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“A Camel Makes an Elephant Feel Like a Jet Plane” ~Jackie Onassis

One of the greatest things about our trip to Kenya was letting go of the details. There was absolutely *nothing* that we had to think about other than being present in each moment. The days magically unfolded for us from the time we were awakened in the morning to the minute our heads the pillow at night. The credit for this, of course, goes to the entire team at Royal African Safaris (ask for Bobby). From our time spent in tents to the incredible stays in the lodges, every single thing was anticipated and executed flawlessly. I do have to give special recognition to the folks at Ol Malo, because they not only had to contend with our rowdy group, but they’re also excellent camel wranglers.

Our wake-up call came promptly at 6:30 AM, blessedly accompanied by a large amount of coffee and some delicious shortbread biscuits (good thing we had those, too, since it was going to be a while before it was time for our Bush Breakfast). I know what you’re thinking: “Merrin, you’re not a big coffee drinker, and there’s NO WAY you got out of bed at 6:30 AM”. To that, I’d respond “Kenyan coffee changed my life, and I’m still nursing a pretty heavy craving for it, since it’s the ONLY thing that could possible get me out of bed at such an hour”. Fueled by caffeine, we met up with our group and headed out for a morning hike. We skittered (okay, slid) down a pretty rough incline into the valley below.
I know what you're thinking: "Where's the trail?!?!" There wasn't one. We're hardcore like that.

Hussein and Samwel were awesome as usual, taking lots of time to show us flora and fauna. We saw where a leopard had slept the night before…all cozy on a bed made of the fur of the dik dik he’d eaten for dinner. Speaking of dik diks, we also learned that they mark their territory by, um, pooping in one big heap, kind of like a dik dik outhouse. Thankfully, the poop piles were quite large and easy to avoid! They’re also monogamous, not to mention the cutest darn animals we saw. It was all we could do to keep from bringing one home with us.
Dik dik!!!

We continued to make our way further out into the bush. When we stopped by a strange looking bush to ask a question, Hussein decided it was time to play a little joke on Kevin. We knew the bush was part of the acacia family (because honestly? Just about every tree we saw was some sort of an acacia), but this one had unique looking berry-like thingies on it. Hussein encouraged Kevin to touch the “berry”. As soon as he did, hundreds of ants started crawling out of it and began to fiercely protect their tree. It turns out that cocktail ants, have a symbiotic relationship with the Whistling Thorn acacia; the ants feed on the sap and take shelter in the swollen bases of the thorns. They also keep the trees “groomed” by clipping vines that threaten to strangle the trees. Needless to say, they weren’t happy to be disturbed when Kevin tried to pick the “berry”! In the picture you can see the ants’ backsides in the air, hence the name “cock-tail”. They don’t constantly wish it was five o’clock somewhere, like the rest of us do.
Whistling Thorn Acacia

We walked on, and at some point we noticed that we were being followed… a large group of saddled camels. Katharine wisely asked “Why are we walking in front of what we’re supposed to be riding?”, which really seemed like an appropriate question. The terrain was a little rough, and we were at an altitude that is definitely out of our norm (hello???? I live in Florida. At sea level). It was cool, however, to see lots of leopard prints in the dust, and to be fair to the camels, they couldn’t have handled both us AND the terrain just yet; we needed to get to easier ground, so they walked on behind us for a little while longer.

Soon enough, however, it was time to mount our fair steeds (okay, okay, it was time to climb not-so-gracefully onto our beasts of burden, but it sounds better the other way). Kevin got the lead camel, which, let’s face it, makes all the difference, because if you’re not the lead camel, then the view never changes. Nic wisely chose to sit this one out and followed us on foot as our official videographer. I secretly suspect, however, that he was unwilling to lay himself at the mercy of a smelly animal that spits. Chicken. The Lead Camels

Our camels did an excellent job of carrying us over the last of our journey. There’s something to be said for riding a camel; it’s completely unlike riding a horse, and it’s terribly awkward at first until you become familiar with the rhythm of their gait. Still, though, there were no mishaps, and we dismounted on a ridge with a spectacular view of the valley below. Hussein and Samwel once again took point and led us into a dry riverbed. They presented us with a “Bush Test”. They held up the skull of an animal and charged us with identifying it. I’m proud to say that I was the only one in our group to guess correctly (it was a camel skull, by the way), and after pointing out various other things (like a huge hunk of flint that I actually brought home with me), we arrived at the site of our breakfast.
The Boys in the riverbed

Andrew had come through yet again, and there was a HUGE spread of food for us (and coffee!!!). We feasted on eggs, sausages, cereal, and fruit. The dogs, incidentally, were *thrilled* that the humans were willing to share the sausages. I feel compelled to mention that they had even set up a “bathroom” for us, since its construction was a topic of discussion. I believe Dana even has pictures!

Breakfast in the bush

We relaxed over breakfast, and it was a blessing that we didn’t have to walk all the way back to the lodge; we were waaaaay too comfortable after our long walk and delicious food. Instead, the Rover was waiting for us, and we loaded up and began the dusty drive back towards Ol Malo. Thoreau once said that “An early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day”. We had a lot more in store for us on this day, but I can assure you that by the time I closed my eyes that night, had a full and deep understanding of that sentiment. There were a still a wealth of experiences yet to be had, and we had barely begun to scratch the surface of the day.

One Response to ““A Camel Makes an Elephant Feel Like a Jet Plane” ~Jackie Onassis”

  1. Kevin Donahue Says:

    You never forget your first camel ride. Actually, I’m not sure you ever truly *recover* from your first camel ride, but I digress….

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