by ellie and cameron
Following Alf's Pre-Journal
Thursday, March 11 - Friday, March 12, 1999
Ellie: First we met my Aunt Annie and my cousin Cameron at the Seattle airport. Then we went on our first plane ride. Then we got off one plane in Amsterdam and got on another one. When we got to Nairobi we waited for our luggage, but it didn't come since we lost it. I was sad because I missed my shorts. I slept in my clothes. We had room service at the hotel. Room Service is when other people make your food and they bring it to your room. My egg and bacon sandwich was different because their bacon is not like ours, but I kind of liked it.
Cameron: We woke up in our beds at home in Seattle today and drove my brother Chris and Biko to school. After getting back we made more preparations for our big trip to Kenya. At about 11:00 a taxi picked us up and drove us to the airport where we met my Aunt Patty and cousin Ellie. We then boarded our 2:00 p.m. flight to Amsterdam, Netherlands. Upon arriving in Amsterdam we had a quick snack at McDonalds and rushed to our next terminal for our flight to Nairobi, Kenya. About nine hours later, as we were landing, not 10 ft. from the ground the captain jerked the plane back into the air. Five minutes later, the captain announced, "As you can see, we have just aborted our landing, we'll get back to you later with further details." About 12 long minutes passed and he came back on, "It seems that there was another aircraft taxiing on our runway so we will try to land again. With a sigh of relief, the captain landed the plane safely. Arriving in Kenya we went through the whole arriving into a foreign country procedure. The next step was to claim our luggage. We watched everybody else lug their belongings through the green line but unfortunately we were not to follow. On the flight from Amsterdam to Nairobi they took off all of the luggage to fix a problem with the landing gear and can you believe they forgot to put ours back on! After a half-hour of negotiating over our lost possessions we walked through the nothing to declare line to find Alf waiting with a smile, and his luggage! We couldn't help but be a little envious that he would have a toothbrush and fresh clothes for the next couple of days while we would have bad breath and smell. We left Jomo Kenyatta Airport with Alf and headed for the Norfolk hotel in downtown Nairobi. When we arrived we divided into two rooms which would stay the same pretty much the whole journey, Patty, Ellie, and myself in one, Alf and Annie in another. A quick call to room service, a little prep work for our early morning (5:30) departure and a brush of the teeth with my finger and some highly sought after toothpaste out of Alf's first class "freshen up" bag and we were set for a little shut eye.
Saturday, March 13, 1999
Ellie: The next morning we went to the airport and we got on a little plane and flew to our next spot where the animals lived. We slept in tents and in our tent is three beds. You might not know that we borrowed a bed from our outside patio and moved it into our tent so we all have beds. I sleep in a tent with mom and Cameron. Mom and I lied in bed and listened to the birds. I like the sounds of this place.
Cameron: Our day started with an early morning wake up at 5:30 a.m. (although we didn't really need it.) Our caravan of Alf, Patty, Ellie, Annie, and myself were transported to the domestic Wilson airport to catch our flight to the Amboselli Wildlife Reserve. The flight was very brief (24 minutes) with zebras and hyenas to greet us at our landing. Our A & K host/wildlife expert/driver, Martin, drove all of us to the Tortillis Tented Camp.
Later that day we embarked on our first game drive despite the absence of Alf and the presence of a storm. We saw a great variety of animals including guinea fowl, Massai cattle, Thompson gazelle, wildebeest, secretary bird, warthog, hippos, maribu storks, elephants, and the rarity of witnessing two lions mating.
Not thirty yards from the sexually active lions, another safari mini-bus sank into the mud. So like friendly neighbors, we hoped for good karma and went to help. We successfully nudged their car loose, but in the process, our cruiser got stuck too. After about fifteen minutes of pulling our car out of the mud, everyone was out safely and on their way home. Arriving back at camp, Annie, Ellie, Patty, and I went directly to sleep, while Alf trekked to the covered outdoor dining room for a tasty meal.
