Our final morning in the Mara, our final morning in Kenya, and what would be the longest travel day(s) of my life.
The morning began with the tent zipper being opened by our butler bringing us tea and biscuits for our morning wake up call, this had become a ritual for us. But this was our last day, and I didn't want to get out of bed. I didn't want to leave the Mara and I knew that once I was up and going the day would be a whirlwind, and it would be 40+ hours before I'd get decent sleep again.
But we had to get up and get going, and once we had our faces on, we headed to the meeting spot where a giant orange sphere was glowing on the horizon. Phera and I freaked out because we thought we were getting a glimpse of an amazing sunrise, but as we ran to the clearing and got a better look, we found out that it was just one of the hot air balloons being inflated for it's morning flight. We both fell over laughing at how stupid we must have looked running around looking at the "sun", cameras drawn like we were old west gun fighters.
As we headed out the real sun made it's appearance on the horizon and as we exited the back gate we saw some Masai taking their herd to market.
We made a lap around the conservatory before heading into the park and saw a few of our new "friends" and a couple that were trying to add to the Mara's population. And for the first time this trip we got to see some ostrich making their way across the plain.
Aa it reached mid morning, we were treated to another picnic breakfast, but this time it was up along the Siria escarpment on the western edge of the Mara. We set up just below the bluff that was used in the final scene of Out of Africa, and the view was phenomenal. We had a small breakfast, before each of us took in this area in our own special way; some meditated, some explored, some relaxed, and others fellowshipped. I took pictures.
But one of us had something they needed to take care of.
Shelby had brought something extra special with her to Africa, something close and very dear to her heart, and in some ways a piece of her; that would be the ashes of her grandmother. The plan was to spread her ashes across the plains where the elephants and other wild animals roam, but there was something about this location that seemed even more fitting and magical. So Shelby stepped away from everyone and did what she came to do. It was beautiful, and it's a place her grandmother would love.
Before loading back up and doing one more lap around the conservatory, it was group picture time. The only one I got was this one that Paresh took of our crew. Unfortunately Anokh and Claire weren't with us on this trip.
We returned to camp to pack up our luggage, and from this point on everything became a rapid blur. My brain was already on overload from the completely epic trip we had up to this point, and it was starting to short circuit from the dread of our return trip home. So for our final drive to the airstrip I put my camera away and just enjoyed our surroundings, really soaked in the Mara, and enjoyed one last visit to our favorite pride of lions.
Once we got to the airfield I did a few panoramic photos of the terminal and the air strip. One of the things I learned in Kenya is that nothing is ever on time, and that schedules are more of a general idea of when things should happen, not when they will. So it was no real surprise that our plane was almost 45 minutes late to pick us up, luckily we had quite a bit of time before we had to catch our flight to Dubai. The other funny thing is instead of the one large plane that we arrived in, they sent us two smaller planes because our group was so large. But no big deal our pilot, Andre 3000, had everything under control!
When we returned to Nairobi we had a few hours to play around, so had an excellent dinner with Phera and Ravi before heading to the airport. I also grabbed a bunch of tea and coffee to "smuggle" back home, like Han Solo smuggling spice from Kessel.
I'm not going to lie, things got a little weird and shifty at the Nairobi airport. The ticketing agent wanted our credit cards for tickets we had already purchased, mine with cash. He told us it was required, but when we got an Emirates representative over to help us out, the guy played dumb. It was a total credit theft scam. Then he tried to keep our luggage from boarding the plane, but we had that taken care of. The guy was then escorted out back where we heard 3 gun shots and then silence. Okay, I'm kidding about the last sentence. But everything seemed cool, or so we thought.....
Our second flight was a 5 hour flight from Nairobi to Dubai, that included a giant pervert sitting next to Shelby and leaning all over her. It was awesome!
We landed in Dubai around 4 am local time, and we were delirious. This made things in the airport seem a lot funnier then they were, like the bathroom door below:
Since we were going to be having a 22 hour layover in Dubai, Emirates was going to provide a hotel room, meals, and shuttle service for us while we were there. Somehow my reservations were magically erased (see ticket agent in Nairobi). After a little bit of sweet talking, arm twisting, yelling, and mild threats I was taken care of for the rest of our time in Dubai.
But we still had a slight problem. The airline kept our luggage for the return flight to Dallas and Shelby and I totally forgot to pack an extra set of underwear. So after a quick nap at the hotel, we roamed the hotel store where I found a sweet set of boxers and Shelby found a parachute, or panties, or a parachute. I couldn't really tell.
Also my D800 didn't really come out too terribly much on our return trip home, I mostly used my iphone to catch random shots here and there. I figured it could use a rest.
Once we were kinda clean we headed to the other large mall that has a ski resort in it and then over to the Atlantis resort out on the Palm.
The indoor ski resort was interesting, but so was the Star Wars figure below. This $8 figure in the US was a steal for only $20 here.
The Atlantis Hotel was pretty cool, but it reminded me of a Vegas or Disney hotel. IT was over the top and touristy with gadgets and gizmos everywhere. The 40 foot Chihuly sculpture called Fire and Ice in the lobby.
Our time in Dubai wasn't long and before we knew it we were back at the airport for a nice 16 hour direct flight to D/FW. The Dubai airport is huge and beautiful with the largest duty free mall in the world. There even gracious enough to give away a Porsche 911 every once in a while.
I snagged these for me:
And finally after what is the longest travel day I've ever had, covering more the 11,000 miles, we returned safely to the States.
So that's it, the adventures of Shelby & Dustin on the Dark Continent.
Before I seal this trip up, put it in a crate and archive it in a giant warehouse like the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, I wanna take this space and do a few shout outs:
First thank you to Phera and Ravi for inviting us and allowing us to be there for one of the most important days of you life. It truly was a beautiful ceremony, and one of the most unique I have ever been to. I truly wish nothing but the best for you guys and can't wait to see you again. When you guys come to Texas we are going on a meat, music, and beer extravaganza! Asante Sana!
Next, the amazing Jai and Patel families and their many branches; yes each and every one of you! You guys are truly awesome! I have never felt more welcome and at home with any other group of people in my life. At times I felt like I was back home on holiday with my family. THANK YOU SO MUCH for all that you did, for taking care and looking after us. Most importantly thogh, thank you for allowing us to tag along with you on safari and introducing me to some of the most incredible sights I have ever seen in my life. Asante Sana!
And finally Shelby, thank you for asking me to accompany you on this trip. I'll never be able to thank you enough for showing me that side of the world. You told me that once I visited Kenya, it would change me, and that I would always feel some sort of connection to it. You also told me that sometime while out on safari, raw emotion would wash over me and everything around me would change. You were absolutely right about both of those statements. When people ask me how my trip to Africa was I always tell them life changing. And every time I look through these photos there's a slight twinge in my heart.Thank you so much, I'm forever in your debt! Where are we going next??? Kumbatia Na Mabusu!
These blog posts were both the easiest and hardest things I've ever done. I'm not a writer, and each of these images deserve to have their own back story, but honestly I find myself at a loss for words and end up phasing out at the memories each image brings back. I just hope I was able to convey an interesting recollection of our adventure.
Asante Sana, Kwaheri!