Kenya – Day 3

Kenya Day – 3

Continued from Kenya – Day 2

Morning found us groggy but sufficiently enthused to be off on our second game drive. After tea/coffee and cake, yes cake at 6.30 am, we went to the gate to meet the waiting Newton who was as fresh as a daisy and all set for the drive (you driving, Ms Daisy? 🙂

We drove out of the gates of the Sarova into a magical sunrise and though it had rained the previous night and was rather cloudy, the nascent sun obliged us long enough to digitally capture its subdued brilliant hues (oxymoron ?) before disappearing for the rest of the dull, grey morning.

The animals were nowhere in sight. A little bird sat on a dry branch and a lone Hartbeest disappeared in a hearbeat, leaving the Savannah barren and strangely devoid of all activity. In the distance a hot air balloon floated high up in the air, carrying its passengers who had got up at 5 am to be able to take off at 6 am, the bare plains not giving them much cause to feel good about having spent $400 on that ride, I bet (a figure close to my Mumbai Nairobi airfare 🙂 . The hot air balloon ‘station’ passed us by, with its windvane indicating the direction of the breeze. The ballon ride would probably be far more exciting in season when there would be herds of animals to spot from above, instead of a bare, grassy vista.

Well this was a quiet morning. We drove around for over a hour with nothing to show for it and were wondering if a couple of hours of extra sleep would have been more fruitful. Our quiet musings came to a rather abrupt halt when Newton made an abrupt stop. On the path ahead was a very deep ditch filled with water, formed due to the previous night’s rain and there was no other way out. The guides are bound by rules not to drive on the grass and to stick only to the paths. This is probably for the safety of the animals who hide there and would be injured if a careless driver was to take his vehicle over. Thus the grass being out of bounds, we were hoping Newton would reverse and find another pathway but after mulling a while, he took a sudden decision to plunge heroically into the ‘ravine’ and a very wrong decision it was!!! The front wheels of the huge TLC went straight down into the slush and with that sickening noise of an engine whining as it strains to do a job it is not powerful enough to carry out, it strove albeit unsuccessfully, to extract the wheels out. The harder we revved the deeper we delved and I kept myself occupied with unpleasant visions of growing old in the Savannah  (yeah my time is never idly spent :-).

Fortunately Newton was resourceful and bravely got out into the wild, to fetch the jack with which he raised the back of the vehicle. Placing stones under the rear wheels (I think that is what he did ) , he came back to start the engine and with a herculean attempt, the wheels (and all of us) flew out of the mud and climbed onto dry land ahead, much to our intense relief!!! Thoroughly shaken by this we stopped whining about not seeing any animals and sat quietly for a while. Sudden radio activity (certainly no pun) and a Swahili conversation later, we were speeding off with renewed excitement. An entire pride of lions had been spotted and the entire lot of tourists that were experiencing the same animal ‘drought’ as us , had been informed. We arrived at the location to witness a long line of cars in a row and on going closer we were amazed to see a whole family of lions, the adults snoozing on the grass and several cubs next to them. Such a wonderful sight it was, worth our entire morning. The little babies got up and posed for us and so did some of the big ones. On the whole though, they were too sleepy to put on a show and turned their backs to us after a while. Lions in the wild and they looked as harmless as the stray pussycat in my building. I had this urge to put my hand out and go “here kitty, here kitty”. Wonder how that would have turned out.

We would have loved to stay there gazing at them forever but a look at the time and it was off towards the hotel. Happy that we had seen something of value, we were pretty satisfied. Little did we know there was more in store. Another excited radio message and we had Newton look secretively at us, telling us to keep our fingers crossed. Veering off our return route, he took off on another path and sped towards another group of cars in the far distance. On arriving there we saw the most beautiful leopard in the world, draped on a high branch of a sausage tree ( the one with fruit shaped like sausages , also found in Bangalore).

Blending into the leafy background, it would have taken a keen eye to spot this wonder. Posing for us with the sophistication of a professional model, it stretched languorously on its perch, yawning a couple of times to give us a view of its open mouth as we gasped open mouthed right back at it.

All thoughts of breakfast forgotten (how can I even mention food at a time like this?), we took pictures like this was the last leopard on earth and after a while, bored at the excitement it was causing, the feline descended from the tree with fluid grace and swishing its tail at us, bid us goodbye. The hushed silence from the crowds being the only response it got!!!

We were so lucky to see this one single leopard. We had heard that many a time tourists had returned without even a glimpse of this elusive cat and had to make do with only 4 out of the Big 5. We had been very fortunate and it was with a feeling of sheer bliss that we returned to camp and to a breakfast that only served to enhance that bliss. What a lovely breakfast it was.

