Thursday, February 20, 2014

Kenya Day Four - Meeting Poco

Thursday, February 20

Let me be clear, I'm all for folks not wanting to live the safari style I prefer (which is do as damn much game driving as possible) however I do take offense to it when it affects me when you don't want to.  To wit, self-righteous twenty-something who demands to sleep in this morning but be picked up by the vehicle I'm in at 8:30, meaning the rest of us get practically no early morning game ride because we are tethered to this location.  Just a note for those reading this, go along with the group.  No, seriously, just shut up and do it.

Rant over.  In all honesty today didn't turn out so bad, but I am still riding high from yesterday, which was just about perfect, what with me having all day game rides and a walk to myself.  I will continue to savor that.

I slept so well and without assistance from Ambien.  It was much warmer last night and the hot water bottle became oppressive, as did the light fleece I slept in before.  I woke a few times to noises outside, mostly hyena, but at 5:30 I heard the familiar roar of my lion friends, and smiled.

Off I went with one other guest at 6:30, after my hot chocolate and oatmeal raisin cookies delivered by a faceless voice at 6:00 am singing out "good morning Amy".  Ah, I could get used to this.

As I said, we had fairly limited room to roam on this game drive and Benjamin said most of the predators would be on the east (opposite of west, where we are) in the morning.  Still, we managed to sneak in a spectacular but fleeting sighting of a black rhino, standing stoically in a clearing for a split second before he darted off into the bush.  That was quite memorable.  They are so skittish that they are hard to spot and have a sustained sighting, so to have one at all was pretty cool (our other sightings to this point were of white rhinos only).  There are 102 black rhinos roaming Ol Pejeta and only 7 white that are not in the sanctuary (I've seen 5 of those).

Other than that, we had some pretty standard sightings of hyena, jackals and birds. Today would be a pretty notable day for birds.  This morning we saw a step eagle, weavers, tawny eagle and a whole bunch of vultures who we think were looking over a kill, but damned if we could find it.

We returned for breakfast at 8:30 and I had cereal, some of those awesome pancakes and a scrambled egg on toast.  Good glory that was fine!  As always, I'm eating extremely well here.  Oh and did I mention the giraffe that was out on the salt lick near the mess hall as we ate?  Yeah, that's pretty cool too.

All of us headed out for the second half of the morning game drive.  Our first sighting was of a giraffe who turned out to have a broken front leg, which was quite sad.  She was hardly putting any weight on it and Benjamin said she'd most likely become someone's meal as she can't get away and will be easy prey.  That was really the first heartbreaking thing I'd seen here.

We passed some waterbuck with Grant's gazelle and saw in a flash two more of the elusive black rhino running across the road.  By the time we got to them though, they were already well under cover in the bush.

Our next stop was the the Chimpanzee Sanctuary, which was founded by Jane Goodall.  Chimps from other parts of Africa have been rescued and brought here to live out their lives.  Although chimps are not native to Kenya, the sanctuary has been designed and planted to resemble their natural habitat.  There are two quite large enclosures, one holding 24 and another holding 15 chimps.  The place is so big, we only saw two chimps total!  Poco and Socrates are two of the oldest chimps there.  Poco has terrible cataracts and shields his eyes from the sun, but he loves attention from the ladies.  My first instinct when he approached the fence was to get on my knees and talk to him.  He seemed to respond to the attention somewhat but ultimately moved on to recline in a shady spot.  Later on, we came upon him again, and I again got down on my knees and spoke to him for several minutes.  When I stood to continue along the fence, he walked along with me, the entire length of the fence, as if entertaining me right back.  I was really touched by this. Poco had had a hard life, living nine years in a cage hanging over a gas station, only being able to crouch or stand upright (indeed now he can actually walk upright as a result!).  So to have given him some positive attention made me feel pretty good.

Leaving the sanctuary, it was now quite warm again and the sun was out.  We continued our drive looking for any form of cat, but passing drivers were telling our driver Nicholas that they weren't having much luck either.  We found the two rhinos with the baby from yesterday again, as well as the five oryx.

One thing that was a new sighting for me was three bull elephants (males live apart from the females and young). What made this sighting interesting was that two of the males were fighting each other, banging heads and tusks, swinging trunks and pushing each other.  Benjamin said it wasn't serious fighting but probably just play.

The only other notable sighting today was the African Fish Eagle, which looks a whole lot like our American Eagle at home.

By this time it had well clouded over, gotten significantly cooler (after being uncomfortably warm walking around the chimp sanctuary) and was about to pour down rain as we pulled in for lunch.  Two new arrivals from New Zealand had arrived, Jennifer and Rosemarie.  They are making a 6 week journey around Africa and I'll be catching up with them again in Porini Lion at the end of my stay.

Lunch today was beef kabobs, carrot slaw, rice and a tomato and cucumber salad with a mango ice cream, which was delicious.  As it was pouring down hard now, we took a quick break back in our respective tents and gathered up again at 4:30 for a game ride, which only the new arrivals and I were interested in.  We waited until about 5, sitting on the covered veranda eating cookies and watching the rain, when the rain lightened up enough to not need to close the vehicle up.

We had Daniel as a driver and Little John as the guide, so I wondered if perhaps they had terrain I hadn't covered here yet.  This would most likely be my last game ride in Ol Pejeta, so I was hoping for something great.  Just after the rain it seemed like the only ones interested in being out were the zebras and a handful of impala.  We found another sullen hyena, looking like he hated every minute of being wet.  Daniel kept stopping to use binoculars to scan the horizon, and not too long after we went out, he pointed straight ahead of us, where I could see on the crest of the hill a magnificent male lion standing there waiting.  Better still, his brother was with him.

These two young males (still had the cub spots on their legs and very thinly grown manes) were sitting with each other just surveying a very open plane.  They took turns sitting, standing, surveying and finally cleaning each other, rubbing chins on foreheads and licking each other dry.  I was in cat lover heaven...and I was only about 25 feet away from all of this.  What was just incredible was that they kept looking right at us, completely seeing that we were right there watching them, and they didn't do a thing about it.  I felt blessed to be there at that minute, as the light of the day faded away, watching these two brothers look after each other.  After a few yawns and a couple of attempted cat naps, they stood up and strode proudly away, two boys getting ready for a night out on the savannah, I guess.  I was in heaven.  Just a perfect ending to my stay here.  And, for Ms. Self Righteous who didn't join us on this ride, karma.

While waiting for dinner, I discovered gin and tonic.  This was the first drink I'd had since I've been here and figured I'd cap my three nights at Ol Pejeta with a traditional safari drink.  Good glory, I'll need to look that up more often.

Dinner tonight was roasted chicken with sweet potatoes, steamed rice and zucchini.  Dessert was a really nice cheese/orange souffle.  We sat and talked for a while, which was really nice, then bid each other goodbye and retreated to our showers and hot water bottle warmed bed, which will feel nice after the cool dampness of the game ride.

The staff here have been wonderful.  Benjamin as a guide was great.  Daniel and Nicholas as drivers were wonderful in some very tough conditions.  All of the house staff were friendly and knew me by name from minute one.  Harry the Roving Manager and Benjamin in particular were just great, always remembering what we'd forgotten and looking after little details for each of us.  I will be sad to leave here, but the Masai Mara calls.

One rub, the Masai guiding us back to our tents and pointed to the ground.  All I heard was "snake" to whomever told me they don't come out at night, you lied. Technically I did not see it, but I know it's out there.  So I shrieked like a sissy girl and pushed the Masai ahead of me down the path to my tent.  He laughed and zipped me in tight and wished me good night.  And so ends my stay at Porini Rhino.

No comments: