Saturday, April 28, 2012

Letters from Africa, Part III

We continue on, but I'd like to add that many of the birds we saw (and there were many) were just too hard to photograph. That was a part of going on safari I had forgotten about from Nico's experience and we might just have to go back and count our sightings. They were all extraordinary in some way and worth a review. But enough, Jorrit continues...

couple more quick notes from us.  last i wrote, we were still in the
mara.  we spent the last day searching high and low for a cheetah so that nico could achieve seeing all the animals on his list. unfortunately, we never saw one, but did manage some excitement by blowing a tire and then limping to a safe place where we could wait (in style) for the replacement car - photos attached.  it was a beautiful last day and we could all have done with a little more time there.  from the mara we flew in our bush plane from the mara airport (photo) past Nella's house (our guide) where we picked up her beau -James.  i took a photo of the lake near her home where there were thousands upon thousands of flamingos (see pink photo).  after a quick glass of water there, we headed further north and a little east to a place called sarara.  we stayed at this amazing lodge right out of swiss family robinson (the african version).  it's an interesting set up.  there is a white kenyan family (3rd generation kenyan) that runs this lodge on a 350K acre wildlife conservancy.  the conservancy is owned by the resident Samburu tribe.  the lodge brings intourists and 65% of the money from the lodge goes into a trust for the resident tribe.  this trust is used to pay for medical needs, education, patrols, etc.  each klan in the tribe has a group of elders and the senior elder sits onthe trust board.  by all accounts, this is working great.  the family that runs the lodge has, over time, been able to convince the tribe that there is more long term money for them if they can create a rich wildlife experience that foreigners will want to pay to see and, they benefit directly from this tourism. so, they now have professional rangers who not only protect tourists like us from the dangers of the wild, but who also protect the animals from poachers. they also get medical care they need and have a mechanism where some of their kids can go to school.  it was really interesting to learn about and it is a model that is now being applied to three adjacent tracks of acreage.  i think that, all in all, it's up to 850MM acres and, it was nice.  the lodge had a fresh spring fed pool that over looked one of the few/best watering holes in the area.  so, everynight we enjoyed a show of wild elephants and many other creatures that came from dusk until around 4am and drank the night away.  the couple who run the lodge are 26 and have adopted a baby kudu that was left by its mom.  the kudu's brother had been attacked and killed by a resident leopard the night before we arrived.  life in the wild. the time here was much more relaxed. a few walks during the day. nice dinners at night.  we took an excursion to the "singing wells" and a small tribal village (no photos were allowed).  the singingwells are wells dug into the river bed where tribal warriors work together to fetch water from deep underground (in this case, the water table was high so the deepest well was 15 or so feet).  one warrior would be in the bottom of the well with water up to his thigh and he'd pass a 2 gallon tin bucket overhead to another warrior who was on a mud ledge at about 6f eet.  this guy would then pour the water into a wooden trough for his animals.  the warriors are naked and quite sculpted.  i think i could have lasted ten minutes.  they do it all day.  and..they sing.  they each have a specific song that their animals know (more of a chant).  so, when their goats/cows hear their song, they come to the well in groups of 5 (little boys with big sticks help them understandwhen its their turn). very interesting to watch.  later that day, we went to a tiny samburu village that was being built (they move every 6 months).  women do all the work while men (elders) discuss important things.  all dirt.  all tiny branch woven huts with dung floors and walls. despite the massive poverty and dirt, there were only smiles on their faces.  it made quite an impression upon all of us - most especially nico and carmela. 

Last morning in The Mara, our elephant friends greet us again.

Miss Hippo, late for class and she lost her skirt.

The flat tire and breakfast.

Farewell to the cape buffalo.

Airport security.

Our friendly co-pilot.

The mischievous passenger.

Small homesteads from above.

The flamingos, more beautiful than this picture can capture.

Our landing in Naivasha, Nella's home strip.

Leaving Naivasha, new co-pilot, all smiles.

Welcome to northern Kenya, home of the Samburus.

The Mathews Mountain Range in the background.

Our first glances at Sarara Lodge in Kenya.

These birds ate every meal with, and without, us.

Typical Samburu necklace worn by women, colors vary depending on your status (not FB status), "courting", "married", etc. 

Their ever-fetching dog. Great entertainment and companionship.

Still eating.

I was fascinated by the lodge construction. All wood used is from the area and already fallen. Much of it is from a tree that has incredibly hard wood and I think wood also from the Acacia tree (the classic African tree seen here many times in pictures). The beautiful thatched roof is used from a grass or reed that is brought in fresh, wet to soften and then woven into the horizontal bars that construct the roof. The interior of the rooftop was beautiful, like a giant basket woven overhead. The roofline was a bit wavy and the white plaster walls and natural wood floors made it more than picture worthy. The wavy style reminded me of a market we saw in Barcelona and a bit of the George Pompidou architecture in Metz, France. 

The pool with beautiful views.

Main lodge.

A door mat for Ella.

Relaxing on the terrace in our room.

Chez v.d. Meulen, for the moment.

Yes, a laundry basket but look at it! Beaded handles, nice touch.

You are allowed to be vain here apparently, a mirror and running water.

Pool time, nice hat Jorrit.

Our first walk, with protective services included.

Examining animal footprints with Daniel.

The Sarara Lodge and camp from afar.

A favorite floral find, the gardenia. One for the hand, one for the hair.

Dinner awaits us back in Sarara.

Carmela and Nico, hangin' with the adopted kudu who enjoyed hand-fed, scraps from the table and a night guarded room of her own. No joke.

Baboon hour, we saw these guys often out and about.

The first watering session robbed me of my shower on our first night. 


Checking for wildlife.


Sorry, but I can't help commenting on his great outfit. Fashionistas take note.

Another favorite site, if not already mentioned, the weaver's nest. They were everywhere and tiny little works of art that dangled from the trees.

Surprise, last night, lugger/"beach" barbecue, steak cooked on hot rocks. Delicious and romantic farewell to Kenya.