Monday, October 21, 2002

Masai Mara, Kenya V

Every time I pack for East Africa, I take a look at the map; take note of the equator slicing through Kenya, and pack accordingly. But these plains lie more than a mile above sea level and the nights cool down fast. The autumn short rains have begun as well and each day starts clear and crisp, turning hot by noon until puffy cumulus clouds build into an eggplant-colored squall. It cuts loose without warning, a driving deluge that knocks the temperature down 30 degrees in as many minutes. Most nights it settles into a nagging cold drizzle that gives tent campers a head start on the chest cold season.

Somehow I managed to pack for a three-week camping safari without any excess baggage, but no matter how many times I dig through my duffel bags, all that cozy Patagonia fleece remains resolutely back home in Seattle. Instead, my desert weight sleeping bag and see-through tent have kept me on intimate terms with the elements here. If I sleep under a week's worth of dirty laundry, it's not really so bad.

I've driven more than a thousand miles so far, all of it in second gear and none of it on anything resembling a proper highway since leaving greate metropolitan Nairobi. Dust tracks wind through the bush, most no more than
tire tracks in the grass. When those give out, you can make your own. After a good afternoon soaking the black-cotton soil goes both icy slick and just about bottomless. The act of steering becomes less a command than wishful thinking as the car slithers and lurches about.

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