Monday, September 16, 2013

JAMBO! (part 1)

We just returned from an unbelievable experience in Africa!  i literally took over 1000 photos but Hakuna Matata! (No Worries) i will only share the highlights.  i heard a trip like this would be amazing but it far exceeded my expectations.

We had the privilege of traveling with our "oldest Dubai friends". We met the Lloyd family before we even moved to Dubai.  We met while touring schools for our kids during our preview trip to Dubai 2 years ago.  Fast forward, now our are kids are playing together on the edge of a crater in Kenya.

(Oh, and for the record, we are on Safari which means no hairdryer, curling iron, make up or stylish clothes.  Think Out of Africa only without a stylist, so no judging on wardrobe choices in pics below...)

We started off in Nairobi which is only a 4.5 hour flight from Dubai.  The plan was to stay the night there before heading off to Mt. Kenya early the next morning.  That is until the men discovered the world famous restaurant, CARNIVORE which serves all sorts of meat all night long on very large skewers until you can't handle another bite.



It had better been worth it as Nairobi traffic was in full form that night.  Two families had to ride in 3 separate cabs for almost 2 hours just to travel 7 kilometers for these precious piles of meat.  Some of us were even able to see first hand political unrest with tear gas, rocks thrown at cars and people fleeing at the sound of loud shots.  Welcome to Nairobi!   


Fun Facts:
Poinsettias grow randomly around Mt Kenya



Hotel isn't what you think...  It is a small room to have a cup of tea or possibly a side of meat

Internal flights around Kenya are beautiful with animals often blocking the grass runway.  

No gate numbers, no security check point, one emailed bar code for all 9 passengers is all you need as proof of ticket, less than stellar washrooms 


BUT... there is still Duty Free Shopping!


MT KENYA
The kids played Rock, Paper, Scissors on either side of the equator.





The water really does swirl in different directions on opposite sides of the hemisphere.


Chris pulling out his African mojo to dance across the equator.

Before observing animals in the wild, the kiddos had some first hand experience.

Riley feeding a dik-dik ~ the smallest antelope


Feeding monkeys from the tops of heads.

Taking Speedy the Tortoise out for a spin.  
Old guy can hold up to 200 pounds.

Feeding a Pygmy Hippo


One of Ry's highlights was the morning we took an early morning horseback ride through the alpine terrain to enjoy breakfast with views of Mt Kenya, the highest mountain in Kenya.





While we feasted on breakfast, an armed guard kept watch over us in case a dangerous animal should happen by. 

~Next stop ~ 
The Great Rift Valley


We drove from Mt Kenya to Lake Nakuru which gave us a wonderful glimpse of the beautiful Kenyan people.

The constant exuberant wave and beautiful smile of the children stole my heart!


We often passed donkeys on the road lugging carts stacked with supplies.  These are transporting water.

i actually saw a woman gracefully balancing & walking down the street with a 5 gallon water bottle on her head...No hands!  i especially admired her skill considering i can barely lift mine onto the water dispenser.   Unfortunately i wasn't able to capture the picture.   

If you are lucky enough to journey down a paved road, drivers will still choose the side of the road as it is often the less bumpy route. 

We ended up at Maili Saba which is a tented lodge located on the the very edge of a dormant volcano.  



The view from our "tent" was stunning. (And by "tent" i mean GLAMPING... as in.. we didn't put it up, it has 2 rooms, a built in toilet, shower & electricity.)  Better yet was the service we received here!  This lodge was started by a European philanthropist who desired to improve upon the life of the local Kenyans.  The majority of the staff at this particular lodge are older orphaned children who are learning the service industry in order to make a better life for themselves.  They were so honest and shared their brave stories with me.  



No better place in the world to play Mancala!

In the morning we would wake up, check out the baboons & the steam rising from the dormant volcano.  


After 3 days of relaxing we FINALLY took our first safari drive!!


 At Lake Nakuru after breakfast, the boys wander out of the jeep for a closer view of the wildlife.

Oh, the excitement at the first carcass sighting!


Lake Nakuru is renowned for its pink flamingos, rhinos & zebra.  Unfortunately, we missed the majority of the flamingos as we didn't get the memo that Lake Nakuru is the most flooded it has been in 20 years & the flamingos moved on to Lake Victoria some 6 hours away.  We still were able to see some brilliantly colored birds.


Following a picnic lunch our driver assured us he had a dream about a lion while driving.  i asked him if that meant we would only see a lion in our dreams on this trip.  He assured me that when he has a dream about a lion he always spots one.  (i am wondering at this point how he is both driving us through wild animal territory & having dreams but anyways....)

