My Adventures as a Stow-away (2011)
I arrived in Nairobi exhausted after a long flight, and have to admit that I just spent the day recovering, rather than exploring. Nairobi is a typical city for a developing nation. I was struck by the number of people walking. The taxis reminded me of the the taxis in Jamaica (a small bus with a certain destination crowded with people). Actually, my driver on my last day was complaining about how bad the taxi drivers are and how many people are killed because of them.
Approaching my hotel there were shikans to maneuver through, accompanied with the friendly sign "Road Open Proceed through friendly checkpoint", complete with two happy faces (wish I'd gotten a picture of this!). And my hotel was also gated. This bothered me at first, but I later learned that the hotel is across from the Israeli Embassy, and that was what accounted for all the security.
The picture to the left and above is of Nairobi as I was leaving the next day.
You can see the nice houses, with the slum houses in behind - very reminiscent
to me of India. It was interesting on my last day driving by here, since there
is a long road that is lined with "shops", meaning that there are these small
sheds that are really stores, with ground in front, and that their wares are
all displayed on the ground in front. The area I was in had a lot of plants
and pottery (on the side of the road with no stores, just trees and ground),
along with a lot of iron furniture and wooden furniture. (I wish I had taken
my camera with me, since this is all very difficult to describe.)
I also loved going through departures at the airports - both Wilson (for local flights) and the international airport (NBO) had a "complaints" box, as shown on the right.
I arrived in the Chulyu Hills bright and early in the morning. To the left you'll see a picture of the airport, plane and runway. It was a busy morning, with two planes landing instead of just one. I hopped off and was met by someone saying "horse safari" (which is what I was there to do - ride horses with the animals while staying at a very nice lodge), so I hopped into the jeep, along with the guide (Patrick) and about ten other people. Before going to the lodge, we went and explored some of the area and some of the animals.
|To the right you will see a picture of the Whistling Thorn plant. Apparently giraffes find the leaves very tasty, so the plant has huge thorns. Additionally, once it notices that its leaves are being eaten, it will release a chemical that makes its leaves taste bad. The cool thing about this is that it will also communicate with surrounding plants (through a connected root system?) so that all the leaves on all the plants within about a 20 foot radius will start tasting bitter. Finally, ants live in the brown circles you see in the photo, and they will also attack anything trying to eat the plant.|
|While all this is very cool, what I was to learn later was that ALL plants in Kenya have thorns, barbs or spikes of some variety! This made riding ... challenging! In fact, you can see in this photo that you end of riding through a forest of thorn bushes.|
|There are also a large number of acacia trees (see to the right), which look to me like typical Africa, at least as I've always imagined it. We then went driving to look for wildlife, which you can see below. I was there at a time when there was a lot of migration through the area, so was very lucky to see lots of different animals. Below you will see giraffe, oryx, gazelle, zebras, and a jackel.|
|We were on our way back to camp, after about two hours of sight seeing, when I learned ... I was on the wrong jeep!! I was with the mobile safari, and should have gone with Edwin to the lodge! So we figured we would go to camp and figure things out from there. At camp we were met by Gabe (in the pic on the left) with juice for us.|
|I talked with Patrick (on the right) about getting to the lodge, and explained to him that I would much rather go on the mobile safari, if that was possible. I had asked about that when I first booked, but was told it was full. So Patrick, my travel agency, and Ol Donyo lodge all went to work on the problem. As both the lodge and the mobile safari were through the same company, there actually was a possibility of my switching. As it turned out, this made something else easier at the lodge, so they were ok with it, and I wouldn't be charged extra for the empty room. Now, I just needed a tent!|
During our break, I ended up talking a lot with Edwin, a Massai warrior. He
was the one who was supposed to pick me up at the "airport", and who panicked
when I wasn't there, calling back to the lodge to say "I've lost a guest!" It
turns out that the lodge then spent two or three hours trying to track me down,
including calling Nairobi to see if I got on the flight, calling the plane to
see if I was dropped off at the wrong place (that is, my plane continued onto
Ambroseli, so I could have been there), etc., all with no luck!! I think that
Edwin was guarding me now that he had found me to make sure that I didn't
disappear again! :)
Edwin and I ended talking a bit about the Massai (he was wearing typical dress), and he taught me some words. I don't know how to spell them, but it was something like "supa" for hello, "assai-aling" for thank you very much, and "serray" for good-bye. He later asked someone to take a picture of the two of us, which is the photo you see here. What I didn't learn until about three days later is that this is a very high compliment - something about both souls being captured together in a photo. I thought that was incredibly sweet when I learned of it.
