Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Day Ten: From the Sublime...

Before blogging today's adventures, we would just like to revisit yesterday. After the amazing elephants at the waterhole experience we were buzzing last night and decided to go to the bar for a celebration. The barman told us off for not flashing a torch to get one of the askari to escort us in the dark. He said there is a Leopard that lives in this area and frequently wanders round the Bandas at night. We didn't think for a minute the experience we were about to have would happen. Shortly after we returned to our banda, we suddenly heard the Leopard roar from somewhere near the waterhole. A little later he roared again, much angrier sounding this time and closer to us. Then we heard an Elephant roaring, followed by splashing in the waterhole. There was nothing else for a couple of minutes, then we heard the chairs on our balcony move and the Leopard roared a very angry and prolonged roar from right outside (with just a canvas sheet and a mosquito net between us! The Elephant and Leopard then spent the next 30 seconds exchanging angry roars before it went silent. It was an awesome experience and a fitting end to a great day.

If yesterday was the sublime, then today must have been the ridiculous. We started off with a drive around the Rhino Valley and then headed back to Mzima Springs to see if we could have more luck at getting shots of a Hippo with open mouth towards the camera. On the way across, the sky was so clear that we were able to see Kilimanjaro clearly and we also photographed Rock Hyrax and Helmeted Guinea Fowl

Kilimanjaro from Tsavo West

Helmeted Guinea Fowl

When we arrived, the Rangers called Howard over to fill in the Visitor Book. They looked at his camera and commented that we were there for nearly two hours yesterday and have come back again. The were concerned that we were a professional crew, working without a permit, especially as Karen's camera has a facility to shoot short video clips but the microphone is useless, so she had tried an external microphone out yesterday. Howard explained that we are all keen photographers, who are members of a photography club and we have expensive equipment because we want to take the best photographs we can. Although they eventually accepted the explanation, they did not seem convinced and it gave Howard the impression that we would not be accepted back there on this safari without a professional photography permit. We took a few photographs of the Hippos and an African Fish Eagle, then left.

African Fish Eagle at Mzima Springs

Although it was disappointing for us, we did understand that we did not behave like most tourists and we do use professional equipment, so it is not unreasonable for the Rangers to be suspicious.

As we now had more time than expected before lunch, we decided to take the road towards Finch Hatton's Camp, on the premise that the most pricey lodges will be built in areas with the highest concentration of predators. We got to within 12km of Finch Hatton's and the Landrover began to make a strange scuffing sound. We stopped and looked but didn't see anything obvious. We did, however, feel it prudent to turn around and head back to the Bandas to check it out. We had not gone far, when the noise became increasingly loud, so we tried to isolate whether it was an engine or running gear problem. We narrowed it down to the engine. We then stopped with the engine running and popped the hood. The noise when we opened the hood was deafening; the flywheel spindle on the alternator had broken and the blades were scuffing against the alternator casing. We had no choice but to continue and hope it would hold out but we still had 20km to go. After about another 3km, there was a thump and the screeching stopped, followed by a red flashing battery warning light: the alternator had disintegrated and taken the drive belt with it. As we carried on in a more pleasant sounding but deadly sick vehicle, we hoped it would last the distance. We kept a close eye on the temperature gauge, which rose slightly but stayed in the “normal” range, so we assumed there must be a second drive belt for the water pump. Eventually we made it back to the Bandas in one piece. When we stopped, we popped the hood and the water clearly was boiling out, indicating that the temperature gauge was faulty too. It is a testament to the toughness of the old Landrover 110 that it made almost 20km across game tracks without a water pump and survived.

Once we were at the Bandas, Howard borrowed a phone from the receptionist (because Orange still have us locked out of Global Roaming and are going to get a very nasty letter when we get home) and called Roving Rovers to ask for the vehicle to be replaced with the one we had originally ordered. To his credit Patrick, the owner, called back twenty minutes later to say that a replacement vehicle had been dispatched and would be with us at the latest by tomorrow morning. So big thumbs up to Roving Rovers for sorting the problem in a timely fashion.

Dave became a Masai warrior tonight, as Kayan presented him with a Masai spear and shield.

Dave with his Masai spear and shield

With no vehicle, we spent the afternoon at the Bandas and photographed the Elephants as they came in to the waterhole again. Speaking of Elephants, we would like to thank Jane and Leon Bourque and Dave Watson for their contributions to our fund-raising for Save The Elephants.

If you have enjoyed our blog, please consider making a contribution to our chosen charity, Save The Elephants via our Just Giving Page.

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