Because of arriving later than expected at the airport, we were taken to the Continental Hotel first where we were whisked down with metal detector before entering hotel. Sometime later we were moved to the Norfolk Hotel. I looked at my Kenyan time (EAT) watch when entering the lobby and it said 5:30 A. M. I got to bed at 6:30 (EAT) I had room number 9 – which incl. 2 bath robes, refrigerator w/ assorted drinks, television, and radio. My roommate was Len Rue Jr. I got up at 10:30 A. M. (EAT) (1/2 hr. late for breakfast) I bought some post cards, newspaper (Kenyan) and exchanged some money. $1.00 US = 15.76 Kenyan shillings.
Lunch was served at 11:00. Consisting of grilled fillet wildebeest steak w/ gravy, french fries, béarnaise sauce, piece of lettuce, some cress, and milk. We sat in the open-air restaurant in the front of Norfolk hotel. At 2:00 p.m. (EAT) we left hotel for Nairobi National Park. I shot 4 rolls film (36 exp. ea.) first day out. I left New York with 105 rolls of film. I had no idea of how much film I would need. It’s too expensive to buy film in Africa.
Wed. August 7, 1986 – We left Nairobi around 7:30 A.M. and headed south for Amboseli Game Reserve and arrived at 1:00 p.m. The road was in very good condition until we reached the dry lakebed of Lake Amboseli. Here is where I got another glimpse of something new to me, a mirage. This one of a large lake with date palms lining the shore. Weird to say the least. Then the further we went the rougher the road got but the pressure on the gas pedal didn’t let up a bit. We never did reach the other shore of that lake. Along this good stretch of road, I saw my first termite mounds, some 10 to 15 ft. tall.
Also, in this area we stopped at some very interesting looking souvenir stands constructed of wood poles and pieces of sheet metal to shield the wood carvings from the burning sun. Otherwise, no sign of civilization. Wood carvings is a weakness of mine, especially African wood carvings. I bought each of my girls a nice size carving, a Rhino for Joni and an Elephant for Michele, in African Teakwood for taking me to the Dulles airport. It was hard to protect them over the rough roads as fast as they drove. Only lost an ear on the elephant of which it glued on in fine shape in the Coffman woodshop at home.
While at Amboseli Reserve, I got a nice photo of two giraffes standing amid the acacia trees in the foothills of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Later on this photo was used for a book cover printed by Park View Press. This snow-covered peak is just across the Tanzania/Kenya border which is on the equator. It was shot with a 800mm lens (400 mm + 2X extender). This is also the location of the elephant charge, one of only two charges we encountered while in Africa. I can still hear him squealing and see him flapping his big ears as he ran towards us. I don’t know what got him in such a huff. The driver yelled for us to get in the van, and we just drove off. When he got there, there was no one around.
We watched an ostrich high step in the thick grass. Mixed herds of antelope marched across the plains. We were even graced by a small herd of zebra that came out of nowhere, buzzed in on us fast, and vanished into the same nowhere just as quickly. On the drive back to camp the sun was washed out, surrendering itself into a smooth red haze caused by the dust of the animal’s movement in the red ochre dirt.
It was the magic or golden hour. The night sounds were just beginning, and the night loving animals were just starting to make their presence known. We watched a group of clown like meerkats come out from a termite mound. A jackal’s yip sent them scurrying back to cover. Night was coming on and so was the cool wash it brings to the plains. A roar of a lion could be heard in the distance.
We stopped at the top of the hill before heading back down to camp and our evening meal. Whether we knew it or not, we needed time to taste the coming of night. We could have been on top of the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming, or on a mesa overlooking hundreds of miles of grassland, the grasses were etched in shimmering gold hillsides. Looking east, even thru the purple dusk, we could see tomorrow coming. To the west, yesterday was still waving its goodbyes. All this is what makes Africa so great.
Dinner was a hartebeest roast and much more.
I invite you to check out next month’s adventure in Africa here…John