By Marisa Notier
The Notier Notes
Our Sunday Scoop
Welcome to our Sunday Scoop - a five minute escape where I will take you to an exotic land far away, a place where the last Northern White Rhinos roam.
When we first moved to Nanyuki, Kenya a couple of months ago, we had no idea that only 20 minutes away from our house was a nature reserve with the last two Northern White Rhinos. But once we learned about Ol Pejeta Conservancy, and discovered that the park had half-off tickets due to the pandemic, we decided to rent a car for a day and head down the road to have one of the most memorable experiences of our lives.
As an extra treat for ourselves, we booked a horseback-riding excursion into the rhino enclosures. Yes, that's right - we went inside with the rhinos. This was not your typical zoo field trip, this was a safari on steroids.
One of the best things about being on a horse as opposed to in a vehicle is that the wildlife treats you like you're a giraffe or antelope, as opposed to a noisy machine they want to run from. It was surreal being surrounded by impalas, warthogs, water buffalo, and zebras all congregating around like we were just members of the herd. They were completely unafraid of us, and without doors or windows, there was a certain freedom and vulnerability that made the experience that much more tactile, visceral, and memorable.
If you one day find yourself going on a safari in Africa, and you like horseback-riding, I would highly recommend combining the two experiences, as it's a whole new way of seeing the natural world around you.
As we rode into the heavily guarded enclosure with the last two Northern White Rhinos, I noticed them laying in the grass taking a morning snooze. They're both females, mother and daughter, and they both have reproductive problems. This may sound as dire as it gets, but fortunately, conservationists have kept some sperm from the last of the males, and by using the eggs from these females, they will artificially inseminate a surrogate mother of another rhino species. So there is still hope that one day, a baby Northern White Rhino will be born.
If you want to learn more about these two "girls" and what their future holds, there's a great article on them from the NYT that was published just a few days ago.
The park has plenty of other rhinos as well, and on our way back to the stables, we almost got charged by two young males who kept snorting at us and taking defensive poses. I was pretty sure I was going to pee my pants. I thought that if my horse bolts, I might fall off, and then I'd certainly get trampled to the death... Even our guide started snorting back to the rhinos, later telling us that he gets charged all the time. Those hefty liability forms we signed at the beginning suddenly made a lot of sense.
I also now understood why we had been given huge thoroughbreds to ride, because you need to have a large, fast horse in case you get charged. Slow and steady Mr. Ed just won't do in these circumstances.
As the two hot-headed males got closer, my eyes fixated on their most terrifying part - their long piercing horns. Though some conservation groups choose to cut off the rhinos' horns to prevent pouching, Ol Pejeta doesn't for several reasons. Since the horns keep growing (just like hair and nails), the process of constantly tranquilizing the animals and sawing off their horns can affect their health, and can be dangerous for the workers involved. It can also leave the rhinos defenseless against attacks from other animals, including fellow rhinos.
I have to say, the horns do make them look gorgeous and majestic, but as those two young males threatened to charge us, gorgeous and majestic were not the words running through my head.
So, yes, we were almost caught in the cross-fire by these ENORMOUS animals that look like the animal version of a medieval battering ram. But luckily, they lost interest in us, and we made it out of the rhino area alive.
Back at the stables, we got an up-close-and-personal look at an old blind rhino named Baraka who loves eat carrots. Baraka is now completely reliant on human support for survival, so he's become the park's "ambassador" for rhino conservation, and was truly a gentle giant. I don't know if you've ever touched a rhino, but if you haven't, I will tell you that their skin feels surprisingly soft and warm.
Next, we had lunch back in our car beside a herd of grazing elephants. With the car parked and turned off, the elephants came right up to us, noisily chewing on grass, and ripping it up with their trunks. The crunching sounds of the elephants grazing was very meditative, but their babies seemed to want nothing to do with this monotonous munching, and instead kept playing with each other or flopping around in the mud. How is it possible that a baby that weighs more than me can still be so cute?
Finally, to top off the day, we got a glimpse of a few chimpanzees in their sanctuary, but it was at a 30 foot distance due to new Covid restrictions (after all, chimps are so closely related to humans, they can get Covid just like us). They are much bigger than I had expected, almost gorilla sized. I kept recalling pictures I'd seen of Jane Goodall with a chimp hanging around her neck, but that must have been a baby, because these guys would've easily wrestled her to the ground without meaning to. And those huge teeth - they were as intimidating as they were fascinating.
