“Where the Lion Sleeps Tonight”
June 17th – June 21st
The past four days have been very adventurous in our travel south of the equator to two National Parks, Lake Nakuru & Masai Mara. On Thursday, June 17th we left the IU house very early in the morning for a four hour drive to Lake Nakuru. The roads out here are either decently paved roads with a speed bumps every couple hundred yards or an extremely terrible dirty road with very large rocks that do not go well if you are trying to sleep. The people drive very impatiently out here, passing every chance they can get. Most of the time, you have to pass a truck because they are spitting out huge clouds of black smoke out of the muffler that smells terrible. There were times on the trip that we almost collided head first into oncoming traffic. The drivers here pass on steep hills and very sharp turns without thinking twice.
We arrived at Lake Nakuru around noon and made a stop at the entrance of the park to take care of admission and use the restrooms. While we waited to get in there were a bunch of monkeys all around us. One of them jumped in the vehicle looking for food before we quickly scared it away. These little guys would do anything for food. Now I don’t want you to get the wrong impression when I say park. This park is thousands of thousands of acres where the animals roam freely without worrying about being killed by humans. There is no hunting allowed in Kenya anymore to save the animals from going extinct. Within a few minutes of entering the park we saw herds of zebra’s, impala’s, warthogs, Thompson gazelles and many cape buffalo including millions of flamingos lining the water’s edge. Lake Nakuru is one of the most populated area for the pink Flamingo in the world. On our way into the lodge for lunch we looked up in a tree and saw two female lions laying and hanging out up the tree. They were very sluggish while resting but we got a good view at their beauty. After an hour of driving around we decided to head to our lodge within the park for lunch before heading out for an afternoon drive.
After lunch we drove out to find the elusive black rhino and leopard. Within seconds of our drive a large gang of baboons were walking down the road right at us. There were a handful of new born baboons that would hang on to the mothers underside while they moseyed on their way. Before I go any further I must explain that Dr. Yoder said we are the luckiest people to have gone on these safari’s for all the animals we were able to see. So shortly after getting back into our drive we saw the enormous and rare black rhino plowing thru trees like toothpicks. To wrap up the night we drove up to a leopard that was hiding in the grass about 10 yards away from a baby Thompson gazelle. It was waiting for the rite moment to strike for the kill. After watching for about 20 minutes the little Tome’s turned their backs to the leopard and the leopard began to move in to strike. The leopard took off towards the tome’s and within seconds they spotted him and took off running. It was an unsuccessful kill but the leopard walked straight up to our van and gave us a great show. I have it all on video. After that show we called it a night and headed in to have dinner at the lodge.
The next day, Friday June 18th, we got back in the car for the second worst drive in my life. The worst drive being the drive on the way home. The drive was a total of around 6 hrs with the first part being the usually stop and go at the speed bumps, however the last two hours of the drive was on the worst dirty road I’ve ever seen. The road had huge ruts, holes, and giant rocks that made it very bumpy. We were in Masai country. There are around 42 tribes in Kenya and the Masai tribe is the only one that has not civilized itself yet. These people live in BFE with nothing around for miles. After making it through the drive we made it to the front gates of the park (thousands of miles large that spans into Tanzania). At the gates there were Masai ladies trying to sell us their goods through the windows of the vehicle. These women were very persistent and very annoying. One of the guys in the group asked if he could take their picture. Boy was that a mistake. Usually a person gives a small amount/tip for taking someone’s picture here. It is more to just help them out. Dr. West offered a $5 bill to the 5 ladies for each of them to have $1 a piece. This is a lot of money for these people. However, the lady demanded $5 for each woman equally, $25 for a picture. We felt this was ludicrous and told the lady take it or leave it. Well the lady reached in the car demanding more money. Of course, this didn’t sit well with me so I told the lady to get lost and for the driver to drive on without giving them anything. In the end the kid who took the picture forked over $10 and Dr. West gave them $5. These people were extremely rude. I was more pissed than the kid who took the picture so I guess he learned a good lesson and I quickly forgot about it since it didn’t bother him that much.
