Day 3 Under Canvas
Newest pictures are HERE.
Sunrise from a hot air balloon and sunset perched on top of a rock where lions come to rest. Quite an amazing start and finish to a completely well rounded day of wonderful-ness. Some things happened in between, but it all seems silly in comparison. Our day started a 4:45am with a pickup by the Turkish hot air balloon operation. After pickup it was an hour drive to our destination, which was nowhere, but in the middle of the Serengeti. Once we arrived nowhere, it was time to take a hot air balloon ride over the Serengeti plains during the Great Migration. That actually sounds good enough to repeat…time to take a hot air balloon ride over the Serengeti plains during the Great Migration.
We were in the air with the sunrise at our back, balloon gently gliding along the Mara River, and not a thing in the world that could ruin this experience. This was our second balloon ride, the first was 12-14 years ago. A hot air balloon ride is a surreal experience, it does not feel like it could be actually happening. The sensation is that you and the hot air balloon are completely stationary high above the earth looking down. Almost like my feet were stuck in cement, and I am high in the air, not moving, watching the world below me continually rearrange itself. Simply amazing!
We saw countless animals. When the gas for the balloon blasted the animals noticed us up in the air, turned to look, and decided we far from mattered. Every once in a while a group would scatter, startled from the noise. I tried to assure those animals that we were not coming to eat them.
The balloon landing was a little rocky, we hit the ground, made 3 bounces forwarded, hung on for dear life, and then we settled safely on the ground and happy to still be breathing. After the landing we were treated to a nice breakfast along the river, an unexpected luxury compliments of our Turkish Tour Guide. We were informed that every good balloon pilot’s breakfast consists of propane and champagne. I made a great cocaine joke. It had the rhythm, it rhymed, and everything, but for some reason did not go over greatly with anyone except Wifey and I. Breakfast was at a beautiful setting along the river, another perfect place to get pounced upon and then eaten. That did not happen.
After breakfast we were picked up and delivered to Robert at the nearby airstrip. Our new friends the Kiwis and the Indians were leaving today. One of the Indians from New York was a guy named Encore…I met a man named Encore today. I quickly said, “Encore, a name so great I want to hear it again.” I was proud of that line, Encore and his wife were also amused, and I even got a comment about finally hearing a unique joke of his name.
Robert met up with us and we set off on our own for the rest of the day. With nobody else around, we had Robert to ourselves all day, private game drive, head back and sleep all day, rob a bank, whatever we wanted to do. I asked Robert if I could drive for a while. He asked me if I had an African drivers license. I told him that I did. Oddly enough my African drivers license looked exactly like an American 20 dollar bill, except he could keep it. For some reason that did not work.
Since it worked out that the day was ours alone to determine, Robert gave us a short game drive with plans to have us back at camp for lunch. Not a lot was happening where we were. We have seen hundreds of dead animals so far, today was saw a dying gnu. He had a bad back leg injury. He was lying alone, with a pool of blood nearby. It was hard to see, but just an every minute occurrence here in the Serengeti. He had a busted back leg and we are not sure if he could walk or not. The blood nearby was definitely from him, and starting to pool around his leg. We may have seen whoevers dinner that gnu was going to be if we stuck around long enough. We saw an elephant with a severed trunk because of snares left by poachers. Booo. That was sad to see. I don’t mind seeing nature kill nature, but when greedy man gets involved it comes off as ugly. The highlight of the morning was a mini-crossing of the river. We saw several hundred wildebeests crossing at a narrower, shallower area than yesterday. It was a very “intimate” crossing, felt like it was planned just for us. It lasted for about 5 minutes, but was still exciting to witness. Other than that it was the run of the mill, tens of thousands of wildebeests and zebras as far as the eyes can see. We made it back for a late lunch, and a quick rest with plans to meet Robert for a sunset game drive, a romantic trip for the three of us.
Not a lot of action for us in the early evening. We actually saw almost no animals. Quite odd, we think there was a practical joke being played. The weather was great and the sky was beautiful. A storm was threatening off in the distance the entire time. That makes for great scenery and pictures. Earlier in the day we had informed Robert and the Kiwis about geocaching. Neither had heard of it, but both seemed a bit fascinated. We told them there was a hidden treasure inside of another nearby camp, Thompsons Camp. We explained how it worked, etc.…Robert was intrigued enough that HE brought up trying to go find this “hidden treasure” during our evening drive before the sunset. He said to us, “we are going to go try to find this hidden treasure you told me about.” We got within 300 meters, yes meters, I have to adapt to situations when I am treasuring hunting. Robert informed us that it was definitely within the camp and we could not easily get in there. We already knew it was inside the camp from the description, but we were having so much fun watching him have fun following the needle on the compass and four-wheel driving all over the place. He enjoyed himself and the hunt, we could tell. Robert definitely did a great job by humoring me with my stupid nerdy hobby. He also seemed to be humoring himself with the new intriguing activity I called “treasure hunting” with no prize, payout, payoff, or actual treasure.
After the failed, yet fun search, Robert took us to a rock formation that we climbed to the top and sat chatting while watching the sunset for about an hour. Because of the sky and the impending storm, the sunset was gorgeous. We had great conversation. Robert filled us in on his knowledge about the warlords, wars for diamonds, Congo wars, the troubles with the M23 rebels, and how family and marriage work for his tribe. He is getting married in January and his family has to pay a dowry to his bride’s family before they can marry. It was fascinating and completely out of character for me to care about or interact with other humans. I loved it. The sunset turned out to be gorgeous, the company was the best, and the conversation was fun and compelling. As soon as the sun disappeared it was also time for us to disappear. We were after all hanging around in and on a rock formation that lions use for sleeping, shelter, and privately feeding on their prey.
After sunset, back at the camp, our walk over for dinner was terrifying. There was a rainstorm that came out of nowhere and was shocking. We had to use umbrellas, galoshes, and get escorted by our young friend John. It was crazy. Luckily we made it there safely. After dinner we sat inside our current canvas home, a tent, listening to the once threatening storm wreak havoc on the outside world. Butt cheeks clenched, hoping our temporary home does not get blown away with us inside. Newest pictures are HERE.