One day when I came back from my field travels, my roommate Duda said, “Guess what! I found a horse safari for us!” I was excited, but nervous. Safaris are expensive and almost anything having to do with horses is expensive, so I was sure this would be a double-whammy of expensiveness. Two months later, cantering across the open plains with Kilimanjaro and ostriches scattering in front of us, all I could think was, “Priceless.”
I wouldn’t call it cheap, but as safaris go, the trip was a relative bargain. At one point, Duda and I thought we’d have to fly to camp and the cost would leap from “expensive-but-worth-it” to “yikes”. Taking a cue from our friend Yasin, I proposed that we wing it: “We can take a matatu (public van) to the turn-off highway, pick up another one from there, and then if there isn’t a vehicle going down this road, we can walk the 10km or so. We’re tough-we hiked Mt. Kenya!”
And this fellow in the photo above, seen safely from inside our Land Rover, is why people who have lived in Africa a long time make fun of newcomers like me. Most fools would realize setting out across unknown territory in Africa by yourself is an asinine proposition. I’m sure I would have had many good stories to relate to you from such an adventure, but sadly for you, fellow horse rider Remi spotted me a ride in his new vehicle.
The safari was in Chyulu Hills, just a little less than 3 hours south of Nairobi. The plains are blocked on one side by the green-clad volcanic hills known as the Chyulu Hills and Kilimanjaro lurks behind the clouds on another side. While I can’t say I enjoyed the trip down the Mombasa Highway (too many big trucks!), the rest of the drive to camp is delightful. Maasai herders, giraffes, ostrich, gazelle, and so many other animal sightings made us feel like the safari started before we even arrived at camp.
Our camp was like something straight out of the luxury brochures. A platform had been built under an idyllic acacia and each of our meals was served here, which was particularly lovely at night with the lamp light and candles. That’s my tent to the right of the acacia tree there. No roughing it-I had a comfy camp bed and the loo and bucket shower were in the back of the tent, separated by a zip flap.
After being introduced to our horses (mine was Sambu), we rode the evening of our arrival, twice the next day, and once more on Sunday morning. Words are inadequate to explain the exhilaration of cantering in a group, watching mounds in the distance become towering hills, and constantly checking the ground in front of you to make sure your horse wouldn’t trip into an aardvark hole.
Sunday afternoon came all too quickly and before we knew it we were staring through the Nairobi haze again, but not before we’d had a final meeting with an elephant on the way out of camp. I only hope my memory is half as good as his; I do not want to forget any of this adventure.
“All I wanted to do now was get back to Africa. We had not left it yet, but when I would wake in the night, I would lie, listening, homesick for it already.”-Ernest Hemingway