Sunday, September 10, 2017

Safari, day 7: Maasai Mara to Nairobi

This morning we had an early morning game drive. Given that we were also facing an 8-hour drive back to Nairobi, some people chose not to go. But it was a beautiful morning, with a gorgeous sunrise.





There were lots of beasties out in the early morning ... and not all that many vans. A handsome hyena:

  
A winsome water buffalo:



And this pair of majestic piggies:


And we saw a group of giraffes, including one fella who was hoping for, as Njaguna called it, "a honeymoon".

Him: "Hey baby... you smell good." 
Him: "I'd like to get to know you better, baby."
Her: "Wha? Oh, um, well..." 
"Wait, look at those people in the van."
Her: "All those cameras..."
Her: "Yeah, nope."
And I know it's really obvious ... but ... giraffes are TALL. So tall. And the way they move, so graceful and slow. (At least when they're just relaxed...)


 We also glimpsed our first and only dikdik -- the smallest of the antelope. So tiny!



And we saw a nice group of elephants, including two little ones, just moving along:







But, honestly, all this paled in comparison to the CHEETAHS.


A mom and 4 male "teenage" cubs -- about 18 months old -- all up and walking around.





And, being cats, there was some lying down, some rolling, some stretching, and some yawning...





All too soon we had to head back to the lodge, where those of us who had gone out arrived all buzzy and giddy from seeing the cheetahs.

We had breakfast (what? a buffet? for us?), a quick shower, and a little wander... Sadly, we couldn't find anyone to open the gate for us, so we didn't go to the Maasai village... but as we really only had 20 minutes, that's probably okay.

Then back on the vans to head back to Nairobi. Njaguna said it would probably be 5 hours of driving to reach Nairobi, with about 2 hours of "massage".

First we had to leave the park... this seemed like a fitting farewell:


Then we drove and drove. I managed to snooze, a little, during the "massage" portion... but woke up when my head smacked against the window. 

We drove back through Narok, then up the hills at the end of the Great Rift Valley, past the slums on the outskirts, and then into Nairobi. Along the way, of course, we had pitstops. 

At one, Tony and I waited in line for a LONG TIME to buy snacks... but there was only one bag of Bang Bang Chili flavored crisps when we got to the front. Did I share with the Best Van Ever? Of course!


At another, we stayed in the van while we had the air in our tires topped up. A young man on a motorcycle nearly fainted when gorgeous Liz blew him a kiss as we drove off. And, no, I don't know why I have a picture of the air pump but not of the motorcyclist. 


At a third, Wil, Amber, and I had a parking lot Footloose party. 



Meanwhile, the drivers enjoyed their well-deserved break.


To pass the time we had several singalongs, including something that went a bit like this...

(me, quietly) "I've got all my life to live, and I've got all my love to give..."
(Wil and Tony join in) "and I'll survive... I will survive"
Gretchen: "Wait a minute, that wasn't right... you don't sound strong."
(entire van, with feeling) "AT FIRST I WAS AFRAID, I WAS PETRIFIED...."

I'm sure we also sang other van favorites, such as "Car Wash" (we had those claps ON LOCK) and "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" (our "weem-a-way"s were beautiful). And for a while Tony played "Name that Tune" using songs on his phone:


There was also a strange, sweet, quiet moment when we started exchanging items off our daypacks. First Tony handed us carabiners ... I took some ribbons off my bag (I had made leopard-print "zipper pulls" because I knew everyone would have the same bag) and handed them out ... Liz gave me a bracelet and Wil a strap from her sandals, and Julie gave me some ribbon. All of this happened without any words ... and I regard these items as some of my favorite souvenirs from the entire trip.

Finally we arrived at our dinner destination, the Carnivore Restaurant (tagline: "A Beast of a Feast") 


Things were a little hectic. First we had to find our bags on the big truck... then we had to take them to our vans... or whichever van was taking us to the airport. Gretchen and Tony were going to ride with Ken and Mary since they were going to the same hotel. We thought we'd be shifted, too, but Njaguna said he'd just drop us off at our hotel since we would be driving past on the way to the airport.

So then we entered the restaurant... Liz leading the way.


We were clearly some of the first people to get our bags sorted, so we just sat down at a table... and all the members of the Best Van Ever club joined us, along with honorary members Amber and Jenny. A perfect table. First we had a visit from the Dawa Man, and all had our dose of "medicine" ... or is it "magic"?



Then things got a little weird.

Soup was brought, then sauces ... and they went through, in great detail, what the different sauces would be good *with*. Garlic sauce with alligator, chili sauce with ostrich, mint sauce with lamb, etc.

Then Liz got all mama bear and asked what WE were going to eat. (Bless!) Then there was some rustling and searching and digging out of the "Herbivore and Piscivore" menu.


We ordered quickly -- me a vegetable and noodle dish, Wil a mushroom Wellington. And we waited. 

The rest of the table had lots of interesting meats ... though the service was weird in that they took food around in one direction, meaning some tables had 5 things while our table was waiting. 

After about 15 minutes the server came back and told Wil that what he ordered wasn't available... so he ordered the pizza instead. So more waiting. Our fellow diners were getting anxious on our behalf.

At some point Erik came to tell us we would be leaving the restaurant at 8:15... though he was a little alarmed that it was 7:30 and we hadn't gotten our food yet. Oops. More anxiety, more people asking the waiters about our food. 

Thirty-five minutes after we ordered my stir-fried noodles arrived, so we started on those. Meanwhile, everyone else at the table ... in the entire group, really... was finishing their meals. 

Finally, 45 minutes after we ordered, Wil's pizza arrived. We immediately asked for a box, and were told "I'll see what I can do" and then ignored. Hey, I get it, it's a CARNIVORE restaurant, but...) We ended up folding the pizza up and putting it in a couple of paper bags so we could eat it later. 

We settled up -- just paying for two dawa since one of them was taken before I had finished it -- and then got up to say some goodbyes. It was all going well until a tearful Tony hugged me, and Gretchen held me for a long time. Good people. 

We also said our goodbyes to Julie and Liz, knowing we would be getting out first, and all piled in the van for our final ride. 

Njaguna took us to the Panari first -- a massive, empty hotel. We hugged him, grabbed our bags, and then he was gone. 

The Panari was odd -- a concierge and security screening on the ground floor, then we rode up to the 3rd floor for reception. We were given a room on the top floor with a view of the city -- though it was too dark to see anything but lights. The room was really luxurious -- a huge bathtub, a lot of toiletries, cozy bathrobes, and, of course, SLIPPERS. 


After getting settled, we went to explore the hotel. We went downstairs to inquire about ice skating, but had missed the last session of the day... so we watched a pair of bored young Indians slowly skate around an otherwise empty rink. 


We considered having a drink -- it was more that we wanted to want to have a drink -- but the "Sky Bar" wasn't open any longer, and the other bars were completely empty. So we couldn't muster enough enthusiasm to override our awareness of our 5am wakeup call, and retired to the room for a hot bath (yay!), some reading, and our final #bootie 


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