CFSIA Day 19: Masai Mara

We’re now camping just outside the famous Masai Mara National Reserve! In this post I’ll just catch up on what else happened at the last couple of sites. During our last couple of days at Naivasha we visited a conservation area for the rare Sharpe’s longclaw bird, in the community of Kinangop. Unfortunately we didn’t see that particular bird but we did watch a bunch of other birds and learned a lot about the environmental and community initiatives in that area. We also hiked up Mount Longonot, a dormant volcano with a huge crater. The way up was pretty tough but not too long, and the view was totally worth it.

Then we drove about four hours lower into the Rift Valley to the semi-arid pastoral community of Maji Moto, relatively near the Masai Mara. Maji Moto means “hot water” in Swahili and it is called that because of the hot springs at the community’s center. There were a lot of cacti and tall candelabra trees in the area, pink quartz covering the ground, birds flitting around, and hyenas and lions hiding in the forested hills not too far away (although thankfully we didn’t encounter any). The days were warm, though not as hot as Nguruman, and the nights were pleasantly cool like Naivasha. We were only in Maji Moto for three nights, and one of them was not spent on our campsite because we were doing our 24 hour homestays with a local family.

The homestay was an incredible experience. Nabiko, the Maasai mama we stayed with, had a small boma (homestead) with about ten goats and some chickens, and she lived with her second son and his wife and two children, and the son of her late husband’s first wife and his wife and children. Needless to say there were a lot of children running around and the place was very lively. When we first arrived we sat in the manyatta (small hut) and talked with Nabiko and some of the others, using our guide Jonathan to translate from Maa to English and vice-versa, while we had delicious chai (tea) made with goat’s milk. Nabiko’s second son has killed five lions that were stealing his livestock and has two huge scars on his leg from being bitten by one. Then Jonathan took us for a walk up the mountain to the back, where we met up with one of his acquaintances and her herd and also found some elephant bones when we explored an abandoned house. We played with the children for a bit, then went to fetch water from the hot springs with them. School had just let out and so we were swarmed with kids who wanted to touch our hair and skin, and chatted with us a bit once they knew I spoke a little Swahili. Back at the boma, we helped the women milk the goats, and I actually wasn’t that bad at it. Then it was time for dinner, which we helped prepare (cabbage and ugali), then more conversation with the women who had a lot of questions about Canada (and especially about why we aren’t married and don’t have kids), and around 9 pm we went to bed. All three of us squished onto a cowhide bed on one side of the central fire, while the rest of the family and Jonathan either slept on the cowhide on the other side or in the room in the entrance-way. It was a bit of a long sleepless night, what with the smoke from the fire and the heat and the sound of the bugs in the walls, but it was okay.

We got up with the household around 6 am as the children started getting ready for school. We went back to the hot springs with the women to fetch more water, this time in large heavy jugs carried on our back with the straps around our heads. It’s amazing that they do this every day. For breakfast we had more tea and bread. Jonathan took us on another walk around the schools of the community while Nabiko and a couple of the other women made each of us a pair of beadwork earrings, which we bought to support them. By then it was time to return to camp, so we reluctantly said our goodbyes. It was only one day with the family, and I’m still trying to process a lot of it, but I know I’ll treasure the experience forever.

The next morning we left Maji Moto for the Masai Mara. And that’s it for now! In a couple of days I’ll try to write about what we’ve been doing here in the Mara.

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Mount Longonot

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