Flight from Maasai Mara to Diani Beach…Also, Tom’s photos…New safari photos…Please scroll to the end…

As our final safari came to an end, a sudden burst of rain surprised us on our return drive to camp. During the entire time we’d been in the Masai Mara, we’d seen only beautiful billowy clouds.  After raining for less than 10 minutes, this rainbow appeared, quickly disappearing. Tom captured this photo. It was goodbye for us, a final indication of a perfect adventure that we’ll carry in our hearts forever.

Moments before the rain, Tom captured the clouds rolling in at precisely the right moment. This was shot with an extra camera we carry with us, a US $100 Samsung.  Wow, Tom!

Flying in yet a smaller plane on the return flight to Diani Beach, we find ourselves seated behind Edwin, our sole pilot. With no wall or divider between us and Edwin, this single-engine 12 seater plane feels like the “real deal.” At this point, a 4 or 5 seater won’t be much different.
I won’t go as far as saying that I’ve conquered my fear of flying in small aircraft but at least this time my heart isn’t racing, my mouth isn’t dry and I’m not watching the clock agonizing over how much longer until we’d land.
Instead, I’m writing with exuberant anticipation of sharing more details in writing of these past exhilarating days, the writing in itself a divine blessing in its ability to divert my attention away from the 2-hour flight.

Today at 1:00 pm, Anderson drove us to the tiny landing strip from Olonana making a stop along the way to pick up our pilot Edwin who was having lunch at a nearby lodge.  Chatting with Edwin on the remainder of the 20-minute drive provided me with a modicum of comfort. Why?  Was it due to the fact he was breathing, coherent with his wits about him? Perhaps.

After 15 minutes in the air, we landed at another landing strip to pick up seven more passengers. As their multiple bags per person were being loaded into the equally tiny luggage compartment, I began to wonder not only about the weight of those bags but also of the people carrying them. Only I would think of this.

The plane leaned to and fro as they positioned themselves on board. Tom moved up to sit next to me. A friendly young man sat across from us, cheerily making conversation. All we ever heard before the engine started up again was, “We never got to see The Big Five.” Tom and I smiled at each other, knowing our experience may have far surpassed that of others without Anderson at the wheel.

Once we were airborne again, fast and furiously I started making notes on the notepad app on my smartphone to aid my memory in the multitude of amazing experienced we’d have in a short 3 days. Three days we’ll never forget.  Three days ingrained into the essence of who we really are, who we’ve really become, somehow to be changed forever.

Not to sound too romantic or melodramatic, visiting Africa, with all of its hardships, has made me feel as if I’ve come “home.” I doubt that I’ll ever understand the “why” of this profound awakening. But, the “why” doesn’t matter.

This bewildering sensation encompasses me, leaving my knees weak and my heart filled with an indescribable familiarity that I’ve chosen not to question.

Tom although less poetic than I, in these past days has exuded a peaceful resonance in his voice and a loftiness in his step, that I have witnessed on occasion. And that smile on our faces, not intended for a photo op, seems to have a mind of its own, making our faces hurt after a long day.  (And today, October 18, 2013, I can’t stop smiling as I transpose that which  I wrote on the plane now, a full 10 days ago).

All I know is that bouncing around in an open-sided Land Cruiser over the bumpiest roads I’ve ever traveled, driving through creeks and riverbed for almost 8 hours a day, occasionally stopping to “check the tire pressure,” fearless in the tall grass, I never questioned for one moment why we were doing this. For this short period in time, I belonged to the bush, to the wild, and to nature more than I’d ever felt before.

As my fear continued to diminish over the occasionally turbulent return flight, I realized that if God forbid something unforeseen occurred, I’ve lived a full life at 65 years old. I’ve loved, I’ve been loved, I’ve failed and I’ve succeeded but most of all, I’ve learned more about myself in this past year of travel than I’d ever learned before.

Life is fragile but we are strong…and with my strong and brave partner at my side, I’ve pushed myself to reach for my dream, some of which I only recently allowed myself to realize.

To realize a lifelong dream of Africa, in the bush, on safari, enmeshed in its culture and its people;  I feel free, I feel grateful, I feel fulfilled.

Thank you, Maasai Mara.  hank you to the most amazing guide on the planet, Anderson. Thank you Camp Olonana.  Thank you, Kenya. And, thank you, Africa.”

Most of all, thank you to my husband, for not only “stepping outside the box” but “leaping outside the box,” and for your courage, love, and compassion to make this dream come true.

The cloud darkening the sky moments before the rain fell.

Also, thank you, Tom, for killing that disgusting poisonous thing I spotted on the wall in the bathroom at 6:00 am this morning with nary a complaint and for eating tuna out of the can mixed with mayo, a few slices of cheese, and a sliced tomato (which you hate) for dinner last night when our propane fuel ran out when we were only halfway through cooking a pork roast, again without complaint. 

Tom was excited to see this plane and get a shot. It’s an 80-year-old, DC3 with obviously, new engines and props, commonly used in World War II. I said, “Thank goodness we don’t have to fly on this oldster.”

And thank you for helping me with literally everything including putting on my shirt when my bad shoulder has been painful since we returned, after taking over 600 photos on safari. And, for lighting that problematic green coil thing 10 times a night to keep the mosquitoes from biting me as we spend each evening in our outdoor living room. Thank you, my husband, my partner, and my friend.   

 Arriving at the landing strip, this tiny plane was the only one in sight.  Then I knew this was Edwin’s plane and we’d be flying in it. 
Edwin prepared for takeoff while I was sitting behind the empty co-pilot’s seat. For the first leg of the flight, it was just Tom and me on the plane with Edwin. Tom sat behind me so he too could look out the window.
Approaching the landing strip to pick up seven more passengers.
 Control panel of the single-engine plane.
 A breathtaking view from the plane.
 This was a body of water.
 As we neared the body of water.
 As we flew over Diani Beach the smoke from burning clouds the view. In Kenya, there’s no ban on burning often resulting in noxious fumes filling the air.

More safaris photos below…

A termite hill we saw on the way to Tanzania, possibly 4 or 5 feet tall.
More of the Retired Generals hanging out together.
These cheetah shots were taken from afar after a group of 3 had a successful kill.  Notice the bloody face.

Hard to see from the far distance, these 3 cheetahs are devouring their kill which we witnessed from a distance, occurring so quickly, we couldn’t get a shot.

 On our way back to camp on the last night, for the first time, we spotted these mongooses which are known snake killers.
The King of Jungle never disappointed, continually offering an opportunity for close-ups and the opportunity to observe his/hee playful antics and instinctual behaviors. Thank you, lions.
 Thank you, dear readers, for sharing this journey with us.