Arusha, Tanzania

Sept. 1, 2010

“I have the best paintings and the best prices, look here look here!”

Arusha seemed a bit more approachable than Nairobi. One of our camp managers at Elephant Pepper Camp was from Arusha so she gave us some recommendations on where to go and when to go there. She did advise us not to walk around at night and to watch out for fake taxis.

We stayed at the African Tulip Hotel near the clock tower. It was about a 10 minute walk into town. The African Tulip was a pretty hotel, set on a smaller plot that our Nairobi hotel. It has restaurants, a pool and a bar. Our room was spacious with a huge bathroom. Our stay included continental breakfast.

We arrived at the Tulip and ventured into town for lunch. On the corner we met Raymond.  Raymond decided to “befriend” us and escort us into town, Mr. K and I didn’t really seem to have a choice in the matter. Raymond happily chatted beside us telling us tales of his summit to Kili, while Mr. K and I suspiciously glanced around trying to figure out if this was some sort of pig pocket scheme.  We kept on walking and he kept on talking right along with us, we couldn’t figure out how to get rid of him! Having lived in NYC for 6+years I am used to my fair amount of street hockers, cat calls from construction workers and creepy men in general. Never once have I encountered a Raymond, a happy go lucky street person, not selling anything, not stealing anything, just happy to chat. Quite frankly he scared me much more than any NYC street rat ever did! The street people of NYC respect your space and don’t follow you down the side walk. Finally, we were able to give him a somewhat rude goodbye and ditch him. Which was both a good and a bad thing. Good because we no longer had this strange man following our every move. Bad because once Raymond left we were attacked by packs of young men selling rolled up paintings. We had little idea of where this restaurant was and everywhere we stepped was an aggressive painting seller! Ahhhhhhhhhhh!

After about 15 minutes of wandering we found the restaurant. By this point we were both grumpy, agitated and hungry. We sat down, I opened the menu and noticed that they did not take credit cards. Us being scared tourists did not venture out with much cash. We had to leave our comfy booth and head back out and battle our way back to our hotel.

Side note: I’m still not quite sure what Raymond wanted from us, but we think his job was to hustle tourists and guide them to his brother’s shops for souvenirs.

January 13, 2011. Tags: , , . Travel. Leave a comment.

Masai Mara

Our camp was the last stop on the plane to Masai Mara, which meant that we took off and landed about 8 times over the course of an hour. Flying around Kenya in the hopper planes will get you over your fear of flying real fast.

The Mara is a reserve on steroids. There are animals everywhere you look. We arrived toward the end of the Wildebeest migration. Over 1 million of these animals were headed back to Tanzania. Standing in between them and their home base is the hippo and crocodile infested Mara River. This great migration is the reason we chose to visit Africa during this time. So needless to say we were really really really hoping to see a crossing. But that was scheduled for day 3, let get through days 1 and 2 first.

We stayed at Elephant Pepper Camp, a tented camp that was more luxurious than many of the hotels that I have stayed in. We stayed in the honeymoon tent, which was huge maybe even larger than our Gramercy apartment. We had great view of the plains and our tent was frequently visited by wildlife. Each morning we arose to the most dazzling sunrises that I have ever seen. Mr K. and I were living the high life.

The best part about the Mara was the game, it was everywhere you looked all I had to do was look outside of our tent to see zebras, wildebeests, gazelles and some pesky baboons, who I am pretty sure got a hold of our welcome champagne bottle and decided to spray it all over our porch while we were at lunch. Stupid monkeys.

We had two prides of lions and a cheetah mom and baby camped out about 5 minutes from camp. Each day we would check up on our lions and cheetahs. We spent a lot of time hanging out with them during our time at Elephant Pepper Camp. The mom and baby cheetah were the most active, always playing or walking in the tall grasses of the plains.

The animals also visited us at night while we were in our tents. I remember waking up and hearing “maaaaaaaaaaaa” “mmmmmaaah” I looked outside and there was a huge herd of Wildebeests grazing inches from our tent. How cool is that?!?! Then there was the night when we heard soft stomping sounds and loud ripping of vegetation. There was a heard of elephants feeding in the brush at the back of our tent! The scariest night was the night I was woken up by the lion roars. Two male lions were going back and forth with each other. There roars getting louder and fiercer as the fight went on. The next morning I asked George our guide if he heard the lions, he said he did and in the morning went to open his tent and there was a lion right outside! Later on our morning safari we saw one of the male lions badly limping into the brush. We figured that he was injured last night, and told the park rangers.

