Thursday June 26, 2014

blog7-05 Masai Mara

HIGHLIGHT #1: Imagine lifting off, very early morning, in a huge hot-air balloon … rising slowly above Kenya’s famous Masai Mara Regional Park. Imagine floating gently in the wind-currents, one minute skimming the treetops, next minute soaring above the endless grasslands … the only sound the occasional roar of the gas burners. Imagine playing spot-the-animals from your high-up vantage point … while dawn slowly lights up the sky and a big orange sun creeps over the far horizon.

Well, guess what? We didn’t imagine it – we DID IT (well, most of us did) this morning!

We were awoken at 4:00am and delivered to the launch site while it was still dark. The big balloons (two of them) were slowly inflated. Then, when they were more-of-less upright, we climbed into the big baskets ­– which were lying on their sides. Gas flames and heat gushed into the vast space above our heads, and before we knew it we were upright … and then airborne!

I could write at length about what was a totally fabulous experience – the finish being a champagne breakfast out in the open African plains. But I’ll let the photos speak for themselves … and your friends can give you the riveting details when they’re home.

HIGHLIGHT #2: This afternoon, for something a little different, we found ourselves in a traditional Masai Village (or kraal), where we were given an introduction to this colourful ancient nomadic culture. We were shown how they make fire … how the menfolk prove their worth by jumping up and down (a favourite, if unusual, sport amongst youthful Masai males) … and how the womenfolk perform their traditional singing and dancing. We were also encouraged to poke our heads inside their humble mud-and-cow-dung huts.

Then, having spent some Kenyan shillings on their home-made crafts and necklaces, we wandered up the road to the village school, where a crowd of cute, happy kids welcomed us, sang for us, and showed us their schoolbooks. When some of our group handed out little gifts and goodies, the grins on those little faces just got bigger and bigger.

HIGHLIGHT #3: The world-renowned Masai Mara (and its much-bigger sister, the Serengeti, which we farewelled yesterday at the Tanzanian border) are both centre-stage for the most dramatic wildlife show on earth: the legendary migration of vast herds of wildebeest and zebras (up to 3.5 million animals on the move at the same time, according to some estimates). We were a bit early for the vast herds (they were still warming up back in the Serengeti) … but yesterday we watched in awe as considerable numbers of first-arrivals braved the fast-flowing Mara River and its residents, waiting crocodiles, and scrambled frantically up the opposite banks.

Then, today, one lucky truckload of Mad Midlife Kiwis got to see them at it again, in even greater numbers, and witnessed one unlucky wildebeest get caught and dragged under by a giant croc. An incredible sighting, for sure, and one our friends are still talking about.

Life is tough out here on the wild game-parks of Africa, and death is an ever-present reality. But there’s a natural rhythm and balance to this place that becomes more remarkable the longer you’re here.


Our hotly sought-after quacky yellow ducks have been flying out recently, so forgive me while I attempt a catch-up:

  • Heather received our ‘Lost & Found & Lost Again’ Award … following a not-so-good day when she (i) lost her purse (including her cash and credit-cards), (ii) then found it again, then (iii) accidently wiped all her photos. Bummer!
  • Barb received our ‘Little Too Close For Comfort’ Award … for dropping her expensive sunglasses over the side of the open-topped 4WD she was in – almost right on top of a snoozing lion! (No kidding!) Barb decided not to attempt a rescue, and the lion was last seen wandering off with Barb’s sunglasses on its head. (Just kidding!)
  • Hillary received our ‘Inside-Out-&-Upside-Down’ Award … for putting her shirt on inside-out and upside-down the other morning when she got dressed in the dark. (Well, it was early – and she didn’t want to disturb her sleeping husband!)
  • Jan received our ‘Putting Her Foot In It’ Award … for stepping right in the middle of a big juicy stinky black cow-pat today at the Masai Village. (We made Jan walk home!)
  • Margaret C received our ‘Pest Control’ Award … when she was spotted peering intently down the front of her shirt. When asked what she was doing, Margaret explained that she was looking for a rogue “titsee fly” (her exact words – and she was serious) that had somehow got down there.
  • Cliff received our ‘C Stands For Cold’ Award … for turning on the wrong tap before taking a shower yesterday, standing around naked for at least four hours wondering why the water wouldn’t warm up, He even left it running while he nipped down the road and did some shopping. (Just kidding. Or did you guess?)



We’re off to visit two bird-watchers’ lakes in the Great Rift Valley and get up-close-and-personal with their gorgeous feathery inhabitants. This show ain’t over yet, folks, so don’t go away …

Yours bloggedly – JOHN

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