Wednesday, August 4, 2010

July 30, 2010 Masai Mara and the Great Migration

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We left the tent camp at 8AM this nmorning and drove to the Masai Mara Reserve again. And again we were mobbed by the Masai women peddlers. Some people bought bracelets and then we entered the park. It's surprising how we can get used to seeing some of these animals. Where two days ago we would have squealed over seeing one zebra, now we hardly notice them. The savannah is covered with newly migrated wildebeasts, zebra and other hooved animals, like gazelles, and impala.
The most exciting thing that happened today was an encounter with a small her of elephants. There was one tiny baby and several youngsters. There was a magical feeling being among these elephants. It was so obvious that they are family and protecting one another. We were in the way of where they wanted to walk and they waited for us to move along or to find a way abound us. Kathy was crazy about the elephants and couldn't get enough of them. Soon after, we saw two maned male lions feasting on something recently caught by the nearby lioness'. There were also a couple of cubs.
We drove all day looking for animals: giraffe, zebra, ostrich (doing an amazing dance), lions (we saw a female lion in the brush with four cubs), a serval cat, hartbeasts, wildebeats, hippos, secretary birds, etc. We drove to the Mara river where the migrating animals have to cross and saw an entire colony of hipps laying on the bank. We also saw a dead wildebeast floating in the river with a monitor lizard crawling on its back. We crossed the river (over a bridge) and crossed the Tanzanian border. Then we found a tree to park under to have our box lunches. The savannah is mostly 2-3 ft high grass with a few acacia trees here and there. It looks just like the great plains and the migrating wildebeasts remind me a lot of the old herds of buffalo.
the final excitement of the Reserve trip was the sighting of a cheetah that was walking away from a gazelle it had just finished eating. Yosef took us on a wild ride to get to the site and it was worth it. We got a couple pictures of the cheetah but for me the most interesting things were the 50 or so buzzards (vultures) who were fighting each other for a share of the leftover carcass - fascinating.
We left the reserve at around 3:30 - again we were mobbed at the exit by the Masai women (I bought a string of bracelets for about $6).
We drove to the Masai village for our visit. A young Masai man who spoke English very well (he is attending Nairobi University), was in full Masai dress as were all the other Masai men standing around. He told us a little about the Masai culture and told us we were free to take all the pictures we wanted.
First the Masai men did a dance for us and sang. Some of us joined in. The deep tones of the chanting were very primitive and moving. It was a call and response which ended in a lunge forward at the observers. After dancing, we were shown the Masai houses. They are made from tree branches and dung which is used as an outside coating. A third of the house is for the livestock, they take them into their homes at night. There is a sleeping area for the parents and separate area for the kids. There is a fire pit and that's it. It is very dark inside with light coming only from a round "chimney" in tyhe wall. It is amazing to see how little they have - or need. The entire village is covered with cow dung. The do not seem to care, it is a part of their lives. They also don't seem to pay much attention to the thousands of flies everywhere. Some of the women in the other group had a difficult time being around the dung and flies - especially when many of thge flies were buzzing and landing in numbers on the faces of the toddlers. The Masai feel that the cattle was created at the same time they were and they have lived this way for centuries. We think of the Masai and the cattle together. But it is a who system of Masai, cattle, dung - and flies.
A couple of the women on the tour had brought treats for the children. Amy handled out sugar free gum and someone brought crayons and coloring books, but I doubt that mosdt of the children will actually know what to do with the crayons or have an interest in them. Most children spend their days tending the animals. They love different kinds of food as their diet is very limited and does not have much variety. We saved some of our leftovers from lunch and gave it to the children when we reached the village. They were ecstatic to get it and tore apart the box it was in.
After viewing ther Masai house we watched them show us how to make fire with two sticks. Then tyhe women of the village sang a welcoming song and shook our hands. The women look so beautiful in their colorful cloaks and loads of beaded jewelry. But as I was watching them I wondered how many of them had had to undergo mutilation.
The Masai then let us to their outdoor "store" where we spent a good deal of time looking at handmade items. It seems that the cloaks the Masai wear, come from a manufacturing plant in Tanzania. The "parts" of the necklaces, and the beads are all factory produced.
I bought a necklace, giraffe mask, cowry shell instrument, and a carved giraffe. Kathy bought several beaded and bone necklaces.
We headed back to the tent camp and got ready for dinner. The same group of Masai men cam to perform a dance after dinner and brought goods to sell.
Tomorrow - back to Nairobi for a day of rest.

1 comment:

  1. Finally checking into your amazing blog! Will be showing it to the class starting this week. Hope to read an entry every day until we catch up, and then to follow you as you start your next round of adventures! Can't wait to read more - love the way you share the details. Thanks!