Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Safari Njema

After our Kilimanjaro adventure we spent a few days recuperating in the luxurious Fairview hotel in Nairobi. I truly did not know that a place like that haven existed in Kenya! There a spectacular breakfast buffet that had STRAWBERRIES! I had not seen a strawberry for 10 months! Needless to say, I contemplated a peace corps site change to the Fairview hotel. After a few days, a few showers, and a few hot meals, my family and I met up with Caitlin, my best friend from high school, to embark on our next set of adventures. Since a picture shows a thousand words, here are some of my favourite snapshots of our vacation:

At the elephant orphanage we watched baby elephants (awwwwww) get fed with giant bottles of milk and then play soccer.

Caitlin and my Mom getting smooches from giraffes at the Nairobi Giraffe Centre. Giraffe tongues are rough and slimy, not at all kissable.

At Carnivore restaurant where you are served an endless buffet of wild game from crocodile to ostrich. This is the happiest I saw Robbie on the trip, and quite possibly in all his life.

We ventured to the Masai Mara to begin our safari. We first stayed at Keekorok Lodge in comfortable wooden huts. Note Caitlin’s excitement for our first game drive! There was also a hippo pond with lots of snuggling hippopotamuses.

Below are some pictures of the wildlife we saw in the Masai Mara. It was fascinating (and slightly scary) to see all of the giant game roaming in their habitat.

Seeing all of the animals above almost felt like a Disneyland ride/Lion King movie set (I did have to sing the circle of life a few times!). Out of sibling rivalry, Robbie and I came up with a competition to see who could spot the most animals throughout our stay and assigned points to the most elusive of animals. I lost miserably! I missed a sleeping lion right in front of me, mistaking it for a dead buffalo…..

This is the second lodge that we stayed in, Mara Serena, which had gorgeous view of the Mara river. The rooms were modeled after traditional Masai huts, but with the luxury of running water, toilets, etc.

From the view of our rooms, the wildebeest migration across the Mara river was seen. Unfortunately for me I missed the whole crossing as I was blissfully enjoying a massage! Oh well, at least from this picture you can see the sheer number of wildebeest…quite amazing.

The view of the Masai Mara were breathtaking. You could see for miles and spot wildlife off in the distance.

And there were absolutely beautiful sunsets. The colours of an African sunset are just so pretty!

Caitlin and I attended a Masai Dance where we witnessed some traditional songs and dances. The Masai tribesmen dance by jumping as high as possible in a circle.

After our safari in the Masai Mara we headed to Kisumu in the Nyanza province. We stayed at Kiboko Bay Resort located on the shore of Lake Victoria. There was a lot of delicious fresh fish to be enjoyed as well as bird watching.

We went on a boat ride in Lake Victoria and saw many fisherman at work catching tilapia and omena (small sardine like fish). We also saw a group of emerged hippos, many beautiful birds, and a giant water lizard.

We ended our vacation at my site where my family and Caitlin had a chance to meet all my students and staff at Bishop Abiero Girl's Secondary School. The students asked them many questions about themselves and America.

My visitors also got to meet all of my house’s animal inhabitants (invited and uninvited). I was glad that they were able to see my house, school, and community to get a real feel for what it is like living in Kenya as a Peace Corps Volunteer. My mom described my house as “camping for two years” while my brother euphemistically called my living situation “an adventure” (in reference to the daily battle with rodents, bumblebees, spiders, etc that have infested my house). And even though Caitlin had a nightly staring contest with the mice living in my rafters and Robbie was attacked by a million mosquitoes, I want to believe that they enjoyed their stay in Magwar (although I know they will not miss using a choo). Come back to visit again soon!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Mt. Kilimanjaro

Since this is my blog, I really should be able to describe climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in any way I like; as in I reached the top first, was able to withstand the freezing cold, and completely triumphed without any signs of altitude sickness because I’m just that awesome. Sadly, I feel compelled to tell you the truth which unfortunately ends up being the complete opposite of my ambitious dreams for a kili climb.

In reality, the experience was close to miserable. On summit night, it was freezing (and many of you know I HATE the cold!). I mean, really, who in their right mind would want to walk up a mountain in -20 degree weather? Definitely not me. Besides the cold, the altitude was quite difficult. We would literally take one or two steps then have to stop to gasp for air…there was hardly any oxygen at 5895 meters! At least there was a was beautiful sunrise above the clouds and some breathtaking glaciers. Too bad I hardly remember the scenery since I was too worried about the possible impending amputation of all my toes due to frostbite…..:

As some of you know, the main reason we decided to spend a week of our “vacation” on this torturous mountain was to celebrate the 50th birthday of my mother. She is now half a century old! But age, clearly, did not matter on Kili. She was a beast of a 50 year old and powered up the mountain beating both of her children to Uhuru peak. All of the porters were sincerely impressed with her strength and endurance and kept telling her she was the strongest 50 year old they had ever seen! When I was sick due to the altitude she literally carried me down the mountain leaving the porters in awe of her brute strength. While my brother and I swore that we would never attempt to climb a mountain again, my mother was hardly phased by Kilimanjaro, the tallest point in all of Africa. She is an amazing woman and I can only hope that at 50, I can do half the things she can do (not including climbing mountains). Happy Birthday Mom, I love you!

While the memory of Kilimanjaro is still too fresh in my mind to not be scarred by the cold and altitude sickness, I know that in a few months (ok maybe years) I will look back at the experience as one of the most rewarding accomplishments. Summit night was quite possibly the worst night of my life, but besides that night, the spectacular scenery of the mountain and the atmosphere were very memorable. We walked through so many different ecosystems from lush jungle to dry desert. We had the opportunity to meet and talk with some amazing porters who climb Kili for a living. And my brother and I bonded over our shared misery. While I might complain about the aches and pains, bruises, and general dirtiness of the being on the mountain for a week, I know that I will always treasure the experience and, of course, the bragging rights :)