Thursday, July 18, 2013

Hakunana Matata! The Africa Diaries- Part 7 (The last post!)

Hakuna Matat! The Africa Diaries-Part 6
Hakuna Matata! The Africa Diaries- Part 5
Hakuna Matata! The Africa Diaries- Part 4
Hakuna Matata! The Africa Diaries Part 3
Hakuna Matata! The Africa Diares Part 2
Hakuna Matata! The Africa Diaries Part 1

The Game, Masai Mara, Kenya.

And finally we talk about the animals, or the 'game' as it is called. You cannot visit the Mara and not think about how it is them who belong and you who is the outsider in this world.  It is a world in itself, a world that is so far away from the grey of London that you begin to wonder which one of them is the illusion.

Often, in the Mara, you will feel like someone who has no right to be there, like some who should just let this little world of the Mara be.

As I mentioned in the previous post, we went for a night safari. I was busy admiring the night sky when Ondari, our guide, turned off the ignition leaving the lights on.

'Look there' he said pointing. I strained my eyes and when I figured out what he was pointing at my blood almost froze.

For lazing but a few feet away from us, in the middle of tall grass, were 3-4 lions.

As the women in jeep began to hyperventilate, Ondari stifled a laugh.
'Now see this ' he said.

I realised that he was being sarcastic, because the next instant he had switched off the lights of the jeep plunging us all into deep darkness.

So there we were, in the middle of Kenya, surrounded by grass that was as tall as me and darkness that seemed impregnable, sitting absolutely still as lions yawned less than three feet away from us

There is something about being that close to the king of the jungle when you cannot even see what he is upto that freaks you out completely.

'Now, let me tell you a story' said Ondari placing his hands behind his head as if we were all little kids,  sitting on the floor in the veranda, around our favourite grand parent.

We groaned collectively and Ondari laughed.

Lets just say I will never forget the thrill and excitement of those few minutes.

Each day Ondari would take us for game drives, we would drive through the grass for miles and miles in search of game, stopping every now and then for pictures but never really getting out of the jeep for obvious reasons.

There were the big things we saw, the lions and the cheetah and the elephant and the zebra.
And there were the little things. The gorgeous Kingfisher buzzing like a helicopter, the fascinating red and white butterflies that danced in the grass, the birds that swooped in when you least expected them to...the list is endless.

There was so much that I found out about the animals:
  • The warthog (don't know what it is? google for Pumba and you will ;)  ) has a very short memory span. When being chased by lions/ tigers they do begin to run but soon forget that they have a lion at their heels and start to chew the grass. I found this absolutely hilarious!
  • Hyenas, not tigers or lions, have the strongest jaws which is everyone is scared of the hyenas
  • Elephants can eat up to 300kgs of grass in a day
  • Elephant poop is something you need to make sure that you do not step on. Apart from obvious reasons, elephants cannot digest all that they eat and often there will be a huge pointed log in it, undigested, waiting for you to step on it.
  • Rhinos have poor eye sight. They work on smells
  • Hippos spend a lot of time in water bodies submerged in the cold waters. (They do have such ugly skin :/) When we were in air, on the hot air balloon, the Captain showed us little brown paths that led from water bodies to the jungle. A male hippo and his family would all take the same path each time, every day.
  • Lions have super eyesight. This one day we were in our jeep about 10 feet from a lioness who seemed to be staring in the distance. Ondari took out his binoculars to see what had attracted her attention. Turned out to be some friends of ours who were out for an escorted walk!
  • Rhinos are difficult to spot. We saw one 3-4 times however, always scuttling along with her little baby.

It is a different world, a very very beautiful world. Here are some pictures

We spotted the cheetah as we made our way from the airport to the lodge. They seemed like twins to me. :)

A closer shot-

This is what I call a BIG yawn!

Giraffes are aplenty in the Mara and I absolutely fell in love with these gorgeous animals. As you will see, I loved clicking pictures of the giraffes. The one below is, even if I say so myself, a damn good shot ;)

A journey of girraffes 

This picture is another of my favourites.  There is a little story telling itself in this picture, the plains in the distance, the lone tree and a mother and child walking together into the horizon, certaily appeals to my aesthetics :) I took some 200 shots as the jeep sped past to get this one.

My fascination with the bottom of animals continues!

This is how close we usually were to the game:

There were jeeps lining the road and she walked strutted as if the world belonged to her. Slowly but surely, with grace and fearsome indifference to the gaping humans that surrounded her, she walked in utter beauty!

I love the simplicity of the this picture

A couple of lions being chased by the hyenas. Yes, you heard it right. The whole action scene unfurled in front our was one of the most fascinating few minutes in the Mara.

You can see the jeep and the lions- this gives you an idea of how close we were...

The mighty elephants! Bottoms of three elephants and three trees!

The Mara, parting words ;)

If you have not travelled to Africa, I will now tell you that you should. I breathed easier and lighter there. I was happy and relaxed there ( I am not relaxed on holidays) because even though i did not belong i completely belonged. I felt alive and awake, breathing in everything that nature presented to me.

I was speaking to the Aussie pilot of the hot air balloon as we bobbed up and down the sky.
'And so that was the first time I came to the Mara' he said concluding a story he was telling me.

'And' I asked.

'I never left'

'How many years ago did you...' I began my next question.

'15' he said quietly.

I knew exactly what he meant. The place can be extremely and powerfully magnetic for some people and I realised with a start, belong to that category.

As I squinted my eyes in the Sun and held on to my hat lest the wind blew it away, and took in my first sight of the Mara, I knew that this place will change me.

Did it?

Yes, some part of me, as I said to someone a day before I left, has changed forever. Because I now know of a place where i can be so much at peace. It is far away from where I live but it exists. Knowing that is enough.

I hope with all my heart that I get to go back. As you can probably make out, I left a little bit of myself there :)


1 comment:

I HEARD YOU said...

These things you wrote were quite interesting. Especially that warthog part! And elephant poop..I must admit that even the discovery channel people didn't get that far! lol! :D
The game on NGC always looked very calm and serene. But the vastness of the Mara you portrayed through words compelled me to imagine the tranquility of the place..
It was the perfect ending for your traveller's tales! :)