The animals that we saw didn’t seem to care that we were their watching them. They continued on with their daily lives as if we were just a part of the African plain. The cheetah mom even used our car as a vantage point, jumping up on the hood and surveying the area before jumping down to join her cub. There wasn’t always such a happy medium between tourist and wildlife, and in some places there is still a disconnect. We were told some horror stories from the native Nairobians about how pushy tourists would force their guides to drive right in between the animals and its hunted prey so they could get the “perfect action shot”, this perfect shot ruined the animals chance of making the kill, wasting the animals energy and lengthening the amount of time it went in between meals. The night drives would also terrorize the animals the truck’s spotlight giving away the animals position, letting the pray escape.

Mr.K and I wanted to go on safari so we could see the wildlife in their natural habitat while there are still some left to see. We became present to the delicate balance between man, animal and earth. And the relationships created by tourism, native tribes, and the animals. The reality is that we only have this one earth and to really appreciate it you need to go out and experience it, but be mindful not to trash it, because if we create too much damage to the environment and the animals – we will lose them for good.

December 16, 2010. Tags: , , , , . Travel. Leave a comment.

Loisaba

12/3/10

We took a 6 hour “road” transfer from Samburu to Loisaba. Funny thing is we ran out of road after about 4 hours. Then it started to rain, so we slid around the muddy bumpy ground for about 3 hours passing various wildlife and a few overstuffed trucks with people clinging to the top and the sides. We also took a break for tea, in which we pulled off to the side of the road and our driver brought out the tea and cookies.

The rich green forests and bright flowers of Loisaba were quite a change from the dusty dry red sand and bare thorny trees of Samburu. We quickly learned that all this dense forestry made is pretty impossible for us to find animals. We drove around that place for two days and barely saw anything more than hyenas eating the dead elephant. But hey that’s the way the ball bounces sometimes. These animals aren’t paid to make special appearances every hour.

I also found Loisaba to be more of an activities wilderness lodge offering helicopter safaris, white water rafting, camel and horseback safaris, croquet, etc. There was plenty of other options if you don’t feel like doing your typical safari. Did I mention this place has its own airstrip??

One of the highlights was dinner with Allistar, the camp manager and Humpries, the pilot. When you think of old british safari – these two should come to mind. Dressed the part one in a shearling vest, the other wearing oodles of scarves draped around his neck. They were a laugh riot. Telling crazy stories of crash landing planes out on the african planes and luring honeybadgers into the main lodge and then barricading it into the library with pillows and couch cushions.

The brilliance of Loisaba are the Starbeds. We were able to book one night in these allusive beds, and were escorted to our digs via camels. My camel was not fond of the muddy slopes and would throw a fit every time we needed to descend down the trail. Riding the camels was a very earthy experience. We were able to get closer to the animals than we were on horseback.

We sipped on a cocktail and then headed out for a night game drive, along with an armed guard whose leisurely placement of his loaded gun was almost as scary as being lost in the pitch black darkness of the African jungle. Yes, I said lost. We were off roading it in search of leopards and sometime after the sun went go we got pretty freakin lost. We ended up running into a huge heard of frightened elephants hiding the tiniest baby I have ever seen.

 After another delicious dinner and some drinks around the bonfire we headed up to our starbed. Unfortunately, the sky was a bit cloudy that night so the start were muted. It was also unfortunate that it started to rain in the middle of the night and Mr. K had to get our of bed and wheel it back into the hut.

 P.s. Did I mention that our guide Lawrence named a hybrid species of monkey? It was a cross between a Gabon and a Baboon.

December 6, 2010. Tags: , , , , . Travel. Leave a comment.

