Kenya and Tanzania Trip Journal, Oct-Nov 1996

Liza’s verbose trip journal, Kenza and Northern Tanzania, Oct 28-Nov 17, 1996

Monday, October 28 – Los Angeles to Rome

I’d always wanted to go to Africa, Kenya in particular. Exactly when I knew I wanted to go, I am not certain; most likely in elementary school after reading Joy Adamson’s Born Free. I didn’t remember much about the book except that Elsa the lioness had adorable cubs. Elsa was undoubtedly long gone, and Kenya’s colonial existence had given way to independence in 1963, but my mental image of Africa remained, a romantic image of grasslands, wild animals, thorn trees, and coffee plantations.

So when the chance arose for Robert and I to go, we jumped, despite the fact that we said we’d stick closer to home that year. And on a clear autumn night we were finally on our way. We rejoined Olga Clarke, with whom we traveled to Costa Rica in 1991, along with some other folks from Los Angeles Audubon for three weeks in Kenya and Tanzania for bird and game watching. Essentially this was a first trip to Africa for both of us, for although Robert traveled to Egypt in 1978, he contended that it almost didn’t count as an “African” trip.

In the preceding weeks we were suitably inoculated and vaccinated, against typhoid, hepatitis, cholera, meningitis, measles/mumps/rubella, and malaria, not to mention that we had sprayed our clothing thoroughly with a long-lasting tick repellent. We were as ready as we were going to get; now we just needed to get there! The long flight path would take us that night from Los Angeles to Milan, then on to Rome; the next day from Rome to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, then to Nairobi, all courtesy of Alitalia. We hoped the Italians ran their national airline better than their trains.

Tuesday, October 29 – Rome

“Benvenuti a Roma” was the greeting as we got off the plane at about 8:30 PM local time.

“Where’s the Ponte Vecchio?” I asked Robert, examining a wall map while waiting for our luggage.

“Florence!” he replied.

Oh well, so geography wasn’t my specialty. We breezed through customs and drove into the city under cover of darkness, although we did see the Colisseum beautifully illuminated on our way in. Overnight was at the Hotel Universo near the Santa Maria Maggiore church in the Esquilino area, and we slept pretty decently to prepare for the next day’s flight to Kenya.

Wednesday, October 30 – Rome to Nairobi

It seemed a shame to leave Rome so quickly, but as we all kept reminding ourselves, ours was an East African tour, not a Rome tour. Nevertheless, we got ourselves up early for breakfast and then went on a walk in the immediate area. Robert had said “there’s history on every corner in Rome,” and he wasn’t kidding! Within a few blocks we visited three beautiful churches, Santa Maria Maggiore, Santa Maria Perpetuo Soccorso, and one other whose name, alas, escaped me. Maggiore was the largest but all were impressive with vaguely Byzantine interiors. I found myself wondering with so many churches so close together, how do Romans decide to which parish they belong?

On the way back to the hotel without any answers, we stopped at a bakery intending to buy a chestnut/chocolate torte, but our pantomime skills weren’t too developed at that moment and we didn’t actually buy anything, although we did seem to get a lot of information about what was in the torte. We loaded up the bus and had a 15-minute stop at the Colisseum on the way to the airport; too short but worthwhile anyway, despite a light rain. “Gladiators” posed out front for the tourists, looking for all the world like USC drum majors.

The flight to Nairobi via Jeddah left Rome after 1:00 PM, so we had a bit of time to pick up chocolate at the duty-free (but still overpriced) shop and reflect upon how Europeans smoke entirely too much. (Meaning, the “non-smoking” section in the airport terminal was a complete joke.)

About 30 minutes before we landed at Jeddah, the flight attendants came through the cabin and informed us that all newspapers, books, and so forth had to be “removed from sight”, and of course, no cameras or binoculars could be used out the airplane windows. It was dark outside anyway, so the latter was not a problem, but the first stricture surprised us a bit. It was explained to us the request was so Saudi ground crew personnel would not be subject to our corrupting Western influences or otherwise be offended as they went through the cabin. We weren’t certain whether a book on birds of East Africa would be considered corrupt or offensive, but didn’t take any chances, putting everything we had away.

Thursday, October 31 – Nairobi

Our plane touched down in Nairobi (surprising a few folks when the altitude display still said 1600+ meters) just after midnight, local time. Some momentary confusion ensued when we were met by a guide whose sign said “St. Louis Audubon”, but we were soon straightened out and went out into the cool night to find our mini-buses. Our driver William greeted us with a cheerful “Jambo”, loaded us into our right-side drive Toyota LandCruiser-like vehicle, and off we went down the deserted-at-that-hour highway to the Safari Park Hotel. Cloud-cover hid most stars, and there weren’t too many lights, making it difficult to see too much initially beyond the semi-battered highway sign pointing the way to Nairobi and Mombasa. (Dervla Murphy in her 1992 book The Ukimwi Road opined that the sign was wishful thinking, one had to be crazy to try to drive to Mombasa, as the pavement disappeared just outside the city limits.)

The Safari Park Hotel was about 25 miles from the airport, and the four-poster mosquito-netted bed was all we had eyes for at that hour.

Dawn came much too quickly, but our reward for dragging ourselves out of bed, after only a few hours of sleep, was the gorgeous view in the early light off our balcony. The grounds of the Safari Park Hotel were like a botanic garden, with agapanthus-lined ponds, lilac and pink bouganvilla, silk oaks, and beautiful yellow-flowering trees. The Sacred and Hadada Ibis were very much in evidence, noisily circling overhead, as well as numerous Black Kites.

The buffet breakfast at the hotel’s Café Kigwa was enormous, a full English spread plus crepes, omelettes made to order, fruit, a wide variety of rolls, sweets, cold cuts, etc. …not to mention passionfruit juice and really excellent coffee.

We birded the grounds after breakfast, not straying too far, chasing mostly sunbirds. A “briefing” by a representative of Park East Tours followed, who taught us a few words of Swahili (including hakuna matata, or “no worries”), and warned us about going to the market place (“full of street boys, con men and women with babies on their backs, all wanting money – say NO! and they will leave you alone”). I had wanted to go to the market, or to Karen Blixen’s house (of Out of Africa fame, even if it was a silly colonial thing to do), but in the end, having been assured that we would have other opportunities to shop, we decided it would be safer and more instructional to take the city tour and visit the Natural History Museum.

