Monday, August 18, 2014

Final days

On Saturday we traveled to the Amboseli National Park to go on safari. As we did last year, we stayed in the beautiful Serena Lodge, which is a total contrast to everything else we've been experiencing here. And the best of it is that we got to go on 2 safari drives, as well as spotting wildlife on the way in and on the way out again.

I got a telephoto lens for my iPhone for my birthday just before I left so there are some experimental shots with that. Not great, but at least the animals show up as more than just dots :-)

Amboseli is located in the heart of Masai tribal land, so we saw lots of cows being herded as we headed to the Park.

Ready for a game drive!

 Just in case anyone was thinking of speeding...

We passed by a camp that's no longer used by humans; just baboons. This guy was sitting by the side of the road to greet us. 

 Monkeys are cute but pesky at the lodge.

1st Game Drive. First up, some guinea hens.

 Then we got the word of a cheetah sighting!!

We actually saw 5 cheetahs, lounging around, long and lean. So beautiful. These 2 photos were taken with the telephoto but the cats still seem pretty small in the picture. In the foreground is one lying down and one sitting up.

 Now if I had a telephoto like that guy, you'd be able to see their tonsils!

 One obligingly turned over and showed us his white tummy.

Cheetah viewing traffic jam.

Some friendly faces in the crowd.

 We were hugely fortunate to have a herd of elephants cross right in front of our vehicle. Fabulous!

 Lots and lots of zebras. (Say "ZEH-brah" if you want to sound like a local.)

 Time to start heading back.

From the lawn at the lodge.

Happy to be here!

2nd safari drive starting at 6:15am. The day before we hadn't been able to see Kilimanjaro at all. This morning it started peeking through...

Within another 20 minutes, it had disappeared behind the clouds again.

When I set my camera down at one point, something must have been touching the shutter button because it took about 600 photos in the course of a minute or so, including a few unintended selfies!

Some blurry flamingos with a sort of in-focus bird in the front - with the telephoto.

A final look at the little bit of snow on the peak of Kilimanjaro before it disappears behind the clouds.

 Cape buffalo, with a happy rider and entourage...

Another telephoto. A giraffe a looong way off, drinking water.

Yes, I took this with the telephoto, but he was still pretty close. At first we thought he might be stamping his foot at us, but he was simply kicking the grass at its roots to dig it out of the ground. Then, before eating it, he shook it so most of the dirt would fly off. What a joy to just watch him (her?) We saw just a little of a baby nearby. Also, this elephant was in an area "protected" by fences, probably for a camp, but as we drove out, we saw the place where the fence had been trampled to the ground.

Then we saw hippos - very cool!

Sorta looks like he's ready to chomp on the bird but he's really just going for the grass.

Then there's this guy, or is it a gal, since she/he is obviously enjoying a mud bath.

This was not taken with a telephoto. We were just looking down at it and it occasionally blinked back at us.

At the park entrance/exit, the Masai sell jewelry and other trinkets.

The obligatory kitten photo.

And of course there's Nairobi traffic. A trip that took us about 4 hours going to the park, took us 6 hours coming home; the 2 extra hours were just within Nairobi itself. There's bad traffic all the time but usually not so crazy on Sunday. The word I heard was that there was a marathon and it tied up traffic for miles and miles all around. Add to that the number of big trucks on the road to and from the park and it's crazy!

Our plane leaves late tonight (Monday) and though we'll be traveling about 24 hours, we'll arrive in PDX about 11:30am on Tuesday.  Looking for some Portland sun - it's been lots of gray skies here ;-)

Friday, August 15, 2014

Giraffe Park!

Today was our trip with the seniors from New Dawn School to visit the Giraffe Park.

Sorting the bags of clothing we'll be giving to the New Dawn students.

The parking area in our guesthouse compound. Every building is guarded by walls, gates and guards. We're getting ready to head out for the day.

Irene Tongoi, on the left, is sharing a laugh with Miriam - they're long-time friends. Irene is the Director of the New Dawn Educational Centre.

We started by meeting the students at the school property so that those on our team who hadn't seen the school could experience it. Former K9 officer Ken found a dog who instantly bonded with him.

Maggie is chatting with the guy who, among other things, cares for the cows at New Dawn. I'm afraid I don't know remember his name, but I know there's some sort of Chicago connection!

At the park, you can go up to the second story to feed the giraffes at their level.

 The warthogs below are happy to gobble up what the giraffes miss.

Lance "kissed" a giraffe, i.e. held a bit of food between his teeth and the giraffe took it. If I can load the video of it, I'll do so. I kissed a giraffe when I was here several years ago; thought I'd let the students have their turn this time!

Since we were there with a school, we had a guide who gave us a lot of info about giraffes (these are Rothschild giraffes, which are endangered), and about protecting the environment. He demonstrated how you could make some charcoal substitutes (since many people still cook over charcoal fires here) by soaking leaves and shredded paper for a few days, then putting them into a press to squeeze out all possible water, and drying them outside for several days.

Those of us who are dedicated recyclers are cringing every time we throw another plastic water bottle into the trash. The park is encouraging folks to start sorting.

 Hmmm - why are these guys posing by the "Jocks Trail" sign?

Found on the nature trail the guide took us on.

After the giraffe park, we had lunch with the students. Zedekiah, next to me, loves to perform gospel rap. Hassan wants to combine journalism and cartooning; I told him that political cartooning combines those skills.

As a team, we brought clothing and shoes for all the students, but somehow 5 of the bags went astray. We'll get some to them in the next few weeks (Miriam will work her networking magic to make that happen) but Zedekiah was so sad not to have anything that I gave him my Wild Canyon Games pullover. So now the brand will be represented in Kenya!

Here's a bunch of photos taken from the car showing just a small percentage of what is sold on the roadside...

The road from the park is called Karen (after Karen Blixen of "Out of Africa" fame who lived in this area) and now it's known as the place to buy furniture.

 Bicycle and motorcycle are frequent transport vehicles.

More furniture. And the tall metal structure is a billboard that's currently not displaying any advertising. Yesterday, we saw a couple of men up in the gridwork, painting - no safety harnesses in sight.

 Goats and cows are frequent along the roadside.

Tiny little shops along the road are typical. I don't know how they eke out a living with one of those. The red one is Maggie's Kiosk! Didn't know she was a Kenyan entrepreneur ;-)

We are experiencing what Dulcy Mahar would call "plant lust" every time we pass one of these roadside nurseries.

You can't really see it but this woman has her child by the hand, and ropes on all the goats.

Lots of great fruits and veggies here.

 Drove by the infamous Westgate Mall where terrorists took over last year. It's deserted and they tell us the back portion has collapsed. To the left of the Westgate sign, between the two small windows, you can see bullet holes.

 Scaffolds are created from sticks.

 Sudden garden spots of green.