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Pole to Pole

Day 98: The Masai Mara

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleAs John Coleman steers us along the tops of the trees, we learn from him that the hippos who keep us awake at night are amongst 2500 in the reserve, that the lungfish survives in the ox-bow lakes of the Mara river by burying itself in the mud during the long dry season and re-emerging when the rains come, and that elephants can drop their blood temperature eleven degrees just by flapping their ears.

Coleman takes the balloon down until we are almost on the ground, slowly skimming the surface at animal height, but not having found much he climbs swiftly to 1500 feet. He makes it all look very easy, but as he says, this is good ballooning country, no power cables or barbed-wire fences to worry about and a climate good enough for 350-days-a-year operation. The only danger is of straying across into Tanzania and having to put down there. It's easily done and recently a balloon safari was arrested and held by the Tanzanians for illegal entry.

The landing is a bit of a drag and a bump, but not uncomfortable, and we find ourselves within cork's distance of another Masai Mara champagne breakfast. Our glasses of pink champagne match the legs of a randy male ostrich racing about in the distance, but otherwise our bacon, egg, sausage, mushroom and croissant 'kill' is observed only by a yellow-bearded kite, a predator kept from the long, low breakfast-table by a line of spears.

Coleman brings the proceedings to a close with a toast to wives and girlfriends - 'May they never meet' - after which we collect another certificate.
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  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 98
  • Country/sea: Kenya
  • Place: Mara River
  • Book page no: 217

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