Nairobi was a city of contrasts, from what we could tell from the minivan as we hurtled through traffic and past throngs of people. About two million people lived in the city and it seemed like most of them were outdoors when we took our drive. There were business people walking purposefully, unemployed people sitting around, people working small farm plots just off the main road. We were overtaken a few times by Mercedes Benzes and BMWs as we ourselves sped by ramshackle kiosks, people struggling to drag heavy carts up hill, and people walking bent double carrying large loads of firewood. Despite the wide streets, traffic was a mess, and when the going was slow we were warned not to let people reach through the windows to steal things (and a few did try). Some areas were positively gridlocked and judging from the number of trucks and private, brightly painted buses belching thick black smoke, controlling air pollution was not high on the local agenda.

The colonial-era influence on the city was still evident in certain buildings and road layouts (e.g. the roundabouts), but the infrastructure looked in decline; signs were rusty, paint chipped and peeling, etc. Some new buildings were being built but overall it seemed the city had probably seen more prosperous days. We did zip past the Holy Family Cathedral, which is where we thought Robert’s cousin Ulrich Weissler married wife Judy, pre-independence. We were taken to a shop, the Collectors’ Den, to get an overview of what to look for in wood carvings and gems, and bought ourselves a mask for the wall and a couple of bracelets for the girls. Much of the remainder of the afternoon was spent in the Museum of Natural History.

Friday, November 1 – Nairobi to Tanzania

We left the bustle of Nairobi at 7:30 AM, but that wasn’t early enough to avoid the crush of cars, bicycles, over-packed buses, stinky trucks, and people walking the clogged the main (only?) route south out of the city. It took about an hour to negotiate the chaos; finally we broke loose past the railroad station and were headed towards the Tanzanian border.

Once away from the urban area, the land seemed to dry up quickly into a parched, dusty desert dotted with thorn trees. “Dust devils” twisted in place and virtually the only color to be seen, other than the tans of dried grasses and dirt, were the bright red robes of Masai men herding their cattle from one dusty spot to the next. We passed several police checkpoints with nasty, spiked tire-killer barricades, and a few small villages, whose businesses were all either butcher shops or bars and all of which sported bright-turquoise blue paint jobs and Coca-Cola signs. By about 11:00 AM we reached Namanga, on the border, which except for the barricades, national flags hanging limply in the morning air, and loads of colorfully-dressed people trying to sell stuff to us as we walked to the immigration shack, was fairly unremarkable. We dutifully packed ourselves in the shack on the Kenyan side, enduring the heat and body odor of too many people in too small a space, to be processed as leaving. Re-negotiating the throng of persistent would-be sellers to get back in our minivan, we drove through a narrow no-man’s-land into Tanzania. There no throng awaited our passage, and unlike the Kenyan side, the immigration office was both nearly empty and cool. Our passports acquired the appropriate official stamps, we transferred our bags and ourselves to a “new” minivan operated by Ranger Safaris, and we were off again with a Tanzanian guide named Israel and a new driver, Zoya.

We had about a two-hour drive to our lunch stop at Arusha (or “Arusha town”, as Zoya called it), but took a little longer because of the roadside birds and wildlife. Zebras popped up all along the route, along with impalas, Thomson’s gazelles, and hartebeest, and as everything still seemed new to all of us, we stopped often.

At Arusha the landscape brightened again, looking positively lush. We ate a big lunch at Mountain Village, an impossibly nice-looking resort where we would stay our last night in Tanzania a few days hence.

Arusha was Tanzania’s fourth largest city, but I doubt we would have guessed that driving through. We stopped outside town at a Cultural Heritage center, really just an excuse to shop without being mobbed while the drivers gassed up the minivans. Inexplicably our minivan was swapped completely (Ranger Safaris’ headquarters were in Arusha); we never did hear why.

We were finally on the road again at 4:30 PM, if it could be called a road. We jolted and bounced our way across a 45-km swath scraped across the landscape, dodging truck-sized potholes and generally getting a good bone-rattling. The goal was the Lake Manyara Hotel on top of the west wall of the Rift Valley, literally on the edge of the escarpment. It was a gorgeous setting near a lake that Roger Tory Peterson purportedly called “the jewel of Kenyan birding”, but we were too tired by the time we arrived to take much in. Reviewing the bird list after dinner, we did see many good birds that day, including more sunbirds, Tawny Eagle (the first of many), several vultures, Helmeted Guineafowl, Secretary Bird, and Ostrich.

Saturday, November 2 – Lake Manyara to the Serengeti via Ngorongoro Crater

A rock-induced flat tire, mid-afternoon en route to the Serengeti, gave me a chance to get the day’s activities down on paper. Morning at the Lake Manyara Hotel gave us a spectacular view down into the Rift Valley from our perch atop the escarpment, although our attention was diverted several times by a troop of baboons! Soon we were headed back down, slowly, into the valley to Lake Manyara, stopping many times to look at vultures, baobab trees, and assorted smaller birds, then beating hasty retreats when the local children would get too persistent in their asking for pens. (I kicked myself many times for not bringing a bunch of pens with me to give away.)

As we entered Lake Manyara National Park, the vegetation became very lush, and we saw blue monkeys and more olive baboons. We wound down the road past the baboons when Robert said, “Look! There’s a BIG animal!”. We all looked and saw…a baby elephant! Or more accurately, probably a teenager, standing calmly munching the leaves in the shade. What a difference it made to see one where it really belonged and not in a zoo.

As if that weren’t enough, a little further down the road were warthogs and then a number of Masai Giraffe (with leaf-like spots) towering over our vehicle. We watched them for a bit, then moved on out to shallow ponds which were inhabited by hippos, huge lumps semi-submerged, snorting and bellowing, with Red-billed Oxpeckers picking away at insects on their backs. Wildebeest crowded the far edge of the pond, an African Fish-Eagle (think Bald Eagle, only better) surveyed the scene from above, and water birds were everywhere: Gray-crowned Cranes, African Snipe and Jacana, Blacksmith and Spur-winged Plover, Black Crake, Squacco Heron. We could hardly keep pace with all we were seeing. Giraffes continued to “neck” in the background as we went crazy trying to identify everything.

We could have stayed there for hours, but had a lot of ground to cover, and had to keep moving. Lunch (late again) was at the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, overlooking the crater floor 2000 feet below us; what a sight! It was difficult to grasp the size of the caldera. It appeared immense, dry grasses interspersed with salt flats, and lush, greener areas. Maribou Stork hovered overhead, and we could see herds of something far below, mere specks in the distance.

