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Published: August 6th 2008
Leaving behind the comfort and luxury enjoyed in Africa thus far, we set out on our budget camping safari and fell back to earth with a great thud in dusty Amboseli. Maybe we are just getting soft in our old age, but in hindsight we probably would have done ourselves a favour to experience the budget safari experience PRIOR to the luxury version. As previously mentioned Carissa and I had opted for a budget camping safari to round out our final week in Africa. The tour encompassed Masai Mara, Lake Nakuru and finally Amboseli National Parks. Six of us set out from Nairobi: the driver Nixon (not his real name) and cook Mugu, two Swedish sisters Matilda & Josephine (I don't know what it is with the tours we do and Swedish backpackers?? However, it is a cross I am willing to bear) and Carissa and I. Although the national parks were all within a relatively close distance, approx 600km round trip, we soon realised it would be slow going with long days ahead in the mini van (not to mention the perpetual smell of rotten cabbage that I'm sure was hidden somewhere deep inside the van). The roads in Kenya
and Africa for that matter, are a relatively hit and miss affair. Herds of cattle across the highway, potholes large enough to swallow a small car, overturned vecihles (and people), and often no road at all make for relatively slow going at the best of times.
Fortunately our quest was all worth it when on the second day we completed our hunt for the Big 5 and came across the elusive leopard, perched high in a tree gnawing on a fresh kill. However this rare sighting was short lived as the call of the leopard was put out across the CB radio, and the vans and troopies laden with tourists soon came charging over the hill. The area surrounding the tree quickly resembled a Nairobi traffic jam. The leopard quickly stood up, gave us all a filthy look, jumped down from the tree (leaving its dinner behind) and disappeared into the bush not to be seen again.
Leaving the Mara we headed North to Lake Nakuru. Our driver took a risk and tried for a shortcut which, if successful, would save us 2 hours from our overall journey. It was not succsessful. It soon started to rain and the road
we were on quickly turned to mud. At this point we were over half way so there was no other option but to push on. The van (imitation 4WD) so became hopelessly bogged. We were soon to realise however, that this is normal practice. A group of boys appeared out of nowhere offering to push us out and continue to run alongside until we were clear of the worst section of road. It is obviously a business for them because the driver entered into some pretty fierce negotiations before finally we were pushed clear of the axle high mud.
I must commend the driver on his resourcefulness as he often took advantage of spare seats in the van to solicit favours, such as picking up kids en route and dropping them to school or helping people by the side of the road who were going our way. This of course was fine with us, however at one point when he stopped and three armed soldiers climbed aboard I decided against warning them on the merits of firearm safety (see picture attached), despite the van doing about 80km on a hideously bumpy road.
When we did arrive at Lake Nakuru the
weather had turned for the worst unfortunately. However, we did manage to see some of the world famous pink flamingoes that inhabit this region and plenty of rhino's. The following morning we bid farewell to the Swedish sisters who by this time were more than profficient at '500' having played many rounds of cards with us on the long road journeys thus far.
The four of us made our way to Amboseli were we were treated to two beautiful sunny days out in the park with no shortage of wildlife roaming around, all set against the spectacular backdrop of Mount Kilimanjaro. Unfortunately our time in Africa has now drawn to a close and we are setting out to the land of the sand (and shopping), Dubai ("Do Buy") to visit a good mate who lives there.
Until next time. Hoo Roo
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