|The group of us had lunch, chatted, and learned more about our riding abilities so as to be matched with the best horse. To the left you'll see a picture of Dori, whom I bonded with during this trip. She was very cool, and was there with a friend of hers, Lorelei, whom she sees now once a year on a riding trip. It turns out that Dori works with animal shelters, "re-homing" them and, when necessary, euthanizing them. She actually is very well-known within the US for this, and is invited to give talks on the subject. We later learned that the phrase used locally when dealing with, for example, animals with rabies, is "neutralizing" them. From that point on, Dori was "The Neutralizer", like a superhero with a cape. :)|
|We then went to meet our horses (and for me to talk to the lodge to determine my final arrangements, since this also meant staying an extra night and leaving for Nairobi on Saturday instead of Friday). To the right you see our horses, along with Zoey, a zebra who has been adopted by the lodge. He was found when he was only young, beside his dead mother, and so he ended up bonding to the Massia boys who found him, eventually making his way to the lodge from there.|
|I ended up getting a fantastic little horse named Zulu. I asked for someone who was very forward, and I got precisely what I asked for! Plus Zulu can jump very nicely. It turns out that Zulu is about 11 years old, and spent four years as Patrick's horse, meaning that he was leading the group.|
|And then there was Jody. Jody is another Canadian, actually from New Brunswick, who is currently working in Afghanistan. One of the things she does while she is there is try to rescue dogs, which often the soldiers will bond with and sometimes even take home. (I was surprised to learn that there is no longer a long quarantine time, as long as the dog has been properly vaccinated.)|
|We left for the ride, starting with just some gentle walking and trotting through the forrest of spikey trees, where I learned how to duck!! Jody was in the back when, about half an hour into the ride from the lodge to camp, her horse came cantering by without her! It turns out that the horse did an unexpected start or turn, and Jody lost her balance and ended up landing in a thorn bush on her arm, breaking it. She was taken to a hospital (fortunately, we were only about a 10 minute walk from a road, so our guides were able to radio for someone to come get her). The rest of the ride to camp was uneventful, and we were met by people taking our horses and offering us drinks in front of the fire. Supper was *fantastic*, especially since the chef manages to cook / bake everything over a campfire, including baking rolls and bread. And, I was to learn, dinners were not always meat and potatoes, but also dishes such as moussaka. Since our guides - Patrick and Kim, whom you'll see in a later photo - had to stay up to wait for Jody to return, I ended up staying up with them, telling dirty jokes until about 1:30am. :) Jody returned complete with cast and sling.|
August 23 (My Birthday!)
My birthday started with an early morning rise (shown on the left) and a light breakfast. (You can see a picture of the mess tent - along with more thorns! - and the view from it, below.)
We then mounted and took off riding. We were cantering through some (thorn) bushes, when my camera fell out of my saddle bag! Kim noticed, so we stopped to pick it up, then took off at a fast canter to catch up to everyone. During which time, my sunscreen fell out, which Kim also saw and stopped to pick up. At some point my water bottle also fell out!! (No one noticed that one.) Not a great start! Especially since my camera didn't seem to work at first. But, it was working again by the time we got back to camp - yay for Olympus shockproof and waterproof cameras!
The most exciting thing during the morning ride was the chance to chase a giraffe! From the ground, giraffes always seem to be running so slowly. But, on a horse, I was at a full-out gallop to stay with them! I even got within about 10 feet of one, and they are really tall when you are that close! Amazing amazing animals! And an amazing gallop as well! (Did I mention that Zulu is a very forward horse?)
