"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime." (Mark Twain : The Innocents Abroad, 1869)

Sunday, 11 July 2010

. . . and so, at last, to the Massai Mara

Another relative early start sees us off on the road to what is, certainly for me, the highlight of the trip - the plains and rivers of the Massai Mara.  A place a large proportion of the world has seen through wildlife programmes on TV but few will be lucky enough to visit.

The original plan was to take a back road from close to we camped, through what's left of the Mau Forrest, down to Narok and on to the Mara.  However, local advice was that the back road had been washed out and that it might be foolhardy to attempt it.  So it was back to Naivasha, South around Mount Lononot and then on to Narok.  As this would probably take longer, I offered to drive as I was probably more confident in making the Landy go faster on the local roads.

The plan was to stop in Narok to provision for our Mara adventures - then it suddenly occurred to us, it's Sunday and the shops may be closed.  We reached Narok, a dusty two street town, which is the regional capitol and, to our relief, both the Indian supermarket and the local stalls were all open.  The supermarket wasn't quite as good as the YaYa Centre in Nairobi but it had most of what we  needed for six night self-sufficient life in the bush.

Topping up with fuel, we headed out of town and soon found a sign to the Mara Serena which I knew was a few Ks inside the National Reserve on the way to our campsite.  However, opinions within the Landy were divided as to whether it was the correct route !  Local advise was taken and followed : so we backtracked a short way and headed off along a long, bumpy and dusty back road.  Some started to doubt that was the right road and, again, local advice was taken - we continued long the long, bumpy and dusty way.  The dust was as fine as talcum powder and as soon as we slowed down, the cloud that followed us caught up and it was like being in a fog..  We, eventually, turned left on to a tarmac road but unfortunately this soon reverted to another long and bumpy road but this wasn't as dusty.

The road went on, farmed land eventually gave way to open plains with the occasional Thompson's Gazelle and eventually turned away from the hills to which we had been driving parallel for some time.  This started to worry me as I knew from maps I'd looked at that the NR gate through which we were supposed to enter, was tucked under such hills.  So - again - we took local advice and, thankfully, it was confirmed that we were indeed still going the right way.

Going through a small Massai village - a scattering of huts and a few sparse shops, the 'right' road turned into a closed road : the road had been washed away and was no longer viable - even for our trusty Landy.

By this time, the light was definitely beginning to fade and thoughts of having to put up camp next to a Massai village were starting to float through my tired brain.  More local advice and some quite emphatic directions - he was even prepared to come with us to guide us through the diversion.  Unfortunately, we did not have a spare seat as the massive bedding bag was taking up any spare room on the rear seats.  Despite such emphatic directions, we soon lost the plot.  Local advice was yet again sought - Why, oh why did we loose the GPS ? !  This brought home our arrogance that everybody understands or speaks English, when all we received in response to our questions was a smile and/or a blank stare.

Eventually, I saw a Manyatta (a group of huts surrounded by a thorn boma) outside of which were a number of tourist safari vehicles.  Getting a bit disparate, I headed off across country in a straight line to see if they could help us.  One of the guides offered to show us the way, if we would pay his Picpic (motorcycle taxi) fare back - this time Mary vacated her front seat and crammed herself in the back.

On the right road and our guide thanked & paid, we were soon at the Oloololo Gate and its adjacent campsite - no way were we going to make it to the Serena public campsite, yet alone our booked on at Kiboko.  We waved our paperwork purchased in Nairobi and said we would sort everything out in the morning.

The campsite was already home to a large overland truck full of Spanish travelers but we managed to fit in around the edge.  As we started to put up our tents, it started to rain.  Whilst Mary and Michele immediately received assistance from a number of handsome neighbours, Bob and I struggled on alone !  Our evening meal was quick sandwiches and we were soon in bed.  I slept through the Spaniards returning, surprisingly quietly, from watching their team win the World Cup but did surface briefly when Hyena raided the camp's rubbish dump.

A long and trying day but at least we are now in the Mara !

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