! I'm looking forward to reading about the rest of your trip.
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Mar 29th, 2012, 05:31 PM
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Lazy days at Ithumba
Our routine at Ithumba consisted of Mark getting up and making coffee at 5:00am (the guys were more than happy to hand over the kitchen keys to us), off to the stockade just before 6:00am, back to camp for a big breakfast, head to the mudbath around 11:00am, back for a light lunch of cold cuts/leftovers/whatever so only 2 meals needed to be prepared, lounge around on the upper deck watching the waterholes and scanning the horizon for wildlife, back to the stockade in the late afternoon, then back to camp for dinner.

Those early morning hours were when some game viewing adventures and misadventures occurred. One morning Mark nearly stepped on a puff adder. Good thing he had a bright torch. Another morning we heard something crunching outside of our tent to discover 3 bat eared foxes. It appeared they were using the kerosene lamps outside of our tent to hunt for insects. One fox started walking up to Mark, barked twice and ran off. There was also a genet hanging around and we saw a springhare and white tailed mongoose.

One day Leely, Petra, Sammy and Ben did go on a game drive to Somalia. Mark and I stayed back at camp and asked Ben to just leave us the keys so we could drive to the mudbath. He didn’t hesitate before tossing them to us. Julius would never do that. What was a tiny mudhole had become a lake with the rains. We were able to see the whole crew at the mudbath, Yatta’s group, Wendi’s group, the keeper dependent orphans and a few wild friends. We got some foot massages and the guys got to experience Nasalot’s version of a Flowbee (apparently she only does this to men). Upon seeing Ben later, he asked if we had any trouble with the van (the battery had been acting up) to which we replied we just gave the battery a good smack with his spotting scope and the van started up right away.

That same morning we had arrived at the stockade to find Sian down. We initially thought she was dead but she was still alive and it took 9-10 keepers to get her back on her feet. It was heart wrenching and we all stopped taking pictures and video. Later that afternoon she looked much better but we learned while in Amsterdam that she died.

Game spotted from the upper deck included buffalo, zebra, warthog, baboon, dik dik and a cheetah very far away. Mark spotted it and Ben set up his scope so we could confirm the sighting. We guessed that it was several km away. We learned that there was a water source in that area and decided that would be a good place to game drive next time. You don’t see a lot here but what you do see is very special. Combined with the beautiful landscape and sense of having no one else around, it’s truly magical.

Oh I almost forgot the kuku. By night three we had some not so fresh smelling beef and chicken left. The fridge at Ithumba isn’t super cold and we should’ve probably stored our meat in the freezer. We all gathered around the kitchen and debated which was less likely to kill us with Leely and I voting for a vegetarian dinner and Sammy saying he’d rather go hungry than eat a vegetarian dinner and Mark concurring. Leely and I were out voted in the end and Mark ended up making a stir fry after cooking the kuku to death first. Kimwele, Njagi and Josephat also joined us for dinner every evening. Njagi remarked that he’d never had Chinese food before to which I replied and you still haven’t As far as I know, no one was poisoned that evening.
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Mar 29th, 2012, 06:18 PM
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It was in Paris, not Amsterdam, that we found out about Sian's death. It's been so long I don't even remember where I was.

The kuku dish turned out to be a bit hit BTW.
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Mar 29th, 2012, 07:29 PM
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That kuku with rice was by far the favorite of the Kenyans with us.

This is very helpful b/c it is reminding me what I need to do at Ithumba. 5am!!!
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