Saturday, November 26, 2011

Rhino River Lodge by Meru National Park 27 Nov 2010

27 Nov 2010
Can it really be Saturday? Another early start after a cuppa on a
tray, off we went into the park with Raphael and Joel about five hours
– wow.. highlights were hippos – two out of the water – and one hippo
and croc as we breakfasted by picnic. Oh we came across a lost lion
cub and told the park people about it. It was skinny. I’d have left it
alone: ‘survival of the fittest’.

Yes I have had enough driving for a while but am full of thoughts and
tunes and in some ways have the emotions of my younger self - so many
landscapes, scenes, people, animals in the last few days. Carolyn is a
peachy companion, so cheerful and responsive, smiley and genuinely
charming. She’s a bit quieter today. We had a swim and lunch and I’m
enjoying the pool and waterfall below me, sunlight through the palms
and other trees, the sound of Kindani river and crickets.
The highlight of the day was still to come; at 4pm we set off in
picnic mood with Joel and Raphael, out of the compound and through
some km of shambas on an unbelievable little track, horrendous deep
stream crossing, black cotton soil, fortunately much drier now. Round
and round, up and down past lots of corn and beans and trees and huts
and people. Most stared, but smiled and waved as soon as we did. It
was incredibly picturesque. Raphael had to stay with the vehicle 1hr
45min while we went at a slow and pleasant pace walking up the hill
and round the curving rim. We had water and cashews at the top – there
was beer in Joel’s bag but we didn’t think it wise on a very bumpy
non-track, all lava with grass and ?beans? growing wild.  Joel said
the community had burned the hill to stop the Boran invading with
their cattle, as they do when it gets dry in the north. The view was
superb. The hill is Kilimakaero, means White Hill in Meru, and he says
it’s sacred. Joel, b. 1974, has three children, 13 down to 3, and they
live in Nyahururu so he only sees them when on leave. He’s been with
Andrea Maggi for some years and moved with him to Rhino River Lodge
when it opened ~ a year ago. The evening shadows made the landscape
glow and then we heard drums way below (practising for church next
day?)! Range upon range of hills away to the west, open all the way
around. This outing was a highlight for both of us. Back to the lodge
for wine and chat with the two German women, dinner and a quiet night.
28 November, Sunday

A swim first thing – ten lengths, shower, lovely tea, and pack, then
cooked breakfast and off at 0930 – with a passenger Christine and her
toddler Prudence who is to get ears seen to in Nairobi. Gorgeous
child, dimpled, smiley, no complaints all the way – home 4.30pm – last
hour or two particularly horrid traffic. One thing atrocious road
behaviour at 50kph, another level of scariness on dual carriageway at
100kph. The first half of the day was again most picturesque with
people in their Sunday frocks and sometimes we heard blaring from the
zillions of churches. Up and down – good quality road – I asked so
many questions - discussed religion, Mugabe, house deposits and
mortgages, domestic violence (not acceptable here now either). I
persuaded Christine to sing a couple of times, Raphael too. CA slept a
lot of the way. Great to get home to welcome from Maggie, tea, shower
and Musa (home last night from the Hajj). Dog peed on our luggage left
at the door!

