Impala Place Zoo
27.07.2012 - 29.07.2012
I was happy for a chance to get out of Eldoret for a weekend with the four Pulse coworkers in Kisumu. Eldoret has begun to feel very small to me after 6 weeks. I feel like I have found every decent place to eat and did all of the tourist things in town. To get to Kisumu, I knew that I did not want to take a 14 passenger Matatu (van) that stops frequently. I took a shuttle that held 6 or 7 people and did not stop between Eldoret & Kisumu. The 12:00 shuttle eventually left right on Kenyan time at 1:45. While I sat in the front seat I must have been approached 50 times by someone selling anything from candy, soda, music CDs, watches, or hand-made trinkets. You can only say “Asante no” politely so many times. I eventually rolled up the window.
My coworkers (Doug, Matt, Stephanie & Joan) have a beautiful house with a full kitchen, 4 master suites, huge living room, and just about every comfort of home except a dishwasher (that was me for the weekend). Joan has located fairly priced weekend safari in the Maasai Mara and invited me to go along for the trip in September. Six of us including Joan’s two grown children will be leaving from Kisumu on September 7th. On Friday night we went to a roof-top restaurant that is popular with the mzungus (white people). The food was great and it was the first time that I’ve seen ice available for a mixed drink. They bring the ice in a separate bowl so you have made your own drink. Three of them work for the OGRA NGO which owns two hotels one of which has a pool. Doug & I took a 3-wheeled tuk-tuk over and had lunch by the pool. The locals were looking at us strangely for going into the 70 something degree water. Saturday night was a treat for me – a home cooked dinner! Matt made tilapia while Doug made mashed potatoes. Going out to eat every night is not as fun as it sounds.
Sunday was a very full day of adventure. The OGRA group has a driver available to them even on the weekends. Peter picked us up and took us down to Lake Victoria. He negotiated a rate for us and we went out on a boat with 2 guides looking for wild hippos. Lake Victoria is the world’s 2nd largest fresh water lake behind Lake Superior and is surrounded by Kenya, Uganda & Tanzania. We didn’t have to go far before we spotted a group of 6 hippos near the shoreline. It was kind of like whale watching with them surfacing and then going under frequently. But they stay pretty much in the same location. One of our guides said that there was only one male in the group. If another male approaches they fight sometimes to the death. When they find a dead hippo, they drag it back to shore and have a feast. He said it tastes like pork.
Close by was the local zoo called Impala Place. This was very different than any zoo in the US. We were met by a guide who took us around to each area. At the leopard cage, he went into the cage to “play” with the 2 year cat. We were extremely close to the animals. At the monkey cage we were encouraged to shake hands. I didn’t see the monkeys sanitize their hands so I passed. We were in for a real surprise at the cheetah cage. There was a large male and female in a pretty big area. Our guide asked if we would like to go into the cage with the handler an pet them. He said the cheetah was very gentle. Someone mentioned a recent story about a woman getting mauled by a cheetah while the husband filmed it. This seemed like one of those once-in-a-lifetime events so we all entered the cage. We took turns petting the female which purred and rolled around like a house cat. The fur was much rougher than expected. When the big male started getting up and walking over, the handler shooed it away with a little stick. We decided it was time to go after everyone had a chance. They had several lions but there were no offers to go pet them. The other interesting fact was that several animals roamed freely around the zoo, mostly impalas and monkeys. We spotted a group of kids feeding Cheetos & lollipops to the monkeys. The monkeys would grab something to eat out of their hand and then run up the tree. This was the reason I got my rabies vaccinations.
It was great to get out of town and be involved in group activities. The OGRA house is big enough that everyone has plenty of space. Outside are screened in gazebos and they are building a pool and BBQ area. The front porch has one of those massage chairs that you see at Brookstones. This is really roughing it in Africa! I’m sure that I will be back for another visit soon. This weekend I’m flying back to Nairobi for the weekend with my coworker from North Carolina Garret. He is sharing an apartment with 2 other Pulse volunteers. I expect a very different trip than when I first arrived at the airport in Nairobi and was very uneasy about the environment.