We didn’t go down into the crater that day – we would do that in a couple day’s time (in four-wheel drive Land Rovers) – but instead pushed onward to the Serengeti. The Ngorongoro Conservation Area stretched at least an hour’s drive away from the crater’s rim into the grasslands. In the distance a storm veiled the horizon, and we saw many antelope (Thomson’s gazelles, Grant’s gazelles, and impalas) bounding away from the road as we bounced and rattled past. A couple of stocky hyenas loped along while the Thomson’s kept a wary lookout. Wildebeest (also known as gnus) lumbered across the road, looking very ungainly with their high shoulders and spindly legs; a Golden Jackal was evident in the distance, and a bunch of mongoose skittered past us, too. We could see practically from horizon to horizon, across the open dry grasslands waiting for the spring rains.

Soon lights in the rapidly-approaching darkness gave away our destination and lodgings for the next two nights, the Seronera Wildlife Lodge, nestled in a large kopje, or rocky outcropping, a characteristic feature of the Serengeti Plain. It was too dark to get a very good look around, but as I sat and wrote I could hear warthogs, and something else calling eerily in the night – a hyena perhaps?

Sunday, Nov. 3 – Serengeti

Morning came very early, not so much because of the hyenas and warthogs, but more for the unidentified bird singing its lungs out at 4:00 AM. Perhaps he was just telling us to get up and not miss the spectacular sunrise. Our east-facing window pointed us to a rosy-pink sky against which the acacia trees were silhouetted.

We left the lodge before breakfast, at 6:15 AM, to go on an early “game run” (but in our case, it was more of a “bird run”). We didn’t go too far, but still saw giraffe, hippo (who looked like a big rock, until he moved!), warthog, gazelles, impala, baboon, topi, and wildebeest…not to mention an immature African Fish Eagle, African Hoopoe with his comical crest, Paradise Flycatcher with long tail streaming behind him, drongos, rollers, cordonbleu…sometimes it was too much to take in at once! The tops were popped up on the minivans so we could stand up and get better views, and we attempted to communicate between vehicles with small walkie-talkies. Although most of the time it was easier to call out the windows to each other.

We returned to the lodge for a late breakfast, and were able to get a better look at the place. It was literally built in and around a kopje of very large boulders, with the restaurant perched atop one of the larger boulders. Power was via generator, which seemed to have about a one-second cycle as the lights pulsed continuously. Rock Hyrax and some mongoose cavorted outside our window while large pink-and-purple Agama Lizards basked on the rocks. And all around there were acacias with some truly wicked thorns and the characteristic flat-topped shape.

Our post-breakfast drive at 10:00 AM took us further out specifically to look for larger animals. Like vultures zeroing in on a kill, we followed a couple of other white tourist minivans to where another was stopped near a pair of lions, a large male and his mate. The lions stared at us nonchalantly, mouths agape, walked around the vehicles, and lay down in their shadow. Eventually the lions tired of us and our cameras, and moved on through the grass toward a suddenly-alert herd of zebras.

We moved on as well, picking up many more good birds plus hippo, crocodile, and more lions – this time a group of four or five lionesses, mostly asleep, under a thorn tree. More giraffes moved along elegantly, nibbling from the thorn trees, and a small herd of elephants – females and juveniles – crossed the road in front of us. It was warming up by this time, and we could see heat waves shimmering on the horizon. But the birds remained active, such that at any given time half the group was calling out sightings with the other half shouting “where?!!”. It was with some difficulty that we dragged ourselves back to the lodge for a late lunch.

Several hours later, we left on our third game run of the day.

“Should we go for birds, or big cats?” asked Olga’s husband, Herb. “I say cats,” he continued, “and the birds will follow.” We couldn’t argue with that logic, so it was down the dusty road again, by now somewhat familiar ground, then off to the northwest across the plain to the acacia-studded Banagi Hills. It had rained in that area earlier in the afternoon, and the red dirt track we followed was smooth and compacted, so I stood up for much of the drive, surveying the landscape through the van’s pop-top. I could see wildebeest and some zebra moving against the hills, and more hyenas loping past us. A dry, almost cool breeze blew over me as we drove, and the gazelle and impala continued to bound along off the track, almost like dolphins riding the bow wave of a boat.

A little past the hills, we turned off into an area where our driver Zoya had heard cheetahs had been seen earlier, but no such luck for us, there were just vultures hanging about. (The driver network was interesting; most of these fellows have been doing this for awhile, covering the same ground multiple times each season. Whenever we’d see another van, invariably the two drivers would approach each other, exchange a burst of Swahili, and then move on.) We were at least able to get out of the minivans at the cheetah-less area, and Zoya beckoned me to follow him. Dutifully I followed him to spot overlooking another part of the river, where lay an absolutely enormous crocodile! The beast easily was larger than any estuarine crocs we had seen in Queensland, Australia; he had to be a good 20 feet in length. Only his eyes gave away that he was alive; the rest of him was utterly motionless.

From there it was back to the lodge; the next day we would head out of Serengeti back to Ngorongoro Crater. I stood up on the drive “home” and watched the sunset behind me, glowing orange and sending fingers of rosy light through the partial cloud cover. The animals were gathering themselves for another night; a pack of hyenas, 10 strong, were on the move, scoping out the evening’s hunting prospects. It suddenly struck me how timeless this place was, and I felt very insignificant passing through.

Monday, Nov. 4 – Serengeti to Olduvai Gorge to Ngorongoro Crater

The previous night I dreamed I had grown up in East Africa. No doubt this was a result of my reading more of Beryl Markham’s childhood in her West with the Night, and helped along by the rhythmic sounds of the dance troupe performing in the lodge lounge as I fell asleep. Whatever the cause, it was a satisfying, if unrealistic, dream, and I felt I belonged there.

A gully-washer of a rainstorm chased us away from the Serengeti’s Naabi gate following a full morning of bird- and wildlife-watching and a picnic lunch. The rain felt cool and inviting, dumping on us and another pride of lions (this one with small cubs), and helped keep the dust down. But as quickly as the rain came, it was gone, and we were rattling about in the dust again. Zoya’s theory of driving was that if we went too slow, we would feel the bumps more, so he drove very fast and we jolted hard across the heavily washboarded road.

