Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The long trip home

We slept in today until 7:00am, the latest on the entire trip. After breakfast, we loaded up the bush vehicle and headed toward Nairobi. We have not had air con since arrival to Africa and I don't miss it. We all keep our windows open with the breeze and dust blowing everywhere.  The trip back took 5 hours with one stop for "proper facilities" (well...if you say so...).  We met 100's of donkeys, sheep and goats on the road. The baboons rule one section of the road near the vegetable stands and can get aggressive and grab things from your vehicle if not careful.

Once arriving to Kenya, we did not see another Caucasian person except an American dentist staying at our camp and volunteering for a few weeks at the nearby dental clinic. The Kenyans have very dark skin and beautiful smiles.

When we returned to Nairobi it was bustling. I was amazed to see the level of security everywhere. I've been to South and Central America and know what high security looks like...but no comparison.
Our hotel sat on the same block where the Embassy was bombed a some years back which has been converted to a park.

We had to exit the car entering the airport and walk through a metal detector. Two guards checked the vehicle with mirrors, etc., full pat downs inside with several more layers of checks. The airport itself was depressing.  John said it reminded him of a Russian airport ( I thought worse).

The trip home will take 33 hours with no delays or missed connections. Reality is quickly settling  in...

Thanks for joining along with this trip to the UAE and Kenya. I hope you have enjoyed my writings. It was so much more fun taking you along!

Until next time...

Monday, March 14, 2016

Last day in the Mara

We are to leave early. Our tent valet gives us a wake up "Jambo" and we stir. It will be an 8 plus hour game drive today. The 6 of us climb into the dusty vehicle and off we go.  They say the African roads will shake the hell out of you so you can go straight to heaven.  It's grueling, but ok, worth a shot.

We quickly see zebra, small herds of elephant, some elegant giraffes, and another cheetah keeping cool under a bush. We stop after a while at a local village. Our guide is of the same tribe and they will tell us alittle about how they live, culture, etc. The wealth of a man is based on the number of cows in his possession. The chief should have no less than 6 wives. The woman do the work around the camp, the men are warriors and hunt. You can always pick out a Massai warrior as his two bottom teeth would have been removed as a young man (ouch!), he will be wrapped in a red cloth (not much else) ,and carry a stick or club. It was fascinating.

We drove on in the bush finally stopping for a picnic on the banks of the Mara River. This is the river you often see of Africa during the great migration of wildebeests in June and July. They are leaving the grasslands of Kenya on to Tanzania for more food. The river was beautiful, with hippos and yes, a huge crock just waiting for something to cross.  Made it alittle difficult when we had to "relieve" ourselves by the truck though and move on.

More elephant groups, everything but the elusive leopard. We searched the trees but none in sight. We returned back home dusty, tired and satisfied. What an experience to catch 4 of the big 5!

Dinner back at the camp with the baboons, and monkeys. We have heard hyenas, lion, and baboons at night. Magical...

We return to Nairobi tomorrow for the flight on to Dubai, then NYC, finally to Florida.

Hope to sign in once more, if not...thanks so much for joining us on the incredible journey!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Massai Mara

It's hard to know where to begin...

We left early for the 6 hour trip to Masai Mara. Four hours of regular road, one and a half of wash board gravel- at 60 mile speed (wide road but rough!) and the last 30 minutes to the camp completely off road through creeks, etc.  Several times, it took us more than one attempt to get through.

We landed at our rustic camp during generators off time.  Monkeys beat us to our tent and were sitting on top to harass us as we entered. We must stay zipped at all times to keep them out. They are a different kind here than what we saw yesterday. These look like long haired skunks with long legs.

The tents in the camp are "luxury tents" with toilets and hot water showers. Very nice! Let me put it this way...great for two nights, no longer. I am not a "happy camper". We have charcoal powered water and hot water bottles in the bed for warmth.

On our late afternoon drive  we saw elephants, one cheeta, wildebeest, water buffalo, a huge rhino, jackel, a lion ( we heard and saw roar), giraffes, and many zebra!!!! Just incredible! The terrain however, is so rough it makes the ride grueling.  I used my hot water bottles as heating pads!

We returned back to the lodge and had dinner by a campfire complete with guitar player from the local tribe. There are only 10 of us at the camp. The staff here is very small and lovely. For dinner I only ate the vegetables as I am suspect of the type meat.

The night sky was beautiful, and the monkeys playful and plentiful. We are required to have a "guard" walk us to our tent for safety. John goaded him in route saying " well it's not like there is anything around here that could hurt us!"  The man (from the local tribe dressed in his typical red cloth and club, and gum boots) stopped dead in his tracks and said..."LEOPARD".  Okay...well that's settled...the zippers will be tight tonight!

As the power went off, we could hear the animals of Africa get louder and louder throughout the night.  Many, many sounds...and a hyena for sure. 

Friday, March 11, 2016

Lake Niavsha

We sat out early for the trip to the Lake Naivasha. The scenery was breathtaking as we passed hundreds of sheep, goats, and donkeys beside the road.  After about and hour or so, we spotted our first group of zebra. After taking my first pictures, I broke into tears of joy. I found the experience of seeing them in this magnificent backdrop overwhelming. I wasn't sure if was going to really happen!

