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KENYA   18/9-2/10 1998  DIARY  2



  Photos                 Diary 1 2 3

 From Diary 1 we now head out over the savannah.
Day 5.
Hanne fetches me during breakfast; she has seen parrots in the camp trees. Rushes out and sees two red-faced parrots playing in the tree crowns. In the tree next to it sits a small hornbilled-bird. Departure at 8am. Asking at reception what a room costs (I could spend a week here). 2250 kroner per night! (or else I couldn't).

We drive through huge wheat fields, this is farmland owned by whites. When England liberated the colony, and a black government came, whites were thrown out, fired and hated. Now the mood has changed. The natives know that if they want impeccable and competent leadership, they must have whites in the posts. Bit sad, but it might change over the years.

After the wheat fields, come hills with sheep that do not leave New Zealand much left. Mount Kenya appears on the horizon, the snow is seen through the light mist.
The otherwise excellent road is suddenly interrupted by almost imperceptible large stones with a little gravel in between. We puncture, but with a joint venture, we get the wheels changed.

These long stretches of road are like high speed (80 Km / h) game drives. On this tour we see, among other things, velvet monkeys. Stop at a shop with very beautiful wood carvings and toilet and tea.
We have crossed the ridge, down to the rather dry plain, where the fantastically beautifully dressed Maasai have their herds of cattle grassing. We pass large round fences of acacia branches whose 4 centimetre-long thornes are enough to keep hyenas, lions and leopards out.

Now there are no more Grevy zebras, they are replaced by ordinary ones, who have much wider stripes. The giraffes are now the largest; Net giraffes, which reach 6.5 meters.
New animals reappear: Giraffe gazelles, Oryx, ground squirrels, unarmed eagles and masses of unknown small birds. We cross the area's lifeblood: the Wasser Mirror River.

We arrive at Samburu Safari Lodge at 13. Directly for lunch, interrupted by great dancers and an elephant herd. A very beautiful lodge, located in the middle of a forest. Here are monkeys, rhinoceros, magpies and much more. At the buffet stands a Maasai warrior in full ornaments. His job is to keep birds and monkeys off the roof — even the tables.

As we eat, I see gray-headed thorn magpie, van der Deche hornbilled bird, green guenons (monkeys). A walk in the bush adds; Rufus throttle, riel, black-breasted bustard , green-spotted agama, vulture-headed guinea fowl, baboons, spotted woodpecker and white-breasted kingfisher.
I am looking for cuttings of Adenium obesum, an exciting plant that simply must be included in my collection. The baboons can be intimidating, but I do not really know with the originator of the 10 kilos pile of dung, lying on the trail and steams. 2 meters from me, down on the narrow shore, is a 2 meter crocodile and I guess there could be hippos as well.

I manage to find the plant, and I pinch two shots. Not for being greedy, but for Berit not to nick mine.
On the way back to the safety of the lodge I see: Guenons , sandpipers, fishing herons, mice, and then a lot of repeaters.
Back in the lodge, I'm at the last minute for this afternoon's game drive. On the way out of the lodge, we see a red-beaked hornbill, which sits in the rather dry bushes. A flock of yellow-tailed spotted birds scurry beneath the scrub, while the gray-headed kingfisher remains phlegmatic in its lookout.

Above a small group of common waterbuck, two white-backed vultures throne in the crown of the tree. We stop in a big clearing to see about 50 elephants. There seem to be two groups meeting. They are a few minor strength tests, and a lot of trut-trut. It actually sounds fucking cool!

In a very large kapok tree, a Martial Eagle sits next to a Tawny Eagle. Impressive couple. In the short sun-scorched grass under the tree, a spotted beard bird and a large herd of amaranths search for insects and seeds. A small flock of black-headed desert quales join the company, while a golden pipe prefers the bushes in whose thin branches the white-haired buffalo weaver has its delicate nests.

We are back in the lodge at 6.30 pm. It's gotten dark, and despite that, it's just the time when the crocodiles are fed, I gamble, and take a shower. The friendly animals do not show up until most of the spectators have left, and I am newly washed. They engulf the butchers' waste and slide off again. We go up and eat. Someone is having a birthday and the entire restaurant staff is comming out with a cake while singing some Kenyan songs. Nice, and almost touching.
We spend the rest of the evening having drinks down by the river, where we sit and gaze at the goat's club, which is hung up for the leopard, on the other side.

Day 6. After a quick cup of tea, we head out on game drive at 6.20. In addition to the countless known animals, we see yellow-billed hornbill, dawn bearded bird, gerenuk gazelles, singing hawks, black-shouldered hawks, blue kites and Narmagra pigeons.

