Friday, March 20, 2020

Kenya: One Last Ride

Well after yesterday's hotel blow up I was happy to wake up in friendly territory at the Hotel Stanley. Luckily there was a free local paper lying around for me to read about all of the horrible things that have been happening while we were gone.




Say it ain't so.


It's good to know that the patriots back home are shooting the coronavirus as we speak.




Peter picked us up for one last safari showdown. It's nice of Kenya to do so much daily life right next to the road so that I can get a good peep.




With no cell signal we were often reduced to taking drastic action to entertain ourselves on our hours long car rides: listening to the radio. I thought it was interesting how they switched in and out from English.


A running theme on radio talk shows was pretty amusing to us. It was essentially "how are you going to handle having your kids home from school?" It sounded like many children go to boarding school in Kenya and so having them home because of the lockdown was going to be an adjustment.


I was doing some research into fancy N95 masks and scheming about how I might get my hands on them for our upcoming flight. I learned that kesi baadae means "deal with it later".










After driving through so many rural towns I got a good feel of the businesses that each place would have. Butchers were always a staple.




I think I mentioned in posts past that simba literally means "lion" in Kiswahili. I snuck in other Lion King trivia questions where I could. Peter told us that pumba means stupid, and that the name is applied to poor warthogs because they are so dumb that they will run from a lion and then forget why they was running and stop.

In another instance Peter started to get all theatrical. "There’s a circle in the jungle, lions kill a zebra and then the hyenas come to eat what’s left then the buzzards. Then the hyenas come back because the buzzards can’t crack the bones." 

"You mean, like a circle of life?" 

"Yes." 


I’m a bad person.


Our first move was Lake Naivasha.






We sprung for the boat ride.




There were a lot of water birds around. I don't really understand if these trees had been on dry land previously or what but now they were definitely in the middle of the lake and had no leaves. They were at least a good place for birds to hang out and plan their next move.




I was interested it what this aquatic plant was that was all over the place. According to our guide it was water hyacinth.


Our guide was very knowledgeable. I'm sure Peter was happy to get a break from us back on shore.


I picked some of its flowers for Lydia. What a hero.






We motored around an island that was full of many of the classic safari animals that we had just spent so much time searching for. We should have just come here first! Our guide said that some of the films Out of Africa and Born Free were filmed here.


There were zebras.


Our guide said that this hippo lazing around by himself was a bachelor.


We could always count on the birds to break up any awkward silences that may have arose.


There were giraffes, too. It was quite a party island.


I've never seen anything but a goose or a duck fly in a V formation but cormorants were doing it over the lake. I've read conflicting material about this but I think that the deal is that cormorants are less waterproof than many water birds, and so they need to hold our their wings like this to dry themselves after diving for fish.




Back in the Land Cruiser I stole some of Peter's wifi to check Facebook and I got this interesting "Free Facebook" that I believe is a paired down, no frill version available to developing nations that doesn't count against their cell phone's data usage. Pretty cool and pretty ugly.


There were monkeys hanging out on the side of the highway.


It's funny now that I've been in Kenya a few days I'm realizing... zebras are just everywhere. To me they are rare and majestic beauties but they seem to be as common and boring around here as squirrels.


I read that bbq was famous in the region so I had Peter take us to a local joint: Gatuya Grill in Kikopey.


Of course we first had to meet the meat, and the butcher.




He chopped up a few samples of different things for us.




I was really amused that their soap dispenser was this soda bottle with a hole poked in the lid.


They came and chopped the meat off the bone for us as our table.


The presentation of the meal was definitely unique. So we got the meat handled, but then the staff brought out multiple plates of prepared sides and then Peter pointed to a couple which they left at the table and whisked the rest away. There was also no silverware. We just picked up big hunks of whatever this was, dipped it in that little pile of salt on the corner of the cutting board, and popped it in our mouths.

This was a rare opportunity to chat up Peter as he was usually preoccupied with driving. I asked him "Do you eat bbq once a week?"
"No you’ll get gout. Maybe twice a month."

I asked Peter if he ever ate bush animals and he said his village used to set like wire noose traps for buffalo because they would eat their crops. Then they’d eat the buffalo. I missed a good opportunity to make a buffalo wings joke and now I have to live with that failure the rest of my days.  










Bruno the tour company office man and Peter were having a good laugh at my expense. Peter said my face was red when he came to pick us up yesterday from the kidnap hotel, and that she had driven me “mad”. I mean, when you’re in a strange land and your hotel owner tells you she won’t allow you to leave, I feel like some counter action is in order. I’m fine with how I handled it. Plus Bruno was the one that told us that yesterday was the last day for flights out of the country which seems to not have been true, so whatever. I guess the hotel lady has been trying to call Bruno to apologize but he hasn’t been answering. I imagine he directed some amount of business to that hotel in the past but it sounds like he’s done with that place. It was kind of gross anyway. I was personally more comfortable in the tents. At least when your house has a zipper you can be reasonably assured that the bugs will stay outside. That place was full of open windows and doors that wouldn’t close correctly. 


Our last safari hurrah was at Lake Nakuru National Park.










I decided now that I was a safari veteran that I would stay standing while the vehicle was in motion. This produced mixed results.








Is there a more pathetic sight than watching a baby monkey drinking mud water out of a human shoe print?




I will be sad to finally leave the Land Cruiser. I’ve spent a lot of time in it having many adventures as well as a lot of good naps. 




We watched this amusing comedy play out for some time. There was a lion snoozing in the shade and a line of zebras tiptoed past, stopping every now and then to stare at the lion. I think some of them were stupid enough to change their mind and then repeat the entire process in reverse. It brought to mind one of those conveyor belt sushi restaurants.






We saw some rhinos which was a new one for us. We had to stay pretty far away though. So, you know, they didn't smash our car and eat us.






I believe these gangly guys are waterbucks, which would make this our first sighting of the trip.




















Our last wish once back in Nairobi was to go to the mall on the way to the hotel.




I got some snacks in this gigantic shopping back that said "AFRICA" really big on the side in order to better fit in with the locals.


I got some liquid snacks as well.


I don't think we realized that Peter wouldn't be the one picking us up tomorrow for the airport so we didn't really get a proper goodbye. He was both professional and personable and it was a pleasure getting to know him. We messaged each other quite a bit after we returned to the US, probably partly because neither of us had a damn thing else to do since everything was locked down due to the plague.


Our last night in-country was at the Crowne Plaza Nairobi. The place was like a mausoleum. We may have been the only guests in the building. The hallways were so dark that I had to use a flashlight to get around. The power had been shut off to our room and we had to call maintenance to get it turned back on. This trip was just going to get weirder and scarier every last minute that it trudged on.