The drive to Naivasha was beautiful, filled with both anticipation and awe at the surrounding landscapes. We drove on with our heads out the windows, smiling and dancing to the local hip-hop and reggae flavor our driver was was playing.
We arrived in Naivasha a little under two hours later, our matatu driver being the safest one we would encounter for the remainder of the trip, and hopped on to another matatu that would take us down the road from the town center to Crayfish Camp. I am pretty sure that every single person outside of the crowded van was trying to sell us something. Whether it be roasted corn, blow-pops, sausages, pens, hair clips, or warm yogurt, it can be peddled through the window of a stopped, or moving, matatu. Our new driver was much less cautious than our first and took off barreling down the bumpy dirt road at an obscene speed, passing cars in the opposite lane, narrowly missing oncoming traffic, warning everyone of their impending death with nothing but a hilariously brief and inadequate honk.
After a ten minute ride down the sole road from Naivasha town to the lake we hopped off the pleasant little death trap at the entrance for Crayfish Camp. Though Mladen’s gentle caring for me on the drive had helped to ease the intense nausea, I was already wary of that inevitable pull developing between us. Pushing it aside, we walked up a long paved driveway past a crop of rosebuds lined with irrigation canals and greenhouses, cattle and goats roaming along the fences. When we finally reached the camp we were immediately greeted at the desk by Joseph, a suspiciously friendly gentleman, willing to fulfill any need we might have, albeit at an exorbitant price. He took us around to see the rooms and for the first time I stopped and realized that we were in Africa. The camp was beautiful. Three horses roamed freely like pet dogs, grazing on the lush green grass, and the trees were filled with the bluish-purple iridescent superb starling.
As we tried to sort out who was sleeping with whom I could already tell what Mladen was thinking. Despite our tumultuous history, our physical chemistry was never something in question. Still holding white-knuckled on to my resolve to leave Africa as Mladen’s friend (and nothing more) I made very clear to him that we would not be sharing a room, much less a bed, at any point on this trip. When he inquired as to why with a sly smirk on his face, I stared at him incredulously for a moment and replied, “Because of your girlfriend. The one you have. That isn’t me.” Smiling, he let the jab roll off his shoulders, and we all headed to find some lunch.
As we sat down at a table at the camp’s oddly empty restaurant, we began to wonder where everybody was. We had yet to see any other travelers, save for at the hostel in Nairobi. Those thoughts were quickly dismissed by our hunger and we eagerly began perusing the menu. Options were limited and while I struggled to find something that would agree with the still strong remnants of my hangover, I ordered a beer to ease the pain, a hot dog despite my utter lack of an appetite, and hoped for the best.
About twenty minutes later a few of our plates arrived. Though both Barbara and I had ordered the hot dog, when our food was set in front of us, french fries tumbled down a small potato mountain on her plate and I was left staring at three fries, a few small slices of tomato and a similarly disappointing number of onion slices that I believe was intended to resemble a salad. To top off our gourmet meal, the hot dogs, tiny shriveled pieces of meat, were lacking buns. It didn’t stop there. Both Justin and Mladen ordered ham and cheese sandwiches, and when Justin received a ham and cheese omelette in its place we humorously assumed that they must just be out of any kind of bread. However, just about the time everyone else had finished eating, Mladen inexplicably received his ham and cheese sandwich (bread and all) and we were left perplexed by the waitress and, for the most part, still hungry. On the bright side, the hilarity of that meal ended up providing an inordinate amount of entertainment for days to come as well as a wonderfully low standard to beat.
After lunch we decided to find our friendly con-artist Joseph to get ripped off on a boat ride out on the lake. We arranged a boat and a guide with the camp and walked the short walk to the lake to set out on freshwater in hopes of our first real taste of African wildlife. The sun was pounding on our pale wintered skin unaccustomed to the relentless heat. Rolling up our sleeves we all silently begged for a breeze until, across the lake, we saw a storm coming. As we continued towards it the wind picked up, cooling our overheated bodies, and finally the sun disappeared and the most refreshingly welcome rain began to run down our faces and arms. After about thirty minutes, when the winds grew and the water on our arms turned to goosebumps, the clouds began to break and the sun returned to the southern side of the lake.
The tango of clear skies and sunlight through the storm clouds projected a strangely beautiful backdrop for the birds as they swooped in and out around our boat, some diving for food, some just calmly floating by. The freshwater lake is home to not only more than four-hundred species of birds but also three separate families of hippopotamuses (that we saw anyway). The enormous beasts appear docile as they roll about lazily in the water, yawning and stretching against one another, but anything as big as a car that runs faster than a human is certainly something by which to be intimidated.
After about an hour or so of bird-watching and hippo-gazing, our guide on the boat (whose name I can’t seem to recall) brought the vessel around back to the dock and we headed back to camp to find some dinner.