Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Africa: The Savage and the Beautiful

Nypost 022099

There is much to be said about safaris and such little space to draw the picture of a wild countryside where long, oval masks painted in tribal colors hang on the walls of lodges and stores; where wooden elephant heads stare at you from restaurant nooks; where the sense of unbridled wilderness pervades the air with its pollen of adventure. Kenya is a place whose people enthusiastically greet one another with a smile and say "Jambo." A place where you can temporarily rid yourself of dull jobs that await you beyond its vast borders, allowing the wild fire of Kenya to rekindle your childhood curiosity.

Traversing the deserted stretch of reddish plains by air, our Cessna ferried its way to Treetops, a lodge built on a hundred marvels: tree trunks. This is where Princess Elizabeth, before becoming Queen of England, once visited, and where many people of note enjoyed the exquisite charm of its lakeside repose. At night, the local wildlife can be observed from the lodge's high terraces, allowing you to snap pictures of hyenas, lions, and giraffes as they curiously wander towards the leftover dinner piled outside.

The next morning, after a safari-style breakfast which consisted of a long, wooden table with a myriad dishes and oak benches, we invited several of the bubbly patrons for an escapade into the heartland by plane.

Ten minutes later we nosed up into the sky and swung around a great lake whose satin sheen looked like a grey sheet of ice. Frightened by the engine's roar, hundreds of flamingos below took to the air, flocking away like pink scarves scattered in the wind. And silhouetted as they were, against the endless plains whose horizon touched the Serengeti, they injected in us a silence of awe as we admired a graceful sliver of Kenyan wildlife.

The plane soon tipped and landed on a strip beside a small village ensconced by brush and a running river which snaked off into the distance. Dozens of bare natives bathing in its murky waters stopped and eyed us in wonder as they emerged from the waters, pointing. And dozens of giggling children ran behind the plane's wings as it turned in one big arch and came to a stop. When the door swung open, the buzz of flies and children's yelps filled the cabin, touching hair, touching skin, beckoning us to its kin. Outside, merchants with earrings so large their lobes drooped like melted wax waved goods in our faces, and accepted cash or cigarettes in trade.

This was the beginning of a long adventure, but alas, as with all soulful exploits, it eventually kissed me away and left a wistful memory, one which reminds me that simplicity is often the most memorable thing. A simplicity like Kenya's raw beauty.

And as for I, you can rest assured that, one day, I will say this word again, "Jambo," and it will be greeted in like.

In the land of its kin.


  1. This is beautifully written. I want to go to treetops! Thanks for including the link in case I ever get the chance to go on safari. More likely I will wistfully browse through their pictures and imagine myself there.

    1. Thank you Nicole. It was a beautiful place. Lunch and dinner were communal. A long table with a big platter on a ball bearing track which slid up and down the table. The whole thing felt...just wild. We were thinking of finding a photographer soon so we could start posting pictures as well :) Hope you've been well!