Climbing up from the Serengeti, our afternoon stop was at Olduvai Gorge (aka Oldupai). A small stone “site museum” had some displays and photographs describing the area both in geologic and anthropologic terms, plus they had casts of the various footprints, some hominid, discovered in one of the ashy layers at nearby Laetoli. Adjacent to the museum were a couple of shady huts from which one could look down into the gorge.

It would have been nice to explore the gorge, but time was slipping away, so we pushed on to a Masai village, where people greeted us warmly, sang and danced (the dance mostly consisting of exhibitions of vertical jumping), and allowed us into their huts. The huts were circular; the basic construction technique was to have a double-framework of sticks holding stacks of rocks, over which mud and dung was smeared until a smooth, hard surface was achieved. A thorn fence was built around the entire compound, both to keep the cattle in at night and the predators out. The huts themselves were small, with dark, smoky interiors. Masai life would not seem to be for the faint of heart. I imagined that we looked pretty silly to them with our trousers tucked into our socks to ward off biting insects, camera equipment and binoculars dangling from our necks, and other tourist paraphernalia.

Too soon we had to leave, and continued on to Ngorongoro Crater, where we stayed at the Ngorongoro Wildlife Lodge on the crater’s rim. Our room, as probably most did, overlooked the crater itself, quite a spectacular view. Before the sun set, we were able to see a Tawny Eagle soaring far below us, a huge herd of wildebeest in the distance, and an absolutely enormous flock of quelea moving from tree to tree on the crater floor, looking for all the world like a huge amoeba.

Tuesday, Nov. 5 – Ngorongoro Crater

Election day! We were both happy to have missed the last throes of campaign rhetoric.

It wasn’t such a good night for Robert, who got rather violently ill around 3:00 AM. Either the salads (which he had been advised multiple times not to eat) or dessert (some kind of custard) were to blame; who knows. Fortunately one of our group, Clyde Bergman, was a doctor (fascinating guy – grew up in Kenya, speaks multiple languages including Kikuyu), and he gave Robert some antibiotics. We hoped they would take hold by the next morning.

Robert’s being under the weather meant he was unable to go on the day’s excursion into Ngorongoro Crater. We loaded ourselves into 4WD Land Rovers for the day, better to negotiate the steep, switchback roads down to the crater floor and back. I rode with Herb, Olga, and Clyde.

We reached the dusty crater floor around 9:30 AM, having stopped many times en route. The crater rim was over 7000 feet, the floor at about 5000 feet, and we passed Masai with their cattle herds going down. Some of the Masai thought our binoculars were cameras and looked decidedly unpleased, so we didn’t dally in any one place too long.

From the floor, it was much more evident that one was in a crater, with the walls towering above all around. The floor seemed immense – about 120 sq. kilometers – and was like a mini-world unto itself: a treeless desert-like area, a cool, yellow-bark acacia forest, dry soda lake, marshes, rivers…all could be found within the crater.

As well as dust. Lots of dust, extremely fine, soft dust about the consistency of baby powder, which blew in the open top and windows of the Land Rover and coated everything.

But to be able to see an abundance of wildlife, we could tolerate the dust. Huge herds of wildebeest and zebra grazed on the parched grass, eagles (including a Long-crested Eagle), vultures, and kestrels soared overhead, and hippos wiggled their ears and heaved their bulk through the shallow pools. Jackals and hyenas were seen here and there, and the real prize of the day, a black rhino, surveyed the domain from atop a small rise in plain view. (How do you tell a black rhino from a white rhino? Not by color, but by the shape of their mouth.) Lots of shorebirds were in the mudflats, too – we found ourselves stopping very often to puzzle out one little bird after another, or to let Herb and Clyde photograph particular birds.

Clyde called the crater the Garden of Eden, and I had to agree. We emerged from the crater after 5:00 PM, sunburned, dusty, tired, and happy.

Wednesday, Nov. 6 – Ngorongoro to Arusha

To my surprise, Robert looked positively chipper in the morning, quite a change from the previous night when he was a picture of sad-eyed misery. It was a shame that he missed the day in the crater, but a relief that he rebounded so quickly.

We packed up and left the Ngorongoro Wildlife Lodge at 8:30 AM, after breakfast and some garden birding; the sight of Golden-winged Sunbirds in the purple Mexican Bush Sage was beautiful in the early light. We were back in the minivan with our van-mates Wil & Lois Fulmer, and Bob & Libby Scott. Wil and Lois were very nice, in their mid-50’s, and good birders. The Scotts were much older and were basically clueless…”doddering” for Libby and “peevish” for Bob were the adjectives that sprung to my mind. They always seemed to be two steps behind what the rest of us were doing – but considering they were in their 70’s, it was nice that they were even with us!

The road to Arusha didn’t seem quite as bone-rattling as it did the day we came down to Ngorongoro, but it was still bad, and we often slowed to 10 kph to skirt the extra-rough spots. Although Tanzania also drives on the left, that rule was irrelevant on the dusty scar of a road; instead all the vehicles simply took the best path they could, zigzagging back and forth and dodging one another. Zoya joked that we should not tell anyone about the roads, or they may not visit! It was true that Tanzania was not for the “I must travel in total comfort” types, but more for adventurous (or more forgiving) travelers, in which case the roads wouldn’t matter a whit. Nevertheless, the reappearance of pavement outside Arusha was a welcome sight, and we literally laughed and cheered when the tires hit the smooth surface.

Lunch, not to mention our night’s accommodation, was at Mountain Village outside Arusha with its beautiful landscaped gardens, thatched roof cabins, and a nice view of adjacent Lake Duluti. Mt. Kilimanjaro loomed nearby, but the summit was shrouded in clouds. A busy open-air market lay just up the road, past coffee fields shaded by silk oaks. But seeing as we had already viewed a colorful Masai market at Kisongo en route, plus I had bought some blue-and-purple batik for Mo and Margaret at Oldonyo, Robert and I decided to laze about our cabin in the afternoon instead of venturing out.

Mountain Village was gorgeous, but was so very different from how “regular” people lived; the huge gap in standard of living between residents and tourists was very noticeable. The flower-covered wall around the compound sported broken glass along the top, no doubt to discourage uninvited visitors.