Sunday, March 14, 1999
Cameron: Our day began at 5:30 a.m. as we hopped out of bed and dressed for our 6:30 game drive departure. Martin, our driver guide, was right on time so we climbed into our Land Cruiser and headed out of camp. The air was full of mist as we weaved our way across the muddy plains with Mt. Kilimanjaro's snow-capped peaks peering out of the fog as if to remind us of the beauty and vast contrast of this spectacular country. As the sun began to burn off the morning cloud cover, all sorts of great beasts appeared. Our first encounter was a lone hippopotamus out for her morning stroll. As we continued down the bumpy wet road, we came across a pride of lionesses with a pack of hungry hyenas right on their tails awaiting a kill. Through our binoculars we spotted elephants, elephants, and more elephants ... large families with ibises perched upon their backs making their way across the wet marshy Amboselli terrain. About 50 yards away lie a small posse of ostriches.
After three hours of roaming the African plains we turned our jeep in the direction of camp for a cup of joe and hot chocolate to go along with our bangers and mash breakfast. We waited impatiently to see if our clean clothes would arrive on the morning flight from Nairobi. No such luck! It looks like we will be donning these really ripe clothes for yet another day. Having nothing on our agenda until 3:30 we spent the remainder of the morning lazily lounging in and around our very comfy tents.
At 3:30 we set out in hopes of visiting a Massai Village. We had the good fortune (or perhaps pre-arranged fortune) to pick up the son of a Massai chief. He explained to us how they lived and some of the medicines that they create from plants. This includes making a skin lotion and ear and eye drops. He ever so kindly invited us to his village (for a fee). Their homes were made of mud and cow manure constructed into a small hut. Breakfast for the Massai consists of cow's milk and blood mixed together and heated to create an early morning eye opening jolt that we Americans go to Starbucks for (if that won't wake you up in the morning I don't know what will). The community we visited was home to about fifteen Massai women, children, men (Massai warriors.) and a large herd of cattle and goats.
About an hour later we bid farewell to our gracious hosts and headed back to camp just in time to join Alf for a cup of tea and hot chocolate and watch the sunset behind Mt. Kilimanjaro.
Monday, March 15, 1999
Ellie: Remember, we lost our luggage. Well, we got really dirty and we missed our stuff. We wished our luggage would be in Nairobi and we were happy when we saw it. Now we can wear the clothes that we brought. I love my jean jacket that looks like Alf's. Samburu is different then Amboselli. We sleep in rooms, not tents. I slept with Annie and Cam. There was a big storm in the night and we woke up and then went back to sleep.
Cameron: This morning we all said a last goodbye to Tortillas Camp in Amboselli and headed to the local airport to catch a plane to Nairobi and then another one to Samburu Wildlife Reserve in the north of Kenya. In Nairobi, waiting for us at the gate, were our four pieces of long lost beloved luggage! I don't think I've ever been so happy to see a pair of boxers in my life.
After this great news, we boarded our next Air Kenya bush flight bound for Samburu. Upon arriving we met our next wildlife specialist, George, who took us to the Serena Lodge. After soaking up some of the scenery, we headed on a 4 o'clock game drive. During this drive we encountered two animals we had not yet seen, the giraffe and two leopards. The first leopard ran right into the bush as soon as he spotted us but the second one was just sitting on a log enjoying the remainder of the day, it seemed as if he was posing just for us.
George our expert guide had us back at the lodge in time for us to race to our rooms and enjoy the big lightning and thunderstorm that had been brewing around us all day long. Lots of rain and wind made for perfect sleeping weather.
Tuesday, March 16, 1999
Ellie: Today we went on a game drive and I saw a giraffe. Yesterday we were looking and we saw two leopards and you never see leopards, so we were lucky. My favorite animal is a leopard. I hope we see a cheetah.
