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The Great Walk of Africa Day 8

Once again we woke up thinking it was raining and it was a baboon in the palm.

Eight graceful giraffes passed by early in the morning. They generally can be seen with zebras grazing about.  If you look closely in the photos you can see that the top of a zebra is as tall as the under belly of a giraffe.

Our day started with a river crossing.  After the last hippo “stare down” this one went off without a hitch. We cross and on the shoreline stop to change our shoes. Usually the bank is an incline, and after a scramble, we are up on the plain. Upon cresting there was a hippo off to our right side several yards away. Immediately Iain and the men lined up and were at the ready with guns drawn. We were told to run.  ‘Stay together and RUN”.  The hippo had turned and looked like it might charge.

By the grace of God he changed his mind. Hippos are mean and fast. Iain said “They tend to get discombobulated and either run away or charge.”

Another thrilling event. I think I have said “Holy shit” about 10,000 times on this walk!

In all the years that Iain has led these safaris they have only had one serious incident where a hippo charged and knocked over a ranger and then picked up a woman client and flung her.  They weren’t unable to shoot it with the woman in its jaws.  It was in 1987, In the middle of nowhere and no way to communicate. It took them five hours from the time of the incident to the moment she got to a hospital.  She survived with a long recovery period.

With this crisis averted we began to walk again….

Approximately half an hour later Stephen spotted a female elephant in the saltbrush several yards away. A few days in the bush and he’s a tracker!  Lajori did his soft whistle to let Iain know. Normally we can pass undetected.  This elephant stepped out of the brush and made her presence known. She knew we were there.

Once again Iain shouted “RUN and keep running.”  Lajori directed us with a rapid wave.

Iain fired a warning shot into the air. The elephant hesitated and then started to charge.  Toiko then fired another warning shot.  All the while Washii is making a repetitive rhythmic sound from the bottom of his throat – as if he was trying to calm the elephant. 

She finally decided to turn.

Heart racing…. What now? Lions???

It was quite a morning – 10 mammal sightings and two heart racers in 1.5 hours.

The rest of the walk was uneventful.

The game drive was a lion experience. We first came upon two laying on their sides, out like a light, without a care in the world. Our Rovers drove right up to them and one barely opened his lazy eyes and closing them promptly as if he couldn’t be bothered. The lion beside him didn’t even budge. Moments later a maneless male came out of the saltbush – moseyed along and then fell to his sleepy side. Then another large maned lion came out of the bush.  He majestically sat for a brief moment, looked around and then curled up next to his brothers side.

Kim and I decided to check out the kitchen at the campsite. Kikuyu, camp chef for 40+ years makes meals that one would think came out of a gourmet kitchen. It’s hard to believe that they are made with such basic necessities.  The Dutch oven reminds me of an old metal ammunition box and bakes the bread and rolls to perfection.  Kikuyu uses a shovel to raise the box’s lid.  Here are some camp life photos.

Elephant tracks right in-front of our tent!

The Great Walk of Africa Days 6 and 7


Sunrise happens quickly in these parts. Beyond our jambo wake up call the sun ushers in a yellow and orange medley of colors setting the tent aglow. To our surprise, on the way to the bathroom, the full brilliant moon was setting between the doum palms. Last night the palms were alive with baboons scurrying about shaking the branches and making the sound of a monsoon rain. This morning all is calm and peaceful.

I failed to mention yesterday that we walked down the Tsavo river toward its confluence with the Yati River which together form the emerald green Galana River.  You can see below where the color changes.  We had been using the Tsavo River water for showers but the water from the Galana is not used in camp.

This brings up the big question “Why are we wading through it?”  Yes, this too I failed to mention (on purpose) because I didn’t’ have photos.  We’ve been crossing the river. The body of water full of savage crocodiles. Crocodiles make alligators look like baby lambs.  They are bigger, stronger and look for trouble.  We paid for this shit!

So here are the rules:  We only cross at elephant crossings – never where there are smooth rocks where you can hopscotch across the river (because the crocs lurk there). We are to look BIG.  To do this we grab our partner’s hand standing shoulder to shoulder and then we hang onto the person in front of us – bellies to butts. No talking and walk briskly!

Lajori and Tioko test the water before we start.  They throw rocks in and then grab poles and stir the water.  The water depth is unknown but perceived to be okay.  The short women get an occasional douche and the guys mostly get the bottoms of their shorts wet.  I walk on tippy toes.  If we can’t bathe with this water I certainly did want it going where it doesn’t belong.  I have enough things to worry about.

Day six we walked a new trail for this safari.  Not only are we chum but now guinea pigs.  As we prepared to cross the river a crocodile slipped off the shore into the water. Red alert. My heart starts racing.  Iain walks 75  feet down the shore and says this will work!

