The two days of game drives in an pop-topped safari vehicle was a great start.
We had seen many animals in Samburu with Elephant Watch the week prior and Maasai Mara worked out to be the perfect complimentary game drive as we saw an array of different animals and the scenery was taken right out of the The Lion King.
Our accommodations for the 6 nights was in a two bedroom mud home constructed in the local style. The beds were neat and simple with mosquito netting and a single battery powered light lit the room at night. Nearby were clean shared bathrooms with hot showers, which use water from the village hot springs. Every evening a few warriors would either be huddled by the nearby fire or on our front porch as guards, and would accompany us silently if we needed to use the bathroom in the night. Their natural stealth and their red shukas, invisible in the darkness of the night, made it seem like they appeared out of no where. It was comforting knowing a warrior or two was guarding us against any potential wild animals.
Once we reached the top of the hill we could see the entire village and out to the Maasai Mara Reserve. The experience to be out there with people so in tune with their environment, just sharing our time, was amazing. And again the Maasai chants, which are very rhythmic and repetitive enough that an outsider can easily join, brought that moment to another level.
While we were up on the rocks on the top of the hill Quella showed Yoda how he can "sling shot" a small rock with his finger. I know it doesn't sound like a big deal but it was amazing and still puzzles me today. When he would release his finger and let the small pebble fly, the noise was like what you would expect from a cartoon. It literally "whizzed". How could it go so fast to make that noise? Not even a pebble projected from a proper sling shot makes that noise. None of us could come close to the speed. I easily imagined Quella as a boy spending hours with his friends while out sheepherding perfecting his talent.
Also, with the encouragement of his mother, who was a widow herself, he has set up a widow's camp to protect and empower the women who have outlived their husbands and are not permitted in the Maasai culture to remarry.
We heard first hand from Meeri of how at the age of 10, when her 80 year old husband died, she spent 3 days and nights walking through the bush to Salaton's camp, which she had been told by one of her teachers was a camp that helped girls like her. She had to keep herself hidden, off the main roads, so that her dad wouldn't find her. At night she slept in trees to keep safe from the wild animals. Our own Zuki is 10. It was shocking for us all to hear Meeri's childhood story. Thank goodness for people like Salaton. At one point there were 56 girls sleeping in a little room at the widow camp until he was able to build the current boarding school.
We were invited to visit the widow's camp located next to the cultural camp and received another wonderful welcome.
Meeri's daughter and few other girls were also fetching water and it was a very social affair. We were met with looks of curiosity and amusement as we needed assistance with every step, filling the jug, adjusting the harness, and positioning it on our backs and heads. Zuki did quite well with the 10yr old size jug (10 liters). She was full of smiles and while it not exactly comfortable, she could do it. But when Meeri released the 20 liter jug's full weight on to my back I thought my neck might actually snap. I wouldn't allow myself to release my grip on the head strap as was using my hands help cary some of the weight. I was shocked how uncomfortable it was. I made it only a maybe 1/4 of the way to camp at which point I took up Meeri's offer of assistance. I had watched woman laden with these jugs standing leisurely talking as if not noticing the wight pulling on their heads. The village girls start at a very young age which must strength the muscles needed. A three year old starts with 3L, age seven moves up to 7L, age ten carries the 10L and finally will graduate to carrying the 20L. Amazingly it is not uncommon for women to walk 3-5 km or even more carrying these!
It was Zuki who came up with the idea to use the obsidian, strewn all over the landscape and traditionally used as spear tips in the past, as a makeshift knife to peel the skin. Oh how great wild food gathered by your own hands tastes.
Unfortunately, I can't say the whole night was perfect. Actually in its entirety, it turned out to be a mixed bag of the absolute best and absolute worst, all in one. When we did eventually go off to sleep, my stomach did a lurch, which I knew immediately was not good. My stomach had been a bit off the entire day but I had't thought much of it. Seeing as we were in the African wilderness and there were a handful of Maasai Warriors guarding our camp all night against potential dangerous animals I felt I had to wake Kiko to accompany me into the wide open bush to use the "toilet". I'll spare you the details but I, well my guard Kiko and I, spent the entire night out in the bush. At one unforgettable moment while I was throwing up, I could here hyenas calls coming from multiple directions, I remember pausing just enough to ask Kiko how close he thought they were. Hour after hour, Kiko began to get pretty comfortable in his new role as "African Bush Guard", so much so that while I was trying to find a spot where I could squat without something treacherous biting my bum, Kiko was pointing out eyes glowing in the trees and telling me it was "one of those animals you have been wanting to see." I practically yelled, "Could you be more specific? A dangerous one or not?" Turned out it was a bush baby...
A massive headache lingered all the next day in camp, but I slowly recovered just in time for Christmas. The kids made a wonderful "tree", which we topped with a handmade angel I had had the foresight to purchase in Nairobi the week before.