Friday, February 17, 2017

Back in the Mara

Last night we ate in the hotel restaurant since it was an early to bed night.  I had a four cheese pizza and a gin cocktail.  The pizza was actually quite good.  We weren't so impressed with the room we got for this one night stay at Lemigo Hotel.  It was in an older part of the building and it left a lot to be desired.  We went to bed around 9:15 and were woken up repeatedly by loud people in the hall smoking and talking.  I finally got up at 3:45 and took a shower since I was so hot all night long that I felt dirty.  We met Tim in the lobby at 4:30 and off we went.

Tim and Cyrus were a great combination and they took excellent care of us.  I have no doubt that going with Treks2Rwanda was the right choice for us.  Tim appreciated our quest for knowledge and our warped senses of humor and he played into both.  Cyrus was quiet and gentle but always looked after us with a smile.  I'll miss them both as we move on to Nairobi and the Mara.

Today is basically a transit day.  The goal is to get from here to Mara North a conservancy in the Maasai Mara National Park area.  To get there, we fly Kigali to Nairobi on Rwandair.  I'd thought since I booked this flight last June that it stopped in Entebbe first and arrived in Nairobi at 10:40.  In reality, it goes to Nairobi first and we were had arrived at 9:10.  I worried this whole time that we wouldn't be able to make the connection to Wilson Airport by 3 for the flight to the Mara.  In reality, we retrieved our luggage, exchanged money, met our driver and got to Wilson by 10:30 and checked our bags.  The driver we had took us to the Aviation Club near the airstrip and let us sit in the restaurant, where we will gladly suck back coffee and have a late breakfast while we kill time until 2.  The huevos rancheros here are to die for, as is the iced latte.  Now if I could just scratch the itch I've been having for a chocolate chip cookie, I'd be golden.

All this time to kill before we leave for the Mara.  Sigh.

Thinking about our accommodations I think I'd endorse the place near Volcanoes National Park we were bumped to the first night over where we ended up.  We had booked into Mountain Gorilla View Lodge, which was a good-sized lodge made up of individual cabins.  Ours was a good distance from the dining area which was a pain when we were post-trek and sore.  The room and bathroom had seen far better days.  At one point my foot went through the floorboard in the bathroom and there was a fast growing mushroom in our shower.  The food was always buffet style and a bit limited for vegetarian options.  I managed to eat enough but not a good balance of protein and carbs.  The vegetables here were incredibly fresh and well prepared though.

On our first night we were at Da Vinci Lodge, which has only been open for 7 months and hasn't yet ramped up for business.  We were the only guests and very well tended to.  I liked the room a lot better there, it was newer, better kept and didn't feel as run down.  The food was a limited a la carte menu but decent enough.  Had I a choice again, I'd likely go with Da Vinci.  The service was far better (hello, foot massage!) and the accommodations were just nicer.

After we killed all that time in the Aviation Club restaurant, we finally went back to Safarilink and took our flight to the Mara.  I wish I could say it was smooth but it was actually pretty bumpy.  Uncomfortably so.  There were a bunch of storms around and we seemed to be going through all of them.  It left both of us kind of queasy and that lingered into our first game ride.

We arrived at the Mara North airstrip right at 4 and were greeted by Kappen and David.  I was psyched to see it was them, because their stellar guiding reputation precedes them, at least in the online safari world.  We chatted a bit, saw a cute little family of hyenas (the pups are cute when they're little!).  I asked if they'd seen Amani the cheetah, who I saw in Olare Motorogi in 2014 and I knew she'd been around here a bit.  They said she disappeared for a while in January but just returned a couple of days ago, so there's hope I'll get to see her.  They've also seen Malaika's newly independent cubs around too, so maybe we'll bump into them.

The rest of the game ride continued as we looked for the Offbeat pride of lions.  That's the resident pride in Mara North closest to the Offbeat camp.  It didn't take too much work before we spotted them down along the river.  There were a few lionesses and a bunch of cubs of different ages.  This is already a bonus because I didn't get to see any tiny cubs last year and already I was seeing about 5!  Kappen told us that the littlest cub was named Lucky, because he and his sister were born to a mother who couldn't produce milk.  The sister cub died but Lucky was taken on by an auntie who had a set of cubs and would nurse him too.  I decided there and then I need to take Lucky home with me!  We came across this group of lions a couple times as we headed back towards camp and they were heading (it seems) towards a kill they had hidden somewhere.  Excellent start to the safari.

Offbeat Mara is a great camp.  Six tents nestled into some bushes.  We're in tent 4,  I think.  Dinner tonight was beet risotto appetizer which was excellent.  My entree was a stuffed pepper that was wonderful.  Dessert was a blueberry cake with sticky toffee pudding sauce.  The Cabernet Sauvignon is wonderful too. This was by far our best meal of the trip so far, but I sort of expected it.

Bed by 10, early rise for morning game drive.

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