Cameron: After a brief breakfast we set off with George for a morning game drive. We were very lucky today as we came across a leopard and her cub, devouring their breakfast of fresh impala meat that she had killed and dragged high into the branches of an acacia tree. About an hour later on our drive back to camp we spotted a cheetah with not one, but two cubs.
Back at the lodge we had lunch and lounged by the pool until it was time to depart on our afternoon safari. George piled us all into the jeep and off we went for a late afternoon drive. Everyday seems to bring something new. This time we saw a group of about 50 Maribu storks perched on or around a huge termite mound having their afternoon snack. We also noticed the vultures for the first time flying and eyeing the ground for dead or dying animals to prey on. Back at the lodge, 6:30 is time to feed the local crocs that live in the vicinity. As we were watching a rather large crocodile devour some mystery meat a huge branch from a 45ft tree came crashing down to the ground not two feet from where we stood. That's the second bullet we managed to dodge this trip!
Wednesday, March 17, 1999
Ellie: Today we woke up and took a game drive. Really our first animal we saw was a dik - dik. It is small like a kitty cat. Our driver George drove down a steep hill and we saw about 20 baboons swinging in the trees. I climbed out of the sunroof and sat on top of the roof and watched the baboons with Cameron and mom and Annie and Alf. This was the best thing.
At night we got back from our game drive and there was a crocodile.. It was right up almost right next to you, but it did not bite you.. Last night I did not fall asleep before dinner. All the other nights I did because I was too tired. At bedtime there was a black bug in my bed. There was a white beetle in Annie's bed.
Thursday, March 18, 1999
Ellie: George drove us to Mt Kenya Safari Club. It was raining and we went to the animal orphanage. First we said hello to the llamas and then hello to the cat. We went over to Speedy the turtle. Cameron and Annie remembered Speedy from a long time ago. I rode on Speedy's back. It was kind of bumpy. Next we saw a porcupine and fed the decotes some corn.
We ate dinner at Mt. Kenya in the downstairs kids dining room. Nobody else ate with us. We slept in rooms with fireplaces and the tub was a circle with a chair in the tub. The water was brown.
Cameron: This morning our host George, picked us up from the Samburu Reserve and we set off on a three hour journey to Mt. Kenya Safari Club. Upon arriving we were greeted with a watermelon punch and shown to our bungalows.
In the afternoon we decided to pay a visit to the animal orphanage, where I once visited when I was a wee lad of two. Wouldn't you know it, just our luck it started to rain. We hitched a ride to the orphanage with a very nice man who also lent us some very welcome umbrellas. Speedy Gonzales the 134 year old turtle from the Galapagos Islands was still there and fit enough to give us all a ride. There use to be a bush baby at the orphanage named Johnny, happily they set him back into the wild about 5 years ago and in his place is a little guy named Gizmo.
Also residing in the orphanage are three cheetahs. They are the children of a cheetah who gave birth to a record breaking 10 cubs! Now that's what I call a lot of pushing. Llamas (from S. America), monkeys, bongos (where the name bongo drum comes from) pygmy hippos, rhinos, friendly ostriches, zebroid (have you ever wondered what you'd get if you crossed a zebra and a horse? Well here it is). These are just to name a few of the special animals that call this place home.
Arriving back at the Safari club, soaking wet, we darted into the bar for some coffee, tea and hot chocolate. Returning to our rooms we found Alf happily reading his book by the fire. We all had dinner together in the garden lounge, a room specifically designed to keep children away from the older crowd. How friendly is that? At least the food was kid friendly. Back in our rooms with the fireplace blazing and another storm brewing outside we settled in for a good night sleep.
Friday, March 19, 1999
Ellie: Today we flew to Massai Mara. Our tented camp is on an island. We take a little boat across a river with hippos and crocodiles, but they don't bother you. You get hot chocolate in the morning in your tent.
