...and, of course, like the south, the northern region of the Mara Triangle had plently of lions. We followed this male to this bush, where it settled in the shade. It was a few minutes before we realized that there were already eight other lions lying under or near the bush - another male, three females and four cubs.
Saturday 8th August
Maji Ya Ndege Campsite in the Mara Triangle to Ngare Serian Camp in the North Mara Conservancy, Kenya
Musiara Marsh and the riverine woodland of the Mara River (in the distance) from the top of the Oloololo escarpment →
On the 8th of August, we returned to Serian Camp overnight to pick up more groceries for our self-drive through the Serengeti.
After breakfast and three hours of game driving in the Mara, we arrived at Oloololo Gate of the Mara Triangle just after 9:00am. We were only too happy to leave five days worth of non-burnable garbage at the gate. It took the rangers a while to review our paperwork and ensure that we had paid for our stay in the reserve. We left the gate shortly after 9:30am.
Just north of Oloololo Gate, the road climbed up onto escarpment, where we had a lovely view of the Musiara Marsh. A little further along the road, just north of the turn-off to Kichwa Tembo Tented Camp, we enjoyed what would be one of our most memorable encounters of the trip. Walking down the road towards us were two strikingly handsome Masai warriors, resplendent in their bright red traditional clothing, draped in bangles and beads and carrying spears. We stopped the car and smiled at them, hoping that they would be willing to talk with us and they immediately approached the Land Rover. Their English was impeccable and we learned that they were Ben and Peter from the nearby Masai village of Ilkinye. They were walking to Kichwa Tembo, where they were to finalize the wedding plans of two American guests who were to marry in the Masai village the following day. They asked where we were headed and didn’t recognize the name of Serian Camp. However, when we mentioned that it was Alex Walker’s camp they recognized his name immediately. We showed them our Canadian snow pictures - Robin shoveling the driveway, our children tobogganing, snow on trees, cars buried by snow - and, like all Kenyans and Tanzanians who we would show them to, they were fascinated. They invited us to their village the following day but sadly we were headed to Tanzania. How I would have loved to take them up on that invitation!
← Making our way up the dreaded track to Mararianta
I had been dreading the stretch of road from the bridge over the Mara River north to the village of Mararianta. We had experienced enough difficulty getting down it a week earlier on our drive to the Mara. I couldn’t image how the 4x4 was going to get up the steep, rocky obstacle course. However, I underestimated the Land Rover. Robert put the vehicle into low gear and headed up at a steady pace. The Land Rover only became stuck once - on the steepest bit, of course. Backing down to take another run at it was a bit of a challenge as we didn’t want to damage the undercarriage of the 4x4 with one of the many large rocks. I got out and directed Robert, trying to ensure that he avoided all of the lethal rocks. In the end, we managed, sighing with relief when the Land Rover finally reached the top of the steep slope.
Robert enjoying a snooze on the deck of our tent at Ngare Serian Camp →
Once we reached Mararianta, we recalled that we had turned sharp right at a T-junction shortly before the road had climbed down to the river. Common sense told us that we should thus be turning sharp left shortly after reaching the village. Unfortunately, we had not noted exactly where we had made that turn. Landmarks would have been good!
We turned north on what we thought was the track that we had taken south only to discover, after about 300m, that it wasn’t a road at all. Our first clue that we were in trouble should have been that we were having to drive over small bushes and dodge around large boulders, which we didn’t recall doing on the trip the Mara. When the two tire tracks suddenly merged into one, we realized that we had turned too early. To our chagrin, we found ourselves either on a game trail or a walking path and unable to go any further.
Villagers appeared from every direction, the adults approaching shyly and the children running to our vehicle chattering excitedly to us in Kiswahili. Everyone wanted to shake our hands. After an exchange of greetings, we explained that we were trying to find the road north to Serian Camp, but the villagers didn’t seem to know it. Eventually, remembering our experience with Peter and Ben, we told them that we were looking for Alex’s camp. They immediately recognized Alex’s name and after much gesturing, many handshakes, friendly waves and much laughter, they soon had us on our way. It was another of our most memorable encounters of the trip.
Once through Mararianta, we had no further difficulty finding our way to Serian Camp, although I am certain that we didn’t return along the same tracks that we had followed going to the Mara.
We arrived back at Serian Camp at 11:30am, two hours after we had left Oloololo Gate. We were greeted by Mark, who seemed surprised that we had found our way back to the camp so easily. He also commented that we looked remarkably clean for two people who had just spent a week camping in the Mara. We were delighted to learn that we were staying at Ngare again. Mark invited us to join him at the sitting area overlooking the river, where we sipped cold drinks and regaled him with tales of our adventures in the Mara. He was interested to hear about the state of the migration and laughed when we told him about our experience in Mararianta.
Lunch was to be served at 1:00pm, so we headed to our tent to clean up. We might have looked clean, but I felt filthy and I couldn’t wait to get in a hot shower. Robert stretched out on the comfy couch on the deck of our tent and was instantly asleep. It took me a couple of minutes to realize that, unlike in the Mara where one of us was always on watch, I didn’t have to stay awake and scan for elephants and predators. I too was soon stretched out and fast asleep. Thankfully, a tactful staff member came and woke us a short time later, otherwise we likely would have delayed lunch for quite a while. After so many interrupted nights, I could have slept for hours.