Memorable Moments In Samburu

12/3/10

  • Mr. K spotting the leopard mom and cub sitting in the trees guarding their porcupine kill, after a long morning of driving around seeing nothing.
  • Having our bush breakfast invaded by the blue baller monkeys, watching Chris and Simon throw rock and sticks to scare them away, Mr. K jumping and running at above mentioned blue baller, blue baller hissing and snapping his teeth at Mr. K and me thinking we are about to experience Outbreak part 4.
  • The genet cat
  • tiny baby elephant running around his mom trumpeting
  • sipping wine poolside after our massages
  • agitated male elephant on the hunt for his runaway female
  • lions sitting in a tree
  • bush baby
  • feeding Garys
  • sunsets with wine and bitings
  • being in awe and very awkward with the singing Masai married ladies

December 3, 2010. Tags: , , , . Travel. Leave a comment.

Genet Cat Genet Cat What are They Feeding You…

12/3/10

Over Thanksgiving I visited my grandma who told me that I should take a journal on every trip, so I can take notes on where I’ve been and remember the memories that were made there. So for that reason I’m going to finish up the summary of our Africa trip.

At Saruni, we were told stories of a genet cat who was infamous for sneaking into rooms and eating the cookies brought with the  tea. Everyone who worked there seemed to have a story of this genet cat, so of course Mr. K and I devised a plot to meet this wild “pet”.

Our last night in Saruni we had a yummy dinner in our room accompanied by champagne and wine. Half way through the champagne we decided to create a cookie trail leading from our front door into our dining room to lure the genet cat in. Mr. K kept a secret stash of tea cookies in a pocket of his safari vest. We broke apart one cookie and trailed the pieces into the room. No luck. The only thing eating the cookies by the end of dinner were ants. I toss the cookies bits outside the front door.

Later on we head into the bedroom. Once we are safe and secure inside of our mosquito net bed we begin to hear the oddest noise. A mix of scratching and clicking. Mr. K bravely gets out of bed to investigate (remember we have no walls to protect us on one side of our room).

He gets his headlamp switches it on and sees the genet cat sitting comfortably in the chair biting a hole through his safari vest to get at the cookies. He sees Mr. K and scurries from the room. So of course I jump out of bed put on a headlamp and make a cookie trail to see if he will come back. He does. Fearlessly entering our room and the spot lights of our headlamps and walks around eating all of the cookie crumbs, making a leisurely exit.

In the morning Sylvester pointed out that there were hyena tracks all the front entry way to our room. Perhaps they like cookies too.

December 3, 2010. Tags: , , , . Travel. Leave a comment.

Saruni Samburu

Aug 2010

Built into the mountain side overlooking a huge valley of redish gold landscape, and blue skies lies Saruni – the first stop on our safari adventure. It absolutely took my breath away. Mr. K and I were definitely not expecting this scale of luxury!

Saruni Samburu is operated on community land owned by the local tribes, and rented by the owners of the lodge. Saruni also employs the local tribes men and women. The lodge is located about 15 minutes from the local reserve. On route we pass the “thumbs up, Saruni is the best rock”, and watch in awe as our land rover does some rock climbing to our destination. We are greeted by the staff members who will be taking care of us for the next few days and make our way up to the lodge. It was nothing like I expected – I was totally unprepared for what I saw – a huge gorgeous valley view and a lodge that was literally built into the mountain side. We followed the Tom, camp manager down a long path to our “room” aka huge suite that opened up into a cliff overlooking the valley. Everywhere you look was nature’s beauty the place was brilliant. It was more than I wanted. That afternoon we watched the sunset in our outdoor sitting room with a bottle (or two) of wine and bitings. We have found heaven and it looks like two wine bottles and an African desert valley.

We then had to answer the pressing question of where would you like to dine tonight? In your room or the lodge.  Room please! And that folks is pretty much how the rest of our stay went in Saruni whatever we wanted was offered. Private game drives easily done, private dinner done, sundowners and a bonfire right this way, massages, and infinity pool yep we got those too. We could have it all and it was all for us – literally we were the only guests! And it spoiled us big time!

September 25, 2010. Travel. Leave a comment.

Samburu Safari Day 1

Aug. 24, 2010

We are picked up from the Buffalo Springs “airport” by our guides, Chris a Samburu Masai warrior and Simon the warrior in training. They lay down the rules of their safari and off we drove over the bumpy red roads to begin what is our first safari ever! The Samburu landscape consists of mostly red sand and super thorny bushes that are conveniently located on the edge of the road threatening to stab you at every curve. Our guides wear the traditional red robes of their Masai tribe, brightly colored beaded bracelets and these wonderful head pieces that bring the whole outfit together. At times other tourists found our guides to be more entertaining than the animals. Once pair of UK folks asked us if they could take a photo of our guides – to which I thought um why don’t you ask them???

