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Wednesday, 9 March 2011

African Massage

03.04.2011 – 03.06.2011 (Internet was again down for a couple days)
While half the team decided to travel to the coastal town of Mombasa, six of us remained in Nyeri for a relaxing weekend.  Saturday afternoon we departed for a local national park about 20 minutes away, and term African Massage was coined.  Riding in a large off road vehicle, the turn off the paved road on to a dirt road seemed like any other African excursion.  However, the next turn off the dirt road and onto a small path with multi-sized rocks and hills was much different as we were tossed within the vehicle for a couple miles deep into the park.  Our guide greeted us just after the gate near a small lake, which provided water to some of the park’s animals.  This was a much different experience than our safari drives the prior week.  When riding in a safari van, the animals would look at you for a second or two, and then go about their business grazing, without any hesitation or fear being within 20 feet of them.  However, while walking, the gazelles, impalas, giraffes, and zebras constantly monitored our every step, and never let us get within 200 yards before running off into the wilderness.  As we proceeded to the cave, I could sense multiple pairs of eyes hiding in the trees and bushes watching my every move. Although most are harmless, the guard carried a World War I era shotgun to frighten away any buffalo, and the only other of the big 5 in the park were leopards, which are very shy.  As we climbed down the side of the cave, the temperature became cooler, and we could see we were not the only ones who have visited this area as there were some left over animal bones and a leopard’s paw print.  We climbed back out of the cave, and explored the rest of the park grounds, trying to chase down giraffes and zebras for the perfect picture.

Sunday morning we woke up early to start a day of hiking up Mt. Kenya which seemed like a tough journey, but I thought our chances were better by foot than the van that dropped us off at the gate, which belonged in a museum.  With another complementary African massage, windows rattling to the point of near shattering, and free air conditioning and dust from a van door that would not completely shut, I enthusiastically leaked from the vehicle I felt was ready to crumble once we arrived at our destination.  Half way up our 6 mile hike to the first resting station at 10,000 feet, with the afternoon sun beginning to beat down on us, I continued to asked myself why am I doing this, but pressed on.  Next to our path, you could see remnants of trees knocked down by the elephants as they created their own homemade walkway to the pastures of fresher food.  On this hike, our guide did not carry a gun, but just left us with helpful advice to run zig zags if we happen to cross the path of an elephant or buffalo.  Being that the oxygen is thinner at 2 miles above sea level, an uphill climb with a backpack full of water and camera equipment, and the worlds largest land mammal with tusks bearing down on me, the last challenge I need is to make my escape route even longer by running back and forth.  Fortunately for the elephant, our paths did not cross, and we arrived at the first check point exhausted, but unharmed and headed back down the same path after a quick lunch break.  We were greeted back at the gate by our van, which initially would not start, but eventually got us home.

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