03.02.2012 - 03.02.2012
Oh, how we hate to go away from this place where impalas and hippos and monkeys play on the lawn. But by 8:00 a.m., we are in the vans and ready to return to civilization. (We are traveling without being showered today, because a wayward hippo stepped on the water pipe last night and crushed it...so no cold water in our rooms.)
The ride ahead would be about 6 hours, half of it back over the broken and slick muddy roads. We were not really looking forward to that. But—as one never know what you’ll come across on the road—the beginning of the trip was entertaining and rewarding. Our first experience was with a troop of Olive baboons traipsing up the road in our direction; there were at least two dozen of all shapes and sizes, genders and ages.
We got off the road and we came across two safari vans parked beside a pile of grassy dirt next to the road. Anytime you see one or more vans stopped, it’s a requirement to check it out. Lo and behold, a young male lion with two females were heading for the shade...a worthwhile stop. Benson, our driver, pulled back onto the road and continued on. Within minutes, his radio was filled with chatter in Swahili; he grabbed the microphone and got in on the conversation. Then he whipped the van off the road and we started off across the savannah. Over the past few days, we had learned that Benson rarely told us what was up; we had all decided that he probably didn’t want to raise our expectations only to see them dashed when whatever he was tracking down didn’t pan out. So we all watched out the window, watching the occasional giraffe or zebra herds...until...as we moved down toward a brush covered river bank...in the distance with its broad rear end facing us...was...a...big black rhinoceros! He was across the waterway, but he was there and we could all see him. We had bagged the last of our Big Five. That was the icing on the cake. And the balm to ease our difficult ride ahead.
The rest of the ride was pretty much a reverse of the ride out a few days before. We took the same road and made one stop at a road side stand to use the facilities and shop. By the time we got into Nairobi, the traffic was locked up in a pre-rush hour traffic jam. It seems that a high government official from Indonesia was in town and some streets were blocked and traffic was suffering for it. We were all pretty hungry by the time we reached our hotel at nearly 3:00 p.m. Surprise, surprise, the government official was to stay at our hotel, so the regular security—which included guards checking in our van and underneath it with mirrors every time we entered—had been beefed up with uniformed soldiers holding AK-47s in the lobby. Our hotel was probably the safest place in town tonight!
We had only three hours before dinner, but we were famished so lunch on the terrace around the pool sounded good. A couple of Tuskers (the local brew) and a shrimp pizza sounded good. It was went down well, but didn’t settle in the same fashion for John.
So at 6:30 p.m., as all of us were loaded up to dine at the Carnivore Restaurant, it seemed likely that only one of us would be sampling all the exotic fare. The restaurant is known for a menu that includes some wild game selections. There was a time that zebra and buffalo and a lot of other animals that we had just seen were offered, but now the exotic offerings are limited. At first, Dr. Dawa came around the table to offer a fresh made concoction of honey, fresh cut limes, and vodka; after which the table was served a variety of courses — salad, soup, breads, and potatoes. Then came the meat. Half a dozen men frequently went around the table with huge spits of a variety of meats to sample (as much as you wanted). There were beef sausages, pork ribs, lamb meat balls, roast pork leg, chicken livers, sliced ox testicles, crocodile medallions, ostrich meat balls, chicken wings, and whole turkeys splayed out on a roasting frame. Truth be told, Susie didn’t sample everything on the list...but she did well. Much better than John, who stuck with bread and water. Once everyone at the table was stuffed, someone lowered the flag in the center of the table. That ended the meat course. (There was coffee and dessert yet to follow, though.)
Finished up, the vans got us back to the hotel in time for an hour or so of nap time, after which the whole crew met in the lobby with the luggage. It was midnight and we had a 3:00 a.m. plane to catch.
At the airport, we said goodbye and thank you to Benson, our driver, and to Alfred, our safari guide. Then we checked in and settled down at the Nairobi airport for a long, warm wait for our flight to Istanbul.
Note: Rhinos have sharp hearing and a keen sense of smell. They may find one another by following the trail of scent each enormous animal leaves behind it on the landscape.
Hippos also bask on the shoreline and secrete an oily red substance, which gave rise to the myth that they sweat blood. The liquid is actually a skin moistener and sunblock that may also provide protection against germs.