My time had finally come! I was going on an African safari!
I had dreamed of seeing lions, zebras, elephants and wildebeest all my life, and now I was actually on my way to see them in their natural habitat.
The first expo of my internship in Kenya was over and I was headed on a 3 day safari which started from Nairobi, with two of my close friends, Katie and Kerry.
We booked a train ride from Mombasa on the coast, to head inland overnight. The 3 of us had a small cabin to ourselves, with bunk beds and a window, where we could watch the land pass by in an exuberant blur of green and brown.
That night for dinner, we made our way to the dining car for something to eat and wine. Lots of wine.
Too excited to sleep, we drank bottle after bottle, laughing and making fools of ourselves. The wind from open windows swept in all night to revitalize our spirit and strengthen us for more of the red stuff.
So preoccupied in our evening binger we were, that we didn’t notice the entire car had emptied of passengers, all but one. He kept to himself, quietly in the corner, busy texting on his phone and occasionally glancing at us. Out of curiosity, I asked him how he was doing, in a slurred but confident manner.
He said he worked on the train. “Oh cool, must be a nice job.” He looked at his watch and said irritatingly, that he was supposed get off work 2 hours ago. “Really? I’m sorry, what’s keeping you?” I said earnestly. “I’m waiting for you!” He said.
We felt so bad. His shift ended hours ago but he couldn’t leave because we were still getting drunk. Here’s your sign it’s time to go.
We apologized and asked for just one more bottle, and promised we would drink it quickly.
He looked at us with a deadpan expression and said, “I can’t, you drank all the wine we had.” Ok, we may have a problem…
The train rocked back and forth ferociously as we made our way back to the cabin, or maybe that was the wine. The way I remember it, I passed out for 30 minutes before the sun woke me up, just in time for the train to come to a halt. We arrived in Nairobi. I drank the whole trip! eek!
After checking into our backpacker’s hostel and napping the day away, we spent the afternoon at an elephant orphanage. The staff were armed with milk-filled bottles as they attempted to entice the youngsters near us so we could pet them. Aside from being very hungover, this was the perfect teaser to our safari.
Packed and ready to go the next morning, we jumped on the tour bus headed for the Maasai Mara National Reserve, which shares a border with the well-known Serengeti Park!
After a few hours ride through dust and bush laden plains, we entered the park and I went on my first game drive. This is where my heart is.
I was thrilled to be in the moment, fulfilling a lifelong dream. There were wildebeest to my left, gazelle to my right, giraffe off in the distance… just out there, in their natural state. No fences, no borders, no walls or cages. This is where they live.
The sun was setting beyond the horizon, over grass fields that stretched for miles. We were stopped near a rocky outcropping, trying to sneak a peak of a lioness and her cubs, hidden in the tall bush, just twenty feet away.
Acacia trees abound, the sun had set and the frigged night air swept in abruptly, consuming the land, like an open refrigerator. I got cold at night! We shivered and held close together on our way to camp.
After a hearty meal and small, conservative glass of wine, my friends and I made our way to a giant, canvas walled tent complete with wood-framed beds, warm blankets and even a space for a hot shower.