March 2004

While our son was visiting from Canada, we went on safari to the Maasai Mara. This Game Park, in the south west corner of Kenya, merges with the Serengeti in Tanzania. In October, it is invaded by herd of wildbeeste, migrating across the plains in their thousands.

From Kakamega we drove down to Lake Victoria and branched off on the road to Nairobi. This route goes through tea country with vast plantations of squat green bushes and manicured estates maintained by the tea companies. The largest town is Kericho, named after the early English tea planter John Kerich. Its equable climate and year round afternoon rain showers make it the most important tea growing area in Africa.

From Kericho the road leads to Nakuru, where we stayed a couple of nights at the Sports Hotel. We are members of the Kakamega Golf Club, famous for its bird life and grass mown by grazing cows, and most clubs have reciprocal agreements. The Nakuru Sports Club is located in the town center and is an oasis of well tended lawns and genteel dining. It harks back to the colonial era and has been maintained well as a private club, although the high ceilinged rooms are beginning to show their age. The bathroom fixtures still work, but are obviously the originals from sixty years ago. There is still a gentlemen’s bar, open all day, where women are not allowed and they play cricket outside the dining patio on Sunday afternoon.

Nakuru has a Game Park just on the edge of the city. It’s not large, about 10 by 25 km, but it is beautiful with acacia forests and euphorbia plantations. The euphorbia tree is like a giant cactus or an umbrella blown inside out. The Park encircles a saline lake with hundreds of flamingos that look like a deep pink line of surf on the water. The flamingos disappear when the water level or the salinity drops, so we were fortunate to see so many. A large number of buffalo and white rhino are frequent sights, as are giraffe and baboons. One of the latter sat on a tree stump and watched us picnic in a little camp site by a waterfall, but was not able to snatch any of our food.

The road to Naivasha, with another salt lake, is pretty bad, but after Naivasha there has been an improvement project and the going is wonderfully smooth. Almost in Nairobi, you turn right and drop down the steep escarpment towards Narok and the Mara. About twelve kilometers from Narok the road deteriorates completely (with no continuous tarmac surface left) and dirt tracks have been made on the sides to allow vehicles to pass. Once through Narok, the road is better and you soon meet packed earth as your approach the reserve.

The Maasai Mara is known as the best park for seeing the greatest variety of animals and we were not disappointed. The Fig Tree Lodge, where we stayed, is about 25 km from the gate towards the western end of the Park where wildlife is more plentiful. The situation of the lodge is lovely, overlooking a bend in the Talek River and most accommodation is in ‘furnished tents’ each with a small deck and modern bathrooms. Our spot looked down on a sandbar that was noisy with life at night. Hoof and paw prints were clearly visible in the sand in the morning.

Since we had our own vehicle we hired a local guide to take us out. Steve is a Maasai and wears his traditional dress of a red robe, earrings and beads as do most of the Maasai in the settlements we passed. He carries his spear and told us it is ‘easy’ to fight a lion with spear and club. He was born and raised six kilometers from the lodge and said that last year they killed eight marauding lions outside the Park. There are no physical boundaries of course and hungry lions and elephants frequently make the newspaper reports as they attack humans and cattle and trample crops in many parts of the country.

The Park teems with wildlife and, thanks to Steve’s great eyesight, we were face to face with the most spectacular. In the pale light of dawn we found a lone male lion, just waking up. The lions live on their own until about age eight. They hunt together with another male until they are ready to find an old male and take over a pride. The cubs from the previous male are usually killed when this happens. Once he has his own pride, the male just eats, sleeps and breeds as the females do the hunting.

We found a family of cheetahs, a female and three cubs, who had just made a kill and were finishing breakfast. They finished eating, completely undisturbed by us, then strolled down to a water hole to drink. Two jackals watched carefully, then trotted over to the remains of the carcass. One ate heartily, but one was very nervous and edged away. Unfortunately, he went the wrong way, directly into the path of the cheetah family. One of the big cats gave chase and the jackal narrowly escaped into a burrow in some bushes. The cheetahs were most likely doing this for sport, for they weren’t hungry, but the jackal took it very seriously.

A leopard had also made a kill and pulled the remains of a wildbeeste up into a tree. Over the couple of days we were there, the carcass became just skin and horns. The leopard at one point strolled unconcernedly across a clearing in front of us.

We met bat-eared foxes, hyena, elephants, giraffes and all kinds of gazelles and zebra s and stopped at a pool int the river where hippos were wallowing. If you would like to see just a few of our pictures, including one of Steve with our vehicle, you can click on www.patriciacrossley.com/newsletter/maasaimara.htm.

I’ll be adding more and will let you know when I have a new set posted.

It's so hot here at the moment we can hardly breathe. We had a request for an extra computer class session & had to put it in the afternoon. Never again!! We're into the long rains (heavy rain in the afternoons & sometimes at night)

I did a teacher workshop in a school last week where the roof of 10 classrooms was blown off in storm Sunday night. Books, materials, files all lost or damaged by rain. The mbati (corrugated metal roof) was shredded as it flew and would have cut anyone nearby to ribbons. The only good thing was that no one was in the school. Needless to say, the government doesn't do buildings, but according to the newspaper, there will be an application to a disaster fund. I took some pictures and have put them on my site at www.patriciacrossley.com/newsletter/ekwanda.htm.

