Sunday, November 6, 2011

Lions and zebra and giraffes, Oh My!

On Saturday morning we head out to Masai Mara, the most popular of Kenya's incredible wild animal parks.  The morning at Gracia Gardens Hotel is a bit wet from last night's rain, but the grounds are a lovely green garden.  We've been refreshed from our night's rest and stretching out in a bed after all those airplane hours, and we enjoy the breakfast buffet as the team slowly gathers.  I venture out when I hear Wendi and Paige out and about.  Others apparently get more sleep and join us a bit later.

After Fred and Carlos show up with the vans, we load up and head out for the trek to the park.  After a few hours, we stop for gas and trinkets in Narok.  We've been asked to bring back the cow-bone bracelets to see if we can sell a few for Achungo and Narok had the best prices last trip.  We find some small shops but end up getting better prices from the street vendors.  On the road again, we make a short stop at the viewpoint for the Great Rift Valley and then after a few more hours, we see signs that we are approaching the park.   "Zebra!"  "Look, a wildebeest!"

After we arrive at the Mara Sopa and sort through the room assignments and move in, we rejoin for the buffet lunch and then our afternoon safari van adventure.   We stay 2 nights, make morning and afternoon forays into the park and sight all manner of gazelles, elephants, lions, a cheetah, hyena, ostrich, mongeese, baboons, warthogs, giraffe, and of course, endless hordes of wildebeest and zebra.  The hotel has very comfortable cabins, wonderful buffets of all sorts of foods, and brings in a bit of the animal park.  The bushbaby is fed each night in the bar on a small platform about 10 feet up the wall.  Hyena and jackals are fed in an open area below the hotel buildings each evening.  Vervet monkeys roam the grounds.  We're in the wild!

Saturday we walk down to the nearby Masai village with 2 of the chief's sons and get the hopping dance reception and the grand tour of the compound, huts and fire-starter demonstration.  Then, as last trip, we are led to the village's handicraft stalls but there is much less pressure and much better prices than at the village we visited on the June trip.  The chief's son wants to know if this entire group (8 women and one other guy) are my family.  I'm tempted to say "yes" if that will mean that I don't lose any of our women to Masai marriage proposals!   In the end, some of the women are asked their age but no one gets much pressure to take up residence, thankfully.

Sunday we pack up and head out early for the long, torturous drive to Rodi Kopany.  Along the way we stop briefly at the Tanzania marker and then at the Mara River for a view of hippos and crocs, before continuing on our way.  I'd forgotten how horrible were the fully-washed-out roads of the hills above the Masai Mara.   But at long last we make it to Kisii and our lunch stop and that means just one more hour to our Tausi Hotel.

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