Anyways our very first animal sighting are dik dik’s tiny antelope looking things that we soon find out are as common as squirrels or pigeons – at least in Samburu – in southern Kenya, dik diks are less and less of a common occurrence. We see impala everywhere, gerenuks eating leaves on their hind legs (they are nicknamed giraffe antelopes for their long giraffe like necks) and the blue ball monkeys (aka vervet monkeys) – yes they are named for a certain part of their blue anatomy.

 Next we drive up into a herd of elephants! Huge elephants just a few feet from the car and they don’t even seem to care! Next up we find a bunch of young giraffes and see one timidly step up to the river to drink water right next to a little croc sunning itself on a grassy patch. Seconds later two young elephants bust out of the bush ahead of us in a mock fight pushing each other with their trunks and mini tusks! Look to your left, are those giraffes kissing?  – why yes I believe they are! Nat Geo has nothing on this! Such an abundance of wildlife all within a few yards of each other.

We are lucky enough to see all the Samburu five on our first day of safari. Oryx, gerenuk, Gevey’s zebras, ostrich, and reticulated giraffe – these 5 animals are only in the Samburu region of Kenya (northern parts of Kenya). We stop for a bush lunch near a natural spring and eat with some curious Grevey’s zebras and then head off to Saruni.

If you want to follow our honeymoon adventure through photos check out our website!

September 23, 2010. Tags: , , , , . Travel. Leave a comment.

Nairobi, Kenya

August 23, 2010

Today we had a nice workout and then went to breakfast at our first hotel of the trip, the Fairview in Nairobi.  The hotel has a 5 acre compound that is lush and manicured with big walls to keep out we are not sure who!

Our itinerary today was to explore Nairobi. First stop was the Daphne Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage.  Here amazingly dedicated handlers raise baby elephants, mostly who have lost their mothers to poachers.  The elephants are infants to 3 year olds at this location and they are raised to age 10 at the next stop, before being released into the wild.  It was cool to see the baby elephants running from the woods with their handlers, eager to get to the “show” where they guzzle giant baby bottles filled with milk.  After feed time, romp-aroom begins!

see all our pictures here

There were also three rhino’s at the center, one of which was blind.  Unfortunately for him that means he has to stay in his pen, but a good thing for the rest of us!

Next we went to the Giraffe Sanctuary where the Rothchilds subspecies is being nursed back from endangerment by habitat loss and poaching in Uganda.  We got to feed them and one gave Heather a big wet kiss!

Then we did a little shopping and went to Karen Blixton Museum, where she lived and where they filmed “Out of Africa” based on her book.  It was pretty cool to see that place, but today the elephants stole the show!  Next stop safari at Samburu, not sure when we will be having internet access again but we will be using this blog as our journal of what we do each day and will post it when we can.

August 23, 2010. Tags: , , , . Travel. Leave a comment.

Africa, Honeymoon, Here we come!!

August 21-22, 2010

In the spirit of the Friends Monica and Chandler honeymoon episode Mr. K and I arrived at JFK airport expecting a free upgrade to first class.

Me: Hey! how’s it going? It’s our honeymoon we were wondering if there is anything available in first class. (wink wink)

Emerates ticket man: Yes there is for an upgrade fee of $8,000 a ticket.

Me: OK. What about business class?

Emerates ticket man: yep $4,000 a ticket

Me: OK. how about emergency row seating.

Emerates ticket man: (makes a whispered phone call where only thing i make out is honeymoon couple.) Yes we have something available.

We may not have been first  class but we got the most pimped out seats in coach, the first row with about 4 feet of empty space in front of us and an extra seat in our row (which later acted as a trash can for all the wine bottles we consumed.) Then we met Jesse our flight attendant friend who hooked us up the rest of the flight, our honeymoon was off to a smashing start.

So a 12 hour flight to Dubai. What to do what to do, well there was movie watching, photo book reading, pong playing and flight watching – where we realized that we were flying over Iraq – Baghdad etc, are there no such things as no fly zones anymore??

