Monday, 19 October 2009

that first day in Kenya.

The flight landed in Nairobi around the ridiculous hour of 3:45 am.  So after easy-peasy customs (I guess we told the intimidating man what he wanted to hear) and picking out a taxi driver from the swarm we headed straight for the municipal airport, dropped off at the curb when it was still dark. Now what? Everything was closed, as it should be at 4:30 in the morning. Thank God for the kind security guard who immediately let us into the "terminal" (picture the one from the TV show Wings) where we promptly dumped our packs and draped ourselves over them, blissed out in sleep.

So an eternity later (6 1/2 hours), we get put on the plane for the Masai Mara with purple paper tags tied to our baggage that said Olkiombo Airstrip. We were super duper excited. It was a 45-minute flight but I think I expected to see giraffe and zebras grazing immediately after we left the urbanism of Nairobi. Not quite. And when I heard the landing gear come down I, all smushed up against the window, was like, where are the elephants? Darn. Maybe animals aren't everywhere here like I had thought.

We landed. Somehow in the crazy crowd of people being matched up with their reserved camps we found ourselves in the right land rover, sitting in the rear two seats. We were both in a fog, numb. Probably exhausted. I went to the loo, came out, stopped for a second on the path...and there in front of the toilets really took it all in for the first time.

Holy moly. That's when it hit me-- here we were, sitting on this red, dusty "airstrip." No other spreck of civilization in sight aside from the land rover. There was one of those lone trees with the flat green scrub top (later learned those are umbrella trees) against the stark blue sky. There were Masai tribesmen dressed in red and draped in beads. WE'RE IN AFRICA. This is it! It's like the movies, the pictures, the documentaries, but...more. More palpable. I got back to the rover and Steve was looking all around as well. I knew he was thinking the same thing. We are in Africa!

We then proceeded to turn all shades of idiotic. From the Mufasa voice (as far as the eye can see, all this land is ours...), singing The Circle of Life, even repeating Maybe the dingo ate your baby! even though dingos are an Australian thing and we know that but yet had turned into an even dumber version of ourselves, if that's possible. You know when Rafiki lifts up Simba to baptize him and the sun shines down, all the animals bow, and suddenly a lump the size of two sugar cubes lodges itself in your throat as you furiously blink back tears? Yes, that. That's what it was like realizing we were in Africa. Not Egypt Africa ('cause it's different)-- Africa Africa.

And to think we hadn't even left the airstrip yet.

When we set off, life just kept getting sweeter and sweeter. Our guide had casually said, "We're just going to head to camp and see if we can spot some lions." He had to have known what was coming. Within the first five minutes we had seen gazelle, warthogs, zebras, giraffes with their luscious eyelashes, and of course, lions. Lions less than 10 feet away. They're all just blinking at us hello yes hi how are you cheerio hip hip good day thank you for coming.

I was shaking and thanking God for giving us this. It was just such a powerful moment. Creatures that before we had only seen and exclaimed at on tv or in zoos-- now running and lounging about in their own home. We were on their turf. Soon after, the vehicle was coming upon a riverbank and an elephant literally rose up out of the water. As in, at first all I saw was the grey tippy-top of his head, then his ears, and then OH MY GOD THAT'S AN ELEPHANT. I turned to Steve* on my left and was like, are you seeing this??! as he was busy open-mouthed gaping at topi and impala.

And that is how we popped our safari cherry. I'll never forget those first 30 minutes that set the stage for the next 6 days amazing days.

*happy 59 months, love.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

you just SPOT LIONS?! and zebras and elephants and everything else. wow. incredible.

love the part about the dingo.

can't wait to see more.