Saturday 16 March 2002
The sunrise over the Ngorongoro Crater is a wonderful site.
It was long day of travel today. Off by 8am, down the bumpy crater edge, past buffalo, past large holes carved in the cliffs next to the road by elephants in search of salt. Down through the fertile valley, past the ox and donkey carts and the men and women carrying hoes to the fields. Past the small village with the two satellite antennas, in plenty of time to make our 12noon flight.
We stopped at the Lake Manyara Serena Lodge, left than a half-mile from the airstrip to send emails home ($3 per message) and take a quick dip in the pool, with a floating far edge the looked of the great expanse of the lake 1,000’ below.
We arrived at the airstrip about 45 minutes early, to be greeted by several handiwork salespersons, coming out of their corrugated cubicles to try to sell us a blinding array of carved wood items, spears, batiks, and about a thousand other curio items, each duplicated about 30 times.
We piled onto the 10-passenger prop plane for as 30-minute ride stopping at Arusha then on to Kilimanjaro (KJO). We had to wind around the large airport to go to international customs for the flight to Nairobi, pay the airport tax fees ($30US each), and then to a 40-minute flight on a 18-passenger prop plane to NBO.
Typical confusion was experienced at NBO customs. My hand carry was scanned for no explainable reason. Filling out forms, waiting, not being told where our luggage was, etc.
But Henrietta and George from Express Travel Group were waiting on time – great to see their friendly faces.
Then off to a wild ride through the outskirts of NBO out to the Great Rift Valley on the way to the Sarova Lion Hill Lodge overlooking Lake Nakuru. After going through a wild neighborhood to stop by a cash machine, we entered onto the modern 4-lane highway to Uganda with smoke belching trucks for about a third of the way. The next third was on good two lane blacktop built by Italian 2nd World War prisoners, down through the beautiful, green, fertile rift valley. The last third of the road, while still paved, was very bumpy. Traffic was heavy the whole time, and I am thankful that George is a cautious driver.
We made it to the Lion Hill Lodge at about 6:30pm as the sunset, somewhat exhausted from the day’s jarring and traveling. Individual cabins above the reception/dinning/bar area overlooked the lake through the yellow barked acacia trees, with the pink strip of large numbers of flamingos clearly visible.
The entertainment for the evening was a drum and dance group fro 7-7:30. Very enjoyable. Up to 4 percussionists using handmade drums with hide heads. The poor-mans’ high-hat was a single cymbal, on the concrete, with the player bent over taping and using his foot to mute. They sang, beat, and danced songs of different regions of Kenya, in traditional costumes, unaffected by western culture.
A buffet dinner again at 7:30 and then off for bed for another big day.
Sunday 17 March 2002
The Lake Nakuru National Park, located about 100 miles northwest of Nairobi, is home to the world’s greatest concentration of pink flamingos. With the drive starting at 8am, a multitude of animal life immediately started appearing.
Among the bird life seen were: lilac-breasted roller, helmeted guinea fowl, spoonbills, red-collared widow birds, brown-crested crane, Egyptian geese, blacksmith plover, ant eater chat, harrier hawk, ostrich, a huge tawny eagle, a white browed coucal, hammercop, pied crow, blue-eared glossy starling, hundreds of pelican, and literally millions of pink (lesser) flamingos.
Among the other animal life seen were: baboon, waterbuck (Defassa race), rare Rothschild giraffe, 3 lions, cape buffalo, 3 white rhino including one baby, Thompson’s gazelle, impala, warthog, zebra, golden jackal, rock hyrax, and agama lizards.
The highlights of the drive were the up close look (less than 50’ away) from the rhinos grazing away with the baby playfully moving about while the other two were pretty much acting like lawn-mowers.
Also, seeing millions of pink flamingos was quite amazing. Most of the shoreline of the large soda lake was packed with them (a pink ring at the water’s edge). In walking along the sand of the beach, what initially looked like seaweed or other vegetation, turned out to be flamingo feathers by the millions, browned by the sun and sand.
The pelicans were also quite interested in size, number and activity. Flocks of 20-30 of them would fly low to the ground, in single file, perfectly spaced about 3 feet apart, looking like a spotted ribbon that would undulate in the breeze as part of the chain moved up and down in unison.
Our first sighting of the rock hyrax together with brilliantly metallic blue agama lizard was quite interesting as well.
After about 2.5 hours we completed the loop around the lake, and were back on the bumpy road, back through the Great Rift Valley towards Nairobi, to the Great Rift Valley Lodge, about 30 rooms in individual cabins, high up on the hillside overlooking the largest valley in the world. Nicely appointed rooms, a pool, gardens and an 18-hole golf course included the package.
The view overlooked the valley to Lake Naivasha. This was the perfect place to rest for the rest of the day. A leisurely lunch, beers by the pool, reading on the open balcony overlooking the valley.
This last week as seemed like a couple months of experience. This rest day was very much needed.
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