We woke up early this morning…to no water! Thankfully my face cloth was still wet from last night and we have to use bottled water to brush our teeth anyway – so it wasn’t actually that big of a deal. It was sad to say bye to our cute little cabins on the river…they were so picturesque and perfect!!
Today was a driving day. We left camp at 7:30 and arrived into Siana Intrepids Camp at 1:30pm with only one 20 minute stop along the way. It was crazy-long with some extremely bad roads. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so shook up from being in a car before…and it was hours and hours of that! That’s the price you pay for going into the boonies, however!
I sat in the front and in between naps asked a few questions of our driver. I learned that corruption causes a lot of problems in the health care system. They have public and private clinics, but the public ones are often “set up” by the government so that they can receive a nominal payment from patients before they go to the clinic – only to discover the clinic doesn’t actually exist! As well, because there is a huge doctor shortage, often the physicians work at both the private and public clinics. Then, when patients who can’t afford the private clinics seek care at the public clinics, the doctors refuse to see them there, but refer them back to their private clinics instead! It is nuts. There is an American who established a world-class dental clinic for the Massai people for free care, which really impressed S.K. (our driver).
Siana Springs is an amazing hotel. We have such awesome accommodation on this trip! The camp is rather large and each “room” is a huge canvas tent with two or three beds, and a bathroom (shower, toilet, and sink). They are quite spread out, and the views look into the bush (within an electric fence!) so you feel rather isolated. It is beautiful!
Once we arrived we quickly ate lunch before attending an information session from one of the Maasai people from a nearby village. We learned that the Maasai believe that after the earth was created, God put man and cows on it at the same time. Therefore, the people believe that all of the cows belong to them and it is their mission to accumulate as many cows as possible. The males have three stages in life: boyhood (from ages ~5-15), warriorhood (ages 15-25) and manhood (ages >25). As a boy they are taught to manage the goats, sheep, and eventually cows and walk many kilometres a day from a very young age. At age 15 the boys undergo a public circumcision where they are not permitted to flinch at all in order to enter the warrior stage of their life. At this point they band with others the same age to fight other non-Maasai tribes to accumulate cattle. They will also form groups to kill a lion in order to enter the last stage of their life. At this point their heads will be shaved again and a wife will be found for them by their parents. The Maasai can have numerous wives because having sons equals wealth, so it is beneficial to have as many wives as possible. The females undergo two stages of life: girlhood (ages ~5-13) and womanhood (ages >13). As a girl they help out at home with the cooking, cleaning, and learning how to build the houses. They too undergo “circumcision” (which is just another name for female mutilation…so we were wondering how long that practice will continue…) in order to enter womanhood – where they can be married off by their parents.
The local who was telling us all of this information informed us that things have begun to change. Instead of eating only meat, drinking milk and blood, they now buy beans, potatoes, and flour and only kill on special occasions. There are an increasing number of children who are attending schools, even though there are many more boys than girls going to school. He also mentioned that because he was educated his parents let him choose his bride instead of being in an arranged marriage. It still seems like a very hard life, despite all of the changes that have happened already and that will continue to occur.
We then went and visited his village. In it, there are 21 families and 92 people overall. There are the same number of doors in the wood fence as there are families. Inside the compound, there are stick and cow-dung huts (constructed by the women) for each family as well as enclosures for the sheep, and goats to keep them separate from the cows, who stay in the middle of the compound.
The warriors did a couple of dances for us – and got dad up to dance for one of them as well! It was fun to see. It is hard to know how much is real and how much is put on for show for us crazy tourists. However, there are currently 800,000 Maasai in Kenya today (~5% of the total population) living like this, so I don’t think it was too much show. The women had a market for us to buy things and dad broke down and bought mom a pair of salad spoons without too much negotiating! It was a good and interesting visit – although I definitely wouldn’t want to live that life.
We then proceeded onto the park in order to have our first game drive in the Mara. It was great! The wildebeest migration is happening right now and there were animals as far as the eye could see! Every year approximately 1.5 million of these animals make the migration from the Serengeti here in order to feed and breed. It is pretty amazing. This part of Kenya is the typical “Africa” from the movies with kilometers and kilometers of yellow grass with the odd acai tree here and there. It is really amazing.
We saw some great animals tonight in the short drive! We saw about 4 elephants just inside the park. Then we were able to get a good view of 2 ostriches, which was a first (I guess we saw two on the drive in today, but they didn’t really count because we didn’t stop!). We saw more Thompson Gazelles and Zebras and of course wildebeests. We also were super lucky because we saw a male lion lounging in the grass! It was so spectacular to see! He was a little ways away, but I still got some great pictures! Then, just as we were nearing the end of our time in the park we got to see 2 cheetahs sleeping under a tree! Cheetahs are solitary animals, so it is odd to see them together, so S.K. suspected that they were maybe brothers. We were able to get pretty close to them and it was totally amazing to see these animals! It was a great animal and people day overall! We’ve now seen 4 of the Big Five! Pretty impressive for 5 days here!
Sleep tonight before a long game drive day tomorrow!