We took a long “guided” walk around Lake Duluti – “guided” because the fellows with us really knew very little. Children shouted “Jambo, mzungu!” as we passed. We saw an African Fish Eagle soaring overhead, and Great Cormorant; and for a brief moment the clouds parted and we got a real look at Mt. Kilimanjaro. Olga (by now nicknamed “Mama Olga Buzzard” by the drivers, since Olga sounded like “Augur” (Buzzard)), Herb, and Robert took a slow, deliberate approach to the walk; I felt like going a little faster, and caught up with the bulk of the entourage, who were basically blasting down the path without really looking at anything. The walk meandered up and down a lot, and I managed to stab a thorn into my finger while scrambling over a large, fallen tree. “It will get infected,” predicted Dr. Clyde, “everything in Africa gets infected.” I hoped not.

Thursday, Nov. 7 – Arusha to Nairobi

This day was a transit day; we packed up and headed north to Nairobi. The border crossing at Namanga was less zoo-like the second time, and I bought a red Masai blanket for $20. I could have gotten it for $10, but didn’t really feel like haggling. We arrived back at the Safari Park Hotel around 1:00 PM. It seemed like more than a week had passed since were last there, and after driving through the Nairobi bustle, the hotel (and its Tusker beer at the Café Kigwa) was a welcome oasis.

We had a briefing by our Kenyan (Kikuyu) guide, James Ngethe, in the late afternoon, and dinner at the almost too-elegant Tamarind restaurant in the city that evening.

Oh, and the election results were in (word obtained from our driver, Fred): President Clinton was re-elected, but Congress remained Republican. The election was front-page news in the Kenyan newspaper The Nation.

Friday, Nov. 8 – Nairobi to Sweetwaters Tented Camp

A small bunch of our group, now totaling 19 with the addition of 7 more the previous day, was up early for a 6:30 AM walk about the grounds of the Safari Park Hotel. It had rained quite hard overnight but it was cool and dry when we went out, and we picked up more good birds, including Grey-capped Warbler, a Northern Masked Weaver working on his nest, and a Common Robin-chat. A Little Sparrowhawk was said to have flown overhead but not everyone was convinced this was so. And the nasal, whiny calls of the Hadada Ibis kept us all amused.

We left the SPH around 9:00 AM, after some van re-arranging by Olga (and a small amount of insistence by Lois and I). Basically we figured since we were not doing the post-trip extension to Kakamega Forest, we should stick together to be in the single van returning to Nairobi at week’s end. [This would also allow us to escape from the doddering Scotts; I at least had had enough of people who see nothing, hear nothing, yet question everything! They were nice enough but I couldn’t take too much more cluelessness.] Herb became our fifth person in the vehicle, and off we went, this time zooming north, and not having to negotiate any bad traffic.

After about an hour being in the lead, we pulled over to let the other three vans catch up.

No sign of them…

Ten minutes into the wait, we theorized why we didn’t see them. Maybe they’d had a flat tire…or passed us and we never noticed?…or went back to the hotel…or stopped to bird…

The wait stretched out to 30, then 45 minutes, and our thoughts got more dire. I thought of bandits; not to far away in Isiolo, a few days earlier, six armed men had stopped a tourist bus, robbed everyone, and stripped them of all their clothes! We had walkie-talkies for inter-van communication, but unfortunately, ours was dead. Herb, Wil, then Robert all tried fixing it, but could (a) only make it work with a “bad” battery, not a new one, and (b) not make it work reliably. Eventually Herb broke the wires off the battery connector completely, and that was that.

The other vans eventually showed, an hour after we stopped. They had stopped to bird, it turned out, and Olga had tried radioing us to no avail. Oh well…hakuna matata!

We passed the town of Thika, whose trees were immortalized in the novel “The Flame Trees of Thika”, and stopped outside the town of Karatina for a bathroom break and to practice fighting off gently persistent would-be sellers. (Them: “How much you pay? How much you make me today?” Me: “Zero!”)

A little further up the road, following a particularly good birding stop near a small lake, we crossed the equator at Nanyuki. A big yellow sign marked the line, which we recognized from photographs of Michael Palin’s Pole to Pole journey a couple years earlier. Despite a light rain, we scurried out to take some photographs. Wil and Lois checked out the demonstrations of the Coriolus effect (water spiraling clockwise north, counter-clockwise south) by some enterprising fellows with funnels and matchsticks, while I just photographed the surroundings, and Bob Scott argued that the “effect” was nonsense, totally dependent on the shape of the vessel and how the water flowed, etc. (That’s a real scientist for you – interjecting reality into the moment.) More people pestered us to shop; Herb told them we would on the way back. “We’ll clean you out!” he chortled, and a woman, evidently believing him, said she would look for us to return. “Ask for Betty!” she insisted.

We passed more small villages en route. Most were very small, you’d miss them if not for the speed bumps and/or the spiked tire killers at either end of the village. Typically a row of decrepit buildings lined each side of the road, and were painted gaudily (turquoise and yellow were favorite colors). Most were butcher shops or bars, although a few other enterprises could be found: pharmacies (duka la dawa), “bookshops” (not really), green grocers, “hair saloons”, and clothing – one of the latter rather improbably called the Fashion Palace. Some businesses were dual-purpose; the New Summertime Tourist Hotel & Butchery was especially memorable. But generally, everything was in disrepair, or else just not built very well to begin with, and poverty was very evident. (Wil joked that one village must be particularly poor, as it had only one speed bump.) Children would run toward the road and wave at us as we drove along; if we stopped in or near a village, people would appear seemingly out of nowhere and descend upon us, children asking in pantomime for pens and candy, people selling “curios” or “antiques” that were “just made” – it was overwhelming at times.

We did eventually make it to Sweetwaters Tented Camp. Situated on the Ol Pejeta ranch near Nanyuki, it was a private game reserve once owned by the Saudi Adnan Kashoggi. After an excellent, albeit late lunch (3:00 PM!) in the colonially-elegant main house, we were shown to our tents – and what tents! These were serious, permanent tents fit for royalty, with stone floors, lights, a real toilet and hot shower…not to mention a king-size, four-poster canopied bed (complete with a rhino-motif comforter)! From the front “porch” we had a view of a nearby water hole; it and the surrounding acacias were full of birds, and a troop of warthogs came to drink as we watched. A low electric fence in a ditch kept us from getting too close to the animals and vice versa. Robert collected some seeds, and staff members walking past all greeted us with hearty Jambo’s.