The catch in all this? Injury #2. We were just pulling up from our gallop and turning around to regroup, when I heard Dori behind me saying "Shit, I hate it when I lose my stirrup!" This was followed by her trying to get it back and keep her balance. I heard Patrick say "Dori, don't you dare fall off that horse!" followed by ... Dori falling off that horse. She landed really hard and all of her back muscles seized. We spent about an hour while she recovered and tried to stand up and walk. Fortunately her injuries were only muscular, but she still needed to take the rest of the day and the next day off from riding. (On the other hand, she went to the lodge, saw LOTS of elephants at the watering hole there, had a massage and had a real shower, so there's not TOO much sympathy there!!)
|After lunch and a ride back to camp - complete with another gallop chasing another giraffe (which started out as a "gentle canter", to quote Patrick!) - we decided to take the jeep and go on an elephant hunt. Since Kim had seen tracks earlier, he ended up riding on top of the jeep to spot tracks (pic on right). And along the way we spotted more gazelle and giraffes (see below).|
|I was driving in the jeep behind Kim and team, riding shotgun with James, a Massai. In the pic of him on the left you can see that his ears have large holes in them. This is typical of Massai, particularly those who are not educated. (The educated ones tend to avoid this as it marks them as Massai, and there is still a lot of tribalism in Kenya, so it can affect their ability to get a job.)|
|We started our hunt by going to the lodge, where I was originally supposed to stay (picture below). They had a couple of man-made watering holes where animals would often come for water, and indeed two bull elephants had been there not long ago, so we started our tracking on foot from there. We ended up not finding them, so hiking to the top of a hill to search for them (or any other elephant we could find!). At the top I saw a lot of snails (land snail!), which is the picture to the right. (Did I mention that, since I was not actually supposed to be on a mobile safari, that I didn't pack properly? As a result I was wearing sandals - Teva's, at least - while hiking through the thorns and crushed lava stone, instead of proper sneakers or hiking shoes - ouch!! Having said that, Jody also did the hike up and down hill, cast and all!) From the top of the hill we searched for an elephant, which you wouldn't think would be too hard to find given their size!! Below are two pictures of the view from the top of the hill, along with another couple of pictures of Patrick, both on the hunt for elephants. The gun was because he always carried a rifle for safety when walking. We did eventually find an elephant, about a mile away, so clambored down the hill, hopped into a jeep that met us there, and drove out to near the elephant, then hopped down and ran a bit trying to get close. Unfortunately, no such luck. While we did see an elephant, all we really saw was elephant butt taking off away from us!|
|One of the pictures I did get while elephant hunting is the fantastic (well, at least *I* really like it!) sunset shot to the right. After this, we hopped in the jeep and went back to camp, where we were met by a campfire (see picture below on the left) and someone asking us what we wanted to drink (gin and tonic, in my case!).|
The neat thing about this sunset is the streak of turquoise you can see in
the sky. Apparently this is caused by a mountain that blocks the sun (or
sunset), causing the streak of turquioise rather than sunset colours.
At about this time, Phillip showed up (pictures of him later). Phillip works on lion research locally, and will track and collar lions with either radio or even GPS-enabled devices, allowing him to later track their movements. He talked about the lions in the area, and what they've learned about lions in general. In this particular area there are two brothers who have formed a coalition to protect their territory. I had never realized that male lions would form coalitions before! And their territory is huge! Something like 20 square miles (if I remember correctly). For Phillip, one of the most surprising things that he learned from collaring the lions and watching their movements was that all lions would attack livestock if they were hungry enough, whereas previously he had thought that it was only a couple of "bad" lions. However, the lions recognized that humans were higher on the food chain, so would not attack livestock as often as one might otherwise suspect. In fact, the lions were quite scared of humans and would run if they heard people.
