It is a rainy cloudy day in Nairobi and I had hoped to go soaring today. I left home on Tuesday 30 November and flew to Dulles, Washington where I attended a three-day Symposium honoring 50 years of Joanne Simpson's career. The symposium was held at NA SA Goddard. Some of the talks like mine were a mix of science and anecdotes of experiences working for Joanne. I reviewed the evolution of cloud modeling since the early 70's when I worked for Joanne to the present. Other talks were almost all overviewing the achievements of Joanne and her role in the meteorological community. Now, I can take a half day of such things but three days of that sort of thing really got to be old. Still it was good seeing many old friends and colleagues and getting a glimpse o f the science they are involved in now days too.
Friday afternoon I left in plenty of time to get to the airport for my 6:30PM flight. I flew with Sabena Airline, which is a Belgium airline. The equipment was a very new looking Airbus. It had individual LCD displays of videos, video games, and movies , which one had to pay $5 for, and a control box that one could remove from its seat and activate through an attached cord. It took about half the 6.5-hour flight to Belgium to figure out how to use it! I had a two-hour layover in Brussels and then on f or an 8-hour flight to a city 1-hour west of Nairobi, which I had never heard of before, and didn't see it anyway, as it was after dark. After a 1-hour layover, we flew the hour to Nairobi arriving there after 11:00PM. I had been told that Joseph Mukabana or his designee was supposed to meet me so when I came out of customs I entered this open area with a fence separating those coming out from friends and numerous people trying to get you to take a taxi or whatever. Well, I kept looking and looking for so meone I recognized and decided after a while I was on my own. Now you have to understand everyone I have talked to about Nairobi told me to be extra careful. But I finally broke through the crowd of people that resembled a group of sharps circling for the kill. They kept trying to get me to come with them but I went to a taxi stand and got a taxi to my hotel, the Nairobi Safari Club. As we entered the city it started to rain quite heavily, and in one spot we hit a deep puddle and I feared the car would ge t flooded out. But it kept going and after midnight I made it into my room and got a night's rest.
In the morning Joseph called me to see if I got in all right. He apparently stayed there until after midnight and I guess he walked away from the shark-like crowd to ask about me and that must have been when I entered the shark cage. He also had my fli ght confused with my associates, Bob and Craig who took a KLM flight which arrived 1 hour earlier (for them the next day) than my Sabena flight. So, he checked with KLM and found I wasn't on it.
In spite of the fact it was raining cats and dogs, I then called Yellow Wings Air services to see if it made sense at all about considering flying up to Mweiga where the glider operation that Tim McCallister recommended is located. They said they woul d call Peter and Petra Allmendinger, owners and operators of the commercial soaring club. About an hour later, 9:45AM, I got a call back that it was reasonably clear up there and it was expected to clear even in Nairobi. So I grabbed a taxi and headed to Wilson field where I met the pilot, Stefan, and we cranked up an old Cessna 172. After climbing up to 8500', Stefan let me take the controls and I flew the remainder of the 45-minute flight. Except for a mountain pass area, the whole landscape was covered by one small farm after another. I climbed up to 9500' over the pass and then let down dodging cumulus clouds. Stefan assured me that it would clear up near Mweiga as it generally does. However, as we got closer, I could detect a loss of confidence in hi s optimism. A mid-level stratus- deck covered the entire area.
I gather it had been raining rather regularly for about a month, as the grass was quite green all over the area. We landed to in a 15kt cross wind. Two gliders were set up on the north end of the runway next to a grass-roofed ramada. Both planes were t wins, one a K-13 and the other an open cockpit Slingsby T-21. That is probably a 40-year-old plane that looks like a dragonfly when viewed from the front. It has dual oval shaped wind screens that resemble those on British sports cars of the same era. The wing is elevated above the fuselage on a pod of sorts. I had always thought that would be an interesting ship to fly and it appeared I might get the chance.
Getting out of the Cessna I introduced myself to Peter and Petra. They are a very friendly couple and both are Germans. They had the winch setup for a southerly takeoff, but the winds shifted and they had to switch the whole operation end-for-end. This involved moving the winch and cable doe-see-doe, hooking both gliders at once on an old Mini-Moke and dragging them to the other end. We hardly moved 10' when the Moke ran out of gas. So a beat up VW bug was brought down which couldn't move very slow so it was a jog to the other end of the runway.
