Africa: Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, & Namibia travel blog


We got up at 5:30 am and joined 14 others in the lobby to drive to the ballooning site. We were in luck, actually, because windy conditions had prevented flying the balloons for the past five days. When we took off, we rose MUCH higher than we had over the Mara. As Dennis, our balloon pilot told us, we would not feel the wind velocity, because we were flying at the same speed; in fact, we were the wind.

It was magical watching the sun rise and the desert mountains grow long shadows, then turn from monochrome to shades of yellow and, of course, red. And the sky expanded in a cover of blue. Azure! We descended gradually and caught an easterly wind to sail back toward our landing site. We saw a truck and trailer head our way and then a crew of men ran toward us to catch our basket and so gently guide us right onto the trailer bed. Impressive technique. Dennis told us that he’d been flying since he was three years old, as his parents came here from the Congo and decided to start a tourism industry with lodges and ballooning. Dennis passionately declared that he would never leave this place.

After a champagne breakfast on the sand, during which the balloonists ceremoniously cut off the corks with machetes, we were ready to truck back to the lodge, when one of the crew members fainted. Luckily, one of the guests was a doctor who tended to him and made sure his blood pressure and vitals were stable. The man would be alright, as they called an ambulance to take him to a clinic somewhere, and the doctor advised having his blood sugar checked.

Within the hour after we returned to the lodge, 12 of the 16 guests from this lodge who went ballooning this morning left on two bush planes. We and one other German or Afrikaner couple were the only ones remaining for the night. Actually, they turned out to be Russians who live in Germany.

In the afternoon, I walked with Ronnie for about a mile to a cliff site where San people etched some images into the stone probably 2500 years ago. It was quite a scramble for me to make the vertical climb up loose rocks, but Ronnie was patient and led me on a tried and true path. I was happy I had made the climb because there were two good drawings of ostriches, as well as a more vaguely interpreted giraffe and some stylized human figures. I was obviously reminded of the 35,000 year old cave art in the Dordogne Valley in France and had to tell Ronnie all about Neanderthals and how they didn’t have the prominent chin that we homo sapiens have nor the frontal lobe development of their brains.

After I got cleaned up, we went to the lodge where they served us a private dinner upstairs. I guess the Russian-speaking German couple had an equally private dinner downstairs.

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