I ran out of room on my last post, so we continue on here. We crouch down low and enter the hut. The hut is basically three rooms, a kitchen, a sleeping area, and another area with the pails. I wasn’t sure what was in the pails, water maybe? The sleeping area was behind the sticks in the photo with the fire. The bed was a piece of cow hide, it looked really small as the Maasai men were pretty tall. Not as tall as Steve, but Steve is six foot two. The Maasai practice polygamy, I’m not sure if both wives would be in one hut or not. If they did, I can imagine difficulties in such small huts! After our tour of the hut Sally spied some baby goats. They were adorable, only a few days old. Some if them had their umbilical cords still attached! Everyone held them but me. All I could think about was immigration authorities asking me if I had any contact with wildlife. I can’t lie, and I didn’t want to be put in an awkward situation. After we played with the goats it was time to get the hard sell of Maasai trinkets. I didn’t realize we were supposed to bargain, and overpaid. I didn’t want to make any if the wives selling jewelry feel bad, and only bought some if what I was wearing from the greeting ceremony. I should have been more picky as one if my necklaces was pretty beat up and missing parts. I was planning on giving them to Sally, this way she was going to easily warn her students to be careful as one if her prior groups of students broke the necklace. I never said I couldn’t let others lie, I just wouldn’t lie!We entered the school house after the hard sell of trinkets. The kids were adorable, here is the tail end of their version of the ABC song. Sorry, I didn’t get the whole thing, I didn’t act quick enough. Afterward we were asked to sign up to get on the email list and to donate funds for the school. As we overpaid for the jewelry and other souvenirs, I declined. The money all goes into one pot anyway. There was a backpack smashed on the floor, I’m not sure how much education these kids got beyond the song. By now we were happy to leave, between the hard sell, the knowledge of polygamy, male circumcision at thirteen and the female genital mutilation, it was an interesting but uncomfortable morning.
Amboselli comes from the Maasai word “empusel” the grey layer of volcanic ash from Mt. Kilimanjaro. It was really windy in Amboseli, when I come back next time I’m bringing clear contractor glasses.
Here is the welcoming committee from the village. There was a charge of $20 per person to visit. Most of the males of the village were with the cattle that graze in the park. They all had shaved heads. Steve was given a staff and joined the group.
This gentleman was the don of the chief. He was the guide to the village. These shoes are the traditional sandals worn by the Maasai. They are made from either leather or tires. We enter through the gate. The fences are woven from the Acacia trees. No one gets in except through the gate! Women make the fences and the huts. The stucco on the sides of the buildings are made from dung and mud. Inside the compound, also called Manyatta, is a central pen for the cattle, and one for the goats.
Would you like to see how the Maasai build a fire? Of course you would! Here is a great profile of Steve bedecked in his Maasai beads and the staff that was lent to him. Would you like to see the inside of one of the huts? Of course you’d like to see this too! Watch your head! Oops! Looks like I ran out of space and need to make this at least a two parter!
We got up early for our first full day in the park. Coffee and biscuits (cookies) were delivered to our tent before sunrise. Off we went in our Land Cruiser to look for animals. It was cool and we wrapped ourselves in blankets, trying to stay cozy until
the sun rose higher in the sky.The elephants are voracious eaters. They wrap their trunks around branches, pulling the trees down or push them over with their shoulders. Then they rip the trees up and eat the roots. A section of Amboseli was surrounded by electric wire to prevent the elephants from entering the area and destroying the trees. Here is a video of a Cape buffalo in the swamp. Mama Buffalo and baby are on the way to the swamp for the day. You can see little guy nursing on Mama Elephant as they walk.You will notice that their aren’t many trees in this picture. The elephants have killed them all. We saw our first spotted hyenas. Not sure who are uglier, hyenas or wart hogs. Striped hyenas are nocturnal and we never saw them on our trip. The elephants made it to the swamp and this is where they would spend their day, eating swamp grass and visiting with the egrets. Soon it was time to head back to camp for breakfast. Here are Collin, Sally and Steve checking out the ingredients for omelettes. Our stuff was on the table that Sally had picked out. As you recall from our adventures in South America, I am always trying to sit at the table with the best view. Sally had picked another table but I overruled her. She was a good sport about my constant attempts to get “the perfect spot”! It was great fun to eat our breakfast and to see the happenings at the water hole. Breakfast was delicious. I especially liked the little bananas. Next up a trip to a Masai Village.