In order to track lions, Phillip would tune into the direction of the radio signal on their collars using a radio antenna and a device that sounded something like a Geiger counter, where the beeps would help tell him the direction and how far away. So, after dinner, we went out in a couple of jeeps and tracked down a female lion with her two 20-month-old cubs. It ended up taking about three hours of off-roading, but in the end we were really close. Phillip put out a tin of tuna and then played a tape of a baby water buffalo crying out in agony as it was being killed, followed by the sound of hyenas. The sounds on the tape attracted the lions, and when he turned on the spot light, the lions were at the tin of tuna. We ended up watching them for a while, then they moved off a bit, so we followed them and watched for a bit more. Three of the other sightings due to this chase were spring hare (VERY cool!!), bush babies, and a hyena. :) After the lions wandered off and we started heading home, Patrick ended up grounding the rear suspension of the landrover on a rock, so we spent some time jacking up the jeep and removing the rock. The I ended up sitting on top of the jeep while Kim drove, and almost got swiped by thorns from a tree. Once I cried out "yikes!" from it, Kim said "Oh sorry Carrie - I forgot you were there!" Harump! In the end, we got back to camp somewhere around 2:30am and went right to bed!! Happy birthday or what?! :) :) :)
Wish we could have slept in this morning, but no such luck! We had an early breakfast, followed by a "second breakfast" on our way to lunch and the new camp. In case you've been wondering about my digs, I was given the guide tent for the trip, while Patrick and Kim slept near the horses under the stars, and occassionally borrowed my bathroom and shower. The bathroom was essentially a makeshift outhouse, with tarpaulin walls, which you can see behind my tent. The other tarp square was my shower, although I actually only used it twice. The first time was during siesta yesterday, but I couldn't lift the bucket over me, so ended up basically having a wash and dipping my hair in the bucket to wash it!! It turns out that I wasn't able to shower again for the next couple of days due to a lack of light! I did shower on the last night, just after sunset so it was still pretty dark, and this time it was with a bucket shower, where the staff hoisted a bucket slung by a rope over a branch, and there is a lever you can pull to drain the water through a shower head (or stop the flow). I actually GREATLY appreciated the shower by that last day!!
To be fair, had I not been a "stow-away", then the tents are actually quite luxurious! You can see a pic below of the tents. Each of them actually has a bed in it, so you are not even sleeping on the ground!! And the bathroom and shower are "en-suite", plus you are provided with a waste basket, laundry basket (the staff would hand-wash and hang-to-dry your clothes), and a large hanging mirror. Every morning we would be provided with a wash basin of warm water (along with clean water ready for us upon our arrival back to camp in the afternoons) and a thermos of coffee with mug, cream, sugar and biscuits. Not exactly roughing it! :) The other picture below is of the lodge where I was supposed to stay - there are something like 22 rooms across 7 buildings, and mine had a pool with it, along with a bed on the roof so you can sleep outside under the stars. Complete luxury. Yet, I am SO SO SO glad that I ended up in my pup tent instead - a MUCH better experience!! Many many many thanks to Patrick and Kim for making it work! :)
|These next two pictures below are of some of my cohorts on the trip. The first is of Steve and Tamara from Oklahoma, but currently living in Qatar. They were quite neat, having living in something like seven different countries. The second is of Netti and Suzy, mother and daughter, both from the UK but with Suzy currently living in Burundi. Suzy was also an eventer, so a very good rider.|
|Joshua was one of the Massai who rode with us on Dori's horse while she was off getting a massage. He worked with the horses, and had some great stories about riding! Riding is actually unusual for the Massai, but he fell in love with it once he tried it, and has now been riding for about five years. I really like these two pictures of him - he looks so intense!|
|This morning after our early breakfast we started towards the next camp, which started off by climbing a hill and looking for elephants (again)! Patrick wasn't happy with only seeing elephant butt last night. :) We found an elephant that was about a mile away, so started towards it. Once we started getting close (you can see a group shot of us to the left here), Patrick suggested that only the riders who felt most confident might want to continue, since it's possible to piss off an elephant and end up being charged. A group of four of us continued on: myself, Suzy, Steve and Tamara, with Patrick leading and Kim in the rear. Patrick said we would get close, but to be prepared to retreat should the elephant start looking grumpy. I wondered at the time how you can tell if an elephant is getting grumpy. Well, it turns out that we got close and were watching the elephant, when he "got grumpy", meaning his ears went forward, so we retreated at a gentle trot.|
At this point I feel I should also mention something that we practiced in the
arena on the first day - something called "an elephant turn". It's essentially
a quick turn on the hocks followed by a trot (or whatever speed is set by Kim,
who was bringing up the rear). So we had the chance to use our elephant turn!
