we can’t stop here, this is baboon country
Cam’s visit gave us an excuse to do some sightseeing around Nairobi. We visited the homestead of Karen Blixen, which pays as much homage to the film version of Out of Africa as to the woman whose memoir gave birth to the movie. We checked out the National Museum, which we had hitherto only seen from the windows of our car while stuck in traffic on Museum Hill. And we spent half a day driving around Nairobi National Park, which offers some surprisingly good game viewing opportunities despite its proximity to downtown.
Cruising along a dirt road in the park, we stopped as another vehicle approached traveling in the opposite direction. After exchanging pleasantries in Swahili with the other driver, D asked if he had seen any animals. Unfortunately, D only knew enough Swahili to ask the question, but not nearly enough to be able to understand the answer. He did pick out the work simba and, thrilled at the prospect of finding lions, hurriedly asked for clarification. The other driver immediately switched to English and told us where we might come across a lion fresh off a kill. As we drove away, Cam inquired, “Did you just say pa’ alla?” Guilty as charged. In his excitement, D’s brain had switched to Spanish after groping for and failing to find the right words in Swahili.
Watching a blood-spattered lioness drool and pant in the noonday heat a few yards away from our car may have been the highlight of the day, but it was a close encounter of a different kind that set our hearts racing. Driving by a field that had a troop of baboons, D stopped the car so that Cam could take a picture. One of the primates nonchalantly headed for the road, his trajectory leading him towards our front left wheel. We lost sight of him as he approached the car and the next thing we knew he had hopped onto our hood. This was an unsettling development as all of our windows were down and the sunroof open. D hit the gas, the baboon tottered and slid off as we peeled away. Potential disaster narrowly averted.