Cameron: We departed early this morning for the local airport to catch our flight to Massai Mara game reserve. We said farewell to George and off we were into the wild blue yonder (whatever that means) It turns out this was not a direct flight. We transferred, thank god, from our little, very bumpy tin can, to a newer, bigger 60 plus seater, that puddle jumped us all the way across the Mara to reach our drop point of Little Governor's Tented Camp. We piled all of our stuff into the land cruiser and began winding our way to our new domain.
It turns out our tented camp is located on an island which means every time we wish to experience a little of Africa, we have to catch a ride in a dugout canoe weaving our way through hungry hippos and cranky crocs. Ellie particularly enjoyed this long boat ride of little more than one minute. There were times when we had to strap her down to keep her from taking a little dip with the inhabitants of the murky moat.
We fell in love with this place as soon as we arrived. No electricity, no phones, no computers but where else can you dine with a slew of friendly warthogs. Our afternoon game drive was very eventful and full of wonderful commentary from our Massai Mara wildlife expert, Peter, who by the way must be given all the credit for our journals' given name. Back at camp we dined in the company of friendly strangers and vamoosed back to our tents for a night full of beastly surround sounds. (It's kind of funny the comfort one takes in knowing that the only thing seperating you from hungry, roaming, wild nightlife is a flimsy piece of fabric and a night watchman wielding a big stick).
Saturday, March 20, 1999
Ellie: Tonight there was a big storm and there was thunder and lightning. We ran to Alf and Annie's tent. We asked Alf if he would come to our tent for a stormy dinner. We are having pizza toast and milk and diet coke and peanut butter sandwiches. Alf said yes. We ran to our tent and put on our pajamas and waited for our food to come.
Cameron: Today we dedicated to searching the plains for the rare Rhino. But alas we came up empty eyed. We did however manage to come across many lions. We even came close to witnessing a pack of hungry lionesses rip some unsuspecting warthogs to shreds. We watched and waited very quietly, with about 10 other safari vehicles, for what seemed to be a very long time, only to have the warthogs hightail it out of the area after spotting the creeping cats.
Cokes and pizza toast were on the bar menu when we arrived back at camp. All of a sudden out of nowhere came a huge thunderstorm full of lots of rain, lightning and wind. We downed our cokes and scarfed the pizza toast, and like the warthogs, hightailed it back to our tents. Ellie gave you the skinny on dinner ... enough said.
Sunday, March 21, 1999
Ellie: Last night I saw a little girl and she said hello, but I didn't say hello back. Today we had lunch and she came over to us. We talked to each other and then all day we saw her so many times. Her name is Pamechka and she is my new friend. She gave me a bracelet and I gave her a sticker and a pin of Alf's balloons. I hope I see her again sometime.
Cameron: We decided to catch up on our sleep and give the morning game drive a miss. We had a leisurely breakfast with the elephants and a long lunch with the warthogs and then it was off with Peter for an afternoon look at the hippo pool. We were greeted at the site by a couple of very astute Massai salesmen. Out came the beaded bracelets, in every color combination you can imagine, wooden wildlife necklaces, spears, and some very dangerous looking Massai worrier sticks. We thought we were off the hook when we relised all of our money was back at camp but noooo, the Massai capitalists informed us that they would be happy to make a tent call to collect any monies owed them for our purchases. I guess that's the version of a Massai credit card, buy now pay later so to speak.
Dinner this evening was under the stars complete with bugs du jour. In the middle of the Mara, in the middle of the night, in the middle of nowhere came a fantastic storm. The wind blew and howled and the rain came down in buckets. What a way to spend our last night in Africa.
Monday, March 22, 1999
Ellie: We're flying home today and I'm sad to leave Alf, Cammy and Annie. I'll miss them but, I am happy to see my dad and my dog. Alf says we can come back sometime. I still want to see a rhino. This was the best trip I've ever been on.
Cameron: What more can I say but, ASANTE Alf, for an absolutely fabulous journey through Kenya ... may all of your future safari ons be as safe and wonderful as this one.