Peter then took a couple, one at a time, on scenic flights in the T-21. Peter later said that the T-21 is very popular for scenics, especially on nice warm days. Then it was my turn. As the previous flights were only 15 minutes or so, I didn't expect much of a flight, but flying the T-21 would be an experience anyway. With Peter following through with me, we got a good winch flick to 1100'. Peter suggested I turn into the weak thermal we encountered just before release. Now the T-21 is a very differen t bird to fly compared to anything I have flown previously. Turns on the roll-axis are so stiff I felt I needed two hands on the stick! Moreover, once you get it to bank into a turn sharply it feels like it is going to roll over on its back into a spin! I t took me a while to get the hang of the beast. If you didn't kick in appropriate rudder, down that wing would drop and I'd be looking straight at the ground through its open sides! I didn't need to look at the yaw string when I slipped and skidded as I w ould get a blast of fresh air in my face---wham!
But we scratched away in those little thermals and eventually gained some altitude. Then Peter said it looks like "the" shear-line or convergence line was coming through for the first time this year. At the leading edge of the line of cumuli, clouds we re thin and wispy and behind it normal towering cumuli grew to 8000 or 9000'. The best lift, however, was not beneath the bigger cu but instead beneath the wispy cu. In fact we encountered strong enough lift to launch us several thousand feet above the to wering cumuli, reaching 11,000'. Remember this is an open cockpit plane, so we were freezing our butts up there. I would work back and forth along the leading edge of the convergence line above the wispy cu much like working a wave. This line behaved simi lar to a "bore-like" wave much like the famous Australian Morning Glory. I looked at aircraft charts trying to understand what triggered this bore. Behind the bore front the airmass was definitely different than in front as it was moister, hazier, and eve n smelled different. But the coast is some 600km away and the terrain slopes gently up to the ridges near Mount Kenya, so it doesn't appear to be a bore triggered on a sea-breeze front interacting with steep topography. It was moving between Mount Kenya t o the east and another mountain range to the west whose name I forget. After a while, the cu behind the leading wispy line began looking ragged and I found weaker lift. It appeared the bore- front grew shallower and ran ahead of the cu line, then after a few minutes, it appeared to retrench back to the cu. After almost an hour the lift got weaker and we began descending to the airport. When flying the T-21 one has to keep a sharp eye out so that you don't drift very far downwind. This plane thermals at ab out 32kts and 45kts is probably its best L/D. Faster than that it drops like a rock. My comment about my Grob G-109B penetrating like a D-9 Catapillar is very appropriate for the T-21 as well!
I pretty much landed it on my own slipping it with the wind on my face. Flying the T-21 was certainly a fun experience, especially having that bore-like convergence line to keep us aloft for over an hour. I felt I needed a derrick to get me out of the plane once on the ground, as my butt was sore and muscles in one leg had knotted up. I wouldn't call the T-21 the most comfortable ship to fly in.
Now I'll have to go home and run RAMS to figure out what kicks off that bore, or get Joseph Mukabana to run it over the area with sufficiently high resolution.
Stefan and I got back into the Cessna and then overflew Peter and Petra's guest-house/ home about 3 miles from the airport. The house is a double-peaked large southern- German looking house in an open plain with a nice view of Mount Kenya. I'd like to bring Vollie back there sometime to stay a week or so, hiking Mount Kenya and, me of course, soaring. I understand that elephants and other wild things can often be seen from their veranda. They have seen leopard prints in the yard but never seen one. In fact, about 10 miles from there on the way back I spied some elephants lounging in a muddy-looking pond near a home.
We returned to Nairobi, skirting showers from a large cumulonimbi, just before dark. I then took a taxi back to the hotel where I had a nice fish dinner by myself.
