December 13, 2019 in Kenya ⋅ ⛅ 13 °C
I hear Scott moving about in the next bed and blearily peer at my watch. Jaysus, it’s five in the morning, time to get up for our 2nd game drive at 6am. I want to get some tea or coffee into me before we leave and give myself time to wake up properly. I let memories of vivid dreams in the night, thank you anti-maleria meds, disperse like the early morning mist, along with memories of hyenas barking and screaming in the night.
I reluctantly unpeeled myself from my warm bed and welcome a new day in Africa. It’s not day yet though, it’s still night and dark as a politician’s heart. Nevertheless, up I get and ramble down for coffee and bananas.
As we’re leaving the car park in our jeeps, the sun starts to rise. This happens quickly here in the tropics. It was stunning. We stop and enjoy but soon hurry on, there’s lots to see today.
We’re off a 6am sharp and bounce our way back into the Maasai Mara Game Reserve. Aaah , so familiar now to us old hands.
I don’t know what to expect as yesterday exceeded all my expectations. We saw so many animals I had only seen before on David Attenborough programmes on TV or on YouTube. I think, maybe more of the same. But it turns out differently.
The first 30mins or so of our drive is through beautiful countryside. We’re in a slight dip in the landscape. Or maybe it’s a valley carved out by an ancient glacier or volcano. The landscape is great with short grass and small bush like trees. There are plenty of impala and other similar creatures eating the grass. There is the occasional warthog. All very Africa, I think.
When we crest the top of the incline, the Africa of a thousand movies and documentaries, as well as a hundred thousand dreams, startles into view, shocking me wide awake.
It’s the endless, timeless Maasai Mara with huge skies and layers of colours and textures; green grass up close, far off mountains in the distance, the hazy blurring where earth and sky meet, the magnificent clouds, whose types I learned in school but have now forgotten. Some of the clouds are really low, so low I imagine I could reach out and pull a fluffy piece off and use it as a pillow.
But the image that really gets all my neural synapses singing like Beethoven’s 5th Symphony is the sight of the lone acacia trees vividly on the horizon line, stitching together the earth and sky into a whole. Its like the branches and canopy of the acacia are roots sucking sustenance from the old gods of the skies and feeding the earth while simultaneously pouring out nurture from the earth feeding the skies and all who dwell on the surface of the earth.
I am transfixed by this image. It feels like it’s etched into memory now and will allow me to revisit Africa in the future when I’m back home in my distant green misty island.
Then the jeep shudders into another rut, trying to separate my vertebrae and my little fizzy frothy monkey mind latches onto something else, probably breakfast. Once it was sex, now it’s food! Weird, this ageing business.
We chase around looking for animals but they are all hiding away. I can see other jeeps in the distance doing the same, like little worried beetles scurrying around. I don’t mind though, I’m happy breathing in the landscape and soaking up all the sensations until I start dipping in and out of an imaginal meditative world of Africanness. I can feel, in my bones, the feet of my ancestors walking this ancient sacred land, toes splayed out digging into the soft loam, connecting. This is my homeland. I feel tears welling up in my eyes.
Then, flurries of activity and excitement, the jeeps are converging on some point in the distance. Alex revs up the engine and speeds towards this point, both physically and metaphorically jolting me out of my contemplative space into a target focused predatory one and bringing my Irish arse into sudden connection with a Japanese jeep seat . What’s up, what’s to see, what’s to do, what’s to aim for with my camera, what’s to eat.
It was just a lion vanishing into the undergrowth. Meh, lions are so yesterday. We hang about a while hoping for more but it is not to be. I don’t mind though. I’m grand.
Eventually, we start heading back to the campsite for breakfast of fried eggs and sausages.
What a day, what a few days. I feel like someone has turned the lights up higher. I feel wide awake although I’m ready for a snooze.
Back on the jeep again for the long trip back to Nairobi.