Down by the river is a giant crocodile on the shore, probably one of those that only eats just a few wildebeest a year. Suddenly, a giant male elephant is ermerges from the forest, right between our cars. It disappears into the forest on the other side, just as quickly. I sit and think: It looked like an elephant, just bigger.
Once at the lodge, a champagne breakfast is offered. Fun idea, but it works.

There are some of our company who would like to greet the natives, so we drive out to a place of residence that works, as they always have. That is to say; since the Maasai came from the Nile Delta in the 18th century. It is a Samburon tribe we visit in their round village, which is surrounded by a high wall of acacia. Every man has his entrance, every one of his wives; their house. Her children live with her, in the cowshed-covered house. A skeleton is made of linked branches, twigs are tied on, and the rye bread-shaped house is polished with kneaded cow dung. It provides good insulation.

We get into one, and to my great astonishment, there are more rooms. The beds are twigs with a sun-dried skin on, hard as a board.
On the way home, Line discovers an uncommon rare caracal, most of all resembling a lynx. One place we drive it says "Only 4WD". We don't have that, so we define: All four wheels on earth, all the time.

After lunch, we drive out to a new area. We see the first sausage trees, some francolins, a spotted owl, black flycatcher, ash catfish, African hawk owl, great kudu, auger buzzard, and a lone lioness sneaking past our stopped car.

In a beautiful clearing between succulent green bushes, the dense short grass is seeded, and 500 vulture-headed- and helmeted guinea fowl walk between the legs of gazelles and giraffes.
We reach home to the crocodile feeding. A domestic cat very gently steals treats from the crocodiles, the marabous are waiting, and the Nile monitors also find some stumps.

The long game runs in the dry, dusty landscape can be felt both inside and outside the body. Jesper has not soil but sand in his head, he claims it is quicksand.
We doubt as he explains the difference between eagles and vultures; "vulture has no beak". It doesn't help he claims it's "lip birds"! Whether we are tired late at night?
We tilt into bed at 23 o'clock. Can't sleep and check the goat club at the river. The unusual tacky leopard has been there between 23 and 01.

Day 7. We are awakened by the traditional "jambo" 5.45. We drive 6.15. Beautiful to see the sunrise and all the animals. New species are constantly emerging: Dwarf deer and some doum palms, similar to ordinary palms, just with the side branches.

We get out of the cars up on a large hill, which gives a magnificent view of the whole valley. A Somali beeeater is looking for food in some bushes, and we drive home to our champagne.
The morning is spend with a bird walk in the hotel garden. Only Jesper, Morten and the undersigned attend, but we really see many species. The hotel's wildlife specialist shows us around and we teach him the names of the birds. It turned out not to be his specialty.

A dip in the pool and I'm ready for lunch. Being pressured to attend a dance performance (I wouldn't want the others to experience more than me), and then the afternoon game drive starts.
We drive towards Buffalos Springs National Park, which is right next to Samburu. On the way we see Somali larks and Refler's sparrow.

Inside the park, we first drive up to the springs. One is fenced to provide clean water to the small village of the rangers. In the lake, a couple of large swamp turtles swim around. We can swim in one of the other lakes, but the powerful algae appearance does not seem inviting.

We continue through the park, and see white-tailed starlings and silver (or black-backed) jackals and Somali (or blue-legged) ostriches, which live only in this park.
Along the Ewaso Ngiro River there is a dense green forest which unfortunately manages to hide the leopards from us. Many beautiful experiences later, we return to the lodge for tea and crocodile feeding. A quick (and pretty much needed) shower and diner.
A rare guest shows up at the buffet: A striped Genet. Exceptionally beautiful animal, with a personality and charm that far exceeds dogs and cats. Belongs to the mongoose family but looks more like a long-nosed cat. Drinks and leopard spotting on the riverbank, until way too late.

Day 8. Op at 6.30, game drive 7.30. We are still searching for a leopard, the other two cars have seen one each, but we are missing. In one clearing, we see 10 giraffes, in another 15 elephants. The incredibly graceful giraffe gazelles show up in between. Every time we find a few dik-dik antelopes we stop; they are just so adorable.

A green-backed heron catches small fish at the edge of a watering hole, while Grant's gazelles and impalas drink.
We bring our suitcases and leave the park in the morning. Through forest-tide, sheep hills and cultivated plains. We stop in a comfortless and primitive village, right on the equator, where I finally find a little souvenir; a black rhinoceros in the ebony.