We had hoped for a night game drive that evening, but another group had already booked the vehicles (and private vehicles were not allowed), so we were out of luck. We did take a short drive in the late afternoon to bird the grounds, and also to visit Murani (Kikuyu for “warrior”), a 23-year old tame black rhinoceros. Robert and I were both photographed with him and got to “pet” him, as much as anyone can pet a rhino, and heeded his handler’s request not to stand in front of him. Some moronic previous visitor had scratched her name into Murani’s hide; I hoped it was far from permanent. His hide was unbelievably tough, and he was quite large (his shoulder was at Robert’s eye-level) and heavy. We could appreciate just how dangerous an angry rhino in a full charge could be.

The day ended with us sprawled in our tent, thinking of the day’s birds (including Common Waxbill, Green and Marsh Sandpipers), and listening to the sounds of the African night. The temperature cooled off rapidly, and although we initially thought the hot water bottles placed in the bed would make us too warm, we were soon thankful for their presence.

Saturday, Nov. 9 – Sweetwaters to Samburu

I started the day miffed at the thought of a missed night game drive; another group had booked the only two vehicles allowed, but a very few of our party managed to get included. I tried not to say anything about the selection process and instead remember hakuna matata.

Leaving Sweetwaters, we stopped at a wood carvers’ co-op, where Robert bought a small rhino for 150 Ksh (about US$3). Soon enough we were driving up into the cultivated central Kenyan highlands. Green fields stretched on either side of the road and as we neared the highest point – 8300 feet – the clouds parted and we had a reasonably decent view of Mt. Kenya.

We then dropped down 5000 feet to Samburu, and were back in a lowland acacia scrub environment. We had a few stops en route for birds and saw Acacia Paradise Whydah and Chestnut Weaver, among other things. I thought James led us through someone’s field at one stop; most of us felt we shouldn’t be there, and tried to be careful not to stomp on the new plants, hoping nobody would get upset with us. One of our group tried to rouse interest in “a different red bird with a streaky throat on a mud nest”…none of us saw it, but we were all pretty convinced it was a Striped Swallow. She didn’t believe us and wanted us to wait and look for the bird, but most of us ignored her; in fact, we tried to ignore her on most of the trip, as she was basically irritating and misidentified nearly everything she saw!

After the nice paved road over the mountains, we hit dirt again, about 45 km worth to the Samburu Serena Lodge. This lodge was another very nice place; after a great but late lunch (good curry!) we retired to our own cabin facing the river. The nice big ceiling fan and open screened “windows” kept us cool, and we held a mosquito/vaporizer thing on the wall in reserve for the evening.

On our late afternoon game drive, we saw a cheetah! After initially just lying on the ground, it got up and walked parallel to the road a ways, marked a tree, and sauntered off. What a gorgeous creature.

We got a Verreaux’s Eagle-owl on the return to the lodge, just on the river, but as it was very dark, he was difficult to see.

Sunday, Nov. 10 – Samburu

The early afternoon light filtered through the acacia leaves to where we sat in folding wood and leather chairs, somewhere in the Samburu area (“in the boonies,” according to James). A light breeze wafted over us, causing the weaver nests in the trees to sway gently, and I tried hard not to fall asleep. We had just finished our outdoor, champagne breakfast under the trees, not thinking too much about the pride of lions mostly sleeping not even ¼ mile from us. Grouped together like so many wildebeest in the shade, we collectively reviewed the bird list for the last few days. Or at least, Robert followed the review, which went by plate and number in the Collins Illustrated Checklist book. James called out the birds (“you’ve seen number 12…”) while the drivers quietly packed up the detritus of our meal.

We had been out since 6:30 AM, driving the Samburu game reserve and then going outside for the picnic, since there was no leaving the vehicles while inside the reserve. A Martial Eagle posed obligingly for us atop an acacia, being a bit harassed by a pair of Gabar Goshawks. Violet Woodhoopoes swooped through the trees, woodpecker-like, as well as an Abyssinian Scimitarbill. Another tree seemed full of terriorial-minded sunbirds; an Eastern Violet-backed repeatedly fought off a Scarlet-chested and a Shining, and a Hunter’s popped in for good measure.

Further down the road, a grouping of white vans with people pointing and gesturing signified a good find. Our driver, Fred, wisely circled to the other side and had us keep our eyes on an incautious Dik Dik. Soon enough, a leopard roused itself from under a shady bush and half-heartedly lunged towards the Dik Dik, but the latter easily bounded away (although its escape was nearly blocked by the vans). The leopard strolled away casually and flopped down again in the shade, out of sight.

Our planned breakfast was really more of a lunch, as we ate it nearly at noon. But nobody seemed to mind, and it was lovely sitting in the filtered acacia shade. I wandered off once to commune with nature, after reconfirming our position relative to the snoozing lions. (“Robert,” I said, “if you hear me scream or a lion roar, I leave all my worldly possessions to you.”) It had rained a little earlier, but as we sat the sky was a beautiful blue with big fluffy white clouds drifting across.

On the way back to the lodge, we revisited a tree in which we had seen the remains of a Grant’s gazelle earlier. This time, the culprit, a gorgeous leopard, was in the tree guarding his prize. It took some strength to haul a gazelle into a tree, and as we ogled the leopard, I thought it felt good to be inside a vehicle.

Monday, Nov. 11 – Samburu to Lake Nakuru

Despite continued caution at mealtimes, I awoke not feeling quite 100%. I pumped a handful of vitamins and some Imodium into me and hoped for the best.

The day was another long transit day. Except for a couple of early stops, we pushed on to Lake Nakuru, going back up into the central highlands, then west (more or less) to Nyahaururu, then down to Nakuru after skirting the escarpment looking down into the broad Rift Valley.

I slept for much of the drive, but my stomachache and fever persisted, so I visited Dr. Clyde and got some antibiotics. One good thing about these minor infections: it supposedly took very little to cure them, as the different strains weren’t resistant to antibiotics at all. My fingers certainly were crossed!

Tuesday, Nov. 12 – Lake Nakuru

I didn’t feel substantially better that morning, and figured I wouldn’t for maybe 24 more hours, but I joined our troop for the day’s activities anyway. We left our lodgings, Sarova Lion Hill, after breakfast, and drove down to the shore of Lake Nakuru for an up-close look at the multitudes of flamingos. From a distance the flamingos appeared as a pink smear across the shore; as we approached the smear resolved into thousands of feeding birds. They were mostly Lesser Flamingos, having dark pink bodies and dark bills, but here and there a few Greater Flamingos stood out, looking almost white against the pink throng, pink bills with black tips shining in the sunlight. Some Cape Buffalo eyed us warily from a distance, but soon lost interest and plodded away. We saw cheetah tracks in the mud of the shoreline, along with gazelle, buffalo, and waterbuck tracks, and lots of bedraggled ex-flamingo feathers.

