Lots of nostalgia during our last day at Elsamere. We woke up, had one last breakfast and said good by to the staff and to the life we had become so accustomed to in just one short week. After some group pictures with the staff, and what can only be described as a car packing miracle (we had so much stuff!) we loaded into a pair of awesome safari land rovers, equipped with airplane type seats and roof hatches for better photographs. Spending around five hours in the car, we were able to see a lot of different Kenyan landscapes, everything from wheat fields to mountains and deserts.

As we came closer to the Mara we made a few pit stops to take out money and buy some souvenirs, one of which we can’t seem to shake. Roger hasn’t stopped playing the drum he bought for about two days now. Anyway, we got back on the bumpy road and started heading towards the Mara. I was absolutely amazed at the amount of pollution we saw. Driving through very flat land you could see human waste, mostly plastic bags, as far as the eye could see. Coming in without much knowledge of the area, we all had this idea that the Mara and everything around it would be a basically untouched landscape, with nothing but small Masai villages dotting the landscape. This was totally not the case though, especially as we got closer to the gate.

There were a good number of traditional Masai villages around though, and we were fortunate to stop and get a tour of one called Kishermorvak by the chief’s son and good friend of Munir, Ndaiya. He and his village were more than welcoming and eager to show us their traditional way of life. Before we entered the village, all the men came out and did a ceremonial dance that is typically used to scare Lions while on the hunt. It consisted of an awesome deep throated chanting, a sort of shuffle walk, and a spectacular show of jumping by each individual as they came before the group. Towards the end of this dance they invited us all to join them, and in a flash we went from stagnant tourists with cameras to jumping, shuffling and yelping along with the Masai. It was an absolutely unforgettable experience. Next the women came out and gave us a show of a traditional wedding song and dance, which was equally as amazing and easily imprinted in our memories. After the dances, we were invited to enter the village.

 

Ndaiya brought us in, and gave us as many details about Masai life as he could think of and we could think to ask. They demonstrated how they made fire, built houses, and even showed us inside one of the cow-dung constructed huts. I think we all had a hard time grasping the concept of sleeping in the same room with your goats next to a fire on a hard bed topped with a dried cow skin, but that made it all the more interesting and was the first time I had seen an indigenous type house outside of a museum. To top off the village experience, the people all laid out blankets with their crafts in the center, and we got to shop from a huge selection of handmade Masai bracelets, masks, bowls, dress, etc.

After spending probably too much money, we jumped back into the cars and headed for the Mara. At the gate we ran into a swarm of Masai women with loads of goods to sell. They were extremely aggressive, shoving item after item in at us through the windows. I bought a bracelet from one for a few hundred shillings (can you say rip off!) and accidently pulled out a thousand shilling bill when I went to pay. I could see her eyes light up and before I knew it I had pretty much everything she had been carrying shoved onto my lap, with the demand that that thousand bill could get me all of it. I really didn’t have a choice, ten bracelets, two hand carved statues and a huge wooden mask, and I wouldn’t have to gift shop again for the rest of the trip.

We got through the gate and were immediately given warnings that this was the offseason for animals, and to not expect too much on our first drive through the park. Boy were they wrong though! Within about an hour and a half of driving we had seen 11 lions, cheetahs, elephants, ostrich, secretary birds, topi, the eastern chanting goshawk and any number of other fauna. I couldn’t help but be reminded of my home in Colorado from the landscape, but then we’d see elephants walking around and it felt like we were on a completely different planet than where we’d come from.

 

 

Photo by Eric Newman

 

 

After a tiring day and seeing more sights than we could possibly take in, we arrived at our tent-camp located within the National Reserve called the Matira Bush Camp. Entirely Masai-run, the camp consisted of many zip-up tents, but it was far from roughing in. Inside each tent were two ridiculously comfortable wooden beds, reading lights, and anything else you could think of. We had an awesome dinner prepared by the Masai, and then topped our night off with a wonderful fireside chat about the park and many of the problems it faces. Come around 9:30 we were all exhausted and retreated to our more than comfortable beds for a restless night of sleep with no disturbances except for the territorial rumble of Lions in the distance.