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Friday, November 25, 2011

Safari from Samburu to Sweetwaters (Ol Pejeta) 25/26 Nov 2010 with Carolyn

25 Nov Thursday
A very early walk for me, followed by a very young, very short person
in big boots, a security lad, on a circuit back to the concrete path
– how embarrassing for me in my nightie with a wrap. Early swim,
breakfast and we left at 0900, we did a meander out to Archer’s Post –
had company of a sweet-faced fellow in ranger uniform, heading home to
Meru – he was to hand in his uniform at Archer’s Post. Raphael said ‘
I think that is a good man’.
I picked up a couple of quartz pebbles from the road. Sigh!
Enjoyable drive on great tarseal to Timau where it’s back to potholes.
We saw the mountain as we hit the highest point. Just love those green
acres stretching into the distance. But soon back to shambas and
townships and into Nanyuki; we were anxious to get Kshs for park fees
and to buy water. Raphael went to fill up while we had a latte and I
talked to a man from Lewa Downs, recently made famous as where Prince
William and Kate Middleton just got engaged. He described himself as a
3rd generation Kenyan but sounded South African to my ears. He had not
heard of Rhino River Camp in Meru NP.
Straight after Nanyuki at Equator sign turn west to Ol Pejeta
Conservancy and “Sweetwaters’ which is a Serena lodge. Animals
everywhere, huge plain - warthog, giraffe, buffalo, zebra, antelope,
and rhino. We drove and drove…….. stopped at Morani rhino place for
late picnic lunch with superb starlings and a guide to see Baraka a
blind black rhino. Lovely bones of all the big animals, also horn and
dung examples, and exposee of community interaction. They have cattle
grazing integrated with wildlife, and also support individual youth.
Next stop was the chimp sanctuary – 41 – every one rescued from
captivity – and from all over, eg Sudan, Rwanda, etc. Each story told
individually. Two lots kept separate and contraception practised. We
mixed with a huge mob of gorgeous schoolchildren and a big truck with
American ‘volunteers’. Exhausted arriving at Sweetwaters but thrilled
with its appearance. Lovely open public rooms, lawns smooth, long
semi-circle of permanent tents – ours was no 16. Animals already at
waterhole but - ‘we ain’t seen nuthin’ yet’! Carolyn and I had a beer
and a sit down – it was quite chilly. As we wandered toward the lodge
we saw seats to observe the waterhole and boy was it technicolour
super! Zebra, buffalo, a rhino, waterbuck, and birds catching lit-up
insects. Our own dinner was another spectacular treat – every style
you could think of . We didn’t even get to the choose-your-own-stirfry
queue there was so much else.

26 November Friday.
Carolyn had a game drive on her own with Raphael. They saw cheetah and
hippo. I had a long lie until 0730, met her at breakfast, another
fantastical spread. Altogether we are delighted with Sweetwaters.
Back through Nanyuki – by the way the road into Ol Pejeta is
excruciating; the ditch is sometimes smoother. It’s all farmed, fenced
off into small blocks. Back over the shoulder of the mountain to the
turnoff for Meru. CA bought a batik of antelope. Very picturesque
shamba country, many hills, all green and lush. Busy busy busy,. Some
townships had gatherings of men; Raphael said they were waiting to
sell qat (or khat, = miraa) a leaf chewed particularly by the Somalis.
It rained a bit and became heavy as we entered the park. There were
100s of people heading on foot towards some marquees. President Kibaki
was due to arrive to open an extension of rhino sanctuary + declare
the area free of rinderpest.
Well we got into the park and it was a mudhole! Black cotton soil. We
went sideways straight away but that was the only time..driver only
used 4wd when absolutely necessary, saving fuel. He’s extremely good
and never put a foot wrong. It was a long drive though. We stopped for
a picnic lunch along the very high long fence between the rhino
sanctuary and the outside world. It’s all bushes so we didn’t see
anything much, just the muddy tracks.. We got a bit of a shock to see
our camp, it’s in deep shade by a stream. Tented bandas – lovely but
seemed dark and closed-in. One very large bed which they changed for
two almost double-sized beds. Carolyn was keen to get the nets down!
Andrea Maggi is the owner, he is from Italy and has been many years in
Meru Park – this camp is just a year old. So we had a cuppa and –
blimey – climbed in the truck for a game drive;…. taking Joel the
camp’s guide.- another splendid young chap. Saw ~ 8 rhino incl a pair
spattered with egret dung – ('white rhino' :~)) the animals here are
relatively shy to vehicles. Only other guests, two German ladies one
owns a Nairobi restaurant Rustique, the other her schoolfriend whom
she tracked down on GPS.  Andrea chatted to us over dinner.. Slept
well until 0300.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Kenya diary - a year ago today 24 Nov 2010

