Our African trip was planned to coincide with the herd migrations. We decided to drive through Masai Mara where the wildebeest were heading to greener pastures. We drove through the Great Rift Valley in the early morning. We were heading along the highway traveling at 35 MPH. I looked out the window and was surprised to see an ostrich running along beside us, easily keeping pace with us. The ostrich was traveling along side the road, alone and apparently in a hurry to get somewhere.
Soon we were in a wooded area and came upon a creek which crossed the road. We saw no bridge so decided to drive through the creek. The water turned out to be deeper than we thought, but we made it through with water sloshing just below the doors of the bus. Farther along the road, we came to the river at one of the places where the wildebeests cross. There was a narrow bridge crossing the river. We got to the middle of the bridge and stopped to look down at the river. There was very a bad smell coming from the river area. When we looked closer, we saw the crocodiles, feasting on the drowned wildebeests, which were still floating in the water. I have seen this sight many times in nature films. However, experiencing this scene complete with smells and sounds was very thrilling.
After crossing the bridge, we continued towards the plains. We could see the occasional wildebeest, standing alone, separate from the herd. They are very funny looking animals and make strange noises, kind of a ga-nu sound (which probably led to their other name : gnu). Within a few miles, we saw the beginning of the wildebeest herd. We were compelled to stop the bus in the middle of the road. Soon, our bus was surrounded by twenty thousand or more wildebeests walking along and ga-nuing as they went. This was an amazing encounter and we just sat quietly while the animals slowly moved along on their way to new pastures.
After twenty minutes or so, the herd had finally crossed the road. We decided to find a place to camp for the night (inside the bus). We found a nice area under some acacia trees. Later that night after we had gone to sleep, something woke me up. I looked out the car window in the dim light and saw large ears flapping very close to the bus. I was immediately terror stricken. I thought we were in danger of being trampled by a herd of elephants. After my eyes had adjusted to the light, I realized my elephant vision was just our clothes line with some towels flapping in the breeze. My vivid imagination had fooled me.
After two weeks, our great African adventure had come to an end. It was a wonderful experience and we came home with hundreds of great photos of African scenery and African wildlife. Reluctantly, we boarded our flight and headed back to the United States, with many wonderful memories.
When we got out into the park in the morning, we wandered around for a few miles looking for wildlife. Jim encountered a giraffe and got out of the bus to take a few photos. We had been cautioned about not leaving the vehicle. So I was somewhat concerned that Jim not be out of the car for very long.
We then began to turn the vehicle around to return to the lodge. At that point, we saw a herd of twenty or thirty elephants of various ages’ right in front of us about fifty feet away. I enjoy seeing wildlife in its natural element, but this was more wildlife than I was prepared to encounter up close. I urged Jim to hurry up and get the bus turned around so we could get back to the lodge.
At that point, we got stuck in the middle of the road. I was trying to take movies but was having trouble as my hand was shaking so much. (Watching these videos later was almost impossible due to my trembling hands.) The elephants were now much closer, and two were charging each other. I expected them to charge us at any moment. Jim was obliged to leave the vehicle and try to push it with me behind the wheel urging him to speed it up. He was not able to budge the bus one bit, no matter how hard he pushed. The elephants were getting closer and I was getting more nervous.
This was when the park ranger came to the rescue. He got out of his jeep and helped push us back on the road. After receiving a stern warning from the ranger about never getting out of the vehicle, we returned to the lodge and heaved a big sign of relief. We had survived a close up encounter with a whole herd of elephants and lived to tell the tale.
African Adventure part two
When we started our adventure, we began in London where we were to pick up our tickets for Kenyan Airways. We looked for the address of the travel agent and were surprised to find the office down a small alley near Piccadilly Circus. As we climbed up the three flights of stairs, we felt a bit concerned. The office was a tad seedy. However, the flight arrangements that we had made earlier in the US weeks in advance, turned out to be just fine. It was an actual travel agency and we got a very good price on the airline tickets.
We landed in Nairobi after a long flight of ten hours. We took a cab to the car rental agency and picked up our VW bus. We then stocked up on supplies for the camping part of our trip. After that, we checked into hotel at the animal park that was close to Nairobi.
When we first got to the hotel, we each took the antibiotics that had been recommended to prevent various tropical illnesses such as Malaria and parasites. We had already gone through the multiple immunizations for bubonic plague, yellow fever, and smallpox before we left the US.
We were leaving nothing to chance as we did not want to spoil our trip with amoebic dysentery or some other exotic illness. So, being cautious people, we swallowed the big blue pills. One minute later, we both threw up. So much for the medication keeping us from getting sick.
Later that evening, after we were feeling better, we had a wonderful dinner at the lodge. We were then escorted back to our hut by an armed guard carrying a spear. He told us that he was protecting us from the leopard and lions that frequently wandered into the hotel lobby. We thought that was pretty exciting, as so far, we had not seen any African wildlife. However, I did not feel that a spear was much of a weapon against a lion or leopard.
The next day, we drove to Samburu where we stayed at another lodge. I thought the monkeys were so cute coming into the lodge dining area until they started to grab our food. Then, the waiters started yelling at the monkeys and chasing them out of the dining area. I realized that the monkeys were rascally little critters who were very good at stealing food.