It was time to head back to camp for dinner, and we got a view of Mt. Kilimanjaro on the drive back. You can see a little snow on the summit.Then we got a nice sunset also. Sunset is early at the equator, which makes for great early stargazing after dinner. Much better than waiting until after ten back home to look for stars. After a quick shower back in our tentswe climbed the short hill to the dining pavilion. It was way dark by then, and the dining room was aglow with candles. However candle glow and flash photography made diner pictures a frightful sight! It really tasted better than it looked, except for the ice cream which had a really strange texture! We had asked Francis to join us for dinner our first night at Tortilis.com but he had made plans to reconnoiter with the other guides to see what animal sightings there had been for the day. We had seen the injured male lion, but we were hoping to see more lions and possibly a cheetah.
After lunch we got in our vehicle to begin out game drive. Amboseli is in the southern part of Kenya. It is known for its dusty savannah and swampland. It is known for its many large elephants. Except for the picture above and the video at the end of the post these pictures were all taken by Collin, our daughter’s boy friend. We were not disappointed. In the afternoon the elephants would move from the swamp where they spent their day, and cover themselves with dirt. The babies were so cute. The mothers always tried to keep the young near their feet and away from the vehicles filled with snapping cameras laden tourists. Some times the young elephants would wrestle each other. Slapping ears and tusks. We saw wildebeest, but no big herds like we were anticipating later in the trip when we would visit the Masai Mara, and hopefully see the Great Migration. The Great Migration was said to be late this year, so we were hoping it would start soon. We saw lots of Cape Buffalo. A very mean looking animal. Older males were called Retired Generals. You didn’t want to mess with them!Lots of Giraffe were out and about. We were lucky enough to see a young male lion. He had been in many fights and his face had lots of scars. His right lower front leg was injured and the poor guy had a noticeable limp. Sorry about the way the video ended. Operator error!
We arrived at Tortilis shortly after noon. Tortilis.com This is the entrance to the reception and dining areas. Reception area to the left, gift shop on the right. In the background was a small water garden before you got to the dining pavilion. The gift shop had a beautiful fleece jacket that I coveted. It had a gorgeous cheetah pattern. It would have looked great, but it really didn’t go with much so I didn’t buy it. Plus, we were worried about weight limits. There was only do much I could wear on the plane! Stucco walls, thatched roofs, welcoming places to sit while you waited for the rest of your group to gather. This was the bar area. People would gather here before lunch, dinner or sit and relax before a game drive. I was taking a lot of medication so I didn’t get a chance to try a fruity martini. All alcoholic beverages were included, except for French champagne!This was the view from the bar. There was a small watering hole below and you could watch the animals come to drink. We saw primarily Masai Giraffes, baboons, vervet monkeys, and some small antelope. You know that I perched on every chair trying to maximize view with comfort! There were picture books also, if you got tired of the view.We enjoyed a lovely buffet lunch. Here are Collin, Sally and Steve checking out what the chef had to offer. After a delightful lunch we proceeded to check out where we would be spending the next two nights. Down the hill just pass the terrace, where you might want to sit for a bit before you headed further down or back up the hill. This was our tent. There were about 12 tents, the lodge was not fully booked when we were there. The sides all zippered in, we weren’t bothered by any bugs. We were told to keep the tent zipped when we weren’t in, the baboons and monkeys loved to steal stuff! Steve took a snooze on the day bed one afternoon.Come on inside! Our room had a king size bed, table with chair, a headboard with shelves on the rear to store clothes. We had a bathroom with double sinks, toilet and a lovely shower behind Steve. There was plenty of room to store our 33 pounds of gear! Each tent had its own solar hot water heater. As long as you took your shower in the late afternoon and not early morning you had a great shower! We were told to lower the flaps at night as it would get cold. As we like it cooler we kept the flaps up at night after the first night. There was a lovely pool area. The water was too cool for me, but Steve was brave enough to go deeper than his ankles. The water was clean, the dark just designated the really shallow area. After a short rest we ascended the hill to meet Collin, Sally and Francis our driver to go on a game drive. Next trip report-animals!
