Part One: Kenya Sojourn

| February 2, 2016 | 0 Comments
Elephants, zebra, giraffe, Cape buffalo, and antelope of all varieties from dik diks to elands dot the landscape in various combinations.

Elephants, zebra, giraffe, Cape buffalo, and antelope of all varieties from dik diks to elands dot the landscape in various combinations.

Travel broadens the mind. I disagree. Being in a location with people who have had different experiences, whose way of life is unlike yours, whose physical environment is different from yours is enlightening. Traveling coach by air, to go from point A to point B, is exhausting and annoying. However, the destination can make the misery of being folded into a tiny space amid coughing and sneezing adults and screaming babies worthwhile.

My husband and I spent the first of this year in the bush in Kenya. It was our second visit, and it is a place we both love. Although a third world country, Kenya has laws to protect its biggest asset: the environment. Being in the bush, conservancies or just wild life preserves, is a spiritual, mystical experience like returning to the beginning of time. Four-wheeled vehicles, rutted dirt and mud roads, people herding cattle in modern dress or Maasai garb do not mitigate this feeling.

Kenya country-side teams with bird-calls. The smells are heavenly to me. After a rain, the plains are verdant with red oat grass on which hooved animals feast, in which predators hide, and which emit the odor of springtime. Occasionally one passes other areas which may not appeal to all; vegan manure smells fine to me; urine not so much; flowers are great; stagnant water holes maybe not.

I love bumping over the rough roads in a vehicle. I sink into its motion as if I were riding a horse. The sun warms those of us who are not fair-skinned, and the sights may have been present before the birth of man. Elephants, zebra, giraffe, Cape buffalo, and antelope of all varieties from dik diks to elands dot the landscape in various combinations. Wart hogs dart across the plains while cheetahs sit atop termite mounds.

The vegetation is fascinating. Many varieties of acacia abound including a very thorny one which will attack an arm too close to the outer side of the car. The flat-topped large trees are my symbol of Kenya, occasionally with an animal resting or guarding its prey. On a previous trip we watched a leopard guarding her prey from the ground. In an acacia was a Thompson’s gazelle. The leopard climbed the tree, grabbed her meal dragging it up a few branches.

Spellbound in our vehicle we watched her devour one leg with great crunching sounds. The leg disposed of she carried the rest of her dinner headfirst down the tree wrapping her tail around the tree’s trunk for balance. She dragged the meal across the plain, its body between her four legs. The entire trip took over thirty minutes. This trip we didn’t see any leopards, but we did learn that some of her sons, now quite mature, are still alive and thriving.

This trip we stayed at two of the four Kicheche camps. Both camps consisted of six tents. All the camps are informal. Meals are served family style. Whenever possible, one dines al fresco. Each camp has a lounge, dining room, and a small shop for forgotten essentials. Hearty and spectacularly good breakfasts are served during the morning game drive. The Scotch eggs at our second camp (Bush) were so good that I requested them three days in a row!

Each camp has guides for game drives. Our drives often consisted of the two of us and our guide. Occasionally we were joined by another couple. The drives are in four-wheel drive vehicles with heavy bars supporting the removable canvas rooves. We kept ours open so we could jump up for photo ops. With two rows of seating behind the front seat, each person has easy viewing and a window seat. Very knowledgeable guides carry ponchos in case of rain or cold, bean bags for steadying cameras, and an umbrella. All guides go through a year’s rigorous training; they are encouraged to advance their knowledge by earning a bronze, then silver, then gold level of competency.

After a morning drive, we return to camp for lunch, usually served outdoors.

At four we meet for tea, al fresco, followed by our afternoon game drive. While watching the magnificent Kenya sunset, we have cocktails. The drive ends after dark with time for a shower before more drinks around a campfire or in the lounge. Before dinner is a good time to shower. In the camps without running hot water, hot water comes from tanks filled by buckets. Temperature control is from the shower. You learn efficiency in showering; turn the water off while you lather; turn it on again to rinse. The staff always accompanies guests at night for safety from tripping, finding one’s tent in the very dark night, and to dissuade animals from joining the camp.

Despite having only charcoal fuel with no thermostat, a tasty three-course dinner is beautifully served, including cakes and soufflés!

The spacious, beautifully appointed tents have every amenity: comfortable king sized or single beds, a seating area, a veranda overlooking the view, a hammock, and an enormous bath and dressing room with plush towels and terry robes, laundry soap, shampoo, lotion, cotton swabs, fresh water in reusable carafes and a large water dispenser. Laundry service is included. Since the help is all male, the service does not include ladies’ “unmentionables.”

The camps make every effort to be self-sustaining, using solar powered electricity and charcoal stoves and ovens. China, glass and metal cutlery are always used on picnics in all the camps. The camps conserve water and waste nothing. Wine bottles are cut to become water glasses or vases. Organic matter is buried; paper is burned if it cannot be reused while plastic and metal are taken to recycling centers in Nairobi. Stay tuned for Africa’s fauna and flora.

This month’s Garden Club meeting will take place from 6 to 8 p.m., Wednesday, February 24 at the church at 4070 Jackdaw Street at West Lewis. with Nan Sternum on Growing Edibles in a Drought.

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Barbara Strona is a native Californian who grew up in the Mid-West and Los Angeles. She and her architect husband, Carl, came to San Diego in 1968 and have lived in Mission Hills since early 1971. Barbara received a Bachelor of Arts from Scripps College with a major in English, and a minor in Art. She attended UCLA graduate school and received a General Secondary Credential. She taught English in Los Angeles, Pennsylvania, and at Point Loma High School. She has been a Realtor specializing in residential sales since 1984. Her passions include her job, reading, writing, foreign languages and foreign countries, animals (feathered or furry), theatre, and her family: husband, two adult children and two grandsons.

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