Day 8: Nairobi, Kenya
I’ve now met the safari group! There are 20 of us in total: 7 Australians, 5 Americans, 1 Canadian, 3 English, 1 Japanese, and 3 to arrive tomorrow. I stayed up talking to one of the Australian guys who’s a physio-therapist for Olympic athletes so keeps signing short term contracts so he can keep moving around and travelling the world. He has been doing this 3 years already!
The Great Rift Valley!
There’s still quite a bit of driving ahead to get to the Serengheti, but that’s just a necessary part of covering these m a s s i v e countries. Long drives are an unavoidable aspect of going on a safari, but somehow I hadn’t really appreciated just how much of our day is spent on the bus or in a vehicle. I’m talking 9+ hour drives between camp sites and then long, long drives during the day for the safaris themselves. It’s worth realizing before you go on a safari, as sitting in a vehicle for so much of your vacation isn’t something that everyone would willingly go in for. Because of the driving, the trip got off to a slow start. We had night one altogether in the Nairobi hotel, then one in a bunk house and last night was the first of the camping nights on a beach aside Lake Victoria.
We stopped along the drive for a tour of a soapstone carving centre, seeing the process end-to-end from taking the blocks of quarried rock to the little mint dishes at the end. These safari trips build in stops at large wholesalers, and since it’s your first exposure to handmade goods, you don’t realize how overpriced it is. Generally safari companies also receive a fee for bringing trips by.
Lake Victoria is the largest tropical lake in the world, but it’s also full of nasty liver-eating worms so it’s not swimmable. Beautiful, though! It’s a shame that so much water – 68,800 square kilometres – has gone to the worms.
During the day, we went on an innocuous little bike ride that ended up taking us off-road, essentially mountain biking in beach cruisers. The whole way you hear little kids anticipating you with their squeals and either the English phrases they all know ‘HOW ARE YOUUUU, HOW ARE YOUUUU’ (or ‘GOOD MORNING’ when it was about 6 pm), though more often ‘MUSUNGU! Muuuss-un-guuuumuusss-un-guuu,’ which just means ‘white people’. We stopped at a fly-blown fish market, a dusty seeds and stones market, and various other, greatest hits according to our guide.
The 2 hour ride turned into an aimless 4, but it was really fun. We got back just in time for a sunset over the lake, a cold shower, fresh fish and then most of us watched / struggled to stay awake at a local bar where they were playing the Manchester United vs. Man City game. Then it was to bed in our old school tents – build with the heaviest canvas & solid iron framing. This morning, 4 am on cue! The prayer call starts. When you’re in a tent you can hear the first crackle of the speaker and the amusement of the caller before they break out into interpretive droning; when you hear the full process (the shifting, the crackling, the pauses for thought) it sounds more like an open mic morning for callers. I was under the impression that Wednesdays and Fridays are kind of a big deal in Ethiopia, but since the end of Ethiopia there has been, without fail, an abrupt awakening around 4 am for ‘All Ya’ll to Think About Gawd.’