Day seven our river crossing area was full of luxuriating hippos.  Iain had us walk down the shore and away from the herd but fairly close to a single hippo submerged in the cooling water.  I’m sure he saw the concern in our eyes and promptly exclaimed, ‘If we all huddle together and move quickly we might all make it!”  Some of our crossings are more than 100 yards wide so I’m sure even a hippo could catch us.

I think every one of us stared down that hippo and never even thought about the crocodiles.

From the Yatta escarpment to the Galana River elephants have forged a path for over a thousand years.  For Bill and me, this may be the first thousand year old trail we’ve hiked which was not built by the Romans.

The volume of game grows daily.  Especially the elephants.  Their nature is so human like. Witnessing up close the way they nurture and discipline their babies could keep me spellbound for hours.  A memorable moment was watching a female dig a hole in the sand to find filtered water.  She’d scoop it up and throw it over her shoulder.  In the meantime, her baby, thrilled to drink from the same hole, tried to get on the action only to be continuously pushed aside so mama could finish the task at hand.

Each evening while eating dessert Iain likes to tell us about what to expect the next day. Tonight’s briefing ended with a story about what happened on his previous safari two weeks prior on the same path we will walk tomorrow…

Of late the vehicles wait for us to conclude our walk and we drive back to camp.  Simon, the other driver, had gone to the pick-up site early.  As he waited for Iain and his group to crest a hill before crossing the river he witnessed a lion stalk and kill a zebra. Right in the pathway where Iain would emerge.  He had no way of warning them.  They were off the grid – no cellular service and the emergency radio only worked one way.

Iain said as he and the group were about to crest the hill he came face to face with a bloody mouthed lion.  Both stood there shocked.  Seconds later the lion turned and ran away.  Iain said one of the walkers fell over right there in his tracks.  I’m sure that’s the least of what I would have done.

We were left with this story.  Go to bed, sweet dreams and tomorrow might be real fun……

Photos from the day. Click to enlarge.

Driving to the starting point:

Walking.

Iain showing off his rock climbing skills.

Game drive.

 

Walking the Great Walk of Africa Day Five

During the building of the Kenya-Uganda railway in 1898, in nine short months, two man-eating lions killed over 135 workers. Colonel John Henry Patterson, an English military engineer with Indian experience was in charge of the project. He killed both lions.  They are known as the Man-Eaters of Tsavo and are now on display, in of all places, the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. We hiked to the cave where Patterson said the lions would drag their victims.

click to enlarge photos…

Walking across Tsavo West ✅

Leaving the wetter more mountainous portion of Tsavo West will change the game encounters.  In Tsavo East there will be more lions and heavier concentrations of elephants.

Registering at the new park triggered a memory – the ranger approached the vehicle wearing a freaking face mask. Covid. Something that hadn’t crossed our minds for days. Living in the bush is an option folks!  Fiction is better than reality.  

We had to a short drive down the Nairobi Mombasa Highway, named the most dangerous road in Africa, to start the new portion of the walk. Iain said walking amongst predators was safer than crossing the road.

We walked through an old rail station. Closed in 2012 because the new fast Chinese rail would no longer stop here and 40 other stops along the way. Everything was left behind.  Ticket books still sat on the counter. It was as if time had stopped.

With breezy and often times overcast days and temperatures around the low 80’s walking has been lighter and easier than if the sun blared all day.

Some of us scaled the top of a huge rock embankment at one of he breaks. Check out the view.

A two hour drive got us to our camp.  Our new home for the next three nights.  

Bull elephants are known to hang out and walk through this site. Iain refers to them as the “retirement group”.  Today, at tea time, one such male decided tho walk up to the mess tent.  Thank God Iain had popped his head in only moments before the encounter. He ushered the few of us there into a group and we moved around like frogger trying to avoid a visual face to face with the big guy.  It was quite exciting and not to mention scary.  My heart was racing. 

 


While driving today Lajori whispers “simba” Swahili for lion.  Only a Samburu bushman with an innate sense of what, I have no idea, could have spotted lions resting in the distance under a bush.  The same bushes we walk by 100,000 times a day! It took me several minutes with Lajori pointing in their direction and binoculars to find them. Iain drove closer for a better look. This man has no fear!  This is only a few hundred meters from our campsite.

Nighttime pees take on a whole new meaning!

 

 

Hard to blog when the internet is sketchy….

Days 2, 3 and 4.

It’s remarkable to see how efficient the camp crew is.  Right after our evening showers the crew promptly dismantles them.  At breakfast time the tents are broken down. Last to go are the toilets and while we walk, the the rest of camp.

click on photos to enlarge…

It’s great fun arriving at a new location each day.

Now early evening game drives have been added to the agenda so showers end in the dark and headlamps guide our course.

One night we stopped to climb a humongous rock with unparalleled views only to find wine and beer waiting for us at the top.

Cocktails by the river are the perfect way to wind down the day.Acacia, baobab and doum palm trees dot the landscape.

