We set out for Masai Mara at 7:30. We were supposed to leave at 6:30, but the car that was going to be transporting the luggage broke down. They, of course, didn’t tell us until 7:15. We still made the flight in plenty of time, and some of the luggage was strapped to the roof. Karibu Kenya.
We made it to the Kisumu airport with plenty of time to spare, and landed in Nairobi uneventfully. I ran across to the international arrival gate to look for Kevin’s bag… no such luck. It was that the bag wasn’t there, rather, there was nobody around that showed any interest in helping me find it – except for the women at the information desk. I couldn’t even get to the baggage claim area. They kept saying, “Someone will be here to help you in 15 minutes… the man with the key to the lock on the cage isn’t here.” 45 minutes later, I joined everyone else on the bus. Frustrated, but excited about Masai Mara.
There’s another non-profit that runs a shuttle service to generate extra income. It's a bit pricey, but they're reliable and it's for a good cause. What they'll do is, depending on your speciality, deliver you to a section of the country that needs your expertise. Builder, doctor, surgeon, dentist... they'll take you where you're need most. They're a pretty interesting group, and one of the founders will be pickinng us up when we retrun to Nairobi. They brought a 24 seater bus to pick us up this time, so we had plenty of room. It’s a short 20 minute ride from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to the much smaller Wilson Airport. That’s where the smaller puddle jumpers run to the Mara. Before we left Nairobi, I tried to find Kevin's bag. While the two women at the information desk were helpful, it ran out at that desk. The unit manager didn't want to hear my story, and sent me running all over the airport in vain. "Come back in 15 minutes, I'm sure they man with the key to the cage will be here then." "It's probably just another 15 minutes..."
After 45 minutes, we left... still not knowing if the suitcase was even there.
Sure enough, 20 minutes later we arrived at Wilson Airport. It was a pretty nice airport for its size, and certainly for Kenya. The bench seats were padded, and the restaurant upstairs had a good selection. TV’s were mounted on the walls in the corners, and we watched nervously as we heard about the earthquake in New Zealand. A primary school was visiting the airport while most of us were upstairs at the restaurant. Karen remained downstairs, and we watched the children marching outside, passing by the window that Karen obviously sat in front of… waves hello and broad smiles adorned most of the faces as they passed by. We were sure Karen’s face was pushed against the glass as they walked by. We laughed as one of us mentioned a zoo analogy. They walked by Karen as if she were behind a glass enclosure – everyone got a chuckle out of that.
The plane arrived, and it was small; able to hold 16 passengers. We got buckled in, and waited for the flight to begin. Loud engines, coupled with a bumpy ride down the driveway kept anxiety pretty high. We forgot about that nervousness as we climbed. The plane got tossed around in the wind as if it was a feather in a hurricane. We swayed side to side and intermittently dropped 10’. It was like being in a rollercoaster, but not being able to see the track. Kevin was not happy.
We tried to keep ourselves occupied by watching the ground and looking for animals as we flew over the Rift Valley. We saw some, but not enough to draw our attention from the planes jarring movements. We landed on a dirt strip at Keekorok. It wasn’t pleasant, but it was going to save us from driving 8 hours from Nairobi. Karen was the one Andrea and I were most worried about, and our fears were realized as she lost consciousness as she stepped out of the plane. A small steel set of 4 stairs separated the airplane from the earth, but Karen only made it to the first. Andrea was glad I got off first, because I caught her as she fell forward. Isaac and his brother Andrew came running from their Jeeps to help. We laid Karen in the closest shade we could find, and just waited for her to come back to us. In retrospect, it’s important to note that Rich, Tamye, Casey and Jack took all of it in stride. I don’t know that I realized it at the time, but it was if they trusted everything that we were doing to take care of Karen. She would pass out a couple more times before we get home, and each time, it was as if they have been with us every step of the way. That’s comforting, and it’s special… and it should be noted.
We all climbed into the jeeps after Karen gave us the “ok.” I don’t think we were driving for 5 minutes before animals started to appear. Thomson gazelles, topi, warthogs, impala, elephants… they were all beautiful, and everyone loved them. The landscape was breathtaking, and Sarova Mara was georgeous.
The family tents were just as advertised... one bedroom had a king size bed in it, and the other had 3 twins. They were connected via a large common room with couches and tables. The back of the accomodations consisted of 4 sliding glass doors that overlooked a thick forest.
We dropped off our things, and immediately went out on a game drive. Awesome. The kids all climbed in a jeep with Isaac, and the adults went with his brother Andrew. It was the perfect opener. Everyone was excited, and took tons of pictures... eventually, we'll get them all together. I rarely come home with pictuers of me here, and I'm also looking forward to seeing what other people see.
We got back for dinner at 6:30. Buffet style, with something for everyone. REAL salads, too! Lettuce and everything! I know that may sound pathetic, but there are things that you miss while you're gone, and salads was one of them. While traditional Kenyan food was there, they had half-a-dozen types of bread/rolls to choose from, and on top of the 3 entree stations, there was a 4th and 5th that prepared dishes for you based on the ingredients they had at the time. Tonight they had a pasta bar with a vodka sauce and a standard tomato... vegetable would get mixed in based on your preference, and bam! You're eating to your hearts content. The only thing not included in the meals were drinks, but $10 USD goes a looooong way here. I dont' believe that beers and sodas for the group every got over $30 (and there were 10 of us),
Once full, we all retreated to our tents. Not a mosquito in sight. There were these little things in the trees that looked like furry armadillos with no tails, but they were harmless. Andrew told us their name, but I can't recall it right now. Dik diks also wandered around the property. They look like very small, but stocky, fawns with large eyes. They were pretty skittish, and didn't really bother anyone. We saw one monkey as we walked to our room (and ours was the furthest away). It stopped and stood up looking at us. It looked to be about 4 1/2 feet tall standing there, and apparently didn't find u svery interesting, because he got back down on all fours and scurried into the woods. We never saw him again.
Soft beds, and soft pillows... most slept soundly. Well, I slept soundly. Kevin's stomach started bothering him - not sure if it was the fish head he ate yesterday or the flight. Probably the fish head. Fortunately, each of our tents had it's own bathroom. Animal noises kept Rich up, as he would periodically run to the screen with his flashlight looking to see what marsupial was trying to break into the room. Much like Kevin, Rich's stomach issues would arrive soon. It's a tough way to form a bond, but they laughed about it a lot, and took it all in stride.
Tomorrow we go on another game drive, then it's off to visit the Masai in their village. Should be cool!