"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Sunday, December 4, 2022

The 2022 Africa Journals, Ch. 3: At Ease for a Day

Chapter 3:

At Ease for a Day


I wake up early in my comfy bed at The Tamarind Tree hotel in Nairobi.   I have no plans for today, other than meeting four of our group for the breakfast buffet, which I do.   


Breakfasts in overseas hotels are expansive.   They are a lot more than hard boiled eggs, cereal, maybe waffles, maybe pastry or bagels, yoghurt, and coffee that you find in US hotels.   

We have an assortment of breads, cereals, yoghurts (including plain), fresh fruits (cut and whole), several hot dishes like sausage, bacon, baked beans, potatoes, foreign dishes, French toast, juices, and waffles, plus a team of cooks standing by a portable grill to make your eggs just like you want them.

I was hungry after a couple days of airplane fare so I indulged with orange juice, watermelon, a half a passion fruit, potatoes, sausage, scrambled eggs, and a pain de chocolate.   Plus a sweet banana for later.

Four of our group at lunch.  L-R:  Sylvia, Cory, Shelly, and Randy.

My lunch burger.   It was very good but I ate less than half.


All this included in the price of the room at a Four Star hotel.

Somehow, a mistake in the paperwork for our group results in the hotel thinking that Randy and I are married, apparently because my last name was somehow changed to his last name.    That starts a long-running joke, especially when the other five women decide they are Randy's wives, too, in the custom of Kenyan men taking multiple wives.  As the first wife, I am Boss Wife.

My mistakenly-acquired husband who kept us all laughing.

Sylvia's name is misspelled as "Slyvia."     Forever after she shall be known as Sliv.


My friends are off shopping as we have a car and driver available.   I avoid shopping like the plague.  I am a hawker magnet.   They flock to me and don’t take no for an answer, so I avoid any circumstances where they might be.


That leaves me with the whole morning and afternoon to do as I please.   And I do.


There is a lovely walk alongside a flower-covered brick wall that has lots of bird life in it.




Speckled mousebird.

Speckled mousebird


I meet up with a staff member who tells me where to find more birds.  “Follow this walk to the end and turn left.   Go through the gates and into the field.    Lots of birds.”



I follow his instructions, photographing birds, birds, birds, and some flowers.

A sunbird

Baglafetch weaver

Baglafetch weaver.

Speckled mousebird



I come to the end and approach the gate.   It is locked.   Oh, well.    I meander back along the walk and meet a woman staff member.

Look closely and you will see that the gate is closed but not locked.


I tell her about the locked gate.  She smiles, tells me to follow her, and when we get to the gate, she gently pushes it open.   It isn’t locked at all.   She even walks with me into the field and points out birds.




The first thing I spotted in the field was this large cat.   I took some photos to ID it, hoping it was some exotic cat but apparently it's domestic cat, maybe feral.

I am happy.   I’ve flown almost 7400 miles and arrived with my luggage.   The kind people of Kenya are doing everything to make my visit enjoyable, and there are lots of birds around the hotel grounds.   Plus, I am resting up for the grueling schedule ahead.

No idea.

I found this area with a fever tree in the center.   Soon, I was chasing a small blue bird that turned out to be an African flycatcher, a first sighting for me.    I also caught some biting ants.   They HURT!    And were hard to get off my body.    I had to use a fingernail to scrape some off may little finger.

Still working on this ID.

Speckled mousebird.

At lunch, Randy spots some staff carrying a large table from the kitchen to the grass beyond the pool.  "That's the largest dessert tray I've ever seen," he says.   They turn out to be something else--holiday designs made from nuts, raisins, and candied fruit.    And they  ARE table sized.

Some kind of holiday party.

Thereias some kind of party going on.   At one point, a number of people wearing latex gloves surround one of the tables and mix up the fruit and nuts into a pile.   What to do with it?   Don't know.   Maybe fruitcakes?

There were so many people it was hard to get a look, but you can just see the piles of fruit and nuts on the table.


Marg and Virginia, the last of our group of seven, arrive late that afternoon.   Thist evening, Jason Fernandes of Wilderness Uncut (who arranged this trip and itinerary) takes us all out to dinner.

My whiskey sour pre dinner.   Haven't had one in a long time and this one was delicious.
  None of my other dinner photos turned out.


Very early in the next morning's rain, we are taken to nearby Wilson airport, where small planes and FBOs ( Fixed Base Operators) are located.   Many of the planes here transport people into the many bush camps and national parks.

Fueling the aircraft in the rain.

Keeping rain out of the planes fuel tanks.


I receive my boarding pass, and away we go.  Next stop:    Amboseli National Park located along the southern edge of the Kenya/Tanzania border.

Twin Otter

A little narrow for a beverage cart.

Amboseli National Park lies on Kenya's southern border with Tanzania.

Thursday, December 1, 2022

The 2022 Africa Journals, Ch 2: One Long Bitch Session

Chapter Two:

One Long Bitch Session

"An airport is a place where you go through hell to reach your alleged paradise."

--Stewart Stafford




You might want to skip this chapter.   As mentioned above, it’s going to be one long bitch session, assuming my stomach doesn’t tie itself in knots half-way through writing it and I decide to skip this chapter, also.


