Lion Tracks Outside My Tent NOLS Semester Course in Kenya, 1987
Jim Damico "Mzee Aotolah"
Published by: Jim Damico 7725 Madison Ave Kansas City, MO 64114 â€“ USA www.WanderingTheWorld.com firstname.lastname@example.org ÂŠ 2005 James F Damico All rights reserved No part of this book may be reproduced in any form, or by any electronic, mechanical, or any other means, without the permission in writing from the publisher/author.
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The brochure of the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) described one of their programs in East Africa. I didn't know anyone who had been to Africa. I was looking for a big change and a backpacking trip to Kenya sounded like just the thing. The course described climbing Mount Kenya, a photo safari to Lake Nakuru and Masai Mara, hiking in the Maasai home of Nguruman, flying to the Lamu on the Muslim coast after taking the night train to Mombassa, and sailing down Kenya's coast in an ancient dhow. But besides that, we would see a Kenya that few tourists get a chance to. I would witness a Maasai warrior graduation, find lion tracks outside my tent, sleep in a Maasai boma (house) and get invited to a wedding on Kiwaiyu. I would be gifted with potatoes from a farmer whose kids had never seen a wazungu (white person). And hearing a charging water buffalo ahead on our path is something I'll never forget. NOLS, besides teaching me extensive outdoor skills, would give me a chance of a lifetime to meet another culture on it's own terms, and come away better for it. Ahead you will read the journal I kept during my trip to this East African nation. This was my first real trip anywhere and I wanted to remember it for years to come. You will read about beautiful days and spectacular sunsets, my fellow students and instructors, the people of the cities, country-side and the coast, wild animals like lions and elephants, blistering heat and bonechilling cold, about following animal trails and sailing along in a dhow. And this is my story. Enjoy! "Mzee" Jim
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Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 4 - Jim Damico
I would like to dedicate this trip to Shirlene Damico (my mom). She taught me to "always follow your dreams".
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Table of Contents page Introduction
Introduction Kenya T-Shirt Map Table of Contents Prologue Course Description Kenya Map
3 6 8 11 13 18
New York London
6/7/87 6/8/87 6/9/87
Pigale Hotel Jacaranda Hotel Jacaranda Hotel
20 24 27
NOLS headquarters near Naru Moru NOLS headquarters near Naru Moru
6/12/87 6/13/87 6/14/87 6/15/87 6/16/87 6/17/87 6/18/87 6/19/87 6/20/87 6/21/87 6/22/87 6/23/87 6/24/87 6/25/87 6/26/87 6/27/87 6/28/87 6/29/87 6/30/87
near Mt Kenya access road near Urumandi Hut near "The Gates" staying near "The Gates" campsite in Gorges Valley staying in Gorges Valley in Gorges Valley, near Vivianne Falls back at the campsite near "The Gates" Lake Michaelson staying at Lake Michaelson near Hanging Tarn staying near Hanging Tarn staying near Hanging Tarn near Kami Hut staying near Kami Hut Nanyuki Tarn staying near Nanyuki Tarn staying near Nanyuki Tarn camp between Nanyuki and Burguret Rivers
30 33 37 39 40 44 44 45 47 49 51 52 53 56 57 59 59 63 63
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page Mount Kenya
7/01/87 7/02/87 7/03/87 7/04/87
campsite near Gathiuru campsite along Southern Naru Moru River back at NOLS near Naru Moru staying at NOLS near Naru Moru
65 66 67 69
Lake Nakuru staying near Lake Nakuru
7/07/87 7/08/87 7/09/87 7/10/87
Masai Mara Game Reserve Crocodile Camp in Masai Mara campsite near Keekorrok in Masai Mara campsite near Keekorrok in the Masai Mara
72 72 75 77
7/11/87 7/12/87 7/13/87 7/14/87 7/15/87 7/16/87 7/17/87 7/18/87 7/19/87 7/20/87 7/21/87 7/22/87 7/23/87 7/24/87 7/25/87
campsite near Entesekera campsite near Entesekera campsite near Entesekera campsite near Oloilokitok River campsite on Orkerii River campsite on Entosapia River camp on Ol Keju Lenjutoto River campsite near Lenkototo River resupply camp near Lenkototo River campsite near the Ewaso Nigro River second camp on the Ewaso Nigro River campsite near the Ntuka River end of the Nguruman Section Nairobi Youth Hostel on the 'night train' to Mombassa
82 87 90 91 92 94 94 96 97 98 100 100 101 101 102
7/26/87 7/27/87 7/28/87 7/29/87 7/30/87 7/31/87 8/01/87 8/02/87 8/03/87 8/04/87 8/05/87 8/06/87 8/07/87 8/08/87
at the Castle Inn in Lamu at the Castle Inn in Lamu at the Castle Inn in Lamu at the Castle Inn in Lamu tenting in Matindoni beach on Pate Island on Kiwaiyu Island still on Kiwaiyu Island camping on Kiwaiyu Island another day on Kiwaiyu Island at the Kiwaiyu Olympics last day on Kiwaiyu Island near Mtongawanda on Pate Island back in Matindoni
102 104 105 105 109 110 113 113 115 116 117 123 127 127
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last night in Matindoni
8/10/87 8/11/87 8/12/87 8/13/87
beach-front bandas in Malindi another night at the Silversands in Malindi night train from Mombasa to Nairobi flight leaving Nairobi for London
129 130 133 135
Suggested Reading Kenya Statistics Africa Animals, Birds & Plants
136 139 145
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Prologue I had reached a point in my life that I needed to do something, anything 'different' than what I was doing. I was between careers and not sure where my life was going to lead. So I decided to try and adventure, maybe exploring learning new skills. I searched all the outdoor magazines and sent letters to a dozen mountaineering schools and other outdoor education organizations looking for possible direction. One that stood out was the National Outdoor Leadership School and their Semester in Kenya. I had never met anyone who had even been to Africa, let alone backpack in the bush. After much soul searching, I called the school in Lander WY to make my reservation and found out the course I wanted was full. I was so heart-broken. I had built this adventure as an answer to my prayers and felt greatly disappointed. It probably took me another week to build myself up to try for the next course. I had told myself that if that was full too, I would try for the Semester in Alaska. But the phone rang and with a smile on my face, I signed up for my Kenya adventure. I spent the coming months researching all I could find on Kenya in the local libraries. What I couldn't find here, I sent for. I tried to find every source that was listed on the NOLS reading list. And I spent time each day studying Swahili. And add to all that, looking for the equipment needed for this kind of a trip. So, for a guy who has rarely traveled further than his backyard, I prepared to become a 'globe trotter' â€“ Lion Tracks Outside My Tent
The coldest beer I've ever had was in Kenya. The bottles were covered in ice.
