Wednesday, 21 October 2009

life when one is on safari.

First off, I feel like such a brat writing 'on safari'...squirreling money away for this trip made all the nights sleeping on the futon and eating on a card table--oh! and having the other card table which our computer rested on collapse on me twice last August--worth it. We certainly don't have an endless supply of funds but this trip became a priority while other things took a backseat. That, and I'm lucky to have such a fun husband. He is the absolute best.

From some amazing guidance, we had planned to divide our time in the Mara between two very different places. After it was all said and done I decided that I loved them both but for different reasons. Sounds like a cop-out but if given the chance I wouldn't change a thing about the experience, honest.

I never want to forget the simple rhythm of our days there.    

At Porini Lion camp, we'd be given an awfully early wake-up call made sweeter by tea and cookies outside our tent. Then out on game drives for the day with a picnic lunch 'neath a tree somewheres at some point. Sometimes stopping at the Mara River to wait out the migration--are they gonna cross? should we come back? do we wait?  Lots of driving around trying to remember a time in your life when it wasn't completely normal to see zebras and wildebeests everywhere. Stops for the big cats. Stops for all sorts of incredible animals from cheetahs to baboons and even the gentle tortoise got its moment in the sun. We'd all be click click-ing our cameras and whispering understated exclamations like she's soooo beautiful and this is incredible or even trying to will the animals for that perfect shot--c'mon, can't you just turn your head a little to the left? This place would make even the hardest of cynics smile. And sometimes you'd watch the sunset in a glorious spot while sipping something delicious (it's an open bar on the Mara, you see). But not only would you be balancing a wine glass in one hand and camera in the other, but you'd have to choose between photographing the pride of lions or the sky lighting up better than Christmas with all the pinks, yellows, and reds. A tough life.

After getting back "home," there was hot tea and quick showers, in that order (more on showers below)--then drinks around the campfire before a yummy and filling dinner. And then a night game drive. Wow to those night drives--hanging halfway out the land rover, my butt squarely planted on the open window, intent on following the guides' powerful beam of light as it was finding roaming hippos, lions, spring hares and more. The wind was whipping my hair into a frenzy, the air was cold on my face, but it was one of the most joyful things I've ever felt connected to. And the camp was completely open and vulnerable to roaming animals, so after dark we had to be escorted anywhere and everywhere by the Masai tribesmen who stood sentry throughout the night. We were so excited about the prospect of animals being right there that each night we'd roll up the canvas and lay in bed listening to the lions grunting and hippos snorting (I swear) with only the mesh part of the tent separating us from them.

A month later, I can't really comprehend that all this happened.

When we would collapse into bed from sensory overload and too much excitement, we'd find a hot water bottle tucked under the covers. I was so grateful for this sweet gesture (loved it so much that a hot water bottle was bought within hours of leaving Africa) as the big tents were wonderfully spacious but not exactly warm by night.

{showers-- first you alert the Masai staff. they'll promptly bring buckets of hot water, fill the cistern and from outside your tent a gentle and heavily-accented voice will cheerfully call out, "ready!" You hop in, do your bid-ness and try to get everything done before the water runs out. Good times.}

Full, full days. We heard another couple grumbling about the lack of time to clean up and rest, and they passed on a few of the offered drives--you people are in Kenya for gosh sakes! You can luxuriate in a shower and take naps any old time when you get back to Britain! What is wrong with you?! I bit my tongue like a good girl.

At Mara Intrepids lodge, things started out with a wake-up call involving the room steward unzipping the tent fly to actually bring the tray of tea/hot chocolate/coffee and cookies (the best cookies!) inside. We'd be in the rover by 6:30 and our wonderful guide, Dixon, would keep us out until early afternoon at times. At just the right moment he would stop at the perfect place--maybe above a hippo pool or atop a hilly lookout--grin his Dixon grin over his shoulder and announce: breakfast! And we'd picnic on boxed goodness he would arrange with the kitchen: sausage, ham, croissants, hardboiled eggs, yogurt, fresh fruit. Just a crazy amount of food. Dixon had little cups for ground coffee, to which he would add hot water from the mongo thermos. Now at home I'd probably be really bratty about drinking ground coffee (what can I say? my parents live and die by coffee), but here it was good. For reals.

After more game viewing it was back at Intrepids for lunch (but we just ate!) and we would squeeze in a nap or time by the pool before the next drive, mid-afternoon. (Those Brits should have been here.). Back "home"  as the sun was setting. No night drives here--not allowed since you're on national park land. But there was this one great thing. Let me explain...

...when we honeymooned five years ago, I felt like a little girl playing house. Every morning we'd wake up in our bungalow, go about our day which meant sometimes being lazy and sometimes being adventurous, then shower and get all gussied up for dinner. Because dinner meant taking a boat across the bay and being shuttled to romantic restaurant # 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5. And we were surrounded by other honeymooners, all of us in this ridiculous but terrific cloud of happy fog. The place was so romantic that in the one or two instances that we met a couple who weren't honeymooning it was like my brain had stopped all independent thought and I nearly caught myself saying, but then why are you here?

I have a point to this, promise. At Mara Intrepids it was back to those wonderfully simple routines echoing our honeymoon. Wake up, adventure, relax, adventure, doll up for dinner, get seated at 'our' table, have 'our' same waiter again, gaze and coo at each other and everyone's like get a room already. And when it starts pouring buckets before dinner's done we'll just grab hands and make a run for it when it's time to go. Uber romantic. And that, aside from Dixon, was why I loved Mara Intrepids. It made me feel like a honeymooner again. What souvenir could possibly be better?

No comments: