The Rift Valley
Boxing Day was the end of the R and R and we headed out of Nairobi towards the west. The road took us through small villages and farms and along the way we enjoyed such sights as "Glorious Church with Rev Bob and Cecilia Kabubi", the "Pank View Centre (next o a park), the Machine Car Wash where cars were washed by hand, and the combined Hair Salon and Electronics Shop. We reached the top of the escarpment of the Great Rift Valley, 8000' (26666M) high and stood on the edge of the near-vertical drop to look over the vast expanse of plain and to the high ground on the other side. The view was breathtaking and only interrupted by the souvenir sellers doing their best to dispose of their mmoderately tacky goods. To the north and south are the Rift Valley lakes, and we were headed to Lake Naivasha for the night, one of the few lakes that is not a soda lake.
And so began the long descent to the valley. And our brakes gave out. Fortunately it was only one brake circuit and Russ made it to a service station and bought some brake fluid to top it up. The reservoir was empty and we filled it up. But within a kilometre or so, we had run out of brakes again. So with Hans and Jenny behind us and keeping a watchhful eye, Russ drove the whole way on engine braking and what little we had left of the brakes. Given all the years we had old and cheap cars and therefore lots of practice, he was able to do so safely!
At camp, Thiemo checked the brakes out to find that a brake line had been completely rubbed through and the fluid just poured out. It had probably been caused by all the corrugations and rough roads through Northern Kenya, but had only just now chosen to give way. We were quite thankful it had waited till now and not happened in the chaos of the Nairobi traffic when we arrived there.
The camp was packed with holidaymakers, mostly Indian Kenyans, and was right on the banks of Lake Naivasha. The edge of the campsite next to the water had a small electric fence which was switched on at night. Reason? Hippos. And the next morning we were treated to a small hippo which emerged from the lake and, ignoring all the people and their cameras, contentedly grazed along the grassed lake edge.
That afternoon we drove a few kilometres to Elsamere, the home of the Joy and George Adamson of "Born Free" fame. It is in a superb spot on a slight rise overlooking the lake and is now a guest house with a small museum attached. We looked around the museum and the house annd I was surprised to learn that Joy Adamson was a most accomplished artist. Her watercolour botanicals and portraits of local tribespeople are beautiful, and all the more amazing as she was self-taught. But what we were really there for was High Tea! Tea, coffee and a table groaning with cakes, tarts, biscuits, sweets, quiches and sandwiches, all home-made! These sorts of things don't figure much in our diet out here, so it was a real treat to sit outside on the lawn overlooking the lake, eating such goodies.
Next morning early we were met by a local guide called Marcus who drove us in his minivan to thhe Crater lake Nature Reserve. Here we could walk rather than drive as there are no lions (although we did see leopard prints). Giraffe, impala, zebra, gazelle, dik-dik, warthhog, and all fairly unconcerned by our presence until we got very close. And then the spectacular short climb to the edge of Crater Lake itself, with its green water and flamingos.
Next stop Lake Nakuru. This is a soda lake, and ever since seeing a doco on it years ago, I have wanted to see it myself. We drove further alonng the Rift Vallet to the town of Nakuru and then turned into the National Park. While we waited for Debs to buy our entry tickets, baboons surrounded the cars and one climbed all over ours, peeering through the windscreen, looking for a way in. Some people who opened their back door at the wrong moment, had a baboon launching itself inside, undeterred by the driver hitting it on the head with a water bottle. The baboon grabbed a plastic bag full of tiny tomatoes and shot through! After eating just a few, another charged and stole the bag taking off into the distance.
Our camp was inside the park and not fenced! So no wandering off by day, and certainly not by night. Our tents were arranged close together so that animals could simply walk around the campsite at night. We did hear all sorts of shrieking and noises close by, but they were the baboons that paid us a breakfast visit the next morning.
The park is simply beautiful and lived up to all my expectations. It is a small park with the lake as the centrepiece and hemmed in on each side by high cliffs. We got excited at seeing our first buffalo and spent time taking not very good photos of it, only to find out that buffalo were everywhere and that we could get superb shots all the time! Amongst all the usual sightings, we were lucky enough to see the endangered Rothschild giraffe, hippos (there are only a few in the park and they are hard to see most of the time anyway), ground hornbills (a big black and red bird) and white rhinos. But the waterside feature that is stunning is the flamingo - there are thousands and thousands of them along the shoreline, all pink and often verging on red. With them are pelicans also tinged with pink, huge maribou storks and thousands of smaller water birds all feeding in the lakeshore mud. And in the early morning, they are joined by the bigger animals coming down to the shore for water, and flamingo and rhino and pelican and impala are all mixed in together.
It is quite a sight.