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A French-Inspired Garden and Home by Judith Stringham

Africa...Land of Dreams

Friday, February 27, 2015

I had a farm in Africa 
begins a novel of a love story with a man 
and of a love story with Africa.

Home of Karen von Blixen (aka Isak Dinesen), Nairobi, Kenya

"I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills. The Equator runs across these highlands, a hundred miles to the North, and the farm lay at an altitude of over six thousand feet. In the day-time you felt that you had got high up, near to the sun, but the early mornings and evenings were limpid and restful, and the nights were cold."
Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen (aka Karen Blixen)

Africa was a land of dreams 
described in Out of Africa, National Geographic, 
The Snows of Kilimanjaro, Daktari, Tarzan, ...  
A land with acacia trees and a snow-covered peak 
that was labeled as only a legend in Europe when it was 
first reported by explorers in the 1800s. 
Scientists were skeptical about a snow-covered mountain 
so close to the equator. 

As a young girl and woman, movies, books, and television 
filled my head with dreams of an African photo safari. 
One of those dreams that is part of a 
person's unwritten list of lifetime dreams 
that seem beyond reach and never will be fulfilled. 
Just a dream in the margins of one's imagination.

Sunrise over Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania was a dream for a lifetime. 

Then one day my husband's job as a Bible translator needed him to travel to Kenya. 
Just about the time I would be celebrating my 60th birthday. 
With great excitement, we made plans for me to go with him. 
Shots, travel visas, reservations, and vacation days from my job 
as a public school administrator all came together. 

The first wildlife preserve we visited was just outside Nairobi, Kenya. 
Can you see the excitement in my smile? 
Everything was foreign ~ sights, sounds, smells... 
the terrain, the customs, the food... 
and the wildlife! 

Giraffes freely roamed throughout the open range preserve, 
and stared at us as we stared at them. 

Until they got bored and went back to finding lunch. 

Of course, during the first part of our trip 
my husband attended the conference for his work. 

After he finished the conference, we flew south to Amboseli National Park.

Our first view of Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania looming over 
Amboseli National Park, Kenya. 

My dream of Africa became a reality as 
a 60th birthday present from the love of my life, my husband of 35 years.  
And it was truly a trip of a lifetime! 

Here I am, taking photos and standing on the airstrip on which our small commuter plane 
landed after flying low over herds of wildebeest, zebras, and water buffalo. 
The herds had run and swirled away below us just like in National Geographic specials.

See my left foot off the ground?
I was floating on air with excitement, awe, and wonder,
trying to take it all in and to capture the moment forever. 

As our fellow plane passengers climbed aboard a bus, 
our guide approached us and took us to our private Land Cruiser 
with a driver and a Maasai wildlife guide. 
(Could this be real?  Our very own personal Maasai guide?) 

After a full day of traveling across the plains, 
rumbling over rough terrain (no roads), not another soul in sight, 
looking at scores of varieties of wildlife, expertly described by our guide, 
we pulled into our campsite and were greeted with glasses of 
fresh apple juice served by the camp director 
and shared with several of the camp's Maasai guides. 

Our first night we stayed at a tent camp, Porini Camp, 
that stood on an old safari big game hunting campsite. 
Kenya no longer allows game hunting. 

 This was our open air dining area for breakfast and dinner. 

As we ate by candlelight under the tent that first night, 
we visited with the other couple who were also guests. 
The man was the editor of the African Geographic
and his wife was the editor of another African magazine. 
Once again, I thought, "Is this real?" 
Fascinating conversation under a candlelit tent in 
the middle of the African bush... 
The only sounds were hushed conversations 
and sporadic nightlife calls from birds and animals. 
Every minute of the trip was filled with more 
excitement than the previous minute. 

After dinner, our guide and driver took us for a night safari 
that included us sitting around an open fire talking with our guides. 
As we talked another Maasai warrior walked into the light of the campfire, 
out of the darkness, and joined our conversation.  
We talked of a vanishing culture being nurtured by tourist 
revenue that allowed the Maasai to nurture the dwindling wildlife. 
We knew we were lucky to see Africa while wildlife still exists. 

Back in camp that night, the guide zipped us into our private tent 
with warnings not to walk around outside by ourselves, 
always have a guide for protection against wild animals.  
Some of the guides wore a gun. 

We slept in our private tent on a real bed after bathing 
under a shower filled with water from a bucket. 

Tortilis Camp, Amboseli National Park, Kenya, Africa
From Porini Camp we traveled to Tortilis Camp at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro. 
Once again, the day unfolded with even more exciting new events. 

Driving into Tortilis camp, the cluster of thatched roof open air buildings 
looked like a movie set. 

The reception/registration building was beautiful. 
"Is this real?" 

This was the view from the open air dining room located just behind the reception area. 
The equator runs through Kenya making it a warm country, but the altitude 
tempers the warmth creating a climate that allows pleasant open air rooms. 

Luxury Tent #3 was our "room". 
The thatched roof covered a raised platform on which a tent was pitched. 

A king size bed sat in the front area, 
and behind it was a full bathroom with 
a flush toilet, sink with faucets, and a luxurious shower. 
Is this real? 
Yes, it was. 

Mount Kilimanjaro with clouds overlooking a herd of zebras
Two full days of private safaris with Maasai guides were filled with 
herds and herds of wildlife that largely ignored us. 
Except for the zebras. 
There were always several that stared at us. 

Our guide also arranged for us to visit a local Maasai village 
that was enclosed by an 8-10 feet tall by 5-6 feet wide fence 
made of thorny bushes to keep out the wildlife, especially lions. 

The one-room houses were made from mud, had no furniture, and no electricity. 
The village did not have a well, and villagers walked several miles to the 
closest well to collect water in buckets. 

Our last day on safari, our guide asked what we wanted to see that we had not seen. 

He drove us to another area of the national preserve where he found a den 
with two sets of cubs, five cubs total, guarded by unseen male lions in tall grass.  
While this photo looks like we were really close, we were much farther away 
and took photos using telephoto lenses. 

Africa was a land of dreams for me, 
and it took my breath away day after day. 
We arrived home the night before my 60th birthday. 
Life has never been the same since. 
How grateful I am for the trip of my lifetime dreams 
with the love of my life.  

The African Geographic editor asked me 
how I would celebrate my 70th birthday since 
my 60th birthday celebration was so spectacular. 
He asked how could I top going to Africa. 
I don't know what life has in store for me, 
just like I did not know I would go to Africa.

Anything is possible... 
if you dream it.