ravings, rantings and ramblings
If you are from India and born in the late 70’s or early 80’s, you would remember Indrajal comics that brought to us stories of the Ghost who walks. For those, who don’t belong to India, I hope you remember the gripping comic as opposed to the Billy Zane film that is a pale shadow of the legend of the Phantom.
The Phantom lived in a fictional African country of Bengalla. With that name and the Lee Falk could have made the Phantom live in India! Nonetheless, as our car slowly rolled into the jungle, bobbing on the muddy track, I was anticipating bumping into the Phantom as much as I wanted to see a big cat! The acacia trees standing tall like models on a ramp. Their barks, shining a brilliant hue of green and yellow, in the sunlight. In my head, I minused the sound of the engine whirring. All else I could hear was the wind through the branches and bouncing on the cliffs (to my right) and crickets.
We came to a clearing near the lake where we met a herd of African buffaloes ambling across. A couple were irritated to see us in their midst. Their body language was very aggressive and menacing. It is hunting this specie that is the final word for lions. Have seen enough footage on TV where lions gang up and attack these huge beasts and in a few, where these bovines have counter-attacked the cats.
We moved ahead. Our eyes peeled on the placid blue of the lake and the dark blue mountain on the other side. Benjamin pointed a finger and said that we would need to get to the other side of the lake, by the mountains for lunch. I think my grin just got wider. While we ambled along, we saw a family of white rhinos. Endangered. Dangerous. Beautiful. These huge double horned rhinos had skin that looked ashen and hence the name. Calf and mother grazed a little ahead of the father. We stood parallel to the father. His family suddenly decided to cross the road we were on. And they did. The bull rhino noted that his family was moving and so he decided to change course as well and he came and stood right in front of our car. I could sense the tension in the air. If he sensed any danger, he would charge and I wasn’t sure if our car could bear the pure African tonnage. Benjamin, slowly, very slowly, started backing the vehicle. He stood a second longer and decided we were not danger enough. The bull joined his family and continued grazing.
We drove closer to a thicket by the lake, spotting zebras, impalas, storks and buffaloes. As we swerved left to stand by the water, my wife spotted a carcass. A carcass and nobody showing attention? Now that would be strange. I strained at the black ‘carcass’. It wasn’t a carcass, it was a hyena! As we came closer, it popped its ugly head up to take note of what we may be up to. Benjamin announced that we will get down, on ground, here! It must be said that my wife knew ample about hyenas and how dangerous they could be. Despite that, she panicked a bit. Benjamin and I got down and the hyena slunk a few feet away, all the while his eyes on us. Since they are pack hunters, this stray one wouldn’t have attacked. Although we kept our way into the car open, in case. We got some photos and started back. The hyena, finally realised that he could have his calm, sat down and cooled himself by the lake waters.
We drove straight into the thicket and meandered up the cliff which is known as Baboon Point Cliff. I am going to skip the baboon sightings as I had seen enough of them in India; besides hating the species. At the top, we stopped to take in the heavenly sights of the entire Lake Nakuru, the national park and the blue-purple mountains. It was breath-taking! We could see the trail we had taken into the national park. The acacia trees stood like tooth picks with plumes. The lake was spotted pink at various places – those were the pink lesser flamingoes. Lake Nakuru attracts the largest number of flamingoes in the world. The algae produced in the salt water lakes feed them. Since this wasnt the season, the numbers were pretty low, but in full season, the lake turns a shade of blushing pink, thanks to the migratory birds. We stood at the precariously fenced cliffs and heard nothing but the sound of the wind gushing past us. To live a painting this huge is an experience that cannot be recounted. It was very, very peaceful.
We drove down and headed south where we met a lone black rhino. Further ahead we saw the endangered Rothschild giraffe! Those quiet beasts make a wonderful sight. We trained our cameras to get as close to them as possible. In another safari car, three Japanese, who looked, as identical as the giraffes themselves, clicked away to glory, each using a telephoto lens that probably bore the same manufacturing batch number. While I was concentrating on the Japanese, one giraffe decides to walk past our safari car. Sorry guys, my turn now. I trained my Japanese camera and shot the beast to my heart’s content. My missus posed and I got some fantastic moments. Shy as the creature is, it hid behind the bushes like any actress does from the papparazzi.
We were now on the other side of the lake. We made another stop over and stood by the bank. The waters had receeded a bit. In the long rainy season, it would be full again. We took in the sights and sounds of the place. Somewhere in my heart, I still hadn’t given up the hope of seeing a lion or a leopard.
We lunched at a gorgeous resort called the Sarova Lion Hill Resort. Benjamin said he didnt understand the word ‘sarova’ when I asked him. He said the owners are Indian. I told him what ‘sarova’ meant. Post lunch, where we met a Masai feeding birds, we started the last leg. We entered a deeper forest that almost thinned out the sunlight. With water bucks, impalas, colobus monkeys everywhere and no signs of agitation, I was not too sure if we would see any cat. We met another safari car that has stopped in its tracks. The European girls whispered excitedly to us that they heard some commotion and a ‘growl’. We stood by and trained out eyes into the thicket. No movements whatsoever. Well, the girls had more patience, while I knew that lions wouldnt enter into something as deep and think as this. This was more like leopard land. Benjamin concurred and we moved on.
We almost covered the entire forest with so sign as much of a yellow-white spotted tail. The skies started changing and Benjamin suspected that it could rain. Old jungle lore says that old junge men know when it rains. We turned around and went towards the east exit.
It started rainin heavily. It felr lovely as we lowered our roof and started our drive back via the Rift Valley. We were not disappointed that we could not see any cats. We saw a lot apart from that.
Just to be sure, we asked the 57 year old Benjamin which tribe he belonged to. He wasn’t from the Bandar tribe. I smiled to myself.