4th September 2008
It was an early start for the longest leg of our safari – Amboseli to Nyeri, north of Nairobi, a distance of approximately 250 miles on Kenyan roads! A short distance after we left Ol Tukai, one of the other passengers spotted a Cheetah sitting by the roadside. However, by the time George had stopped and reversed, the Cheetah was walking off into the bush. Such is the nature of a driving safari, the drivers will stop if any wildlife is spotted en route. As we neared Namanga Gate, where we exited the park, we came across a trio of Lions.
Over five hours later we reached Nairobi and its traffic! Our route had taken us from Amboseli, across to the A104 Tanzanian Highway at Namanga, within 100 yards of the border; and then northwards on the highway to Nairobi.
Our lunch stop was at The Lord Errol restaurant on Ruaka Road. Built in the old colonial style, with beautiful grounds, we sat on the verandah sat and watched Crowned Cranes and Hammerkop wander the beautifully manicured lawns, as we enjoyed lunch. Nearby, Black Kites were sitting in the tree tops.
The Crowned Crane is the national bird of neighbouring Tanzania. The Hammerkop, is a water bird that derives its name from its large “hammer-shaped” crested head and short neck. While it looks much like a duck in stature, it is actually more related to Herons or Storks.
Setting out from Nairobi after lunch, we headed north on the Thika Road. At one point George started to feel tired, so we pulled into one of the many “curio shops” that you can find on Kenya’s main roads. While George had a cup of coffee, we browsed the beadwork and wooden carvings on sale.
Setting off again, we hadn’t gone far when our Land Rover started to overheat. George pulled over, and assisted by the other drivers and a local lad, who went to fetch water, he soon had us back on the road.
Just under an hour later we reached Nyeri, where Lord Baden-Powell, the founder of the Boy Scout movement, is buried. Our overnight accommodation was at the Outspan Hotel, where Sandra and I found we had been allocated an enormous room, more like a suite, which had two bathrooms and a balcony overlooking the valley and its tea plantations.
5th September 2008
By the time we got up the following morning, George had already left to drive to the nearest Land Rover dealership, some 60 kilometres north, to try and get our vehicle repaired. Meanwhile we set out in one of the minibuses in our group, driven by Ki.
At Nanyuki, we pulled off the road at the point where it crosses the Equator. Here there was a row of crude shacks which served as curio shops. However, to our amusement each one was decorated to represent a British football team! Most startling of all was the “Manchester United shop”, painted in Manchester City’s blue!
Ki dropped us off here while he went on ahead to see how George was getting on with the repair. while we waited we were treated to a demonstration of the effects of the gravitational pull of the Earth at the Equator. This was demonstrated by pouring water through a hole into a bowl. In the Northern Hemisphere the water flows in a clockwise direction as it passes through the hole; in the Southern Hemisphere, it flows anti-clockwise; while right on the Equator it flows straight down! All in the space of a few metres. We were also able to purchase “Crossing the Line” certificates at the princely sum of 400 Kenyan Shillings each (about £4) – a very worthwhile souvenir of such an auspicious moment such as crossing the Equator.
On the Equator
Ki returned with the news that George hoped to rejoin us at Samburu this evening. With this news, we set off again.
On reaching the Samburu National Reserve we came across Elephants, Zebra and Beisa Oryx, the latter only being found in north-east Kenya. The Beisa Oryx, with is long scimitar like horns, is often described as the “Spirit of the Desert embodied in an Antelope”.
When we reached it, the lodge was located on the banks of the Ewaso Ngiro river. Having checked in and taken our bags to our room, we spent the afternoon watching a Samburu dance group performing.
The Samburu men demonstrate their prowess at jumping
The Samburu people
The Samburu people are a sub-tribe of the Maasai, confined to north-central Kenya. Like their Maasai cousins, they are semi-nomadic pastoralists who measure a man’s status and wealth in the head of cattle, sheep and goats that he owns. The name they use for themselves is “Lokop” or “Loikop”, a term which has a variety of meanings, something which not even the Samburu can agree on! Many, however, assert that it refers to them as “owners of the land” (“lo” refers to ownership; “nkop” is land).
A group of Samburu girls sing and perform traditional dances
Our afternoon game drive brought sightings of Somali Ostrich, Giraffes, and Elephants – the highlight being a baby taking milk from its mother, just 50 feet or so away from us!
On returning to the lodge we watched Nile Crocodiles coming out of the river to be fed by the staff on huge joints of meat. The crunching of bones as they devoured the meat that was thrown to them, was incredible!
6th September 2008
We were up early for our morning game drive, which produced a large heard of Beisa Oryx and several herds of Elephants. As we crossed a river, we spotted a small Crocodile lurking, waiting for any unwary animal as it came to drink!
Back at the lodge, after breakfast we browsed the shop and then chilled out while occasionally thwarting the criminal attempts of the Vervet Monkeys who were out to steal anything they could lay their hands on.
The Ewaso Ngiro River
On the far side of the river, Giraffe and Waterbuck could be seen; while a Sacred Ibis was wading in the water, no doubt looking for its next meal. Closer to where we were sat, a Glossy Ibis was wandering. We were seeing things that previously we had only seen on television wildlife programmes, but now they were close up and very real!
Sadly when it came time for the afternoon game drive we learned that George would not be rejoining us. Instead we were reallocated to a vehicle occupied by two couples and driven by Justice. This afternoon we saw large numbers of Giraffes, as well as Oryx and Elephants; then, just as we were giving up hope… …two Lionesses were spotted lying in the shade.