I just left Nairobi, and must say it's been a very busy 17 days. I didn't have a single day off, and covered by 4x4 Toyota or bush plane from Amboseli to the Masai Mara; north to the Siana Community Conservancy; east to the Olkiramatian-Shompole communities in the Lake Magadi-Lake Natron region. I had a total of 12 community meetings with Maasai leaders committees and women's groups. I have a bit of reporting here - sorry not any vehicle photos. Not many opportunities for new ones here (same old Troopies - yawn) or the great 4-door HiLuxes.
Am sending this from London - where I'm trying not to hyperventilate at the prices! Will be back in beautiful Tucson soon - and looking forward to seeing everyone at the Expo event!
The Lake Magadi Region - in the southern Rift Valley. Incredible country of soda lakes, savannahs, rivers, and high rift escarpments with forests.
Typical Maasai meeting - about an hour of speeches, then lunch of roasted goat stew and rib bones, hot tea with milk straight from the cow, and then more speeches, and then visits to project areas. (I do believe I have personally contributed to reducing the overstocking rate of goats on the African rangelands by at least 4 - burp).
Women's greeting style, between equals.
We really lucked out in one community, where our meeting coincided with a large ceremony (usually four months long) where the moran (warriors) become junior elders. They welcomed us into the enkang, a circle of mud houses built by the morans' mothers and aunts; they sang for us and danced - it was fantastic. The very cool thing is that for the first time here in this community, a remote one, and perhaps in the whole Maasailand, they altered the ceremony to be held over four parts - so that the boys can still attend school, and do the ceremony on breaks. A great blending of 2 worlds.
The view up the rift escarpment in the Magai region, from one of my campsites; the cleft in the photo is the main elephant trail up to the high forests.
A view of the Siana Maasai Community's new Conservancy (a 70,000 acre wildlife reserve) abutting the Masai Mara.
A young female lion in the conservancy eyes us from a bush just off the new game viewing road. There was also lots of elephant sign.
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Some anecdotes to share as well:
- To save some time, I took a twin otter commuter to the Masai Mara and Siana Maasai Community. It had about 12 passengers aboard that morning, and the dirt landing strip at Siana was the first stop of 3. There's this huge welcome group of about 35 Maasai ladies in full garb/regalia and about 20 warriors in full attire - all lined up in a row along the airstrip. Really magnificent. There are three or four Land Cruisers, so I think, "I love these lodges that really put it on for their guests!" The plane stops, all the tourists are saying "Ooooh, wow look at that!!" and the steps go down, the Maasai break out in welcome song, and then the pilot says, "Welcome to Siana - one passenger off - Hanson!" URK! The welcome is for ME and me alone! And all the tourists, jaws dropped, look at me like, "Wow, who IS this person?!!!""
So I just go with the flow, look serene and smile like it's totally normally how I travel in Africa (well, so far it rather has been!). Then of course I had to get off and personally greet every single one of them!
- Before the goat feast, the Maasai always bring out water to wash hands. At Siana, there was no soap this time, and the water not only looks like creek water (turbid) but also is in an antifreeze container. So Africa!
- After the feast: no water for washing (we use leaves) but one of the ladies proudly produces anti-bacterial hand gel. After. So really Africa!
- That evening the chairman and vice chair and about 7 other elected or otherwise official leaders (I lose track of all the Maasai bureaucracy), joined us in the camp bar-sitting area, and we had a wonderful time talking and sharing stories. When I came in, they were ordering drinks, and they all ordered soft drinks and I thought, well, I'm having wine. So I got red wine. Then a bit later the chief, a sweet guy, said something and they all laughed and my colleague ole Sipitiek said he had told them he was buying the drinks and they couldn't have beer, but the chief had wanted his beer. So I said I'd buy the chief his beer. Well the wiley old bugger didn't order a cheap Tusker - he ordered a premium English ale and not one but TWO tots of Old Grouse Highland whiskey!! I also had offered to cover the soft drinks, and the bill later came to thirty bucks - never again will I buy Maasai drinks without just putting a tenner on the table and saying, right, here's my contribution!