Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Safari - Aberdare National Park

One story of Nairobi we forgot to include: for our last night in town, we decided to eat at a middle eastern restaurant since we were given the impression that it would be good here, and we had been looking forward to it. We were recommended to go to the Phoenician, a restaurant that has been in Nairobi for awhile but moved to a new upscale location. We arrived and found that they had made some changes - they are now a Lebanese and sushi restaurant, but for a few weeks, they were not serving Lebanese food until another expansion was completed. Sushi was so far from our plan of middle eastern, and we did not like the idea of raw fish in a country that we occasionally had concern about eating raw vegetables, so we ended up next door at an Italian restaurant, which actually was pretty darn good. We began our two week safari through Kenya and Tanzania by heading about 4 hours north of Nairobi to Aberdare NP. Our first challenge was just getting out of Nairobi, as it took almost an hour because of AM rush hour traffic. However, it actually seems like it is always rush hour in Nairobi. We are traveling in a 4WD Mitsubishi SUV with our driver/ guide Bedan, but we were told we'll be switching cars in a few days due to the weather we'll have later on in our trip. We are not quite sure we believe this story, but our current car is nice and comfortable, and as it is just the two of us on our safari, there is plenty of space. Also, it took about 4 hours but it should have taken 2.5 even with the bad traffic, because our driver went so slow, even the donkey carts were passing us. Usually, tourists in third world countries are worried about their safety due to high speeds and alternate driving techniques; we were not. Our first views of the Kenyan landscape were not what Betsy had imagined. Instead of arid, desert like land, it was lush and green, full of palm trees, rolling hills, and a variety of farms - corn, coffee, tea, wheat (somehow the wheat in Kenya looks prettier than in Ohio), flowers, etc... Hugh claims he knew Kenya had good farming because of his extensive research, i.e. watching "Out of Africa". //. The first stop was at the Aberdare Country Club for lunch. From there they drove us to the Ark, their hotel in the middle of the park. It was a beautiful building in a beautiful location.

The all wood building had lots of No smoking signs, lots of fire extinguishers, detailed fire escape maps, and outside, a prominent "assemble here during fire" sign - we weren't sure whether to be happy that they were so safety conscious or nervous about sleeping in a tinderbox. Fortunately for us, there was no chance of serious fire since it rained when we arrived at the Ark, canceling most of the activities including the afternoon bird feeding/watching. Also, the hotel is built next to a watering hole with several levels of balconies, for game viewing in comfort. With the rain, very few animals were interested in coming to the water hole, and so even though there are some lights for night viewing, it was a low yield of animals (and certainly nothing like the amazing water hole experience at Etosha in Namibia). We did see lots of the African water buffalo, which we were surprised to see boss around the solo elephants who came by.

The Ark also has a watcher who is spotting the animals that come to the water hole while we sleep. If he sees something interesting, he rings and a buzzer sounds in our room (which can be turned off). At 3 am, when the buzzer sounded 4 times indicating something unusual, Hugh got up and saw two porcupines while Betsy slept. Now, they were large and cool looking porcupines, but they were still porcupines. //. Moving on, we continued to drive north and we passed the equator, both of our first times driving across the equator. Of course, at the sign were several "guides" who wanted to show us the "water draining in different directions" trick, and visit their curio shop, but we decided to skip these offers.


1 comment:

  1. Regarding "Out of Africa" and literature of the region, a great book to read (recommended to me by an English guy who grew up in Nairobi) is "West with the Night" by Beryl Markham. It will really bring alive the places you have seen. Ms. Markham was a female pilot in the 20s and 30s. Hemingway (yeah, him) said of the book "She has written so well, and marvellously well, that I was completely ashamed of myself as a writer." I have a copy at home I can loan you upon your return should you not be able to acquire a copy locally. I doubt the Samburu tribespeople sell books along with their wares.