Thursday 18 December 2008 F. and I are right now in the seating area next to the runway in Nairobi's Wilson Airport, waiting for our Yellow Wings Airlines propeller plane to fly to Shampole at the border with Tanzania. The weather is fantastic. Even though it is partly cloudy, it is very comfortable. Sun comes out from time to time and it is comfortable with just a t-shirt in December!
Nairobi is very green. Even though not as green as Bangladesh, the buildings, the order of the traffic, the slow and comfortable pace of life, the weather's sweet calm are like Bangladesh. We arrived in Nairobi's Jomo Konyatta Airport after an 8 hour flight from London. Even though it is an airport from the 70s, I have to say that it is much better than the ones in India. People are polite and smiley. The road to the city from the airport, just like in Dacca, has only two lanes. Japanese car are the majority. Like in all developing countries and crowded city centres, the air smells of something like egzost or coal. The sides of the road to the city is full of textile and furniture stores like in Gunesli. Because it is almost Christmas and the Hajj season has just ended, like in Bangladesh, buildings are decorated with lights. Nairobi's centre is full of high-rise buildings like Maslak. It looks richer, cleaner and more orderly than Cairo even though in reality, that is not the case. I haven't come across traffic monsters yet. I guess this is due to the fact that the population is much smaller than Turkey and Egypt. On the sides of the roads, I noticed tall trees with flat tops and instead of leaves, full of thorns. There were hundreds of white birds as big as coconuts on these trees. It was an incredible sight. For some reason, hundreds of this type of bird was only on this type of tree and at first glance, they looked like big flowers or fruits. We spent out first night in Nairobi in Palacino Hotel, which is near the presidential palace and set on a hill. We couldn't believe our eyes when we entered our suite (number 20) on the top floor. Our suite was over 2 floors, had 2 bedrooms, 2 reception rooms, 2 bathrooms, 2 terraces, 1 changing room and a fully-equipped kitchen. We didn't expect this much luxury. Especially, considering that I carried cracker type safe snacks and cleaning products in the suitcase...But what can I do? I had come across some terrible things in India.
At first, it was difficult to fall asleep because of the dogs barking but then it was comfortable. We woke to the sound of a rooster in the morning. In the middle of the night, we heard the sound of such as bird that we thought it was a woman screaming or being strangled. The sun rose around 6 o'clock. It is so different than London now. With sunshine, the green of the area we were in became more apparent. It was like the tea gardens we stayed in Sylhet. Nairobi streets are not that bad either. Even though, they are not all fully finished with stone or concrete, there are sidewalks. People can comfortably walk to work. The rich have big villas.
On our way to Wilson Airport, a policeman pulled us over because he saw that our driver was talking on the phone while driving. It was F.'s phone. He let us go but he wanted our driver to come back once he dropped us at the airport. I hope that the poor driver will not have to pay a fine. The poor policemen have no uniform. They wear a florescent coloured jacket with "Police" printed on it and a white hat.
Wilson Airport is very funny. There are thousands of propeller planes and each airline has its own building. There is no check-in. After all, each plane can take a maximum of 4 passengers. You go into the airline office and say "I am here." They are already waiting for you anyway. Then someone takes you to the plane and carries your bags. Now we are waiting for our plane. We came here early. The weather is incredibly beautiful. It would only be this nice if we were at home, indoors. ...
Now I am at the lodge number 4 of the incredibly beautiful Shampole Lodges in Shampole region. We are going to spend 4 days here. Before I describe here, I should write about our journey getting here.
We got on a 3-person propeller plane in Nairobi. The plane was literally only as big as a 4X4 car. We put our luggage in the back of the plane like in a car. F. sat next to the pilot whose name was also F. I sat in the back. The pilot have F. headphones so that they could talk comfortably. During the flight, I didn't hear a single word sitting in the back but the two F. could talk.
I guessed that the flight would be bumpy but this was so terrible that I thought I was going to have a heart attack. I constantly prayed to God to be protected. And I got angry with myself thinking why do I always have to be on the look out for adventures and get in myself in these situations. Thank God, we landed in Shampole, which is 12 km away from Tanzania, without a hitch.
Whenever I could like down from the plane, I saw Nairobi's tin-made shanty towns, incomparable dry and greenish valleys, spots of dark green but flat trees, villages, farm lands and the salt lake.
