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Posts Tagged ‘Out of Africa’

 “Between the great things we cannot do and the small things we will not do, the danger is that we shall do nothing.” Adolph Monod

Final Breakfast at Little Governor's Camp. -- Photo by Kim Perrin

African Safari: Karen Blitzen Museum

Joseph got us back to Little Governor’s Lodge in time for breakfast, where Kim and I ate the last of those great little sausages that had become a breakfast standard since first we had them back at the Norfolk Hotel.

As usual, breakfast here was served beneath the open sky with a grand look at the swamp in front of us. It was full this morning with sacred ibises, rufus bellied herons and white-faced whistling ducks, which were in fact whistling.

At the landing strip with Joseph and the "Kids" from London, Frankie and John.

All too soon, however, it was time to gather our belongings and make out last crossing of the Mara River, where we would be met by Joseph for the ride back to the tiny airstrip where we would catch our fight back to Nairobi.

In Nairobi, since our flight back home, didn’t leave until midnight, we would check into the Karen Blixen cottages to spend the rest of the day. Like most of the tourist hotels in Nairobi, this one was located behind guarded gates.

After lunch, I wanted to go curl up on the bed in our cottage suite, and take a nice long, and I thought well-deserved nap. Kim wanted to walk a half mile down the road to the Karen Blixen Museum. I suggested that there were guarded gates around our complex for a reason but Kim would not be deterred.

Our ride back to Nairobi touches down. -- Photo by Pat Bean

I certainly wasn’t going to let her go wandering off by herself, so off we went, two white women in a sea of black, sometimes scowling faces, walking on the edge of a narrow road. This was the real world, not the sheltered tourist wonderland where we had roamed for two weeks.

I was nervous at first, but then relaxed and went with the flow. I’m so glad I did.

Blitzen as Isek Dinesen, wrote “Out of Africa,” which was made into a movie starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford.

“”I had a farm in Africa,” her book began. The museum was that farm, and we were told it is little changed today from what it looked like then. Blitzen turned the farm into a coffee plantation, and because it provided jobs was much-loved by the locals.

Minutia from the Streep and Redford movie was mingled in with the museum’s displays. But it was the one huge photo of Blitzen, slender and sophisticated and smoking a cigarette in her later years, that captured my attention. It made me think of Auntie Mame, Patrick Dennis’ fictional aunt whom I’ve always admired. .

Kim in front of Karen Blitzen's home, which was the setting for her book, "Out of Africa." -- Photo by Pat Bean

There’s a mental game I’ve often played that calls for you to name six people you would like to invite for dinner. Margaret Mead, Carl Sagan, Shirley MacLaine, John Muir, Maya Angelou, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Eleanor Roosevelt, Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins, Sean Connery, Gloria Steinem, Gandhi, Golda Meir, Agatha Christie and Charles Darwin, among others, have all at various times received mixed and matched invitations.

I added Karen Blitzen to my address book today.

Still digesting the things we had observed during our visit to the museum, the walk back to our day cottage actually seemed pleasant.

Later in the year, Kenya would erupt with protests about electoral manipulations after President Mwai Kibaki was re-elected. Nairobi would see some of the worst violence, and over 800 people were killed during the protests.

Kim and I, in a long-distance phone conversation, both expressed thankfulness that the riots hadn’t occurred while we were there. Suddenly our State Department’s travel warning didn’t seem as trivial. While we had both enjoyed flirting with danger while on safari, the violence humans can inflict on one another was not the kind of adventure we would ever want to impinge on our memories.

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 “When you’re traveling, you are what you are right there and then. People don’t have your past to hold against you. No yesterdays on the road.” – William Least Heat Moon

African Safari:The Dark Continent Beneath Our Feet

Nairobi skyline at dust. It was all so different, and colorful, and chaotic. I loved it. -- Photo courtesy Wikipedia

A nine-hour, cattle-car flight – well that’s what it feels like if you fly economy – deposited us in Amsterdam, where we caught an eight-hour connecting flight to Nairobi, Kenya. We had left Houston at 3:30 p.m. on August 19, but with the 17 hours of flight time, a short layover and the eight-hour time zone difference, it was late evening on the 20th when our feet first touched Africa.

A Pollman’s Safaris’ driver met us at the airport for the ride to our hotel. He stuffed our luggage and six other passengers into a van that had seen better days. In fact, I don’t recall seeing a single vehicle in Nairobi that didn’t look like it had seen better days.

But the color and intensity of Nairobi at night stirred my blood, as did our driver who would have put a New York taxi driver to shame when it came to dodging oncoming traffic as he zoomed in and out among vehicles that seemed to follow no set rules.

The word Nairobi comes from the Maasai phrase “enkare nyorobi,” which means the place of cool waters. The city, founded in 1899, is better known however as the Green City in the Sun, or the Safari Capital of Africa. It has a population of about 3.5 million and is the fourth largest city in Africa.

The other three pairs of travelers, who had flown in on the same flight as we had, were each staying at different hotels, and they were dropped off first.

The Norfolk Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya, where Robert Redford and Meryl Streep stayed while filming "Out of Africa."

At one of the hotel stops, guards looked under our van with mirrors. At the next stop, the Stanley Hotel, there was no such safety precautions and we could hear partying and music coming from inside. It sounded like a fun hotel.

As we drove through the city, I observed a sign that said 16.7 million Kenyans live in poverty. In contrast we passed huge well-lighted Toyota and Yamaha factories. More interesting, however, was one car driving on a flat as if nothing was wrong.

Like Dorothy, we weren’t in Kansas, or Texas, any more.

It was about 10 p.m. when our driver finally took us past a guarded barrier to let us off at the elegant Norfork Hotel. The precautions emphasized the travel warning to Kenya which Kim and I had chosen to ignore.

The armed guards made the warning seem more real, but any fleeting thoughts of danger quickly faded when we were graciously greeted to the quaint hotel by a doorman in a long green coat and a tall green top hat.

Next Episode: Hemingway Slept Here

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