It was back to work today as I was part of the introduction ceremonies. I had hoped the meeting would be held at the University of Nairobi campus, which is only a 5-minute walk from the hotel. I explored the campus in my morning jog. It is a pretty cam pus in a park-like atmosphere with bouganvilla, flowering trees, and eucalyptus all about. Instead we were bused across town to the Kenyan Meteorological headquarters and training school. You get the feeling you are entering a prison with guards standing at the entrance and the place is surrounded by a tall steel-post fence. Following some brief lectures designed to consume time while we waited for the guest of honor; we went to a hall where there were introductory ceremonies. Bob, Craig, and I set up fr ont facing the audience in a row of chairs behind the "big-wigs". They handed us a program and guess what? I was on the program for making remarks, the first time I had heard of this. So, I welcomed the students and thanked Joseph for giving me this oppo rtunity to escape snow! I mentioned that I already had a chance to study their meteorology during my soaring experience. Then others made comments and we listened to a speech by the president of the University of Nairobi.
Then Bob, Craig, and I attended the morning lectures, which were held in a classroom with classroom desks built for 7th graders in size. Not exactly comfortable, but they at least kept us awake. Because the morning lectures were rather basic, we decide d to spend the rest of the day preparing our own lectures and laboratory materials, e-mailing and the like. Since I am not scheduled to lecture tomorrow, I've decided to go touring a bit. For clarification, Bob is Bob Walko, a research associate under bo th Roger Peilke and me where he is in charge of RAMS model code development. Craig is Craig Tremback, a research scientist with Mission Research Project, and a PhD graduate under my supervision. Both he and Bob are presented lectures on RAMS as well as me , and they are also setting up a laboratory wherein students in the class can run RAMS and perform various simulations as part of the WMO-sponsored workshop.
The weather today was pleasant with temperatures in the lower 70's, partly cloudy, and no rain. It reminds me a bit of weather near San Juan, Costa Rico which is also at high elevation. The vegetation here is similar as well.
It rained heavily over night and there was a solid stratus deck covering the plain. Bob and I took a jog around campus and covered more of it than I did on the previous morning. The streets felt rather slippery after the rains. Following breakfast, I h eaded for a tour of Nairobi National Park, while Bob and Craig set up the laboratory software. As I mentioned before, the campus is park-like and is covered with all sorts of tropical trees and vegetation. It is in sharp contrast to the city area we are s taying in which is all concrete or mud/dirt walkways with little if any trees or vegetation. The buildings in campus are pretty typical of those found in universities and professional buildings in third-world tropical latitudes. They are almost all poure d concrete gray-looking structures, rectangular and in various states of repair/decay. In the hill area where the meteorology department exits, there stands a building that was started and never finished because of some contract dispute. The building wher e meteorology exists, is one of those gray, poured concrete structures with floors made of wood tiles that are broken up in spots due to water damage. Joseph told us that, responding to pressures for education from a ballooning youth populations, two more universities have been built in Kenya which puts greater competition on the University of Nairobi to obtain funds for building maintenance and support for research. There are some nice looking stone cottages on campus whose function I never did find out and on the main part of campus some of the buildings are red-brick put still have pretty shoddy-appearing exteriors.
Nairobi National Park is the oldest national park in Kenya, having been set up in something like 1946. It is over 450 sq miles of rolling savanna located right on the edge of the city. It cost me $80, plus tip, for the half-day tour. A guy and driver m et me, with a van at 8:30AM. I joked that this is not a matatu is it? They said definitely not! A matatu is a mini-van system that was set up many years ago to provide transportation when the whole public transit system broke down. The name matatu refers to the original 30-shilling price they charged. They are still quite a bargain, price-wise, but this is compensated by the fact that the drivers stuff as many people as is possible, and then some, into them. I mean you see people hanging out the side wind ow somehow! I guess in their original form they were pickup trucks with canvas covered benches in the truck bed. They are very restless drivers, and whenever I saw a fender-bender, a matatu was involved.
Anyway, the guy I paid got out and off the driver and I went to the park. We entered the east entrance to the park, which goes through an industrial area, and the last 0.5-mile is on a muddy, mud puddle filled road. Some of those puddles must have had 8 inches of water in them! The entrance to the park has a guard house and black steel gates and surrounding the park are 4 strands of probably high-voltage electric fence.
