row shacks on the other. The small villages presented all walks of life with well-dressed ladies walking next to disheveled old men while uniformed children walked to school on dirt paths next to younger, barefooted kids already working and playing in the fields. I tried to take a few record images from our Toyota van as we sped along. Clouds and mist did not provide very good lighting, though. The countryside was pretty, though.
|The Rift Valley|
Birding while driving was frustrating. We saw flocks of blue starlings that were most likely Superb Starlings, but couldn't be certain due to he large number of blue starling spp in the region. Large gray and black hawks dotted the roadside but were impossible to ID. I was able to verify several Grey Herons atop trees in the fields, but that was about it. Small flocks of passerines and mini-clouds of swallows didn't help, either.
herds of sheep and cattle were scattered about with their manyattas off in the distance. Soon we were driving bumpy, gravelly dirt roads in clouds of iron-rich clay dust raised by speeding tour vans coming from the opposite direction. We'd forgotten to load up on water, and soon were feeling the effects of dry throats and a hot van. Finally though, we arrived at the gates to the Masai Mara National Reserve.
Because of disputes with local government the Reserve daily entry fee of US $80 pp was cash-only. So Robin and I had to turn up $320.00 for two nights stay. Thankfully Guy had extra cash and was able to loan us the $140.00 that we were short. We had converted most of our money to Kenyan shillings and they would not accept it!
Thompson's Gazelles, Impala and Common Zebras. Somehow my camera got switched to Special Effects mode because suddenly my pics were washed out cartoons. I had to scramble to realize that the mode dial was switched from my usual Aperture-priority. Back on track we quickly came upon three giraffes feeding next to the road. Gorgeous Masai Giraffe!
Cape Buffalo herds, Topi, Warthogs, more gazelles and beautiful Impala. We even stopped to enjoy a pretty Leopard Tortoise on the side of the road.
We had buried the van to the rear bumper and could not go forward or backward in the mud. Charles spent the next hour trying to phone for help, but couldn't reach the lodge, now only 2 Km away. It was mid afternoon so everyone else was on midday break, so all we could do was sit and wait. It would be two hours before another tour van came by, but finally someone had a tow cable and was able to pull us free! During the wait and the efforts to ger out Deb noticed my D300/18-105 lens sitting in the mud. It had fallen out of the van. Luckily the lens was clean and we had some wet wipes to remove the mud. Because we were in lion country we were expressly-forbidden to leave the van, so we had to cook in the afternoon sun. Water quickly ran out, and we only had a few granola bars. Overhead a White-headed Vulture soared, looking for a meal, but no one had to be canabalized...I took the opportunity to soak in the stunning surroundings. A flock of Lesser-streaked Swallows were foraging nearby, while a single giraffe approached to inspect our plight. A Masai herdsman was moving his cattle along the hill behind us.
It was a little after six when we arrived at the lodge, and everyone was beat. The restaurant stayed open for us and gave us a lovely welcoming lunch, so everyone was happy again. A short nap later and a nice buffet dinner put us all in a mood for tomorrow's first game drive. Robin bought a round of drinks for everyone and we toasted her parents, Hubert and Esther Odom. Hubert had passed 10 years ago to the day, and Esther passed away a year ago today, so we wanted to acknowledge them - they were part of the reason we took this trip. Afterward we retired to our rooms. I was too tired to review images or blog, so I went to sleep.
The Mara Sopa Lodge is beautiful! Situated on the side of a hill it overlooks the valley and surrounding hillsides. It's as beautiful as Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge, and as expansive. A large central dining hall gives wonderful views of the gardens, with an outdoor pool and bar available for guests. Our house was uphill another quarter mile along an ascending lane, so the hike was tiring, especially when we're at approx 6800 ft above sea level. Electricity was available between then off the rest of the time.
Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
African Paradise Flycatcher
Bare-faced Go-away Bird
Greater Blue-eared Starling
Water Thick- knee
Lesser Streaked Swallow