Leaving the shoreline, we drove slowly through the yellow-bark acacia forest, seeing cuckoos and numerous smaller birds. A short winding drive landed us atop a reef-like escarpment, where we had a beautiful panorama view of the lake, and were able to pick out several rhinoceros in the distance.

By 1:15 PM we had driven back down and explored the forest further, and had seen Rothschilds Giraffes (“rare Rothschilds Giraffes,” as Wil kept reminding us, cheerfully) before stopping for lunch near Malikia Falls. A Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater greeted us in the clearing as we picked up our box lunches then dove back into the minivan seeking refuge from a sudden (but brief) rain shower. When we re-emerged, some folks tramped off through the grass to look for more birds; I strolled over to the falls. Hoards of butterflies came out after the rain, the sky was again blue; African Paradise Flycatchers and Red-headed Weavers swooped in the treetops…all in all, it was a lovely setting.

On the way back to the lodge, we found lots of White-fronted Bee-eaters, whose best feature was actually a shining red throat. Lois had seen a bee-eater as we were leaving our picnic site, but the rest of us didn’t pick up on him, so we were pleased to get great looks at them on the way back. Also another Long-crested Eagle (and Robert’s first, since he missed the one in Ngorongoro) popped up.

At lunch time, I talked with our driver Fred a little about Kenyan politics. The headline in The Nation newspaper blared news of a violent attack on people in a meeting hall by men armed with pangas (machetes) and clubs. Fred said it was likely political because the police didn’t show for over an hour. A presidential election was set for year’s end and although the incumbent Daniel Arap Moi was fairly well despised, it was unlikely that he would be voted out. (It was a common belief that he personally kept most of the money sent in “foreign aid”; he was said to be the wealthiest African president, and as Fred said, “you must ask yourself, where did he get this money?” On the other hand, Fred was Kikuyu, and Moi wasn’t, so he was already somewhat pre-disposed to think ill of Moi.) Richard Leakey, according to Dr. Clyde, was running against Moi, but the chances of Leakey, a white man, winning were very low indeed.

I asked Fred, if Moi was so despised, why he wasn’t voted out.

“Oh, you see, we Kenyans are very smart,” he replied. “We have a dictatorship, but we have no real problems. All around us are problems. Somalis fight each other, they fight in Rwanda and Burundi, in Zaire, in Sudan – and then they all come here, because here it is stable. We wouldn’t overthrow our government; if we did, where would we go? Not to Somalia, or Rwanda, or Zaire…no, we stay the way we are, it is better.”

The Sarova Lion Hill was another very nice lodge. All of our accommodations have been quite nice, and this one was no exception. Our cozy hillside bungalow gave us a beautiful view of Lake Nakuru down below. The room did have interesting mosquito nets that hung down from the ceiling in a big tube; while we were at dinner each evening, someone would come by the room, turn down the beds, and thoroughly arrange the mosquito nets to engulf each bed, tucked in all around. Getting into bed without disturbing the netting was somewhat of a challenge, but we managed. We had been pretty lucky in terms of bugs on the trip. We each got a few bites at Lake Manyara very early, but none since that time, and we weren’t going to take any chances in the little time we had remaining.

They had good food at Sarova Lion Hill, too; the restaurant cooked up some decent vegetable curries, which I ate despite my stomach discomfort.

The next day we would be off to Masai Mara. Three nights there and we would return home; it was hard to believe the trip was drawing to a close already.

Wednesday, Nov. 13 – Lake Nakuru to Masai Mara

The night passed uneventfully, but morning brought with it more stomach pain, and one look at breakfast pretty much sent me running back to the room. The nausea was quelled by a tiny pill from Dr. Clyde, and when we left Sarova Lion Hill, I rode up front next to driver Fred in case I had to make a hasty exit.

Leaving Lake Nakuru, we passed through the town of Njoro and the surrounding wheat and corn fields as we climbed the Mau Escarpment heading south. The area around Njoro was green and pastoral, and if I hadn’t known beforehand that this was the area where Beryl Markham had grown up, I feel I would have recognized it from her vivid descriptions in West with the Night. We continued up to about 9000 feet before starting the gradual descent to Masai Mara, known thereabouts simply as “the Mara”.

We stopped several times en route: a couple to bird, once for lunch, and once because another of our vans had a flat tire. No real surprise on the flat tire; the “road” was awful, nearly as bad as Tanzania, and often Fred would drive in the dirt track adjacent to the road instead of on the pavement. Actually, there wasn’t much pavement; what was there was a thin veneer of asphalt laid over the earth road bed, and obviously as the asphalt expanded and contracted with changing temperatures, it crumbled. The road was really just a long patchwork of connected potholes, and staying in the dirt was definitely the better plan.

Our drive in toto was about 300 km but with the stops and the questionable road conditions, it was slow going. We entered Mara’s Sereneti gate around 5:00 PM and reached our lodge, Serena Mara, at 6:30 PM.

The Mara being the northern extension of the Serengeti, the landscape seemed familiar, but at Mara the land rolled along gently (instead of the flatness of the southern plains), and the grass was a little higher and greener. We saw a family of young Golden Jackals near the road on the way in, and the sun was setting as we arrived; a good look at the place would have to wait until the morning.

Thursday, Nov. 14 – Masai Mara

The Mara Serena lodge was set high on a kopje overlooking the rolling plains. Sitting on the patio with my Coca-Cola midmorning, the main evidence of tourists on the reserve were the dust plumes, billowing like smoke, thrown up by the vehicles criss-crossing the landscape.

I had quite a different view earlier that morning, however. At 5:00 AM, I roused myself to join Bob and Libby Scott and people from another group for a hot air balloon trip over the reserve. After we had bumped our way down to the takeoff site by 4WD, we watched the crew inflate the two very large balloons with big fans as the sun rose. The 10-12 person baskets lay sideways as the balloons inflated with cold air, then as each “pilot” began heating the air, the balloons rose into the vertical position, the baskets were uprighted, and we clambered aboard.

