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Masai Mara Madness – The Story!

April 21, 2010

This past weekend I went on an amazing safari trip to Masai (or Maasai depending on how you want to spell it) Mara Game Reserve. The Mara as it is more commonly referred to was absolutely amazing and awe inspiring, as well as a much needed relaxing break from Kakamega.

 The journey began on Thursday night. After rushing home for the third time that day, I packed up my stuff and watched a couple of cartoons with the kids before heading into town for some last minutes supplies at Yako and then getting to the bus station before it got too dark. Despite the fact that our bus didn’t leave until 8 pm, I was in the bus station before 7 pm, as the sun sets completely about this time and it’s highly dangerous for little, white, female me to be walking around on the streets after dark (not to mention the fact that there aren’t many street lights.. So it really is DARK).

 Remember in past posts when I mentioned the “bumpiest bus rides of my life”? Well this trip topped them ALL! Kenyan coach bus on potholed (and partially dirt) roads in the very back seat meant that about every 2 minutes we were jettisoned into the air, even with seatbelts strapped on.  After about an hour of this, Nick had the brilliant idea to see if some of the empty seats farther up the bus were less bumpy. Turns out they were! And so with the help of some lovely Benedryl, I managed to sleep for at least 4 hours despite the cold temperatures and occasional back-breaking bumps. We got into Nairobi around 4:30 am (so about 9ish hour bus ride) and hung out in the bus station until our driver came around 6:30 to pick us up and take us for breakfast. Full of food and excited about the trip ahead, we me with the other passengers on our safari – a guy and girl (both missionaries) that had lived in Nairobi for about a month and a South Korean guy who “works only enough to travel” and was bumping around the African continent until the World Cup games start in South Africa in June. Brandon, Lusia, and DongSung (respectively) plus Nick, I and our driver Nathanial made up the posse that travelled down to the Mara. It’s amazing how close you get to people when you spend 3 days straight in a 9 passenger van with them taking photos of animals. You get to meet some REALLY interesting people when you travel.

 The ride down was pretty uneventful (mostly because I slept the entire way!) Once we got off the main road and headed toward the Mara however, the drive got pretty crazy – there were several times when the ruts in the roads were so bad that the van almost tipped over. Thankfully, Nathanial was a good driver and besides the minor heart attack here and there, we made it through the weekend without flipping over!  We arrived at camp after about 5 hours of van ride from Nairobi to find a lovely little tree-filled campsite with semi-permanent tents complete with built-in bathrooms. Running water and electricity amazingness!!! First real-ish shower like thing in 2 months – so nice!

 We went on three game drives total – one the first day in the afternoon, a full day game drive on the second day (all the way to Tanzania!!) to see the hippos, crocs, and monkeys. Then on Sunday we got up at the buttcrack of dawn to have a sunrise game drive. All in all – amazing animal-ness. It was literally like a Disney dream come true!  There were so many references to animal crackers – seeing the animals in the wild really does make you want some tasty bits to nibble on!! I really didn’t think I would see half of the animals that I did – heck – I didn’t even know some of them (like ostriches) lived in Kenya!  To really get the full view of what my safari was like – check out the 284 pictures online at http://picasaweb.google.com/ewendt2/MaasaiMaraMadnessTheSafariTrip . The only way I can think to quickly describe it is “heavenly”.

 After the game drive on Saturday we went to the Masai Village which was right next to our camp site.  It was so neat to see a group of the Masai men perform a traditional song and dance for us— actually trying to dance with them was highly embarrassing, albeit hilarious! The Masai live in a circular village set up – “gate” of sticks stuck into the ground, followed by a circular arrangement of mud huts (sans windows), then an area for the cows, and finally a group meeting area right in the center of the village. We even got to go inside the Masai houses and meet their children… and their baby cows, which live in the houses with them. The Masai are traditionally herdsmen and of any tribe in Kenya, the Masai stick to their traditions – even making their own clothes out of the wool from their sheep and dyes from the plants on the hillsides of the Mara. It was an eye opening experience to interact with people who we in the west would consider highly primitive and backwards – but who are kind and fun in person! One of the downsides to visiting a village of herdsmen who keep their animals inside the compound at night is that there’s a lot of … shit… everywhere. And, of course, silly me was wearing flip-flops! Needless to say, I managed to get cow poop and dirt up to my ankles, and the bought a pair of Masai tire shoes (yes, shoes made out of tires) so I have something else to wear! I scrubbed my feet twice that night… then hand sanitized them, just to be sure. So far – no negative side effects!!

Nairobi was a cool stopover – I actually kind of like the big city! They are much more used to wazungu there than in KK. The ride back was utterly miserable and I didn’t sleep hardly at all – enough said. Monday was recuperation day – I left work early and slept most of the day! All in all – an amazing experience and well worth the money and lack of sleep!

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