Between unreliable power, the incredibly slow Internet, and the lack of time, writing a post at our first field site didn’t work out. Thankfully, I can still tell you about it. Last Saturday we drove out of Nairobi and down into the valley. On our way we passed Lake Magadi, which is saline and chock-full of minerals. There is a salt factory there and we saw lesser flamingos feeding on the blue-green algae (which is a misnomer as it makes the lake and flamingos pink). For four nights we stayed at Lale’enok resource centre, in the Maasai group ranch of Olkirimatian, near the community of Nguruman, in the Rift Valley. (I know, it’s a mouthful. I didn’t even know where the heck we were exactly or how to spell any of the names until at least the second day). The landscape there is very dusty and dry, mostly open grassland with some small thorny trees and scrub. Also, it is hot. Like, H-O-T hot. The kind of heat that has you drinking over five liters of water a day without even trying to and makes rivulets of sweat run down your legs from your knee pits. But to make up for it, the stars were so bright and the wildlife and people were amazing. While we were there we went on a 5 am game drive through the neighbouring conservancy and finally saw some lions- a lioness and her three cubs, along with some cool nocturnal animals (eg. genets and African wildcats and bat-eared foxes). We also went on a frog hunt one night, walked around the agricultural fields of Nguruman and ate bananas and mangoes fresh off the tree, learned about the carnivore project and ecological monitoring project that researchers are working on, went on a baboon walk to see the resident troop of baboons that would make a racket in the night outside our tents, bought jewelry and blankets from the women of Nguruman who own the resource centre, walked with a Maasai herd of cattle back to their homestead where I got the chance to try milking a cow (it was really hard!), and learned a lot about the geology and geography of the Rift Valley. It was a tiring few days but I absolutely loved it. I feel like there’s a lot more I could say but in the interest of time and not becoming boring I’ll leave it at that.
Yesterday morning we came back up out of the valley, drove back to the outskirts of Nairobi and then around and up a bit to Lake Naivasha, getting here in the late afternoon. It is so cool and green here- definitely a contrast to Nguruman. We’re staying at a really nice campsite beside the lake that seems to host a lot of ex-pats and wealthy residents of Nairobi. It has real bathrooms instead of drop toilets, lots of shade, and a bar that we can study or hang out at. I was actually able to sleep inside my sleeping bag last night and it was so comfortable being cool instead of unbearably hot. There are only three drawbacks: the mosquitoes, the vervet monkeys that try to steal our food, and the hippos. Well, that last one isn’t really a drawback- there’s an electric fence to keep the hippos out, and it’s so cool to watch them come out of the water to graze as the sun goes down. Let’s just hope the fence continues to do its job! Today the Natural History class went to Hell’s Gate National Park, which is just around the corner and was allegedly the inspiration for The Lion King. Because the park has no large predators, we were able to get out of the truck and hike through the park and the gorge. Aside from the “usual” animals (zebras, warthogs, impalas, gazelles) we also saw a jackal, some Cape buffalo, some vultures, and a couple of rock hyraxes. The rock towers made from volcanic cores were impressive and the gorge was awesome. I collected some black obsidian and touched the water coming from the hot springs, and at the top we bought a mango from the little Maasai market and shared it around. This afternoon we had a lecture about the lake and I had a chance to do some laundry and work on some assignments. Hooray for the Internet being a little better too! I’ll try to post again before we leave here, but if not you’ll hear from me from Majimoto! PS. I’m having trouble posting photos but I’ll see if I can add them later.