African Safari – October 27th – Narok, Kenya to Masai Mara National Reserve
As mentioned in the earlier post, the road to Narok, Kenya was paved. (Location) That was the good news. Shortly after leaving Narok, we began to encounter the bad news. As soon as we turned off of the main highway, the road conditions deteriorated rapidly and the ride became rather uncomfortable to say the least. Once we turned off of the nicely paved road, the travel conditions, road-wise, really took a turn for the worse. Road surfaces were a combination of good, bad, ugly and just plain terrible. The first segment was asphalt but only between the potholes. In some sections of this segment, there were probably areas where the ratio of pavement to pothole favored the potholes.
Taking photos out of a moving vehicle is never easy but taking photos out of a van moving in three dimensions many times a second is just insane. Severe washboard was the norm. Finding washboard without added potholes was a treat! With that caveat, please enjoy my attempts at capturing the scenes that we passed.
The landscape that we were traveling through was very reminiscent of the countryside along route 40 through Arizona except that, in Africa, the trees are flat topped Umbrella Acacias rather than Pinyon Pines. In many ways the scenery and geology resembled the Painted Desert except for the greenness afforded by the higher precipitation of this African Region.
Back to road conditions. Just when it seemed that the gravel road appeared to be smoothing out, we transitioned to sections of road with some of the worst washboard road that I have been over; with the driver maintaining a higher speed than one might expect just to keep bouncing from peak to peak rather than dropping into the troughs of the corduroy.
Although the road was rough, the passing scenery was varied enough to keep one’s mind off of the adverse driving conditions as, in addition to the ever-changing geology and flora and fauna, there was the opportunity to view Masai Mara men in their traditional red garments tending sheep, goats and cattle in this land of vast fenceless openess.
Once the pavement ended, almost a blessing, the surface was a gravel and small stone blend that was equally potholed but, without the sharp edges of the broken pavement, the ride actually improved a bit. Our driver often left the road to travel the shoulder or even the ditch itself in search of some smoothness. He wasn’t the only driver to take their vehicle off-road in this fashion.
Maasai with their flocks of sheep and herds of goats and cattle were always visible along this stretch of the road, either off in the distance or crossing the road in front of us. From time to time, this made for some abrupt braking action to add to the rest of the bouncing.
What at times seemed like a never-ending road to nowhere eventually crested a hill from which we could see our destination, although there was no real clue that it was our destination. Not a lot of road signs in this part of Kenya! We were now traveling along the crest of a small hill and small Masai enclaves of five or so huts could be seen along the way; some reasonably close to the roadway and others scattered across the slopes of the valley. Most seemed to consist of three or four houses up to perhaps a dozen houses. Construction appeared to be mud over slat walls where various sized branches had been loosely interwoven to provide a support structure for the mud. Roof was conical covered in thatch or, now, corrugated metal.
It seemed to us that almost everyone in Kenya was carrying a cell phone, including the Maasai! Seemed rather strange, since our cell phone was incompatible with African signals and we hadn’t been able to locate a microSIM for our iPad. We, the visitors, were the ones who couldn’t communicate in this technological world. Those in our group who had Blackberries fared better.
The village about 7 miles from our eventual destination had its internet cafe but we never did get to try it out.
It was located somewhere in this town but we didn’t have the time available to go exploring.
As we approached the last bridge and curve in the road before reaching the gates of the reserve, it looked like we might have a problem, but the problem moved off of the road without bloodshed.