Thursday, July 28, 2016

7/26 -- Drive to Tarangire National Park

On our way back to the highway and the border crossing, we went back through Amboseli National Park and saw a few interesting things, but it is funny how we now react to giraffes, zebras, gazelles, etc.: "Oh look, there's another one. No need to stop..."
Cape Buffalo looks equally blase

Eland and zebras
Our trip through the park and back to the main road took two hours, and we were at the border. We crossed into Tanzania with only one small problem: our bus for the next 2 hours only had seats for 11 and there are 12 of us, including our trip leader. Turns out one bus was stopped by police (often happens with trumped up charges that lead to bribery requests) and it was not all that clear that he would get through in time. Just as we made a deal with another driver to help,  he showed up  and we divided the group -- way more comfortable.
This cattle herd faced us off on the way to Tanzania.

We stopped for a leisurely lunch and a tour of a workshop that specializes in employing people with physical challenges, then loaded onto our new game drive vehicles and made another stop to learn about Tanzanite before heading southwest to Tarangire National Park.

We saw some interesting sights along the way and finally got to our new tent by 6:30pm. This one is a major upgrade from the last one, which had zippers and had to be locked and unlocked at toe level. It has a wall of windows on the front with a sliding glass door as well as indoor and outdoor showers. Internet is only supposed to be available in the restaurant, bar, and lobby, but our tent is close enough to connect from here. YAY!!!

MangatcheVillage woman on the way to the camp away
from main road

Fancy tent with a front wall of floor to ceiling windows
and a sliding glass door. Big bathroom too with an indoor
and an outdoor shower (too cold for morning use)

Sunrise in Tarangire
We saw some interesting sights along the way and finally got to our new tent by 6:30pm. This one is a major upgrade from the last one, which had zippers and had to be locked and unlocked at toe level. It has a wall of windows on the front with a sliding glass door as well as indoor and outdoor showers. Internet is only supposed to be available in the restaurant, bar, and lobby, but our tent is close enough to connect from here. YAY!!!

7/25 -- Amboseli National Park

We started the day photographing Mt. Kilimanjaro just after sunrise from an elevated view point at the camp. Instead of game viewing this morning, we went to a local Masai village and visited with a family as well as the neighborhood schools. We have done this before, but I think this was the most interesting and fun of any of these experiences. The chief, Joseph, has an 8th grade education and is very progressive and well-spoken in English. Polygamy is the rule in Masai culture, but he is modeling monogamy and small families, in part because of the costs of clothing and educating a much larger family group. He is encouraging the children to get educated, including the girls and during our private talk with the women was eager to have us talk to them about family planning and birth control.
Mt Kilimanjaro at sunrise

Monkeys raiding a waste basket as soon as it was used.

Joseph, chief of the Masai group we visited.
Joseph's wife (middle) and the wives of the other brothers.

Working the water pump

Superb Starling

Twin lambs

Atempting to milk a goat --  I actually generated 3 little squirts

We walked to the school and learned that they started several years ago with 5 male students and one teacher and now  have 450 students (44% girls) and 13 teachers -- the Kenya government supplies and pays for 5 teachers and the other 8 are supported by family contributions, based on what they can afford. They draw students from up to 40km away and have had boarding facilities, which are currently being expanded. We spent some time with the 8th graders, who were very outgoing and interested in our lives. They gladly looked at photos on our phones and cameras and then started taking them. The event ended with a rousing song from the whole group followed by our improving rendition of America the Beautiful.
Little kids outside before class

Assistant principal, who is Masai and originated from here.

The kids I talked to

Jim with one of his kids

The 8th grade class entertaining us.

Back at the family compound, we danced and were amazed at the leaps of the warriors. Then we got a tour of a home, and separated into men's and women's groups to allow discussion of sensitive topics. Unlike the woman we met yesterday who was married off at 13 after being 'circumcised', these women had married at 18 and would not allow their daughters to participate in the cutting ordeal. They said the change had come about as a result of meetings that had been held with the women to help them learn about the negative ramifications of this practice. The  forward-thinking chief probably had a hand in making this change acceptable. Finally, we got a chance to look at their beaded jewelry and purchased some.
Villagers from Joseph's compound and others come to dance.
First the women show their stuff

Then the men demonstrate their prowess

Jim gave the jumping the old college try.

Joseph introduced his younger brother who gave us a tour
of the house inside.
At 3:30, we headed out for another game drive, determined to find a better photo of flamingos. It took a while to find a good  location, but wow! I was happy with my initial zoomed photos - there were thousands of birds - and then they started taking off and flying in a swirling pattern til they were all in the air and finally settled back in the water further out from shore. 

On the way back to camp, as a bonus, we spotted a lioness watching the nearby herds just before dusk, probably deciding whether to have zebra or wildebeast for her next meal. Further on, on hyena was stalking a wildebeast herd, which chased him off before he could do any damage. We also noticed another hyena further away, just lying there waiting for the herd to settle down again.

Yellow billed storks?

Hyena driven off by wildebeast

Sneaky hyena near wildebeast herd imitating a rock

7/24 -- On to Amboseli

Our early start this morning got delayed when one of our group broke his wrist, making our first stop a nearby hospital. Amazingly, the whole xray/diagnosis/casting process only took an hour and a half. Today was a long drive from northwest of Nairobi to southeast of Nairobi, along the border with Tanzania. While we were waiting for the hospital process, Jim wandered around and took pictures of the birds there, including a couple new ones.
Weaver bird and nest. There are at least a dozen kinds
of yellow ones.

Weaver bird

Weaver taking off

Mouse birds

Much of the drive was on the highway and somewhat faster than the drive up because it was Sunday and fewer trucks were out. South of Nairobi, we stopped for lunch and a chat with a young woman who is actively rescuing young women from 'female circumcision' and forced marriages at age 13. She said 10% of the girls die from the process, that it is an assembly line, transferring bacteria from girl to girl, and very painful. She left her early marriage and rescued her two younger sisters before they could be cut and married off, but is now an outcast to her tribe as are the sisters. She set up a school to educate the girls and a shop to allow them to earn  money by making an selling souvenirs. Kenya has passed laws against this mutilation, but is fighting tradition in some tribes. Penalties are up to a $1000 fine and 6 months in  jail.

A small part of the Kibera Slum, which most of the group visited
From there we left the good roads and spent several hours on gravel ones. Two of those hours were Amboseli National Park, in the shadow of Mt. Kilimanjaro. We saw lots of familiar animals as well as the Thompson Gazelle, several ostrich, and a sleepy hyena who lifted its head a couple times to show that it was not dead. We saw flamingos from a distance again and are promised that tomorrow we will get to the side of the lake where they are. We also got a nice view of Mt. Kilimanjaro at sunset before we checked into our tent camp.

Above and below: Secretary bird - we watched it stomp on
something small to eat and stalk off.


Young Grant Gazelles with stripes like the smaller Thompson's
Gazelle, which signals predators that they are adults when they
are not. Notice the black stripe fading on the nearer one.

Profile of Thompson's gazelle
Thompson's gazelle - much smaller than Grant's. The other big
difference is that the white patch on the rump stops at the tail.

Some kind of plover??

Some of the elephants here are much lighter gray than the
others we have seen.
Great Gray Heron

Egyptian Goose

Flamingos from a distance

Sacred Ibis

Zebra Parade



Lone hippo -- water in the area is marshy. He is a ways away
from a shallow lake, so not sure where he spends his days.

Resting Hyena
Mt. Kilimanjaro at sunset