Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Out of the Mara... for now

Today, we drive back to Nairobi. Skeist's flight leaves at 11:30 pm; mine leaves the following (Tuesday) morning at 8:15. But, of course, the trip doesn't go smoothly. We leave camp at 10 am after a brief drive around (Meg sleeps in, so it's just a drive to see animals, not do obs), which is what time we wanted to do so. At the gate to the entrance/ exit of this part of the Mara (it's managed by a different group than the part Talek camp is in), one of the rangers asks if we can give him a ride to Narok (about 5 hours away; he actually ends up going with us all the way to Nairobi). We cram in to the back; it gets a little roomier after we drop Brian off back at Talek camp. After another brief goodbye to Joseph, Benson, and Joseph's daughter Gloria (who was pretty shy/ afraid of us when we first arrived, but had progressed to playing games with us and giving us high-fives by the last day). And we're off!

That is, until our first flat tire, about an hour outside of camp. For some reason, the car we're in now seems to get lots of flat tires. Possibly because they keep getting the tires repaired and they're really old. In any case, Tracy is more than proficient in the exquisite art of changing tires. Having not done so before, I am eager to help/ learn to do so as well. Basically, it involves a lot of lying on the ground, ratcheting, and heavy lifting. But we succeed in getting the spare on (as 3 Maasai men watch us and comment). We stop after about 45 minutes to get the flat repaired, in the (likely) event of another flat tire. That takes about 20-30 minutes, and we're off again. We stop several more times to tie the tarp down that's covering our things in the back, as well as to buy samosas at a gas station we stopped at on the way up as well (and where Tracy stops every time she makes this drive). I'd forgotten during the week in the Mara how crazy driving around Nairobi is. Rules are few and flexible. But finally we make it to the mall near the cottage, where we've decided to have a drink, get some food, and relax for an hour before we leave for the airport to drop off Skeist. I hadn't really noticed how dirty I was (being in the bush can do that, I guess) until we were back in a city where everyone was wearing normal clothes, and I had my dirty field pants, a grimy t-shirt, and large amounts of dirt under my fingernails. Whatevs.

At 8:15, we go back to the truck to drive to the airport. But what's this? The spare tire that we put on is now flat? Baffling. It must have been a slow leak, because we hadn't noticed it on the drive. Good thing we got that other tire repaired. Fortunately, now I was familiar with how to change a tire too, and Tracy knew exactly where to put the jack for this car, so we got the tire changed (with the help of a friendly mall parking lot security guard) in about 15 minutes, and made it to the airport with plenty of time.

Once we had seen Skeist off, Tracy and I drove back to the cottage. Both of us would have loved nothing more than to sleep for about 10 hours, but such was not to be. She had to finish accounting before I brought the receipts back to the USA to send to the head of her project; each sheet of receipts also had to be photographed (usually we photocopy them, but we didn't have time) in case the originals got lost along the way. Next I had to re-pack my bags. But the best part was taking a shower again (there is no running water at the camps). I knew it was going to feel good, but I was unprepared for how amazing it feels to have a hot shower after a week of cold bucket baths.

Finally, we head to bed around 1, with our alarms set for 4:30 the next morning.

Now it is that morning (I am writing this while waiting for my flight from Nairobi to Amsterdam; afterwards, on to New York!) Fortunately, no problems getting out the door and to the airport this morning. Fingers crossed for the flights and for my bags getting to New York with me as well.

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