Tag Archives: Tsavo

The Great Walk of Africa Day 9

What you don’t know won’t kill ya. Apparently that’s not the way in the bush. 

This morning I felt like Emily Blunt in the The Quiet Place movie.  The predators are out there….  There’s no Jaws movie music Da dant da dant da dant.  Not only have we taken the oath of silence so have the predators.  It’s a quiet killing grounds in Tsavo. The only things making noise are the harmless birds.  HA!!! The stuff I think about…..

Lots of game sightings today – zebras – elephants – gazelles…

Click to enlarge photos…

It was a peaceful day with no heart pumping events.

Until we were about to cross the Galana River back to camp. Toiko and Washii started into the water when a crocodile’s tail took a swing at their ankles. Both jumped back to the shore quicker than a Kenyan runner. Toiko minus a sandal. He returned to camp shoeless. Poor guy.  It will be a long time before the guys stop teasing him about this one.

The surface beneath our feet is a bit of a conundrum – harsh, dry, and barren like the surface of the moon and closer to the shore there’s beautiful fine white sand. There are a few springs of greenery sprouting.  Otherwise, food seems either non-existent or inedible.  How any animal forages and lives in this area is baffling

Look who tried to wander into camp. Yes. That’s Bill at our tent.

Hello Bill – do you see the elephant?

On our evening game drive we drove up to a male and female pair lounging in the sun.  Jokes about the manly lion ensued… To prove his virility the male jumped on the female. Big her in the shoulder and did his thing. Who’s king of the jungle now?

Tomorrow is our last day of walking and it will be a full day. We leave at our usual 7 am departure time and will not be returning until 6 pm…..

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!

 

 

Mzima Camp

Good Lord. Oh dark thirty. We had just fallen asleep.

Breakfast at 5:15 am so that we could be ready for our 5:45 start to Tsavo.

Our flight didn’t leave until 7:30 and the airport was only 15 minutes away. Leaving before gridlock would leave down time but ensure we made the flight.We boarded a 12 seater prop plane. Some of the guys had to crawl to their seats. It was a quick one hour flight to Tsavo West. The welcoming crew was two grazing giraffes just on the side of the dirt runway. The real deal. Not a zoo. Just two giraffes hanging out.

We hopped into a modified Land Rover Defender. Bill and Stephen sat behind the driver. Kim and I loaded up in the next row with Washii, our spotter, sitting on the back roof. Within no time we were standing on the seats with our heads and shoulders peaking out of the roof spotting game.

The rest of the crew loaded up in second Rover and we headed to breakfast at the Kilaguni Serena Safari Lodge 45 minutes away.

Cape buffalo, warthogs and zebras (the Brits say zeb-bra) grazed while we stuffed our bellies.

Two more hours to the first camp – our jaws wide open as more wildlife started to appear.

Click on photos to enlarge.

According to Iain we were very lucky to see a leopard lying next to the road. A rare occurrence since they are nocturnal. Looks like he got in a scruff only hours before.

 

Meet our fearless leader Iain. Iain started Tropical Ice and the Great Walk of Africa 43 years ago. Born in Scotland and raised in Kenya since the age of six. A lover of the outdoors, modern day Indiana Jones, avid reader, movie buff, John Wayne impersonator, comedian and head man in charge. This will be his 93rd walk.

Yes, we fools paid lots of money to walk 100 miles across Tsavo West and Tsavo East. We’re the chum to the predator’s delight. No pussies allowed.

The safari of my dreams has been altered.

Yes, we have tents, twin beds and even woven rugs. It’s a throw back to safari’s from the golden years. Everything we need and then some. Bathtub and chandeliers are foolish childhood dreams. This is a big girl’s camp.  It’s like drinking black coffee.

There is a mess tent where we are served three outrageous meals a day with tea and crumpets each afternoon. It’s perfect. The only downside is we are in Tsavo which means “Place of Slaughter”. Predator’s stomping grounds…. Going to the bathroom in the middle of the night is scary!!!

This camp is named Mzima (alive in Swahili). That’s because it’s the start of the journey and at this point we’re all still alive.

Time to relax and settle in. The walk starts tomorrow.