Day 324: Hyena Day

Wed. 3rd July 2013

Are you following me?Our little side trip into Kenya ends today and we are heading back into Tanzania and to Arusha where destiny awaits and we get to catch up with our family. We do, however, get to have a final morning game drive through Amboseli on our way to the border. It seems to be our day for hyenas as first we spot a lone one walking along parallel to the track, then another couple and finally a whole pack feasting on a carcass surrounded by vultures.

Dinner timePaul thinks that it must be the remains of a hippo judging by the size of the rib bones that are clearly visible – apparently, they aren’t just scavengers but can kill large animals too when hunting in packs. Unlike the big cats, they don’t kill their prey with a throat bite first but just take chunks of flesh one bite at a time and the poor animal just bleeds to death. I think the moral is ‘don’t mess with hyenas’!

A vulture coming in for lunchThe vultures are waiting patiently in a circle around the hyenas. When they get too close they are chased off. We watch for a while, fascinated by the dynamics of the group – who gets to eat what and when, and why are there other hyenas just sitting in a muddy pool nearby not trying to get their share? We do need to move on however, as strictly speaking, we seem to be off the track and Paul might get into trouble if we are caught. As we head on through the park, we are still on the lookout for cats of the spotted variety without any success.

An eagle wanted to get in on the actAmboseli is not a very big park and we are all too soon at the gate at the other end. While Paul signs us out we sit in the Land Cruiser, smile and say “no thanks” to the women selling us tat. Their English can be quite good but they clearly skipped class when it came to understanding what “no, thank you” means. Formalities complete, we continue on the dirt road toward the border and shortly we come across another Land Cruiser stopped at the side of the road with the occupants peering at the undergrowth at the base of a tree.

Gerenuk giraffe-necked antelopeThey say that they saw a leopard in the tree which has just climbed down to hide in the long grass. We peer and peer and even take the Land Cruiser off road and drive in a circle around the base of the tree, to no avail. They’re good at hiding and they’re good at slinking off unnoticed. Still no leopards and that was probably my (though not Janet’s)  last chance to see leopards in the wild. Later we did get to see the decidedly weird Gerenuk, a giraffe-necked antelope that will sometimes eat standing on its hind legs.

Mt Meru - on our way to ArushaAs we get closer to the Tanzanian border we start to see signs of civilisation and a town called Namanga, that seems to straddle the border. We’ve seen some busy border crossings but this one is really hectic with people, cars and buses everywhere. There doesn’t seem to be any logic in the queues within the immigration hut either – some people are clutching familiar looking blue forms but we can’t find any blank ones. Here experience comes in and we know that these are departure forms and we eventually find blank ones and by the time we’ve filled them in we’re at the front of the queue ready to hand over our passports and completed forms. The keys (as ever) are smiling and having a polite chat with (and laughing at the jokes of) the immigration officer.

With Paul, our driver & guide for the Masai Mara and AmboseliOnce we’ve completed the formalities of leaving Kenya and re-entering Tanzania (fortunately without having to buy new visas as we are entering from another East African country) we need to say goodbye to Paul and to the Land Cruiser as we transfer to a normal people carrier and another driver. We’ve got to know and like Paul over the last week and are sorry to say goodbye. We haven’t seen any leopards but we’ve had some unforgettable experiences (e.g. the cheetahs on our roof) and have seen lots of other animals. All in all, we’ve had a great week in Kenya.

The road is in much better condition on the Tanzania side of the border and we are able to make much faster progress toward Arusha – apart from the couple of police checkpoints where, unusually, they want to have a chat with us as well as the driver and to check our passports. Arusha turns out to be a sprawling town for locals (rather than tourists). We struggled to find a mid-price hotel in the town – there seemed to mostly be either 4/5* luxury hotels or backpacker hostels. The Outpost Lodge is one of the exceptions (as well as being the departure point for Janet’s trip) and it provides the basic, no-frills but clean accommodation which we’ve been looking for.

Leanne from Acacia is in town and so we arrange to meet up at a nearby restaurant. Its great to see her again and to thank her for arranging our Kenya excursion. We also get to hear about how the group we left on Sabie in Dar are getting on. Unsurprisingly, they partied long and hard in Zanzibar. Whilst we miss them, we doubt that we would have had the stamina to keep up with them had we stayed on Sabie.

The only piece of bad news is that we find out that there has been a mix up with Exodus and that I need to buy a kit bag for my Kilimanjaro trip (the porters don’t/can’t carry my backpack). Leanne is not optimistic about my chances as there are no outdoor shops in Arusha, as Moshi rather than Arusha is the usual starting point for Kilimanjaro climbs. She does, however, offer to drive me to the only luggage shop in town and there I have the choice of precisely one kit bag that would cost £10 at home but (even after haggling) costs £40 here. At least I’m now sorted and subject to Steve bringing out some key things (like warm gloves) I’m kitted out for my climb.

We walk back to the Blue Heron (where we met Leanne) in the evening for our last night together as just a couple. Tomorrow, Steve arrives and we get ready for our separate adventures. I try not to think about what I’ve let myself in for. Confidence, David, confidence!

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