Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Successes and Failures

I just made it to Narok.  I consider that a success, given how my day started.

We left camp this morning at around 8AM.  Geemi and I planned to spend two days traveling through the Mara and checking on our loggers scattered around the landscape. We were going to visit Rekero Camp first.  Rekero Camp is a high-end camp on that Talek River, just before the Talek joins the Mara in the heart of the Masai Mara National Reserve.  We were then going to cut across to Talek town and stop by Richard Branson's new camp, Mahali Mzuri, to meet with someone.  Then we were going to spend our night at the Bull's Palace in Aitong (for only 400 shillings a night!).  The next day we were going to head over to Olerai Farms and check on our depth logger and re-install our water quality sonde.  The plan was to end up in Narok by Wednesday evening so I could get a few good days of preventative maintenance on the truck before Amanda arrives in early August.

As we left camp, I heard something odd coming from the rear left wheel.  We made it to Oloololo Gate (about an hour) and the noise stopped.  Most of the Park Rangers currently stationed at Oloololo Gate were stationed at Purungat Bridge last year.  Purungat Bridge is where we spent most of our time counting carcasses.  We became close with most of them and it was great to get such a warm greeting from them...of course...they were all very concerned that Amanda wasn't with me.  I assured them that she's doing great...and she'll be joining me in a few weeks.

We pushed on for Musiara Gate, the entrance into the other side of the park (about another hour).  We made it to Musiara Gate and we were greeted by those rangers as well.  It's nice to see many old faces as we hit the different parts of the park.  The noise was continuing so I was finally able to figure out that my brake pads were falling out of the brake housing.  Both pins were missing!  They must have shaken out or broke off sometime over the last few days of driving.

I quickly rigged it up with a zip tie and we continued on our way to Rekero Camp.

We made it to Rekero Camp as the noise continued to get worse (about another hour).  The saving grace was that it only made noise when I braked.  So....I tried to not use my brakes.

Geemi and I went down into the Talek River and started pulling the chain out of the river.  At the end of the chain should have been a large concrete basin basin along with out depth logger.  Unfortunately, there was nothing at the end of it.  The April floods broke part of the chain and carried the concrete basin (and our depth logger) down to Tanzania.  Safari Njema!

Oh well.

We left Rekero and started heading towards Talek town.  The noise continued to get worse, but only when I applied the brakes.  I was beginning to feel a bit down as I continued to think about another lost depth logger.  I think this is our fourth lost depth logger.  The Talek River has taken two of them now.

I decided that we should probably cut our trip short and get to Narok as soon as possible to start the repairs.  We made a bee-line to Olerai Farms and made it after about two hours.  We found Jimmy, the farm manager, and he took us over to our depth logger at their stilling well for their abstraction pump.

Surprisingly, Jimmy had about 8 guys digging all the mud out of the stilling well today.  The April floods brought in tons of silt from the upper catchment and as the waters receded, it left behind tons of mud, completely blocking their stilling well so they could not use their pump.  In fact, they had just dug our depth logger out of about 5 feet of mud!  They had spent the last week digging and had a few more days to finish their operation.

Depth Logger Covered in Mud

After cleaning it off, I downloaded the data from it.  I am still amazed at how high the water got during the April floods.  The river was almost 23 feet above the depth logger....when average flows are about 4 feet above the depth logger!

Depth Logger Data
You can see the large spike in water around point 26033 on the above graph.  As the water receded, it left behind almost 8 feet of mud on top of the logger!  Success!

Made it to Narok by about 5:30PM.  Stopped by the Dream King for some lunch/dinner.  Ordered the only thing I have ever ordered at that restaurant (boneless chicken curry)...placed the order with the exact same waiter (David) that has been waiting on us since 2008 when the restaurant was called Khushboo....the owner/manager came out to greet us....the curio shop guy next door came over to say hi and ask about Amanda....and they screwed up the order.  

Oh well...at least I get a hot shower tonight.

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