Was it really 30 years ago?

April 1985, I was getting ready to graduate from the University of North Carolina at Asheville with my B.A. in International Relations and planning a major adventure. I was representing an organization called Women for International Peace and Arbitration (sadly my search shows the organization may no longer exist) at the United Nations non-governmental organization forum at the International Women’s Conference in Nairobi, Kenya.

I had wanted to go to Africa since reading “Born Free” by Joy Adamson when I was 12 years old! I had been working hard both to graduate and make this trip happen. And before my time in Nairobi I would be having a small safari in the Masai Mara…including floating over the Mara in a hot air balloon. The following pictures were taken with a tiny 35 mm point and shoot camera, printed from slides and many years later scanned into my computer (dust and all). It was winter in Kenya in July.

Outside my tent at Keekerok Lodge, Masai Mara Kenya 1985

A much younger me in front of my tent at Keekorok Game Lodge in the Masai Mara.

Inside my tent

All the comforts of home…almost. The phone was for room service but didn’t actually work. Step out the back flap into a private bathroom with flush toilet, hot and cold running water (that did work) and big fluffy towels. One of my favorite memories was the sound of the waiter at the front flap/door for my wake up call of hot coffee with steaming milk saying “Jambo, mama”….and averting his eyes until he realized I was wearing sweats.

The sign says please don't feed the monkeys

Note sign on tree….no problem…you don’t have to feed them.

You don't have to ...they invite themselves to tea

They help themselves.

A genet cat joins us on the veranda after dinner

A genet cat joined us one evening on the veranda for dinner.  You can get a better idea of what it looks like if you Google Genet Cat.

Getting ready

Preparing one of the two balloons for flight.

Up, up and away

Lucky for me there were two of them so I could get these shots. Little did I know that in days to come the pilot would invite me to ride along with the guys in the follow truck.

You can just see the moon

Yes, that is the moon above.

Floating over the Masai Mara

If you are just floating along there is no noise so the animals are not frightened.

Floating over the treetops

A heard of giraffe from above

Giraffe(s) from the air.

We're headed for a tree

We got a little too close to this tree…

too close for comfort

But we landed safely and enjoyed a lovely brunch in the bush while the crew packed up the balloon for the ride back to the lodge.

Quite the feast for breakfast in the bush

Me and Tim Broughton, balloon pilot after flying over the Masai Mara

Me and balloon pilot Tim….British …we had fun talking about the differences between American English and English English. I informed him that in the States we put braces on our teeth and use suspenders to hold up our pants. (okay find an English friend if you need it explained).

Almost too close for comfort

Yes, my friends, that is a lion and we are standing in the balloon basket in the back of an open truck. I did not have a telephoto or you would have seen the color of his eyes. And he was not happy with us and roared his disapproval.

Wildebest on the march in the sunrise

I was also out on a couple of early morning game drives….at the time they cost $35 everytime I went out so the two mornings I went in the truck to follow the balloons I got my game drive for free.

A lone, majestic giraffe

Impala hoping not to be breakfast

A family

The African women asked if I would be their friend for a photograph

I really did eventually get down to business in Nairobi!

About mvaden1948

I love to travel to Venice (and probably other parts of Italy and beyond) and my camera leads me where she wants without any consideration as to whatever plans I may have. I enjoy photographing nature, my cat and anything that strikes my fancy. I have a "thing" for interesting doors and architectural details.
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13 Responses to Was it really 30 years ago?

  1. Sue Merritt says:

    Oh Michelle…….you look the same! I could have picked you out of twenty young women!

    Love taking this trip with you.

    Sue M.

  2. Susie L says:

    Wow, what an adventure! Thank you for sharing this story and your wonderful photos!

    • mvaden1948 says:

      Susie, it was indeed an adventure especially since I did it alone. I wasn’t part of a tour or anything although I did have reservations( in more ways than one). My husband, who stayed home and worked so I could go, said that trip was my real graduation.
      If all goes well my next post will be the pictures of my 20th anniversary trip to Africa….10 years ago now in 2005, and that one was an organized tour. Stay tuned.

  3. Awesome experience, and what a way to experience the savannah, in a balloon floating. I’m green with envy.💚

    • mvaden1948 says:

      It was indeed an awesome experience. And I did it in the days before cell phones, blogs, readily available internet for everyone. My university had only had a few computers in a lab for a couple of years and you had to put a telephone receive in this special holder and you were charged by the minute….oh, wait, I think they still charge for data like that when you are in other parts of the world.

  4. biankonera says:

    What a beautiful post and a brilliant adventure!!!

  5. Yvonne says:

    What a great experience.

  6. mvaden1948 says:

    Believe me, Greg, I knew it at the time.

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