Kenya and Tanzania - and Dubai - Fall 2015 travel blog

giraffe center

Ken feeding giraffe

giraffe center

local school kids

Leopard tortoise

tulip tree

tulip tree

Karen Blixen home

Kazuri beads

Kazuri beads

Kazuri beads

Kazuri beads

Kazuri beads

Kazuri beads

local fruit

Great Rift valley

our room

resort pool

Lake Elementaita

the tourists

golden cup

feeding the giraffes

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feeding the giraffes


We checked out of the Longview Suites, which has begun to feel like home. Their staff picked us up from the airport, we stayed with them before the group arrived after visiting Masai Mara and will spend our last night in Africa with them. They are holding our souvenir filled suitcases, have laundered our clothes and have been so kind and gracious.

We stopped at the Giraffe Center which was opened in 1979 by a couple after they got their second Rothschild giraffe to keep their first one company. This variety of giraffe is quite rare and the breeding program has been so successful that they been able to repatriate them to new areas in Kenya. It was a thrill to be able to feed them, feeling their long tongues gently caressing our finger tips and leaving copious amounts of slobber behind. Giraffes eat acacia leaves, which grow amidst long thorns and their tongues frequently get punctured, so their saliva contains antiseptic. That made me feel much better about my sticky fingers. We fed them the equivalent of giraffe candy, but after some minutes of enthusiastic noshing, they moved away to make room for others. If they feel aggressive me they kick you, so the low fences protected us from this eventuality.

Then we went to Karen Blixen's home, which has been turned into a museum. This gutsy Danish woman came here in the 1930's to marry Baron Blixen and raise cattle. That didn't work out well, so they tuned to raising coffee. Although Kenya is known for coffee, it didn't do well here either. The Baron got bored and took off on lengthy hunting trips and Karen took a lover. All this was portrayed in the film, Out of Africa. Karen was beloved by the locals and they were sad, when she finally went broke and returned to Denmark. Most of the Nairobi area we have spent time in is named Karen after her. She became a well known author, writing under the male name Isak Dinesen. Her home had passed through various hands; eventually the Danish government purchased it and gave it to Kenya as an independence gift.

Then we went to Kazuri beads. These clay beads are sold all over the world and are made from clay in a labor intensive process. The power was out, so the guide could only explain some of the steps. Power outages seem to be a common problem here. The beads are glazed and fired and painted and fired. At the end the beads are so hard, they won't shatter even when dropped on the floor. Some are strung for custom orders and others are sold loose. Needless to say, this stop was a popular shopping stop for all the ladies.

The lunch stop was great, much better than last night's dinner. All the food was local and the chef explained what everything was, even though most of the names were unfamiliar. I just may try to duplicate the mashed potatoes-peas-corn mushed together.

Then we took a four hour drive, passing through the Rift Valley. Africa is splitting into two pieces and the rift is the splitting point. We may not be alive for this event, which is supposed to happen in four million years. The geysers here generate electricity. The road was good, but there were times when it was best not to look out the window, as impatient divers rashly passed each other.

Tonight we are staying on the shore of Lake Elementaita, a lake so alkaline that few things can live in it including mosquitos. The resort is elegant, with a spa, hot tub, and swimming pool and it would be easy to linger here a few more days.

One of the things we like about OAT, our travel company, is that they ask their guide to discuss taboo subjects like sex. Tonight we talked about a topic that astounded us and took our breath away - witch doctors. Since the era when most most of Africa was a European colony, we have been sending aid in various forms for my whole life with very little to show for it. I have always wondered why. Our guide explained that the role of witch doctors has always been to explain the mysteries of life. These days as more and more Africans are getting educated, the witch doctors are fighting hard to retain their central role in society with a surprising degree of success. Many poor Africans wonder why they are so poor and what they can do to become rich. Witch doctors tell them things like, "Bring me the body part of an Albino and you will become rich." Consequently, Albinos are in considerable danger and seek shelter in special facilities where no one can hack them to pieces. Old women are also in extra danger, because the witch doctors say that anyone with red eyes is a demon. After years of cooking over fires, old women have red eyes. They too are in danger of being hacked to death. Those who speak against the witch doctors are ostracized by those who believe. If you want to win political office, you'd better not speak against them. Our guide said that they only thing that will bring them down is more education. That can't happen soon enough.

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