Saturday, 22 December 2012

Christmas in Kenya: Days 6, 7, 8 and 9

This is Part 2 in a series. You might want to checkout the previous post to start at the beginning.

Wildlife In the Aberdares and Nakuru

This was the start of the "wildlife" portion of the trip. On Wednesday, we woke up, packed up, and then drove off to the Aberdares. The Aberdare park is a wildlife preserve that has houses that you can rent to stay in for the night. It's a very nice park, and there is a lot of wildlife around to look at. The scenery is beautiful too.

So, the first day we drove up to the park, which was an adventure in itself. The roads are pretty amazing in Kenya. I have never seen so many potholes in my life. You weave from one side of the road to the other in an effort to keep away from the nastiest of the potholes. It's pretty exciting, but I can see why people would want to have a four wheel drive car. Some of those holes were deep, and we bottomed out many times. The final count was 9 times, I do believe.

The sign next to the entrance to the Aberdares park.
The entrance to the Aberdares
After actually reaching the park (by climbing up the side of a mountain), we made our first stop at Karuru waterfall. Oh my goodness, that is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. When we got there, it was getting late in the afternoon, so the sun was on its way down. Because of our massive altitude, a cloud had rolled in, and when we got to the falls, it was covering everything. We stood on the viewing platform, and we could barely see the falls themselves, much less the other side. And then, as we watched, the cloud lifted. Suddenly, the line of sight increased to the entire way across the valley we were at the top of. There were three other falls on the other sides of the valley that we could suddenly see snippets of. And then the cloud came back down, and everything was hidden again. The cloud kept lifting and returning in the most beautiful way, showing us pieces of the valley at a time. I've never seen anything that awe inspiring ever before. The falls themselves are 383 feet tall for the first stage, ~150 feet for the second, and ~400 feet for the third stage. It was a sight to behold.

A picture of the falls first and second stages, shrouded in mist.
The first and second stages of Karuru
It was late enough after that that we decided to call it a day and return to the cabin. On the way though, we were driving along the road and just happened to bump into some spotted hyenas that were lounging on the side of the road. They didn't look too pleased to see us, so I was glad when they eventually climbed into the bush. At the cabin (which has no electricity), we had dinner, and started a fire in the fireplace so we would stay warm through the night. The altitude of the park makes it quite cold at night. So cold that there was actually frost on the ground in places the next morning. I was quite thankful for the five layers of blankets we were given.

The water rushes over the edge, into the fog below.
Karuru fog
In the morning, we got up and took showers. The water was really, really hot though, because it was heated by a wood fire located just outside the building. The water didn't have any time to cool down, before coming into the house, so it was scalding as it came out the pipes. Breakfast was cooked over a propane burner, giving it that special cookout taste. Good stuff.

After breakfast, we went to visit some of the other scenic locations in the park. We drove along the road hoping to see elephants, but we were out of luck. A car that passes us said that there were elephants half an hour down the road, but that was too far, so we just stopped at the waterfall that we were going to anyways. This waterfall we could get to the bottom of by climbing down these steep, perpetually wet stairs. After safely navigating to the bottom, we were in this lovely ravine with a nice pool that the waterfall emptied into. That's where we broke out the fishing rods and started casting. There were no bites for a while, and I was beginning to believe that there weren't any fish in the pool at all, which is exactly when I caught a fish. Apparently it was a rainbow trout. I don't care. That catch means that my lifetime number of caught fish has doubled, I do believe.

I didn't catch any other fish there (or anywhere else), but we did visit some other fishing spots, which were also at the bottom of waterfalls, strangely. That same day we went to a waterfall that wasn't very tall, but it was cool in that it had a cave behind it that you could walk into. The water level was higher than usual, so the floor of the cave was flooded, but we were able to walk along the edge of the wall and fish from behind the waterfall. That was a really cool thing to do, even if there wasn't much room to cast. The next day, after we packed up the cabin, we stopped at one more waterfall. This one was much more secluded than the others, and I'm pretty sure that no one had been to it in years. The seclusion only added to its charm though, and it turned out to be good fishing. I got a couple of bites and actually got a fish above the surface before I lost it. We headed back to RVA after that waterfall and spent the rest of the day at home.

We headed to bed early that night because the next morning we woke up at 4am to drive to Nakuru game park, an hour and a half away with good road conditions. Let me say this about Kenyan driving: everything is more exciting when everyone on the road gets to make up their own rules. It was technically a two lane highway, but there were times where just the left lane traffic (they drive on the left) was taking up four lanes. Going anywhere is an adventure, let me tell you.

The game park surrounds Lake Nakuru and its surrounding area, and it's absolutely full of animals. The lake was much higher than usual, so there were actual several of the main roads that were completely submerged. We had to find some alternate routes to get around the lake, but it all worked out. We did a complete circle of the lake over the course of the day, sometimes getting right up to the edge of it, sometimes climbing to the top of the mountain ridges nearby. For lunch, we stopped at a little waterfall in the middle of a super dry area of savanna, where we skipped rocks across the pool at the base of the falls.

There were many, many animals that I got to see that day. We followed a herd of giraffes, pulled up within 30 feet of a rhino, stopped in the middle of a herd of more than 100 cape buffalo, parked next to a zebra, watched a hippopotamus yawn and then submerge, saw thousands of impala and antelope, drove through a flock of flamingos, and got the roof of our car peed on by a baboon. By the way, people hate baboons here just as much or more than people hate deer in Kenora, and I can see why. Baboons are jerks. We saw lots and lots more than that, but the two coolest parts were undoubtedly seeing the hyenas tearing into a dead cape buffalo and watching as two lions were driven off of their kill by a herd of cape buffalo. We saw 5 lions all day (a big number), but these two were eating when buffalo suddenly chased them off. It didn't do any good though; we came back at the end of the day and all that was left was a rib cage.

A lion walks away from the carcass of a cape buffalo that she has been eating.
Lion and ribcage
The schedule has been jam-packed since I got here. It's going to slow down tomorrow, just in time for Christmas! I'm not sure what's on the schedule, but it will be nice to rest.

Full Series

Part 2: Wildlife in the Aberdares and Nakuru
Part 3Lazy Holidays
Part 4Masai Market

1 comment:

  1. I had a similar experience to your cloudy mountain waterfall deal in PR in December around the same time. Sounds like cool trip so far, except the airports (shudder) and the hot water. And, man you saw a lot of animals, i never see that many mammals in one trip. I prolly saw more fish than you in PR though.
    -Ominous Nonymous