Shampole is in the Masai Mara region where the Masai live. As soon as we got off the plane, our guide Muhammed got us on his 4X4 which was open on all 4 sides. As we were driving to the lodges, I got so excited by the animals that we encountered that I was breathless. It is very different than seeing these animals in a documentary or in a zoo. The zebras are free, tens of them are playing, running; they are so close to us. Tens of different and gorgeous red, blue, bright yellow birds, gazelles and antelopes, which are as small as a baby gazelle. As we were looking out through our binoculars from our lodge we also saw wildebeests.
The lodges are like a piece of heaven. They are open on all four sides. There is no wall, no net, no curtain. It is as if we are the only ones on the side of the Shampole Hill. There is no other sound than the sounds of birds, bugs, monkeys, bees, leaves, and bird wings. There is no TV. Even our toilet and shower is open air, right in the middle. Our lodge has its own pool. We are literally in heaven right now. So all the money we spent to come to Kenya was for this unreachable luxury and comfort. There could not be a better opportunity to rest and experience one of my life's most special, beautiful, meaningful and exciting travels. Also not knowing what to do during silence and free time as we are so used to the busy life in London...this is the right opportunity to relax!
... Oh My God! What a day! After being served a perfect Italian dish for lunch by the Masai, we took a nap for about 2 hours. It appears that we really needed it. As it is Kenya's summer time, it's become very hot in the afternoon. We started our afternoon safari around 4:30. Besides Muhammed, a Sambura called Alex also joined us.
We saw a wide variety of animals in their natural habitat. This included the vultures who were eaten a piece of meat they had found, eagles, long-legged Secretary Bird who eats snakes, numerous types of gazelles and antelopes, vivid and beautifully coloured small birds (bee eaters), a bird type, who weighs 20 kg. and who flies very high to impress the females and then inflates its neck like a balloon as it lands, wild African cat (same size as a house cat), ostrich and most important of all, LION!!!
Before I come to this, I also have to say that we saw giraffe bones. We took a break at sunset and in an empty area of the valley, we drank our fruit juices and ate a chips, which is made of some local herbs. We chatted with our guides. They are very proud that Obama won the election and he is of Kenyan descent. Where we took our break, there were stones on top of each other. We were told some couples get married at this spot. We were also told that there is another set of lodges in Shampole besides ours but everyone cannot get in. Only people like Bill Gates can book them and close the entire place for themselves. Though, we are also the only ones staying in our lodges, so at the moment, we are like Bill Gates.
Now let's come back to the lions. I never guessed that we could see a male lion from up close during day time. He wasn't disturbed by us and did not move from the place he was sitting lazily. Only, from time to time he looked at the direction where vultures were flying. After our break, the sun was set completely. In pitched darkness, we again came across the same lion and a lioness in heat. As the lioness was flirting with him, the lion was not paying any attention to her and was mildly roaring at her. This went on for a while. The guides said that this was not normal. Eventually, we figured out that the poor lion had a problem with his right foot.
As I write these in our lodge, which is open on all sides, I can hear him roar. It is only a big cat. I know that he is very strong and dangerous but he is incredibly beautiful and his behaviours are not too different than a cat. The guides told us that actually the male lions have a family bond, they help the females in raising the cubs but because they hunt so rarely, they live less than the females. Before dinner, the managers of the lodges, Patrick and his wife Joan (and their Jack Russell dog, Hugo) greeted us. We chatted a bit. Patrick's mother is Danish and father Ethiopian. He spent most of his life in Kenya. His wife is Swedish and has lived in Side and Alanya for a year as a tour guide. They are very happy with their life here but maybe because they do not see many people, they miss having conversations. They told us about the romantic story of how they met in Masai Mara, the Kenyan politics and the struggles among the tribes. There are 17 tribes in Kenya.
Patrick is also fond of cooking. No wonder whatever is being served is very delicious. I am going to gain so much weight here, it's terrible! F. and I were all alone by the pool side at dinner. Vegetable soup, main dish and profiterole. I ate too much today. From time to time, Masai Joseph (the waiter) chatted with us. He speaks English very well even though he's been to school for only 3 years. His village is 4 hour walking distance away and he can sometimes walk at night time among the lions. He has only been to Nairobi outside of Masai Mara and didn't like the crowds and the rush. He walked to Tanzania. The border police don't stop the Masai. They always dress in Masai cloths.
Now we are in our "room" but it is an adventure to use the open air toilet and shower in the evening hours. There was a bug right next to the toilet, so neither F. nor I could use it. We took our shower very quickly al fresco. I hope that we will not be attached by bugs and other animals while we sleep. I hope we will not find bugs or scorpion in our shoes and bags when we wake up. And I hope we can use the toilet comfortably tomorrow.