And before we knew it, we were off! The balloon lifted so gently, floating us over the landscape feeling nearly weightless. Our altitude varied from 30 to 100 feet as we let ourselves be carried by the wind towards the Tanzanian border, while below us the support vehicles gave chase. I stood closest to the burners and it was quite warm; I half-wondered if my hair was getting singed whenever the pilot blasted more heat upwards. He had four propane-driven burners that made quite a racket. The sound sent the wildebeest, gazelles, and warthogs scampering wildly. It was fun to see the running patterns of the different animals. Wildebeest would just bolt, looking panicked and unorganized, wheeling about every few steps. The gazelles bounded away, kicking up their heels, reversing field now and then, never looking back. The warthogs galloped in a straight line, tails sticking straight up like antennae.

As we continued along, below us we could clearly see the braided footpaths through the grass of all the animals. Kori Bustards soared below, quite a sight given they are the largest African bird capable of flight. We saw three Southern Ground Hornbills from above – and they’re huge no matter what angle you see them from. Also visible were lots of bleached bones, mostly wildebeest, it seemed.

When we came back to earth – figuratively and literally – we set down within a few kilometers of the border. For the landing we sat down in the basket, and we bounced (gently) once…twice…dragged a little bit…then slowly, slowly, tipped over onto our backs. Our pilot judged this a “funnest” landing and obligingly took our photographs as we lay in the “astronaut” position. We then climbed out, rather inelegantly in most cases, to find…a champagne breakfast! A chef cooked our omelettes to order as we sipped champagne, sat on our little camp stools and surveyed the territory. Most of the group was a cruise tour that had to leave fairly quickly, and I suspected the elegant outdoor breakfast cooked to order was as “rough” as that group was going to get. (One woman was much more concerned about her fingernails and hair, and how she was going to brag to her friends about where she had been…sigh.) But they were soon gone, and the Scotts and I were able to dally awhile with a young Japanese couple before having a “game drive” back to the lodge.

I had thought that Robert would be at Lake Victoria that morning, but he was at the lodge when we returned. Turned out he went to the airstrip in the morning but there wasn’t any room for him in the small plane; that was the penalty of trying to arrange something extra at the last minute.

We birded the grounds after lunch, then went on another game drive at 3:00 PM. I spotted a Serval (cat); at first I thought it was a bat-eared fox, but just as I was going to say “fox!”, I saw spots and instead yelped, “Cat! Stop!” He ran and hid in a grass clump. We drove slowly toward and around the clump, and saw absolutely nothing; he was very well hidden. “Get your cameras ready now,” said Fred, “you must be focused!” We watched intently as he goosed the motor, then boom! The cat leapt from his hiding place and bounded off, stopping once to look back at us, then was gone in the tall grass.

Fred was in good feline form that day, because he next found us leopard, a big-pawed, green-eyed beauty up in an acacia tree with a headless baby topi. Two other older kills were draped across the branches of nearby trees. Last, but not least: lions. A small grouping (three females, one immature male) was found stretching and lounging in a kopje.

We did see birds that day too, mostly annoying pipits and larks, which we figured one fairly common one to be (finally) Bush Pipits. We also argued some about Steppe vs. Tawny Eagles, convincing ourselves that a dark eagle with a “long” yellow gape extending past the eye was indeed a Steppe.

The day wrapped up with a multi-day bird list review led by James, near a comfortably roaring fire in the lodge’s lounge. The process of the review was slow, and by the time we finished, that darn cruise crowd had completely filled the dining room such that we were told we’d have to wait until well after 9:00 PM for dinner. Some people got fairly irate about the whole thing, but we just got ourselves another beer, said hakuna matata and tried not to stress out over it.

Friday, Nov. 15 – Masai Mara

I woke up early that morning to the sounds of lions. Not quite roaring, but more of a moaning “where are you?” call (one which James had demonstrated to us very convincingly a day or two earlier). It was difficult to tell how close or far they were from the lodge.

This was our last full day together as a group, and what we did was…split up! Two vans of people decided they’d rather concentrate on game, while the other two (including Robert and I) opted, for 1000 Ksh each, to go onto privately-held Masai land in the “Trans-Mara” to try to pick up some West Kenyan species. A Masai man and friend of James (and likely the beneficiary of our visitor fees) acted as our escort as we birded along a hilly, river habitat near an escarpment (near the Ullalulo gate to Masai Mara). We did pick up some good species including Black Saw-wing, Blue Monarch, and Black-and-white Casqued Hornbill.

We rejoined the others at 9:00 AM, not far from the Ullalulo gate, for a positively sumptuous bush breakfast catered by the lodge. Even better than the ballooning breakfast, we enjoyed champagne, omelettes, sausages, breads, fruit, cheeses, and coffee under the open sky. We ate ourselves silly! I supposed in some respect the concept of being served an elegant meal by immaculate waiters with linen and good dishes was a throw-back to Westerners’ “colonial” ideal of Africa, but on the other hand, we thoroughly enjoyed it. And it seemed our drivers did, too!

Our group split again after breakfast. We went back onto the Masai land for more birding, getting Green-backed Woodpecker, Pygmy Kingfisher, Ross’ Turaco, and lots of Yellow Bishops. Back at the Ullalulo gate, we shopped in the curio shop, which we liked because (a) the quality was better than many of the other places we had shopped, and (b) the guy inside basically left us alone. A good combination; I got a necklace, and Robert bought his aunt a wood carving, a bust of a Masai man.

One last game run closed the day.

Both Robert and I enjoyed Mara’s wide open spaces. Although it was technically an extension of the Serengeti (Serengeti in Swahili simply means “grassland”), it was different enough that we were both very glad to have visited “The Serengeti” in Tanzania as well. The Serengeti and Masai Mara seemed timeless to me; I hoped the Kenyans and Tanzanians could keep the fine balance between preservation and ecotourism.

At the end of the flagstone footpath that ran downhill past our room at Mara Serena, a low rock wall marked the southwest boundary of the lodge high atop the kopje. There I sat and watched the sunset. Rays of sunlight broke through the clouds and were like spotlights illuminating patches of the grassland, making the grasses gleam in tawny gold and green flashes before passing into the shadows.

The next day would see us make the long drive back to Nairobi, and then journey home via night flight to Rome and onward to Los Angeles.

But at that moment, I was content to sit and watch the pink-tinged sunset, feel the breeze flow over me and toss leaves about, with nothing to listen to but the sounds of the birds chirping and chattering, and the strengthening wind blowing through the grasses. I had to go home, back to work and attendant responsibilities, and this place would continue as if I had never been there.

And I thought, I want to come back.

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