Rise and shine everyone! Now is the time for breakfast and to see the countryside of Kenya. This is where we had breakfast. Outside in the gardens we could see Vervet monkeys scampering around. The babies would be clinging to the Mommy as she went from tree to tree.After a lovely breakfast of eggs, fruit and croissants we were off. One last photo and we got into the Toyota Land Cruiser and hit the road. We saw lots of people hanging around. It turns out that these guys on scooters were taxis and took people on short trips. This hotel is the former US embassy which was bombed years ago. We felt quite safe in Kenya although we never wandered off by ourselves. The motorcyclists seemed to be required to have helmets, although the drivers didn’t always wear them! Cows were all over the road once we got out of the city of Nairobi! Kenya used to be a colony of the United Kingdom, as such driving was on the left side of the road. Here we are passing by a Tuk-Tuk. There were three people in the front and only seat of the vehicle! We did go by a grocery store, but as we were on a mission to see as many animals as possible I didn’t request a stop. I must admit that the neighborhood looked a little sketchy. We saw lots of Acacia trees with these nests in them. They were from weaver birds. We saw more of the nests than the birdsDo you want to see what driving was like? Hop in, there is plenty of room, just hold on! Just watch out for cows. After about three hours on paved roads and an hour on dirt roads we made it to the gates of Amboselli Park. Our guide Francis paid the fee and we stayed in the car. We were then surrounded by Masai, who tried to get us to buy their jewelry and other trinkets. We kept our heads down and tried not to look at them, as they were quite aggressive. We were quite excited to see our first Giraffes in the wild. Our driver Francis, was a bronze guide. He was extremely knowledgeable and quiet personable. However, I think he wanted us to stop taking pictures and get to our Lodge! It would be another hour from the main gate to our first tented camp, Tortilis.It was hard to keep going when everywhere you looked you saw more animals! Here are the elephants! Next post will be our hotel.
Back to the blog. We are now at an elephant orphanage in Nairobi. The orphanage is in Nairobi National Park, a humongous park that has many animals in it. This section of the park is home of orphaned elephants, and a Blind rhino. They had a hippo, but he died. Here is the gang waiting for our entrance to see what is going to happen. As always I was resting in the shade on a rock. We really had no clue what to expect here.We saw many pens with gigantic baby bottles. We thought that maybe we would be feeding baby elephants with these big bottles. That would be fun! We all lined up on one side of the path. The gentleman is instructing us to stay to the side, and not lean into the path, as the elephants would be coming soon. Collin is ready to take pictures. Here they come! Stay out of the way, those big feet will do a number on a pedicure! All the elephants had gotten into their pens and it was time to explore. Pumba, decided to rest and we let him be. This rhino is blind, he will stay in the sanctuary all his life as he is unable to live in the wild. He is unable to protect himself from predators. On a happier note we were then able to visit the elephants. You can see how flexible their trunks are. They scoop up the food and then shove it in their mouths. This guy is just starting to grow tusks. Elephants in the wild have a life expectancy of almost 70 years. The elephants were quite friendly and enjoyed sliming the guests. Let’s hope the rumors of laundry at the safari camps would be true! Sally fell in love with Ndotto. Who wouldn’t? He had fun playing low five and high five with her. As part of our trip it was arranged that we could adopt an elephant for the year. The donation subsidized the orphanage, and we would get newsletters and updates about the elephant chosen. Sadly, I don’t think the rhino was chosen by many people. Why would they, when there were so many cute elephants to choose from? The baby elephants stay in the orphanage for about ten years until they are able to be released into one of the wildlife parks or conservatories. Many of the babies come because their Mama’s were put poached. You can read about the trust here. www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.orgThen it was back to The House of Waine for dinner. Another couple was ushered into the dining room before us, which of course got me wondering, and then we were escorted into a special room for just the four of us! We had a lovely dinner, of which I can’t remember what we ate, but here are the pictures to prove we did receive substanance! We were very tired at this point and eager to return to our rooms, but there was more!A bottle of champagne and a congratulatory cake for Sally! Then after we all got a slice it was back to the rooms. Sally and Collin had their bed all decoratively arranged with towel animals, we got nothing, but it wasn’t our celebration but hers after All!
