Masai Mara Day 1
The sun had yet to rise when we stood to wait for the bus, it was 5:30 am and the kind of temperature that I associate with travel because I am never up that early otherwise. Of course, as is the Kenyan way, the bus was over 45 minutes late but it had reached the point where we were not annoyed but rather just happy to see it finally. The bus was massive. On the ride out we noticed a playground directly next to our apartments that we would have never seen had we not been almost 15ft off of the ground in a moving vehicle. We were all set up for our 6-hour road trip, everyone plugged into their headphones or asleep. I always enjoy long car rides listening to music, reflecting, and watching the scenery, so I was the first one to see rift valley emerge to our right as we headed out of the city. I don’t think I have ever seen a valley so large, or an area so flat. The surrounding mountains created a greater sense of awe as we stopped to take pictures and head to the washroom. The service from Me to We (the organization organizing our trip) was excellent, they provided us with lots of snacks, drinks, and then lunch.
We finally arrived at the campsite and were met by around 15 people singing and dancing celebrating our arrival. They introduced themselves to us, including what they “love” doing. Our cook, Martin, loves ‘cooking tasty meals for us.’ Julie, our housekeeper, loves ‘making our rooms clean.’ A bit odd, but none the less, we wondered around to find our rooms. We were supposed to be camping, but this place was straight glamping. With two bunk beds in each tent and some wardrobes, it was actually pretty nice. The grounds were beautiful and green, the common area was clean and grand, and the sun was shining.
After lunch, we jumped back into the massive lorry and bumped along the road to the school. We saw the old classrooms versus and the new classrooms and were told all about Me to We. Fatigued from the trip, we were driven about 5 minutes up the road to the hospital. This was a weird experience, not only was the hospital essentially empty, the branding from the organization reached an all-time high with the “nurse” showing us around clearly reciting a script, and breaking a few protocols every single room we entered. It felt as though it was all for show, and a bunch of us became very skeptical of the whole situation. Coming back from that, though, we had a lovely dinner and sat around the campfire chatting until bed. Midway through the chat, I head to the bathroom, and as I was sat on the toilet, a bat flew in through the window, flapped around a bit and flew back out. I stayed completely still but my heart was beating a million times a minute, and I rushed out refusing to step foot in that place again once it turned dark. I fell asleep to the chirp of crickets, and the light brush of the mosquito net just above my face.
Masai Mara Day 2
With another early start, we were up and ready to go at 7 am. The sun was just rising, the air was fresh, and everyone excited as we head outside of the campgrounds for our hike. Just 10 minutes in, we saw a herd of zebras grazing on the grass just 100 meters away from our group. Imagine… orange-red skies, vibrant green cacti and trees, a group of people you’ve come to adore, a Masai warrior in his bright red shuka, and a herd of zebras, absolutely amazing. We ended up making a human pyramid just for fun on the airstrip near our camp, then walked back quickly ready for breakfast. Settling down with my fried eggs and toast, I sipped my coffee and decided I was glad I ended up going on this trip, already it was so worth it and there was still three days left.
We took the lorry about 45 minutes out from the camp to Mama Julie’s house. Here, we learned about the merry-go-round system (essentially, each person in the group deposits a sum of money every month, and each month one person from the group receives everyone’s deposit). We then took some empty containers and started the trek down to the river. The surroundings were beautiful, lush green rolling hills and the odd donkey, every time I looked up felt like a photo opportunity. Upstream a young woman washed her clothes in the water while downstream a family bathed nude. Once filled, we put the rope tied to the containers around our heads, bent at a 45-degree angle, and trekked back the way we came. I initially took the small one, but with the other smaller girls only having big ones left to carry I switched with them. My container had 20L of water and at first felt pretty fine but towards the end of the 20-minute walk felt really uncomfortable and started to make me angry. It did make me reflect, though, on the lives of these women and how fortunate I am to just twist a nozzle for my water.
The conga, a traditional weapon used by the Masai tribe, was an average activity in our day. Similar to the hospital, it was quite commercialized, and all we really did was use the sand paper leaves to help smooth out the congas. We were all pretty tired, so left pretty quickly and head back for dinner and games around the campfire. Just before dinner, we had an option to watch a goat get slaughtered for Sunday’s dinner. I opted in, and have no words for the experience other than it happened.
As soon as my head hit the pillow, I was asleep, awaiting the safari the next day.
