Sunday, November 16, 2008

Thursday, 20 September 2007 - Mara to Mt. Kenya

Once again, the morning wake up call is irrelevant, as the hippo call is followed up by the avian chorus at 6. (Interestingly, we weren't allowed coffee service after 7am, because the restaurant is open at that time. It's a shame they don't serve the wake-up no matter what. But a small matter overall.)

We had a quick breakfast, then went back to say goodbye to the hippos. I could have stayed there all day, just having a drink and watching them sleep. I thought of Momma, and how much she would enjoy just doing that. So I really wanted to do it for her.

I think I was ready for the whole family to be back together, but in now way did I want to leave this incredible feeling behind. Is that what happens when you have an experience like this? I just have to take the feeling with me is all. That's not always easy.

We board the plane for Mt. Kenya, about a 40 minute flight. On the ground we bid farewell to the otehr tour, and eventually see them take off to Nairobi. They will be back in the States by Friday night.

Now began what I call the "re-Westernization" part of our safari. The Mt. Kenya Safari Club crosses the equator. Naturally, we stopped at a tourist trap, where dudes came out of nowhere to push their stores, right before some guy with a pitcher of water attempted to explain the Coriolis effect. This would be the first of several tourist traps we would see the next few days. None of us were interested, really, so we climbed back in the vans and proceeded to the Club.

It is owned by the Fairmont chain, which was making some major investments in improvements (much like the Norfolk). The end result was that reception and the bar are under white tents, though both are very nicely decorated and laid out.

For some rason we had to kill time while the limited staff got our cabins ready. This is why we had to hang out at the equator. I don't know why we wouldn't just wait at the bar or reception. We did that for about 10 minutes anyway.

The lodges were absolutely great. Tons of room, like lush cabins in the wilderness. But is still felt like the continued transition to "real life" - more of a resort than a safari location. And I didn't really like calling for the courtesy van every time we wanted to get to the main buildings, but again, that was all a function of the remodeling work being done.

One of our perks was a free admission to the Mt. Kenya Wildlife Sancutary. Betsy and I decided to go over around 4pm. This was a gift! We were the only two folks looking for a guide at the time. We were introduced to James, a very tall man, with a strong voice, the head animal keeper at the facility. He was just great. They call him the elephant man, because he was gored through the chest by a young bull, and spent 7 1/2 months in recovery. He now loves the hippos the best!

Anyway, James took us around the facility, like on a private tour. We got to feed everything! The pygmy hippos were precious. James would call them over, and they opened their mouths as wide as possible, so we could throw the food in.

There were so many wonderful animals here. And the monkeys in particular were fantastic. We fed them all by hand. They have such tiny little fingers. My favorite, of course, was the little 3-week old Colobus. It's mother was killed by wild dogs, so they took it in. When we saw it, it was crying very loudly, so James went and got a little bottle of milk. He handed it to me, so I got to do the actual feeding! The little guy grabbed my hand and held on while he ate. He was just so precious. At that point we knew we had become friends.

When the tour was over, we went back to the office, where we signed up and make a donation to officially become Friends. It turns out the facility had closed much earlier, but James stayed with us to make sure we had a full experience. When we were done, he shook our hands, thanked us, and wished us a blessing of "Go with God." It was a great end to a great experience. We both felt wonderful about what we had done.

This was a great experience to help me. I needed this transition back to the Western life. It was so very hard for me at that point, but I found a place where I can achieve some inner peace, and pure joy. It is the Soul of Africa that has a hold on me now.

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