Monday, August 9, 2010

Aug. 2, 2010. Ballooning and Amboseli

We got up at 4 AM and were picked up by the balloon company at 5 AM. Only four of us went - Kathy and I and Meanna and Dillon. Our driver drove through the pitch black morning to the balloon site. The workers had unpacked the balloon and were beginning to put it together - all by the cars' headlights. It was very interesting to see how much effort goes into inflating the balloon. It is a bit of a coordinated dance to get everything going at the right moment.
It was a twelve-seater balloon and eleven of us were going. There was a family of five who were from a small French island off the coast of Madagascar and who barely spoke English. One of the sons was celebrating his 10th birthday. There were also a couple of other men.
After the pilot demonstrated how we should sit for take-off and landing, we all got into the basket. Kathy, I, and the birthday boy, were all in one section.
The pilot blasted the butane fuel and the balloon began to rise. Except for the sound of the pilot's occasional blast, it was a very quiet ascent. We saw a group of wildebeest but those were the only animals. It was an overcast morning and it seemed doubtful that we would be able to see the top of Kilamanjaro. We entered a cloud layer and the whole world was white - a white out. You couldn't even see where the sun was. I watched the pilot check his compass. He took us even higher and we rose above the clouds - 11,000 ft! VoilĂ ! There was Kilamanjaro. The sun was shining on the snow and we could see the entire top. Very exciting. Then we saw the shadow of our balloon on the cloud bank below us and there was a rainbow around the shadow. It was really a wonder to behold. It was quite cold up there. We stayed for a few minutes and then began to descend. The whole flight was quick, quiet, and peaceful.
On the way down we saw two hyenas and some kind of cat running away from the balloon. We all sat down in our compartments just before bouncing a couple of times on the ground, and then came to a stop. It was a great trip.
After the ride we were driven to a champagne breakfast out in the bush. When we arrived we saw fully dressed waiters- full service breakfast and a long fully set table. It was very nice. After breakfast they drive us back to the hotel. Kathy.and I slept for a few hours - until lunch.
After lunch we walked out to the lookout point. A Masai guide who was working there took us on a little walk along the fence. We came upon a small group of elephants walking toward the water hole. We were able to observe them for some time.
I did see the Masai boy again but the guide kind of drove him away.
Kathy's rash has improved dramatically. She was able to join us for the game drive at 4 PM. We drove again through Amboseli Reserve and saw many animals. We came upon another herd of elephants, two if which were standing over a small baby who was laying on the ground. It looked like the mother was trying to wake it up but it was not moving. We looked through the binoculars and it didn't seem to be breathing. We were all so sad about the dead baby elephant and the mom who was trying to revive him. One of the other van drivers said the baby was just fooling but we couldn't see any movement at all. Then, just as we were about to leave, the baby got to it's feet. - What a shock! The little guy had fooled everyone. We were all very relieved.
We drove back to the lodge for dinner. Tomorrow we will leave Kenya - and Yusuf - as we travel to Tanzania.

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