But... Patrick figured that we could get closer, so we circled around and did
indeed get closer to the elephant - Patrick was guessing that we were about 10
meters away. This time when the elephant noticed us, not only did his ears go
forward, but he also trumpeted at us! He was not happy at all, so this time
our hasty elephant turn was followed by a canter!! Still, how cool is that? :)
(Side note: the pic to the right here is of Lorelei. Lorelei was neat because she had spent a number of years breaking horses (Western), and now runs a brokerage business for computer parts.)
(Side note 2: I didn't get a chance to get any pics of the elephant. It turns out that the only one who did was Suzy, so hopefully I'll get a copy from here and post it here.)
|After the elephant hunting, we ended up riding across a large savannah, where you could see Mt. Kilamanjaro in the distance, and there were zebras and oryx on the planes. You can see the plains behind me in this photo. At one point we went for a lovely long canter, probably for about two or three miles, and scared a herd a zebra who went galloping away from us. Absolutely magnificent!!|
At one point later in the day, we came across a Massai village. The Massai are nomadic, so their homes are very temporary. In the photos below you can see a typical boma. In the one take from the plane on my way to Chulyy Hills, you can see that there are two fenced enclosures holding livestock - typically cows in the larger one and goats in the smaller one - along with a house, which is also typcially surrounded by fence. You can also see here a picture of the fence, taken from inside the larger enclosure. The fence is made from whistling thorn, which is cut down and dragged to make a large fence, not just for keeping the livestock in, but also for keeping the lions, etc., out (although this is not always very successful!). When the Massai move, much of the fence gets left behind, making great jumps! (I jumped a couple of these thorn fences the day before. There's something a bit unnerving about knowing that you are jumping over huge thorns!!)
You can also see two photos below of the Massai home - one taken outside and one taken inside. The blue water drum was blocking the entrance to the house, and served as the door. The inside was very small and short (as you can probably guess from the outside!), and when we went in there were two small beds and the embers from a fire on the floor. There were also three kids (as in the baby goat kind) inside asleep on the bed when we entered!
We would also often come across skulls and bones of zebras, buffalo, etc.
Joshua was telling me that a number of the skeletons were from animals who
died a couple of years previously during a drought.
And, on our way to camp, disaster struck! Fall number three! This time one of the Spanish girls (Maria) fell while going up a hill. Fortunately, her fall was more gentle than the previous two and she was able to relatively quickly get back on her horse and finish the trip. However, she did not ride again for the next couple of days, partially because her back hurt from the fall and riding, and partially because she found that the pace was too fast. (Have I mentioned that the ride was intended for strong intermediate and advanced riders? They really meant strong intermediate and advanced riders!!)
|Because it was the dry season, the riding was also very dusty. On the left you can see a picture of Netti and how dirty we get!! (I hope that she forgives me for posting this picture! :) ) Fortunately, there is always a wash basin ready for us when we stop riding (either at lunch or once we reach camp), and we always end up washing our faces as well as our hands. (And still having dirty arms and necks!)|
|That day we also set out to explore some lava tubes before the sunset, returning just before it got really dark. You can see a picture of the cave we were crawling through above. Have I mentioned that I hadn't packed for camping? I also didn't have a good flashlight with me, which made some of the scrambling through the cave portions difficult. We also saw bats while we were there (you can see - sort of! - three of them in the picture to the right). A bunch of us took pictures and we identified the type of bat the next day (which, of course, I now forget!).|
On the next day we broke camp again and started with hiking up large hills. But, I received a complement at breakfast. Patrick looked at me and said "You look clean!" Ha!! :)
The picture on my left is of Dori and Lorelei. They were friends from a long time ago, then had drifted apart for something like 15 years, and now get together once a year to go on a riding trip. Last year was Spain. This year, Kenya. Next year??? I suggested Chile. :) Anyway, this picture gives you a sense of the height of the hill (mountain?) we had climbed.
The fun thing about climbing over some of these hills was one part where we were scrambling down a hill, and there was a very steep area from the hill onto a road cut into the side of the hill that we ended up following for a while. Patrick's comment? "This piece might be a bit technical." Reality? It was a very steep incline!
