Saturday, August 30, 2008

Finally in Africa ...

Dear friends, I am so sorry that I haven’t been in touch with you more recently but finally I am away on a bit of an adventure. After all these months in London, I left Great Brittain and currently I am visiting the continent of Africa for the very first time …

Since leaving the very comfortable (and huge) home of Miss Katie Mason in leafy Harrow-by-the-Hill about a week ago … I have been staying with Katie’s Uncle Julian in the not-so-leafy Docklands area of London in a rather nice water-side flat close to Canary Wharf.

Canary Wharf is all tall buildings and flash offices and smart shops … lots of marble floors and stainless steel … not really the favourite landscape for a self-respecting Rat. I like somewhere where the rubbish bins aren’t emptied so regularly … so you can imagine my joy when I discovered that I had been shortlisted to join an expedition to the dark continent of Africa.

And finally, a couple of days ago I left London to set off with a somewhat motley crew of explorers … destined for Kenya … in Africa … don’t you know.

My travelling companions are Katie’s uncle, Julian (a somewhat portly Englishman with a friendly disposition but delusions of being another Dr Livingstone … I presume !!) … Uncle Julian’s son, Edward (aka Ed) … and Julian’s daughter / Ed’s sister, Harriette (aka Hatty).

We travelled from Canary Wharf to Heathrow Airport by tube train (which was fun, I think, because like all rats I enjoy being underground in dark tunnels !) … and then we flew away in a big airplane heading off to Africa. A distance of about 4,250 miles … taking roughly 8 and a ½ hours in the air was no joke I can tell you … particularly as some idiot (no names mentioned … eh Uncle Julian) had forgotten to get me out of the luggage so I spent the entire trip in the overhead hand-luggage compartment and thus missed out on all of the in-flight films and the in-flight meals … which were apparently only really fit to be eaten by rodents such as me !!!!

Nairobi’s “Jomo Kenyatta International Airport” was interesting … and did not seem to have much in common with London’s Heathrow Airport. Apparently Nairobi’s JK International Airport was built in the late 1970’s to handle about 2.8 million passengers a year and it’s now dealing with about 3.5 million passengers. 15,000 passengers a day and 58,000 landings and take-offs each year.

We stayed just one night in Nairobi … which was plenty long enough as it wasn’t the nicest of cities which I have visited … before flying off in a much smaller airplane called a “Twin Otter” to start our first Safari. Uncle Jules, Ed & Hatty are intending to gaze-at and photograph the wildlife … whilst, of course, I am intending to enjoy the Wild Life and see if I can spot a potential Mrs Woody Rat from amongst the indigenous and un-tamed, wild rodent population.

So here you see me on our first stop: Amboseli National Park … and oh my god (aka OMG) … what an incredible place … dominated by snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro (which is actually about 30 miles away in neighbouring Tanzania but is the backdrop for Amboseli) and just the most amazing place to go for a first safari in Africa. Amboseli National Park itself spans about 150 square miles but is encompassed within a region of about 1,250 square miles of open land which was formally all part of a wildlife Reserve but is now largely used by the Maasai tribes people for grazing their herds of cattle.