Africa was never on my bucket list, as I’ve usually traveled alone and simply harbored too many fears of the country: getting eaten alive by lions; malaria/eboli/meningitis/yellow fever; and only knowing how to say “Hakuna Matata” in Swahili.
Yet there I sat with my hand in the air, when the handsome actor told his audience that he had room in his African Safari, and would anyone like to go? Christopher Law, he of Revlon fame in the 70’s, told the attentive crowd that he wasn’t acting much anymore, but was coordinating small safari’s to Kenya’s Maasai Mara. Something about him instilled confidence, and without thinking of what I was doing, I found myself on the roster.
Christopher had said that four women would be joining me in San Francisco for the first leg of our flight, and we found each other in the check-in queue. Actually, they found me, as I was proudly standing there in my brand new head-to-toe khaki outfit. We immediately bonded over the inane objects we’d packed into our over-stuffed suitcases (a selfie stick? Really?) and I knew that at the very least, I’d have a blast with these four.
We met up with the other six members of our entourage in Nairobi, and Christopher guided the weary travelers to a funky little hotel in Karen (a suburb of Nairobi) called the Bush House.
The Bush House is actually two hotels on the same property, each one too small to house all of us. One is more “modern’” – a term I use loosely. I was in the older one, and it was all tile and wood – and echoes.
I had to push a button on the wall to get hot water, so I turned on the water in the shower, went back out to the bedroom to push the button, then stepped into the shower for the supposed “instant” hot water. Five minutes later, warm water trickled out and I reached up to redirect the trickle (it was trickling toward the wall) and I got electrocuted. Yep. There was an electrical cord attached to the top of the shower-head. So I stood there shaking (a new version of a shower massage) for a minute or so and then disconnected myself and finished my shower. Even with all that, it felt good to be clean.
In the van, Christopher had told us our new mantra was “DIA” and to repeat it often. It came in quite handy in the shower. It stands for “Dis is Africa” and things are different here. The sooner you accept that, the sooner it’ll be easy for you.
We battled most of our jet-lag in the two nights we spent in Karen, and during our stay were lucky enough to visit the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, an elephant orphanage!
We had an appointment to get inside the enclosure and play with the babies, to pet, hug, and kiss them. These were all abandoned or injured elephants, and the Trust takes care of them until they are healthy and old enough to return to the wild.
I fell deeply in love with a little guy named Simotua, who had been found with his foot in a snare, and a spear in his forehead. Scars from both were still visible, but he was a rambunctious and lively young man whom I simply had to adopt. Along with Murit, who also stole my heart. I couldn’t help it! If you saw the bottoms of their little oval feet, you would adopt one, too! These baby elephants came right up and nuzzled me with their inquisitive, mesmerizing trunks. That was a kiss in my world. And looking into those sweet, questioning eyes, petting the leathery, dry skin covered with sparse, coarse hair, fondling ears like velvety-soft, flowing petals – well – I was a goner.
From there we headed to the Giraffe Sanctuary and climbed up to a viewing platform that put us face-to-face with the elegant mammals. One of the curators told me that if I put a piece of kibble between my lips, the giraffe would tenderly take it (their tongues are very rough, but quite gentle). Here, too, I became addicted, and had that big fellow kiss me so many times that the curator finally said that I needed to stop feeding him. Hmmmph.