Amboseli – the last National Park (for now)

Our guide arrived early just before 7am. We bumped down the rough track to the park gates. There was no shortage of vehicles entering, though with it being the 2nd most visited park in Kenya we’d expected this. A cloudy day there was no view of the mountain, and we quickly realised our guide while he knew the park tracks well (we discovered their campsite was inside it until about 9 years ago) he clearly didn’t go in it very often and we were as good at spotting as he was. He also had no clue as to the English names of animals but that didn’t matter. We enjoyed not having to navigate and worry about being lost.

We saw plenty of wildlife, the usual – giraffes, elephants, antelopes, warthogs, buffalo, zebra and wildebeest. The plains were full of animals but there were also a lot of dead zebra and wildebeest, victims of the drought Kenya was experiencing. The animals are very used to traffic in this park, they would be standing very close to the road or stopped in it and rarely moved or lifted an eyebrow to the presence of vehicles. They couldn’t really give a fig that you are there. This was very noticeable for us as in all the other parks we’ve been where there is less traffic you really notice the wildness and alertness of the animals. It feels very safe and easy.

Some of the tracks were single file with passing places, on one very rough rocky section the guides of one vehicle were changing a punctured tyre. Our worst nightmare we went through very carefully.

In the middle of the park is a hill which you can get out of the vehicle and walk to the top for a view of the surrounds. There were a few elephants milling around and this is where the benefit of having a guide paid off as we didn’t know it was possible and with there being no one there when we were if we’d found it we probably wouldn’t have just done it in our own. We took our flask and cups and had a tea and peanut break at the top. You can buy small bags of salted peanuts and we were addicted.

Taking a different route back to the main gate the highlight was finding a hyena den, 2 were lazing around and there were well stripped bones appropriately scattered around it.

We dropped our guide back at the gate and took our time making our way to our exit gate, seeing the last wildlife we could. When we were on the track that led out we checked on google maps we were on the right one. To our surprise down one of the side tracks it had a hyena den marked. We thought no way would that be true. Nowhere on the trip had we had any places like this come up. In no hurry we decided to take a look. It was a flat barren landscape and there was barely an animal or vehicle in sight. Lo and behold when we got to the spot we found a dirty hyena lying on the ground outside a hole with bones round it, it actually was a hyena den! We were only about 4m away but knowing they can’t climb felt safe both standing out the safari hatch.

When we’d had enough of looking at it we decided to carry on down the track and do a last loop back to the exit track we hadn’t gone 20m when the track went into a dip and something caught our eye just a couple of meters from the vehicle, another hyena! It was filthy and lying on its back all spread out and at first we wondered if it was dead, but no it just couldn’t give a fig. It barely opened its eyes to look at us. We both stood out the safari hatch again and this time we were only about 2m away which was pretty thrilling. The hyena was very uninterested in us.

The rest of the drive out we saw a few zebra and elephants, but mainly it was just really nice scenery. On reaching the exit gate the vehicle was mobbed by Masai women trying to sell us bracelets and trinkets. The park guy was deliberately slow in opening the gate to give them chance to crack us, which annoyed us but they had a slight desperation and moaning tone to their pitches and we were still basically in the middle of nowhere so we understood it.

It was an hour’s drive to Namanga the border town, when the gravel road finally joined the highway on the outskirts of the town. The tar seal was a welcome change but we were only going a short distance, we found an accomodation place that lets you camp in their garden and it was close by. It took a little finding as it is not signed nor obvious from the highway and without the descriptions on the iOverlander app we might not of found it. When we did we found a rather drunk (it was a public holiday for the presidential inauguration) but very happy owner. Once again we were the only guests. Thankfully his sister was also around to keep him in check and there were a couple of garden workers also milling around.

It took us a while to get parked up on our spot. Partly due to the owners limited English and drunk instructions and partly due our tiredness. Finally though we were parked up on a flat patch of grass in amongst the trees, main buildings were between us and the road so it was quite a pleasant oasis. We were absolutely filthy and hot but they sold a few drinks and could make us some dinner. They also opened a room in the accomodation block just down from us so we had a toilet and shower. The water was hot we were told, and it was, it was too hot for Emma who went first, however it was ice cold for Marie.

Our new friend would periodically come over to try and talk to us but he was happy and harmless. He took Emma on a tour of the whole property, he had big vegetable gardens, fruit trees, chickens and a cow, fish pond and it seemed they all lived in the adjoined property, accessed through the door in the hedge that was off to the right of our camp. It was quite impressive.

The arrival of a plastic table and 2 chairs signalled our dinner was imminent. It turned out to be spinach and rice again. We figured it must be some kind of local dish, as to be given it twice is too much of a coincidence. That didn’t make it taste any better though.

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