(September 12, 2013) Amboseli
This day we must go to Amboseli as soon as
possible. The leaving time will come by the tasks we missed the
previous day, as we must leave Nairobi with the goodies and appropriate
cards for parks and reserves. We would visit Giraffe Center in our way
out of the city and, if we have time, we could pass by Karen Blixen
We will spend the rest of the day in the car,
lunching in route. We would drive South for a 150 Km until the end of
the country, in the border city of Namanga, there we will take the road
to Amboseli National Park where we will spend all the spare time
exploring the park, watching animals and enjoying the views of Mount
Kilimanjaro until 6 PM when the park gates are closed.
A great dinner will be waiting for us at Amboseli Sopa Lodge, as well as a
swimming pool and a comfortable room.
The day doesn’t start good: while in breakfast I’m
told my car has a flat tyre. It should happen when we were going around
looking for the hotel. But when I’m trying to pay the hotel bill by
card it is refused and I must do it in cash.
I change the wheel after the breakfast. Passing by
Karen Blixen farm is out of the table now. Our plan now is going to the
shopping mall in Langata to solve the problem with the phone and taking
the street with the sign pointing to Giraffe Center. We will try to
solve the rest of the problems in our way.
The shopping mall is pretty modern and there is a gas station
where I’ve read in a sign they can fix tyres, so first thing I do is
taking the wheel as the guy is telling me it is going to be ready in 30
minutes by 200 ksh. Then we go to Saraficom store, where they can fix
my problem with the cell phone. But the problem with the credit card
persists as I cannot use it in any of the three ATMs there. As here is
an exchange office I go to there for getting 200 euros in shillings
with a rate of 112ksh per euro. It is enough for our next expenses.
Somehow, when I ‘m watching how the lady on the other side of the glass
take the big pack of 1000 ksh bills and put it in the counting machine
and, at the moment she clicks the button all the bills are launched to
the ceiling making a rain of money, I’m started to think this trip is
kind of cursed. The young woman takes all the bills, some in the air,
the most of them from the floor, and says to me, embarrassed: “I’ll
count them manually”. I agree by nodding.
We leave the place to the Giraffe Center and
finally feel we’ve started our itinerary. It’s going to be 12 PM, so
the visit must be quick. This is easy as the place is quite small. We
pay 1000 ksh each and go up to the platform where we’re given giraffe
candies. The problem is only one of the five giraffes here is attending
tourists. When our turn comes we can check the voracity of this animal
which, we’re told, eats 65 kilos of leaves per day.
Now we’re definitively leaving Nairobi, but we need to be
back to Langata Road because we cannot find the right road. When we’re
on it, the truck just in front of us cannot take the turn and we leave
the place with a long queue of cars stopped because of that. We won’t
miss these things of Nairobi.
We drive our way to South checking our GPS for not
missing the road connecting to the motorway to Tanzania border. In the
way, we meet the apparently chaotic live in towns.
When we are in the road we were looking for we
meet the first potholes, which I avoid in my driving as well as the
small stones which we think could get another blow in our tyres.
Somehow, the tarmac floor is getting worst and we find places where we
cannot avoid the potholes as they are all along the road. We’re
surprised by seeing our first zebras so soon, but we realize animals
are an important part of this country and we must drive carefully, here
and even in the main motorways, to avoid hitting cows, sheep, goats and
donkeys crossing the roads quite often.
Just before reaching the motorway to Namanga we
stop in a lonely gas station to use the toilets and make the sandwiches
which are our lunch.
The stop is short as we are so out of time. The
time for this afternoon’s safari is getting shorter and shorter, but
the priority is getting the park before 6 PM, as the gates are closed
at this time and we couldn’t get our luxury lodge.
This motorway allow us a high speed
100 Km/h, and it seems we’re reaching Namanga on time. But it couldn’t
be today and I can hear the clear sound of a blown tyre. It is the one
I’ve put this morning and, as a result of that experience, I can change
it by the fixed one in 10 minutes. On that time two Maasai kids have
appeared walking curious about our situation. I’ve confirmed from them
Amboseli gates close at 6 PM and we need to pass through it for getting
the Sopa Lodge. But we’re almost reached Namanga and it’s just 50 Km
from there to the gate, so we can get it before the limit time.
