Friday 6 February 2009

Day 2

It was only two days ago and already I’m struggling to remember what the hell happened. Oh yes! Today was about the animals, the Giraffe Centre and Crocodile Village, and Francis was our driver and companion. Mum has a diary at home featuring pictures of Africa. The one that had caught my eye was of a stately looking home with a real life giraffe poking its head through the window. Well, that’s exactly where we ended up today, that home had belonged to the founder of the Giraffe Centre.

As a child, my favourite animal had been the giraffe. Then, it became the camel. Then I took to a fondness of sheep. And now, I’m right back where I started, with the giraffe. What a crazy, bonkers animal the giraffe is, with its awkward, lanky gait, enormous eyelashes and benignly mocking gaze. The giraffe seems to me utterly and profoundly inexplicable, and when I look at one, and when it looks at me, I can see that it’s thinking exactly the same. At the giraffe centre, you can hand feed a giraffe, and if you hold a pellet between your teeth, it’ll French kiss you. But, as the wardens kept reminding us, “no food, no friendship!” So, if you don’t have any pellets, get the hell out of its way.

Next, we went to Mamba (crocodile) Village, home to sixty odd crocodiles. I was staggered to find out that crocodiles can grow to 6.5 metres. That’s longer than a giraffe is tall. Isaac told us everything there was to know about crocodiles, assuring us, and especially the disbelieving Francis, that any one of them was ready to kill us at a moment’s notice (“But what if I sneak up behind one and grab it by the neck?” asked Francis. “How are you going to get behind it?” replied the incredulous Isaac). Indeed, as Isaac was detailing every finely honed method they had developed for the efficient slaughter of prey, a fight broke out among them. As Alex put it, “that’s properly mental”.

We had dinner that night at the Village Market, near the UN complex, and while we ate, we finally heard from Bill, a guy my Mum had met at a conference in Nanjing who is from Uganda. She’d mentioned that Alex and I would be visiting Africa, and he’d been keen for us to get in touch, so I’d sent him an email. “I’m getting a bus to Nairobi, I’ll see you there on the 2nd,” he’d said in his very first message, somewhat to my surprise. But since we’d arrived, there’d been no word. So, I was relieved to hear from him, and told him that we looked forward to seeing him the following day, pleased that all our plans seemed to be falling into place.

But first, we had a 5am trip to Nairobi National Park to check out some animals, this time without the protection of wire fences.

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