24 Nov Wed. at Sopa Lodge in Samburu.
Up early with a concrete walk to end of bandas, reflecting on the
value of going to a National Park, where you can’t get out of a
vehicle or walk on the red earth! Mt Kenya was clear, if distant.
Early morning so gorgeous. We had a three-hour game drive and saw not
much – warthogs, dikdiks, a lone buffalo.  Carolyn kept the enthusiasm
up – she does it brilliantly. She’s really a splendid traveller. We
stopped at Samburu Lodge by the river – this is the place I remember
so well – crocodiles still lying close by on the bank waiting to be
fed in the evening. I gazed into the soul of the nearest one, his
clear green eye looked back. I said Hello from his cousin the tuatara
Henry in Invercargill.
So------ swimming pol – brrr after hot skin – delicious. Not too many
observers, just as well. I tried out the sun-lounge under the shade of
the intriguing Calotropis procera or French cotton tree – it has huge
leaves, huge gourd-like ball, small flower umbel, is not endemic.
Carolyn defied my advice again and sunbathed in full sun! We had a
very good lunch and sat quietly, a shower passing away in the west,
and I can smell a good smell of African earth. There are dikdiks
everywhere, all the animals are completely unfazed by humans and
Our evening drive was memorable for finding a leopard posing in a dead
tree: small leopard, small tree, and the sunset feeling as we stood in
the open back quietly winding home up the hill to Sopa, in no hurry.
Silhouette of acacia with weaver nests hanging. Timeless! 

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Diary: start of first safari with Carolyn a year ago today.

23 Nov 2010 Tuesday
A great start, with driver at Maggie's by 0620, we drove and drove
and drove it seemed endlessly, through people and cars en route to
work. I asked to stop at Thika Falls, the Blue Posts hotel, we had a
coffee and walk – two falls, one changed by cement, the other natural,
water a thick red pool.


Next stop was at a curio place, then Naro Moru
River Lodge which looks wonderful. Blue petals on grass, a conference
on ‘Child Protection’ burbling stream,. And ??? my memories of several
stays there. Pronounce it quickly: ‘Naro Moru River Lodge’!

Next stop Trout Tree, a trout farm with restaurant. Fortunately too
early for lunch, we had a cold beer. I didn’t like it that much, tho'
Carolyn did.. Past the equator sign (I bought a blue kikoi from a girl
with desperation in her eyes). On to Nanyuki, my choice Sportsman’s
Arms, Raphael said it was, yes, the main place in town. It wasn’t very
good! We were very happy though and had another beer.

Our last stop was another curio shop, donation for toilet and CA
bought two necklaces. Long trail (road very good from about Timau) to
Isiolo then Archer’s Post and into park at last. They took my money
usd240 and gave it back! Said no receipt book. Almost at once we saw
gerenuk! And one performed, vertical on hind legs. Oryx, Grevy’s
zebra, reticulated giraffes crossed the road. Elephant! Lots. In
water, and walking between two trucks, including a very young baby,
ignoring us absolutely. Impala, Grant’s gazelle, lilac breasted
roller, vulturine guinea fowl, helmeted guines fowl, African ----- and
small hornbill and finally two lions romping with a warthog carcass.
Not close.

Very tired by arrival at Sopa Lodge but good shower and buffet dinner
after two good wines – they said no insects so we sat outdoors – it
was splendid. I have to admit it is a relief to get away from the
pressure of humanity. The slopes of Timau in one part still look the
same – wonderful large spreads of crops. Green and healthy. Mountain
was clouded. Timau township pretty bad.

Kenya_(186).AVI Watch on Posterous

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Sunday, November 20, 2011

awful subject -- needs your consideration
my comment is 'It's not only third world that needs new solutions to
human waste - it's a horrible waste of the world's fresh water to be
flushing our lovely white western toilets a zillion times a day.'

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