Monday, 4 October 2010

Night safari and butternut squash in Nairobi

We reached Nairobi from Addis Ababa in two hours. This journey should have taken us 8 days, and it was very odd to find ourselves speeding from Nairobi airport towards the city centre at 2am. We collapsed in our hotel, which even the receptionist admitted 'wasn't that nice, but it's okay'. The warmth of the dudes who worked here definitely filled what lacked in our room. We awoke to the rich tapestry of African worship pouring into the street, a beautiful signpost of God at work in Kenya! Post pancakes and coffee for breakfast in a local cafe (mmm), we called Nick's Kenya friend to see if we might be able to stay at her place. It turned out she had moved out of her parents' place, and her parents were in England. It also turned out that we could stay in their empty house and borrow their unused pick-up! This amazing generosity enabled us to have a day of fun and a day of rest before travelling again.

Day of fun first - this was in Nairobi National Park, twenty minutes from their home. I imagined this to be a slightly bigger zoo but it blew all my expectations! For all I knew, I could have been tearing through the Masai Mara, endless plains with jagged trees, streams, mountains, blue sky punched with exquisite white clouds - all above Nick and I in our truck (!), with only the occasional jeep to bump into. The animals were also tougher to spot than I imagined, which we both loved, as it made it a chase. A chase until we turned a corner and halted extremely suddenly. A giant giraffe was standing in the road, languidly chewing on a leaf. My heart leapt! I was not expecting to be afraid of a giraffe! But he was so enormous, I am sure with one lurch of his neck he could wipe me out. As we adjusted, we saw we were surrounded by about seven of them, all tall, grand, graceful.

At 'Hippo Point' we found a sign and a path that seemed to insinuate debarking from your car and ambling through the forest. Considering every other sign had commanded visitors to remain in their vehicles, this was puzzling. But debark we did. Admittedly at every rustle in the bushes we jumped, expecting a lion to pounce. Out would flutter a teeny weeny bird. This was for me the most beautiful part. The brown river ran through great, lush trees, and a concoction of bird songs filling the air. Nick followed a baboon swinging through a tree, which led us to a vast tree, housing about twenty baboons - a kingly one sitting at the front facing us, a baby perching at the top, a few inquisitive ones creeping towards us. We both faced one another in silence. Out of the corner of our eye we saw several giraffes pad down to the river to drink. It was humbling to walk among nature - I felt so small, so grateful, sharing the land with all these creatures. In Africa the sun seems to drop out of the sky in minutes, and we saw the blue sky deepen and darken, so we hastily scrambled back to the car. We had driven almost as far as you could from the main gate, but we saw on our map 'Cheetah Gate' was nearby, so we headed towards it. 'STOP!', I cried. 'A few expletives!', I cried. 'Be ready to drive'!, I cried. 'Get the windows up now', I whispered.

On Nick's side, only two metres from the car, lay a male lion. I have never seen a lion like this before. His face was captivating, powerful, with almost mournful eyes, an enormous mane. He sat at peace, staring into our eyes, and glancing away whenever he wished. Surely the most pursued animal in the park - and we had found him, right next to us! Slowly, surely, we watched the female prowl down the road towards us. She passed behind us and approached her male. She yawned widely, sleepily, terrifyingly. The male yawned back. She leapt onto him, and they rolled playfully in abandonment, only a few feet away. It seemed such an intimate and beautiful moment, and we were so grateful. Dark was closing in on us however, so we zoomed towards the gate, a herd of zebras bashing their way in front of us en route.

We finally reached the gate only to see it's rickety metal frame pulled together by chains and a solid padlock. 'Something about Cheetah Gate being pernamently closed...' mused Nick. 'Yes. I remember hearing something...' Children from the village peeped through the gate and a man lent us his mobile to call our friend so she didn't worry. It was already 7.15pm. The park shut at 7pm. Our friend advised us to leave at 6.30pm. We realised there was no option but to turn back, back into the pitch black depths of the park, to roam freely among rhinos and lions, and try to find the road that would lead us out of the wild. Plently of obstacles to face - an owl flying into our windscreen, potholes, a rhino charging off the road, that zebra herd again - we finally reached the gate (well done Nick!). We expected a severe rebuke from the park guard - a fierce looking lady with a gun - but she seemed only to care that we had shut the gate behind us properly (understandable - I would NOT choose to be the one between a killer lion and the population of Nairobi).

And then our day of rest. Both of us needed it. Nick had his second influx of man flu, which totally knocked him. Being in this house enabled him to sleep in a lovely big white bed and have a deep bath. It was a beautiful place filled with pretty things, which I loved, and a garden with flowers. I sat on the sofa with my feet up and closed by eyes for about fifteen minutes - the comfort was something I hadn't felt for ages! I popped into the nearby town, bought some yummy food for lunch and sat drinking coffee and writing in my journal. Back at the house I made a butternut squash and halloumi salad - something we'd often eat in London, but never now - and ambled around enjoying the lovely things. It felt very different to our lives these days! And I think that is a good thing - this journey feels so like the right thing for us.

Nick emerged from white puffy duvet land late in the afternoon and we began packing our bags. A night train - our last sleeper for the entire trip - to Mombasa awaited us.

1 comment:

  1. hi we very relieved that u got moz visa! dad on extended birthday celebrations. Glad u got knife through customs - he has had three confiscated already!Must be genetic...a huge love from us M and D