Wednesday, March 26, 2008

March 26, 2008 - Easter Weekend

Our Easter Weekend was pretty interesting. We had some really great moments and added to our collection of Kenyan experiences.

On Friday morning we drove from Nairobi to a town called Nanyuki at the base of Mt. Kenya. It was about a 3 ½ hour drive to our hotel called the Mt. Kenya Safari Club. We didn’t know (because it is not on their website!) that the resort was being renovated, nor did we know that all of their activities were not included in the cost of staying there. So…our first impression was that it was over-priced. We didn’t realize how rare it is to find a lodge with rates that are inclusive of safaris and other activities like the one we stayed at in Naivasha after Christmas. Anyway, we decided to give it a try. The food was good and our room was beautiful, with a big fire place that you really need because at 7,000 ft it is very cold! What I really loved was that we were staying exactly on the Equator – so cool! We made the most of our time there, including early morning horse-back riding with some other guests (a nice Iranian family) and a visit to their animal orphanage. Both this hotel and the orphanage were founded by the American actor William Holden and the orphanage, unlike the one in Nairobi, actually does release rehabilitated and orphaned animals back into the wild. I rode and fed a giant 150 year-old turtle (over 360 lbs!), fed an eland (the largest type of antelope), an ostrich and many monkeys! Kristoffer fed the turtle and the monkeys but was not as into the eland and ostrich (I agree with him that ostriches are super freaky). The orphanage was such a great place for little kids to interact with animals – the few little ones we saw there were super cute. I should also mention that the snow-capped Mt. Kenya is one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. Another time when we have 5 days to climb up and come down, we hope to have that experience. It is the second highest mountain in Africa, at over 17,000 ft (5199 meters), and does not look like an easy climb...but perhaps it could help us “train” to climb Kilimanjaro. In the end, we had a nice time at the Safari Club (but still think it was over-priced).

After our orphanage visit on Saturday morning we headed to another lodge about 30 minutes west of the first place, still near the town of Nanyuki, straddling the Equator and in view of Mt. Kenya. It is called “Sweetwaters Tented Camp” and is located on its own game reserve, made up of about 30 really nice tents furnished like hotel rooms with a restaurant, bar, shop, etc. in a regular building. Unfortunately, because we weren’t exactly ahead of the game when it came to planning our weekend, they didn’t have any available tents. They did, however, have a random room (dare we say staff quarters?) where we were able to stay inexpensively. The food was pretty good but the best part of this place was that we could go on as many game drives as we wanted! We spent about 4 hours on Saturday driving around the park enjoying the animals and hunting for two in particular: elephants and lions. This was the first place we have been in Kenya where there actually are elephants so we were really psyched. Sadly we had no luck finding them on Saturday, but did enjoy some cool birds, tons of baboons, 3 rhinos, many types of antelope, and zebras and giraffes galore. They also have a Chimpanzee Sanctuary which is hundreds of acres of land for about 50 rescued chimps; there are no chimps in Kenya as they are native to Burundi and Rwanda. We could have watched them for hours – they are amazing and SOO much like us!

Sunday morning and Happy Easter! We decided to get up before everyone else and started on our game drive at 6am. By the time we needed to head back for breakfast around 8:15 we had seen more of the same, not to mention a breathtaking sunrise over Mt. Kenya, but no lions or elephants. Especially because it was probably our 7th or 8th game drive with no lion sightings, I was so frustrated! Luckily, as we were almost back to the camp, Kristoffer noticed down the path to our left a herd of elephants! Easter Elephants for us! When we got closer there were about 15 elephants, including 3 pretty small babies. They were enormous and amazing and completely made our weekend. Two of them crossed the road behind our car so close to us! We watched them eating for a while, completely fascinated by their interactions with each other, before we headed back to eat a champagne Easter breakfast of our own.

And of course, what would Easter Sunday be for me without going to church. Luckily, the lodge advertised that it had a 10am “mass” on site; I was happy about this because the closest Catholic Church was at least an hour’s drive away and I assumed it would a non-denominational Christian service of some kind, which would perfectly suit my needs. While Kristoffer worked on changing a flat tire, I headed to the “chapel” (also the pool house). I found myself with 15 Kenyans (3 of them preachers/ministers) from a nearby town and no other hotel guests, although one man did briefly join us a little later on. As it turned out, it was a Born Again Christian service that I attended. With such a small group, it was one of the most joyful church services I have ever been to with A LOT of singing and dancing. At first I sat on the outskirts of the group mostly watching and listening, but at some point one of the women came and took my hands and started dancing with me. Then, she led me to the center of the circle where she and I danced in the middle of the group. I know this sounds a little strange, but it was actually pretty special and didn’t feel uncomfortable or weird. The part that was awkward for me was later in the service, after all of the preachers had talked for a long time, members of the congregation were asked to “testify” and after a few women had gone I was asked to speak. Yikes! Of course, there was a translator going back and forth between English and Kiswahili, but Catholics do not usually get up in the middle of mass and testify so I was not quite on my game! While the other testimonies involved singing and a lot of passionate talk about being saved by Jesus, mine went a little something like this:

“Good morning…Happy Easter…my name is Lisa and I live in Nairobi…I am a Catholic Christian…Jesus has been very good to me…thank you for letting me be part of your service…Asante Sana (thank you very much).”

As lame a testimony as that was, I did receive a round of applause. After the testimony came gospel readings and sermons. I lasted a total of 1 hr. and 45 minutes before I had to go to the bathroom (and didn’t quite make it back to the service) but I know that it went on for at least 2 ½ hours. They were the most energetic Christians with whom I have ever had an experience, and it was actually pretty nice for Easter Sunday. Let me tell you, they could not have been more thrilled with Christ’s resurrection! Anyway, after church Kristoffer and I took another short game drive before lunch (sadly, no lions) and then decided to go back to Nairobi.

The rest of our weekend was very relaxing with some movie watching, good food, and generally enjoying not having to work! We saw “The Bucket List” with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, which we would highly recommend. Yesterday and today have been really busy at work for me (which is why it has taken me longer than usual to get this blog up!) and Kristoffer is getting ready to leave on Sunday for a week’s conference at the WFP headquarters in Rome. Sadly, I can’t go with him so I will be all alone in this big country (hint hint: if you want to visit next week that would be OK by me).

We are happy to have expanded our view of this country and hope that everyone else had as nice a holiday weekend as we did (although you probably didn’t see any elephants, so probably our weekend was a little bit better than yours). Pictures of our weekend will be in the next blog!


1 comment:

Carol said...

What an amazing way to spend your Easter Weekend... I can't wait for the day to see some elephants in the wild! I'm always reading your blog now because I envy your new profession... Keep up the good work! Take care guys.
-Carol B.