Nonetheless, what happened prompts a mighty warning to you all:  NEVER! EVER! MAKE RESERVATIONS THAT TAKE YOU THROUGH CDG AIRPORT IN PARIS!!!


Some background:   a couple years ago, with an injured knee and facing long walks in airport terminals, I began requesting wheelchair assistance in any terminals.  Not only did that save my knees (the following year the other knee decided to participate with a torn meniscus), but it got me lickety-split to where I was supposed to be in the terminal, especially  welcome through the confusion of COVID protocols.   Zip through passport control, security, customs, whatever.   It was miraculous.


This trip, in order to catch up with my travel pals on the right date at the right time, my reservations call for a connection through Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris, with two hours to make that connection on Air France.   I sweated it for weeks before my plane took off from Seattle.   I feared my luggage wouldn’t make the connecting flight.  It kept me awake nights with worry.


All went well on the 10-1/2 hour flight with Delta the next day and the plane even landed 40 minutes early!   I started to relax about the short connection.   Then, things began to go awry.   We taxi for 20 minutes!  That cut in half the time I’d gained.


I get off the plane and see that no wheelchair is waiting for me.   A group of others who’d requested assistance and I are told to walk up the jetway and wait.   We do. 

A Delta meal.   Chicken with orange sauce, peas, rice, a barley salad and salted caramel chip ice cream.   This is when I began to wonder how many chickens die each day to make meals for airline passengers.


And wait.   We sit on benches and wait.   Then, we are told to follow one man pushing a wheelchair with an elderly woman.   We don’t go far before we are told to wait there and someone will come to get us.


More waiting.   Somehow the word leaks out that there is only ONE person available for wheelchair assistance and he was on the other side of the terminal helping others.


Eventually, we are picked up by an electric cart and taken to a “holding pen" where others are waiting.   There are 50 to 60 people waiting in this area, not all needing assistance but who are traveling with someone who does.  Mind you, there are several staff for assistance but they don't push wheelchairs.   They just stand around a podium.

People, including me, are questioning every staff person who ventures near.   "Just wait.   Someone will come to get you," they say..  People begin leaving.


We wait.    And wait.   By this time, I was furious.   I suspect some of my fellow travelers miss their next flight.


Finally, with much less than an hour before my flight is to leave, I ask how to get to my gate.   It is, of course, in another building.   I am told to go downstairs and to take a train to that terminal.


I do.   The train, to continue right along in the same mode as the assistance fiasco, goes right past the terminal I need and then comes back to it on a loop, using up even more time.   I rush out and head for my gate as fast as I can walk.  Soon I reach security.

(Time out:    I need some beautiful, relaxing flowers from Nairobi before I continue.)

Back to the CDG circus.


Sweat is running down my face and I am obviously agitated, so of course the agents pull me aside for special screening.   I explain that the gate to my plane will close in less than 15 minutes.   No deal.  Full screening.   EVERY item in my carry-on camera bag is examined, swabbed with a wand to detect explosives.   My hands are swabbed, too.    The more anxious I get, the longer they delay.


Again, it is a rush to the Air France gate.   Do I need to tell you it is a loooong way off?


I get there with five minutes to spare and the gate is still open.   My boarding pass won’t scan.   I have to see another agent who ushers me right through.


And then, we wait.    More than an hour we wait on the plane   We never do find out why.   By this time, I am completely exasperated.   Then I spot several people walking down the jetway.   Two appear to be wearing yellow safety vests, one woman is wearing a bright green outfit, and another seems to be in a wheelchair,  The ones wearing vests turn back and disappear.   I never see what becomes of the green lady and the wheelchair person, but I suspect they board and sit farther up front.

Not long after that, the jetway is retracted and the plane is towed from its spot.

I am in a narrow "A" seat, up against the hard plastic fuselage.   "A" is my preferred seat, left side.   I can lean against the fuselage to sleep and no one can bump my bad left shoulder.   But. this seat is different.    It's uncomfortable.   There is a large lady next to me, further restricting movement.

Once in the air, I change to an aisle seat.   It is much better.

Food is chicken, of course, with a cheesy sauce, mashed potatoes, baby green beans, a couscous salad, roll and butter with cheese.   It's just okay.


Eight plus hours later, I am in Nairobi, ready to join up with six others at the Tamarind Tree Hotel.  More than ready to be done with CDG airport and Air France.   Jason Fernandes, of Wilderness Uncut, has arranged for a greeter and a wheelchair person to meet me as I come off the plane.   I am escorted like royalty through passport, luggage (IT'S THERE!), customs, and outside to where a driver is waiting to take me to the hotel.

I shower and go to bed.   I am totally relieved to be here after all the drama.   Getting there and getting home are the worst parts of travel.  Now that I'm in Kenya, let the good times roll.


Whew.   I repeat:   Never fly through CDG if you can avoid it.


My hotel room at the Tamarind Tree:



Not all this is my baggage.    Marg had left two bags in Nairobi while she went to another camp for a few days.   I was holding them for her.

Note the tea bags at lower right.

Part of the indoor dining room.

The outdoor dining area.


The pool with the shaded outdoor dining area just beyond it.

The pool, obviously.




The spa, fitness room, etc.