There was one disaster this day. While we were stopped at one point for
people to remove some layers of clothing, Dori's horse startled a bit, and
Dori fell ... again. My memory is ok her laying on the ground, on her back,
and that her first word was "Ow." This fall, however, was not so bad and,
between that and the drugs she was on (ibuprofin seemed to be the drug of
choice around camp!), she was able to get back on and finish the day.
Somewhere around noon (meaning somewhere between 11:30 and 2:30, since lunch time always varied!), we stopped for lunch under a flame tree. The picture below shows our lunch spread, where we also laid down for a short nap / siesta after lunch. Where I was sitting, I could look up at the flowers on the flame tree, and watch something like a hummingbird get nectar from them. The picture to the right is Dori, just because I liked the shot. :)
While we were here, a couple of Massia children who were tending a herd of
goats came by to watch. Below you can see them first approaching. While
my pictures only show two of them, there were actually four. Note the size
of the spear that the oldest is carrying!! One of their dogs was missing
part of his ear, so we asked why it was missing. It turns out that it was
cut off so that they could recognize the dog as theirs. Dori's response?
"Or you could use a collar!"
A picture of the goat herd the children were tending is also below. While Patrick and Kim were sleeping, the Spanish guy (Juan, who was there with his two teenage daughters, none of whom spoke much English) went into the goat herd to pat the goats, and might also have fed them something. He left and came back to where we were resting, and a couple of goats started to follow him. Then they stopped. The suddenly the entire herd started heading for us!! Patrick and Kim woke up just before the goats reached us, thus resulting in my great action shot of Kim (I LOVE this pic!!) shooing away goats with the scarf he had been wearing Arab style to protect his face from sunburn (since he had lost his hat).
|After the goat attack, everyone relaxed again, as you can see from the smile on Patrick's face (on the left). Some folks went back to sleep, while others stayed up. While we were staying up, another goat herd with three Massai children came by. The children were very cute, being very curious but still unsure about actually approaching us. The youngest (in the orange) pretended to be nonchalant, while still trying to get our attention. Suzy ended up going down and chatting with the kids for a bit. When she finished, Lorelei and I ended up going down and chatting with them as well, and taking pictures of them. The amazing thing (to me) is that these children spoke three languages: Massai, Swahili and English.|
After the siesta, we took the jeep and drove about 15 minutes to the mist
forrest, where we ended up hiking for a bit. The mist forrest can now only
be found on the tops of the hills (and the one we hiked through was actually
very small - about 10 or 15 minutes to get from one side to the other using
a nice, well-worn, wide path). Apparently there is currently a theory (put
forth by a friend of Patrick's, who actually discovered three new species
while studying the mist forrest) that all of Kenya was covered by mist forrest
like you see below, but that they have been receding so that now they can only
be found in small pockets.
The middle picture below shows a strangler fig which has completely killed the tree it was once climbing, leaving just the hollow now. I know that I've seen strangler figs before, but for the life of me I can't remember where. I'm thinking maybe Guatemala? Anyway, as we were hiking we suddenly heard branches breaking in the woods to our right from some animal. Patrick automatically ducked, swung, and pointed his rifle (did I mention that he never walks anywhere without it?) into the woods. Meanwhile, Dori ducked behind me with her hands on my arms, hiding! (I laughed afterward about my protecting her, and she said that she could always push me towards the beast while she was running away!) However, it turned out to be some type of gazelle only, and that it was actually running away from us. In reality, that's probably a good ending, but when writing it as a story it just sounds so lame!!
After the mist forrest, we returned to our lunch site to mount up and head
out again. On our way back we passed by some Kamba. Their houses were more
like grass huts, unlike the Massai houses made from mud. The Kamba are also
known to be more warrior-like and hunters, whereas the Massai raised livestock
instead. Every time we rode past some Kamba, we would wave and they would
wave back. As it turns out, the week before Patrick was riding through this
area and there were some children there who had never seen either a horse or
a white person before, so they got really scared and started crying!! We
passed some very cute kids, and there were some great photo ops, but
unfortunately I didn't have a chance to take any pictures.
