When you’re half asleep it’s funny how the bizarre doesn’t strike you as bizarre until alarms go off in your head telling you that ‘no, this is not a dream, this is reality.’
Being still in a trance-like state is the only explanation I can have for why, at some ungodly hour when the dawn chorus was still in the process of clearing its voice, a knock, knock, knock on the window of our hotel room didn’t send me into a blind panic.
Instead of being alarmed because a) someone was knocking on the window and b) the window was on the second storey of the VOI Safari Lodge in Kenya, I grumbled my way out of bed and over to the window and opened the curtains to find myself face to face with a full-sized baboon. The baboon eyed me curiously, tapped the window a couple more times and then swung away to give someone else an early wake up call, leaving me standing open-jawed as my brain caught up with reality.
It was one of the most surreal travelling moments I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing, although trying to eat breakfast a couple of hours later whilst baboons raced through the dining room trying to steal our sausages wasn’t far behind. Some people complained about the ‘cheekiness’ of the baboons but, in our view, if you don’t want to get up close and very personal with some of the local wildlife, what the hell are you doing going on safari in the first place?
That rude awakening wasn’t quite as rude or unnerving as the one experienced by the couple in the room next to us in The Gambia. We were woken by a loud crash followed immediately by hysterical screaming and the unmistakeable sounds of the premises being evacuated pronto. A hulking great six-foot monitor lizard had crawled onto the not very sturdily built roof of the hotel’s apartments, crashed through and landed in bed beside the couple to make up the sort of threesome that is the stuff of nightmares.
The poor thing was probably as shocked as they were. As the big lizards had a habit of crawling across the rooftops it made sleeping after that incident not a very sound business, especially as one of the staff suggested it wasn’t an isolated incident.
In reality these are the sort of deliciously unique travelling moments that we relish, the things that are just so off the wall in their weirdness and that can only happen in wonderfully exotic, far flung places where our sense of what’s the norm and what isn’t is completely turned on its head.
Our baboon experience happened during a Kuoni tailor made package to Kenya that included trips to Tsavo East, Tsavo West, Mombassa, Malindi and Lamu.