Dust coats everything. Exotic sounds from the jungle--birds, insects, and an occasional mammal--stimulate and invigorate me. Cool, comfortable, refreshing morning air but sweltering by mid-day. A parched landscape as foreign as I have ever seen. Now the herds of buffalo, zebra, and gazelle seem so familiar and commonplace to me. Ostrich run across the road, troops of Baboon along the road looking quizzically at our metal beast. It all now seems so common. I have to keep reminding myself I am 10,000 miles from home in Africa. I stand through the hatch of our vehicle, seemingly riding my metal chariot through Earth’s early years of the Age of Mammals. To my left a large armor plated Rhino, a little farther to my right a bandy legged Giraffe eating Acacia leaves. None seem to care I am only an arm’s length away. It as though I am invisible. The sounds, the sights, the crisp, pine smells remind me that I am but one more animal on this planet.
We got up with a 7am wake-up knock on the door (no phones, no radio, no TV). We fumbled getting dressed and out for a light breakfast. Uticus wanted us on the road by 8:30AM to avoid the afternoon heat. At this lodge the drivers sleep in a large, communal tent behind the kitchen area. I asked how he liked the accommodations and he only smiled and said it was fine (he never complained). I have a feeling it was not so fine but I think he enjoyed the company of other drivers he knew. We entered the park and saw Zebra and Buffalo foraging together on the savanna. I stood outside the hatch and rode through the plains in search of game. My neighbor had been to Africa. When I asked him if there were any regrets after his return, he said he wished that he had spent more time looking at the smaller animals and birds.
Uticus was an excellent birder. Every so often we stopped and he identified an interesting and often very colorful bird and showed us a picture and description in his book. We spied several groups of both Black and White Rhino in this park. All with large, impressive horns. We saw lots of Rothschild Giraffe running along the edge of the forest in the distance. Uticus steered us along the dirt roads running in and around the very buggy forest and muddy streams spotting herds of large and impressive carnivorous flies and mosquitoes but no Lions. We saw herds of impala, Grant's gazelle, Thomson gazelle, and waterbuck. Near white, salty shores of Lake Nakuru we were able to drive very close to foraging Rothschild Giraffe. I could have reached out and touched them. We went to the shoreline and observed the flocks of Pink Flamingo and Pelicans. What a sight! We reentered the Acacia jungle and continued to sight for big game. Noises of the jungle abounds with birds and insects forming a beautiful cacophony.
We drove to a high bluff overlooking Lake Nakuru below. The rocks were filled with interesting creatures. We saw several large lizards with bright blue bodies and orange heads doing push ups on the rocks. We saw several Rock Hyrax. About the size of a cat, these animals are said to be a distant relative of the elephant and look kind of like, well, I don’t know! Very fury, rounded head, possum-like body, three toes. It was pleasantly breezy with few insects nor dust. We had a great view of the pink masses of Flamingos along the shoreline. We had a box lunch from the lodge. Continuing our over cautiousness we ate very little of the lunch giving Uticus all that we did not eat. We drove back down to the forest and saw pretty much the same animals but got baked and coated with fine dust while doing this.
After six hours of game viewing, we were finally cooked, shaken, and baked well-done. I believe I gained a few pounds from the high calorie dust I have been eating in large quantities. Back at the lodge we cleaned up and watched the sunset. I commented, to one of the staff, about the comfort offered knowing there was a protective electrified fence around the property. He looked puzzled and said that the fence was between the lodge property and the national park only. The rest was unprotected which is why they have armed Maasai. We sat around the fire pit playing cards and awaited the 7:30PM dinner. Just after the food arrived my wife began to do a rather peculiar dance. I thought it was entertaining but could not understand why she picked that moment to dance. Turned out a hairy caterpillar had crawled up and bitten her on the leg. To make matters worse, she squished it, pushing the sharp spines into her skin. The locals said it was nothing to worry about. A Maasai escorted us back to our room, where we cleaned, treated, and dressed the affected area. That night, I awoke to find my wife’s flashlight continuously on. She wanted to make sure nothing else was crawling around the bed area. The night was filled with strange sounds of birds, insects, and the low moan of an animal in the distance. Occasionally, the hushed voices of Maasai patrolling with their spears and lanterns as they passed by our window.