According to our GPS, Serian Camp is located at:
Lat: S 1° 10' 38.5"
Long: E 35° 4' 46.3"
UTM (map 36M) 0731403 9869778
← Enjoying the view of the Mara River and beyond from our tent at Ngare Serian
Lunch of a hot pasta dish, quiche, a fresh tomato and cheese salad, rocket salad, with slices of fresh pineapple, mango and oranges for dessert was a delectable affair. While the food was wonderful, the company was even better.
We joined ten Ngare guests, who were from London (UK) and New Jersey - seven adults and three teenage offspring. The adults have been friends since their university days and they have been celebrating when each has turned fifty by allowing that person to select a holiday for the group to enjoy together. Dave, who had turned fifty a few months earlier, had decided to have the group climb Kilimanjaro. His choice, I gather, was not very well received by most members of the group so, as incentive, he had tacked on a five-day safari at Serian after the climb. We spent a most enjoyable hour listing to tales of their climb and past trips which they had shared. We were sorry to learn that they would be leaving that afternoon.
We spent the afternoon relaxing in our tent and reviewing our paperwork to ensure that we were ready for our drive into Tanzania the following morning. We noticed that our Land Rover, which had been parked within sight across the river, had disappeared. Mark had promised to have his staff clean it out and wash the linens for us.
At dinner that evening, we enjoyed the company of Lisa Filipetto, the Australian High Commissioner to Kenya. She has traveled extensively in Africa and told many fascinating tales of her travels. We reminisced about Australia, where she grew up and where we lived for a year while Robert spent a sabbatical at the University of Queensland in Brisbane. Later that evening, as the night guard accompanied us back to our tent, I couldn’t help but wonder how useful his stick and spear would be should we be charged by one of the enormous hippos that like to graze around the Ngare tents.
Sunday 9 August
Ngare Serian Camp, North Mara Conservancy, Kenya to Speke Bay Lodge on Lake Victoria, Tanzania
Breakfast beside the river at Ngare →
The following morning, after sipping hot chocolate on our deck as we watched the sunrise, we shared a leisurely breakfast on the river’s edge with Mark and Lisa. I couldn’t imagine a more pleasant start to the day. The breakfast of eggs, toast, crepes, cereals and fresh fruit was delicious. Mark had the remarkably clean Land Rover brought down from the main camp, and Robert and I quickly organized our grocery order into the refrigerator and cool box. We bid a final farewell to the wonderful staff at Ngare Serian and were on our way south towards Tanzania shortly after 10:00am.
Our destination that day was Speke Bay Lodge on Lake Victoria in Tanzania. We had been warned that this drive would take roughly six to seven hours, allowing for 30 minutes at the border.
The instructions we had been given to reach Isibania and Sirari, the nearest Kenyan and Tanzanian border posts, were rather vague, to say the least. We were to head west to the A1 and then south to the border. There were no instructions as to where exactly or on what road we were to start heading west and none of our paper maps extended far enough north or west to include the North Mara Conservancy. When we had asked Alex Walker, the owner of Serian, if he could provide further detail on the route to the border, he had offered, “After crossing the river at Mararianta, go left at the T-junction and then left at the next T-junction.” Yikes! Not much detail for a 4-hour drive. We had no road names, no route numbers and no distances. We never did encounter any T-junctions!
Our Rough Guide to Kenya had warned that this route to Tanzania over the Oloololo escarpment was “in a dreadful state and the worst of the lot, 4WD only and then only scarcely passable in dry weather.” Unfortunately, it didn’t offer any useful detail about the route itself.
← A Masai gathering in the North Mara Conservancy
With the GPS firmly in hand, we headed south, reasoning that if we had found our way to and from the Mara Triangle, we would surely be able to find the Kenyan/Tanzanian border. At least we were able to begin the day’s journey with confidence, knowing that we could find Mararinata and that dreadful road to the bridge over the Mara River.
We reached Mararianta shortly after 11:30am and, as this was the third time that we had passed through the village, we must have been a familiar sight. I could well imagine that it wasn’t very often that two unaccompanied white folks in an equally white Land Rover passed through the village. In addition, our antics during our last visit would not likely soon be forgotten by the villagers.
We passed a group of Masai that seemed to be holding a meeting in the shade of a tree, the bright red of the men’s shukkas standing out brilliantly against the earth tones surrounding them.
Masai in the North Mara Conservancy →
We passed many other Masai who were strolling purposefully through the countryside carrying large bundles on their heads or shoulders.
← Pedestrians along the road west to Lolgorien and the A1
Having made our way through Mararianta, down the dreaded obstacle course that our GPS claimed was the main road south, over the Mara River and safely up onto the escarpment, we turned onto what our GPS indicated was the road west. Although even our Tracks4Africa map in the GPS was lacking in detail for this region to the west of the Mara Reserve, it at least indicated that, about a third of the way to the A1 highway, we would travel though the village of Lolgorien - not that this would be particularly helpful, as it was unlikely that there would be any signs to the village. The best we could do was head west, and hope that the main road remained obvious.
We immediately began to encounter people on the road - walking, riding bicycles and many on motorcycles.
Bicycles being pushed along the road →
Bicycles typically carried two or three people, while motorcycles often held an astonishing three or four. Bicycles that weren’t carrying several people were often laden with huge loads and being pushed instead of ridden. Many pedestrians were carrying a large melon or squash - a gift perhaps for whoever they were going to visit.