I was surprised to learn that this park is not part of the Kenyan National Park Service, but is actually a private reserve owned by some Texas oil tycoon. Yeah, that gave me a bit of a head-scratching moment, but I suppose if you have to put your money somewhere, investing in the preservation of the world's most endangered species is a great way to spend it. So I'm glad we could help contribute to this incredible cause, even in a small way.
We'll see you again next Sunday when I talk about how the pandemic is being dealt with in Africa, and why I think they've done so well.
Until then, have a great week,
Marisa, Tim, and Baraka
By Marisa Notier
The Notier Notes
Our Sunday Scoop
Ever since the pandemic started, we've had to settle down as opposed to travel full-time, which means I've unfortunately been neglecting our blog. Tim and I have been stuck in Uganda and Kenya for nine months now, waiting for the world to go back to normal. And even though it might still be a while before "normal" is back for good, I realized that you don't have to be on the road every day to have interesting adventures. Living in Africa during these crazy times is an adventure in and of itself.
So I've decided to do a Sunday Scoop about our lives which will just be a short weekly update about how things are here, from the bizarre to the ordinary. And since we're all pretty much stuck at home, I'm hoping it can bring you to a far away land on the other side of the globe, even if it's just for a moment.
I don't like to admit it to myself, but it has become harder for me to sleep. I find myself staring at the ceiling at night, worrying about what will become of the US, how things will progress here in Uganda with the Corona Virus, and how the world will overcome such an all-encompassing and heartbreaking disaster as this pandemic. Will things ever be like they once were?
But right before Tim and I arrived here in Uganda (where the border closed around us due to the pandemic), we had the opportunity to travel through a small country that could really teach the world something about getting back on your feet after tragedy strikes: Rwanda.
By Tim Notier
Sometimes life can seem difficult, unfair, with uncomfortable situations that seem to have no end in sight. But hopefully some of our own experiences can help shed some light on positive outcomes. That silver lining may seem thin at times, but if you just keep pushing forward, things will turnaround for the better.
The following is an excerpt from the book 2Up and Overloaded.
Chapter 9 - Turnarounds
Marisa and I wanted to provide a little update of our lockdown situation. Sadly, our crew of five has whittled down to three. We said goodbye to Lucy over two months ago, and a couple weeks ago Leo flew back to the States.
Now it is just Braden, Marisa, and me bunkering down here in Kampala. We would much rather be back out on the road, but we are thankful for the time that we have had here. We were able to participate in the Arm Chair Festival and had a blast talking with The Sidecar Guys. In a time where international overland travel has been halted, it was great to participate and to be part of an event that so many world travelers were involved in. Keep the adventure spirit alive!
That's right, while the Coronavirus makes its rampage around the world, we are in Uganda. The US State Department has just emailed me their last alert notifying any US citizens still in Uganda that there may be one final “care lift" flight out that will head back to the USA. This would be our last chance out, and our last chance to get home. It sounds dire and certainly scary, and the situation in the world is dire and scary, but after weighing all of our options, we have decided to stay in Uganda.
This has not been an easy choice, as it seems that finding a perfect “safe haven" no longer is a reality for us, or anyone for that matter. But I will try to convey in this post a sense of what life is like here in Uganda, and what our reasons are for staying. Plus, we'll give you a little tour of our new home.
In any emergency situation, my first instinct is always to go where I feel most safe. In the case of this COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic that is gripping the globe, that's my first reaction once again: to leave Uganda and fly home to Chicago where I can be with friends and family.
Our time traveling through Tanzania was a bit different than what most tourists do. Due to costs, we didn't go on any safaris and we didn't hike up Mount Kilimanjaro or snorkel around Zanzibar. But what we did see and do in Tanzania was truly memorable, unique, and special, not because of lions and elephants, but because of the people we met along the way.
A New Adventure Motorcycle Book
By: Tim Notier
If you only read one book this year that features a couple riding 2Up on a KTM1190, make sure it's 2Up and Overloaded - Chicago to Panama.
“Africa is surprisingly expensive," we'd heard time and time again from fellow travelers. But so far during our Africa trip, we had been able to find cheap food, accommodation, and camping. We even rented a 4x4 car in Namibia for a decent price and went on a “self-drive" safari in Etosha National Park for only $6 a person to enter. While some people were spending thousands of dollars on safaris in Africa, we'd spent a fraction of that, and I'd begun to think that everyone had been wrong.
And then we got to Tanzania.
Our newest book!
2Up and Overloaded
Get inspired by the tale that started it all:
Interested in overlanding in Peru? Check out our Road Guide to Peru
Subscribe to our Blog by Email