Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Last Day in Kenya

Since the flight from Nairobi to London is an overnighter, we didn't have to leave our hotel until 8:00 pm for our 11:30 departure. Therefore, we had the chance to do a bit of final sightseeing on Sunday before heading home.

Our safari guide drove us out of Nairobi into an upscale suburban area aptly named Karen since we were there to tour the Karen Blixen Museum. She is the character portrayed by Meryl Streep in Out of Africa. If you have never seen the movie, then you need to remedy that.

We were taken on a tour of the home, just me and the 6th grader, and the guide was wonderful. He told us all about Karen's life, as well as the history of the house. It has been set up to look just like it would have in the 1920s when Karen still owned it. There were also some recreations in the house, props donated from the movie, including period clothes worn by both Streep and Robert Redford. 

The grounds around the house were lush and well kept. The 6th grader insisted I take a pic of the big avocados growing in the side yard. The house wasn't huge - maybe 2500 sf - but it was certainly sufficient for Karen and her husband, then later her lover (Redford's character Denys Finch Hatton). It's sad that her coffee plantation failed. However, upon her return to Europe she embarked on a successful writing career and lived to almost 80.

After leaving the museum, we drove over to the Sheldrick Animal Orphanage, located along the perimeter of the Nairobi National Park. The center is only open from 11 am to noon every day and they only let in a set number of tourists, so we stood around in the shade like wildebeests to make sure we gained entrance.

Joining the queue, we paid our 1,000 shilling fee and walked to the roped off viewing area to see the orphaned elephants.

In the pic above, you can see the first little elephant has already bellied up to the milk bar for a snack. Over in the right side of the pic, you can see the rest of the babies hustling along the path with their keepers following along behind them. 

After guzzling the contents of the bottles, these orphans, ranging in age from 8-16 months, entertained themselves in the mud holes while the head keeper gave an interesting talk. He told us all about what they do at the center, in addition to introducing each elephant and explaining the circumstances that led to it being orphaned. I was surprised to discover that several of them had fallen down wells and were rescued by humans after their elephant herd had tried to free them and had no choice but to give up and move on.

There were several baby elephants that helped themselves to a drink from the water hose used to fill up the shallow holes. They seemed to have a really good time, getting coated in red mud to keep the pesky flies at bay.

After about 30 minutes, they led the younger group away and brought in the older orphans. Here you see them strolling along the path to the viewing area.

In the pic below, you can see the top of the 6th grader's head - no camera zoom necessary. That's how close we were to the elephants, close enough to touch.

I just had to take the pic above with that stupid stuffed elephant in the corner of the pic. The couple standing to the left of us brought along this stuffed elephant and kept holding it up to be in every danged shot. Special meaning, no doubt, but it got really annoying because the wife held it up and it kept getting into our pics, the folks standing beside or behind them. I finally muttered jackasses "Good grief!" under my breath and gave them a pointed look, at which point they knocked it off for a bit. 

Of course, karma jumped up and bit me in the butt about 5 minutes later. This time it took the form of red bird poo landing in my hair and on my pants. Several people around me also get bombed with it and I would swear it was a frickin' pteradactyl. I left the 6th grader to enjoy the antics of the older babies while I walked over to a shady spot to break out the moist antibacterial wipes I had in my backpack and get the poo off me.

We returned to the hotel for a late lunch by the pool and a long wait in the lobby before heading out to the airport. We got lucky - free wifi and an electrical plug adjacent to our sofa so we could entertain ourselves for several hours with the iPad. Plus we've added another card game to the 6th grader's repertoire. In the fall, on our Mediterranean cruise, I taught her gin rummy. In Kenya, she learned blackjack. 

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