Sunrise over the Masaai Mara

Friday 06/10/17: “We go where the wind takes us” our hot-air balloon pilot David drawls “all we can do is adjust our height“. This could be straight out of one of the resiliency training courses taught to us at Shell.

At 450 USD per person, 16 people per basket and at least 8 balloons in the air, there’s a lot of cash floating above the Maasai Mara this morning! David explains that the upkeep of the balloons and the overall operation is expensive to manage but someone somewhere is making a lot of cash here! The balloons are beautiful though and our group of four have gone from excited and noisy to serene and peaceful. There’s only a one hour window for take-off before the hot thermals make flying too difficult and we’re in the air for the sunrise. David says he’s made 1250 flights so we’re in capable hands – he adds that he’s never “landed unintentionally”. 

After the flight, our basket passengers are taken to meet the others for a picnic breakfast on the plains beside a solitary acacia tree. The tables are set and there is branded crockery and lots of staff to serve us champagne and a buffet breakfast. I can’t imagine what the staff must think of such expense. A luxurious jeep takes us back to our camp and my friends and I discuss where we’ll be for Christmas. Only one of us will be home for Christmas and I can see our driver is following the conversation in her rear-view mirror and it reminds me how very fortunate we are to have such opportunities to travel.
While we were at the camp in Lake Naivasha, a little boy waved hello then followed up with, “give me anything”. It’s hard to comprehend how little money some people have here. Nearly everyone here waves and smiles as our big yellow truck passes – we’re definitely an attraction. Tourism is king in Kenya with amazing landscapes and wildlife as far as the eye can see. Safari brings lots of money to the region and benefits lots of the population, so what’s going wrong? Why do so many of the people here have so little? When we’d been discussing the recent protests, our tour leader explained that their politicians get elected as good men, but then they get the taste for power and they don’t want to let go. Laws get changed and “democracy in brackets” is compromised. We might not like our politicians in the UK but it’s not so difficult to get rid of them. Imagine if Theresa May instated a new law that prime ministers can stay for ever? Or Donald Trump?! 

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