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Magnificent Mara
July 3, 2009

We arrived in the Maasai Mara on the evening of Tuesday, June 23rd following a long day of travel, carrying mixed emotions. Our visit in Tanzania had come to a close which meant saying goodbye to Renny and Lima, to whom we were introduced as our driver and guide, however, parted as friends. Lima stood waiving his long, thin black arms until he and the tiny desert airstrip were out of sight and our 20-passenger plane ascended. Not only would we miss Renny and Lima, our daily game drive adventures and our rounding choruses of Akuna Metata, but we were also returning to Kenya, which meant we were embarking on the final leg of our trip. I had that sinking feeling that creeps into my stomach when a vacation-gone-great is about to end.

The Mara introduced us to our first tent camp, Kichwa Tembo, and from what I saw, the most beautiful section of Kenya. By now, we had seen enough zebras, giraffes, lions, wildebeests, elephants, hyenas, cape buffalo and gazelles that we were a bit desensitized, but this was “post-card” Africa. The grassy plains dotted with elephant herds, an occasional giraffe snacking on tree leaves, and a row of acacia trees off in the distance. We had plopped down into a National Geographic centerfold.

Our tent was no ordinary tent. It was shaped like a tent and had thick, military green canvass walls and an oversized zipper for a front door, but the floor was tiled, it was sparsely furnished with a dressing table and an armoire, twin beds and get this . . . plumbing. Yup, there was a full bath complete with open shower, a sink and an indoor tiolet. I don’t know about you, but for me, tent camping has never included hot and cold running water and a flushable. BF and I even acquired a pet. Our Warthog, who we affectionately named FF, lay beside our tent sleeping, only occasionally lifting his head to grunt or reposition his fat, little body. He’s our first real pet together.

Our steaming coffee and cookies arrived seemingly in the middle of the night. Our ride to the lift-off pad and our first ever hot air balloon ride was to pull out of camp at 5:30 A.M. We sipped our coffee and pulled on our safari garb while I attempted to keep my nervous tummy under control. I have major height issues, but I was determined not to let them spoil this experience. I had decided during one sleepless night two weeks prior to leaving Indiana, that I was just going to do it. I simply was not allowing chicken shit behavior out of myself myself regarding this adventure.

Our pilot introduced himself and instructed us to “hop like bunnies” into the basket when he gave the command. Once safely in, we were to sit down in our seats for take-off and remain seated until he gave us the okay. “Do I have time to run to the bathroom?” My tummy was turning flip flops. BF was excitedly snapping pictures, periodically patting me and checking “you okay?” It all happened so quickly that I really didn’t have time for a freak-out, not even a miniature one. By the time I knew what was happening, we were floating, the sun was beginning to pop above the horizon and the wildebeests were below us. We looked down into a vulture’s nest as we passed over the trees. We saw a hippo in the distance half submerged in a small lake. Our pilot excitedly pointed out a huge black-maned lion who majestically stepped across the plain, head held high, daring any beast to step near his morning kill. I was too amazed to be afraid.

Back in our seats, just two small bumps, and we were back on the ground. We cleaned up with warm, moist, bleach-white wash cloths, enjoyed a champagne toast, then breakfast, complete with all the trimmings and two chefs to prepare made-to-order omelets or waffles. Perhaps it was the early wake-up, the cool morning air, or just my overly active nervous system, but I was ravenous and a full, hot breakfast served 5-star style out in the wild, has never tasted so good. I chowed.

After a quick trip to the luxurious porta potty which the balloon company somehow transports out into the bush, we were off for our morning game drive. We had driven a small distance, I mean like around a short block, spotting several safari vehicles stopped in the road, a sure sign that excitement was ahead. Excitement to the tune of four massive, black-maned male lions napping and sunning themselves in the middle of the road. Our driver pulled forward and well into a ditch for a nice, close view. We were stuck. Yup, there we were, just a few feet from four lions, who were thankfully not hungry, stuck in a muddy ditch. An hour of watching lions be lions in their environment, seems like 10 minutes. We stood staring out of our pop-topped vehicle, the only audible sound was the click of cameras and an occassional whispered “Oh! my gosh! Oh! my gosh!” Finished with their nap, they stood, stretched, walked past our vehicle and down the road. Unbelievable.

Magnificent morning on the Mara.

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Debi Dixon

Debi Dixon

The Universe is guiding me on an incredible adventure: my Plan B. I write here to share bits of my Odyssey, hopefully to inspire, encourage, or extend the virtual hand of friendship.

When I quit teaching in 2014, I could never have imagined the growth I would experience through travel, writing, reading, therapy, and introspection.

I believe human connection and compassion will go a long way toward our healing, and the best way to connect and feel compassion for one another is through the sharing of our stories.

Thank you for joining me here. I appreciate you and may we grow together.

Inspirational Quote

“You must give up the life you planned in order to have the life that is waiting for you.”
~Joseph Campbell

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