No one got eaten by a hyena...

...though there was some thoughtful positioning during the ill-advised night time safari walk as to not be in the hyena bait position. 

To clarify, I went on my first "real" camping trip this weekend.  I qualify this because I'm fairly certain, though eventful, that my other forays into camping do not qualify me as experienced or even allowed beginner* status.  1) sleeping in my sister's new Care Bear pup tent in her upstairs bedroom at age 4, b) Girl Scout camp, iii) the 5th grade class camping trip to Camp Classen, D) church camp, 5) sleeping in my grandparents' camper in their backyard.  I rest my case.  So needless to say this was a whole new experience for me.

Thanks to our ever thoughtful event planner, we met at locations throughout Nairobi no earlier than 1pm, not because we had planned to stay out dancing late night on Friday but because it's just smart timing...right?  Or maybe he just knew the participants well enough to assume we would not be upwardly mobile before noon.  After a painfully slow start for our car (we were stuck behind a crowd of demonstrators walking down the highway- we never figured out what they were protesting, perhaps it had something to do with matching pastel colored tshirts?)** we made it to Navaisha to meet up with the rest of the group.

Word of warning to wazungu non-official residents.  While they claim to have the requirements of resident rate entry posted on their website, I have yet to find it.  A stamped and signed letter from your employer stating your work permit is in progress at the Immigration Department is sadly not sufficient to get you the resident rate.  Among other things, you could attempt to get a similar letter from the actual Immigration Department.  However, if that was possible, you would probably already have your work permit and actual residency status.  So, in short, come prepared to pay $25 entry and another $15 to camp.

Hell's Gate is just south of Lake Navaisha and is known for its gorge and game drives.  We made it in just before closing time at 6 pm with just enough time to pitch the tents and get the campfire started.  You can buy bundles of kuni (why I randomly knew the word for firewood is beyond me) on the main road before heading towards the gate.  Six is not enough.  You would think so, but you'd be wrong.  Especially when it gets to be 12:05 am and you're freezing your butt off in front of the embers that were once your fire.

After indulging in some delish chicken curry and smores some of the more adventurous and not asleep campers decided to go on a game walk.  Dark as well as ill-advised.  But if you follow the basic rules of all scary movies you should survive.  (i.e. Don't be the leader, or the straggler, or the one responding to the hyenas' howls in attempts to draw them closer.)  Of course if you are clumsy you must also take into consideration how much joy to other people's souls you provide by your position in the group.  Second from the back minimizes laughter at your expense after a particularly suave wipe out courtesy of a large hole, but also ensures you will not be the first to die at the hands or claws of an attacker.  It is best to also come up with a game plan in case of the worst case scenario.  As the resident clumsy hiker I decided that once the designated hyena bait was taken that, if need be, I would sacrifice a limb to allow the others to escape unscathed.  Only one limb though.  And ideally a leg that I could then beat the hyena with.

While typically a good idea to read the wildlife code beforehand, it's also informative after the fact to learn which park rules you have inadvertently broken.  Next time I am hoping someone doesn't dress with decorum.  And I'm pretty sure it doesn't count as feeding the animals if the zebras steal the smore fixins.  Damn thieves.

After a late start the next morning, not at all related to our late night wildlife adventures, most of the group hiked the gorge.  Since my ankle was still paining me from the aforementioned fall (also the third time I've managed to take a dive in two weeks) I kept a couple of fellow campers company and accomplished absolutely nothing except killing a bottle of red in our counterparts absence.  I don't feel too lazy about this decision since I previously hiked the gorge last August. 

Hell's Gate Gorge
All in all, my virgin camping experience was a good one and I'm definitely up for round 2.  Bring it, Kenya!

*Beginner status: 1-5 "real" camping trips, Advanced: 6-10, Intermediate: 11-15, Expert: 16
**Per recent news reports the protest had something to do with IDPs.  However with my limited Kswahili skills that's all I was able to ascertain.

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