Leaving the Mara

As soon as we left the compound, a giraffe met us, and that face stuck in my mind all day. I couldn’t see her body, as it was below the level of the road, so I only saw her neck and head, materializing quickly in a clearing as if out of nowhere. It was a brief friendly, joyful surprise. Sammy only saw it in the rearview mirror.

We continued on, winding around the meandering paths of the savana, we passed the fantastical site of bulbous hot air balloons from which other travelers were viewing the sunrise. And still we kept going.

Sammy sped into the hills along barely-ridden tracks and took me back to the location of yesterday’s carnage. I really didn’t want to go there, but hadn’t expressed that to him. Several other trucks were there when we arrived, obstructing the view. When he tried to reposition the Land Cruiser for a better angle, I told him there was no need and we could go on.

He acquiesced and turned to leave, but the ground there was boggy, and when he did so the truck struggled for traction and stalled. At some point yesterday when we were trying to pull another truck from the mud I had smelled electric burning. This was now the second time we had blown a fuse since that happened.

He moved some fuses around to get us moving and I told him I had already recognized a pattern: Any straining in 4×4 mode would blow a fuse and stall the truck. I had seen almost all the things that I needed to for this trip, and in any case we didn’t have much time this morning before we needed to move on. If he felt it was safest to leave the Mara, I was OK with that.

He agreed, but admitted that we were deep in the Mara and wouldn’t be able to keep from stressing the system – there were at least a few points where we wouldn’t be able to avoid marshy ground. There was no quick way to the highway.

So on we moved, speeding where we could, and using the 4×4 sparingly. We managed to make it to the highway with only two other stalls. Each time, there was a puff of smoke and Sammy would scavenge a fuse from another nonessential system to get the truck going again.

I don’t know what all he deactivated to keep the engine running, but I know the speedometer was no longer working by the time we were done.

We still saw things on our way out of the park.

We saw these topis fighting

Another kori bustard was showing off to bid us farewell.

And we found this hyena and this jackal loitering near some impalas.

As we moved further toward the exit the roads grew more substantial and drier. I was sure we were almost out when the radio crackled and suddenly Sammy diverted. A cheetah was hunting.

We followed the cheetah for a bit as he slunk toward the impalas grazing nearby. Sammy had told me yesterday that cheetahs are fast and will make an attack even from a great distance. But this one never made a run for it, so we continued on.

I thought this elephant would be the end, but it wasn’t.

Finally we saw the last of the major fauna on my list – a wildebeest. I hadn’t really expected to see one, given that this is the wrong time of year and the great migration has yet to take place. But Sammy had said I might. He explained that even though the vast majority migrate, a few have taken up residence in the Mara.

When we’d started the morning, I’d held onto a faint hope of seeing a wildebeest, but when we had decided to redirect toward the exit, I’d let it go.

And here we were almost, out of the park, and there he was.

He was a long way away from our truck, barely within range of my camera lens, but Sammy spotted him with his super vision. One lone wildebeest stood grazing on a slope hundreds of yards away, looking up only at rare moments from his meal.

And with that our time in the Mara had come to a close. Once free of the park we sped along the paved roads toward Nairobi, stopping only to have a boxed lunch at one of the stores perched on the roadside (where they then try to sell you overpriced goods).

It was almost six hours after leaving the park that I checked into my hotel in downtown Nairobi. The traffic in the city was terrible on a Friday at rush hour, but eventually we arrived and I thanked Sammy and bid him farewell.

I didn’t know how much time I would have this afternoon so didn’t plan anything except dinner. Tomorrow I have set aside as my day to see Nairobi, and tomorrow night I go home.

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