(September 13, 2013) Amboseli
We must wake up early this day as Mount
Kilimanjaro use to be covered since around 10 AM.
We will leave the Sopa Lodge to drive all through
Amboseli National Park from East to West by the Northern part of the
park, where we expect to find the herds of elephants in the swamps.
Then we would drive all the way back from Namanga
to Nairobi direction to leave it just by getting the Maasai Ostrich
farm, in the white point in the center of the map. There we can get a
ride on an ostrich before going on in our way to Naivasha.
We will have our first sight of the Rift Valley
and will go down to it to our goal of spending the night in a banda of Carnelley's
Camp, in the Southern shore of the lake.
It is 370 Km route we can cover in around 8 hours.
We know we will spend the whole day inside the car.
We didn’t set any alarm because we wanted to rest
from the tough last night. I’m woken up at 7 AM anyway. People usually
leave to safari very early because it’s when animals are more active
and, specifically for Amboseli, because Kilimanjaro gets covered by
clouds as the morning pass by, but we’ve already changed the plan for
today to drive directly to Naivasha when we leave the park and lunching
a sandwich on route like yesterday. We got good pictures of the mount
clear yesterday at dusk.
This morning Kilimanjaro looks magnificent and
there are fantastic sights of it from the Sopa Lodge. I walk
exploring the garden and enjoying the views as I’m waiting for my wife
to be ready for going to get our breakfast in the place with the best
When we finish a myriad of birds come to our table
to finish with the crumbs.
We’ve already started our safari, if we understand as “safari” watching
animals: monkeys all around the lodge, some bats sleeping hung from the
tree branches, a frog trying to hide from us… These last discoveries
are pointed by the friendly Maasai taking care of the market in the
lodge. We’ve bought some items from it and end making some pictures
It’s time to face the problems: I’m almost decided
to get into the park without spare wheel when I check we also need to
get fuel and I’m told both things must be done in Kimana, the closest
town, which is 10 Km away, but in the opposite direction.
We go to there to find a small village, after
changing rough road by tarmac, with Kilimanjaro as background. We get
fuel by 113 ksh litre and some teenagers try to help us to find the
garage. One even takes our wheel to carry it to the place, always
expecting a tip in exchange.
The tyre is useless and the mechanic changes it, and the broken air
camera too, with the only help of an iron bar, by the only tyre he has
got there of our right size, which is in its last days. But I prefer
that than nothing.
As I haven’t asked for price before, I’m trying to
press for a fair one by asking to the man the receipt explaining I need
it for delivered to the rental company as they’re going to pay me this
back, but it doesn’t seem to affect as he charges me 4000 ksh by a
We’re finally ready to officially start our
safari. It’s 10h and we take again the damned rough road to Kimana gate
for spending some hours inside the Amboseli Park. A few minutes after the
entrance we can see a herd of wildebeest walking in a perfect line and
some gazelle here and there in a dry landscape full of dust with just
some acacias around. Kilimanjaro is not still covered, but some clouds
are touching it.
But a bit later we find a bunch of life. In the first green
area we meet with hundreds of big herbivores grazing quietly: several
different species of gazelles, wildebeest, giraffes, warthogs, zebras,
elephants… It is a vast terrace and the visual amplitude is so great
that allows seeing from far the dust twisters so typical of this place.
In every junction of Amboseli roads there are stone signs
pointing where each way is going to, which helps a lot in orientation.
We use them to reach the Observation Hill.
The hill emerges from a big surface full of water, with lakes
and swamps, coming from Kilimanjaro snow melting. This area, which is
the one the rangers in the gate from yesterday recommended to us, is
full of elephants, hippos and buffalos in the water among a ton of
birds and the rest of game we’ve already seen before. Some hyenas are
getting a feast with a buffalo corpse at feet of the hill.
There are several buses in the parking area, where there are
the stairs to go to the top. It seems some groups of students are
visiting the place. This is one of the few spots in the park where
people are allowed to get out from the car and we star our climb to the
beautiful views of the top.
Three girls ask us for taking a picture of them just for
checking themselves in the camera LCD. All the students we’re meeting
in their way down back to the buses are dressing uniform. We’re taking
the same way down some minutes later with the plan of taking the way to
the Northern gate and avoiding the road we used for coming and,
therefore, the worst 50 Km of our lives. We’ve been told the Northern
way only have 18 Km of rough road, then tarmac until the popular
motorway Nairobi – Mombasa and, from there we can continue until
This area is full of elephants and we enjoy our time watching
them while looking for our way. In the next junction the signs are
broken and cannot be read so we cannot know the right way. We try one
and, obviously, results to be wrong. We find out when a man tells us
we’re in the public campsite, so we’ve gone South, close to Tanzania
border, as trying to go North.
Once in the right way we drive all through a deserted landscape, full
of dust, following a track over the stones. We think is funny
remembering now how hard I tried to avoid every little stone yesterday.
We go through the lodge area, in the center of the park, just before
turning right in the road to Iremito gate, our selected exit point.
Once out of the park, and while we’re waiting the tarmac to
appear in one point of the 18 Kms of hell, we still find animals, as
The way to the tarmac is eternal because the speed average is
around 15 Km/h, but once on it, we are in a familiar environment,
driving at 100 Km/h until reaching Nairobi – Mombasa motorway. It is a
busy road, with a lot of slow big trucks making things harder.
Everybody here are driving at their own, taking over vehicles when they
can regardless of signs or the rest of cars. With only one lane by
direction, there are moments I can see clearly I have no time for
taking over three cars in a row, so I wait for a better moment, but big
buses are taking over me and the rest. It is not I’m calculating wrong,
it is these big vehicles make cars in the opposite direction to slow
down in order of letting them go. We’ve even seen here big trucks
taking over a slow vehicle by the side with no road! With the right
wheels over the tarmac and the left ones on ground, very leaning
because of the level mismatch, in the most amazing sight on this drive.
In Nairobi the traffic gets busier and slower and the
roundabouts are so chaotic that we prefer not leaving the lane in the
middle for keeping in the motorway. Somehow, when the dark is
over us is when I learn why is it so recommended not driving in this
country by night. It is horrible and I’m feeling like I’m not going to
manage it: the bright lights are on for all the cars in the opposite
direction and I can barely see the road I’m driving on, so I cannot
avoid the big potholes on it. What I do is taking a truck with an
appropriate speed and driving on its back the whole way to Naivasha.
We don’t know what the driver of that truck
thought about us, seeing us behind him for hours, but we’re reaching
Naivasha this way and now we only must follow the GPS to Carnelley’s
We find it late, some minutes past 10 PM, and its
gate is closed. When we’re opened, a man with a lantern walks in front
of us to be followed to our banda. It is dark and it is difficult
walking around the place with no lights, but we manage to get the bar
area, where we’re explained kitchen is closed and we’re not going to be
able of getting any dinner, so we must resign with another sandwich
with the goodies we’ve got in the car.