Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Safari, day 2: Amboseli National Park

It's hard to believe that we've only been here for one day -- it seems like longer, somehow. It may take you an entire day to read through this post...

This morning we got up early to go on a game drive -- already our second one...

Big news: we saw some hippos. One in the water, quite close, and two more out of the water. "How deep is that water?" "Hippo deep."

We saw a few warthogs, a hyena, some baboons, and some water buffalo in and out of the water.

"I bet he thinks he's god's gift to warthogs"

Water buffalo...

Land buffalo...

(just kidding)

Olive baboons...

No lions in the morning.




Really close elephants. So close we could hear them, see them, watch the way the tip of their trunk works. Over and over. Apparently Amboseli is the best place to see elephants ... and it was LOVELY.

I loved seeing this family group walking toward us.

And this fella scratch his backside on a termite mound.

And this little one having some breakfast.

Then back to the lodge for our breakfast -- did I mention it was a buffet? And that I ate too much again? -- and when we went on a short trip to a nearby Maasai village. 

I didn't know what to expect -- I had seen the signs at the lodge instructing guests not to photograph the Maasai, but this was a trip where we would be allowed to, apparently. We drove out there and paid our $20 donation to the head man.

Men and women from the village, all in their finery, come out and performed a welcome dance for us -- the dance that would be performed for a visitor / new bride from another village. Some folks were called up to join the song ... including, of course, Wil.

Julie and Wil, blending in

Then we went into the village through a break in the wall made of acacia thorns. We got to the center of the village, to an area where they keep their cattle at night.

these acacia thorns make a pretty good defense

There were more songs, including some awesome jumping by the young men ... and the guests. The higher a man can jump, the more desirable he is to a future mate.

One of the Maasai, a man also named William, loaned Wil his "dancing stick" and encouraged Wil to give it a go.

They may not have been impressed by the height of the jump, but they were by the enthusiasm!

I should point out that the ladies looked pretty amazing, too. 

Joseph (the head man) told us about some of their customs: men can have multiple wives, as long as they can support them. Women build the houses. Women make the adornments. Men mind the cattle.

We watched a man make fire using only a stick, a piece of wood, and some dried dung. It was pretty astounding how fast he got it to light.

Then we had a tour of a house by a young man named Joseph.

Joseph is 19 years old, and speaks beautiful English. He left the village to pursue a law degree, but had to drop out "because of finances". (Later on Wil and I slipped him a $5 bill -- hard to know how one can help?)

The house was small; two or three rooms, one for parents, one for kids, and a central hearth. It seemed impossible that a family would all sleep in the small space, but they do.

Then -- of course -- shopping. Which was okay, but felt a little pressured. But, honestly, I didn't want anything. I like the beads, the bracelets, the carvings, but I just don't need them. I did buy a bracelet at the border, and a gourd, too, but. I'm also sure that at some point I'll break down and buy some beaded cuffs.

Before we left the schoolmaster brought out his young students... who were freakin' adorable. They sang us some songs and eagerly demonstrated their math skills.

"Yes! Yes! Yes!" -- they all wanted to show us they knew the answer.
 And this little guy made lots of faces, which I loved.

Before we left, William came to say goodbye to Wil...

We went back to the lodge to relax for a while ... oh, and eat another massive lunch. I know it's exactly the opposite way around, but we just kept thinking how much this place reminds us of Animal Kingdom Lodge at Walt Disney World ... but just on a smaller scale.

On our afternoon game drive we lost count of the number of elephants we saw. Plus hyenas, hippos, wildebeest, and a sleeping lion. Well, I saw something tawny far in the distance, and was assured it was a lion. But, still, a lion. But, mostly, we saw elephants. So please indulge me while I share some of the couple of hundred photos of elephants we took today.

We saw this mom and baby in a swamp near the road. Mom was happily eating:

But the baby wasn't too keen on getting in the water.

Joseph says this little one is about 4 months old. Squeeeee!

Then we saw this big fella who had left the swamp...

Giving Wil the opportunity for an #elephantselfie (#elephantie?):

This lady came walking toward us ... okay, walking toward that acacia bush:

And then went to work eating all the green leaves.

And we saw this big group moving across the savannah...

And they crossed right in front of our van.

Here's a big guy having a dust bath:

And here's another mom, who we watched as she pulled up grass, flicked it around to get the dirt off the roots, and then ate it.  

Her young one wasn't quite as adept.

the curl of that trunk makes me want to squeal

We also experienced our first real "crush" of safari vans... but all the drivers were well behaved, so there wasn't any weirdness.

During the drive we saw Kili -- still pretty hazy, but unmistakable. Exciting to see and think we were at the top just a few days ago!

We also made a stop at Observation Point, the only hill in the park. We climbed up to see a view over the swamps, and the sky starting to turn colors. We had a tiny thought that perhaps we were being surprised with a sundowner up there -- it's the perfect spot -- but no.

sadly, these drinks were not for us

Back at the lodge, we had a briefing about tomorrow -- we have an early start and it sounds like we have a long day of travel. Erik also talked about an optional balloon trip over the Maasai Mara. When we first heard about it, we thought we would spare no expense and definitely do it ... but then Erik said the price: $450 per person.

Now, gosh. That's an extra grand for what could be a 30-minute flight. Even I think that's too much. So we've decided not to do it. And not waffle about it.

Then dinner -- this time the buffet was outside and there was a lot of grilled meat -- but it was #stillabuffet.

Oh, and as we stood on the patio, this happened:

Yeah, that's an elephant, walking past the lodge. #thisisafrica

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