Soon we arrive in Dubai and yes it is as designer as everyone says  – pretty much 5th ave in an airport where they sell $127 headphones like JFK sells .25 cent Posts. So here we are thinking that we are in the most modern totally together airport, where the chairs are not just sitting chairs they are recliners.

Finally Nairobi where was meet our driver Gibson holding a sign reading Kocubinski/Ritchey just past baggage claim. It has secretly been a dream of mine that a drive will meet me with a sign at an airport waiting to take me away to a exotic place, and now my dream has  true (but even better than my dream since my dream has turned into my honeymoon with Mr. K. )We are truly blessed.

We jump on our Safari bus and head to our hotel a 5 acre oasis in the middle of the city. Beautiful. We have dinner and are now turning in for what should be an awesome day of giraffe and elephant sanctuaries, open air markets and much more!

August 22, 2010. Tags: , , , . love, Newly Wed Notes, Travel. Leave a comment.

Paris Day 2

May 30, 2010

Paris, day 2 – French Open and the scavenger hunt. Looking back this entire day seemed to be somewhat of a scavenger hunt.  Mr.K and I hunted for the Metro after another amazing breakfast that consisted of cheesy goodness and a perfect bright orange egg on top! Then we hunted for J and E at the French Open – although we did get a little distracted the Polish doubles and front row seating.

Then we hunted for a café to sit and have a drink at, and then we got real – we decided to do what every tourist in Paris should do: Eat and Drink their way through a Parisian neighborhood. We started out by hitting up the patisserie near our hotel for French pastry, a baguette, and a crepe avec nutella et framboise. Then we found the nearest café and during the standard 20 minutes wait for our champagne to be delivered to our table, created a scavenger hunt list. Here is most of what we came up with:

Guinness – Mr. K

French beer – Mrs. K (kronberg)

Champagne – both

Red and white wine – both

Savory – both (crepes w/glass white wine) – Mine was sooooooo good – I LOVE French eggs

  1. Sweet – both (pain au chocolate and Meringue)

Cheese and bread – (brie, sheep’s and baguette with red wine)

Wild card – both

Touch water – both (fountain at Jardin du Luxembourg and La Seine)

Smoke something – both (not accomplished)

Drink a beer in the street – Mrs. K (Duvel purchased from a bar and toted along on my bike)

I believe the only thing that we did not accomplish was to smoke something. After our champagne we went off in search of a good ol American dive bar, Mr.K knew just the place. We tapped their Guinness keg watched some hockey and tried to avoid eye contact with the creepy homeless guy wandering aimlessly around the bar asking for ciggys. Next was food time we found another very American crepe place I ordered the best crepe ever (well maybe this one is second to the duck crepe in Montreal) stuffed with cheese spinach and a perfectly fried egg. Mr. K’s crepe not very good, but its ok he helped me eat mine.

We wandered and found a cute pastry shop with huge white fluffy meringues (oh lala!) for me and a pain au chocolate (his pastry of choice)for Mr.K. With the sweet safely in my bad we asked for the nearest wine store, of course! We ask the wine shop owner if she would help us pick out a nice bottle of red for bread and cheese eating. We get our bottle and two glasses and head back to the hotel.

With Bread, wine, cheese, and pastries in tow we picnic among the manicured trees and blooming flowers in the Jardin du Luxembourg.  We then decided to take on some wild cards:

  1. Activity involving statues
  2. Make out in the rain
  3. Run back to our hotel before J and E get there.

At some point during the best day ever in Paris, day turned into night and we end up in a bar with live jazz music with J and E. Awkwardness. But Awkwardness can be remedied with drinking, and often time’s hilarity ensues from the drinking. This is how we find ourselves biking to Notre Dame at 1 am me with a beer in my bike basket – followed by some groovy gymnastic moves outside of the church. The rest of the night pretty much goes as follows:

  1. J drinks from La Seine
  2. Random French bar with Sean White doppelganger
  3. Trying to get McDos to open up for us sometime between the hours of 4 and 6 am
  4. Mr. K and I getting back to our hotel realizing that it is sometime between 4 and 6 am and we have a noon flight back home.
  5. Us both praying that our wakeup call actually wakes us up
  6. Sleep
  7. Ring, wake up call success!

July 9, 2010. Tags: , , , . Events, Friends, Travel. Leave a comment.

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