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Published: March 10th 2018
My fascination with Africa is nothing new. The vast African wilderness captured my imagination since I was a little boy. Later when I grew up, the African Savannah was planted in my brain by the movie “Out of Africa” and I continued to romance with that. So when the Rover rolled out of the gate with the trailer from our home at Nakuru, my excitement turned into a throbbing pain of passion that was going to find the ultimate reality,- my dreamland Africa! The glowing Jacaranda on the roadside under the blue sky and the dusty roads of Nakuru brought me an enormous joy and I was bubbling inside. Finally, here comes my Africa, the dream comes true. We left Nakuru County and drove south along C57 heading to Naroke County. Actually, Masaimara, commonly known as Mara is the part of the same game reserve that extends further south to Tanzania and is called Serengati. On the Kenyan side, the area is relatively smaller than Serengati in Tanzania. We came to the junction of C12 where the town of Naroke lies and we drove along C12 further south to the Mara. I was absorbing everything all around me while Hardev was
on the steering. The landscape soon became arid, with bush and shrubs miles and miles on both side of the road.
“Let’s have lunch,” Hardev checked his watch. It was noon time and we pulled the Rover under a tree and John pulled out the folding chairs and the cooler from the car. Hardev travels to Kenya few times a year and is used to these trips. Bus load of tourists passing by along the highway were clicking their cameras and pointing at us, “Look, look, a bunch of nomads enjoying their lunch in style in the middle of nowhere”; yeah, right… make it a caption of your photo album when you go back home, I murmured! While we were eating our sandwiches, a Masai came with a little child, the child’s mother following him at a distance. “Jambo”…Hardev greeted him with a ‘Hi.’ They came from a nearby village, the man told us in Swahili. I heard a lot about the Masais, such a warrior tribe who even don’t care about the lions in the African plains. “Jambo”, the Masai returned the gesture. This was my first meet and greet with a Masai. I was not used to
the ritual in such places, especially on the Masai land. Hardev has been a seasoned traveler in this part of the world, so he knew the drill. Hardev is also fluent in Swahili which was a big help. Practically, he was controlling the show, not me. I just went with the flow.
Hardev offered them some sandwiches and a bottle of drinking water. Drinking water is here. The Masais were thankful…”Asante”…they left with a smile. It was time for us to pack up too.
We landed in the wrong gate of the Mara game reserve. Our bush camp was on the other end of the park near the Talek River.
“Can we pass through?” Hardev asked a gun totting guard.
“You may need a transit pass. Go ask at the gate.” The guard replied.
We parked our Rover near the roadside and went to the park office while John was waiting inside the car.
“No transit pass, you pay $80 each, whether you stay or pass.” The lady in the park office said flatly.
“But the guard told us we can get a transit pass.” Hardev explained to the lady.
pass,” the lady told us again. I knew from my experience in many parts of the world sometimes it is futile arguing with these officials…they go by the book.
“Hardev, it is $240 in total.” I can use my credit card.
“Screw it! We won’t pay. We will manage.” Hardev was confident. He went out and talked to a local Masai guy outside the gate.
“Come On, Tab…we go.”
“Where? “ I was a bit surprised.
“I am paying the guy $30…he will take us to the other side of the park near the Talek Gate.” He told me in a low voice.
“But… how did you manage?” I was a bit perplexed
“He will show us how to reach there from outside the park…perfectly fine by me.” I was thankful once again that Hardev was controlling the show and not me.
It took us just over an hour to reach the Talek Gate. And Oh My God…what a drive through the bush land. Sometimes there was no path, the Rover had to brush aside and trample the bushes to make its way. Again, I was thankful Hardev was driving and not
me. We needed to cross a river…there was not much water but full of boulders and rock. And of course, Crocodile. Crap, I hope we cross it in one go. Thank God it was a Land Rover with a tough driver on the steering, we inched to the other side. Oh, No! We could not make it till the end. We were caught while climbing the embankment. The Rover was trying to pull up in all four wheels through the mud. But the trailer was making a wrong angle and so it could not really make it and the Rover was slip-sliding in the mud. John and I got down from the car to push the heavy trailer. I was keeping an eye on my back…just to make sure the croc was not crawling from the back to pull us down when we were trying to push the trailer up. Finally, we made it. What an experience! Anyway, it was late in the afternoon when we reached the Talek Gate. The guy showed us the bush camp where we were supposed to camp. Hardev paid him and he was gone. Guess what! It was a wrong bush camp. But we
didn’t know that until three days later when we were leaving. Anyway, we were greeted by a German girl who was managing the Aruba lodge and the bush camp. The camp was owned by a German lady and the girl arrived from Germany a month ago to work as a volunteer. There was not a single guest in the lodge. We were not going to stay in the lodge anyway, just have our food there. A guy from the office walked us to the campsite and it was close to the perimeter of the camp that has a bush fencing separating it from the outside no-man’s land.
