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We journey back to Nairobi for a second visit. Uganda and Rwanda are ahead of us.

Serious rush around Nairobi whilst we are here. I’m gradually warming to the city. The largest city in east Africa. It has a bad reputation for violent crime but we haven’t seen anything to confirm that. We have tuned into the local radio when we have been stuck in traffic to hear about several car-jackings in central Nairobi over the last few days. It doesn’t get the name Nairobbery for no reason. It’s the first place we have locked the car doors when we are driving around. There are also security firms guarding properties and businesses everywhere. It’s hard not to miss the large plaques outside of houses here that tell you what security firm is guarding that property.

It takes forever to get anything done here. We dare not drive around town at certain times of day as the traffic is so bad. The local taxis, known as mutatus, clog up the roads weaving between the traffic and causing mayhem. They are everywhere and are such an iconic symbol of everyday life in Kenya. They are brightly coloured and have stickers on the windows that say ‘in god we trust’. Maybe they feel like they are protected when they drive so fast everywhere.

We first encountered one when we travelled into Nairobi after Lake Turkana, when we had one driving straight towards us. We luckily swerved away from each other. We haven’t ventured into one yet, but have been warned to keep our hands in our pockets to avoid getting pick-pocketed.

We get no sense of the country adrift. The violence here two years ago is still lingering on. A unity agreeement was signed after the last election between the two main parties. Kibera, one of Africa’s biggest slums is where the violence blew up two years ago when there was tribal violence between the Luo (who come from the Lake Victoria region and are also found in Uganda and southern Sudan. They had a bulk of the political power after independence) and Kikuya (the largest and best-eduacated groups in Kenya. Jomo Kenyatta saw Kenya into self-goverment after independence)

One reason we have come back is to pick up Bun’s camera. The shop we had dropped it off at before we headed off a few weeks ago turned out to be right muppets. They were waiting for a part they had ordered from Japan which wasn’t due to in Nairobi for a week or so. We picked up the camera and headed to Fuji’s main office in Nairobi which we found when scanning around for an alternative. I spoke to the head man there. They were super helpful and we got a call later saying it had been fixed. They matched the quote we had from the previous shop and we pick it up on Thursday morning.

The Landcruiser has been looked at again. This time, the front wheel bearings were loose. We had the mechanic at JJ’s look at it and sort it out. We had also noticed a few days before that the stabilizer bushes and link arm were worn and they needed replacing on one side, so we decided to repalce both sides. The front end is sorted and it feels much better now!

A blast from the past. The day after we arrived we saw a couple of  Welsh guys in a Land Rover Defender towing the South African man we last saw when we crossed into Egypt. Three months down the line we would thought he would be in South Africa by now. He was aiming to to get down there as quickly as possible when we last saw him but he became stranded in Ethiopia for two months with car problems. Now he got into problems coming from the Ethiopian border. His car is mobile again. He still has the rubber snake!

We are experiencing the start of the wet season for proper now. Kenya has two rainy seasons. A short one in November and the one we are having now that lasts from March to May. It has been quite heavy at night that lasts until early in the morning.

We couldn’t leave northern Tanzania without seeing one its top safari parks. The Ngorongoro crater is ideal if you want to see as many of the big five as possible in a short space of time. The crater is the world’s largest intact volcanic caldera and lies east of the Serengeti National Park. The crater floor supports large numbers of wildebeest and zebra who are always found together. Near the swamp area is the best chance to see elephants. A leopard sighting would have been great but they are far too shy and they head towards the forest to live up in the trees.

From the main park gate, we took a track that followed the crater rim. We raced along the track to make up a bit of time before then descending into the crater that is 600 metres below. We picked up a guard at the top. We were required to take one as we were travelling in our own vehicle.

The first animals we saw were water buffalo as they crossed the road in front of us before quickly running off. Our guard then started texting his fellow rangers to find out where the best game animals could be found. We passed quite a few safari jeeps all with tourists popping their heads out of the top looking through binoculars.

A lot of the animals need to be found and it’s more like a treasure hunt as we drive around snififng out wild animals. The crater floor is huge and we zig zag our way around it on the prowl.

As it’s the start of wet season, the grass is quite long, so that makes it harder to find lions. We got very excited as we saw more and more animals. Bun sat with the big five list from the guide book ticking them off as we saw them.

Our guide wasn’t much use in the back of the vehicle but he was good at identifying the  animals or birds we didn’t recognise and what time of day is better to see certain animals. We were both wanting to see a rhino and some lions.

Another tick in the book, we saw two lions after we observed  a safari jeep parked overlooking some tall grass. We moved on before heading to the lake to see the flamingoes.

The real treat came after lunch. We finally got rid of our guide who said we were free to drive around the park before the park closed. Off we went like hunters into the vast expanse of the park, except that we were in a giant landcruiser which probaly looked like a elephant if you were looking at us from a distant.

Rhino. Two of them! Stop Bun, lets get the camera. They were a bit to far to get a proper picture. The rhino of the Ngorongoro Crater are different because they appear white. They get like that after they have bathed and rolled in the saline lake and fringng salt flats of Lake Magadi in the middle of the crater floor.

We then went in search of the two lions we saw earlier in the day. On the way Bun noticed a large gathering of safari jeeps all huddled together in the distance about half a mile away. Something was going on over there, so we got a move on and ventured over to see what was going on. We slowed down as we approached and got sight of a pride of lions in the middle of the group of trucks.

They were half sleeping and rolling around. As we made our way round the bend to get a better view, we caught sight of one hiding in the tall grass, just about visible. We couldn’t believe our luck. We were very close but we felt like there was no bridging the gap and getting a stroke of one, however tempting it was. We switched the engine off and waited to see what they would do next. they continued to bake in the sun, their chests pumping up and down. We just wanted to take as many pictures as possible so we passed the camera back and forth as they moved around.

After a while the real joy was seeing them get a wind of something and becoming very alert as they got out from the grass. They scanned the horizon and as we looked in the same direction as they were, we noticed a group of wildebeest in the distance. A sudden transformation as they switched from sleeping doormats to killing lions. They were off! Bun coudln’t even try to grab one of  thelions tail to stop it from going!

Now we sensed that there was going to be a kill. We watched them go as a pack and waited to see what they would do next. it was hard seeing what they were up to in the grass, but as one went off on it’s own, we thought there was going to be some cunning move to kill one of the wildebeest.

The single vunerable wildebeest got sense of it and was off like a shot. It was hard to see what happened next but as I looked through the binoculars, I could make out the legs of an antelope upside down in the grass.

We were buzzing from watching that. We missed the actual kill but could see the pride all around the antelope.

We then drove  off towards the park exit, leaving in a different way than we entered, to get to the gate before it closed.

photos for now http://www.flickr.com/photos/amillerphotos

Google map of the crater: http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?ll=-3.196301,35.59018&z=10&t=h&hl=en

March 2010
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