Sometimes you simply get a “call” to go somewhere…and the magic of the adventure begins. When you embrace that call, waiting for every new day with excitement, you suddenly get answers to the question you never actually asked, recognizing connections and relationships that you have never dreamed that exist.
Africa is magical. Cradle of mankind, with beautiful nature, climate, careless and free people and animals. Time goes in slower rhythm there and everything is in the style-HAKUNA MATATA-no problem. Everything is very easy and, somehow, it is natural to let yourself go to that lightness of being.
So much beauty simply leaves you breathless: savannahs of Kenya, great plateaus, Kilimanjaro mountain and its snows, waterfalls, coffee and banana plantations of Tanzania, spice farms, coast splashed by warm, gentle water of Indian Ocean, green Island of Zanzibar…
Relaxed and care-free attitude of the inhabitants of the “ black continent”, sparks of joy in their eyes, in spite of misery and poor conditions of life, induces you to ask yourself-what is really needed for happiness?
My first encounter with Africa took place in Addis Abeba, where I had to stay couple of hours longer because my flight to Nairobi was delayed. There was horrible storm and heavy rains, and we were waiting for them to stop, so I had a chance to re-examine my beliefs about Africa and so frequently mentioned, children which starve because of drought. Thinking of that, induced me also to record with my camera in next two weeks, besides fascinating nature, landscapes, flora and fauna, also children’s looks and their clear and joyful eyes.
Nairobi is the capital and the biggest city of African state Kenya, with about four million inhabitants. It is positioned on elevation of 1600 meters. In Nairobi is one of the UN headquarters and at the time of my stay , a summit took place there, so traffic jams were unbelievable. Most of the city was closed, due to security reasons.
It was just a final straw to the first bad impression of this African capital, which was extremely lively, busy, chaotic, over-crowded, dirty, dusty and unsafe. A little bit aggressive, I would also say, because we were sightseeing mostly on foot. Otherwise, climate is very pleasant, although Nairobi is only half degree southern of Ecuador. Although, it was officially winter time.
Moving out of the city and visiting favela Kibera, around seven kilometers from the city center, started the whole flow of emotions, from pity and compassion, to anger and disbelief that such a places still exist in this world. Kibera is inhabited by around two million people, although it is difficult to establish correct number, because they live in houses made of cardboard, in absolutely non-hygienic conditions, without sanitary drinking water, without enough food, practically on big dump.
However, after I got used to the surroundings, I started noticing certain structures, some kind of organization, effort to arrange and put in order things which, by our standards, goes without saying.
Children were happy to receive sweets which we brought them and they were happy that someone came to visit their “city”, and hospitability which they showed us and their wish to treat us and offer us the food they prepared were really touchy.
Contrast to the previous experience was visit to the “posh” suburb of Nairobi where there is a house and coffee plantations which used to belong to Karen Blixen, Danish writer. Film “Out of Africa” is made, starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford, based on her memoirs. That film made most of us fall in love with Kenya and Africa, made us think and dream about savannah, safari, sun and love. When dreams are coming true, you absorb every detail, every little thing, and mostly feelings….
Elephant orphanage, nearby Nairobi, is lovely and noble place. It is designed to take care of baby elephants and young elephants, which are left without mothers, due to poaching. Elephant poaching is still serious problem for Kenya, due to great demand for expensive ivory, which is obtained in very cruel way.
Great number of tourists and visitors, and mostly organized school children visits, contribute in material way to the orphanage and raise conscience of keeping harmony in nature. Encounters of children with elephants, their friends by age, are beautiful. Nearby is also, so-called giraffe center, where natural environment for these lovely animals is imitated. They love visitors so much, that they very readily get in contact with them. Sometimes, if you offer them delicious food, you might receive soft “thank-you” kiss from the giraffe.
In search for a lion
The excitement reached its peak when we headed for savannah in an early morning, on safari of which I have dreamed all my life. I was “loaded” with photo-equipment, ready to record every detail that I see and with the great desire to meet the king of savannah, eye-to-eye.
Masai Mara, savannah
to which we headed, is one of the most popular destinations for observation of
great animals in their natural habitat, in all their strength and beauty. It is
a part of Great Rift Valley, which stretches up to 9600 km from Israel to Mozambique.
This valley is considered to be the cradle of mankind. This is where first Homo
sapiens came from. And truly, as soon as you make first step on its ground, you
feel deep respect, connection, you feel that you belong…Mara is named after
Masai tribe, who lives there for centuries, and their word ‘maa’, which means
“ornamented with circles”. That is the way Masai tribe describes natural look
of the savannah.
In period of great migration, that was happening at the time while we were there, herds of gnu antelopes and others in search for fresh grass and water, crosses the river Mara on the border of Kenya and Tanzania, facing dangerous crocodiles and hippos. There are no words to describe how impressive is to watch survival in real life, and also to watch hunt strategy which female cheetahs performed in front of our eyes, that looked as some kind of theatre show.
It is also hard to describe the feeling of freedom and joy of life that you experience while you are driving through this vastness…although, maybe, photographs can conjure closeness and connection with all those beautiful creatures, as well as beauty and magic of Africa. Still, my search for a lion was not successful, maybe because my desire to see him was far too strong, or maybe because I did not look at the right place. Meanwhile, lionesses and lion cubs made a perfect pose for a photograph, while enjoying the sun. That is only one more reason to head for safari once more, especially because that call of the wild is very strong, and because I still dream all those sounds, that used to reach my ears while I was sleeping in the tent, at night.
Masai are nomadic
people, who behave as if the time has stopped. They live in the past, just like
their ancestors have lived centuries ago. They strongly keep to their
tradition, without any intention or wish for a change.
They have specific constitution; they are very tall and slim. They manage perfectly in harsh life conditions of savannah. They are famous for their specific high jumps, which is a part of their ritual dance that is also a preparation for hunt. They believe that all cattle on land are theirs, and they often feed on beef blood. Houses in which they live are built by women. It is interesting that those houses have no windows, it is completely dark inside or there is just feeble glow of fire from the fireplace. Men are in charge of hunting and a boy becomes a man when he kills a lion, that is process of his initiation (and maybe, also, a reason why lions are so well hidden and hard to find). We attended ritual of lighting up a fire in natural way, and lived through that unbelievable moment of excitement when the fire was lit, as our great, great ancestor, in pre-history.
The village that we visited is pretty much commercialized. Their inhabitants are selling souvenirs, and they are rather good and skilled merchants. Merchandise “goods” is also women. Bid for me was several dozen of livestock, but I politely refused…
The snows of Kilimanjaro
From Kenya, our road took us to Tanzania and there we saw Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain of Africa, old, ancient, non-active volcano, with its highest peak Kibo that reaches height of 5895 m. Snow is, of course, always there and it really takes your breath away and cause admiration every time when the sun rays touch it and it becomes visible through the clouds. It was enjoying to visit National Park on the foothill of Kilimanjaro, full of green, coffee and banana plantation, and fascinating waterfalls. All the time, I had on my mind the story of dry and hot Africa and how different is everything we saw from that vision in my head. I was still fascinated by people, especially children, so sweet in their shyness, regularly dressed in their school uniforms made for winter season. This time, there was no opportunity to reach the top of the mountain, but next time, I plan to do it, why not?
Our road took us further to the coast of Indian Ocean and Zanzibar Island, that belongs to Tanzania as well, but the story of this paradise island you can expect in another issue of the magazine.
To be continued…