We finished up the interior tour of the Blixen’s House, and then were off to view the Ngong Hills in the back of the house. This is also where Karen would sit and tend to any sick workers or villagers. TheNgong hills were where Denis Finch Hatton was buried. You do remember that tearful scene from the movie, don’t you? Very sad.Ngong means “knuckle” in Swahili. The trees have obviously grown since Karen was here. You can see just a bit of them in the right side of the photo.Then we were off for a short stroll through the woods to see some of the coffee machinery. I was delighted that it was actually a short walk and not one of those killer hikes in Patagonia. I can’t remember what this machine did, but it was under a metal shed. This is the area where the fire was. Francis our guide told us that the fire that destroyed the coffee sheds was likely due to fires that the Maori started. The Maori used fires to clear land. Unfortunately for Katen, her coffee bean barns got in the way of the flames. My snarky comment of the day is that it must have smelled wonderful. Good bye Karen Blixen’s House on to Kazuri! Kazuri means ” small and beautiful ” in Swahili. The Kazuri Bead factory is famous world wide for the beautiful jewelry. Any unwed mother can get a job here. They will find a place for you. If you remarry you can still stay. Here is rock from the hills of Mt. Kenya. Mixed in are pieces of fired clay that were imperfect and was ground up,with the rock to make new clay. The ground rock is mixed with water to form a slurry which is formed into sheets and hung, and the water squeezed out. You can see the clay hanging on the top right. Gradually enough water is removed so the clay can be used to make the famous beads. There are men who work at the factory, this is one of their jobs.Another job is the making of vases. It takes them a year of apprenticeship before their vases are good enough to sell. Here is a potter in action.Here I am demonstrating one of the round bead making techniques. Here we have a selection of beads, a necklace of unfired beads and then a picture of the kiln in which the beads are skewered and then fired at extremely high temperatures. Here we have a group that was touring the bead factory. Our little group was so happy we chose not to be in a big group. We had more flexibility, and didn’t have to wait for anyone but ourselves. Singing always makes the job more fun. The ladies would break out in sing every few minutes. Then wee were off to the next building where the beads were painted. This is the order board for the jewelry. You can see that the demand in Scandinavia is quite high! Here are some finished beads, ready to be strung, into necklaces, bracelets or earrings. I was curious to find out if there was a song leader. As you well know, Linda always finds out the answers. Here is our song leader!
Let’s enter the house now. This is Francis our driver attentively listening to our tour guide. We are in the living room and you can see the fireplace in the background. Karen would create stories for her guests based on the images on the folding screen. In the movie Denis, played by Robert Redford, would give her goo goo eyes and dream of making love to her. Here we have the famous record player. Here is the bed where all the action happened! Accordingly to museum guide Karen also spent a lot of time on the day bed as she suffered from syphiliis. In the movie the Baron was the foooler arounder, but we were told that she strayed first. Here s the bathroom. Originally there were doors to the outside where the house boys would enter and remove the contents from the commode. This is a picture of her good friend, Berkeley They did a great job of casting him in the movie. Robert Redford was handsome but the real Denis Finch Hatton was not an American! Denis was horribly miscast! These boots were in the closet of the Baron. I thought they were worn by Robert Redford in the movie, and was looking to see how high the heels were! In fact, they were actually worn by Meryl Streep!
Here is a picture of Karen Blixen’s. It was a special favorite of hers. I thought I did a brilliant imitation. I think I just needed a touch less pop of lipstick and more brown eyeshadow!