Kenya (10) – Amboseli
It’s our last day in Amboseli, and it seems to have come around very quickly. We started out with an early game drive, and the intention to try and find the lion we saw last night. We didn’t succeed, but we did find something even more exciting – a group of 3 cheetah. The cheetahs in Amboseli are very shy and so they’re quite an unusual sighting. These 3 were certainly not keen on hanging around, and by the time we stopped the jeep they were already loping off into the distance.
Before long they were nothing more than specks on the landscape. They were so hard to see that we ended up climbing up on top of the vehicle in order to get a better view. By this time the word had got out over the radio that we’d found cheetahs and more vehicles kept racing in… alas, they saw nothing. These were well and truly ‘our’ cheetahs! We tried driving on further in the hope of intercepting the cheetahs, but unfortunately that was the last we saw of them.
After breakfast we had something different planned – a visit to the nearby Maasai village. Of course, we couldn’t not stop when we saw some interesting wildlife en route to the village.
The visit was something we had mixed feelings about. On the one hand it was interesting, and certainly a good opportunity to support the local people, but on the other hand it feels rather uncomfortable to visit a village of people who are all standing around on display for you. Additionally, there was rather an expectation that you would buy things at their market, and we ended up spending about an hour going from one person’s stall to the next, all the while not really wanting much of the goods on offer. The standard way of trade here is negotiation, and that’s not something that either Mum or I are particularly good at.
We were shown around the village by one of the young Maasai men, and I have to say that we had some very interesting discussions. I was particularly amused that when we left he wanted to exchange e-mail addresses. To have the e-mail address of someone that lives in a village with no running water or electricity seems rather incongruous!
After the village we visited the school – one very small building, packed to the brim with children between the ages of about 3 and 6. They were very keen to be photographed, especially one lad who pushed in front of all the others to be in every photo – a bit of a menace for the photographer!
Back to the lodge, where we were running late for lunch. The lodge has really emptied out the last few days, and so the dining room has been mostly empty. When we arrived, one of the waiters told mum that they were getting worried because we hadn’t shown up for lunch yet, and they’d been wondering where we were. We were a little surprised, but thought no more of it. When we sat down, we were told that there was a chef’s special that lunchtime. To our surprise, the waiter brought over a few bowls, each containing a traditional Kenyan dish. It turned out that they’d read the comment form that we’d filled in the night before, where I’d written that much as I’d liked the food so far, we’d hoped to try some Kenyan food. They took the form to the Chef, and he obliged us! The food was good, and very filling. We had a beef stew, spinach and a mixture of potato, maize and beans, accompanied by ugali – a mixture of maize flour and water, cooked fairly solid, which is used to scoop up the rest of the food.
In the afternoon we went for our last game drive. We had a valiant effort to try and find the cheetahs again, but they didn’t want to show themselves. We ended up watching some elephants as the sun set, stopped to photograph a goliath heron in the dusk, and then called it a day.
At dinner this evening there was another surprise awaiting us. We were just finishing our coffee when all the lights were switched off. This had happened on one previous occasion, when a birthday cake was brought out to someone. The cake was brought out as part of a procession of all the kitchen staff, with someone holding a burning torch at the front, and everyone singing. As on the previous occasion, the procession came out and danced around the dining hall. Mum and I thought that it must be for someone in the group at one of the other tables, so we were totally amazed when the cake was brought to our table. It turned out that they’d brought the cake as a thank you for our long stay at the lodge (most people seem to pass through for one or two nights only, so our 4 night stay was quite unusual). The text on the cake means ‘Goodbye and welcome back’. We’ve certainly been made very welcome by the staff during our stay, and we were already very impressed by the trouble they’d taken for us over lunch.