Saturday

Magic awaits in Masai Mara

Years of dreaming about this trip, I could hardly believe that it had finally arrived…hours away from the jungles, where I've wanted to be in the longest time ever!

My Africa trip covers large parts of E Africa –breadth of Kenya and the jewel of Tanzania (Zanzibar that I covered in my previous post). Here, I will narrate my visit to Masai Mara, maybe do 1 or 2 more posts if required on the remainder of my grand safari, and then perhaps later  do a post on time spent in Mombasa and Old Town.



The traffic was slow getting out of the city took over 3 hours, crawling forever, we made our way out of Parliament Street

The road between Nairobi and Masai Mara is long and a scary one!Only 500km away, we expected a good steady drive, nothing like what we encountered




The condition of the eroded road was rocky, dusty, potholed beyond belief, making the travel extremely long and frustrating towards our final push - our first destination, Masai Mara. Mini-vans, trucks, buses, cars all were braving the 100 km of mud and long stretches of coarse sand or rocky gravel , with no hesitation. 


Add that, to Kenyan driver mentality and you have quite a dangerous drive ahead of you. And our driver did not like to go slow. The journey which started happily gazing out of my window seat at the passing by green fields and staring at the high above mountains sometimes shrouded in the mystery of mist and clouds, soon became, a rodeo drive, except instead of hanging on for 8 seconds we musta been hanging for over 6-7 hours. This road trip redefined the term "ride it don't fight it". I spent most of the time suspended in the air about inches above the seat. The rest of the time was spent crashing my shoulder into the window or bruising my backside while making repeatedly harder landings on the seat below. I am also impressed with my ability to read while being knocked around like a pinball - no doubt, this is a talent.

We continued to pass many traditionally dressed Masai people, with bright red cloth, rows and rows of bright beads around their necks and ears 









The males always carry a *dumroo* like wedge in their hand to defend themselves in case of an attack, we saw most such individuals with their cattle in the hot blazing sun. Juan our caretaker educated us on the food and diet of the Masai people – milk, meat and blood are their staple. Much like the Hindus the cow is sacred and rarely slaughtered for meat – goats are just as good eating. The Masai drink fresh blood, drawn from a live cow whose jugular is pierced and then sealed again once enough blood has been taken. They rarely eat anything else, perhaps the odd berry or seed when they’re in the forest (the Masai youth spend about 3-5 years in the forest learning to become warriors). 

The wealth of a Masai family is determined by the strength/volume of their cattle/herd. This is perhaps only the tip of my education, much more to be learnt in this lifetime and perhaps another trip back to the mara. 

Bruised and exhausted we got off the battered car (which broke down thrice on the way to the Safari!) to climb into a more solid Land Cruiser, near the Gate of the Game Park. 



The new car driver saw the tiredness and dejection writ large on all our faces, so once the *Jaambos (hello’s)* were done, he silently drove us into the Game Park. Within minutes our moods transformed. I was jumping up and down, my joy knew no bounds! With my jaw dropping to the floor, eyes agog I watched mesmerized -the largest herd of giraffes ever! My God I have never seen such big giraffes *ever*!




The Masai giraffes are also known as the Kilimanjaro Giraffe, they are the largest subspecies of giraffe and the tallest land mammal on Earth.  




These Savannah giraffes eat up to 35 kilos of food per day, they only get a few leaves in each bite, so the entire day is spent eating. Their favourite leaves are acacia trees, but despite the tree having long thorns in them, the giraffes use their 18-inch tongue to reach around the thorns.  (PS: Look at the deer in the distance to compare the size of the giraffe:) )  


Nightfall was minutes away, we had missed our evening safari because of the multiple car breakdowns we had earlier; seeing these massive giraffes cheered me so much, I wanted more of the animal kingdom, right here, right now!:) My camera was on non-stop action, I simply couldn't have enough. I had arrived in the animal kingdom, breathlessly waiting the dawn of the next morning to see the *Big Five*- elephant, lion, leopard, rhino and buffalo. 

Night engulfed us pretty rapidly, we reached the camp which was located just outside the game park, we were surrounded by huge Baobab trees. The camp looked dark and ominous; I could not fathom its geography, the petroleum candlelight lantern created nervous shadows on the trees surrounding it.


Morning light brought some sanity to the frazzled nerves, but I was glad to be heading out to the Safari, with no more thought to the night ahead. I have never lived in such an environment before – it was a wee bit exciting but also a bit stressful, kept me alert!  I was a little alarmed when I entered my tent, as a brown blur shot past my foot (yikessss perhaps a mouse?) - the bed sagged in the middle, making for a restless night, a bathroom that only spewed cold water. It's fair to say I didn't sleep well. I was too afraid to peer outside my tent at night wondering if a fox would lay siege!

The activities on offer in the camp were equally limited and finite, no power unit inside the tent. The camp blacked out by 10pm. Our arriving late due to the frequent breakdown of the car ensured I had zero battery both in my phone and camera for the next day! I woke at 5am the next morning – trudged thru the undergrowth, fighting the dark and low hanging branches, guided by the nervous-near-dying flames of a distant bonfire, reached the area allocated for charging phones/cameras (far away from my tent) – got half hour worth of charge- before the lights went off again. 6am we were on our way back inside the jungles. I had to ration my usage of the camera and the phone camera, if I wanted to capture all that I saw…

The camp itself felt quite battered and primitive, not my cuppa at all. A bottle of water cost Rs 200/- , decrepit zero facilities …stressful for a comfort-driven-city-dweller like me, I found myself praying fervently to God every night before sleeping. I didn't return from Africa raving about the cuisine, so if you are a veggie, I suggest, you stock up on bread. Since the game drives can last for several hours at a time, inevitably you and others in the group will need to use a loo. The driver often will stop the vehicle and the passengers take turns going behind the vehicle, and or alternatively at some distance you do have toilets which arent the best in hygiene..you are better off going in the wild,. ..yes much like the norm on the highway when driving between States. Keep some tissue and hand sanitizer handy.

