Tuesday, October 5, 2010

3 Parks in 3 Days

The adventures of Caitlin and Jenny continued with some exciting, but hectic, traveling to Kakamega National Rainforest, Lake Nakuru National Park, and Hell’s Gate National Park all in the weekend before Caitlin was to return back to America.

Caitlin experienced her first Kenyan matatu (van) ride which can only be described with some vivid mental images….Imagine a van meant to hold 12 people, meaning there are 12 seats. However, in Kenya, seats don’t determine the number of passengers. In our matatu ride there were 24 people riding in our van including a few men hanging out of the door, four or more people per row, plus chickens, giant bags of food, mattresses, water tanks, etc. tied to the roof. It is quite an experience to travel by matatu. And while Caitlin was not fond of the smell, there are definitely some adventures that occur while on a matatu whether it be 80’s flashback music, a dancing baby, and an entertaining/drunk seat sharer, etc.

Our fist stop was to Kakamega National Rainforest, the only rainforest in all of Kenya. While it used to be home to gorillas and all sorts of other wildlife, development has reduced it to the habitat of Kenya’s most spectacular bird population. This is a bird watchers paradise with beautiful greenery and birds chirping everywhere. There are also tons of monkeys swinging from tree to tree, tree shaded trails, and a wealth of medical knowledge that we learned about from our Luhya guide.

We stayed in traditional mud bandas (huts) at the Udo campsite. While rustic from the outside, the bandas were quite comfortable inside. Although, we were a wee bit terrified to venture out of our hut at night to use the choo and thus constructed an in-door bathroom consisting of a bucket behind a chair.

Our next destination, after another jampacked matatu ride, was to Nakuru town. Nakuru is Kenya’s largest town and has a lovely laid back atmosphere and quaint restaurants. Caitlin tried her first plate of Ethiopian food here. We entered Lake Nakuru National Park for evening and morning game drives and were thrilled to see a plethora of animals running around everywhere (there were baboons and monkeys jumping on cars). We were able to spot black and white rhinos, a ton of flamingos nestled in the lake itself, Rothschild giraffes, baby baboons, lionesses and their cubs, zebras and many species of birds. While unassuming from the park’s gates, this national park was truly something else. The sheer number of wildlife wandering left and right make it a safari dream come true.

Our last stop on our few day adventure was to Hell’s Gate National Park located outside of Naivasha. This park is unique because it is one of the few parks that allows visitors to walk or bike through it. While it is not the same as being a few feet away from a lion behind the protection of a car frame, wandering through a park in the company of giraffes and zebras is just as fun. We rented bikes (and after relearning how to ride a bike) we headed into the park. We only had a few hours in the park due to Caitlin’s impending departure so we choose a short route to the Obsidian Caves. Along the way we biked through herds of zebras, grazing giraffes and warthogs. The end destination was a few caves composed of layered obsidian rock. While Caitlin’s view of biking adventures was scarred due to a sore derriere, I enjoyed the park greatly. While the animals may not have been as spectacular nor scary (who would want to see a lion while biking?) it was still fun to be biking next to all sorts of wildlife. I hope to go back again soon and explore some more!

Even though a tearful goodbye to Caitlin ensued after our amazing adventures, I still thoroughly enjoyed all of our travels together. It was her first time to Africa and hopefully not last. To all of you who have yet to explore this fascinating continent, karibu!

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