KENYA (SOUTH & EAST) - ALL THE ADVENTURE YOU CAN BUY FOR $50, A PACK OF CIGARETTES & A FANTA ORANGE

 

Almost immediately after entering the Masai Mara we were welcomed by herds and herds of Zebra and Wildebeests. so many at times that the road was blocked in front of us while we swatted flies and waited for the Wildebeest to side-step imaginary obstacles on the road before getting out of our way.

The Upliftment Tax discussions with Sam drained our spirits a bit and the potential incarceration in a Nairobi prison was a starting to weigh down on our shoulders so we did what any good Jackson would do and headed straight to the nearest lodge for their 5-Star Buffet Lunch.

Man was it good, but we looked way out of place and felt actually a bit uncomfortable as people gave us their disapproving stares and considerably wider berths than necessary (maybe it was the fact that we hadn't showered in a week).  But, we dug in like normal and got the most out of the $25 per person buffet.  I'm sure the Mara Simba Lodge is quite happy that we chose not to use the showers that we found in the toilets by the bar.

On our way to the Riverside Campsite we decided to take a short detour and head out on another game drive. we were rewarded almost immediately as we just about sped by a small Pajero looking at what appeared to us to be a herd of impala, but ended up being a cheetah resting under a tree right next to the road.

We also took in some great Wildebeest herds (some herds numbering in the thousands) along the river and were definitely satisfied that we had experienced the sightings of the famous Serengeti - Masai Mara Wildebeest migration.

That night we camped at the Riverside Campsite and did our best to make conversation with our security guard William who explained to us that he couldn't get married until after he kills his first lion. We're not sure if that was "tourist talk" or if it is actually true.  We also wondered if we just didn't understand what William was saying because a few other conversations didn't make as much sense as maybe they should have.

The next morning we were back in the park for one last drive before heading north to Nairobi. This drive turned out to be one of the most amazing drives of our trip (and possibly of any we've been on to date). 

Driving along the Mara River we came across a herd of about 2,000 Wildebeest on the other side of the river that were obviously looking for a place to cross.  When we first arrived at the spot we tried to put ourselves in the best position to view by guessing where the crossing would take place, but the confused animals made us look like idiots as we postured forward and backwards while the Wildebeest circled almost debating what crossing they would take.  We finally decided just to park where we could see them clearly, with a plan to race down to the best spot after they finally made their minds up.

We probably watched the herd go back and forth a good half hour before they finally started down the slope to the river.  We raced down to our original spot (so much for all that posturing) to find ourselves in a perfect position to view the crossing.

Even once the start of the herd made it to the river's edge, it still took quite some time for the first Wildebeest to venture into the water.  It was then that we realized why they were so hesitant to begin, for almost immediately the brave wildebeest was attacked by a crocodile (which looked a lot like a log from our vantage point).  But the wildebeest was wiley an the croc didn't catch hold him before he was able to jump back to the shore. After this close call we expected the progress of the herd to slow down even more...but, it didn't. 

A few minutes later another wildebeest was off and the crossing started again.  It was incredible watching one after another wildebeest pour into the river bounding and swimming to get across as quickly as possible.

We noticed that one seemed like it was drowning and being taken away by the river until it got closer to us and we noticed that it had a huge crocodile attached to its ass.  Obviously not the optimal kill grip that the croc would have liked, but the poor Wildebeest was destined to meet his maker this day.

Once started, the crossing went on for about half an hour and the kill about 20 minutes longer. It was a great experience and capped off a perfect week of game driving.  Wild dogs remain the only animals that have eluded our tracking skills.

After leaving the Masai Mara gate, we encountered some of the worst roads we've seen on our entire trip.  On numerous occasions we were actually forced off the road by either the condition of the surface or because the road was too narrow to fit both our Land Cruiser and the oncoming bus / truck that was thundering towards us.

Once reaching Narok (approx 3 hour later) we started climbing towards Nairobi. with all three of us wondering what the infamous "Nairobbery" would be like.

Luckily we arrived in Nairobi on a holiday so it was quieter than normal and finding our way to the Village Market (where we were to meet Cathy's cousin Bruce) was quite straight forward. 

We met up with Bruce only minutes later and were escorted to his lovely house in Runda Nairobi.  We were met there by his lovely wife Julie and some cold drinks.  We felt a little out of place with our dirty clothes and bodies, but we did manage to clean ourselves up for dinner, which was an excellent meal prepared by Julie and her Mom (who they just came back from visiting in Kitale).  It was wonderful to visit with them both, relax a little and then plan our next day. 

Bruce was amazing with his help on directions to the Wilson Airport where we hoped to finally become legal tourists in Kenya (we think he made his directions extra clear to ensure he wouldn't be harbouring fugitives for yet another night) and with his help on Cathy's doctor's appointment and getting our car serviced.  Julie, who manages a travel agency and Avis operation, was an excellent resource for us regarding our Sudanese and Egyptian VISAs.  We had a full day ahead of us in Nairobi, but armed with a somewhat detailed map of most of the city, we went to bed confident the next day would be a success.

The next day we rose later then normal and enjoyed a great breakfast on the Scott patio by the pool.  We unpacked the vehicle completely in anticipation of getting it serviced and then headed out to Wilson Airport, holding our breath slightly.

