Pre-departure notes …

The Maasai Mara in September ... the reward for enduring numbing hours in airport terminals and pressurized cabins

The Maasai Mara in September ... the reward for enduring numbing hours in airport terminals and pressurized cabins

I complained in a previous post (dated July 29th) about the physical discomfort inherent in the 22 hour commute to East Africa. But I will concede that there are certain experiences within this generally blurred sequence of unpleasantness — parking lots, shuttles, baggage counters, and terminals — that do in fact afford me a small measure of joy.

Once inside the terminal, I particularly love to take a seat near the gate and position my backpack in front of me to use as a footrest. I then lean back, plant my hiking shoes on the pack and watch the parade. It seems that a good 50% of the travelers are talking on cell phones at any given time. My favorites are the pasty-faced men in business suits, pacing nervously, expressions of concern clouding their faces, phones clamped tightly against their heads and speaking far too loudly … advancing the notion that they want all within earshot to be impressed with their corporate importance. And I sit quietly with my photo bag, hiking pants and ticket to Kenya … warm in the conviction that I wouldn’t trade places with them for all the world.

Depending on flight direction and fatigue level, I sometimes enjoy the effects of the rapid changes in time zones. There’s something indefinably peaceful about arriving in Amsterdam just before sunrise and strolling through the endless corridors as the shops begin to open, with sleepy travelers draped over lounge chairs and the first orange glow of the day piercing the terminal glass. I usually find a quiet corner to drink a cup of tea and watch the passageways and waiting areas fill with humanity on the move. I’ll take out my book (which will be Charlotte Bronte’s “Villette” this time) but will likely be too tired to read.

The first leg of all this will be behind me a week from today, when I’ll be on the ground in Nairobi. Eastern and Southern Safaris has helped to coordinate an exceptional itinerary. It is …

30 August until 2 September – Samburu. This will be my first visit to this dusty and arid reserve, rightfully famous for its unique wildlife. It is home to the gorgeous reticulated giraffe, which is the most beautiful of all the sub-species in my opinion. We should see the thin-striped Grevy’s zebra and the homely gerenuk, an antelope with an unusual propensity for standing on its hind legs, stretching to the lower reaches of the trees to eat.

3 to 5 September – Lake Nakuru. This will be my second visit to this lovely reserve, which is actually within just a few kilometers of the city of Nakuru. Flamingoes crowd the lake’s shallows, and the shorelines are dotted with an abundance of waterbirds … including the stately African Fish Eagle and a personal favorite, the oddly shaped Hammerkop. In addition to the wide range of birds, we should see both the black and white rhinoceros. There are few places in Africa with such a heavy concentration of these rare animals. Staying at the Sarova Lion Hill Lodge, I think we may be able to photograph baboons right outside our door.

6 to 15 September – The Maasai Mara … its attractions are discussed exhaustively in earlier posts. This segment, with the wildebeest migration in full swing, will certainly be the highlight of the trip.

After I return I will begin to post notes from my Zambia trip of November 2008 and hope to convert my journal from this year’s Kenya trip into narrative some time before Christmas. I look forward to writing more in late September.

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