We landed in Nairobi at about 7:00 a.m. after two days of flying and went through customs (noticing all the posted Ebola warning signs on the wall). No big deal. We were picked up along with our fellow travelers by the guides and taken to our hotel to check in. We had a chance to meet with our 10 fellow travelers who came from various parts of the US. It turns out that some of them were very nice (3), one was a very very large 79 year old woman, there were two self-obsessed people, one aggressive bird watcher, two rich crazy people and their interpreter/mediator. Overall the group didn’t differ that much from the folks ship-wrecked on Gilligan’s island. This will be a nice way to see Africa I thought.
Anyway, our guides seemed to have no idea that we’d been traveling for two days so after an hour at the hotel we headed off to see the highlights of Nairobi, both of them. Let me put it this way, I strongly recommend everyone see Kenya. You will see wonderful and amazing things. It will change your life. I would also recommend that when you go there get the hell out of Nairobi as quickly as possible. Be that as it may we had a travel transition day there before we headed to where the wild things are. What was most notable that first day (besides my intense desire to take a nap) was our visit to the home of writer Karen Blixen. She apparently was a serial name-changer and had about four different names that she wrote under, the most prominent being Isak Dinesan. She is most famous for her book “Out of Africa.”
This autobiographical book became a big deal movie many years ago starring Robert Redford and Meryl Streep. I never have seen that movie. At the time it looked to me like it was a combination of a National Geographic special, with lots of flying flamingos and then they throw this sappy love story into the middle of it. I figured I’d just stay home and watch National Geographic. From what I can recall it didn’t have a single car chase scene, so I skipped it. I’m sure I’m much more mature now and would love to see a good romantic movie.
But what I didn’t know is that Dinesan had also written the book Babette’s Feast. Now that actually is one of my favorite all time movies. Its a story about this woman who is the best chef ever but has to flee France to live in this very stark Danish seaside town. Her cooking transforms the hearts of some small people and their world opens up to love. Granted there weren’t any good car chases in this movie either, probably because its set sometime in the 1800s plus the Danish have never built any good cars even though they excel at sweetrolls, but still its a pretty good movie. Knowing Dinesan wrote Babette’s Feast made the journey to her home worth it.
The next morning we packed up, jumped in one of the two vans and prepared to head north about six hours to Samburu National Park. Our first game drive was ahead and I was anticipating seeing all the animals in their natural environment for the first time (except for a few of the ponies I see regularly down at the racetrack). This would be making a lifelong dream come true. But there was a problem. It turned out there were demonstrations in downtown Nairobi and all the roads through town were filled with burning tires. This forced us, along with the rest of Nairobi to take the alternate route. What followed was the most amazing traffic jam I’ve ever been in. We were on a two lane road (one lane in each direction) which suddenly transformed itself into five lanes, four of which were coming at us. Cars were using the side of the road as a lane, they used ditches as lanes. This was my first free-range traffic jam. It was so bad drivers were getting out of cars and directing traffic and telling which lanes to merge with each other. Then in the middle of all this with cars bumper-to-bumper going every which way, in come some Masai herders with all of their cows walking through the whole mess. I’m not talking about one of two cows. There must have been 50-75 of them. It turns out that the one traffic law in all of Kenya that everyone agrees to is that Masai herders and their cows have the right of way.
Ultimately, we made it through and found the clear highway north. From this point on the trip became MAGIC.
I’ll continue with the trip in the next post. However at this point you’re probably thinking, ‘OK, two posts about a safari and not one damn wild animal picture. OK, I’ll leave you with this: