Day #208 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…A review of an exquisite first safari experience…Firsts!…

It was hard to say goodbye to the staff at Camp Olonana Sanctuary Retreat after the extraordinary stay and safari.

Today’s photos are from the post on this date in 2013 while on safari, staying at Camp Olonana in the Maasai Mara, Kenya. For more on this date, please click here.

The lodge was an invited place for us to sit, sip beverages and post our photos and stories. With no Internet access in the tents but available at no charge in the lodge, we spent most of our limited spare time in here.

Seven years ago today, we wrote a comprehensive review of Camp Olonana Sanctuary Retreat in the Maasai Mara in Kenya where we had the privilege to experience our first safari in Africa, forever emblazoned in our hearts and minds.

The dining room’s ambiance was easy going and welcoming.

There’s a lot to be said for “firsts” and without a doubt in our minds, that particular first left us reeling with sheer wonder and delight. Throughout our world travels, over and over again, we’ve had the opportunity to experience a wide array of firsts, that above all, stand out in our minds years later.

One evening, as we were busy posting after dinner, the staff and guests began dancing around the lodge to celebrate a couple’s anniversary. It was an intimate group with no more than 16 guests on-site while we were there. (The camp holds a maximum of 28 guests). With a little prodding from the staff, we joined in the line.

Whether it was our first transiting of the Panama Canal, the first in-person view of the Eiffel Tower, the first sighting of The Treasury in the hidden city of Petra, the first visit from a warthog in our garden in Marloth Park or our first cruise, they all hold special meaning with us.

 Windblown, with hat hair, at dinner each evening we wore our daytime safari clothes, feeling too tired to change. Also, arriving from safari between 6:30 and 7:00 pm, food was more important than fresh clothing.

Frequently coming up in conversations between us and others, firsts litter our itinerary, year after year, combined with the easy memories of the events surrounding such events. Isn’t it ironic how we all remember such times as our first date, our first kiss, our first airplane ride, our first bicycle, our first car, our first pet, and our first job?

The gift shop had a wide array of souvenirs and gifts, none of which we purchased with no room in our bags as we continue on our world travels.

Traveling the world the past has provided us, old-timers, with a wealth of firsts we never imagined in our dreams, and yet, here we are, universally, worldwide, all experiencing our first pandemic, our first months in lockdown and our first times wearing face masks, as non-medical professionals.

On the second night at camp as we were finishing up yet another safari, Anderson took what appeared to be a new route back over unpaved bush areas.  Bouncing about, we all giggled over the new route wondering why we were taking this route. With the gates to the reserve locking at 6:30 pm, we were late getting out. We’d assumed this new route was a way around going through the gates. Instead, suddenly we saw this campfire, to be surprised by everyone at camp, all guests and most staff were awaiting our arrival that tonight was the ritual “dinner in the bush” was a total surprise for the six of us.

Firsts are not always pleasant, as in the case of COVID-19, and many of us may prefer to have this event excised from our minds, which does nothing more than elicit painful thoughts and memories we wish had never happened. In our attempts at positivity, many of us strive to find meaning in even the most sorrowful of experiences to guide us through our lives, adding to our purpose and depth of character. 

The Maasai villagers were in attendance to sing and dance before or dinner as we all sat in a half-moon of comfortable chairs, enjoying appetizers and beverages, sharing our various safari stories. 

This period of COVID-19 still leaves me wondering what we’re supposed to learn from this. Each day, during the past seven months, as I walk the corridors, earbuds in my ears, listening to some informational podcasts, my mind wanders away from the voices I’m listening to that same question. “What am I supposed to learn from this “first?”

Look at my plate at the “bush dinner!” It was exciting to know that most of the meat and vegetables were within my dietary constraints, all prepared to perfection, seasoned with local spices. Once again, great job Chef Ambrose!

Was it resilience? Patience? Tolerance? We both already feel we’ve had these bases covered after living without a home for the past almost eight years, amid many stressful and challenging situations. We’ve often mentioned the need and commitment we’ve made to adaptability as, scenario after scenario, we were tested as to our ability to adapt. We not only managed but most often, somehow, we thrived.

After the bush dinner, we posed for a photo, although after a day on safari, I hardly felt photo-ready. Tom’s face was sunburned from the almost 8 hours we spent on safari that day, exposed to the elements, loving every minute. We couldn’t wait to put our clothing in the dirty laundry hamper to be washed, dried, and folded to perfection that was returned to our tent that same evening. This service was included in the all-inclusive pricing.

I suppose time will tell. Perhaps this query to ourselves on this topic will present itself somewhere in the times to come, once we’re blissfully removed from this confinement-type existence, purely predicated by an invisible toxin wafting through the world at a ravaging pace.

Ah, the naysayers who espouse this virus is a hoax! Those who have lost loved ones, young or old, don’t call this a hoax. 

On the first night, we both had the same entrée, a grilled sirloin steak atop a medley of sautéed vegetables. Tender, cooked exactly as requested, this steak required only a butter knife to cut it. Neither of us had appetizers or dessert that evening after having had lunch earlier in the day upon arrival.

As for today’s photos, they are a pleasant reminder of a “first” that we can easily determine its purpose, in its impact on our lives, the changes we’ve made, the adaptation we’ve embraced and the awe and appreciation we gleaned from such a glorious and memorable experience.

My nightly dessert of fine cheese and Kenya is grown cashews and macadamia nuts. The night of the “bush dinner” Chef Ambrose had remembered to bring these items for my dessert, as the only guest in camp unable to eat the traditional desserts. Wow!

Enjoy these photos with us, knowing our comments from the past event, seven years ago today, were heartfelt and passionate.

Enjoy your day!

Photo from one year ago today, October 17, 2019:

Coat of arms on shields at the entrance gate to Chepstow Castle in Wales. For more photos, please click here.

Day #201 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel… Recalling a dreamy adventure…

Upon our arrival at Camp Olonana, now renamed Sanctuary Olonana, we were greeted by a Maasai warrior playing a welcoming tune on his flute, while on the deck overlooking the Mara River. We knew we’d chosen the perfect environment to fulfill our dreams of safari combined with exquisite accommodations, service, and cultural experiences.

Today’s photos are from the post on this date in 2013 while on safari, staying at Camp Olonana in the Maasai Mara, Kenya. For more on this date, please click here.

Reviewing the photos from seven years ago today from the luxury safari resort on the Mara River makes me swoon over the wonderful memories, open spaces, and cultural mind-blowing experiences. In the blissfully chilly mornings when we embarked on our first safari of the day, usually around 6:00 am, the air was crisp and fresh, free of pollution and free of sounds other than those in nature.

The fast flowing Mara River is muddy due to erosion and lack of man’s intervention. The local Masai tribes are dependent upon its waters as well as the wildlife and vegetation. It is this river that the Great Migration crosses over and again as it makes its way from the Serengeti to the Masai Mara. We missed the crossing of the millions of wildebeest but we did travel to Tanzania in the safari vehicle to see the tail end. By the time we made that journey, we were so satisfied with our safari experience that we hardly gave it a thought.

At 5000 feet, 1524 meters, above sea level, we were embraced in a world unlike anywhere else we’d ever been at that point. This was without a doubt, “the bush,” “the savanna,” the place one who loves wildlife can dream of exploring, and exploring we did with a passion, a fervor with a sense of excitement unlike any other we’d ever known.

Ambrose, our well-trained chef, made meals perfect for me, an appropriate version of whatever Tom and the other guests were having. The food was fresh, hot, and delicious on every occasion.

The unfamiliarity of what was to come was tinged with a little fear and apprehensive which was easily surpassed by our enthusiasm. After the first early morning safari in the open-sided vehicle, all of our apprehension wafted away, replaced only by a hunger for more, more, more.

The all-inclusive camp consists of three meals daily, appetizers, snacks, beverages, high tea in the afternoon, and alcoholic drinks at any time of day or night. Glass bottles of purified water were presented at our table at all meals and in our tent for drinking and brushing teeth. I was so excited I failed to take a photo of our delicious GF chicken curry lunch.

The WiFi only worked in the camp’s main lounge room and the signal was weak, making uploading photos, let alone an entire post seem less of a concern than under normal circumstances. We hoped our readers would wait patiently for the time when we could begin sharing our photos, days later.

All produce at Camp Olonana was organically grown in their on-site garden. A certified ecologically friendly resort, the care was given to the food, and the use of water, fuel, and electricity was refreshing in this distant setting. For example, all electrical outlets were shut off (lights stayed on) from 10:30 am to 6:30 pm and off again during the night. In consideration of our need to recharge our equipment, we were given a power strip connected to the generator that was available 24 hours a day. Many more measures were implemented to maintain the ecological integrity of the camp, which consisted of 14 tents, a spa tent, the lodge, gift shop, offices, and housing for staff.

Somehow we managed to eke out a few posts while we there, by making our way to the lounge room immediately after dinner, while still wearing our dusty safari clothes for the day, which we had no time to change before dinner. We didn’t return from our afternoon safari until almost 7:00 pm each evening with no time to freshen up and change.

Our tent was #4 a short jaunt down this stone-paved walkway. Camp Olonana, was cool at night and had few mosquitoes and insects. The cool nights were heavenly, requiring a down comforter to keep us warm. That was a rather pleasant sensation!

But, this wasn’t an experience of “dressing for dinner,” looking fresh and perky in order to socialize with others. The only socializing we did at Camp Olonana was with the friendly staff, our guide, and our “safari-mates,” the four other people in the six-passenger vehicle we shared each time we ventured out.

The veranda to our tent.  Approaching, it took our breath away.

Anderson, our guide treated us to a hot breakfast in the bush, all prepared suitable for each passenger’s taste and desires. A cooler of canned and bottled beverages including beer was available at any time. During this period, I didn’t drink alcohol and stuck to small sips of bottled sparkling water in an attempt to avoid having to stop too often “to check the tire pressure,” as Anderson referred to as a bathroom break, behind a big rock or bush.

The comfy furnishings made is tempting to lay here and watch the wildlife to saunter or swim past from time to time. Actually, we only had time to sit here for one hour during the three day period.

It was there I learned to gingerly “go” knowing full-well a snake could be in close proximity. It’s so much more difficult for women wearing pants than men. But it was a task that presented itself in many other parts of the world, especially the Middle East, Asia, and Indonesia, where toilets are merely a hole in the floor, not the easiest scenario for women wearing pants.

Although we were escorted to our tent the first time, Tom wanted to handle the long, sturdy zipper to ensure we had no issues. Of course, it was a breeze, opening to a virtual paradise of tent interiors.

But, like everything else in our almost eight years of world travel, we adapted and embraced our surroundings, all the while cajoling ourselves that it all was a part of the adaptation we had to accept as we’ve continued to travel the world. Has that all changed now in light of Covid-19? Only time will tell.

We unpacked, with our equipment plugged in, anxious to write here to begin sharing the experience. With no Internet connection in the tent and neither of our WiFi devices able to connect, we comfortably sat in the lodge to go online to post. As we’d mentioned the connection was poor, preventing us from posting many photos until returning to Diani Beach, where still the connection wasn’t strong. We slept in the bed on the left, keeping our electronics plugged in on the bed on the right.

Certainly, the adaptation required for us to remain in lockdown in a hotel in India for 201 days, has been a true test in itself. As I’ve mentioned in past posts, I am not certain as to the lessons we’ve learned in lockdown, but when and if we discover them, we’ll certainly share it here.

Stay safe and healthy.

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Photo from one year ago today, October 10, 2019:

John and Renate’s 500-year-old farmhouse in Witheridge, Devon, England has been appointed with authenticity in mind. For more photos, please click here.