Thursday, November 12, 2009

Before we leave London ...

Lisa and Anna's random thoughts, observances and things we are grateful for:

Africans are very kind, friendly people.

We have open invitations to Nepal, UAE, Nigeria, Tanzania, Ghana, Kenya, France, along with a few other places.

It was so incredible to be in one place meeting so many people from around the world — 150 attendees from 36 countries!

These publishers, writers and editors have incredible faith despite some very difficult circumstances in their countries.

One man, who found me (Anna) just to say good bye, ended with "remember to let the light of the Lord shine in you."

The three young designers who really wanted to know more, more and more.

Ugali, not so much (eastern African kind of food).

So many writers/editors complimented designers in general wondering how we did what we did. We turned the compliment back around because both of us truly appreciate the talents of our writer/editor types. We are so not writers.

Internet to keep in touch with our family and friends. Priceless.

The Egyptian Air cartoon unibrow guy demonstrating the proper technique for seatbelt usage. Very entertaining, especially after many, many hours of travel.

Egypt Air was a cultural eye-opener for us Midwestern girls.

Being brought to tears at the sight of zebras and giraffes at Lake Navaisha (Lisa) and the fact that we were only 50 yards from these creatures.

That our new French friend loved Lisa's joke about "ceci n'est pas une peep" when we showed him our peep's diorama.

We ate the African version of sopapillas (fried dough, no chocolate or honey).

Oh, fried dough is now pronounced as one word— friedough.

Lisa and her new friend, Nchimbi, from Tanzania. Nchimbi "cheered up" Lisa when she was looking blue, even though she wasn't. He made her laugh on the first day and all the other days too.

Amazingly beautiful flora at Brackenhurst.

The Masai provided hot water bottles in our beds every night at safari camp.

Masai guy outside our tent every night protecting us from whatever may be prowling.

Loved the wonderfully thick and soft blankets at both Brackenhurst and at the Safari Camp.

Laying in bed and looking out the tent windows at baboons. Surreal.

The sound of the birds in the morning.

How very dark it was in Africa at night, pitch black at the Safari Camp

George, who picked us up at one Nairobi airport, had dinner with us, took us to the international airport and told us all the procedures so we weren't surprised.

Lisa got the snot scared out of her by a lion — Anna took a photo of a male and female lion as the sun was setting. The flash went off and the male lion roared. Mark slammed his window shut quickly, everyone else jumped back, Lisa struggled to roll up her window. Dominic the driver had his window wide open and just laughed at us tourists. The lion had only given us a warning lunge but had stood his ground. Everyone needed to check their shorts.

God is so good.

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. Colossians 1:9

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Our tour guides and tent camp providers were Masai tribesmen. One day we went on a "nature walk" around the camp. I can't remember the guide's name so let's call him "Steve." (We can kind of guess that our driver guide's name was not really Dominic, so let's guess at the other guide's name as Steve.)

Steve took us around the camp, would take a couple of leaves off a bush or tree, hand them to us and ask us to guess what they used it for.

Steve took these small twigs off a bush, sorry can't remember the name, trimmed down the bark, started chewing on it to soften it and then turned it into his tooth brush.

At another bush, we touched leaves that were very soft, velvety soft. They used them for toilet paper. Leaves from another bush were as rough as sandpaper, and yup, they used them for sandpaper (would hate to get those two trees mixed up).

Steve cut a long twig from another bush and proceeded to strip the bark off in one piece. The "inside" of this long twig became like a switch — to whip or steer animals or young boys. The outside of this twig, the bark if you will, was like rope. You couldn't rip it and the Masai used it to tie together twigs and such when forming thatch for houses and fencing.

One of the other twigs were sweet yet salty smelling. They put them in soup to flavor the broth.

They carry those spears around and tried to teach the two guys with u how to use them. They never offered us gals the chance. Then again, we never saw women around the camp, they were only in the village.

One day we were on our way to look for the elusive leopard when we discovered it was laundry day. The women were by the creek washing the clothes. I set a very fast shutter speed and hung the camera out the window to capture this colorful shot (another photo for mom).

This shot was also taken in a similar fashion. I found it kind of amusing — Talek Country Club with rooms available.

Where's AAA when you need them?

After an adventure of looking for leopards on a rainy afternoon, our Land Rover had a flat tire.

We took a gander at the landscape to see if any other jeeps where in the area. Nope. Dominic who was always on the cell phone chatting with the other drivers to find out where the animals were, couldn't find anyone else around us.

