Polepole (Pəʊliːpəʊliː)

Publicity_shot Posted by Nigel and Carol Weallans on Fri, 27 May 2016 | 2 comments | Bookmark: digg this Post this to del.icio.us Post this to Facebook

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
(From ‘Leisure’ by W.H Davies)

An important requirement on safari is that you get on well with your driver. Amani introduced himself and told us that his name meant ‘Peace.’ He is also called Samuel, as, like his namesake in the Bible, he had been dedicated, by his mother, to God’s service. Before he was born, his mother suffered four miscarriages. After explaining the itinerary, he handed us checklists of animals we might expect to see.

Although there are several different companies taking tourists out for game drives, they are not really in competition. They share drivers’ quarters at the lodges, or find cheap accommodation locally, and share details of finds. On the first day, Amani spoke to a fellow driver and then rapidly drove off down the road in a different direction. Stopping at what looked like an area of deserted bush, he pointed out three cheetahs sitting in front of a large clump of grass.

A highlight was seeing a leopard at close quarters. At the lodge, the owners would hang goat meat on a post. This guaranteed that a leopard would be seen as it became dark, but I hoped to see something less staged. On the return journey one evening and with the light fading, Amani stopped and pointed to an animal sitting at the side of the road. It was a leopard! Amazingly, it walked straight towards us, passed the side of the vehicle close enough to brush against it and followed the road away from us.

Amani was incredibly good at spotting animals, even though camouflaged against the landscape. On our last day, he took us out early in search of lions. One of the bonuses of going on safari, for me, was to be allowed to stand up in the back of a moving vehicle and look out of the open roof. I carefully scanned the scenery on my side. Amani stopped the vehicle and pointed to three small shapes moving in the distance. Two lions were fighting over a lioness. Eventually, the victor padded across and sat down in the long grass with the lioness, whilst the loser kept his distance. Amani was soon on the radio to the other drivers, who appeared at great speed and parked along the bumpy road. Most, however, were happy to move on quickly after taking the obligatory photograph and ticking another animal off their list. We were content to stand and enjoy watching these amazing animals. Eventually, breakfast and the long drive to Malindi beckoned and we reluctantly left.

It is the low season in Kenya and the tourist industry has been undergoing a lean time. The safari lodge in Tsavo East was practically empty and there were three groups of people sitting down to eat in the evening. We could not understand why we were being taken to a room so far away from the restaurant and reception, until we realised that this was directly opposite the waterhole and gave the best chance of viewing animals drinking.

Some of the hotels and restaurants in Malinda are closed and we are sometimes the only customers sitting drinking our tea and coffee. We were the only people visiting the large craft market – we have been twice and have not managed to look around all of it – and the shopkeepers were very keen to sell. This should be an ideal environment to get some incredible bargains, but it is in my mind that we should pay a fair price, as this is these people’s way of making a living. One lady begged me to buy anything from her assortment of crudely-carved wooden animals.

The beach sellers are particularly persistent and, if they do not have anything that you want, will return later with other items, or arrange to carve something for you.

Yesterday, I met two men on the beach. They live in Nairobi, but travel to Malindi, rent accommodation and sell carved stone animals and bowls, and wooden fridge magnets and keyholders to tourists. They told me that they were friends and needed to make enough cash to cover their rent and the return journey to Nairobi. After they carefully unpacked their wares, I bought a small hippo for less than 75p. I did not have the heart to haggle and paid their first price. I will never have a lot of money! I also paid a 75p deposit on a carved fridge magnet, which I will collect later. We were told when we arrived in Ibba that paying for anything beforehand was ‘the end of the journey.’ I still owe 75p so, somehow, I do not think that I will be disappointed.

Comments

Jenny Smyth said Tue, 31 May 2016 08:19AM
So glad you are having time to relax, unwind and experience something more of wider Africa! God bless you both, and keep away from the mangoes for a while!
JACKLINE said Tue, 31 May 2016 10:11AM
Hi Nigel and Carol. Am happy to learn that you are having a nice break in Kenya.Your story is lovely and i could see you at the lodge and malindi lol ;-) pass my love to Carol and stay safe. Godbless.Jackie

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