Monday, 19/09/2011: Lake Nakuru National Park, 85 km
The night was quite cold and in the morning everything was wet with a heavy dew. We set off towards the eastern shore of the lake, but at the first muddy bit in the track we came across a buffalo road-block. They obviously didn’t want to get their feet dirty, so they just stood on the drier part of the track and refused to move out of the way. They came quite close to the car, snorting and sniffing us, but eventually let us pass. A bit later we came to an even bigger herd next to a very large very muddy area; they also appeared to be quite edgy and didn’t want to move. Mick leaned out of the car window and called to one of the bulls looking at us: “You buffalos are just like all bovines – bloody stupid!”. The bull immediately took offense and charged at us at full speed! The only buffalo-free space ahead of us was a sea of mud, but, with an angry bull buffalo bearing rapidly down on us, Mick floored the accelerator and went for it. Fortunately, the car was already in four wheel drive and we picked up speed, sliding to left and right with showers of sticky brown mud flying off the wheels. Maren lost sight of the buffalo as the rear window became caked in mud, but Mick could see him charging in the rear view mirror for quite some time. Luckily for us we made it to firmer ground and left the angry beast behind, still snorting at us. The lesson learnt was: Don’t offend a buffalo unless you have a clear route of escape!
We continued around the lake, thankful for not encountering any more bad-tempered buffalo. We saw a solitary rhino hiding in the bushes and, near the lakeshore, we came across a mother white rhino and her fairly big calf. While grazing, the little one came closer and closer to our car and was only a few metres away from us in the end. Suddenly it jumped into the air and did a funny dance before running away. Echoes of our earlier buffalo experience made us feel rather wary of these usually placid white rhinos.
There were lots of pelicans and a few flamingos on the northern shore of the lake, making for quite a spectacle. Lake Nakuru is outstanding for birds, both water and forest species.
Everything was very wet, though, and a safari van full of tourists got stuck in the mud ahead of us. A KWS Landcruiser was there, but nobody had anything resembling a towrope. We tried to open our toolbox in order to get ours out, but the padlock was jammed! After many attempts, one of the KWS rangers managed to break it, so we could get our towing strop and pull the van out. We continued through the muddy bit and Mick managed to drive us through a second quagmire and up onto the dry ground of the main track. We turned to watch the KWS car following us plough into the mud and get themselves stuck as well! They were right in the middle of a big muddy patch, so we couldn’t get anywhere near them to pull them out. After collecting lots of rocks to put under their wheels, they eventually managed to free themselves.
We continued up to the Baboon Cliff lookout where we had close views of rock hyraxes, including a little youngster. After enjoying the view of the lake we headed back in the direction of the campsite.
On one of the small tracks to the south of the lake we came across a lioness lying at the roadside. We stopped and she got up and slowly walked towards the car. She was extremely skinny and covered in flies; when she came closer we could see that she had two round, very deep puncture wounds. Maybe she offended a buffalo as well and didn’t get away as well as we had this morning? She rubbed herself against our car – certainly the closest we have ever been to a lion! It was a sad sight, and her chances of survival seemed very slim.
We left her to her fate and on the way back also saw lots of zebra, impala, waterbuck, Grant’s and Thomson gazelle, some Eland and Rothschild’s giraffe.
Back at camp we discovered that there still was no water in the showers and stand-pipe. Charles had spoken to some people and they promised the water would be turned on soon. After our siesta we did indeed have water, but none of the three showers worked! Given that we paid 25 US dollars per person for the campsite, this was rather pathetic! In the afternoon it looked as if it was going to rain, so we only went on a short drive. We photographed a herd of eland and some (peaceful) buffalos in nice light.
On our way back to camp we spotted a black rhino. It was quite a way away from the track and looked quite dozy. Mick obviously hadn’t learnt his lesson and tried to insult it, but luckily we must have come across a rather deaf rhino, and he didn’t bother about our presence. Back at camp we discovered that we would have to share the campsite with a whole truckload of tourists who had arrived.
Tuesday, 20/09/2011: Lake Nakuru National Park - Nairobi, 256 km
As the drive to Nairobi isn’t too long, we decided to stay in the park for an early morning game drive around the lake. We nearly didn’t get to the lake, as we came across another buffalo road block in the same place as yesterday! In order not to upset any further bull buffalos, we settled for a standoff. We had to be very polite in order not to be charged again and, after about five minutes, he graciously decided to move off the road.
We continued along the track on the cliff top and back down to the lake. We saw more zebras, a couple of dik-diks, a family party of five jackals, two distant rhinos and some sort of swamp rat. And on the way back to camp we came across a staggering 31 Rothschild’s giraffe who were all having a big get together! What an amazing sight, but unfortunately too far from the track to get any decent photos.
After an early lunch we packed up camp and drove to the gate, looking for four lions Charles had been told about by another driver. We found the four lionesses sleeping, as well as two more rhinos.
We also saw a giraffe with an absolutely tiny baby by her side! It could have only been a few weeks old. Unfortunately, they were rather too far away from the track as well. It seemed the giraffe were rather camera shy during our stay. At the gate we mentioned the lack of water at the campsite, as we only had it for four hours during our two day stay. We hoped for a discount, but the customer services lady was only “awfully sorry” and “grateful for our comments”, and no compensation was forthcoming.
The drive to Nairobi was rather nerve-wracking, as it is a long uphill drive to the top of the escarpment and people overtake like mad. They simply pull out and if a car comes from the other direction they just expect it to get out of the way! Given the shear drop off the side of the road, that’s not always an option… Fortunately, the drive only took 2 ½ hours. We dropped Charles off in Dagoretti for the night and continued on to Karen Camp, where we checked emails, and then had some rather excessively long “Hollywood” showers. Good to feel clean again after all the dust. We had hoped to be able to do our laundry at Karen Camp, but they don’t have a washing machine. Back to dirty clothes and bush laundry it is! We had an early dinner and enjoyed sleeping in a real bed.
Wednesday, 21/09/2011: Nairobi, 20 km
Our intention was to sleep in, but we were tormented by mosquitoes in the night and fully awake by 6:30. After breakfast we downloaded all our photos and started backups before heading out to do some shopping. We first went to Kazuri Beads (www.kazuri.com), where we experienced an overkill of beads in all colours and shapes. It proved to be extremely difficult to choose from so many beautiful designs! Afterwards we went to the Bomas of Kenya to try to find some Kenyan music, but they didn’t sell any CDs there. We got stuck in the handcraft market, where everybody wanted us to look – except that that obviously meant buying something. It got a bit tiresome, as every single sales person tried this on, so we wormed our way out of it as quickly as we could, saying we would return to Nairobi at the end of our trip and do the shopping then.
We did a bit of personal shopping at the big Nakumatt near the National Park and also had lunch there. In the afternoon we picked up Charles, went to the post office, the filling station and to do our last big shopping session at Nakumatt for this safari. The amount of stuff we bought looked as if it should have lasted for a whole month! We had hoped to meet Tal again, but she was off for a well-deserved holiday on the coast. Hopefully we’ll see her on our last day when we want to visit the little elephants again as well. At least we could get an early evening, as we were planning to set off very early in the morning.