The Masaimara stretched before us in its green and purple rolling glory. The rainy season had hit the hills and water streamed down the escarpments deviating from the river’s natural courses, saturating the lush green fields. The gentle hum of bull frogs rose up from the side of the roads as our driver tried to face our Landrover away from the driving rain. Thunder rumbled like concealed dragons through the valleys and lightening slashed the looming clouds. I felt very small. Our driver Akatch was keeping it a secret that we in fact, had no windscreen wipers and were stuck in a storm the like of which I had only seen on ominous beginnings to films with even more ominous endings. I certainly was in no hurry to get out of the vehicle to find out what was wrong. Landrover after Landrover passed us, like old work horses at tea time.The guests were heading back for warming drinks at various camps. Our party of four huddled close in huge plastic ponchos, the rain now driving from both directions and our driver remained silent. Putting his head down beneath the open cab he took a breath before announcing that we would have to weather the storm as we had no wipers.
The rivers were swelling and breaking their banks and knowing the danger of being stranded in the open, he lowered the entire windscreen onto the bonnet and valiantly struck out across the water logged roads. He laughed without the heartiness of earlier, previously laughing at his own joke, it was as if the red dust of the Kenyan roads had coated his throat and gravelled his stomach.
Then I saw a tail flick from behind the torrents of water and a large female lion called down to the valley below. Separated from the pride, the only way back was to cross the waterlogged bridge where we found ourselves stranded between two flooding rivers. She was a predatorial beauty and after narrowing her eyes, she stretched into the rain and stalked down the side of the bridge. I was now approximately one foot from a creature capable of ripping apart a wilderbeast. The last time I was this close to a lion, was a safe five foot from a High Definition television set. David Attenborough in a soothing voice says something like. ” and with the rainy season the hungry lionesses luck was about to change.”
Cue close up shot of a struggling impala with long eyelashes limping across the Serenghetti. My safari trainers and I are probably a much slower combination than the doomed antelopes from “When weak creatures die.” Or whatever the programme is called.
Suddenly, the low bars on the side of the stranded truck seemed very low indeed. She stopped next to me, my heart was now racing as she half sat and half stood next to me. My camera beeped, it was out of batteries and the chattering honeymoon couple behind me shifted to the left.I stared down at the lion, her shoulders twitched in the rain, as she stared back at me. I looked away after some time to register the look of panic on the other passengers faces as the lightening pierced the skyline. I had definitely lost the stare out and was in no hurry to reinstate it. I was convinced my eyes screamed broken down prey. The rain started to abate and after a few false starts of the engine, our driver ploughed through the flooding plains of the Masaimara. A mere three more minutes and we would have been stuck until midnight, when the rivers would start to empty and calm. We were the penultimate truck to make it back. The other truck was packed with Japanese tourists, who seemed more concerned with catching airborn diseases in one of the most pure reserves on earth; than they were about the floods and the predators that sought out prey across the plains. This was apparent, as they all had their faces covered with masks as if we were in a state of chemical warfare and not in fact in a remote and foreboding part of Kenya.