We are in Namanga about 5 PM and don’t leave the
until having the border pass in front of us, when a sign is pointing to
Amboseli National Park 50 Km at left, so we turn and take that way.
But now we’re going to find out something I couldn’t read in any guide:
in this country it is a mistake calculating the distances by
kilometers, it must be done by time, as the main information about
driving to a place is how the road is and 50 Km can be covered in 30
minutes, but can also be3 covered in several hours, as is in this case.
Our speed is 20 Km/h here and it seems like the car is going to break
into pieces. We’re also concerned about not having spare wheel now and
knowing we’re going to be late for the gate.
We drive watching gazelles and zebras and a
sight of Mount Kilimanjaro in the horizon, but we don’t know what is
going to be our future today as it will depend on what the rangers at
closed gate will tell to us. I think we can end this day sleeping at
car in the middle of nowhere or the rangers taking us to some safe
place, but I think is unlikely we’re going to enjoy the dinner buffet
and the big bed at Sopa Lodge.
We finally reach the gate in this sort of
away from the sunset and there is still daylight, but just for some
more minutes. We could see yesterday night comes between 6 PM and 7 PM
in a way that at 7 PM it is dark night, and we’re just 20 minutes to
The ranger can see our desperation, listen my explanation and
answers the local motto: hakuna matata (no problem). They’re going to
open the gate and allow us to drive all through the park by night. I
cannot believe it. They explain us the quickest way in the map, which
is the main road, take our KWS card to mark the entrance and even give
some advices for watching animals tomorrow. The ranger makes a clear
gesture of “give me some money”, which I answer with a 500 ksh bill
asking to share with the other guy as I’m feeling as they’ve saved our
lives. I also ask for a phone number to call in case we get some
problem with the car as we don’t have spare wheel, but they simply
answer nothing is going to happen on that road.
Now we’re looking to a new future: we finally are
going to enjoy our lodge, but before we must cover another 50 Km, at
dark this time and through a park full of big animals, including lions,
leopards, hyenas… At least we’ve been told this road is much better
than the one we’ve just passed.
it is, but not a lot better. At least I can drive at 50 Km/h in some
parts of it. But as safety is the priority I must drive slow, paying
attention to holes and animals. The first of these is a giraffe
crossing the road close in front of us. A hyena cub stands for some
seconds in the middle of the road looking at out lights. It’s totally
dark out there and we can feel more living “things” on the nearby, out
from the car lights. We meet zebras, wildebeest, gazelles… but we’re
not in a safari, but crazy about getting our room and ending this
Sometime before 9 PM we reach the gate in the other side of the park:
we’ve getting in by Meshanani gate and are now in Kimana gate. We
cannot see anybody here and I use the horn, then I hear a scream asking
me to stop it. A ranger woman listen our story, open the gates, says
using horn is forbidden and tells us there are 20 Km to Sopa Lodge. I
also ask her to check if the tyres are fine, it’s not only for the 100
Km of potholes and stones, I’ve got the right wheel in a big hole and
it resulted in a big hit. We haven’t looked at it for fear to the
answer. As far as the car could go forward… She answers is seeing
nothing wrong in the tyres. And we’re almost surprised about it.
We’re in the last stage of a long drive – at least
in time -, but it result in a biggest torture if that was even
possible. What the ranger told us as the best road is something seems
designed for avoiding cars passing over it. I’m sure we would go better
anywhere out of this. On one of these evil configurations in endless
undulation, like in the wave chips, which makes us fear our internal
organs can end each in a different place, our car is taken to the side
of the road. The left part of the car is out of the road, in a lower
level, and when I try to get that side up back to the road the wheel is
slipping and cannot move the car. I go down to look what the problem is
and my wife suffers. The wheel is turn to the direction of the steeped
rise and half buried in sand, so I go back to the car, put the wheel
straight and drive the car bent for a short while until I find an
easier place to go back to the road. It’s been just a fright, but it
makes me drive even slower than before.
It is not until minutes past 10 PM that we arrive
to Sopa Lodge, with a bit of confusion in the way to the lodge as we
could see different tracks in the mud to different places.
All well if ends well. We can take our dinner
buffet and be in our beautiful bungalow. This is a paradise for two
travelers full of dust. We will enjoy it tomorrow as we’ve already
changed the plans for it.