Once in the park we headed for lunch and checked into the hotel. After lunch we went on an afternoon drive and saw the following animals: Elen, Ostrich, Hippo’s, thousands of wildebeest, Black main lion, cheetah, baby lion cups, artabeast, zebra, gazelles, warthogs, hyena, elephant, giraffe, and many unique birds. All these animals we saw multiples of in large packs. The first night we witness 6 lions setting up an attack on a herd of wildebeest. It was a great site to see how they strategically planned the hunt. We were very fortunate to be here at the time of the wildebeest migration. These animals migrate in millions from the Serengeti to Kenya. When they run they follow each other in a single file line for miles long. I’ve got good video of this as well. If you’ve seen the lion king (MEESH) than you know what I’m talking about. The next day we were able to come across a male and female lion in an open area where they were mating. These animals mate for 7 days and do it up to 80 x in one day. While they were mating a Cheetah tried sneaking up on them in pursuit of looking for baby cubs to eat. The male lion did not like this very much and chase the cheetah away. The male lion is truly the king of the jungle. His presence is like none other and is absolutely gorgeous in appearance. Shortly after we headed down to a river bed were 10 + female lions and cubs were feasting on a wildebeest.
After a long day of safari we headed into our resort for dinner and rest. The place we stayed at had tents that we slept in. However, these tents had wood floors with stone bathrooms and showers. It was not your typical tent experience. On this night it was the last night, Dr. West and Dr. Platt were with us. We had a nice dinner with them and talked about the trip. Dr. West was not ready to leave and I suspect I will feel the same way in less than a week. This has been a lifetime experience. During our reflection we talked about how every day we have done things that we have never imagined and only have dreamed of. I guess dreams do come true if you want them to badly enough. This reminds me of the James Dean quote “Dream as if you’ll live forever and live as if you will die today”.
I’ve only told two people about this but a few weeks prior to my trip I was having flashes of what the afterlife holds. It’s a messed up thing to think about and trust me I’ve done my best to try to avoid this but my mind wouldn’t let me. I’ve kept these thoughts inside until the past few dinners with the group when others have brought it up. We have talked a lot about family on this trip and the different dynamics each person’s family has. Family is the number one important thing in my life so this topic is very important to me. Dr. Yoder’s, Platt and West have all shared very close personal stories with us and have given us lots of life experience advice on this trip. I still probably will think about the afterlife for years to come but for now I know as long as I am doing what I believe in and working at making this place better than when I came than no matter what happens it will all work out. I guess the reason for all this thinking is because of how many people die here daily from things that could be solved in other parts of the world. I’ve been reading a book about the IU faculty that started this place in Kenya. He has lunch with us daily and has retired here to finish his mission. In his book he talks about “Nothing worth doing is completed in one’s lifetime.” Also, in this book is the story of Javan, the Tai Bo instructer/security guard here that I’ve posted pictures of. In 2008, there was a political outburst between the Kukuyi and Luau tribe bc the Luau’s thought the presidential election was rigged by the Kukuyi tribe. This led to mass murders and burnings of villages between tribes. During this time 130 people took shelter at the IU house to save themselves from being killed. A call came through that the Luau’s were going to attack this school where 3 Kikuyu children were being hidden. As soon, as Javan caught wind he jump in his car and drove out to save these children. All along the way there were large boulders, trees and other things blocking the road. Javan is a former Mr. Kenya bodybuilding champion and was able to move these large things with bruit strength. Now if Javan’s car was pulled over and he was caught with these three kids he would of likely been burned to death inside the car. This didn’t stop him he ended up picking up the kids and driving them in the early hours of the morning to the local airport to safety. This place can be a jungle and it has made me appreciate my grandparents for making the journey in the late 50’s and 60’s for a better place for me and all my family to live.
Ok enough emotional thoughts. After our last day at the park we made the 9 hour drive back to the IU house and the rest of the night I recovered in my bed.
Today, June 21, we spent the morning with the Moi students teaching them how to take impressions on each other and pour study models. We are wrapping up our trip this week with a few more school visits and some writing/reflection time.
Stay tuned for more to come.