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Pole to Pole

Day 96: Nairobi to the Masai Mara

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleWe are on what is known as the 'Out of Africa' safari - one up from the 'Hemingway', which is one up from the 'Kenya under Canvas'. This certainly isn't how I remember school camp. The tents are spacious. At the back, and under cover, there is a sort of dressing area, with a table and mirror, and a plastic toilet over a freshly dug hole. Beside the hole is a pile of earth, a small spade and a sign: 'Hippos cover it up, will you do too'. I have an old-fashioned bed, a solar-powered light and a rail for my clothes, and outside the roof of the tent extends over a washstand and a couple of canvas chairs, excellent for sitting out in before supper, and drinking a Scotch to the accompaniment of awfully rude noises from the river.

Dinner is served after a slight delay owing to the activity of baboons in the kitchen. Martin tells the story of one guest who felt a baboon against the side of his tent and whacked it with a heavy torch. It turned out to be a hippo, which charged off through the kitchen tent. The tent offered little resistance, and the hippo vanished into the bush with the kitchen wrapped around him.

10.20 p.m. The river is silent. A big moon casts a silvery light across the trees and the banks of the river. A group of Masai from the local manyatta guard the camp, sitting by a wood fire and talking quietly. One of them, an elderly man with close-cropped grey hair, walks up and down between our tents and the river, ear-ringed, blanketed and carrying a spear. I feel very strongly that I am in a dream I once had, a long time ago.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 96
  • Country/sea: Kenya
  • Place: Mara River
  • Book page no: 209

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