Hmmm, out of the vehicle we climbed, out into the Reserve, easy pickings for some predator. To top it off we were downwind of all those hippos.

It was very muddy and the jack was slipping. We kind of ventured out, staying close to the Land Rover, looking for a large flat rock (like we could outrun a lion if it decided to come after us!). Traipsing through a variety of animal poop and mud, Mark finally found a large enough rock for Dominic to use.

God is good, the tire was changed and no one had to push.

amore, amour or lion love

Lions only "make love" every two years (I'm afraid the "s**" word will create problems in the blog). They "make love" for several months, many, many, many times a day, sometimes up to 70 times in one day. Of course this is to make sure that the female gets pregnant.

We had a show one morning, like every five minutes. The lions would move in front of each of the tour vehicles "performing" for each and every one of us.

Below are five photos minus the roar of the male lion.

Life and Death on the Mara

Life in the Mara is a cycle of life and death. Below is a photo of a mama lion with two cubs suckling. Dominic said the two babies were about three months old.

But life in the Mara is also about death. The predators hunting their prey. They all live together. The photo of the cheetahs show three brothers laying by a bush yet the zebra and wildebeast were not further than 200 yards away. It was kind of odd that their smorgasbord was right there and they didn't care, or at least didn't care at that moment.

We never saw a kill even though Dominic tried. One morning we were out and came across one cow lying in a field. That had to mean certain death for that animal as we were watching the hyenas circling us and the cow. But then the hyenas weren't sure and Dominic started the engine to drive up right next to the cow. I wasn't so sure I wanted to see the cow turned into dinner but also couldn't understand what was happening because he scared the hyenas off.

Masai believe all cows belong to them. They also believe that the bright red or orange cloth that they wear keep the predators away. Lying next to that cow was a stick and a red cloth. Perhaps the cow had been hurt and the Masai herdsman had left his red cloth on a stick to protect the cow until he could come back to retrieve it. Don't know but what I watched happen was amazing.

Dominic got out of the Land Rover, put the stick back in the ground and hung the red cloth on it to protect this cow. The amusing part of this story is that it was not a red cloth but a University of Wisconsin sweatshirt. The Big Ten rules in Kenya.

As I said above, we didn't see a kill but we saw two feeding frenzies. The first was a gob of turkey vultures and Maraposa Storks pulling apart a wildebeast. It was a mass of moving birds pulling and pecking and fighting. The wildebeast was leftover from some cheetah or lion kill and then the scavengers set in.

The next feeding frenzy we saw hyenas eating another unfortunate wildebeast. Mama hyena had had her fill and was watching her two youngsters pull at the rest of the carcass. They had blood all over their faces and didn't care that we were watching.

Hippo Heaven

Hippos, or as our new French friend likes to say "heeeeppos." They are large and lazy and up until I went on Safari, I thought they were kind of cute in an ugly sort of way.

There was a creek that we had to pass over all the time. Lots of rocks and water, but something that the Land Rover could handle. The local Masai guides call it "Smelly Crossing," and when you go over you know why. Not so bad to go across but when you stopped to check out the elephants or baboons or the hippos, oh my, stink like you've never smelled before. Really. It stunk like nothing else. Not really like an open sewer, but Lisa says it reminded her of the geysers at Yellowstone times a hundred. Sulphery, icky smell.

We were crossing it looking around at the other animals when all of a sudden the hippos stood up in the background. They had always looked like rocks but you knew they were there based on the smell. Now, we could see them. If you look at this photo you'll see big black rocks with legs.

On the last day of the safari we came up the backside of the creek for the first time. The smell got worse as did the sights. First thing — a belly up bloated dead hippo with a crocodile near by.

We drove around a bit further and the stink got worse. The hippos lay in their own poop and there was gobs of it floating in the creek. Apparently wallowing in your own poop is heaven to hippos. Then our Masai driver, Dominic, got out and started pitching rocks at the black mass of poop in the water.

The hippos were aggravated and popped up out of the poop.

I couldn't stop laughing. It was so funny to see skinny Dominic picking up rocks and throwing them at the blobs. I think he was frustrated at not finding leopards for us that he was determined to give us a show.

Be thankful these are not scratch and sniff photos. Just thinking about these five minutes on safari makes me laugh, kind of uncontrollably.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

6-safari photos

The hyena are ugly and when they're around, watch out. They are forever on alert for food, either to kill, or to hijack some other animal's kill. They are mean and nasty.

