1 April 2016 – Tom, my guide and driver for my first ever safari, is of the Luo tribe and has four children. Prior to this trip, I only knew about the Masai and Kikuyu. Tom told me there are 42 tribes of Kenya. Clearly, I had a lot to learn.
One of the reasons I had chosen Right Choice Safaris was because they did not charge single passengers twice as much as individuals travelling in a twosome. As it turned out, in keeping with my ‘luckiest girl in the world’ status, I was getting a private safari for the price of being part of a group.
Day one of the six-day Mara, Nakuru & Amboseli itinerary took us from Kenya’s capital to one of it’s most famous tourist destinations. The start of the path led through one of Nairobi’s slums. The day was mostly driving with the mind-blowing exception of a pit stop with a view. The highway leading from Nairobi to Masai Mara has a strip that affords an awe-inspiring view of the Great Rift Valley. Wherever the shoulder of the highway was wide enough, people had built souvenir shops. We pulled into one that also had a coffee shop. I stood for a long time staring out to the horizon, across an expanse that was as flat and vast as an ocean. There were some mountains off in the distance which are actually dormant volcanoes. There was almost no sign of human habitation.
My coffee (instant made with hot milk instead of hot water) was 100 KSH. The souvenirs I bought at the gift shop cost me 5,000 KSH. It is the fault of my ignorance that I overpaid. The system for buying souvenirs in Kenya goes thusly; first, you put everything that you would like to purchase in a lovely basket, then you are given a price for it all. You are expected to negotiate. Because it was my first purchase in Kenya, I did very badly. The lady shopkeeper said 6,000 KSH and I asked if she would take 5,000 KSH. Of course, she would!!!! Anyway, I paid approximately the equivalent of $50 USD for a map, some hand-made cards, a fridge magnet, and a pair of orange bead earrings.
Due to our late start, we were unable to make it into the Masai Mara for lunch so we stopped at the Kusbor Restaurant in Narok. Tom told me to help myself to the buffet. There was a salad made of cabbage, carrots, and onions. There was also steamed spinach, as well as, noodles and flatbread. The meat dish was chicken. It was ok.
After eating lunch and adding air to the tires to make them fatter, we left the highway and our adventure began. The road from Narok to the Masai Mara is the worst road I have ever travelled on. I am not exaggerating – I have been on dirt roads in Canada, Botswana, and Australia and I can say without a doubt, this road was worse than any of those. On top of that, it began pissing down with rain. Tom said that I was good luck because the rain was a blessing for the land.
The original itinerary was that we would have lunch at the camp and then go for a game drive in the afternoon. I told Tom I didn’t want to go for a game drive. I was exhausted from clenching my entire body and could only imagine what it was like for Tom who was wrestling to keep the vehicle on the road. He seemed disappointed and said, “Don’t you want to see elephants?” I told him there would be plenty of time to see animals the next day. One of the benefits of having a private safari is that you can say no to more time spent driving. Tom told me later at dinner that when he first started driving on that road, he would fall into bed immediately upon arrival. Fighting the road would suck out all of his energy.
I don’t know if it was because I was a woman travelling alone, or because of the little mix up that had me waiting at the airport, but the boss told Tom to upgrade me so, instead of staying at the camp, I stayed at the Sentrim Mara hotel for two nights. I had my own little house complete with a four-poster bed with mosquito nets. I slept like a baby!