At night the baboons like to jump around in the palms making it sound like a big rain storm.

Most likely it’s the acacia tree you think of in the quintessential Kenyan sunset photo with a tree and giraffes. They are often referred as an umbrella tree. However the long thorny bushes that we have been battling are another variety.  Weaver nests decorate many like ornaments.  We were told that female weaver birds chose the male bird who makes the best nest.  The males are known to build many nests to perfect their technique.

The baobab tree is called the upside down tree because their branches look like roots and the tree of life because 80% of their trunks are made of water. Bushmen use it as a source of water during droughts. They are huge and can live up to 1,500 years.

Also dotting the horizon are the might termite hills. This one is approximately 80 years. Part of the process in making a termite hill is to slowly devour a tree.

One could sit forever and watch elephant herds.  There is one matriarch who rules the family.  She is protective and mean when provoked.  Her responsibilities are huge.  She is responsible for the herd even down to whom is the best male suitor for the females. The bulls kowtow to her as well knowing she has the authority to kick bulls out of the herd.

Elephants can only see up to 40 feet away and use their trunks to smell danger.

Often times we’d see a lone female with a baby.  A sign that the baby can’t keep up with the herd and the protective mama breaks away. The odds of their survival greatly diminishes.

Herds of animals run past us – gazelles, zebras, dik diks and many more that remain nameless in my poor tiny brain.

 

 

Deconstructing Shaw

2017 was the start of BIG changes with tiny results.

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo.” ~ Rob Siltanen

In 2016 we traded Baja for Charleston, SC  so we can spend time with the boys.

The easy purchase was a ranch style house in West Ashley. Quickly withering from the normalness of suburban living, the sirens of historic downtown Charleston began to sing.

Our first visit to Charleston in 2010 had Bill pointing to an elegant and grand 7 story building on the edge of White Point Garden where the Ashley and Cooper Rivers merge to form the Atlantic Ocean and saying “I’m going to live there one day.”

Charleston – voted #1 top U.S. city 5th year running by Travel and Leisure (2016 best city in the world too) – comes at a price. A high price. Money equates to square footage.  You get the picture.

Well I’ll be darned if Bill wasn’t right (those moments still catch me off guard).  We are now fulfilling his prophecy. Downsizing by 75% and loving every 74, 014 square inches of it. (514 sq.ft.) It’s a 1 bedroom, 1 bath with a 60 sq.ft. balcony floating over the Holy City with expansive views of the water and breathtaking sunsets on most nights.

It came furnished so we had an estate sale and utilized Craigslist to unload all the furniture we had purchased just a year before. With 2 rugs and a painting in tow – we moved in.  Heaven!  We walk to everything. History and charm ooze from every corner. Horse drawn carriages clip clop through the streets and bar/restaurants are plentiful. Yoga is 2.5 miles away and allows us to kill 2 birds with one stone, walking to and fro. Two kids in a candy shop!

Sometimes you just have to jump off the cliff without knowing where you will land. ~ Zainab Salbi

And with that said – 30 days later we sold our primary residence in Northern Nevada and opted to go even tinier – 440 sq.ft. (63360 sq. inches).
When working and raising kids our home had 5 bedrooms, 5 baths, 5 fireplaces and a 5 car garage. After the kids moved out we downsized into a 2 bedroom, 2 bath, 2 fireplace, 2 car garage home. Now, we’re in a 0 bedroom, 0 fireplace, 0 garage and if wasn’t for the 1 bath…. Well – you get my point.

There was an abandoned tiny home on our commercial property in Nevada that we decided to turn into a rental.  The county allowed us to dismantle the house and rebuild in the same place using the same footprint, roof and siding.  It’s cute as heck and we thought what the heck. Now it’s our home.Talk about freeing…

Living in hotel rooms more than 100 days a year over the past decade, and more recently carrying our clothes on our backs while walking two Caminos has helped condition us. You really don’t need all the peripheral crap. Happiness isn’t derived by having stuff.

However, the struggle is what to do with your STUFF.

What we learned:  You give to your kids “now” all the stuff saved for them. Why wait until you’re dead?  Sell and give away all non-essential stuff and pack the rest of the shit (stuff) up in a POD and send it to your 3rd home.

YUP… You read that correctly.

Why have 2 homes when you can have 3?  Yes, as embarrassed as I am to write this.

Hi, our names are Bill and Paige and we are Crazy – it’s been 2 weeks since we were in our last home…

Today we are in Indian Wells, CA – right near vintage Palm Springs. This one was purchased 10 years ago as a rental.

Tenant moves out and we move in.  What can we say?  It’s warm here. Palm trees rule and golfing on pristine courses is intoxicating.

“One person’s craziness is another person’s reality.” ~ Tim Burton

So that’s us for now….

We have a big trip coming up in 2018.  Stay tuned.

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