There on the road, almost blocking our path he found one!  You should have heard him yell, "I win! I win!"  We were in awe of the things we saw at Lake Nakuru yet it was just a tiny glimpse of what we would see at 

MASAI MARA!

We flew to Masai Mara on a teeny tiny plane.  In Kenya it is called the Masai Mara (which means spotted) but in the neighboring country of Tanzania it is called the Serengeti.   No matter what you call it, it is home to the Masai people AND the Great Migration.

First up... 

Our visit with the local Masai people


The Masai are nomadic people that live in both Kenya & Tanzania.  They build their homes out of mud and cow dung.  They are both farmers and warriors.  They own many cattle & daily guard them from the wildlife that surrounds them.  You can easily spot them far off in the distance by the bright red blanket they wear to scare off wild predators.  One of our drivers used to be a Masai warrior before he left his village and shared with us some of their culture.  They marry very young between 15-16 in arranged marriages.  The young boys ages 16-24 are required to live as a warrior for 1 1/2 years.  This entails leaving the local village and surviving out in the grasslands with nothing but a spear.  If the young man makes it back to the village after the 1 1/2 years they are celebrated.  If a young man decides he doesn't want to take the "warrior challenge" he is kicked out of the village.
  
We had the amazing opportunity to visit, talk & play with these Masai people. 

The woman welcomed us with the same song they would sing to the returning warriors.  In the Masai culture, women are typically bald while the men wear the long hair.  

When we arrived we were warmly greeted with children singing and waving to us.  But then suddenly the children all ran out of sight & we wondered what had happened.  Word traveled fast that a wayward hippo was lumbering through the village.  Although these people live very near hippos & see them all the time, it was very odd that a random hippo would be traveling all by his lonesome on this path.  Our visit was put on hold as everyone ran out to watch it pass by.  They alerted us of how dangerous it was to have a hippo this close to the village.  Even with this distance between us the hippo could easily chase us down as they are very fast & kill more people than any other predator.  However, the Masai mud houses were enough to protect us from animals.  
Whew!?   



Ry was given a traditional necklace to wear.  These types of necklaces are given as gifts instead of wedding rings during a wedding.  
(Hakuna Matata!  Although Ry now wants to live in Africa we didn't marry her off while we were there.)  

The Masai are known for being very tall and thin.  They also can jump extremely high. 


Their diet consists of soup made from cattle bones, milk from cows along with blood from the cow that is drained from the neck and then patched up.  They sang us songs, taught the kids how to make fire

  
and showed us around their village



We were able to sit with the Chief in one of the houses as he told us tales and life in his village.  We sat by the only light in the dark hut, a hole in the side of the wall which served as a window.  
"Men can have up to 10 wives... women are the ones who build the mud huts...only men make the fire.  Marriages can be arranged as early as birth which is when the dowry payment must commence... 20 cows is quite a high price for a wife... at ages 10-11 we take a knife to pierce the ear and put a piece of tree in the hole to stretch it." 

 i asked him if i could take a picture of his ears since i hadn't ever seen such a thing.  He kindly responded that he heard that people in my country (USA) did the same sort of thing. (ahem)



i think my favorite part of the village trip was attempting to play tag with the children.  These kids literally have nothing and were so excited to see us.  They speak Masai and all we can say in the neighboring Swahili language is "Hello, Thank you, & Goodbye" but like all children world wide they understand a smile when they see it and how to  play!

My Kyle is a fast sprinter but he quickly learned he is no match for a Kenyan as he tried to dodge a much younger boy!  Riley on the other hand was in it only for the fun and let herself get caught.  In the end the Masai children never completely grasped the rules of the game but the beaming smiles stark against those ebony faces told me it wasn't the game itself that mattered.  Even though we couldn't communicate one spoken word to each other we shared something more priceless, smiles and laughter! 

   
That's all for this post.  

Next post will be filled with wild animal gore & excitement.  
It IS after all GREAT MIGRATION season which is why we came here in the first place.

   


5 comments:

Lyndsay said...

Oh my goodness friend, you took the trip of my dreams! I loved reading your blog and it makes me want to go there all the more. What an amazing experience! I can't wait for part two.

K Bartel said...

Love living vicariously through you in all your adventures!

grandpa said...

Enjoyed part 1, Looking forward to more. Did your driver speak english? and Kyle looks like a real GI in that long sleeved shirt. Chris did pretty good on the equator!!! LOve ya all.

Mom said...

My heart was moved by your love for the people, Tami. Beautiful blog!!

Betty said...

What an amazing journey! Are these experiences typical of safari trips? It certainly seems like you saw life as it's lived daily by the Kenyans.