Sunday, June 15, 2008

African Adventure: Thousands of flamingos on Lake Bogoria and getting stuck in the mud! (May 25-26)

Current Location: Lake Bogoria, Kenya
Highlights: Seeing 1000s of flamingos on Lake Bogoria and getting stuck in the mud.
Upcoming: Helping two Samburu warriors find their lost cows, north to Lake Turkana and visiting with nomadic Turkana and El Molo people, and then Ethiopia.

We left Nairobi, in the southern hemisphere, for lake Bogoria in the northern hemisphere as today we were to drive across the equator!

It was a nice, relatively fast drive along good roads to Lake Bogoria, although I made just one quick stop to buy a sheep skin from a guy on the side of the road for just US$5! Lake Bogoria is a soda lake and the home of 1000s upon 1000s of flamingoes that migrated from Lake Nakuru after a drought almost caused Nakuru to dry up. Flamingos are filter feeders and filter out algae from the water so do very well in lakes like Lake Bogoria that have high amounts of algae in the shallow waters along the shore. Now of course you ask, why is there so much algae in Lake Bogoria? Well it has to do with the high mineral content of the water. Water drains into the lake from rivers, but the water only leaves the lake through evaporation so the dissolved minerals in the water become concentrated and it is these minerals that "feeds" the algae.

We camped the night along the lake shore and woke up to the sight of 100s of flamingoes, what a treat. We spent about 3 hours in the morning taking pictures and video and then decided to drive closer to the lake. This was a big mistake! The ground closer to the water of the lake edge is just a surface crust with runny mud below (which of course we only found out after it was too late) and the rear wheels of the Landy just broke through the surface crust and we became completely bogged down unable to move. I describe getting out of this in a special diary entry.

After we freed ourselves we drove to the hotsprings and where the really high population of flamingos stayed. It was absolutely incredible to see so many flamingos with super-heated boiling water spurting up from the ground. I can't really describe it, but the pictures speak for themselves. It was amazing to see boiling water come bubbling up from below the earth surface and to think that a hole in the earth's crust reaches down to where the temperature of the rock is so hot, super-heats the water and forces it to the surface.

Alas the day came to an end and we drove out of the park. Just a few kilometers out of the gate, we met with a very new military Land Rover defender tearing towards us on our side of the road flashing his lights. I swerved onto the other side and stopped dumbstruck. This was followed by a brand new Mercedes with a banner on the front saying "President Escort". Closely behind were about 10 more new Mercedes that came tearing along the wrong side of the road, one of them obviously had the Kenyan president inside. The last vehicle was another new military defender and as this passed the driver glared at us and shook his finger. I have no idea what we did wrong, but I don't think we were very popular! We carried don driving until dark, found a relatively deserted spot and set up our bush camp.

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