To start the night drive we drove out to a nearby kopje (great scrabble word – an outcrop popping up from the plain) for a sundowner – drinks while watching the sun go down – basic, simple, good concept!
The kopje is populated with hyrax – marmot like creatures whose claim to fame is that they are the elephant’s genetically closest relative
The night drive is structured with John holding a large searchlight standing (through the roof) in the passenger seat, Felix driving, Liz and Dick standing on the next row and Sarah standing in the back.
We saw a lot of interesting things – much of the hunting happens at night – but even stopping the truck and locking down the camera could not get a clear shot, as shown below
Highlights included two pairs of ratels, a genet (cross between a cat and a weasel that has gorgeous markings) many bunnies, zebras moving like ghosts and of course a multitude of reflected eyes.
You’re left with the feeling that in the animal world, daytime is for relaxing but night is when things happen….often unpleasant things.
Visit to Masai Village
(or is it Maasai? See it spelled both ways)
There are a lot of Masai on the savannah. We see them frequently herding cattle. But they do not like to have their pictures taken – they will demand money after the fact (post-photum?). It’s too bad since they are very elegant in their brightly hued cloaks with their spears and short swords and clubs, and the ubiquitous stick that they use to whip their cattle and donkeys. We like to believe that we inhibit photo taking out of cultural respect, but the spears and swords and clubs may have something to do with it.
So we pay to visit a village (Felix is half masai and speaks the language). Photos are OK. Unfortunately the men are away with their herds – the woman and children are there and the headman to greet us.
Theirs is a very different life from ours. No electricity or running water (the women walk miles daily to get water), no sewage (you take a walk in the bush), housing is mud daubed wattle with an open wood fire for cooking – food is primarily corn meal and meat.
This is the headman’s house – he has two wives – hence two entrances! Liz went in (as a funny aside – Liz was the tallest person in the village – Masai are known for their height) – there were small chairs and cots but not much room for anything else and the ceiling is very low.
They are a wonderfully proud and beautiful people
The tough part for us was the flies. Richard hates flies. The children’s faces are covered in flies – they are drinking from their eyes and the corners of their mouths
Pictures of children covered in flies are a universal fund raising photo for charities in Africa, but this visit revealed something to us – comparatively, these are not impoverished children – they have food, clothing, housing, access to schools – and they have flies .. because they have animals.
The headman was very taken with Richard’s watch and gold rings. He fondled them frequently. If I could have figured out how to get it home I’d have traded the watch for the spear - “Canadian man dubbed the spear hijacker”.
Part of the visit is that we buy some of the lovely bead work the ladies make…
Leaving, we gave one of the children a bottle of water and were reminded that as basic as conditions were, there was no litter, no odor (animal or human), clothes were all clean, children well fed. Biggest problem is that they prefer to have their children tending their herds rather than being in school.