As I mentioned before the park is rolling savanna with scattered whistling acacia about 3-4 foot tall with large round cones that resemble some types of pine cones a bit. Every so often there is a tree, probably in the acacia family. About a mile into the park we passed by several giraffes. They stayed close to the road and didn't seem to mind our presence a bit. I think I got some good pictures of them. Then we spied some impalas, then more and by the time we left I must have seen hundreds of them.
The road through the park is gravel and is in much better shape than that 0.5 mile entrance drive. The driver raised the pop-top of the mini-van so that I could stand up and get a view of the landscape and any critters that were on it. As we rolled alo ng one could hear the continuous singing of numerous birds. Some of the birds the driver new the name of were the widow bird which has a red crest on its head and is about the size of a grouse, a crested spur, and crested hawk. I have no idea what the res t are called.
The animals I spied, some very close to the van, included Jackson heart beast, a buffalo in the distance, warthogs including a mother and two piglets. I also saw some Thompson gazelles, which are beautiful deer-like animals with black stripes along the ir sides, white bellies, and brown backs. There were also grand gazelles, which are larger and not as colorful as the Thompson's, elands, the largest of the antelope family, waterbucks, and a few rhinos in the distance. Now you have probably seen them all in a zoo, but here they were all roaming about in their natural habitat, only 20 miles at most from the city. We dropped down into a valley where there was a parking area near a stream. There, I was escorted along a nature trail by a park employee carryi ng a rifle for protection. The trail meandered through lush green vegetation with some flowers scattered about and numerous tall trees. He had hoped to show me a hippopotamus, but they decided to find a pool elsewhere. I did see a few turtles and a crocod ile lounging on a beach. There were also three monkeys sunning themselves on a large log. The guide said they were not people shy so on the return on the trail we walked through the bush so I could get close enough for me to take a picture. But, people sh y or not, they hid on us.
Back on the road again, my driver was determined to show me some lions, but this was not to be. So after 5 hours he returned me back to the hotel where I worked on my lectures.
We had another rainy night in Nairobi. I didn't get a chance to run this morning because it was raining so hard. But, by the time we were picked up it had stopped raining. By noon, however, it began raining heavily again. This is definitely the wet sea son.
I gave a lecture on four-dimensional data (4DVAR) analysis in the workshop today. Aside from my brief introductory comments regarding the fundamental nature of 4DVAR being similar to least-squares analysis, I felt that the slides that Tomie gave me wen t right over their heads. Clearly we all need to adjust our talks to a simpler level.
Eating here has been a challenge for me with my vegetarian/seafood diet. Breakfast at the hotel is a big rip-off. Neither Bob nor Craig ate there as a result. They have a buffet with one side of the table being what appeared to be a standard continent al breakfast and the other side having eggs, meats, and other such things. Most restaurants with such setups, charge a continental rate or a full breakfast rate. Not, this place, everything is a la cart up to a $15 buffet price. Bob tried the full English breakfast and the bill came to about $15. I took the continental breakfast and I found that they charge for each item so I paid about $10 for mine. I found today for example, taking a few slices of cheese meant I was charged nearly $7 for the cheese plat e! I've never seen such charges for breakfast anywhere. Because lunches at the Met Institute are a preset menu, usually consisting of some sort of meat dish for $10, I have decided to skip lunch altogether. By contrast dinners at the hotel and a restauran t we went to last night can be purchased for under $10. Go figure! They are pretty good, although the amounts don't make up for lack of lunch and a skimpy breakfast. If I were pure vegetarian, I'd really be in trouble as few if any vege dishes are offered . So, I survive on fish and seafood. Well, I can use a diet to make up for sitting in airplanes and being fed every 5 or 6 hours and finding it difficult to get as much exercise in on my travels in general. Still eating is part of the fun on these trips a nd it sure isn't as much fun for me.
In the afternoon I lectured on cumulus parameterization, mesoscale convective system parameterization, and parameterization of the cloudy boundary layer. I lightened up the talk a bit and used fewer equations, and as result I felt the students got more out of it. The audience is quite a mixed bag of backgrounds as far as I can tell. Many are routine forecasters from Kenya and neighboring countries and probably have marginal technical background. Others have had more advanced technical backgrounds, and some are even current graduate students. This makes it very challenging to hit the right balance in the lectures. I feel I got closer in the afternoon. I guess we'll see how tomorrow goes.