We then had the whole morning and noon at our disposal and we decided to further investigate our surroundings at leisure.

The beautiful Sarova Mara is spread over several sprawling acres of land and has 75 tents nestling amidst lush greenery. Tents 1 and 2 were luckily closest to the entrance, the others extending upto quite a distance inside.

There is a mini lake where children could do a bit of fishing and of course, return the fish to their rightful place soon after. We spent a while here, the friendly staff teaching my son to fish and for those who are curious to know, we will not be winning any medals in this sport either 🙂

Lunch time came too soon. We could not bear to think of food as yet but we had an evening drive to go on and we wanted to be done with eating and take some rest before that. So it was a mournful me who nibbled. Yeah nothing makes me sadder than not having an appetite especially when the food is so good. 2 little grey and white birds however, had no problem with their appetite and hopped in and out of the restaurant, stealing pieces of cake and other goodies right under our very noses.

We watched them for a while and then we were off to the tent to recharge ourselves. We were to meet Newton at 4 pm but I remembered the Masai shopping at the gate and requested him to take us an hour earlier so that I could do some buying. The ladies were there (apparently they always are) and this time the clueless were sufficiently clued in to remember to keep all windows closed 🙂 I however, bravely got off the vehicle and was instantly bombarded on all sides by the ladies thrusting their wares at me several at a time and their high pitched voices calling out prices in English. Takes a seasoned shopper not to flee from the melee 🙂

Managed to pick up some more beautiful curios here. K was still on his quest for the elusive lion’s tooth and a few of the specimens we were shown did not appeal to him. A Masai youth promised to get him an authentic one by the next morning and assured us he would be waiting at the gate by 7.30 am when we passed by. With that hope we returned back inside the reserve and to our 3rd game drive.

This time we were on a different route and this part of the land had many animals. Elegant giraffes, playful zebras, grazing gnus, all the other ungulates and a lone jackal were on our plate today (I speak metaphorically of course :-), along with a guinea fowl and her cute little chicks that crossed our path too fast for us to capture a picture of this delightful procession.

Someone had spotted a rhino but despite all the radio instructions and directions and the binos, we could not really get a view of it. Assuring us that we were going to see rhinos and buffaloes in plenty at Nakuru, Newton asked us not to be disappointed. However a little while later we did see 3 buffaloes who were so afraid of us that they disappeared into the small bushes and emerged a safe distance away to stare at us. It had been raining lightly throughout the drive and we closed the top of the vehicle as we headed back to the camp.

On the way we passed by a forest ranger who had caught a Masai shepherd grazing his flock in the reserve. The Masai are not allowed to bring their domestic animals inside, though they do sneak in from time to time to let their cattle sample the lush grass here. If they are caught, they are arrested and I have no idea what happens next. Before I had the time to ask we came upon a line of cars ahead of us. Assuming that yet another rarity had been sighted, Newton turned to the radio , only to find out that this crowd was due to a couple of the cars having got stuck in the slush, just as we had in the morning. Everyone is always helpful and no one abandons a car in trouble. When we got there, we found 2 vans stuck deep in the mud. I just could not fathom what had possessed those drivers to plunge in when there was obviously no hope of getting out. We had a big car and we tried to tow one of them but repeated attempts only resulted in repeated breakages of the tow rope and hook. Likewise another 4WD was attempting to yank out the other van. Despite being in the wild, everyone was out of the vehicles. Newton told us that the animals normally would not approach a large group of people but I did not want to stick around too long to find out whether there was any truth in that. So we were back in the car and offering shelter to the others who had to abandon their car. Many towing attempts later, we had to give up and since it was getting pretty dark and was raining, we had to head back to the camp. The tourists were transported by other cars who were heading in their direction. I think some of them were sent a car from their hotel.

I have no idea how they eventually extricated the cars. This was a scary incident and made me feel very grateful for our TLC. We drove back in the darkness with Newton generating excitement from time to time  pretending he had lost the way. Did I mention his sense of humor? 🙂

It was quite late when we reached and we just had enough time to get ready for dinner. The entertainment for the night was a Masai dance again and I barely managed a couple of pictures. We had an early morning to get up to, with Newton having asked us to be ready by 6.30 am. Back to haranguing and pleading and we had ourselves an hour’s reprieve. We were getting quite good at this 🙂

After a good dinner, we went back to the tents to pack so that we would be ready to leave as early as possible.

For those who really really want to know, by now we had collected a sizeable amount of unwashed clothes and they were packed in their own exclusive bag 🙂

Continued at Kenya – Day 4

About Currylines

A food and travel enthusiast who plays with words
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