Saturday, February 20, 2016

Day Five - Stuck in a Moment I Can't Get Out Of

Today will go down as the day that I played Tetris in the Maasai Mara Reserve for 45 minutes while I waited for another car to rescue me from the one that had broken down.  Yes, it happened AGAIN.

But I'll get to that.  The day started off well enough indeed.  I had a very solid night's sleep, out cold around 10:30 and awake at 5:30.  I didn't hear anything all night long, fortunately for the sake of good sleep, unfortunately for wanting to hear lions in the night.  My wake up call came at 6 and was coffee and juice and the peanut butter criss cross cookies I liked in the car yesterday.  I hardly had time to eat them before the askani came to take me down to the car.  It was 6:18 when I left here.

It was not Jasper from Porini Mara but Jephson (?) and Ben.  Jephson remembered me from before and also took my friend Jackie a couple weeks ago, so we had that in common.  Off we went for a day in the Mara Reserve.  We had to leave Naboisho Conservancy where I am now, cross through Maasai lands and through Olare Motorogi Conservancy to get to the Reserve.  That took about 90 minutes to 2 hours, I would guess. Leaving Naboisho, I had the spot of the day when I spied three lions in the predawn light off to our left.  It turns out they were young males, likely brothers, coming in from a night out to sleep in a bush.  I was beside myself with joy.  Being in the conservancy we could drive right up to them and move with them as they headed toward the thicket where they'd likely sleep the rest of the day.  We estimated they were about 4 years old as their manes weren't grown in yet but for a mohawk up and over their heads.  Very handsome boys, what a thrill!!

Then there wasn't really much but scenery until we got to the Reserve.  The grass is insanely high there, with it being so frustrating to think that there may be cats asleep just about anywhere and we can't see at all.  Instead we're looking for a flick of a tail or a depression in the grass to tell us something is there. 

Fortunately, we hit a somewhat open area where there were a few cars gathered and found a mother cheetah with three young cubs walking across the grass.  It turns out this was Imani, daughter of Amani, both of whom I saw last time. Imani and her two brothers had just broken with Amani and were still a threesome when I last saw her in the Reserve.  Right after I left Kenya last time, Imani left her brothers, as female cheetahs do.  She had three 8-month cubs following her today, which is just incredible to see.  She is at the point now where she's teaching them to hunt, and my guides thought she looked like she is in the hunting mood, but the foursome settled under a low tree and we decided we'd come back later to check on her.

We headed toward the Mara River to look for crocs and hippos and to see the crossing points.  Not so many crocs this time but about 100 hippos at different points along the river.  That was sort of neat.

Bush breakfast was served around 9:30 and was pretty good:  a nice museli with peanuts, hard boiled eggs and home made bread with jam, apple juice and coffee.  I was full for a while from that.

At some point we realized the left rear tire had blown.  After that it was all a blur.  Insert that, plus the two spares going flat.  Insert having to wait an hour for a replacement vehicle.  Insert me waiting that hour out playing Tetris on my phone.  Hey, you don't bring a book and an iPod on a game drive, it was all I can do not to scream at that point, and I'd stood outside the car so much (can't stay in it all jacked up) that I am almost sunburnt and I think I have heat rash on my arm.  Insert my guide accidentally  dumping my day bag and camera in the land rover, and the camera not turning back on (ultimately fixed but still harrowing).  But hey, the worst day on safari is still better than my best day at work, right?

Finally we were back on the road only to find the replacement car's starter failed.  Hoods were popped, things were finagled with, all the while I was playing with the manual settings on my camera and shooting the same topi with different focal lengths and  apertures.  At least that time I had something besides waist high grass to look at.

Interestingly, this time I'm finding the quantity of some animals in particular to be much more than I remember.  Warthogs are high in number this time, especially piglets.  Topi are in abundance, even massive herds of them.  Eland are more prominent than I remember, not in herds but I've seen more than I remember.  I wonder if this has to do with the same reasoning for the high grass or whether certain species growth spurts are cyclical, who knows.

We came across a set of ostriches, four males trying to court a female.  That was rather funny as the males would lift their wings to reveal pale bare legs that reminded me of Moulin Rouge dancers.  The female seemed unimpressed, but it was quite the show for me.  We also found a group of about 12 ostriches, most of them young, just milling about.  I saw only one adult, so wonder if that's a babysitter or if all those are really her kids?

On our way back, we passed a very newly born impala with its mom.  It was so tiny and unsteady on its feet, but it seemed that all it could do was jump rather than run or walk.  It was really kind of funny!

As the sun started to set, I decided to opt out of a sundowner in order to get back here and gather my senses again.  It wasn't the best day and it was hard for me not to dwell on this.  Tomorrow is a new day and we start again.  I just need time to clear my head and hit the reset button.  I was so relaxed coming out of Tawi Lodge, I don't want to lose that over something I can't control.

We started the day on the road as we ended it, with the three mohawk brother lions.  My guides spotted two of them in the tall grass and we were able to pull up right next to them.  Both ended up flopping over for sleep as I took their photos.  That left the question, where was the third guy?  We made a pass around the grasses nearby and came up empty.  Then as we drove on, we saw a shadowy figure lying on the other side of the river.  We crossed over and there he was, lying in wait for some poor soul to come drink at the river.  What handsome boys they are.

Returned tonight to take a quick shower and lay out my clothes for tomorrow.  I kept hearing a sick-sounding cow noise right near my tent, which I think is a hyena.  No one else heard it, but I am the furthest from anything so maybe it's just me hearing it.

Dinner tonight was good on all front.  The somewhat annoying British elderly folks left today and were replaced by some pretty cool Canadian retirees.  The meal itself was split pea soup and a barbecue.  The BBQ was really just grilled veggie kabobs for me, but there was ugali (African polenta) with creamed spinach and a really good homemade salsa that was big chunks of tomato and pepper.  A peanut butter cake with chocolate sauce was dessert.  I had the "Unbelievable Red" wine tonight which was quite good.

Tomorrow we're spending the day in the conservancies, thank god.  Because the guides are from Porini in a Porini vehicle, we can also go into Ol Kinyei Conservancy (where I've been before) as well as Naboisho.  As much as I wanted to try something new, I'm desperate for good game viewing, so hope this does the trick.

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