Thursday, July 19, 2018

Back to Africa - What Happens When Things Go Wrong?

I'm travelling back in my mind to continue with the African Travel Agent Study Tour of Kenya.

Soggy Travel Agents
My last African blog post had us arriving in Maasai Mara National Park and unpacking our bags in the glorious Sand River Luxury Tented Camp.   We had scheduled a sunrise balloon tour of The Mara for the next morning which meant we had to rise at 3:30 a.m. in order to make the 2+ hour drive to the rendezvous spot.  Stewards bearing hot coffee awakened us with a knock on the of the little luxuries of life on safari.  

During the night, heavy rains had poured down on the tent, so we knew the roads would not be good.  By the time we gathered in the reception area, the rains had settled into a drizzle, but everyone was in a good humour anticipating our adventure and so we collected our rain gear and headed into the dark night.  I was in the front seat behind the driver.  About a half hour into the drive we landed with a thud.  Stuck!  The other Land Rover was unable to pull us out, so it was decided to continue on with everyone crowded into the second vehicle. 
Me and Mirlin

I was the first to get out of the stuck Rover, and by the light of a flashlight, I stepped onto a small, soggy island formed by two deep water-filled ruts.  It wobbled and I stepped very carefully so as not to slide into the water.  I was lucky.  The island collapsed by the time the last passenger descended and she went crotch high into the water.  In the second Land Rover, I occupied the last and highest seat in the rear with three other passengers.  After losing so much time, the second driver wanted to catch up.  He sped through the night slipping and sliding on the saturated roads.  Suddenly...BOOM!  The Land Rover flew over a large bump,  sending the three of us in the back high into the air and thumping our heads on the roll bar.  We stopped to examine the damage and found three passengers had bloody lumps on their heads.  After a short, soggy discussion, we decided to plod on.  

Talek River entrance to Maasai Mara
The Swollen Talek River
We finally reached our destination, another tented camp, this one on the Talek River.  The sun was just beginning to lighten the grey, cloudy sky and we were glad to exit the Land Rovers.  After examining our wounds and looking at the grey morning, we decided to abandon our plans for the balloon ride.  Merlin, our African Travel escort, arranged for us to be served a hot buffet breakfast and also arranged for us to have temporary use of the camp's rooms to shower and recover.  Our bodies felt the trauma even though no permanent damage had been done.  Mirlin was our hero, making all arrangements efficiently and without being asked.  That just goes to show the value of booking your African trip with a company you can count on to take care of things when they go wrong.  And when you travel, things can almost assuredly go wrong.  Thank you, African Travel!

The next decision involved whether to continue with the scheduled afternoon activity -- a visit to a Maasai boma.  Happily, we unanimously said "yes" to that, and it will be the subject of my next blog. 

Thursday, July 12, 2018

From Canyon to Canyon

Canyon de Chelly Overlook
We started our summer road trip at the Grand Canyon and finished at the Canyon de Chelly.  While not as magnificent or as well known as the Grand Canyon, the Canyon de Chelly has an interesting human history.  It is currently home to the Navajo Indians and a National Monument.  It's steep sandstone walls hide a river bed that is often dry, but is still farmed by Navajos.  If you look closely at the photo, you can see rows of crops as well as cattle wandering up the canyon.  The canyon has been one of the longest continuously inhabited landscapes in the U.S.  It is home to rock art and Ancient Puebloan ruins. 

The gateway to the monument is the town of Chinle, where we stopped and Dwight enjoyed a Navajo taco.  Canyon de Chelly National Monument is located entirely within the boundaries of the Navajo reservation and its operation is a joint venture between the U.S. Park Service the tribe.  To access the Canyon you must be accompanied by a Park Ranger or a Navajo guide; however, one foot trail from the rim into the canyon which visits the "White House" ruins is open to the unaccompanied public.   The highways which run along both the north and south sides of the canyon have overlooks, only one of which we found that was accessible.  Dessert landscape surrounds the canyon. 

We were in touch with the man tiling our floor as we progressed through Arizona and were finally given permission to go home.  We arrived to a new floor, some of which was taped off because it was still drying, and a living room full of  stacked and covered furniture.  It would be awhile before our lives could get back in order, but it was good to be home in spite of the smoke which filled the Animas Valley and our house in the early morning.  The good news was the coming of rain which has continued and finally begun quenching the fire.  The first sign of the impending rain was a long line of dark cloud exuding moisture.  I've been told that the Hopi Indians call this walking rain.  Nothing could provide a better welcome home from our summer road trip! 

Walking rain over the 416 fire