“Do not step out beyond the fence after 6:00 pm.” The guy cautioned us. “The wild elephants, and other animals roam around.” I couldn’t imagine what makes the wild life think that they cannot cross the bush fence to enter the campsite. Whatever, we would figure out, I thought.
“The washrooms and showers are on the other side.” Yeah, right! “Do you think I was going to cross the bushes in the middle of the night to go for a pee? The trees close to my tent would be good enough,”
I told myself. And yes, we were the only camper in the bush land, not a soul close by! Well, the fun starts, I clapped. Hardev and John got busy fixing the tent and I was pumping the air mattresses with the help of some of the local Masai from the camp site. And Yeeeye….it was done before the sundown!
We took a walk down the unpaved pathway to the lodge to sit down and have a drink. The Talek River was flowing just behind the lodge…hippo and crocs were there, although we couldn’t spot the hippo, but we found a baby croc resting by the river side. The embankment was steep climbing up from the river and a part of the game reserve starts right there. Animals usually come out early in the morning and in the evenings. They prefer to stay in the shade during the day to avoid the hot African sun. Sitting by the riverside in the late afternoon sun, we watched some zebras grazing peacefully in the reserve, a couple of waterhogs ran hurriedly as if they were missing their last train. A large baboon walked slowly with a team of baboons following him.
Probably the gang leader. Slowly, the dusk settled in all around us and all we could hear was the sound of water rushing through the river. It was time to have our dinner. I must say, it was a pleasant dinner with the exclusive hospitality of the German girl…because there were no other guests around.
After the dinner we relaxed a bit on the lodge patio, just by the river side. It was dark, but the moon was up, and the soft silver moonlight was creating more shadows of the bush and the trees than lighting them up. It was past 9:30 pm when Hardev and John got up.
“Are you coming?” Hardev asked. They were ready to head out to the tent.
I was posting some pics of the day. “In five minutes,” I said. “Why don’t you go ahead?” They left for the tent. I suppose it took more than five minutes of what I was doing… I was engrossed in posting the pics. Once done, I looked around, I was the only soul around. The dining room staffs have left for the night turning off the light. There was one or two pathway lamp,
dimly lit. Suddenly I realized I didn’t bring a torch for myself. What an idiot I am! Hippos do come sometimes from the other end of the river. No, it’s not safe to be here any longer, I thought; I started walking towards the general direction where our tent was. In a minute I realized I couldn’t recognize the pathway in the dark! Great, I thought! I started entering and breaking the bushes to find a way out in the dark. No luck. Soon, I was lost and suddenly I recognized the bush fence behind me. Oh my God! So I came outside the safe perimeter zone that we were cautioned not cross at night by the staff! I realized I am in no-man’s land and I was in real danger; I thought in a moment it would be safer for me to backtrack towards the river. At least that would be closer to the lodge. I started calling “Hardev”, “John”, but no one answered. Somehow, I managed to come closer to the river through the bushes and I was totally panicked at that point. My name calling has now turned into screaming. No luck yet and I was wondering
from bush to bush. I thought it would be possibly my last day under the vast African night. At that point I lost my total sense of direction and I didn’t know where I was going, still calling for John and Hardev. I don’t know how far I went, a guard at a distant lodge heard me screaming. He came running with his weapon and found me totally disoriented. He spoke English and I explained to him about my tent. He knew his way and asked me to follow him focusing his powerful torch on the pathways. After a few minutes I saw the silhouette of the tent at a distance under the soft darkness of a tree. I thanked the guard and entered the tent. Both John and Hardev were deep asleep. No wonder, they couldn’t hear me! Lessons learned….don’t underestimate the African wilderness; I was lucky tonight, but I may not be lucky tomorrow, so I MUST equip myself with the proper gear.
Next, the dawn breaking in Masaimara!
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