Wednesday, July 27, 2011
A Brutal Drive
Saturday marked the end of our stay in Eldoret and the beginning of safari.
As we planned our safari with Angie, Lisa and I reflected on the trips of the past. We both recall vivid memories of dirty, hot, exhausting trips across rugged roads between Eldoret and Masai Mara that we travelled with the Kellys. After that, Lisa and I made a pact never to travel to the Mara by ground.
When we began to plan our safari with Angie we made sure to tell our travel agent, Christine, that this group had a low tolerance for ground travel. Unfortunately, as this is the high season in Kenya, the resorts accessible via air were completely booked.
Since we wanted to make sure that Angie checked off a few of the big five, our agent suggested that we try Tsavo East. She told us that the road between Nairobi and Tsavo was good and that it would take 3-4 hours to get there by lunch time. We would then have two nights and lots of game drives before traveling on to the coast. This sounded agreeable so we had her book the excursion.
Upon arriving at the Nairobi airport we were greeted by our travel agent. This is remarkable because in the numerous times that we have used her services she has never personally met us at the airport. Of course, she was there to deliver some unexpected news: we would not be traveling to Tsavo East.
It turns out that Tsavo is one of the world's largest game preserves, rivaling Israel in size, which is why it's split into two halves.
Christine informed us that a government convention had booted us from our reservations, but that it would be no problem as she had rebooked us in Tsavo West. We figure that this was not clearly on the up-and-up, with several possibilities for the resulting shenanigans. She assured us that although we would miss lunch, the drive wouldn’t be too bad and we were left with no other option.
After the massive stretch of road construction around Nairobi we were finally smooth sailing on some of the nicest road that we’ve ever traveled in Kenya. The speeds were 60-70 mph throughout, similar to traveling on a small US highway with lots of passing required to avoid the big trucks.
About 3 hours into our journey, I pulled out my iPhone to use google maps to check our progress. I didn’t exactly know where we were headed, but estimated that we were close to half-way. Unfortunately, I did not factor in the last bit of the journey that was on one of the most awful, bumpy roads that we’ve been on in Kenya. That awful portion of the trip lasted 1.5 hours. So approximately 8 hours after we had left Nairobi we arrived in Tsavo East to the Sarova Salt Lick resort.
It was too late for the game drive that we were promised that evening so we just got checked into our rooms and headed for dinner. The lack of attention to detail at the hotel was astonishing – our safe was out of batteries (so was Angie’s), there was a giant stain on the middle of our blanket, and our toilet was running a never-ending marathon.
Christine was lucky that she wasn’t at dinner.