In true African style, spending two days illegally in Kenya was of no concern.  Immigration simply made us fill out the (necessary) forms and pay the (necessary) money as if we had just arrived on a flight.  For customs we simply had to wait for the boss to come back from lunch so he could stamp the carnet, and we were off.  The only outstanding issue was our third-party liability insurance.  Luckily, as we headed for Cathy's doctor (very carefully to avoid any accidents) we saw an insurance company so we stopped in to fill in the last piece in the puzzle.  Across the street, as luck would have it, there was an internet café at a youth hostel.  Matt headed that way while Mike and Cathy saw Dr. Patel of Nairobi.  However, Matt did not last long at the café as their connection was so super slow that after 20 minutes he had yet to read an email.  The guy on staff told him that the problem obviously lies with Microsoft (not with the third world connection they were using), so Matt resigned himself to the medical building's fine cafeteria while Mike and Cathy saw the doctor and the ultrasound technician.    

The doctor's appointment went very well and Mike found this OBGYN to his liking - a first to date.  Dr. Patel said all looks well with Cathy and the baby.  We had a chance to hear the heartbeat and during the ultrasound noticed that the baby is definitely a Jackson as it seems to be all stomach at the moment.  He/She did wave at us and threw a few kicks in as well.  It was great, and Mike and Cathy are both thrilled.

It was quite a productive day as we were able to get everything finished as well as make an appointment for the vehicle to be serviced at 7:00 AM the next day.  We met Julie and Bruce back at their place and then we all headed out to dinner at the Village Market where we enjoyed some excellent food.

Unfortunately, Day-2 in Nairobi was significantly less productive than Day-1.

We dropped off the vehicle and all went fine there, but after that we looked to straighten out some VISA issues we have. as in we don't have a VISA for Sudan or Egypt. 

Earlier in the week, Shannon was told in Canada that it would take 35 days and $700 to get her Sudanese VISA in Canada, which was definitely a bad omen. We were told in South Africa before we left that we could only get it in Nairobi and Addis Ababa if we planned to go into Sudan via land.  We were also told that all Sudanese VISAs are only valid for 30 days from date of issue; meaning we can only get the VISA sometime in mid-October to meet our schedule.  We were under the belief that we could obtain a Sudanese VISA here in Nairobi in 5 days however, we were told today it would take at least 2-3 weeks (that is if we would be allowed to get one at all, which isn't guaranteed at this time either).  This is still a problem unsolved - but, we're off to Uganda tomorrow anyway.  As they Kenyan's (and cartoon Disney characters) say Hakuna Matata.

Or, not.

While we decided not to let the Sudan visa issue keep us from leaving for Uganda as planned, unfortunately the vehicle service and the fickle water tank would keep us in Nairobi a day longer than we were hoping.

After returning to the Toyota dealer to pick up the vehicle in the afternoon as planned, we found out that the vehicle service did not go as it was supposed to.  Or should we say, the vehicle service went fine, but Toyota was unable to get hold of us to discuss the need for new front brake pads - so, it was 4pm that afternoon and they still needed to replace them.

In Toyota's defence, they did try to get hold of us, but because we were on the go trying to sort out visas all day and we don't have a working mobile phone, they were unable to reach us to discuss it. 

No problem - after much discussion (and some assistance from our taxi driver, Daniel), we were able to get the service manager to agree to a 7AM pick-up the next morning.

But, we had one other complication - Toyota wasn't up for fixing the water tank for us.  Luckily, they did make a suggestion on where we could get it fixed and off we went to Associated Steel to make an appointment for 8AM the next morning.

The next morning all of us - Cathy, Mike, Matt and Daniel - were off to the Toyota dealer at 7AM.  But, as luck would have it, they were not finished with the brake pads.  So, we waited. 

At 9:30AM, after a breakfast of cheese pie (with no cheese) and (stale) chocolate donuts, they finished the brake pads and turned us loose with a fully serviced vehicle on our way to get the water tank fixed.

Our luck continued to be a problem for us when Associated Steel decided that the job was too small and sent us on a wild goose chase to their "work shop" to get it done there.  Unfortunately, that was a no-go for us as well and they sent us on our way with the leaks marked on the tank, but with nothing fixed. 

After a quick detour to Bunson Travel to drop off our Sudanese visa applications (in hopes that we might be able to make some progress with the applications through the Bunson Travel visa experts), we decided to try one last option and headed to the Komatsu / Pan African Trucks building to see if anyone there could give us some advice on where to get the tank fixed.  It was there that our luck turned positive again as Mike ran into Gavin Pearson, who not only used to live at Tonquani in South Africa, but also knew Mike through working at the Geita Gold Mine in Tanzania together. 

Gavin and the people at Pan African Trucks were a huge help and fixed up the tank for us.  We also had a good visit and made temporary plans for dinner and drinks on our way back through Nairobi before heading to Ethiopia in early November.

At this point, with the truck serviced and the water tank fixed, we decided to head to the Village Market to do some quick grocery shopping so we could get out of town before dark.  But, by the time we made it to the Village Market, we changed our mind and decided that the brake pads / Associated Steel fiasco had used up too much of the day and that we'd be better off staying one last night in Nairobi and pushing through all the way to Jinja the next day.

That turned out to be a very good idea as well, because Matt came down with a bit of a stomach bug that night and he was not in a good way from about the moment we got home, all through the night and well into the next day.  It sure was a lot better for him to be in a bed with a bathroom then it would have been on the road somewhere in a camp ground in the bush.

For a more in depth look into our escapades in Nairobi, check later for the soon to come  link to the "Ode to Nairobi" page.