The other fun thing about getting back to camp is that we ended up riding in a bit, um, late. As in, the sun had set (around 6:30) but we arrived in camp a little after 7pm. Because it is dangerous to be out after dark, we ended up trotting along a road in single file, with Patrick in the front snapping his elephant whip in order to frighten off anything in our path. The road was incredibly dusty, so we (and the horses!) couldn't actually see the road we were trotting along. In fact, we had to stay quite close to each other just to see the butt of the horse in front of us so we knew where to go! What's funny is that you hit a point where you are not worried about how dangerous this is, but are just annoyed that you're not in front of the fire with a drink yet!! And our tardiness obviously worried the staff, since a jeep with a couple of the staff members met up with us since they decided to come looking for us! Incredibly sweet, really.
While we were sitting around the camp fire, we heard an animal sounding like
it was dying. We listened for a few seconds, and it sounded like a buffalo.
As we listened, it sounded really familiar - it was the recording that Phillip
played to attract lions. And it sounded quite close. In fact, we were
wondering if it might have been an iPhone recording made by one of the Spanish
girls, and that she was playing it for their dad. We eventually realized that
no, it meant that Phillip was actually nearby. Phillip also learned that we
were nearby (one of the Massai told him), so he stopped by our camp. (The
pic on the right is Phillip, in case you couldn't guess!!)
It turns out that a lion had killed two donkeys in a Massai boma. Traditionally what would happen after something like this is that the Massai warriors would hunt down the lion and kill it; however, there is now a program in Kenya where the villager will be reimbursed for his loss (always a "his" loss - women are still generally property here) in return for not killing the lion.
Phillip was here with two Massai warriors - you can see both in the picture
below, albeit darkly, to the right of Phillip by the fire. In the picture on
the left, one of the warriors is looking for another lion (a female named
Birdie, who recently had a couple of cubs) using the radio tracking device I
had mentioned a couple of days ago. Both of the warriors are actually lion
killers. When the Massai go to kill a lion, typically eight warriors go on
the hunt. While all eight get some credit for the kill, the person who gets
the first spear in gets the most credit, the one with the second spear gets
a little less credit, and so on. Both warriors here had gotten the first
spear. The result is a lot of respect in their village, and their choice of
women (and a woman who is very proud to be his, given his bravery). Having
a lion killer now support the lions and track them lends legitimacy to not
killing the lions, while at the same time the warrior receives additional
prestige from having a job.
In this case the warriors had tracked two lions to about a mile away from our camp (yikes!!), so Phillip had taken one of the dead (half-eaten) donkeys, tied it to a tree, and called the lions using his recording. The lions that were here are not collared, so they were tracked solely by the Massai. You can see pics of them below - they are the two brothers who have formed a coalition, again whom I had mentioned a couple of days ago. What was amazing to me was how close we could get to them! We stayed in the jeep, but the windows were down, and at the end we were probably only about ten feet or less from the lion who was eating. You could hear him crunching on the bones of the donkey! It was also interesting that we were there watching for a bit, and the lions appeared concerned about something else they sensed off to the left, and eventually left, followed by a couple of Massai coming up to the jeep. The lions know they are not the top of the food chain, and so are very wary of people! They had heard the two Massai and so left the area. The Massai left after we chatted with them for a minute, and maybe ten minutes later one of the lions (the smaller one) returned, while the other lion remained in hiding the entire time we were there.
|One last interesting tidbit about Massai. All males become warriors somewhere between 15 and 18 years old. The ritual involves being circumcised without any anaesthetic. After this, the Massai show their prowess as hunters. At some point later (I'm unclear about when this transition occurs or why) the warriors become elders, whose role it is to guide the direction of the tribe (which apparently is just as political amongst the Massai as it is in any Western culture!). And lest women think that only the men get to go through such an initiation, the women also get circumcised, generally closer to age 13 or 14. At one point there was a (white) woman who was going to make it her mission to end female circumcision. Apparently she was approached by about 50 Massai women saying "don't mess with our culture", since they viewed circumcision as a key component of becoming a woman.|
Today was the last day. Well, ok, today was MY last day. Because my flight left Nairobi on Sunday morning, I had to go back to Nairobi on Saturday, while everyone else got to go to Ambroseli and then do a bit more riding. :(
Our day started with breakfast under an acacia tree, followed by mounting up to head out. We were obviously in the heart of Massai country, since we kept seeing people stop by (see pic below of a Massai who wandered by while we were mounting). One of the fun comments while we were heading out was an admission from Patrick and Kim that they had only ever ridden this route once before, so hopefully they remembered it!
