Saturday, September 9, 2017

Safari, day 6: all day in Maasai Mara

We had a loooooooong game drive today... and it was AMAZING!

We didn't do the balloon trip -- those folks left at 4am, I think -- but we still had an early morning and were in the vans and heading out on safari at 7:30.

Best Van Ever is the first out of the lot... leaving the other vans in our dust.

The skies were threatening -- or at least dramatic.

First we came across a flock of ostriches, all female.

How can we tell? Because the females are a grey-brown color, while the males are the black and white pattern that you see when you think of an ostrich. #themoreyouknow...

 Then some antelope ... though I have forgotten what kind...

And then some zebra.

Oh. My.

Well, the male was with three females. None of the ladies seemed particularly impressed by our lovelorn zebra, and I think having a van of tourists watching gave him -- or the ladies -- stage fright. Sorry, buddy.

Then we met up with the balloon group, finishing up their post-flight breakfast.

Amusingly, the balloon company had set set up "toilet tents"... in the middle of the savannah.

I saw Jenny on her own and went over and gave her a huge hug. I had heard that Jenny was treating this trip as "one and done" because there had been a lot of grumbling about the distances and the roads on the safari portion. So I made a point of telling her how much fun Wil and I were having, how grateful we were to be there, and that she was doing a good job. Because, seriously, THIS TRIP IS AMAZING!

The group was antsy to get back in the vans and start looking for animals, so we loaded up and headed out.

First up: elephants. I feel like I'm not expressing how amazing it was to see elephants. The way they move, with such gravitas, was so beautiful.

Then a smaller beastie: the mongoose. Our nerdy van got all "RIKKI TIKKI TAVI!" about it.

I don't care if they're not mustelids ... they're still awesome and I still want to pet one. If only to keep the cobras at bay.

A bit later we arrived at a stream crossing to find a van mired in mud.

As we pulled over, the Best Van Ever asked Njaguna if we could get out and help, and he said, "Why not?" So we all piled out and went to help the stuck van.

While the passengers in the stuck van... stayed in the stuck van.

Eventually they got out. (Erik: "I don't know how to say it any more bluntly. GET OUT OF THE VAN.")

First they hitched a tow rope to the front of the van, and Njaguna tried to shift the van forward. No luck.

Have I mentioned that Liz fixes airplanes for a living and is a total badass? Once it was clear the van couldn't be moved forward, Njaguna drove our van around to the back, Liz hooked up the towrope again, and told us all to pile in our van a ballast so Njaguna could get traction. And in a few moments, the stuck van was free... and again the Best Van Ever proved it had the Best Driver Ever.

Meanwhile, occupants of another van stayed in their van, saying that they were like journalist observers -- not getting involved.

"Hey! We're just here to observe!"

The little vans all cleared the muddy stretch and we were off again. Now here's something fun. Not far from where we were walking around trying to shift the stuck van, we saw this:

What's that?

Oh. Um. Hey ladies!

Yeah, we were only a hundred yards or so from these drowsy ladies. But, luckily, the lion sleeps DURING THE DAY. 

How many sleeping lions? So many ... including these gorgeous fellas:

It's that Narnia / Aslan moment when you really want to be able to bury your face in his golden mane. So much.

Then some more driving -- I love how the savannah looks so wide open. 

We spotted a leopard (see what I did there?) sleeping under a tree, but he didn't deign to wake up and look at us, let alone go for a walk. More's the pity.

And of course there were warthogs. Lovely sweet piggies.

We stopped for a picnic lunch under a big tree ... which gave us a chance to stretch our legs a bit. Gretchen very much wanted to find some bones to take home. 

Like THIS?

Tony and Wil were going to pee in the bush when they came across a large skeleton. Tony said to Wil, "Don't tell Gretchen." But she heard and said, "Don't tell me what?" and went over to collect a couple of bones. We did wonder if she would be allowed out of the country with them....

I'm overdue in saying how much we loved our Best Van Ever companions. But we were able to create a definite team dynamic, where we laughed and sang and danced at every opportunity. 

Njaguna and Julie

Njaguna, Tony, Gretchen, Liz, Julie 

Liz, me, and Tony

me, ready to go!

After lunch we drove to the river to see hippos and crocodiles... can we all agree that hippos are HUGE?

For a while we watched in alarm as a small group of zebras considered crossing the river. The river that was full of crocodiles. We all admitted to each other that, had they been wildebeest, we would have been desperate to watch a crossing. Because, well, those are wildebeest. And we LOVE zebras... so we were relieved when they changed their mind and decided to wait for a larger group. 

Then it was time to start the long drive back to the lodge. On the way we saw giraffes ... we drove slowly through this herd...

Spotting this youngish fella with a missing horn...

This one just relaxing... (no, please, don't get up)

And a bunch of young ones eating.

Look at all the little ones! It's been a good year for giraffes, too. 

Oh, and we saw some more ...





But we really did have to head back to the lodge, so off we drove, with a few slightly hairy stream crossings along the way. Note: when Njaguna says sit down, we SIT DOWN. 

When we got back to the lodge we decided it was finally time to take a team photo. 

That's right, this is the BEST.VAN.EVER!!!

When we got back Julie joined us for our nightly gin & tonic -- and it just made me so happy how our van came together and stayed positive. Well, except that time when people from ANOTHER VAN tried to get in OUR VAN and Gretchen and I sent them away like fierce lionesses. "Well, these seats are TAKEN." Rowr.

That night we went out to watch the sunset from camp -- feeling a little sad that our safari was coming to an end. We were joined by Myra and Erik, which was great because we had the chance to thank them and tell them what a great time we had had. 

Then dinner, and then our last night in our tent palace. 

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