Go west young man and young Mar...
03/03/2008 80 °F
Jambo! (A familiar greeting to those of you who launched Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge and those of you who have traveled through Africa)
Col and I are officially back on the road and heading through western Kenya. When we last posted we were on our way to the Ozar's house for lunch and didn't get to tell you about visiting the Meru Children's Home for infants and kids under 5. It was adorable. Those kids are certainly cutie-pies. It was hard not to pick them all up and give them a big hug especially after their song and dance greeting. Mr. Ozar warned us that it might be hard to get away - they want you to stay and play and the sister's are warm and welcoming and quick to put the kettle on. He devised an escape plan involving a "very important meeting with the bishop" so we could continue on our mission of collecting pictures throughout Meru for the website Col is putting together. You know us and the bishop - thick as thieves.
After we finished getting all of our photos, we rushed back to our little house, packed it up (silently thanked the Italian missionaries for the sweet accommodations) and headed to the other side of Mt. Kenya for our first real break. The Ozars took us to one of their favorite spots (now one of mine) - a place called Sweetwaters. It's a tented lodge on the edge of a small-ish game park. While the lack of tourists have kept the breakfast buffets away, they certainly have been beneficial to those of us on game drives. Miles of savanna and nary another car to be found. Ranger Bud Ozar was at the top of his game taking us through the parks. And eagle-eye Sue Ozar can spot a Cape Buffalo from miles away. We were extremely fortunate that they took us to this very special spot. And traveling with the Ozars is very akin to traveling with my parents...Mr. Ozar is always willing to "take this little trail over here...are those tracks? Looks like fresh dung. Let's just keep following it..." While Mrs. Ozar is saying "Bud, let's just get back on the real road before we are taken down by lions."
A highlight of the Sweetwater trip (aside from the hot showers) was the chance to really see the wildlife in full-on Discovery Channel action. Although most of the game must be viewed in the comforts of your 4X4, you can take a guided walk to visit the hippos in a van down by the river. Okay - no van, but they lounge around in the water and you view from the ledge above. As we were making our way to the river it was very clear to all of us that we were certainly not alone. A grunt here, a tree branching breaking there, yes, something a little larger than a breadbox was just around the corner. As we reached the spot where the hippos were floating below we discovered the sounds that had us all a little on edge....two white rhinos duking it out on the other side of the river. Full-on, no-holds-barred fighting. I could literally hear my Dad saying "ALRIGHT!" as their big behinds knocked down the brush. The guide then turned to Mrs. Ozar and said "it's a good thing they are on the other side or we would all be in trouble." You think?
The guide had to call in the fight and bring rangers in to break it up. After all, it's a rhino sanctuary and it wouldn't be good for the foundation if they started taking each other out. I guess they fight to the death so it's important to keep the kids apart if they start a tussle. Of course we had to get back in our car and see if we couldn't stalk them from the other side of the river - it's the Bud Ozar (and theoretically Ron Van De Walle) number one rule of game drives "go where the action is"- but we didn't see them again.
I have a feeling that the myriad of game drives we have in front of us will be wonderful but few will compare to that amazing experience. It's just too bad there wasn't any other tourists to brag to when we returned to the lodge for breakfast. Thanks again to Mr. and Mrs. Ozar for our trip to Sweetwater!!! We had a sad goodbye when our driver came to get us and take us back to Nairobi - it was such a wonderful time in Meru - but we have our Masai beaded crosses as a reminder of our experience.
After a looooooong and dusty drive to Nairobi we made it to Karen's Camp and prepped for the next 2 weeks. We'll be traveling by 4X4 to Uganda with our South African driver Skank (yes, Skank) and a British gentleman named Peter. Should be interesting. The first leg is a drive through western Kenya where they had some recent political troubles. The good news is that the peace treaty between tribes was finally signed and the danger has all but disappeared. The Kenyan people have been very appreciative that we've decided to come despite the conflict and they are all positive about their future. Like all conflicts like this, it's not the majority of the people who want to fight - just a small group of angry ones who cause a ripple effect. Continue to send positive vibes to the Kenyan people - they could really use a few right now.
Alright - sorry for the lack of photos on this blog but I think you'd be understanding if you know how long it took just to get an internet connection. I'm sure we've given you enough to full the imagination for now! Keep sending the comments - we love to hear from you!
Oh - note to Erin, Coleen and Alison: Little Baby Peanut and Slim Finn are really enjoying the trip. They were all over the game park...that Finn is like a lion magnet!