Samburu National Game Reserve – Day 4 - Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Another four hours in the car this morning on horrid roads in order to reach our northern most destination – Samburu National Game Reserve. On the drive we passed through several small, impoverished towns and made a stop at the Equator. An industrious man was charging $2 to show tourists how on one side of the equator water flushes in one direction and goes the opposite way on the other side of the equator. The $2 fee bought these folks a certificate!! Pretty touristy.

Unfortunately Duncan picked this little tourist enclave as the place to leave us for 45 minutes so he could get the roof welded. We didn’t mind sitting around for 45 minutes. The problem was that each of the 27 tourist shop owners tried to persuade us to come into their shop and “just look”. One lady just would not take “no” for an answer…VERY FRUSTRATING!!! We were as polite as can be but very firm. We ended up buying a few banana leaf cards at her shop for a couple of bucks. Then with the other store owners at our heels, we bought a coke and headed for an empty, shaded area for some peace. Yeah right. Five shop owners followed us. The interrogation began: Where are you from? What do you do for work? Where are your babies? Do you have something to trade for something in my shop? Are watches easy to find in America? Can I have yours…I trade you a nice wood lion that I carved myself?? Can I have your baseball hat? They honed in on the idea of trading something we had in our backpacks for a craft from their store when we were clear that no more money was going to be spent. This went on for a while. Everyone then started asking us if we had pens to trade. Sounds harmless. Maybe writing utensils were expensive in Kenya? We actually have an overload of pens, so we handed out a few and passed on trading for trinkets.

We drove through an army checkpoint a half hour later and kids swarmed the car begging for pens, women begged us to buy bananas, men charmed us with jewelry containing carvings of the “big 5” game. We mentioned to Duncan that it was too bad that we already gave our extra pens away to adults b/c the kids probably need them for school. Duncan let us know that pens are cheap and easy to find. Asking for a pen is another way of begging for money since tourists usually don’t usually just give away money. The pens are then sold on the street. Duped again.

At our lodge, the rooms are situated along the Uaso Nyro (Brown River) with a concrete wall and electric double fence to keep the animals out. From our room, we watched an elephant come down a steep hill to drink water from the river. He looked about to fall at any minute! Over lunch we were entertained by one of the security guards/local Samburu tribesman. He is employed to keep the pesky monkeys away from the guests’ food. He was using a slingshot and rocks in a sort of cat and mouse game with these creatures. He would shoot close to the monkeys, and they would run like hell and then come sneaking back. All the while they had an eye on each other.

Our first game spotting once we reached the reserve was of a Beisa Oryx with its pointy horns. This big antelope has beautiful black and white facial markings seemed to be content grazing on shrubs. We then got a glimpse of a mamma cheetah and her two cubs. They were pretty far away and quickly hid behind a bunch of shrubs, so no pics. While driving by the river we caught a giant elephant crossing. He didn’t take a liking to us and came VERY close to the van trying to get us to leave.

Next we spotted the reticulated giraffe from afar and were luckily able to hang out pretty close to the highly social maternal herd. Males go with their papas after 3 months and then become solitary with maturity. These guys have long sticky tongues which helps them when grazing on Acacia trees. They only need to drink every few days or so and are most vulnerable to lion attack when bending down to lap up water.

We managed to miss viewing the elusive leopard by about 3 minutes. The leopard was spooked by another safari van. We did however get to see his fresh kill which he pulled up onto a tree branch ~15ft. They do this to protect their kill from scavengers. ICKY!!! Our last viewing for the day was of a crocodile munching on some meat near our hotel…big chompers. A pair of storks edged in cautiously to pick up some scraps to no avail. Early wake up call at 6am for Day 2.

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