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March 2004

While our son was visiting from Canada, we went on safari to the Maasai Mara. This Game Park, in the south west corner of Kenya, merges with the Serengeti in Tanzania. In October, it is invaded by herd of wildbeeste, migrating across the plains in their thousands.

From Kakamega we drove down to Lake Victoria and branched off on the road to Nairobi. This route goes through tea country with vast plantations of squat green bushes and manicured estates maintained by the tea companies. The largest town is Kericho, named after the early English tea planter John Kerich. Its equable climate and year round afternoon rain showers make it the most important tea growing area in Africa.

From Kericho the road leads to Nakuru, where we stayed a couple of nights at the Sports Hotel. We are members of the Kakamega Golf Club, famous for its bird life and grass mown by grazing cows, and most clubs have reciprocal agreements. The Nakuru Sports Club is located in the town center and is an oasis of well tended lawns and genteel dining. It harks back to the colonial era and has been maintained well as a private club, although the high ceilinged rooms are beginning to show their age. The bathroom fixtures still work, but are obviously the originals from sixty years ago. There is still a gentlemen’s bar, open all day, where women are not allowed and they play cricket outside the dining patio on Sunday afternoon.

Nakuru has a Game Park just on the edge of the city. It’s not large, about 10 by 25 km, but it is beautiful with acacia forests and euphorbia plantations. The euphorbia tree is like a giant cactus or an umbrella blown inside out. The Park encircles a saline lake with hundreds of flamingos that look like a deep pink line of surf on the water. The flamingos disappear when the water level or the salinity drops, so we were fortunate to see so many. A large number of buffalo and white rhino are frequent sights, as are giraffe and baboons. One of the latter sat on a tree stump and watched us picnic in a little camp site by a waterfall, but was not able to snatch any of our food.

The road to Naivasha, with another salt lake, is pretty bad, but after Naivasha there has been an improvement project and the going is wonderfully smooth. Almost in Nairobi, you turn right and drop down the steep escarpment towards Narok and the Mara. About twelve kilometers from Narok the road deteriorates completely (with no continuous tarmac surface left) and dirt tracks have been made on the sides to allow vehicles to pass. Once through Narok, the road is better and you soon meet packed earth as your approach the reserve.

The Maasai Mara is known as the best park for seeing the greatest variety of animals and we were not disappointed. The Fig Tree Lodge, where we stayed, is about 25 km from the gate towards the western end of the Park where wildlife is more plentiful. The situation of the lodge is lovely, overlooking a bend in the Talek River and most accommodation is in ‘furnished tents’ each with a small deck and modern bathrooms. Our spot looked down on a sandbar that was noisy with life at night. Hoof and paw prints were clearly visible in the sand in the morning.

Since we had our own vehicle we hired a local guide to take us out. Steve is a Maasai and wears his traditional dress of a red robe, earrings and beads as do most of the Maasai in the settlements we passed. He carries his spear and told us it is ‘easy’ to fight a lion with spear and club. He was born and raised six kilometers from the lodge and said that last year they killed eight marauding lions outside the Park. There are no physical boundaries of course and hungry lions and elephants frequently make the newspaper reports as they attack humans and cattle and trample crops in many parts of the country.

The Park teems with wildlife and, thanks to Steve’s great eyesight, we were face to face with the most spectacular. In the pale light of dawn we found a lone male lion, just waking up. The lions live on their own until about age eight. They hunt together with another male until they are ready to find an old male and take over a pride. The cubs from the previous male are usually killed when this happens. Once he has his own pride, the male just eats, sleeps and breeds as the females do the hunting.

We found a family of cheetahs, a female and three cubs, who had just made a kill and were finishing breakfast. They finished eating, completely undisturbed by us, then strolled down to a water hole to drink. Two jackals watched carefully, then trotted over to the remains of the carcass. One ate heartily, but one was very nervous and edged away. Unfortunately, he went the wrong way, directly into the path of the cheetah family. One of the big cats gave chase and the jackal narrowly escaped into a burrow in some bushes. The cheetahs were most likely doing this for sport, for they weren’t hungry, but the jackal took it very seriously.

A leopard had also made a kill and pulled the remains of a wildbeeste up into a tree. Over the couple of days we were there, the carcass became just skin and horns. The leopard at one point strolled unconcernedly across a clearing in front of us.

We met bat-eared foxes, hyena, elephants, giraffes and all kinds of gazelles and zebra s and stopped at a pool int the river where hippos were wallowing. If you would like to see just a few of our pictures, including one of Steve with our vehicle, you can click on www.patriciacrossley.com/newsletter/maasaimara.htm.

I’ll be adding more and will let you know when I have a new set posted.

It's so hot here at the moment we can hardly breathe. We had a request for an extra computer class session & had to put it in the afternoon. Never again!! We're into the long rains (heavy rain in the afternoons & sometimes at night)

I did a teacher workshop in a school last week where the roof of 10 classrooms was blown off in storm Sunday night. Books, materials, files all lost or damaged by rain. The mbati (corrugated metal roof) was shredded as it flew and would have cut anyone nearby to ribbons. The only good thing was that no one was in the school. Needless to say, the government doesn't do buildings, but according to the newspaper, there will be an application to a disaster fund. I took some pictures and have put them on my site at www.patriciacrossley.com/newsletter/ekwanda.htm.