Archive for August 24, 2011

Darren writes 24.08.2011, Pics by Darren

It's hard work being a Lion

The Masai Mara is the northern continuation of the Serengeti which is the Tanzanian counterpart to this incredible Kenyan National Park. Within the parks borders are the wildebeest which have migrated north from the drying Serengeti in search of greener pastures that come in Kenya’s rainy season. Of course Wildebeest, like the Masai people, don’t recognise borders  and many miles before arriving to the park one can  find these animals in there masses.

Chasing the wildebeest on the bike like a lion

 Though some of the Masai Mara’s wildlife, like Giraffe can be found all year round, much of the herbivores migrate with the wildebeest and the carnivores follow their food. Therefore, this time of year, with the presence of these beasts, the Masai Mara is a savannah green and dense with Antelope, Zebra, Cats, Elephant, Hyena and pretty much all of the East African wild life you can imagine. In it its rivers also can be found numbers of Hippo and Nile crocodile as well as the floating bodies of the wildebeest that were trampled in the frenzy of their crossing! The crocs need not to do too much work as the rivers they inhabit are a dinner table already set and from the banks these ancient predators can be seen biting at the carcasses floating past.

I will fight you!

We arrived to Nairobi and to an overlanders haven known as Jungle Junction. Here is a place to camp or take a room (we of course camp) and has facilities geared for the wheeled traveller like internet and a workshop and mechanic. Russ wanted to change his chain and sprockets here though the rear sprocket he cannot find. He has however found other issues like swing arm bearings broken and has needed to do some work on his brakes. With the help of the resident mechanic he is sorting these issues and took his turn to acquire the onward visa for Sudan. Myself, I took the opportunity, to join with a few other travellers and bike to the Masai Mara. A Spanish couple, Noah and Jose and another couple; an English guy, Rupert and his Chinese girlfriend, Fanny were to make the 250 km journey and hire a car once there.

Marking his territory

The two hundred km of tar went smoothly but as the road became a rough track things became more difficult. Noah and Jose, who share an F650gs, broke down with an electrical fault with 30km to go, Rupert, on a KTM 990 jumped at the chance to get out his tow rope and put a training course into practice. I carried Noah and Fanny carried my bag. Thinking Rupert was actually competent, Noah and I let him go ahead, towing Jose, whilst we went to play with the wildebeest as well as sourcing routes and looking for lost water bottles. We would do these excursions and then catch up. Rupert had left behind Fanny who, courtesy of him was riding the same bike as him and with very little experience, and not being able to touch the floor, she was struggling. We helped her to pick her bike off the floor and then we followed her. I took over at a difficult section and on we slowly continued. With a few Km’s to go Rupert tracked back and when he saw us, he gave Fanny abuse and then turned it on me. He’s a military person and not one given to reason so I just told him ‘where to go’. Later he continued in his aggressive abuse and for me that’s journey together over! His strop led him to loose Jose who I then towed the last km to our camp site. It was a horrible and unnecessary destruction of our tour which I later understood was because he had so much trouble with towing and needed more support. Nether the less the Spaniards and I had an amazing day ahead of us in the famous Masai Mara National park.

Zebra / Impala

After entering the park we soon found some lions. One of the males had won the right for mating with the lioness there. From his slumber she beckoned him and a tentative mating ritual began. All was over pretty quickly and back to his slumber he returned but not before marking his territory on a nearby bush and a yawn worthy of a lion. Mating takes place only once a year and lasts for a week, so we felt pretty lucky to be witness. Luck wasn’t going to run out there neither…