Along the way we came across a huge baobab tree (see above), which was a
very neat tree. Someone had nailed steps to the side of the tree so that
you could climb up to where there was a beehive and collect honey. Suzy
was brave enough to climb it, but not to put her hand in the hive!
On our way we climbed a hill and could see in the distance where we were going for lunch. In the picture on the left you can see two hills in the distance and a dark streak in front. The dark streak was a lava flow that we had to go around, to then find lunch, which was located behind the smaller hill in this photo. In short, quite a distance away! (I think it was close to 2:30 before we reached lunch!!) On our way, however, we had some nice long canters and got to do a couple of small jumps (including one over a ditch that suddenly appeared, for which I was not prepared - thank God Zulu is an awesome horse and jumped it anyway instead of stopping and dumping me!). The two pics below show us on the trail, after having made it to the small hill. Lunch was under the rocks that are just in front of the horses in the pic below.
Lunch was served under some very cool rocks, with a beautiful view (see
pics below), followed by a siesta. The only catch here was washing in the
basin provided, since the water had attracted a large number of bees. They
didn't seem to mind sharing the water, but it was still very unnerving to
be washing your hands with a hundred or more bees flying around you.
By the time we set out again for camp, we had lost four people!! Jody was still out due to the broken arm. Maria (the Spanish girl) did not ride with us again due to a sore back and fast pace. And Dori found that the pace was bothering her back so dropped out, and Lorelei joined Dori since she was also finding the fifth day of fast riding to be very hard. We kept teasing Patrick and Kim about how many people they normally lose on a ride!!
On the way back we got to do another couple of nice long canters - of about two or three miles - which was wonderful! We had to be careful of holes (from warthogs?), but that was the only catch. And I had a great horse for this! At one point I was cantering with Patrick on one side (who grinned and said "I love horses!") and Suzy on the other side, when we came across a large hole. Patrick and Suzy were able to go around, but Zulu didn't have time to duck to either side (especially since he was blocked by other people) and didn't have time to stop, so we had a beautiful jump over it! Have I mentioned that I love that horse? :)
|My day ended with a shower (soooooo very nice!), a wonderful meal (including a bit of goat that the Massai shared with us - they also invited us to join them for drinking its blood, but we all declined on that one), and getting drunk in front of the fire with Jody, Dori, Kim and Patrick. All in all, it was a FANTASTIC trip!! And I'm already trying to figure out when I can go again. :)|
Addendum: I received a phone call today (September 1) saying that Zoey (the zebra) had died, and they suspect that it was from rabies, so were asking everyone who might have been in contact with Zoey to get a rabies shot!! :(
Addendum 2: I received a phone call this morning (September 10) from my travel agent telling me that the zebra with rabies has become an international issue, with the World Health Organization involved, and that the Canadian government has contacted them asking for my contact info so they can ensure that I do not have rabies. They were concerned about giving out my contact info without my permission "but it's a government organization" so they wanted to cooperate. I subsequently received email from the Centre for Food-borne, Environmental and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, asking about my contact with the zebra. I find this amusing on two levels: (1) that the Canadian government is actually worried that I might have rabies, and (2) that they didn't know how to find me! (Re: #2, this also means that they somehow knew my travel agency, but didn't take the time to google me!)
Addendum 3: I received an email today (September 15) from the New York State Department of Health, who were notified by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that I may have had contact with a rabid zebra, asking me to confirm that I had not come in contact with the zebra's saliva. They also called my mobile. Upshot: the US government is far better at tracking me down!!
Addendum 4: I heard from Dori today (Sept 29) - it turns out that she actually has an L1 fracture from her fall! Yikes!