By the time we finished for the day, it had cleared up and the sky was partly cloudy. We had supper at our hotel restaurant and the food was reasonably good. The bill was only slightly greater than my breakfast here and I had two glasses of wine. This is a weird place. I hope the usual nocturnal rains don't hit tonight so that I can get a run in before breakfast.
Finally it wasn't raining when I got up at 6:00AM. So I got in a jog around the U of Nairobi campus. The air is very humid so I got very wet from perspiration. By the time I got back to the hotel, I could see clouds rolling in from the east. When our c ar picked us up it was raining heavily and it has remained overcast with light drizzle throughout the morning. I am beginning to realize how lucky I was to find great soaring on Sunday. We are in the peak of the rainy season.
I lectured today in the morning on the bin-resolving microphysics in RAMS and its application to a variety of topics. Then in the afternoon I discussed our radiation parameterization schemes and Costa's modeling work in the tropical western Pacific, in which he coupled the ocean mixed-layer with deep convection in RAMS. I felt much better about today's lectures and in fact I had some of the students express an interest in coming to CSU for graduate study.
On our return we were driven by the site where the U.S. embassy used to be. This is where Bin-Laden had one of two U.S. embassies bombed. The remains of the building were torn down and the building next to it was totally destroyed. Another 15-20 story building stands there without any windows. I gather 250 people were killed by the blast. They are planning on putting a memorial park at the site. One had plenty of time to view the solid steel enclosure surrounding the bomb-site as it was the worst traff ic jam I have seen so far in Nairobi. Cars were moving inch by inch and people were swarming across the streets every which way and everywhere.
Nairobi as a town is not the most pleasant place I have visited. Over 3 million people live here and it has been hurriedly put together with most of the city not having infrastructure to support them. Outside of the bleak main downtown area with high-r ise buildings, there are no sidewalks and I never did see a traffic light working. While there are many people walking along the sides of streets on dirt/mud paths, they must fight their way across streets at traffic circles with much congestion, one lane at a time, or just jay-walk through the traffic when it is jammed. Public transit consists of taxis, matatus, and overcrowded buses. Along the busy streets are these hodgepodge of utility lines that are often all wound together, lean down to the ground i n places and I am amazed that telephones or electricity carried by them ever works. There are some parks scattered about but they are often worn bear in many spots by walkers and street people hang out in them over night. Only during the bright daylight i s it safe to walk through them. Likewise, there are many parts of downtown that are frequented by homeless people who stand about or sleep stretched across the sidewalks anywhere and everywhere. All the shops have these heavy steel roll-down barricade fen ces, and are for the most part stalls in dingy-looking poured concrete structures. Joseph did take us to a very upscale shopping center, more or less in the suburbs, that could have been anyplace in the U.S. Also we were often driven along winding back ro ads to the Met Training Center, where we could see these nice large homes with brick facades, surrounded by manicured gardens of tropical plants, and brick or stone, or steel iron fences, with broken glass or speared tops to them. So there are some very u pscale homes, which I gather by U.S. standards, are not very expensive, being in the low $100K range but totally out of the reach of 99% of the population. Thus there is a great division between the very rich and the poor.
That evening, Bob and I ventured out to supper at a vegetarian Indian restaurant called the Mahur. My Kenya guidebook recommended it highly. Craig had to work on a proposal and tomorrows talks and doesn't seem to be very enthusiastic about Indian food anyway, so he elected not to come along. We asked the doorman at the hotel to get us a cab. He made quite a fuss about getting us the right cab driver and that we make arrangements with the driver to come back as well. So, we got into this rather old, gr ay, London-style cab. The restaurant was only 2km away through crowded, dusty, diesel-smoked, unlit streets. The restaurant was in an unpretentious building at the corner of a very busy intersection. My first reaction was, hmm, I wonder what we are gettin g into here. There were locales standing around and talking all over the place outside the restaurant. We asked the cab driver to come back in an hour. At the entrance level there was an open well-lit room with a number of natives in it. But the waiter es corted us up a winding stairway to a darkened room with Indian-style decorations. I joked to Bob that they didn't want to lose business by having a couple of whites in full view downstairs. Actually this was probably the high-class room. We were the only ones in the rather large room. We were immediately served a nice tomato soup and a plate of breads. When we finished, the waiter pointed to a buffet table filled with many main course dishes and deserts. We filled our plates and had a great meal including seconds and desserts. Several of the foods had some interesting exotic flavors that I had not experienced before. While we ate we heard African music being played along the streets below. Bob remarked that it sounded a bit like Caribbean music and I said -well, where do you think that came from! About the time we finished an Indian family joined us in the room; a good sign that this was a favored restaurant. When the bill came we were amazed the price for the two of us came to about $10! My guidebook was right this is the best deal in town. Outside we found that our cab driver had waited for us and we weaved our way back to the hotel, feeling quite full, and burping up the flavors of the moderately spicy Indian foods.
