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Serengeti Serengeti

26th February 2013

The Glorious Muddy World of Hippos and a Bottle of Konyagi

    The wind got up again through the night, and yes we did hear the lions, occasionally emitting a deep-throated roar, but mainly uttering noises that were somewhere between a grunt and moo, and four hyenas did walk through the campsite, but we were unscathed.
    Stars paled in the pearly sky of dawn. At an early breakfast, the rats of the evening before were replaced by Superb Starlings flying around the dining area. Kepha discussed the plans for the day with us. In the morning, we would go safari, returning to camp for lunch and a quick shower; probably the best time since all other campers would be far away from the single shower. Later in the day we would zip off again to catch the wildlife just before dusk.
Buffalo Eating Breakfast
High Rise Breakfast
Early Morning Drink
    We headed out into the savannah, passing impala and warthogs. We caught a glimpse of sleepy, snorting buffalo and hippos as we sped on our way to catch up with a group of 4x4s brimming with occupants watching a lion shading himself under an acacia tree. He was visible for a minute or so before he lay down for a snooze.
    A little way further on we spotted at a distance a pride of four lions slowly padding their way across a low ridge. Other wildlife seemed to be unperturbed by this, and just went about their business grazing. After that brief encounter of excitement, we drove for what seemed like hours, spotting guinea fowl, warthogs, elephant, zebra, hartebeest and birds.
Male Impala Watching His Harem
    The wind was up and it was getting pretty dusty. At last the monotony was broken up when we came across a couple of 4x4s, one with its bonnet up. Kepha pulled over and went to ascertain if he could help. Other vehicles spotted the now trio of stationary vehicles, and thinking there was some wildlife to be seen, they all converged. In a very short space of time it was like Piccadilly Circus, and a motley collection of drivers had gathered around the open bonnet engaged in a conference as to what the problem was. Eventually a shorting cable was diagnosed, and remedial action was taken.
    We continued scouring the land for lions, taking in a huge herd of snorting buffalo, herds of elephants, hippos and giraffes. The latter proved quite interesting since two males were having a test of strength against each other, trying to push one another away. The strategy seemed to be to force the opponent's head down by pressing on the neck, or just simply whacking the other's neck with a head. Up until now, they had always seemed timid, docile, delicate creatures, hardly the types to do battle.
    We headed back to camp for lunch, and more importantly a shower before the camp filled up. The shower cubicle was an uncomplicated setup. I just love how Africa adopts the P.S.P. (Plain, Simple, Practical) approach. For instance, hooks to hang clothes and towel on were simply nails hammered into the door. The shower, a simple rose with a one-setting suits all temperature control. Sally simply adored this hassle free life style and had learned to accept it without question. During her normal working day, she had to travel long distances on the back of motorbikes or in shared minibuses. The latter would hang around until they were full, the driver often doing a circuit around town trying to drum up custom. Thus one would often arrive at their destination quite late, but this was an accepted part of life.
Who's For Hide and Seek?
    We had a delicious lunch, chatting about the eating habits of the U.K., Tanzania and Kenya. In East Africa people usually eat three meals per day, each being a sizeable portion. Sally told us how cheap it was to eat out in Kisimu, where she now lived. Indeed she could collect a "stupidly" large meal and drink for the equivalent of 30p. Crumbs, I have to spend ten times that on a cup of coffee in the U.K.
    Later in the day we searched for lion and leopard, to no avail. However, all was not lost, we stumbled across a large impala harem. The solitary male with his impressive antlers looked a noble, fit beast. His harem, which Kepha informed us could be 20-50 strong, grazed around him, all delicate, demure, pretty looking fillies. Hey, don't get me wrong!
Hippo Bath Time
    We encountered more giraffes, ambling, long-legged, long-necked and graceful, and a pair of dik-diks. But the piece de resistance was a large waterhole containing what at first appeared to be dozens of large round boulders. In actual fact there were in excess of 120 hippos, many submerged apart from eyes, ears and nostrils poking out above the water.
    Rather interestingly, when submerged, hippos make a resonant honking wheeze, which sounds more like a laugh with a loud "humph, humph, humph," but on land they are notably silent. Also when in the water they stay in large groups, but on land they tend to be solitary.
    This evening, much honking was in evidence, and when Kepha started making a peculiar hissing noise, perhaps by pure coincidence, these enormous fellows went into honking overdrive. A Nile crocodile glided along the far side of the group, about 2m away from the bank. Hippos, being fiercely territorial, didn't take too kindly to this intrusion, and four of them set about giving chase to the trespasser. There was much threshing about and honking, and the crocodile just managed to escape through a gap is some rocks. The sight of all these hippos partying together was a truly memorable experience, and we watched them, totally mesmerised, for quite a while.
Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud. Nothing Quite Like it for Cooling the Blood
    When we'd had our fill of honking hippos, we continued on our way, spotting topi, a flock of ostriches, and a mustering of Marabou Storks settled on a poolside tree, a rather brooding scene. Evening shadows were slowly settling over the plains, and last shadows before darkness created new shapes in the bush, and they all looked like buffalo. The acacia trees were already dark against a flaming sky where cirrus clouds floated like burning vapour.
    We stopped off at the small village where the park rangers lived, and Dan bought a bottle of excellent wine and a bottle of Konyagi, a Tanzanian gin. Like our campsite, the village was totally open to all the wild creatures of the Park.
    We sampled these liquids during our evening meal with plenty of "Maisha marefu" (cheers); sadly Erasto abstained on religious grounds. I learned from Kepha that he had undergone four years of training to become a safari guide, during which he learned about all the animals to be found in East Africa, their migration patterns, and quite importantly, where the trails were in the parks, and the times of day to seek out various creatures. To this end he had acquired tremendous knowledge of the trails through the Serengeti, essential since there were very few signs on the endless trails.
    Sally also opened up about some of the more unsavoury incidents she had come across in Kenya, of the riots that occurred just outside a hospital she was working in at the time, where a few people, one an innocent woman selling soda, were killed. Not only has medical help and medication to be paid for in Kenya, but so has education. A lot of young tribal youths become disaffected since they subsequently have no prospects. This leads to discontent. East Africa has its own internal terrorist group, Al-Shabaab, which brings about unrest and turmoil in the region. It seems no place is safe from terrorism.
    The effects of the wine and Konyagi eventually kicked in, and we headed back to our tents, marvelling at the clear, starlit heavens as we did so.
Elephant Parade at Dusk Walking Their Ancient Route
Ostriches at Dusk
Marabou Storks Roosting

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Last updated 19.4.2013