The jackel are also out for a kill.

The last day on safari was messy. It had rained the night before and was still raining in the morning when we set out at 6 am to go trolling for animals. Dominic, our guide and driver, was a good driver, but also a bit of a maniac. When he wanted to show us something or cross some river, he took that Land Rover where no other Land Rover had gone before. This photo is of the tracks he left. It was the only time on safari that we were with a group of other vehicles checking out the animals. Sometimes there would be one vehicle, but not a bunch. When Dominic turned our Land Rover around I think we became the entertainment for the other tourists.

After all of the animal sightings, we were waiting for our plane to land so that we could climb aboard to head back to Nairobi. I caught three of my companions, including Lisa, snoozing.

5-additional safari photos

Birds, Africa has beautiful birds too. Three photos of birds for you before we get to the four-footed varieties.

A breasted lilac is a stunning bird, slightly smaller than a crow. Whenever we would ask our driver guide, Dominic, what something was, his reply, "We call that a blah blah blah," giving us the name. These were beautiful birds.

Didn't even think about ostriches being in Africa, but they were roaming the Mara with the rest of the animals. Saw a solitary ostrich here or there, they on the last day there was a herd of them.

Stork, this is not the kind of stork that we say everywhere, but now I don't know the name. They too were residents at the tent camp. Set your shutter speed high and let the bird fly into the frame and you should capture a nice shot.

Turtles are not birds, I know that. I don't know how someone saw this guy but when we stopped to check him out he became mobile and wanting to crawl under the car for shade. Dominic quickly moved the car so that we wouldn't run him over.

Pumbaa the warthog, well not really, but warthogs, yes we saw many warthogs. They are ugly except when they're really young. Even then I'm not so sure they're cute. Regardless, this photo is a group of them (called a sounder of warthogs) on the rocks in the river.

4-safari photos

more animal photos for you.

We've already talked about the baboon. They aren't always camp residents, sometimes, actually most of the time, they are out in the wild hanging with the zebras.

Lisa says the eland is always an answer to a crossword puzzle question. Now she knows what they look like.

The Thompson gazelles are beautiful elegant animals. They scamper and scatter quickly just like the impalas.

Two photos of the giraffe for you. Graceful yet awkward animals. Watching a giraffe trying to get a drink or trying to plod through the water is amusing. They have to spread their feet after adjusting to make sure that they are stable. They bowing, well kind of bowing, they lean forward attempting to get that long neck down for a drink.

3-safari photos

You would think that water buffalo and hippo would qualify as part of the "big five" considering their size, but they do not.

The water buffalo just stood there and stared at us. He (or she) never moved. Two days later we saw a herd, a large herd of them. Ugly is what I say. Lisa says that they look like the girl with the braids on the cheese package.

Kenya experienced a year-long drought until a few months ago. And then of course Anna visits and it rains. The hippos have come out of the water to forage for food. Like the water buffalo, they are big and ugly. A separate blog post will give you more in-depth info about them.

The Impala and not by Chevrolet. A beautiful animal, elegant, sleek, very fast and graceful. I got lucky with this beautiful portrait of an impala looking back over his shoulder.

Wildebeast. Ugly and plentiful. They are everywhere you turn. Lisa finds them very attractive — not. When the plane was coming in for a landing you could see roving bands of moving black blobs. Wildebeasts. We saw a movement of them as they attempted a river crossing. Something forced them back and they piled up at the top of the bluff as some were facing one way and the rest the other way. We think we saw a crocodile on the riverbank which would have been the reason for the turnaround.

The zebra are also plentiful, but they are beautiful and graceful. Nervous nellies, braying like donkeys or kind of chattering to each other. The younger ones are browner than the older ones. They mingle with the wildebeast, gazelle, impala and kopi herds, yet standing out from the crowd with those striped PJs they are always wearing.

2-safari photos

The Big Five. That's what you want to see on Safari. Lion, leopard, cheetah, elephant and rhino. We saw four of the five. The leopard was elusive, pretty normal for a leopard. We went searching several times only to see what the leopard had dragged up the tree for dinner one night. Leopards hang out in trees and there was an impala carcass and skin mid-way up a tree next to a creek. That's as close as we got.

But the others, saw them all. Here they are. I think you can figure out which one is which.