Masai Mara Day 3
Safari Day! This day was the reason for me coming on this trip, and although the past few days were great, this was the day I was excited about the most. We left bright and early, the sun had not risen yet, and we set off in our shukas from our beds to the conservation area. As we drove, we saw the sunrise over the distant mountains which was the perfect way to start the day. It was cold, but we opened up the plastic windows in our lorry because animals had already started to emerge. Almost immediately, we saw a hyena, some antelopes, and zebras. Rolling up next to a farm and house, a man stood and watched our lorry as we drove past. He was up early tending to his cows, which I found to be a really nice sight. Gazing just past his house though, I saw our first herd of giraffes of the day. The stopped, watched us all take photos of them, and then went back to grazing on the trees. Imagine, waking up in the morning to start your day and seeing some giraffes just outside your front door, how crazy is that. Not far into the trip, we spotted two lions; one male and one female. They were so so close to our car, and so so majestic. The guide told us they were on their ‘honeymoon’ and would proceed to mate four times an hour for 2 weeks… with little to no hunting in between for food. We tried to wait and watch them mate (hah), but we were ushered off due to the land being privately owned. A little way across the plane, we stopped for a bathroom break which was actually so great. Peeing while looking across the planes of Africa next to the zebras? If it’s not on your bucket list yet, it should be.
Throughout the morning we saw more giraffes and zebras, along with wildebeest, jackals, and warthogs. My favorite image of the day was VJ, Nicole, and Kait all wrapped up in their individual shukas, leaning out of the window of the lorry to look at the wildebeest, zebras, and giraffes grazing in the sun. Next stop, lunch. We ate our burger bagels and mendazes on the river bank overlooking a gray moving island of hippos. They were massive animals, and apparently are the largest animal cause of death in Africa, which kept me a bit on edge the whole stop. Later on that day, however, I’d learn the real meaning of being close to wild dangerous animals when we jumped out of the van and walked up to two massive rhinos; a mother, and son. With every movement, I imagined them charging at us for being on their land. We did have a ranger there with us, who had a big gun, but the gun didn’t look big enough for a rhino that size. It was an amazing experience, watching them roll around in the mud and sniff around at the grass.
With full hearts and some relaxing tunes on, we head back to camp. There we had a quick stop, some coffee, and then walked to weapons training just outside of where we were staying. We threw congas, shot arrows, and drank wine and Tusker in a circle listening to traditional Masai culture stories. It was a really fun afternoon and my favorite time of day with the sun starting to set and the vibes cheerful after such an incredible day. As we finished up the weapons training, they presented us with shukas as presents, which was really sweet, and helped as the temperature got cooler. One of the stories was about circumcision. Essentially the men (and women) were circumcised as their right of passage to adulthood at around 15 years of age. Not only was this procedure done without any medicine to reduce the pain, but it was socially crucifying if they were to flinch from the pain. This meant little boys were practicing hurting themselves so that they could get used to the pain and thus not flinch. It was crazy, and we had a lot of questions for the guides like, why? what benefit does this have for girls? does this still go on? and most of all… ouch?
Walking home I spoke to Richard about tribalism and traditions, and his personal thoughts. He seemed very tribolic, saying he would choose someone for president just because of their tribe even if they did not agree with anything he said, and that he wouldn’t marry outside of his tribe. I still had a lot of questions when we got back, but dinner was served and the conversation had changed. I couldn’t handle more than a few mouthfuls of the goat, but the other food was delicious and filled me with just enough space for another Tusker as we watched the Kenyan boys choir. It was a nice end to an amazing day, and just as I was about to fall asleep they called us all up on stage to dance and sing with them which was hilarious and a lot of fun. They finally left, we roasted marshmallows around the campfire, and then I head to bed as I was already falling asleep on Hayden’s shoulder.
Masai Mara Day 4
This morning, I was supposed to go to yoga but instead chose to sleep in after the full day we had yesterday. I had a leisurely breakfast, and a walk around the grounds with my coffee and chai (interesting combination, do not really recommend). We spoke about travel destinations and our thoughts on the charity in general. Getting back just in time for bead making, we sat on the floor outside of the dhuka and made ourselves some jewelry. As expected, my pattern didn’t really go as planned but it still turned out pretty okay and matched the other bracelet we had received last night. With our new items draped around our wrists, necks, and shoulders, we made our way to the bus to start our journey home. On the bus home, we spoke about our takeaways of the trip. It was interesting to see everyone’s unique perspective, and as the bus rocked us back and forth along the brick ridden road, I couldn’t help but feel grateful for the team I had come on this trip with. Just after seeing a whole group of baboons eagerly awaiting a broken down car, we stopped for some iced coffee and snacks and then drove the final two hours back to Nairobi.
Nairobi seemed so busy and dirty as we arrived, almost a completely different country to that of the Masai Mara. Ordering Italian food in, we ate and chat until it was time for some alone time, and while everyone else watched a scary movie, and read my book and wrote my blog.
It’s going to be hard to top that weekend.