It is interesting being a minority to such an extent as we are here in Kenya. This is not the first time I have been in such a position. Certainly in China I was a minority and when visiting outside of Beijing in the lesser tourist-exposed cities and t owns, we were stared at and viewed as a curiosity. Not here, we just seem to meld into the mass of blacks for the most part. At work and in the lecture room we are treated as being no different. I find the locals to be openly friendly and joke and laugh a lot. One time as we were being driven from the hotel to the Met Office, I joked to the driver as we stood still in a traffic jam that this was a "car-park" and I thought he would die laughing on the spot. They are a very touchy-feely people as they talk they put their hands on your shoulders, give you a hung, and it is common to see a couple of professionals at the Met Office talking and holding hands as they walk along. I also see this frequently on the streets. This touchy-feely business is something I always have a hard time adjusting to as that was something that was just not done in my early years in Upstate New York. My son, Chris, always gives me shit about that and makes a big thing about hugging me now days as we part company.
The only time I feel we are being stared at is when we go jogging and that is probably because there are so few joggers around town. On campus we might see two or three runners (like they really move!), but that is it.
It turned out to be a nice sunny day with scattered cumuli and temperatures in the upper 70's. After a run with Bob through Nairobi University, I went with a guy from the Met Service to Sabena Airlines where I was able to move my return flight up from Friday night to Monday night. My lecture duties end on Monday and I hadn't scheduled to depart until Friday because I wasn't sure what my responsibilities would be through the remainder of the workshop in my capacity as Chairman, of the International Prog ram Committee for the workshop. But, as became clear to me, this was largely a ceremonial position, so after Monday I wouldn't have any responsibilities. Since I can only take so much of hanging out in Nairobi itself, and I have gone soaring and visited M aasai Mara, and to do anything more in tours would make this trip very expensive.
I lectured today on the real-time version of RAMS, on our flash-flood simulations, and on work in progress or done in the past in which satellite data and radar data are incorporated in RAMS.
That evening, a Friday nice none-the-less, I couldn't talk Bob or Craig into "doing" the town, so we just ate at the hotel. The dinners are OK there but not much different than one could find in Fort Collins. If it weren't for me they would have probab ly never gone out to eat. Bob did want to eat at a restaurant called the Carnivore sometime, where various exotic game meats such as antelope, gazelle, and the like were served. Being a vegetarian, that place didn't seem very attractive to me.
After Bob and I jogged and I had a light breakfast, we were picked up at 0800 and taken to Wilson Field where we caught a flight in a Twin Otter to Mara Serena Lodge in Maasai Mara National Park. The flight took 45 minutes plus another 15 with stopover s to pickup and drop passengers at two other lodges. In the low flights between lodges I saw elephants, giraffes, zebras, impalas, heart beasts, and other critters. The landing strip is dirt at each lodge and about 3500ft long.
Mara Serena is situated on a small hilltop surrounded by scattered trees and bush. The rooms are a cluster of concrete structures with rounded edges all over, which are intended to resemble in some way the traditional Maasai homes. From what I saw of t he thatched-roof Maasai homes from the air the resemblance is a bit imaginary. But it is a very pleasant place to stay. I have a thing about being on a hilltop and overlooking the plains, so I enjoyed it immensely. It is much drier here than in Nairobi. This is my kind of place-no horns blowing all the time, no traffic noise-yes this is life! The three of us, and a Parisian woman, attended a Maasai discussion and dance. They described their culture and then had an all-male dance and even had us participa te. They are a beautiful people: tall, slim and proud of their heritage. They maintain a traditional cattle-raising lifestyle in spite of all the pressures to enter the 20th century. Tourism is the most difficult force that they fight against.
