Monday, September 20, 2010
Great thunderous sky mountains lollygag in the sky. Lazily swallow the sun clad hills, swathing them in immense clouds. Grand Cumulus Nimbus pregnant with precipitation soar above the drenched plains. Broad nostrils inhale the earthy traces off the first rains. Strident exclamations determine the twisting cadence and rhythm of the migrating herds. Impulsive movement, resolute in character, directs great trains of wildebeest toward the river.
Northward bound the clamorous cloud formations draw the long meandering lines to the Masai Mara. Then again the hills of Wogakuria obscured by dark driving rain lead the persistent gnu south along worn trails. Crossing the river once more!
The established routine, habit established over time. Countless animals perish in the Mara River; traumatic instants expose the vulnerable calves and elderly, swept away in the swift waters. Time and time again they return to the waters edge crossing in pursuit of the great ponderous “sky mountains”!
I have sat and watched a great many river crossings over recent years. This year has been quite unusual with a high swift river sweeping the lines of crossing wildebeest into great bows. Stretched from one bank to the other. Unfortunate youngsters swept off along the river and often the unwitting prey of the ancient river dragons. Crocodile! Foundering herds scraping, crawling and leaping up the steep riverbanks. We are fortunate to have campsite a short distance from the river set in a small woodland stretched along the backbone of one of the hills stemming from Wogakuria. Shadowing valleys that feed into the river.
The herds seek security on the short grass of the hilltops around the camp at night, hoping too we will with our lamps and cooking fires keep the Lion at bay. In the morning the incessant chant “gnnuuuu gnnnnuuuu” heralds movement for the river woodlands. A quick scan of the horizon soon points us in the way of the migrating herds. Before long we seek out a suitable vantage point from which to observe the comings and goings in the general area of the preferred crossing point of the day. Tumultuous sounds accompany the initial foray to the riverbank, which often proves to disturbing turning the herds on their heel. Slow deliberation and the need the absolute want, return to the herd. The approach steadfast, often aided by an influx of fast approaching herds frequently twists the anxious animals and heralds the crashing vigorous drive across the river. Apprehension be damned! Here I go!
Friday, September 17, 2010
New Team Member
Every evening our guests meet about 7.30pm for a few drinks before dinner, it's an excellent opportunity to swap stories of the day's adventures whilst sitting around the fire.
Over recent months they have often been joined by a pair of Gennets who, at the edge of the shadows, come to take a few food scraps left out for them. As the months have passed, they have become braver and have provided many guests with excellent close-up photo opportunities.
Last night they introduced their new addition to the team - one of their young. It wasn't quite as brave as its parents and disappeared as soon as there was any movement by those present. Hopefully, as it become more confident it will join its parents when they regularly delight our guests.
Gennets are found throughout much of Africa and even in parts of Spain and Southern France. They are slender cat like creatures and have been called 'rat-like' Leopards but only weigh in at between 2.5kgs being about 45cms long. They will eat almost anything they can find including snakes.
Thursday, September 2, 2010
Peering into the stygian starless black that cloaks a vista that you know stretches into the far far distance you can barely see your hand in front of your nose. The dark gradually leeches away, colours start to return as black surrenders to shades of grey. Then to purples as the pink harbingers of the day start to show the horizon.
An orange orb - the harbinger of another glorious day - starts to float into the sky, seeming to speed up as the seconds pass and then to slow as soon as it breaks free of the horizon.
. . . and then another red orb appears, rising from the distant plain but this one doesn't float in serene silence but bursts from the ground with a roar that would have put many dinosaurs to shame. Slung below the orb is a large basket full of guests that have risen from their comfortable beds at a very early hour.
With a couple of bumps they rise into the cool air and, with a couple of more saurian bellows, they are floating up to where only the eagles and vultures usually venture. Slowly they drift across the plains, with a whole new perspective to what had before only been seen from the back of a vehicle.
Soaring over the plains, the lines of Wildebeest extend even further, the herds seem even bigger and the distances infinite. With shrill trumpets, families of Elephants turn, protecting their young in their midst, to challenge this new avian monster. As its shadow passes over the water startled Hippos grunt their displeasure and slip below the surface leaving only their eyes, ears and noses above the water to monitor its passage.
However, many animals completely ignore this new passing cloud. Below the Hyena still lopes along looking for an easy kill or somebody else's left overs. The male Impala still tries to keep his unruly harem together and away from his rivals. And if anything so insignificance could disturb his regal slumber, the pride male remains oblivious to anything but his dreams of fat Wildebeest.
Every type of sun must eventually set and the balloon borne passenger eventually drift earthwards. Awaiting them, under a sheltering Acacia tree is the reward for their intrepid adventure : a champagne breakfast.