Ok enough of the lowly issues- lemme now emphasize how spectacular the animal kingdom experience has been for me.  Some days were better than others, of course, I always found it exhilarating to drive across the Savannah in search of beautiful animals.




The landscape is so vast, arid, brown, and grassy, with ranges in the far distance that it took my breath away a zillion times over. Words don’t do justice to the vastness of the breath-taking Savannahs. *Masai Mara*: the Game Park is named in honour of the Masai people (the ancestral inhabitants of the area)  and *Mara* is a reference to the patchy/spotted landscape - an apt description for the circles of trees, scrub, Savannah, and cloud shadows that mark the area.


Can you see the sun rays?




When inside the jungle reserves, sometimes our car would stay steadfast on the dirt track, but sometimes we’d find ourselves in a territory where there literally, were no roads. That’s why the 4x4 makes so much sense, here, I guess :)  


The driver would scan the horizon and start off in whatever direction seemed promising.  Soon enough we’d be seeing various kinds of antelope and zebras… then giraffes… elephants… lions.  Yes — they are right there, within a few feet of our vehicle! Oh, and if you’re wondering, does the driver keep the motor running, just in case a quick escape is necessary..he knows that if you get mauled, you may not be there to tip him, so he usually does! But our crabby car and luck ensured we missed a few heartbeats when the car ignition simply went dead twice. Only to be cranked up within nano seconds…phewwwww, all within a few paces of a group of prowling lioness’s and their cubs! More on that in the next post:)




The magic of Masai Mara, makes one feel small, humble and incredibly lucky to witness Gods Nature as it was meant to be. This is truly God’s own Country 


17 comments:

Rahul said...

This is one of the best posts by you. Pics as usual are outstanding and yes we can see the rays clearly :))
While reading your previous post on africa I thought that journey ahead would be easy and more comfortable, but that's completely a raw experience, riding without roads for such long distances must have been backbreaking for sure :(

Pic of that vastland is simply amazing indeed its a breath taking view:)

Now waiting for more info and beautiful pics...
Again thanx a lot for sharing this wonderful post.. :)

Anon said...

:) took mee back in time! You've captured some amazing shots !

meeMeenakshi

Anon said...

Your trip to Africa is very exciting and challenging!!!
Just reading your blog makes me feel cheered up as if I were in the middle of the
Safari.

First of all it is amazing your back is so tough against the jumpy ride. My back would never so tough against it, oh my God.>-< When I was in South America in my 30's, I made many challenging tours.
I remember those days.
There is also the crossing of the equator in Equador . I stood on the line putting one leg
on the northern Hemisphere and the other on the Southern Hemisphere.
I want to share all those memories with you. Soon will come to the club and meet you

Big hugg
Funiko

Anon said...

Mee, loved the pics, I enjoyed your writing style, so would like to read a more indepth analysis of your trip Nature is magnificent, the vastness of the Mara is mind boggling. I remember from my trip, as we were entering the Mara, having gone through the same or worse bumpy ride, the sheer sight of packs and packs of Zebras on both sides of the road was just stupendous. Did you sight any Lions?

Priya

Shweta said...

This was "LIVE"!!! I could well have been on this journey, brilliant post, loved all the oooo-aaah-ouch's, the high's and thrills of this story:D

Keep saying this to you, you should explore writing as a profession, love the story telling style completely:D

Anon said...

This is great! Are you doing this as part of a volunteer travel or just on your own?

Roheen

Anon said...

Btw amazing pics! You must have had the time of your life :P

Qunitessentialist

Anon said...

Great blog. Nicely written.

CV

Anon said...

Lovely post! Lived thru every bump and sunset:))) How evocative is your writing! Like you rightly said in one of your earlier posts- no pain, no gain. Look fwd to mtg you to hear more:DD

Hugg

Rads

Rajdeep said...

You capture a awesome view...
http://www.tempsens.com/rtds.html

Anon said...

Hey Mee

Read through it. Could feel every bit of your experience. Missed a heart beat or two as well. Phew ! and Wow !

It was simply amazing, breathtaking and MIND BLOWINGGGGG.

Regards
Kavita

sagar said...

Brings to mind many an adventurous trips I had in my college days, feel refreshed, but must admit none of them were remotely close to the scale of adventure that comes out live through your post. Honest and to the point commentary, awesome pics and....yeh dil maange more!!!

magiceye said...

Wow! You had a true jungle experience!!

Mee said...

@Rahul: Blush blush blush:DDD The entire Savannah's are breath taking! What nature and harmony to experience. Its a window to God.

@meeMeenakshi: TY:))

@Fumiko: Look fwd to reading abt ur journeys:))

@Pee: Saw the lons, saw a hunt, saw the beautiful creatures and wanted to hug them...they looked...soo....breath taking-ly regal:)))

@Shweta- awww ty:)))

@Roheen- love to travel, and will travel till I can:))

@Qunitessentialist- did:))

@CV- a big ty to u for inspiring mee to get thr:))

@Rads- lotsa stories to tell:)))

@Rajdeep-TY:)

@Kavs:soooo kind of u:)))))

@Doc- heheheee shall do my best in future posts:)))

@magiceye: and watte experience:)))



Pankaj Suneja said...

Amazing. I might visit Africa someday.As if now I am exploring parts of Delhi.
http://www.theindivisual.in/2013/10/food-junction-al-kareem-at-jama-masjid.html

weisel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bala nitwit_duh said...

Nature is amazing, lucky that you had the opportunity to experience it first hand.