You'll have to enlarge this one. Cheetah v Fawn

My favourite animal as a child and one that I’ve been trying to see since my first safari in Africa more than ten years ago, is the cheetah. We passed through plains full of antelope and Zebra and then there she was. I couldn’t believe it as we approached her, that at last the dream of seeing this beautiful sleek cat had become reality. She walked from one side of us to the other and if the experience of, at last, just seeing one of these gracefully spotted felines wasn’t enough, she was just about to give us a show our guide told us was a very rare delight. As she passed our landcruiser she spotted a grants gazelle and her young fawn, some 500 meters away, and her stalk began. We drove diagonally away from her and her intended kill so as not to disturb the hunt. Through the yellowed grass she moved with stealth occasionally peering above it  until, like a sprinter from the blocks, she exploded, speeding towards her focus which being the fawn, had little chance to out manoeuvre the fastest creature on our planet. We drove to within metres of where she laid, panting with the young gazelle gripped by the throat slowing being choked as it kicked. It’s tongue which flopped outside of it’s mouth became blue and then more blue and then the fawns kicking ceased!  The cheetah loosed her prey and took ten minutes catching her breath whilst looking around for other predators that could snatch her meal from beneath her.

Poor thing..

 Once recomposed she picked up her kill, walked with it hanging from her mouth and found a spot where she would then devour her meal whilst maintaining a watch on her surroundings and possible threats.

Now I just need to find a knofe and fork

And things didn’t stop there. At the river we watched the wildebeest  being indecisive about crossing, though I don’t blame them with the amount of crocodiles and floating comrades  in the brown depths. More lions and cheetah as well as hippo, giraffe, Zebra, hyena, jackal, elephant and countless different  antelope amongst other wildlife was around every corner and finally, before we left, we came across the ’three brothers’.  These are a hunter band of three related cheetah. They wanted to cross a river but like most cats, they don’t like water. For a while they sat atop of the bank until one descended to the river’s edge. His brothers followed. More time was spent growling at the water until eventually one leaped in. He was closely followed by one brother and then the next.  Wet and dripping they one by one appeared in front of us after their successful swim and ascent up the opposing river bank. What a day!

It's Yum ...and It's Mine!

Back at the camp and noodles for dinner again. The Spanish couple had there broken bike before them but a camp fire and memories of the day lingered. The following day I spent until two O’clock with them trying to fix their bike but without success.  Once the decision was made to truck the bike back to Jungle junction, I started alone on my journey back to Nairobi.

oi.. get you own patch of water. You’re like this with the grass

Time was now ticking for a long journey of which 60kms would be off road or on a pretty bad track but a bit of rallying allured me. 10 km later my front tire blow a puncture.  A slow puncture had allowed the pressure to fall enough for the inner tube to be pinched by the wheel rim and 3 holes in my tube needed repair. The sun was hot. I was hot. And the tire was hot.. It was hot enough to easily remove from the rim without lube but tire levers were the only tools I had as I’d left everything else with Russ. Someone came with a pump. That was great but I needed patches and glue. A scooter passed and patches from the village were fetched. In all, I was away again within an hour and now was hurrying to cover as much ground as I could before the rains caught me. From hot to freezing in minutes. I Didn’t have water proofs and with being wet to the skin, 2000m up, and the wind wicking through my jacket, I gritted my teeth and pressed on.  Mud became like ice and my speed slowed to at some points not much more than a walking pace. I took various paths, dirt tracks and gravel but all had become slippery for my tires. I slid to the ground twice and stopped a few times to help other bikes out of ditches but I dideventually reach the tar and a town where I quickly filled the bike and my stomach. It was now getting dark and with the rain blurring my visor, worsened by the lights of oncoming traffic, I tried to maintain a speed that that would get me another 150km back to Nairobi. So cold, I thought about being so hot earlier in the day and as I listened to my mp3 I had a strange feeling of enjoying another challenge and the memories of the day before kept me cheered as I ached with shivering.  I managed to arrive in one piece to Jungle Junction.  Russ had had success with visas and the following evening Jose and Noah arrived with their bike in the back of a car. Russ has just about finished working on his bike and I’ve just about sorted out a whole load of photos.

Hoping the water's not too wet

Now we just have to decide on a route northwards and with the rains in South Sudan and Ethiopia, crossing from one to the other, off road is looking to be a time consuming challenge. Violence in South Sudan is also pushing us to omit it from our itinerary.  Whichever way we go now the rain and dirt roads will present a certain challenge! But they will later be challenges overcome!

At least I'm not a hippo


There's gotta be a little space I can squeeeze into