Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Day Eight -- A Mostly Quiet Day, Sort Of

The day was pretty telling, I think, when I realized at 5:00 am that I hadn't heard the lions.  A pretty stiff wind had picked up overnight and Nabala said that the cats don't come out in the wind.  I don't understand the reasoning, but in any event, it definitely was an indicator of how our morning would go.

We headed out at 6:15 and saw both the full moon set and a gorgeous orange-pink sun rise.  Nabala wanted to try to find the mother lion with the young cubs, but we returned to the spot where she was last seen and came up empty handed.  Indeed, most of the morning would be like that: looking for lion, leopard and cheetah and finding nothing at all.

Our ultimate destination was far from camp on a vast flatland with next to no grass, bumps, logs or trees, definite cheetah territory.  None were to be seen though.  So we settled in to have breakfast near a manmade dam and watched the plains game (zebra, topi, wildebeest) come by to drink.  I spent a lot of today taking photos of that sort of game, as I feel I ordinarily give them short shrift.  I think I got some great shots, especially in the perfect morning light.  Breakfast was the same as previous days, with the addition of mini-vegetable quiches which were quite good.

After breakfast we started to head back towards camp and came upon a family of 10 elephants, so we stopped to watch and take some photos.  Elephants are somewhat harder to find here in Naboisho.  Someone among the guests was desperate to see elephants here, and Nabala radioed that we'd found some and where.  As we turned to drive back to camp for lunch, Victoria (British mom in my vehicle) spotted another vehicle flashing its lights to Nabala.  We told him to go back and good things we did.  That vehicle had spotted a lioness stalking a small group of hartbeests and zebras.  She was low in the grass, only her ears could be spotted from where we were.  We watched as she paw-by-paw slinked through the grass closer to the game, narrowing the distance between them.  The folks in the other vehicle said that there'd been 5 females and they fanned out.  We could only see her.

All of us decided we'd wait this out in case they ended up attacking.  She didn't slink quite close enough but decided to leap and when she did it set the hartebeest on alert and they and the zebras bolted.  It seemed a half hearted attempt on her part and her sisters never materialized to help.  We rode through the low bush to see if we could find them, but we never did.  We followed the one lioness until she laid down under a bush in the shade, panting from the exertion in the hot sun.  Nabala thinks she is one of the sub-adult females we saw on Friday night with the eland kill.  Whatever the case, she needs to dial in her sisters for help, there's no way she was going to make this kill on her ow

Before lunch I packed everything except what I was wearing now or what I'm going to wear today or tomorrow.  It's hard to believe I'm at that point already.  I'm really looking forward to Nairobi National Park, the Emakoko and the elephant orphanage in the next couple of days though.

Lunch today was excellent, or at least one dish was.  The avocado, tomato and onion salad was absolutely to die for.  I would make that at home if I knew how to do it.  It would be fabulous in the summertime.  There was also a romaine, tomato and mozzarella salad, egg noodles with mushroom stroganoff for me.  A little slice of fudge for dessert really hit the spot.  I went back to the tent with a Stoney Tangawizi to read on the bed in my onesie.

The family I've been doing game rides with wanted to visit the Maasai village nearby.  I couldn't think of a reason not to and was glad to tag along.  I doubt I would have done it by myself.  It was essentially a large plot of land with several bomas and a few mud and stick houses built on it.  The 70 year old man who owns the land and all the cows, sheep and goats on it has several wives, each of which has their own home on the land.  They all have kids, ranging in quantity from 13 to just 1.  One 15-year old wife has one already and another on the way.

The littlest kids were the first to greet us.  They all came right over to us and offered us the top of their heads.  I had no idea what was going on so I backed away from them.  Nabala told me to put my hand on their head and say "sopa" as a welcome.  Then we took photos of them and showed them their image, which they loved.  Sam, the youngest son of the family I was with, was playing chase with some of them, while Bill the dad was teaching them how to high five and do a handshake.  The best I could do was hold their hand and pretend I was being electrocuted.  Hey, I'm not a kid person, but they seemed to think it was funny.

The homes were ridiculously simple.  Sticks and mud made up the outside, and the bed was made of sticks and a cow hide.  There was a small stone stove that could hold two pots and the very small room was hot and smokey, despite the holes in the walls to let the smoke escape.  And the rooms were loaded with flies.  And there were flies all over the kids.  I have no idea how they don't seem phased by that.

The women did three songs for us while the kids watched.  Then we got to ask questions.  I asked what they were making for dinner tonight and they said some sort of corn meal and water mixture, sometimes with salt and fat.  They asked us and while the British family had a very traditional answer, I said I am vegetarian and they asked why.  When I said that I didn't think animals should have to die for me to eat, the matriarch asked if I was Christian, to which I answered yes.  I'm still unsure of that connection.  She informed me that when she felt unwell and ate meat, she felt better.  Ok....

One non-sequitur though was that one of the younger women had a cell phone.  Somehow that just doesn't follow for me.  They live in mud huts with no running water, electricity or plumbing, yet she has a cell phone.  How does she charge it?

They have dogs, a cat and chickens.  The dogs alert to danger, the cat kills mice and the chickens do nothing.  These Maasai don't eat chicken or their eggs, so we're unsure what they are meant for.

This was a very interesting visit, surely more authentic than the Maasai village I visited in Tanzania. It makes me feel very fortunate for what I have.

Victoria asked Nabala on the way back why he is missing the bottom middle tooth.  He said it is first a marker of his Maasai tribe.  Second, it is for if/when he gets lockjaw from tetanus, they will still be able to feed him.  Honestly, I can't make this stuff up.  We noticed that most of the women in the Maasai village we visited were missing that tooth.  That is so hard to believe.

On the way back, I think we were all expecting a sundowner and an early night.  Instead we came across four lionesses dozing in the low thorny acacias.  The lions started to yawn and lick their lips and I knew they'd be getting up.  Nabala thinks these were about 5-6 years old because their noses were mostly black.  It was so touching to see them bond, clean each other, nuzzle.  I'm always so astounded by how similar they are to house cats.  Or how similar my house cats are to them!  I could not have been happier seeing four cats on my last night, especially given how slow the day had been otherwise.  It was a joy to share my sundowner with them.

I will miss my adoptive game ride family.  They were very nice, very smart and a joy to be with. I appreciate like minded travelers and have found so many here.

Dinner tonight was split pea soup, a vegetable bake with cheese for me and tiramisu.  I had my last glass of Unbelieveable red tonight.  I will miss that. 

Off to Nairobi tomorrow, after an early morning game ride!

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