27 Jan Kenya Origin Trip – Day One
A lovely guide named Joe picked us up at dawn in a Toyota van with a roof that opened up and Leah, Amy and I drove north out of the city to the Nairobi National Park. Founded in 1946, this 175 square km park is one of the country’s oldest. It seems unbelievable (and it’s quite amazing) that a reserve full of lion and zebra and all these incredible animals lies literally just outside a metropolis of 9 million inhabitants.
But this is no ‘safari park’ the animals are all truly wild and here under their own steam. The park, although being so near to the city, is connected by many wildlife corridors to the rest of the country and the animals come and go as they please. There are a LOT of lions as well as buck of all kinds. We saw impala and Eland and fantastic birdlife – a favourite being the Ugandan Crown Cranes. Hippos and crocodiles were in the waterholes and herds of Cape buffalo roam the open grasslands – one of the most dangerous animals in Africa – they’re responsible for killing more people here than any other animal.
No such perils today for us today. However the recent rain had turned the red dirt roads into deeply rutted tracks of mud. Joe attacked them brilliantly with the Toyota at top speed, skidding and sliding around the place. We survived unscathed with just a slow puncture. A less fortunate group had tipped almost 90 degrees off the track and into the bank. I didn’t envy them especially as a herd of buffalo were watching them with interest from the other side of the track.
Our van was rigged up to a CB radio so that the guides could communicate with each other and when lion were spotted on the other side of the park we had an ‘exciting’ fast drive through the red mud to catch them.
What a sight. Three lionesses were chilling out by some low trees. Every so often one of them would get up and walk around a little to the accompanying sound of frantic whizzing and clicking of cameras. The CB radio system meant that we were soon joined by almost every other jeep and van in the park all jostling for space and sinking into the sea of red mud. What the lions must have made of this sight I can’t imagine. Driving on we also saw ostrich, zebra and a serenely beautiful Masai Giraffe and then quite by luck a pair of white rhino off in the distance. Amazing!
There are also leopard, cheetah and gazelle here but no elephant as the park is deemed too small for their destructive behaviour. It has however had to put up with the ‘destructive behaviour’ of us humans with the building of a massive railway track slap bang through the middle of the park in 2018 causing unknown amount of disruption to the animals and much to the despair of the Kenya Wildlife Service and conservationists throughout the country.
We did get to see elephants in the end. In fact 16 of the most adorable baby elephants at the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage in Nairobi. It was so sweet seeing them have their bottles of milk and then rolling around in more of that glorious red mud which has now become firmly attached to all of our shoes.
As you can imagine we were by now pretty exhausted after all the morning’s excitement and in desperate need of caffeine. The irony of being in this magnificent coffee producing country and not having had a cup of coffee for almost 36 hours was not lost on me (yes the coffee roasters’ caffeine withdrawal headache was kicking in – not helped by Joe’s pop up roof collapsing on my skull earlier that morning in all the excitement about the lions). So we stopped by the Giraffe Centre in Karen for some (super dark roasted) flat whites before hand feeding three beautiful Rothschild Giraffes in the enclosure. Had it really only been 48 hours since I was in the Sottish Highlands? You have got to love Africa for its ability to totally transport you out of your comfort zone.
Then to my heaven we went to Karen Blixen’s Coffee Garden for lunch – the original Blixen farmhouse property in her “I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong hills…” which subsequently became the farm managers house and is now a rather lovely restaurant called Tamambo where we ate in the garden under the shade of the jacaranda trees and had some delicious food followed by some more charcoaled coffee. I must say I can’t wait till the cupping at the Taylor Winch offices tomorrow – not least because I’m longing to drink some delicious Kenyan coffee that hasn’t been roasted to within an inch of its life.
Beautiful Africa, its so good to be back.