Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Msafiri at Masaai Mara

Can emptiness be pretty? Can lack of anything interesting be interesting ? I asked this question first time when I visited spiti valley in Himanchal. After reaching that height – in that unusually empty cold desert it’s the lack of everything-vegetation, birds, sounds, smells and even humans that results in beauty. A place where even a sigh is heard so clearly…where the blue-ness of sky is overwhelming and where eyes search for an object to rest on for a while . Such austere , stark and yet stunning beauty. So incomparable in its components. I got a similar feeling while travelling towards masaai mara. I am not so much of a wildlife enthusiastic but Masaai Mara has a snob value. It is one of those places where I would have liked to go before I die …A kind of place one reads about in Travel magazines and sees in adventure movies ….so I agreed to Fred’s proposal of visiting it in Kenya . Me and Fred were much relieved as this trip started after completion of our rather hectic official work at Uganda . We were in vacation mood. Even the terribly inefficient Nairobi airport could not dampen our spirits .
The moment we were out of Nairobi , it was a different world …..the great rift valley was open in front of us . It is vast in its expanse and suddenly reminds you about a chapter in your geography text book on fossils and the east African rift . If one word defines our journey from here it is –Bare . After a while even the road was over. It was just a pair of tyre marks in dusty way what we were following . But we were not alone .There were many cars like ours. For miles, there was nothing more than an occasional bush or tree here and there. O yes, before I forget there was a cathedral – built by prisoners of war from Italy in 1944. A small yet beautiful slice of Italy in Kenya . Later on I found that even America has many such cathedrals and chapels built by POW. I was so tired that even the heat or the bumps from the road could keep me awake. Next time I open my eyes , we were already passing through masaai villages. Masaai- is perhaps world’s most famous tribe , may be because of their distinct dress, height or may be location of their residence near the safari parks .While it was heartening to find some children in school dresses- it was very apparent that poverty and age old customs mark everyday life in this part of the world. They love their colourful dresses and have continued to wear their dresses but it would to assume that the influence of outer world has not reached them. Try clicking one picture and they shout “ dollar ! dollar!” with a strange smile . They too understand the cost of their exotic looks .

Its difficult not to get moved by Masaai mara. You see so many animals and birds that it thrills you . They are totally at home in this place. It is very visibly their home and you remain a visitor. They continue with their business uncaring of human eyes and camera shutters. Sometimes I got a feeling that some of them specially the lions even enjoy their celebrity status- they pose sometimes and sometimes they stubbornly hide while the cars full of eager tourist wait for their glimpse. I somehow did not like the way we humans track them . To my eyes it was almost breach of privacy ….but still we followed the drill . The great fun started next morning . We had debated about it for many days and finally decided to go for it. The expensive but very alluring hot air balloon safari – was something we were really looking forward. The day started early for this. By 5 we were already at our ‘launchpad” the balloon was getting inflated. We were accompanied by an elderly Japanese gentleman and a Kenyan family . The pilot and his girlfriend – a wildlife photographer completed the crew. In minutes our beautiful balloon was ready to fly. What an experience it was !!! Watching animals from up there. We saw so many of them. The reverse migration of wildebeests was still on….and we saw hundreds of them. The migrations of animals and birds are fascinating stuff. It makes you believe in the intricacies of plot written by the Great Scriptwriter for this world. They travel all over the globe- every year …and they rarely lose track. These wildebeests were of course going back to Serengeti , following the rain . It was an amazing sight , the way they follow in long lines of ‘immigration ‘ to Tanzania . The view from the balloon was superb. It was a majestic view of the animal kingdom and we saw zebras, cheetahs , elephants and giraffes. Then followed the wonderful breakfast right there in the middle of the forest. It was unbelievable and very exciting . The river mara was flowing behind us quietly .
Back home yesterday I happened to meet a senior in my office who is an Africa veteran and is working with UN for past many years .When I told him about my journey through Uganda and Kenya he gave a very knowing smile and said: “Wealth is not always in money – this is what you learn in that continent .Isn’t it ?” Well, I couldn’t agree more.
(find my other photos from Kenya here )

1 comment:

alice said...

Lovely photos. I touched those lion cubs on the screen, they are so tempting! Lovely. To read about your experience is like experiencing it oneself! Great post.