It’s great being back in Africa again. It’s about four months later in the year than my last trip, which means that everything is so much greener than it was last time. Against my independent spirit, I’ve decided to go ahead and sign up with Oasis Overland for another quick tour. I’m justifying it to myself by deciding that with the limited amount of time I have this trip in Africa, it’s easier to go with a group instead of worrying about organizing my own transportation and permits.
One of the benefits of traveling with a group is that they are taking us to places that I wouldn’t necessarily have thought to visit on my own. For example, today we are camping on the shores of Lake Nukuru. This area’s claim to fame is that it was the home of Joy Elsemere of the “Born Free” story. Her house is preserved on the lake shore where they serve afternoon high-tea in the gardens. As a condition of having refreshments, they expect you to watch a video about her life. This was pretty amusing; it was a typical self-serving documentary about how amazing that she was supposed to have been, and why she’s a much better person than you could ever hope to be. At least that was the message that the producers tried to get across. Most of us on the trip decided that there wasn’t anything very remarkable about her life, except for her tendency to jump from one husband to another, always going for a slightly more well off guy each time. If it wasn’t for the guys she married and then discarded she really wouldn’t have ever done anything with her life….Kind of like Princess Diana!
All griping aside, the biggest highlight of the area was Hell’s Gate national park. This is the only national park in Kenya that you’re allowed to go into without a vehicle. We ended up renting mountain bikes and spending the day cycling around game viewing. The park is home to lots of the typical “prey” animals; no dangerous cats or anything that might eat a tourist and generate negative publicity. I think the biggest carnivores there are a few jackals, which we were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of. The day started around 8:00 am, and we were biking till about 3:00 pm. For the most part the dirt roads we were on were in really good shape, with a mostly downhill gradient. We took it pretty easy, trying to stay as quiet as possible so that we’d have the best chance of sneaking up on the wildlife. Let me tell you, this is the way to view game! I couldn’t believe how close we got to the animals! We ended up seeing tons of gazelle, zebra, warthog and giraffe all thru the day, and then at our lunch stop we were nearly attacked by a pride of hungry baboons. I’d heard that they could be aggressive, but I’d never seen it this bad! After lunch we kept biking, and discovered that all the morning’s easy downhill riding had to be paid back by the afternoon climb. We ended up going as hard as we could at a very slow pace, and finally made it to a paved road. We knew at this point that there were only a few kilometers left to go, but for the engineering geek in me, it was some of the best terrain. This whole part of Kenya is very geologically active, and there were tons of wells that had been sunk in the bedrock collecting hot steam for power generation. The whole area smelled faintly of sulfur, and was crisscrossed with an ugly latticework of pipes, but it still looked cool, and we were later told that it provides a very high proportion of the country’s power.
When we finally finished we were all exhausted, but very happy. It was the first chance I’d really gotten to try out my new camera in Africa and it has more than lived up to my expectations. Pictures will be coming on here soon!