We continued to drive and as we neared the lake we stopped for a ride in a narrow boat. Very quickly we saw a rogue bachelor hippo swimming near our boat. We scooted right away as not to get too close. As you  know, hippos can be very aggressive and charge if you get too close to them. Our young guide gave them plenty of space as we cruised around and saw about 20 more. They are referred to as a kingdom of hippos, with only one male within a group of females.

We left the lake and returned to land in an area called Hell's Gate. As we drove we soon spotted a baboon with several wart hogs and their young. We kept driving seeing hundreds of zebra, and finally two young giraffes that had been left by their parents to find water.  Soon we saw the parents that would later return.   Under some trees, we saw several large water buffalo. They didn't seem to like our vehicle and acted as if they may charge. We crept away slowly.

Our lodge is lovely and on the banks of the lake. There were 6 large monkeys on the path this evening.  They didn't act very scared of me.  We were told we must have a guard walk us to the lodge and back to our rooms after dark. Hippos come up on our grounds. Four have been seen already tonight.

We head out again in the morning 6  hours southwest to the Masai Mari camp.  They say we will get an "African massage" (very rough roads).

Stay tuned!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Arrival Nairobi!

Another 4 or so hours and we have arrived to Nairobi! What beautiful scenery just flying in...
A total contrast to Dubai. Expansive and lush.

We walked onto the tarmack and the airport is small and open air. Our 20 minute ride to the hotel downtown took 1 hour (we were told how lucky we were as it usually takes 2!). The roads in the city are dusty and congested with cows grazing about in the center grass. Colorful buses crept along filled with people and blaring music. Vendors sold everything along the way, water,  fly shatters, etc for the sitting traffic. Many people are walking. We are told that the people ignore the traffic light signals so it requires traffic patrol. Police everywhere directing the slow moving traffic.

We arrived to our hotel through a cage, metal detector, and pat downs. Men with machine guns stand at the gate and we have a man walk our floor 24/7. JT thinks the maintenance crew quit 40 years ago.
It still carries a real elegance, although a bit tired.  I expect there have been many ambassadors stay here doing important business.

The outdoor bar and pool area is wonderful with good music, gas burners and blankets. The ready smiles of the staff can be seen everywhere.

Dinner will be under the stars of Nairobi tonight.

Off in the morning for a 6 hour drive to Lake Naivasha. One of the lakes on the floor of the Great Rift Valley.  It is said to have the highest elevation of the Kenyan Great Valley.  It is home to over 400 species of birds and a sizable hippo population.

Hope to check in again from there! 

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Departure from the UAE

Good morning all after another very short night. I will need to return from my holiday to get some r&r.

I have omitted to include a lot of the interesting information I've learned while here due to time constraints. I thought before flying out, I would share some observations and information gained from others. For fact checking  check out the literature, lol.

Many of the women here wear the full abaya. This covers the face and hands. Evidently, first practical when in the desert in sand, etc. it was also helpful to prevent kidnapping of young women, could not easily tell them apart. This was a cultural practice, not so much religious practice as now.

The colors of the mans headscarf identifies where he is from. Red checks - Saudi Arabia, all white UAE, black checks - North Africa.

The locals of the UAE make up approx. 20%, expats the other 80%.  About half of that 20% are millionaires.  The majority of the workers here are expats from everywhere!

I have now enjoyed "veal bacon". Pork is hard to come by...

Abu Dhabi

I think you call it "a day from hell".  It started off okay, a van ride 90 kilometers away...
We stopped at the worlds third largest mosque ( they are big on big around here), then off to see the city museum. The land is more fertile here in the capital of the UAE, with palaces built by the aqua Persian Gulf, and many embassies.

We had lunch, saw Ferrari world the worlds largest indoor amusement park( here we go again...it was big). Then started the leisurely drive back to Dubai.

The skies turned ominous quickly. The rain came and our driver pulled off the road. Puzzled, our tour guide said "it was for our safety".  Next, trees everywhere began to snap like match sticks. Our tour director began to cry as she had never seen it rain like this before. She moved here 20 years ago from Egypt.

Our driver took our van with 7 of us toward Dubai when we hit the traffic on the highway. We waited 3 hours while the six lanes of traffic on our side sat. Before long it was pure chaos. Buses and cars taking off the road into the deser with no roads anywhere in sight. Our van driver ( who didn't speak English, never said a word...just inched our van forward.  We finally made it to an intersection to Oman (120 kilometers away).  We took it and rode approximately 10 minutes until we saw the snaking red lights ahead.  For another 4 hours we sat on the highway. Now it is complete mayhem...

Throughout all of this we never saw a police person assisting or directing the traffic. It was every man, woman, and child for themselves!  We had a great group that never whimpered (I might have cussed one or twice). Our trusty van driver crept along (yes sometimes in the sand) passing trucks and cars on the right side until we made it back to dazzling Dubai!

Early wake up call tomorrow as we are off to Kenya! Stay tuned 😉