Tuesday, August 15, 2017

RTW #3 Kenya

Getting ready for Africa
We initially went home in Manila to unload our soiled clothes and get fresh ones. This time it is hardcore backpacking. It was nice to see mum and the rest of the family again. One day is seriously not enough to recoup for the tired body. On the contrary, we have enriched our souls and we are ready to see yet another side of the world that I am longing to experience, Africa.

Ethiopian Air, Addis Ababa and its cuisine
Prior to our arrival in Kenya, we had a quick stopover at Addis Ababa. Though Ethiopia is in turmoil, I was longing to see this country famed for its tasty cuisine. We did have a chance to taste it as we spent few hours in Ethiopian Air Star Alliance Gold Lounge. It is not as bad as I thought it would be. The reviews were harsh even on the hard product of Ethiopian Air. It was a delight to fly ET's 787 Dreamliner. The only downside is that not everyone would receive blankets given that its a red eye flight. It should have been the right of everyone to have at least one. But it doesn't change my fondness for Ethiopian Air. It truly deserves to be part of *A imho.

Outskirts of Nairobi whilst election polling
The lesson I've learnt on day one is never depend yourself in a review. I reckon some of them are biased because Kenyan family can be accommodating and proud of their city. But in harsh reality, the place we chose is not really in the centre of the city. I consider it lying in the populated lower class outskirts of the city. Even if its in broad day light you can see there were so many wasted locals sitting down the pavement engaging in drugs. At the back of our 'hotel' lies a huge automobile junk shop. It get scarier as darkness crawls...

Presidential election is currently taking place when we were in Manila and just in time when we arrived the polling has started. I was warned of the horrors the result may bring especially knowing that the popular vote goes to the incumbent president seeking to be reelected. The mass locals are not happy about it. I can hear rampage at night and see from the news the chaos it brings. Which mainly brings us to watching a lot of Kenyan soap opera in the tellie. Let me tell you, it is very interesting. The sound is very funky comical and plot is satire. It is really entertaining while nibbling on a local snack I forgot whats it called but it tastes like Bujha Mix (from India).

Africans love their meat. I tried corner chook and it was so tasty and very very cheap. I wanted to try goat but it was out of our budget.

On Saturday, we went to look for simcard and sugar. We got the simcard but only after a huge drama with Airtel. Apparently the best place to get this is through an Airtel outlet but nothing is open until after the election tally is finished. Our seller from the street booth named Sarah helped us by using her name and getting us signed up. We later shouted coffee and snack for her kindness.

We went to church on Sunday and we can catch the earlier mass but its Swahili. And we did. And I didnt regret it. There were lots of dancing. Lots of animal noises. Lots of raising of hands and swaying. It was unique and fun service. And I was responding in Swahili language. While my brother is holding the english translated one, I was enjoying the language.

Masai Mara Safari
I guess this is the highlight of the trip, after five grueling hours of bumpy ride to Masai we arrived in our campsite. There is one camp per group and my brother and I got the Mercanto (sounds-like) I remember it sounded like our surname. Anyway, there was no electricity in the campsite itself but in the centre dining hall, we can only charge our electronic gadgets between 6:30 to 7:30am and 7:30 to 10:00pm. So you guess it right, night is really early here in the middle of nowhere. The first night is not too bad as we managed to mingle with the local tribe of Maasai in a campfire they lit. The elder brother took a hold of my brother's mobile when he was showing a picture. Shortly after half an hour he know my brother's life depicted by his 3,000+ pictures in the gallery. Well, at least it was a conversational starter to compare life in two distinct places in the world.

I learnt that Maasai boys were rewarded with a cow if they do circumcision, pierce their lower lip or ear, etc. And when you offer marriage, you needed to offer the woman's family with at least 10 cows. So it seems that it is their tribal currency. Kenyan Shillings are not legal tender (lol).

All in all, we went to at least 3 game drives to the massive Masai Mara National Park. First thing when we arrived, we went crazy with Zebras and Giraffes. Actually any animals we saw. Especially when we encountered animal carcass. Then shortly after we saw the culprit, who else would it be, the King of the Jungle. Lion. Apparently all the work is done by lioness. The male lion would just be waiting to be served. But in fairness he would be there to defend the family if need arises. This is how Maasai tribe has adapted their way of living. Women works while men tend the sheep and defend their home.

Our tour group is very small. Two friends from Poland and Serbia who are both flight attendants. Our driver is Morris and our cook is George. I come to appreciate it because towards our game drive, we felt like it was a private tour.

The second day is when we saw the rest of the big 5, elephant, buffalo and the elusive black rhino. We unfortunately didn't see leopards but they look like cheetahs so I guess that would count. To top it all up, we saw the lion in the morning as they were hunting for their prey. We see them devour their giraffe brekkie. The badass hayenas were also in action.

Another highlight is the Wildebeast migration from Tanzania. They already passed the famous lake migration but its all good. We saw hundreds of wildebeast running in a orderly fashion queued up with all the discipline they can muster.

Visit to Maasai Village and Upclose and getting personal
On our second night in Masai Mara, we visited the Maasai Tribe's village. This is before sunset. They welcomed us with their welcome dance and later we joined them wearing their shuka's (vivid red robe) as we danced in circle galloping in the rhythm of their voices. It was surreal experience as we enter and see how simple their life can be. The whole family (4-6 pax) would be sleeping in a very small dark hut where they can still spare 1-2 guests in another small bed. The light is natural as they do not use electricity. They produce fire based on the friction they created from spinning stick to a wood. They built fences to ensure no wild animals go run into their small village and endanger their herd of sheep. They all have smiles on their faces and are very welcoming. In the end, we did purchase some unique memento to support the welfare of the tribe. I got a zebra designed black stone necklace while my brother got the more expensive lion tooth necklace.

Finally, I challenged the Prince of Maasai with a 100m sprint. I was succeeding into triumph initially but stumble with too much pressure from the audience that ended up with a great fall. I had bruises all over. My left arm has this permanent mark that reminds me of that crazy experience challenging a Kenyan, a prince nonetheless.

Back to Nairobi. Sick of it and literally. 
We were back in Nairobi after the three day safari. I got so many things planned but I had to cancel because I caught up with sickness. Its more of exhaustion more than anything else. I stayed at home and recuperated. For our last two days, we visited Westlands. A far more affluent area in Nairobi with all the shops. And of course the Masai Market and bargained hard for souvenirs.

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