We move slowly up the highlands at the foot of Mount Kenya. We pass large fields that are completely covered with plastic greenhouses. Here beautiful cut flowers are grown for export.
We arrive at The Ark at 12.30, and have lunch in the main building. The garden offers many bird experiences and tea in country-club surroundings. Golf, horse riding, squash, tennis. That's not what we're there for, so we take a big bus into the rainforest.

After an hour's drive, we are at the "Ark" itself: a large building, which is accessed by a long, and very high "boardwalk". The house itself is shaped like biblical depictions of the ark. Inside it is also reminiscent of a ship, with cabins along the outer walls. Like all places, Hanne's company gets the best rooms. The view from ours is indescribable. A large lake with a wealth of plants and animals, ranging from frogs to elephants, just 20 meters away.

We are in the Abadere Mountains, 2500 meters above sea level. The ark lies at the bottom of a wooded ravine. There are open, covered and enclosed terraces, which provide great views of the lake and salt-licked.
A quick shower, and I'm ready for the bird feeding on the boardwalks, up between the wooden crowns. About 30 species of birds appear here. Many are new to me. There are flycatchers, mouse birds (gray and brown), weavers, singers, turakos, francolins, parrots, butchers, thrushes, starlings, magpies, finches, and below the feeding board are small striped mice and the large spotted genet.

Back in the ark, we sit on one of the open terraces and watch a bunch of elephants eat salty soil. Buffalo and writing antelopes are reverently kept at a distance. At the shore of the lake, I see hammerhead herons, coots, top deer, Nile geese and some waders. As darkness breaks out, the large spotted genet, white-tailed deer and bats emerge.

A waiter walks around and gentle hit on a xylophone: Dinner is served! We suddenly discover an elephant 5 meters from the restaurant's large panoramic windows. It stands unaffected and mumbles in the illuminated bushes.
I have traditionally not bought drinks for the food, and can leave it before the other 90 passengers. As I reach the terrace, a black rhinoceros breaks out of the thicket at the far end of the clearing.

I have the 1st row, but it disappears quickly again, probably because of the elephants that still dominate the watering hole. We set out on one of the open terraces, so we can also hear the sounds of the night: deciduous frogs, cicadas, bats, elephant trout and lion roar in the distance. I pick up some blankets, but it is cold and the enclosed terrace empties at 22 o'clock.

Line is wrapped in blankets, out on the open terrace. As two white-tailed deer come up and peak, right below her, it sounds a lot like a feline fight. It is followed by a bump and a swaring from a ragged Line, which rolls around the carpet and furniture.

People come here at 17, spend a night here for 2500 kroner, get breakfast and drive between 8 and 9 - and then they go to bed at 22-23 !?
OK, there is a buzzer in the rooms, so they can be awakened if new giant or predators arrive. Two rings = elephants or rhinos, 3 = lion or leopard. At midnight we are 20 awake, at 01 we are 8, only 3 at 02. At 3.20 am I am all alone. The guard, who must wake people if something exciting happens, sits - high snoring - at the other end of the room. He gets his 5 hours undisturbed.

Before Jesper and Morten go to bed, a lone spotted hyena appears in the woods, but disappears quickly. There are animals in the large lit area at all times. Buffalo flocks, elephant families, writing antelopes and a crazy black rhino. It repeatedly tries to chase the buffalo away, but they almost ignore it, until a young calf chases it away.

Later, the elephants try to chase the buffalo away. It completely fails, until a small elephant pup gets in the buffalo herd. Meanwhile, a large buffalo bull made a long stripe on an elephant, that was not fast enough.
Two big buffaloes go and tease each other for a long time, but it doesn't really matter. A few large elephant bulls emerge individually. I head down to the photo hide sometimes. It is ground level and when elephants, rhinos and buffaloes are 2-3 meters from the thick walls, they seem bloody big and then they smell the rest too.

Jesper was standing at one point photographing out of an opening, when a gene jumped up into the hole. They bounces each their way, very quickly.
A serving spirit has put huge amounts of hot cocoa next to the open fireplace, whose last glows give the sheet's wooden structures a particularly romantic glow. With the exception of the presence of animals, I feel completely alone.

At one point, a completely black genet pops up in the windowsill, Hanne must know what it is for one. It is as lovely as its striped and spotted cousin. (She would very much like to see it. It was a rare rare Melanestic Genet; she has never seen one).
Late at night, a large buffalo bull emerges from the bushes, arrogantly walking down the path, but in a bow around a river goose that just sits. Attitude matters a lot.
              The last part can be read in Diary 3





Diary 1 2 3      Photos