Saturday, February 26, 2011

Onward to the Mara! Or...

So today, after I was awoken by a family of monkeys scampering around the roof of the cottage, we headed off for the Masai Mara!

Of course, we didn't make it there.

Yes: that's right. Our attempts at getting out of Nairobi and down to the Masai Mara have yet again been stymied. Let's start this morning. Yesterday, we got the amazing news that the car would be ready today at 9 am. We knew that this really meant 10 am at the earliest. So, of course, at 12:30 pm, we get the call that the car is, in fact, truly, ready to be picked up. So we depart from the baby elephants (I'll come back to that later), Tracy dropped us off at the cottage and walked to pick up the car from the garage nearby. So, she brings it back, we pack it (2 canisters of liquid nitrogen, 3 canisters of butane, 4 car batteries, food, plus all our luggage. This car is maybe 2.5 times the size of Posie (not as much personality though, but at least it can handle potholes without sending passengers airborne). Packed and rolling out at 1:30 pm, blasting a playlist of my creation mostly consisting of pop songs from the last few months that Tracy has been exposed to only through episodes of Glee.
About 20 minutes later, we are stopped at the side of the road, hood open, Tracy (with a leather work glove on) loosening the cap of the radiator as steam and scalding water sputters out. Tracy explains that on the drive to Nairobi, the radiator always overheats, but usually not until much later, at a specific hill area. The hope is that the mechanic simply forgot to fill up the coolant reservoir with water before we got the car. So we fill it with water that we brought for this very purpose. A guy from the mini-town across the street decides it is his job to help us, even though Tracy knows exactly how to handle it. She speaks enough Swahili to communicate with him (he doesn't speak much English). Eventually he fills up our water container, and demands money. Tracy gives him 50 shillings. He demands more in Swahili. An older guy walking by, thinking Tracy doesn't understand, says "He says he wants more money." Tracy: "I know, I heard him. I'm just not happy about it." She gives him another 50, and we are again on our way.
Devastatingly, the engine overheats again within 30 minutes. Something is clearly wrong. After a few calls to different mechanics that Tracy knows, we end up at a gas station and ask for the mechanic. He seems competent (according to Tracy, gas station mechanics are often not), and relatively quickly identifies that there is a leak in our radiator reservoir. But, he can patch it! And assures us that it will take about an hour, and we will definitely be able to make it to the Mara today.
After about 30 minutes, they have removed the radiator from the car. At this point, it's about 3:30 (anyone keeping track of my time estimates may find that they don't add up. Whatever). At this point, we are informed that it is time for lunch, and they will keep working after they are finished eating. Not... much we can do. We sit around in the car, they sit around and eat for about half an hour.

After a bit, Jordan and Nathan, Tracy's friends (who apparently just graduated from the Yale Forestry with Masters' degrees) show up. Eventually, it is decided that they will drive up back to the cottage, where they were originally headed (it's clear we are not driving down to the Mara today) and Tracy will stay with the car/ radiator. We go, have dinner, come back to the cottage. At 7 pm, Tracy finally shows up, and relates how she went with the mechanic to 2 other locations, to get the radiator screen power-washed, have the hole patched, re-power-wash the radiator for some reason, and finally drive back here.

BUT! Now, the car is packed, supposedly in perfect working order, and READY TO GO for tomorrow! Knock on wood...

As for what we did this morning: First, the giraffe center: at the open 2nd-floor observation center, we are given food pellets, and a giraffe with an absurdly long tongue takes them from your hand, or from your lips if you so desire (there are pictures, never fear). Then, on to see the baby elephants, whose prehensile trunks are amazingly adept, and who are generally adorable.
Right now, Tracy, Sarah, and Jordan are watching recent Glee episodes, while Nathan and I sit on our computers alternating between watching Glee and our laptops.

So, again, hopefully, tomorrow: the Mara.

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