Friday, April 27, 2012

We'll Swim to Kimana!

The road out of camp is completely flooded away.  Which means we cannot leave Kilimanjaro bush camp.
But that's alright, because we're metaphorically quarantined by the necessity of completing our typed research portion of the project.  Want to know the title?

Assessment of the impacts of land tenure and land use changes on local livelihoods in Loitokitok District, Kenya

Isn't it just lovely? Now, I know the title doesn't inspire any movie-contracts, or great works of fiction, but the project itself has given me some great stories to share.  And while I do not have the time today to share them all, I'm happy to give you one that is near and dear to my heart:

Our last day of data collection saw us traveling out into the farthest portion of the Kuku Group Ranch.  This area is catered more towards pastoralists, those who keep livestock as their source of income.  Riley, my partner for the day, our guide Ben, and I found ourselves to be the last group to be dropped off, which meant we were the farthest out.  The territory we traveled to was a full 2 hours in the direction opposite of any road, meaning the ride was slow, rough, and bumpy.  We took in our surroundings, noting the lack of water, the spiky vegetation, and the overall lack of any people.  
   By the time we had reached our destination I had caught sight of one man, clothed in full Maasai regalia of red cloths and colorful bead-work, and no one else.  Sipaya, our driver and a man who had dubbed himself my "Kenyan father," smiled broadly at the look of confusion on my face.  Our project was to seek out and interview several people every day.  Where were the people?
   We spent the whole of the morning in a deserted, dry environment.  Dust-devils were in abundance, and the sun was only too-happily coating every bit of exposed skin that it could.  Trouble started, however, when my partner alerted us of her feelings of sickness.  Protocol insisted we radio in to our driver to come pick us up immediately.  The other problem, of course, was that our radio was out of range, and we had no phone service.  Who would expect to, so far out into the bushlands of Kenya?  
   What were we to do?  Simple, in theory.  We were to find an outcropping, and climb up to the highest point to search for service.  The problem is that the area's hills were littered in plants with razor-sharp points, giant boulders, and, of course, any type of wildlife.  Once we found a good hill, Ben assured us that the area was a good one... and then pointedly directed me up the hill.  Ben had determined it would be best if he remained with Riley, and that I would take the radio, and his cellular phone, and climb up the hill.
   I won't go into detail about the scratches and gouges that I retained from the trip.  Also, I won't take long to mention the various critters I met along the way.  I did manage to get a call to Sipaya, and then made my way back down to our group.
   Ben took a moment to mention - quietly so as not to alarm Riley - that he was glad I had returned so quickly, as he had heard the yipping of a hyena in the direction I had been. Also, a few Maasai men had taken it upon themselves to watch over us as they sat, and I stalked the area for service.
   Fantastic.  I was not only an explorer, but a survivor.  It certainly had been an interesting day, and it's interesting to know that this was not my first, but my third time being in such close proximity to the laughing-dogs.  (Well, they're more closely related to weasels, but dogs are what I associate them with).
   We were picked up an hour later, and made our way back safely.  It was a strange ending to our surveying.

1 comment:

  1. I told you you were going to have to swim to the airport.