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This Blog used to be about the question: What is Science?
Now, it asks: What is Happiness?

Monday, October 6, 2008


There is a mandatory viewing material for this blog entry.

2 short clips from the 1962 Howard Hawks/ John Wayne flick, Hatari!
Clip 1

If you haven't got a fast enough connection to watch you-tube then you'll have to order a copy of Howard Hawk's 1962 film Hatari! from Please note however that Amazon no longer posts material to South Africa due to high postal losses.


I love international aid.

What used to be a proverb of potholes between Nairobi and Nakuru is now a smooth tar highway, thanks to the European Union (and their inspiration, the recent Chinese upgrading of the Uhuru Highway headin' outa town, the other way).

Driving back last night from our mini-safari to Lakes Naivasha and Nakuru saw us sharing this road with the same traffic that comprises a never ending advanced driving course in downtown Nairobi. And clearly, the same rules apply, just a lot faster.

1) All the lanes of a road are yours to use. Solid lines are an indication of the maximum separation allowed between you and the 3 vehicles you are overtaking on a blind rise.
2) 1, 2 or no bright lights approaching as you overtake are an opportunity to decide whether to force the oncoming car/motorcycle/donkey cart into the Great Rift Ditch or (if it is a truck) to force yourself back into the left lane.

3) Tail lights are not required -

The 367 police check points en route will only see the front of your vehicle and you will only be stopped at month end which is pay day for the Police Services.

4) If you manage to survive the night riders then you will probably be taken out by a suicide wall jumper,

though you can normally predict them as occurring within 100 metres of a pedestrian bridge.

Apparently, the most complex thing the human can do with their brain is to drive a car...and that is in America.

In Kenya, we have clearly evolved to a higher level of survival intelligence and not only do we regularly get back home from a short safari to the supermarket, but also manage to chat about the good ol' days. Last night it was all about our Drive-in Theatre memories....

The first drive-in movie I saw was Elvis Presley in 'Jailhouse Rock'. Despite feeling lonesome at night I never became much of a rock 'n roll fan, but the flick that really did it for me was the 1962 John Wayne film, 'Hatari!'.

Thanks to you-tube, I was able to watch it again and it has lost none of its original charm. Well, in a different sort of way. Etched into my memory from my first viewing is the rhino capture scene - and looking at it now makes me understand how no matter how environmentally or politically correct we may be .... safaris are always Hatari! Safaris. Whilst some may dismiss Howard Hawk's film as being "politically incorrect and gender stereotyping", I suspect that not much has changed in 50 years. The same khaki adorns tourists and local role models, the same inter-tribal/racial/gender/sexual/class issues energize our experience and quite frankly, driving has not changed a jot.

This is after all, Afrika, and I suspect we are here for that very edge that has been legislated right outa sight north of the equator.

On the other hand, judging by the copious amounts of cigarettes smoked in every scene of the film, maybe Kenya's draconian anti-smoking laws are a real sign of post-colonial progress.

Then there is the hugely enlightened no-hunting rule which means that Kenyans as a nation, stand taller than both South Africa and the USA.

It was in celebration of this that we headed off on our first mini-safari - to the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage in the upmarket and tranquil Nairobi suburb of Karen.

In wildlife circles the biggest change since 1962 has been adjectival. Then it was all about 'charging' rhinos and 'rampaging' elephants. Today, it is 'kissing' giraffes and 'adopting' elephants.After the Mau Mau liberation war some colonial types left, some stayed and others dedicated their lives to preserving Africa's wildlife heritage.

It seems that some felt that the best way is to get the animals at risk close to humans and others felt this was not the way to go.

Both realized that a careful balance is needed between human and wildlife needs in order to support the expensive breeding and rehabilitation programs. The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and the Giraffe Sanctuary are 2 fine examples of this.

Once a day us ordinary folk can get close to and touch the bristly back of a baby elephant, but only for 1 hour a day, so the babes don't get too used to humans.

The giraffes, on the other hand hang around all day for the opportunity to 'kiss' a tourist and get some mouth to mouth nourishment.

Hatari!, the film may have created an adventurous longing to get close to my wild side, but it was the real 'Baby Elephant Walk' that made me reach into my pocket and adopt 'Shimba', whose picture now adorns my studio wall and on whose mailing list I will be for....well a year, the next time I have to come up with 50 dollars.This was clearly a very effective sell as my budget for the entire Safari week was about $55.

I can't help recalling my Thailand elephant experience. For our $10 we were entertained by 20 elephants playing soccer, dancing and finally painting their own self-portraits. I can only imagine that by the time Shimba is fully grown and playing Elly league footers, his Thai cousin will be working in the IT industry.

A new orphan has been rescued in the Mzima Springs area near Tsavo National Park.....
see The David Sheldrick Report for the full story and pix!


It is clearly time to start planning anogther serious bicycle trip!

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