I was sad to leave South Africa. This country had really gotten under my skin and I wished I had a little more time there. The two days of high level activity had left me very drained and also very sick, so I literally took the Baz Bus to Johannesburg and had them drop me off directly at an airport hostel. I ate dinner at a posher hotel across the street (I ordered Malva pudding and hot custard for dinner…come on, I was sick, yar?) and then promptly went to sleep coughing and sneezing up a storm.
The following day saw me take a flight from Johannesburg back to Nairobi to begin the Gorilla Loop overland truck tour with the same company I did my 56 day Coast to Coast odyssey with, Oasis Overland. I even had the same tour leader and driver as before. The day was arduous as my virus was now full blown and it ended up taking longer to drive to Karen Camp from Nairobi Kenyatta’s airport than the four hours flying time it took from Johannesburg. Apparently, torrential rains had caused some major flooding and road damage, so Smiley explained that the traffic had just been utterly horrendous. It was good to see Smiley again – he was the first person I met when I arrived here nearly 3 months ago and it was good to catch up. Since we were literally parked for much of the only 15 mile or so journey, we played good old rock ballads on the radio and I attempted to croak along in between coughing fits.
I briefly met my tour group before heading straight for the shower and after to find Pete and Tabby to get back in the truck and collect the things I’d had them drive back up to Nairobi with. I then re-organized my entire backpack for just what I’d need on this trip through Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda and put the rest into storage at the camp.
Our first stop on this journey was Lake Naivasha and on arrival at our campsite we were welcomed by a rare sighting of the mighty black and white Colubus monkey playing in the grass looking out over the lake and its mighty hippos that were honking behind the security fence.
That afternoon’s activities seemed mellow enough that I decided to haul my sorry sick ass along to them. They consisted of an hour’s boat ride on the lake where we saw lots of lovely colorful birds and some crazy men who were fishing not twenty meters from where five or six hippos were cavorting in the shallow water. It was a lovely sunny afternoon and I was looking forward to the afternoon tea I was promised at the former home of the late Joy Adamson, author of the “Born Free” series of books about her life in Africa raising wild cats domestically that she then later tried to let back into the wild.
Well, it was a bit disappointing on both counts. First of all, the tea was not a high tea, it consisted of “get your own tea” and ginger cake and cookies. Which is all fine, I wasn’t that hungry as I was snivelling everywhere. After wandering around the house and it’s attached museum we were ushered into a viewing room where we watched the documentary on Joy Adamson’s life.
Well, I’ll have to do a little bit of my own research, but frankly, I was quite horrified by this woman. Firstly, she kept getting married and then falling in love with a second and subsequently third man, each time divorcing the poor bastard she’d married before “till I love someone else more than you.” Then, she got to live this charmed existence in Kenya, financially supported by whichever husband she happened to be with at the time, and spent her days painting flowers while World War II was raging back in Europe. Finally, after her husband shot a lion during a safari, they decided to bring the cubs home and raise them at their house as pets. This led to her lifelong passion for wild cats, studying them and learning how to rehabilitate them back in the wild, which she then, of course, monopolized on financially by writing books about it all.
Frankly, she was very lucky to be doing what she was doing at that time, because nowadays she’d be arrested for what she pulled. “Born Free?” Yeah – they were, until your husband shot their mother and then they had to live with you pawing at them and pulling their tails (which you can witness on the video multiple times) and becoming rich as a result. I found her to be a most disagreeable woman and found her legitimizing the domestication of these wild lions and leopards to be quite disgusting.
It is probably a reflection of how times have changed, and I’m sure her foundation has actually done a lot of good in terms of protecting the cats here in National Park. That being said, “ugh” – what a horrible woman.
The following day I was well and truly in need of some solid rest and so reluctantly turned down the opportunity to go to Hell’s Gate National Park and partake in the only biking safari in Africa, for the chance to try and get healthy again.
I was sad to miss out on that experience, especially since it sounded like a great workout too.
Instead, I had a lovely afternoon talking to Greg, one of the passengers on our truck, who at 75, was mightily impressive in all he had done in his life and all the vitality and energy he still showed for his continued adventures. I write this recollection with sadness, as Greg tragically died of a heart attack a few days later during our Gorilla trek in Bwinde Impenetrable National Forest.
He made quite a distinct impression on me, and in the short week or so our group knew him, he became well liked and a team favorite. He had the most amazing stories that would start off, giving just one example, like “Well, you know…I was working in Papua New Guinea when Saigon fell….” – and you’d just shake your head and marvel at him.
I was very saddened by his death, as we all were, and my heart goes out to his family.
Nothing else really exciting happened at Naivasha other than me feeling utterly sorry for myself, having a good cry and getting nicely drunk with two of the girls in the bar next door who kindly listened to my stories about how this trip was supposed to be mending my broken heart.
Which it wasn’t, but by now, has definitely started to.