A Soap Opera – Day 9-10

The last day of our safari was a feather in our already quite well-decorated cap. In the morning we woke up early and went into the park around 6:00 am. It was quiet and peaceful with a few animals roaming around, but nothing terribly out of the ordinary. Then up ahead on the road we saw some smallish, yellow shapes. Lion cubs! Not just one, but seven of them. Nearby were three watchful lionesses. The whole pride walked slowly down the road and then diverged into the tall grass. We could still see the occasional cubs jump above the tall grass in order to pounce on another cub, or on its mother.

A bit further on we saw two more young male lions sitting near to the road. They were gazing intently off into the distance, watching something. That something turned out to be the King himself (no not Elvis), a full-grown male lion! This large male lion was sitting stoically by himself, watching the younger males in return. As we got closer we saw that he had a large gash on his left eye and the eye was swollen shut. This added a bit of menace to his appearance, but didn’t diminish his majesty at all.

Joshua, our guide, explained that there was a bit of a lion soap opera going on. Usually two fully grown male lions do not inhabit the same territory. This male was probably from another pride and was trying to establish his presence here. When a new male moves in he usually asserts his dominance by killing all other living male lions from the local pride, including the cubs. Through this form of animal genocide, he will win the allegiance of the females and father his own cubs. So the young males were really in danger and had to keep an eye out for the would-be invading ruler! After we watched this play out, we drove back toward the park entrance. As we went we saw one of the larger lionesses slowly padding in the opposite direction, back towards the battle field. “She is going to rescue the young males,” said Joshua. “She can fight very well, better than them,” he affirmed. I believed him. The lioness was at least as big as the fully-grown male lion and looked much stronger than the young, boney males we had seen before. Who knows how this dramatic tale would end…

After a brief stop back at the camp we were back on the bumpy road. A couple hours of bumping and jostling and then a couple more hours of smoother pavement. Even the paved roads weren’t completely comfortable since there was so much breaking, swerving, and stopping for speed bumps. Along the way we dropped off Nithya at Narok where she was catching a bus to the Tanzania border (she made it there safely!). We carried a few other passengers for different legs of the journey and eventually made it back to Nairobi without incident.

That night I was happy to get back to the world of reliable wifi. I was happy to see that our installed sensors were all transmitting data! Mission: Success – at least so far.

This morning we again awoke early, this time to go on a Nairobi City adventure. We asked the hotel driver to take us to the Nairobi National Museum. Fred and others had warned us about the horrendous traffic, but somehow I couldn’t imagine it could be worse than LA. Somehow I was wrong.

This traffic was at a virtual standstill, sometimes for minutes at a time. When we moved, sometimes it was only a few meters. Between the cars walked vendors selling gum, sunglasses, bananas and other semi-useful merchandise. The road seemed to be a major route, the equivalent of a state highway, yet the cars moved so slow there was very little danger to these vendors of being hit.

Our driver said that this was typical of Nairobi traffic and typical journeys of 30 minutes could take up to 2 hours or more! He explained that there were a bunch of roundabouts in the city and these were the primary cause of congestion. During peak traffic hours there are police officers who stand at the roundabouts and allow some traffic lanes to go while halting others. This is usually a good system, but sometimes can be unfair because the policemen let some lanes go for longer than others. Even more interesting was the fact that they do actually have traffic lights on the roundabouts but people ignore these whenever policemen are present. The lights counted down seconds that a lane could continue going and then switched to another entrance lane after about 30 seconds. It was a cool design that I had never seen before, probably because roundabouts in the US are few and far between.

Thankfully the traffic started eking forward and we made it to the Museum in about 1 hour, despite the distance being only 5 or 6 km. At the Museum we paid the KSH 1500 admission fee and spent a couple hours exploring the exhibits. The History of Kenya exhibit was good. I also learned a lot about Joy Adamson, a Czech woman who lived in Kenya much of her life and significantly contributed to conserving and documenting its people, animals, and plants. I’d like to read more about her now!

For the rest of our time in Kenya we hung out at the hotel and at the airport. We made our first leg to Dubai with no problem and are now en route