Friday, May 3, 2013

Day One in Kenya

Day 1, Wednesday

7 am:  I woke up around 7 am to shower and get ready for breakfast.  I didn’t bring an alarm clock with me, but somehow I managed not to miss breakfast.  

8 am:  We ate breakfast at the hotel and they had some weird seletions like baked beans, and even though it was weird, I ended up having some.  I also had bread with butter (big, thick slices), eggs, and the most wonderful tea ever, Chai tea.  

Kenya is famous for their tea leaves ( I bought some to take home with me) and they make their tea with milk.  They boil milk and then add tea leaves and raw sugar to it. SO WONDERFUL!!!  I probably had 10 gallons of tea while I was in Kenya.

9:30 am: We got picked up by our driver around 9:30 so we could run errands in town before they dropped me off at the airport.  First we stopped at Forex to exchange our dollars into Kenyan Shillings.  The exchange rate was about 83 shillings to one dollar.  Basically, when you buy something, you just need to dvide whatever the Kenya shillings by 83.  To make it easier in my head I figured that for every 1,000 shillings, it would be $12 in the US.  Later this math would come in handy when I was bargaining prices during shopping excursions.

During breakfast I noticed that I had gotten a rash somewhere so I needed to pick up some Bendaryl.  We went to Nakumat first, which is like the Kenyan version of Wal-Mart, but they didn’t offer any medicines so we when to the stand alone pharmacy.  After the pharmacy we went to the coffee shop because I was still so sleepy!  I would have loved an iced latte, but they said that I should’t drink any beverages that had ice in it so I just stuck with a hot latte.

On the way to the market we saw the 2nd largest slums in Kenya.  1.2 Million people live there and it is very unsafe for anyone to go, much less Muzungo's (white people).  During the night, women do not go outside their house at all.  Everyone goes to the bathroom in a bag, ties it up, and throws it outside. 

I had brought my tablet with me instead of my laptop because I didn’t want to luck the heavy thing around with me.  We went to Safaricom to buy phone minutes and internet minutes for all of our devices.  Of course, the technology there did not work with my tablet so I was stuck with 1,000 Kenya airtime minutes, without being able to use them.  Luckily they said that I could borrow their laptops when I got back from the safari.  I bought 1,000 minutes, but I figured whatever I didn’t use I would give to IAA when I left.

12:30 pm:  Lunch time!  We stopped at a place called Java House, which at first I thought was a coffee house, but then I realized that it is the best restaurant for American type food in Kenya. Loved it!  Go there!  Plus it had free wi-fi.  I ended up eating a delicious burger with a side salad and blue cheese dressing.  The blue cheese dressing in Kenya is really runny, which took some getting used to.  Also, their ketchup (if you get fries/’chips’) is more of a really thick tomato sauce, not like the ketchup in the USA.

2 pm-I went back to the airport for my flight to the safari. They weighed my bags and said I was over in my limit and had to take stuff out or get charged for it.  I took stuff out and gave it back to Tarin for safe keeping while I was gone.  The boarding passes were either purple or orange laminated cards, purple for one plane, orange for the other.  

4 pm:  The flight to the safari was only 45 minutes and was on a very small plane with probably about 20 seats total.  The runway at the safari was literally a dirt road.  Luckily my van was there to pick me up because there was only one small building for bathrooms that I probably would have hid in until my van got there because a lion could have gotten me any time if there wasn’t a van there!  It was in the middle of Masai Mara with no gate around it!

When I got in the van Phillip, our driver, introduce himself and so did Josh and Ali.  Josh and Ali work for National Geographic and had been in Kenya for a week taking pictures of different places.  After the safari they were riding back to IAA with me to make a documentary about the orphanage and the area around them.  

We got back in the van and went straight on a safari to look for lions!  We were driving and I kept seeing smaller animals like gazelle, but no lion.  Then, I looked to my right and saw a yellowish fur in the distance. I told Phillip to get closer to make sure it wasn’t a lion, and it turned out it was!!!!!  It was a young male lion (a Simba in Swahilli) that was alone and we are guessing it had probably just been kicked out of its pride for being of a certain age.  It was time for him to get his own pride.

We took pictures of him for about 45 minutes to an hour.  He posed for us, letting us get great shots of him and then once the other vans started coming he just got up and walked down the road.

We left him in search of more lions and found a pack of 3 lions just hanging out.  One of them looked pregnant!

After about 10 minutes of watching them, two of them got up and started hunting something in the tall grass.  We looked across and it was three more lionesses coming into the field.  All of the sudden it was like “reunion”!!  There was hugging and slapping going around and they all came back to hang out by the  road.  The pregnant one hung out by herself because she seemed tired. LOL.

We got back to the hotel around 7:30 and I settled into my room.  I stayed at Sentrum Lodge where the rooms where luxury safari tents.  Yes, a tent in the middle of the safari.  The ground and one wall are concrete, but the others were tent material.  You are safe though because there are guards who walk around each night with spears walking you from the lodge to your tent and also patrolling at night.  There was a sign that said a leopard was spotted in the campgrounds recently though.  

I loved my tent, it was very big and spacious, and I got to sleep under a mosquito net each night!  There were two queen size beds in the tent, so if there were more in my party we could all stay together.

8 pm:  Dinner!  Dinner was served from a menu with a few different choices.  To start I had a beef soup, then for my main course I had beef tenders wrapped in bacon, rice, zucchini, and carrots.  Yummy!

During the meal we had entertainment of Masai Warriors doing a traditional dance.  Apparently the higher you can jump, the more girlfriends you can have.  They invited the guys in the audience to join them and Josh went up.  When he got done they waiter (who was from a Masai tribe) said his jumping skills were worth at least 4 wives. ;).  See the video below for a few different dances they did for us. (sorry for the crummy lighting).

10 pm:  Sleeping peacefully under a mosquito net.


More recaps of each day to come!  It's taking longer than I thought to type it all up and get all my thoughts together.  Please be patient with me, I know you all want to hear about my trip.

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