Not a restful holiday, this trucksafari through Kenya; I don't remember how many times we broke down because of flat tires or engine problems. But the drivers of the 2 trucks we travelled with, managed to get us to our destinations each day (albeit with some delay sometimes).
It was all part of this Kenyan adventure !
Not being a person to go on organised tours, let alone with a group, this vacation was something of an undertaking for me. But, I must admit, we had a fantastic group and made friends for life !
The photo depicts a day that was particularly bad: the other truck was stranded too, only 5 minutes from where we were ! One hour later we had another puncture and with no more spare tires and the repairset in the other truck, we had to wait until the other truck would miss us and turn back: it was dark a long time when we arrived on our destination that day... That was why it was called a trucksafari: the trucks were the main characters on this trip !
The roads were bad most of the time, the trucks were old, we sat on benches facing each other and the dust of the road landed freely on our belongings.... and ourselves !|
Our routing was: NAIROBI - AMBOSELI - TSAVO WEST - NAIROBI - NAIVASHA - SAMBURU - LAKE BARINGO - LAKE NAKURU - MASAI MARA - NAIROBI
It wasn't just dusty, we had a fair share of rain. So prepare for rain and sun. And cold and heat. We had a cover on our truck, but the other truck hadn't... so people were shiffering from the cold due to the speed of the truck..... and they got sunburned because the sun was shining down on them without protection !
This is what we came for and we were not disappointed !|
The scenery was quite varied, from lush vegetation, to endless savannas and dusty, desert-like emptiness.
We saw all the animals we could think of and we learned of Common Giraffe (or Masai Giraffe, right) and the Reticulated Giraffe, which has a slightly different pattern. It was amazing to see them run !
Lake Naivasha has an island in it: Crescent Island. There are no predators on the island, so we wandered around quite freely. Our guide was quite happy to leave us there for a few hours, while he returned to the French lady with whom he had struck up a friendship...|
There was a small group of French people, but fortunately they were not in our truck as they kept very much to themselves and spoke (or wanted to speak) only French. Meanwhile, we were very careful not to provoke animals like this Defassa Waterbuck: those horns look pretty deadly !
While there were no predators, we did see a very large snake (a python probably) slithering across the path we walked on in the woods. We did not see its tail (we stood frozen to the ground for what seemed an eternity !), we reached the conclusion it was a big one (also considering its diameter) and turned on our steps...
|We saw mind-jarring contradictions of wealth in this country: the villas and high-rise buildings in Nairobi and people farming and living off the land (tea plantations in the Kericho Highlands are among the most productive tea areas in the world and tea is produced through out the year) and we saw this too: poor people in the northern region, hardly wearing any clothes and a countryside that seemed unable to sustain these people.|
Our camp in Samburu provided lots of shadow, which was fortunate as it was quite warm. Even the wind was warm.|
Jack, the cook, takes a break and smokes a cigarette: dinner was done and the passengers were taking care of the dishes.
The team that took care of us were excellent: the guide, George, was knowledgeable and a good teamleader, the cook and his assistents (Jack and Johannes) made excellent meals and the drivers (Edward and Jimmy) performed wonders to keep the trucks going. They were very friendly and kept us safe.
We slept in tents, sometimes out in the bush (with very limited washing facilities) and sometimes near a lodge, where we enjoyed the luxury of swimming in a pool and satisfying our needs for alcohol at the bar. The lodge allowed us in, provided we became "temporary members": meaning we had to pay a fee.
Once we saw crocodiles on the other riverbank of where we camped and once we had a lion in our camp during the night (we did not know it at the time, but the staff had noticed). But the only time I felt unsafe was in Nairobi, where "a less fortunate" who was under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, started throwing stones at us.
Near Lake Baringo we went to a settlement, showing the living conditions of these people. While I had a feeling of invading their privacy, I was hoping that our visit, and visits of other tourists, would raise their standard of living in some way.
These people looked healthy and well-fed, but one can never be certain about it being representative for this area, it could be a government program of some sorts.
The man of the house had 3 women and each woman had her own house within the bush-fence. He moved from house to house, moved when he made one pregnant and so he moved to the next...
We learned a few words of course, Jambo means good morning/afternoon/evening, habari? means how are you? and kwaheri means goodbye...
Elephants were present in most parks we visited, in large herds. This was quite noticable in the woods: sometimes it looked like a tornado had gone through, where elephants had gone before us.|
The elephants look very majestic, their size is more than impressive ! The African Elephant can reach a height of 280 - 350 cm (9 - 11 ft) and both male and female grow tusks. The bull often travels solitary.
This photo was taken in Samburu NP.
Cheetah with cubs.... they looked real nice, very playful, but mama had a problem hunting with these two troublemakers in her footsteps...|
We saw quite a number of young animals: baby elephant, a giraffe which could not have been older than 3-5 days according our guide and a very small, baby crocodile, enjoying the warmth of the sun on a rock in the river.
It wasn't always warm, you would think that, but sitting in the back of the truck, going full speed, felt very cold and warranted wearing a sweater. Early mornings were cold too.
Things could have been colder for me: we found my sleeping back in the middle of the road in Amboseli NP ! It had fallen off the other truck and if it had tumbled in the bush beside the road, well, who knows where I would have slept ?!
There are, of course, more than one way of watching the wildlife... By balloon is the luxury way: you get treated on a champagne brunch when you land !
The lodges looked really nice too, but of course much more expensive than sleeping in tents (and less adventurous !). Best viewing for wildlife is at sunrise, so we had early starts each day; but quite often we enjoyed lunch and relaxation at one of the lodges and before sunset another gamedrive.
The trucks were a good platform for photography, we found. Mini-vans were lower and often could not deal with the rough terrain, where the trucks had no problem.
There was a disadvantage to our tents: they had no zippers and could not be closed.... At night I put my dirty socks there to scare off animals, until I heard hyena's could be attracted to them...! But each night we had to inspect our tents before entering them, check them for snakes and spiders and suchlike. Someone found a large toad sitting right on his face in the middle of the night, he woke us all up !
It is a thrill and a privilege to encounter impressive animals like these...|
It is so obvious that animals rule here, that human beings are vulnerable creatures here.
This Black Rhinoceros was not impressed by us and stood its ground. Two more were dozing in the high grass.
We had one scary encounter with a rhino. When we were delayed and drove though the park while darkness fell, the truck was hit from the side by a rhinoceros... Fortunately it hit the solid steel ladder which we used to climb into the back of the truck; the ladder was bent a bit, but the damage could have been much worse.
A leopard, resting high in a tree and doing its very best to ignore us. |
The fact that we saw this leopard was a bit of an ccident, the gamedrive hadn't been planned but due to technical difficulties with the trucks sometimes gamesdrives were cancelled or done with one truck: forcing half of the group to stay behind in camp or at the lodge. Our guide had to improvise and did an extra gamedrive here, compensating for the other drives.
It certainly made for one of my finest photos this trip, I think.
We saw various lions in Amboseli NP and Masai Mara NP, old and young males as well as hunting, growling females. They seemed to ignore us mostly.|
Our guide and rivers were careful with animals like these and read their "body language" like a book.
My family name meaning "lion", I hardly could go home without photos of these predators...
|The trip took 2 weeks and some of the group went on to Mombasa to enjoy the beach; we went home, things just couldn't improve... (except for the trucks).|