“All in!!!!!!”, Nairobi, Jan 13th, 2011

So what’s my plan for this Monday, January 10th???? I have no plans and I enjoy it. Great cookies and chocolate milk followed by 2hours in the internet start this week for me but then I need to take a decision. Should I go for the Equator line which I passed yesterday coming here or should I go to the National Park (NP)? The Equator I want to celebrate when I cross it for good towards the south (and that will be in a view weeks) so I hire a motor bike taxi and go the entrance of second biggest Kenyan NP named after the city Nakuru which lies just at its side. I have nothing to do here really except looking for people that might want to enter the park tomorrow and are willing to take me along to share costs. It is not allowed to enter NP by foot, only with a vehicle and a guide. Hiring that alone is out of question. There are not particular many tourists and it is the very hot lunch time as well but BUM, there are two young men walking up the drive way. “How are you? Where are you from?” and 2 minutes later the team is set. Omri and Yizachak are two Israeli pack packers who met in Omo Valley, Ethiopia, taking the border east of lake Tarkana by foot (even more adventures than my west approach with a truck). Besides that commonality they are very different. Yizachek is vegetarian, studies biology and has one extreme view on the Israel / Palestine issue. Omri, a meat lover, going to study law has the opposite extreme view on the same conflict in their home land. Its great to hear them discuss, even greater that they are able to discuss so intense and still be friends.

The discussion we have all three together is not as important for the world but just as annoying I would say. It takes us almost 3 hours to agree on the vehicle to take, the price for the guide to pay, the place to stay and the time to go into the park. Finally I see myself checking out of the hotel I already paid for, buying food for 3 and going into the “Field Search Center” of the NP. It is within its boundaries and therefore allows the 24hour ticket to be split into 2 days. At 4pm we enter the park and enjoy the sunset watching the birds and buffalos along the lake. Then we have a camping spaghetti dinner, play cards and enjoy the place we are at, together with Zebras in almost touching distance, no fence in between.

At 5:55am, Tuesday morning, we finish a night Omri describes the best: “This was the elite force of mosquitoes.” Then Joseph, our driver, picks us up and we go onto our full day “game drive”. It’s a typical safari tour but being the first in my life, it is special. Also special is the geographical outline of this park. It is basically a big circle around the lake allowing to take a round trip seeing everything in a day. Spotting a rhino in the distance and getting close, having it crossing just 20m in front of the car is quiet something. A real giant and wow, those horns are long. For lunch we cook again on the camping oven at the big lake overview point with a remarkable view over the lake and NP.

All these highlights however are topped soon after lunch. I see my first giraffes in freedom, as wild as they get. These animals are majestic, elegant in their movements and simply stunning to look at. No wonder they are the favourite animal of many people. One of these people was my grand ma, who died of cancer in 1995. I remember so well how she was sitting on the sofa, her eyes starting to shine, when TV documentaries showed Giraffes. To see one outside a Zoo in freedom, in its natural environment, was something I am sure she dreamed off, even though she never really had a realistic chance growing up before and during WW2, then being caged inside East Germany (and the east block), and finally being too old and ill to travel to Africa. Thinking about that makes me sad, remembering her makes me melancholic but maybe she sees me up there and smiles with content as I now get to see her favourites in such perfect circumstances.

The 3 of us take a brake at a waterfall. An intense discussion on African / Western politics & achievements, NGO’s and happiness in life is followed by a shorter discussion of how to end the game drive and where to exit the park.

Soon later we take a triple room downtown Nakuru, Omri and I go for an intense meat dinner, followed by another, a vegetable dinner with Yizachak and a long night of playing pool while the English premiere league is covered in its entirety on the screens around us. What an African day.

Omri’s plan was to go to Nairobi and then back to Ethiopia for 3 weeks. Mine is to go back to Eldoret and then entering Uganda. This Wednesday morning we go to Nairobi together with the plan to take a bus to Uganda the following day. Going with the flow, I love it. So I get to see yet another capital and Nairobi is much nicer than what I have heard about it. Modern, busy and with everything Omri and Frank can ask for. For dinner we drive 40minutes outside of town to the famous “Carnivore” restaurant. It’s a meat lovers paradise, an all you can eat fixed price concept. Being in Africa, besides all the chicken, beef, pork and turkey, the selection includes ostrich, crocodile and camel as well. A little note on the table excuses for not serving hippos anymore (the government has stopped that) expressing the hope, customers would still come. After more than 2hours of “fighting” we surrender and put the little flag down on the table to request the bill. Chocolate from the 24h supermarket and I am ready to join Omri into the Casino. He plays poker, Texas hold’em, has done well a couple of weeks ago and also today he increases his travel budget quiet a bit. I sit behind him watching fascinated, making plans for the next day.

Omri agrees to these plans and so we delay our trip to Uganda by another day, spend 6hours in a café on this Thursday, eating breakfast, lunch and dinner here. He teaches me all the tricks of poker and we practise till I feel comfortable. Around 10pm we are back at the Continental Hotel, Omri goes to his well known table and I watch again, standing behind him. Just as I think I might not feel ready I see the other table with only 4 people on it, 2 of them Asiens and one Russians. That is important as they have tons of money but do not play well. They do not care about winning or loosing, they care about having fun. I turn my 100 Dollars (the amount I decided to loose as worst case scenario) into chips and take a seat. Very quickly the first 50dollars are gone, not even 10 minutes it took. The second 50 dollars do not last much longer and I have to go “all in” after just another 10 minutes. But I win this round. Soon later again am almost bankrupt, again I go “all in” again I win. Then I remember Omri’s advice, play slower and try to learn about my opponents. It works. I stay at the table for 4 hours till 3am, have more than 200 dollars in between. At the very end this Chinese guy has lucky 4 aces and so I leave with 80 dollars. For the 20 Dollars I “lost” I was on the table for 4 hours, had free food and drinks plus a exciting fun night. Not bad I think, feeling the will to come back, hoping not to be addicted………………….     .

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