At 4:00PM we went on a safari onto the savanna. I was a bit disappointed in it as it was a big game hunt; with cameras, but still the emphasis was on lions and cheetahs. I was glad I had taken the tour through Nairobi National Park where I learned a lo t about the other animals. We passed impalas, gazelles, and antelopes with not a stop or even a mention of them unless someone yelled stop! But we did see three female lions and later two males. Then at dusk we encountered two cheetahs. During our first v iew of them the male was attempting to couple. We followed them along, in my opinion too closely. It reminded me of kayaking off the San Juan Islands and seeing this cluster of boats following Orcas. Here 4 or 5 Toyota Land Cruisers chased these cheetahs. They snarled once in a while when we followed them, but they otherwise ignored us. They are beautiful cats and I enjoyed watching them move through my binoculars.
Later on the plane home I talked to a couple of young guys that were in the park at the same time we were but stayed through Monday. That day they encountered a leopard in a lone-standing tree eating a dik-dik. He said once it was discovered, it quickl y became surrounded by Toyota Land Cruisers and safari trucks, where it growled over the intrusion. It is a bit bothering to see such behavior of the guides and drivers.
As we returned we passed two herds of elephants. Actually I would have enjoyed viewing them more with some light, but I guess they are not big game enough.
We went off on another safari at 0600. It was overcast at first and almost dark. As we bumped our way across the countryside we saw more lions, a cheetah, a lone hippo, numerous gazelles and topees, wildebeests, antelope, warthogs, and baboons. I kept thinking I was seeing heart beasts as I saw in Nairobi National Park, but instead they were called topees. It turns out they are quite closely related, but the topee has horns that curve back while the heart beast has horns that curve forward. One has a b rowner coat than the other, but I forget which is which. We had an opportunity to view a loan cheetah pestering a herd of Thompson's gazelles. It would move close to the herd, and they would scurry away, the cheetah would move close again and off went th e gazelle's. They seemed to play this game for a long while. I guess the cheetah was looking for a sign of weakness in one of the members of the herd. At the end of the safari we were taken down to the river at a place called the Hippo pool. There they ha d tables set up on the banks over looking the pool and a buffet breakfast. It was quite pleasant eating there watching the hippos come up for air and snort, viewing a couple of mostly submerged crocodiles, while eating an excellent breakfast in the warm s unny air. Before we noticed the crocs, Bob walked down the sandy bank to the shore, and one of the attendants suggested he come right back up as there were crocs down there.
After returning to our rooms we arranged a nature walk that was guided by one of our Maasai dancers of yesterday. The trail basically followed the perimeter of the compound near the electric fence-line. He told us about the trees, which ones could be u sed for medicinal purposes, the birds and mammals that we could see along the way. It took us 1.5hrs but one could have easily walked it in 25-30 minutes. So there was much stopping and pointing things out. At one overview point he pointed out a male ostr ich that was several miles away and further away a herd of elephant that none of us could see without field glasses and even then they were hard to find. His eyesight was phenomenal. Along the trail there were numerous large spoor droppings that he told u s were by a hippo that somehow regularly walks across the cattle guard during the night and enjoys the extra-green vegetation within the compound and then departs in the morning. Imagine jogging along that trail which Bob and I considered first thing in t he morning and coming face-to-face with a hippo!
One can often see baboons walking around just outside and even inside the compound. Within the compound, often along the walkways, sometimes in the trees looking like live, furry fruit, are these little animals called hyrax. They are about the size of a groundhog or marmot, and are brown rather cute critters. Our Maasai guide informed us that their closest relative is the elephant! As Craig and I sat outside the central check-in/out counter and restaurant, waiting to be picked up to go to the airport, one of these hyrax climbed about in the tree above us. I walked inside for a minute and when I returned Craig was hurriedly moving his things inside. I asked him if it had started to rain, as the skies were very dark and threatening. He said, well sort of , that hyrax had proceeded to pee and dump right on him! Craig was not a happy camper at that moment.