We went out to our VW bus to tour the park. To our shock, our bus had been broken into by a raucous bunch of baboons. They were having a great time eating our food supplies and ripping out the rubber seal on the sliding car door. We yelled at them and jumped up and down waving our arms. This had the affect of causing them to pause, look up at us and then continue to eat our food. We got some help from the park guards who charged the baboons and forced them out of our bus. So our first wildlife encounter was a bit messy. After that, we were cautious about leaving the door unlocked. Who knew that baboons could open car doors?
My African Adventure Part 1
Visiting Africa has always been a dream of mine. I had been painting African wildlife for many years. I wanted to see the animals in their natural setting. When I finally got to Africa I was not disappointed.
My husband and I started out in Nairobi, Kenya. We decided to drive to all the animal parks and stay in the parks hotels. We also wanted to camp in some parks so we could experience nature firsthand. We had rented a Volkswagen bus so we could sleep in it rather than pitching a tent.
Our first stop was Lake Nukuru. We drove into the park late in the evening. We had been having generator trouble driving from Nairobi to the town Of Lake Nukuru. The roads are very dusty which gives the generators a lot of problems. Our lights on the bus were very weak as the battery was failing. As we were approaching our camp site, we came upon a very large animal in the middle of the narrow road. It was a cape buffalo, the most dangerous animal in Africa. The animal was looking straight into our bus about three feet in front of us. My husband Jim immediately put the bus in reverse and backed up as quickly as possible. The Cape buffalo did the same thing, turning and jumping up the steep bank on the edge of the road. That was an exciting encounter to start our African adventure.
When we finally drove down the road to our camp site, it had gotten dark. We saw that most of the camp sites were already taken. We slowly drove around the camping ground with our lights off to conserve the battery.
Much to our surprise, we found one nice space that was not taken. In the morning, we awoke to find that we had parked one foot from the garbage pit. If we had driven any further, we would have driven into the pit.
When we began to prepare breakfast, I discovered why camping next to a garbage pit has its drawbacks. I felt a sharp pain on my tummy on the skin. I lifted my shirt to discover that I was being attacked by army ants. Jim had to pull the critters off as they had sunk their large chompers into my skin. Those army ants are mean little critters. I won’t be doing a painting of them that’s for certain.
Our next destination was to be the park known as tree tops. We headed that way through the town of Meru. We were still having some problems with the generator as we were on a very dusty road. Pretty soon, we broke down by the side of the road. Since there is no AAA roadside service in Africa, we waited and waited for some kind person to stop and assist us. We did get some advice from a ten year old school boy walking home from school. He said that we should not stay where we were parked as there were highway robbers who were sure to come along once it became dark. They would rob us for certain he said.
So, we started up the bus again and drove a couple more miles to a small village. At the village, our bus was immediately surrounded by the people in the village. They were pointing at our camera and smiling. Then they started waving chickens in front of the bus windows. I did not think that we could get any assistance from them. So, once again, we drove a mile or so more down the road where the bus finally quit for good. I decided to try to flag down a truck I saw coming on the road. This was a military convoy which had many vehicles traveling together. The driver of the first truck patiently listened to my sad tale. He then said the truck behind him would help me. I then flagged down the next truck and the next and the next and so on, only to be told the same thing. So, I realized I would not be getting any assistance from the Kenyan military.
I next flagged down a Toyota land cruiser. This turned out to be a very nice man who was a gem merchant of rubies. He said he would be glad to tow us back to the town of Meru. He tied us to his vehicle using a steel cable. We were so grateful we just hopped back into our car and proceeded to be towed. The road was very dusty with clouds of red dirt covering everything. We could not see ahead of us so we did not notice that our bus was slowing down until we saw the broken cable and the Toyota land cruiser fading into the distance. Our horn didn’t work since the battery was dead. We got out of the car and yelled and waved our hands. The nice man saw us and backed up, retied the cable and we were on our way again.
We got to the town of Meru to the Pig and Whistle motel. It was called the Pig and Whistle because it was right next to the slaughter house which became apparent by the sounds and smells coming from the slaughter house. The motel was decorated in the 1950s and had Nelson Eddie music playing nonstop.
Next day, we called our car rental agency in Nairobi who sent their top mechanic (their only mechanic) to the Pig and Whistle Motel with a new car in place of the broken one. We were amazed to see the mechanic simply blow out the generator with an air compressor, dump oil in the bus, and drive away in the bus.
As we had missed our reservation at tree tops, we proceeded to our next destination which was Masi- Mara. There, we stayed in permanent tents that had solar energy panels for the hot water and electricity. We got up early at 5:00 AM for our first drive through the park. As we were proceeding along in the early morning light, I saw a large object off to the side of the road a few feet from us. We stopped just in time to see a very large elephant right next to our car. She moved slowly across the front of our car while I was quickly taking photos. She paused in front of the car and lightly touched the hood of the car with her trunk as if to say, you can go now.
It was a thrilling moment and I was glad that she did not trample us or ram the car. She seemed very calm and peaceful. She had her ears out and an alert look in her eyes which inspired me to do the painting which you see below.
We had another elephant encounter before we left Africa that was not so peaceful which I will save for my next blog.
I’m very excited to be making my first post on this brand-new blog, so I can share my exciting adventures in the fabulous world of art with all of my friends out there and have the opportunity to make even more new friends. This site is dedicated to you , so please give me lots of feedback, ask questions and let me know what you’d like to hear about. So Welcome to my blog, and here’s to an exciting new adventure!