The Land Cruiser is rocking with laughter. Five ripe guys are crammed in the seats. A massive pile of luggage and groceries pressing from the trunk. The air is hot and uncomfortable, as the African sun beats down on us. But we don't give a damn. We are in Africa and we are surrounded by Zebras.
There is something magical about being surrounded by herds of wild animals. The kind you have only ever seen in pictures or meager offerings of a zoo. Zebra's smell like horses. They bite and fight, they run wild and roam free in all thier striped glory... and in Soysambu Conservancy there seem like millions. Zebras as far as the eye can see.
We have stepped from the pollution of Nairobi's people filled stinking streets, right in to a childhood fantasy. I am giggling like a little kid, taking pictures and rolling the film on the video camera in a desperate atempt to get everything before I wake up and it all disapears. I am in videographers heaven, and this is only the laneway.
Murray is laughing at me. "This is only the laneway boys... you haven't seen anything yet."
They are right.
We have arrived at Lord Delemere's Ranch. Now Soysambu Conservancy. I have traveled through a fold in time, to a past long gone where animals from picture books roam free and real lords live in mansions in the plains. Where gentlemen explorers take rest and sip Gin and Tonics on verandas and tell wild stories of grand adventure.
...and this is only the driveway.
Soysambu is a private game reserve, run by the incredible Kat Combes, with Guy's help, and a dedicated staff. An intimidating guard at the gate salutes us as we drive in, and we are instantly surrounded by life. This slice of heaven is under attack, and we all need to save it. Over the next few articles, I hope I can help you understand why.
Kat's home is warm and inviting, we are greeted with hugs and excitement. An amazing dinner is laid out for us and we spend sundown eating and enjoying relaxed beverages in good company. In the words of an old friend of mine, "Life is good, Life is very good."
After the first good sleep I have had in days and an excellent hot shower, we get up and out of our excellent little guest house bright and early to go on a real, honest to goodness, balloon ride.
It is still dark outside, we jump into the truck and pound through the back country to meet up with Gunther, our host and pilot with GoBallooning. This is the best way to see the whole Rift Valley. This is the only way to film. I was able to get the best flight shots I have ever put on video. That was before I saw my first Giraffe.
Giraffe. Rothchild's Giraffe. It is impossible to put in words what seeing these in the wild does to you. It stuns you. It changes you. It is a dream come to life. It is your first red tricycle. It is chocolate ice cream in a waffle cone. It is a million dollars. It is a speechless moment. Like the mountain gorilla only a week ago, it leaves me breathless. We see herds from a balloon.
My favourite book as a kid (and my favourite movie) was "Around The World In 80 Days." I love balloons. Gunther is an awesome host, he makes stern German quips, he expertly guides the balloon over herds of magnificent creatures, turns the basket so I can get the shots and takes us high up to see the world from his point of view. What an amazing beginning to our stay here. If you are going to Soysambu, you gotta do the balloon ride.
Guy tells me that he has made this trip about 5 times, but every time blows his mind. Worth every second.
After the ballon ride we get an impromptu safari. Gunther is great, he gets us really close to the huge herds of endanger Giraffes. We see Gazelle and Dik-dik. The final stop is breakfast.
I still haven't stepped out of character. I am Phileus Fogg. We are having gourmet breakfast in the plains of Africa. Lounging with champagne and hot omelettes.
Guy was right. We haven't seen anything yet. it is only the first hours of our first day. Every drive is a safari. Every moment an adventure. To finish the day off, Guy revives an injured bird and Stephen gets a chance for some close up sketching.
Tomorrow we visit the new research centre Kat and Guy are working on, stay tuned. The adventure isn't over yet.