Our flight back to Nairobi was uneventful and we found the traffic was quite low in density as it was the Sunday of a three-day holiday.
I gave my last lecture today. It was on predictability of convective storms. I put it in the framework of a model with sufficient grid spacing to explicitly resolve deep convective storms over an area of roughly 500kmX500km. I said I am reasonably opti mistic that such a model can provide useful forecasts of precipitation and severe weather provided:
Craig has been trying to load RAMS and supporting software on the computers here and having little success. He has been cannibalizing several machines trying to get one with enough memory to do the job. I joked that we can't take him anywhere. One week in Africa and he turns into a cannibal! He is very frustrated but has been keeping his cool.
Today is the nicest day weather-wise since we have been in Nairobi. It is drier, almost cloud-free, with temperatures in the upper-70's. It has waited until I get ready to leave. Joseph and his sister and our driver dropped me at the airport and I beg an the 9-hour flight to Brussels. I almost missed my flight as I was told the wrong gate and sat there and fell asleep. I heard our flight mentioned on the intercom and rushed to another gate.
Another 9 hours in the Airbus. It is obvious this was built as a joint effort between the British and the French. No one else could have dreamed such an uncomfortable machine. The seats are too narrow and too close together so the seat in front of you is always in your face. Moreover the control device for the LCD entertainment center is positioned at the side of the seat when it is not in your hand. One of the buttons is the call button for the attendants, which emits this irritating "bong" every time it is pushed. It seems that some people with wide hips must be knocking into it because the "bong" has been going on almost all night without stop. This happened coming over for 17 hours! I mentioned in a joking way to the attendants that it must drive t hem crazy. They said yes, indeed, and on some flights it is even worse. Imagine flying these things with a full load of wide-butted Americans-continuous bongs all the way! Another thing that bugs me about the Airbus is that in the coach section where the rest rooms are located, there is a bulkhead that sticks out into the isle, which makes the passageway extremely narrow. Finally, as I found out on my leg from Brussels to Dulles, the ventilation system on the plane is marginal at best. Most planes have ve nts over your head, which you can open or close, and direct fresher air towards you. Not so on the Airbus. A passenger in front of me was farting almost continuously it seems and the stink would hang around it forever. I felt like standing up and while le aning over his head, stick my finger down my throat and barf all over him. But it was as much the Airbuses fault as his. While waiting for my connection in Brussels I chatted with an English businessman. I mentioned my experience flying with Sabena and he said, well you know what Sabena stands for don't you--Such a bloody experience never again!
It is 3:00AM and I am up and about wide-awake with jet-lag. I arrived in Denver at 5:00PM without incident and then proceeded to miss the 5:55PM Airport Express shuttle bus to Fort Collins. I was out there at 5:45PM in plenty of time but somehow I did n't see the bus and had to wait until the 6:55PM shuttle. I waited outside in the cold windy air for nearly 45 minutes, and me just coming from the equator! Vollie met me at the Holiday Inn in Fort Collins and drove me home where I enjoyed stretching out and sleeping in a bed, my bed, for a change. By 3:00AM, however, my body decided I had enough of the good life and I became wide-awake with it thinking it was 2:00PM in Kenya. Most people have more trouble with jet-lag going east, as did Bob and Cr aig. They were nearly basket cases for the first 4-5 days, while I was sleeping for a minimum of 5 hours and often 7 hours straight through the night from the start. I, on the other hand, seem to wake up early when traveling west as my body clock tells m e it should be time to be up and about.
It feels great to be home and have been granted an extra four days to catch up with things at the office like my mail and e-mail, my student's research progress, reports and papers overdue, and at home with things like fixing broken stuff, bringing in firewood and pellets for the pellet-stove, Christmas shopping and who knows what all. The only major incident that happened at home was my 5-year old dog Donner developed a slipped disc in his back and pinched a nerve, so he lost control of his hind quart ers. Vollie had to take him to the emergency ward and now he is taking Predizone and muscle relaxants and has to be carried up and down stairs for some time until (and if) he fully recovers. So, Vollie has had a time of it.