Monday, 22 April 2013

Ol Seki Hemingways Mara fam trip

It was an awesome experience last weekend when the Hemingways team left on a familiarization trip for Hemingways Ol Seki Mara Camp. Departure was supposed to be at 7 am on Saturday morning but thanks to African timing it was not until 8 am that the last team member (name withheld) arrived and the 2 Landcruiser' s set off from town. It was a wet chilly morning with overhead clouds hanging ominously over the slick road. 

We were in the able hands of Albert Irungu an experienced driver and guide whose prowess was just about to get tested to the fullest on the way ahead. Soft reggae music was playing on the speakers setting the mood for an exciting road trip with the team chatting about happily. The slick road forced us to drive at a slow pace up Waiyaki Way with the huge 4x4 tyres spraying water on either side of the road. On reaching Limuru the wetness gave way to cold as we started ascending the highlands as the rain gave way to the mist.

We reached the Mai Mahiu junction on Naivasha road and turned left towards Mai Mahiu town. Here we started the steep winding descent on the escarpment that gave us a magnificent view of the Rift valley and Mt. Longonot. I could not help but wallow in the dazzling view quietly thinking to myself what a beautiful country Kenya is. I had a sudden upsurge of rekindled patriotism that made me feel proud to be part of this majestic scenery. 

View from the escarpment

We had a brief stopover at the view point where we found a dozen tour vans full of excited tourists who were busy snapping shots and bargaining with the curio sellers for the array of artworks and sculptures that were on display. Here we had the chance for that welcome bathroom relief for those of us who had ingested substantial amounts of liquids on the way, alcoholic content withheld. After numerous photos and chit chats with the team members from the other van and the occasional wink and 'habari yako' from the eager tourists. 

Trust me never to leave an opportunity to combine beautiful scenery with a beautiful people in one picture.

We all bundled into our respective vans and proceeded with the descent down the escarpment.We reached Mai Mahiu town at the foot of the escarpment, a rusty town dotted by trucks parked by the roadside or next to bars. On enquiry i was led to understand that trucks usually take a break here either before or after the gruelling climb up the escarpment so the tired crew can get a welcome drink from the  numerous bars or the occasional massage from the eager town folk to ease their tension.

We turned left and took the Narok road and the hustle and bustle of the town gave way to rolling plains dotted with acacia trees where we could see an occasional manyatta and cattle in the distance. This scenery remained unchanged for a while until we approached Narok town where we saw large tracts of farmland with grasslike sprouts which Albert informed us was newly grown wheat. We reached the outskirts of Narok and once again the indulgence in liquids was taking its toll and we, or must i say I, was relieved to be informed by Albert to make a phone call to the other van and inform them that we would be making a stop over at a curio market just before the National Cereals and Produce Board.

Me and 4 and a half colleagues... Yes, we have an unborn on board. Awesome!
We made a phone call to Jeff Mukolwe, the Hemingways Ol Seki Mara Camp manager to enquire on the state of the road. He informed us that it had rained but the roads were passable, he asked us to buy streaky bacon from Narok town to supplement the camps supply. After the relief, we set off towards Narok town so we could get the bacon. I offered to join Morris Mulu the accountant to go buy the supplies so i could stretch and have a view of Narok town and Margie Gitau the Express Travel Group sales and marketing manager decided to join us. We asked around for directions to the supermarket and unfortunately we could not get streaky bacon from any of the supermarkets, the closest we came was beef bacon which was not at par with the camp chefs standards. I bought soft drinks that some team members had requested then we set off from Narok town for the final 80 km or so.

The tarmac gave way to a bumpy murram road a few kilometres from Narok and we started seeing dirty and muddy oncoming tour vans which signalled muddy terrain ahead. The scenery changed drastically and we could see wildebeestes and small herds of Zebra and antelopes announcing the proximity to the Mara. This went on for a while until we got a phonecall from Jeff informing us that the  Talek river had burst its banks and had submerged the bridge to Naboisho conservancy so we would have to wait it out at Nkoilale market until the water went down. We arrived at the bridge and sure enough the bridge had been submerged. 

We backtracked to Nkoilale to wait it out. The most convenient place we could sit and wait was a bar, before you get judgemental i will have you know that the market has very few hotels which are small and the only spacious place we could fit all 14 of us was that bar. Meat was ordered and guys settled in and drinks were ordered to individual preference. Many tour vans passed by as they were headed to the Maasai Mara National Park and back. I happened to make friends with some of the locals and engaged them in dialogue so i could learn the most about the local community and area in general. 

One striking feature i noticed about the center was the Maasai women, gracefully tall, adorned with colourful beads, drinking the men under the table and still walk out without a stagger while the men were left blabbering unable to swat a fly. When the meat was ready we heartily partook the juicy mutton which surprisingly tasted like beef. We shared with the other patrons of the joint and were met with another surprise, all of them declined to wash their hands but instead rubbed the fat onto their arms and legs. 

At this time, an Ol Seki guide called Patrick had managed to cross the bridge with his Landcruiser. He informed us that the waters had gone down and we could now cross.

We crossed the Talek river amid some protest form some of our female colleagues, they were apprehensive on the decision to cross the river as they doubted the strength of the bridge. When we crossed, the relief was apparent on their faces. We snaked our way through the dense bush towards the camp and were treated to a variety of wildlife. 

We reached the camp and everyone jumped out of the vans to experience the myth that was Ol Seki. We relaxed on the terrace enjoying the magnificent view with Hyraxes darting about and were joined by Jeff Mukolwe the camp manager, a witty individual who was immediately put to task by the team and was asked a myriad of questions.

Jeff took us round the camp for a show around, detailing every aspect of the camp. We were shown our rooms and were informed that we would be headed to a bush sundowner in a while. After unpacking and settling into our rooms we all bundled into the vans and headed for the sundowner site. A lone tree stood on the plain and i understood why it was chosen as a dinner spot as it was unique and offered a nice view. Drinks were served and we, or must i say I partook with zeal considering they were 'on the house' and the open bush meant there was no begging the driver for a stopover to relieve oneself, just a wary thought of encountering a lion while doing your thing and probably having to run leaving your pants behind.

It was evident that everyone was enjoying themselves and this trip was a welcome relief from the hustle and bustle of Nairobi and the office. Everyone was jovial and hearty, i couldnt help myself but wonder why companies dont conduct interviews to individuals under the influence of alcohol as this was the only time people were most honest. I actually got to know my colleagues better and discovered personalities which were concealed in the office. In the bush we were all equal, there were no bosses and there were remarks to the effect 'what happens in the mara, stays in the mara'.. unless it finds its way to this blog.

Two awesome bosses whom am having difficulties deciding who takes the favourite boss title

To be Continued......