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Course Description - Semester in Kenya The Semester in Kenya is intended to teach and develop outdoor skills needed to safely live, travel, enjoy and conserve wilderness environments. It will provide opportunities to foster the development of leadership potential by skill development, practical experience and discussion. Achieving these goals in Kenya, with its rich diversity of environments and cultures, further enhances the overall experience of the Semester in Kenya. The Semester is both academic and experiential in its approach to learning. Instructors, both Kenyan and American, will give formal and informal classes on a wide range of subjects. Students will be presented opportunities to gain experience firsthand through trial-and-error and ongoing practice. An attitude of mutual sharing and learning from all group members is encouraged. Features of This Course Hiking routes approximately 50-75 miles. Travel on trails and through dense forests Elevations of 0 ft - 16,300 ft Off-trail hiking through bamboo forests Strong inter-cultural component Kiswahili language skills are part of the curriculum Snorkeling to observe marine ecosystem Excellent opportunities to study wildlife Average age = 20 Minimum age = 17 Typical Male/Female ratio = 1:2 Average pack weight = 55-65 lbs Group size: Student/Instructor ratio= 5:1 Expedition Style and Remoteness During your semester, you will hike on Mt. Kenya and in the Nguruman forest, drive and camp on safari, and sail on the Indian Ocean along the northeast Kenya coast. From these areas, evacuation to a medical facility can take several days. While in the field you live outdoors, prepare your own meals, and care for yourself. Between sections you will return to Naro Moru or Nairobi to organize equipment and prepare for the next section. Due to the long travel distances between section areas, all courses will spend a total of several days in transit. On the final day you will return to Nairobi, deissue equipment, complete evaluations, and enjoy a final banquet. While in the field, students are divided into groups of three or four to share the cooking, and the setting up and taking down of camp. You will also hike in small groups, usually of four to six. Initially these groups will include an instructor, but later your group may travel on their own. This allows you to exercise independent judgment-a critical step to becoming an autonomous backcountry leader.
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The experiential format of a NOLS semester emphasizes hands-on learning and the application of new skills in a variety of situations; you learn through personal experience whenever possible. Environment It is common for people to underestimate Mt. Kenya, thinking its location on the equator will make for a benevolent climate. That misconception has resulted in some rude awakenings after dealing with rain and snow for several days above 14,000 feet. The mountain can be cold, with temperatures in the low teens at the higher elevations. At the same time, it can be very hot during the day when you must protect yourself from sunburn and dehydration. It is not uncommon, despite our slow ascent, for students to experience symptoms of being at high altitude. Your instructors are experienced in handling these symptoms of fatigue which can go with hard work at altitude. While a challenge, the opportunity to experience Mt. Kenya as few people do is a satisfying reward. Throughout safari/Nguruman, many people's preconceived images of Africa are realized. However, it is difficult to imagine all that is in store. Observing large concentrations of wild animals on grassland plains is impressive, but nothing quite prepares you for the variety of sounds heard as you camp among those same animals at night! The Nguruman Hills, bordering the Great Rift Valley, have tangled forests and steep ravines to negotiate before breaking out onto the dry Acacia-studded plains. This entire area is home of the Maasai, a proudly traditional tribe whose lifestyle is experiencing the pressures and challenges of a growing nation. The Maasai add to the unique quality of this section as you encounter herdsmen, warriors and settlements almost daily. You may be invited into their homes for tea or even to spend the night. As guests in their land it is we who are often on display and you may find yourself the object of much scrutiny and curiosity. However, this curiosity will be mutual and enjoyable, resulting in memories that will last a lifetime. During the coast section, we will set sail north from Lamu along the coast of Kenya. We will study the ocean environment, explore mangrove channels, learn about tides and waves, and snorkel in the renowned East Africa reef systems. We will snorkel on the reefs while at Kiwaiyu Island and other small islands in the Lamu Archipelago. The First Days Your NOLS Semester in Kenya begins at 8:00 a.m. on your course starting date as shown in your acceptance letter. We will meet by the pool of the Jacaranda Hotel in Nairobi. We will leave from the Jacaranda Hotel for NOLS Headquarters in Naro Moru at 10:00 a.m. Once there, your group will camp at our headquarters for one or two nights while preparing for the Mountain Section. Course Progression The Semester in Kenya is 65 days long and is comprised of two independent groups consisting of 17 students each. One student in each group is a Kenyan who has been awarded a scholarship to participate in the Semester. Three to four instructors will participate on any given section. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 14 - Jim Damico
The semester is made up of three parts: Mountain Section, Safari/Nguruman Section and Coast Section. Both groups begin the Semester with the Mountain Section, then alternate the progression of the remaining two sections. Mountain Section NOLS Kenya Headquarters, located near Naro Moru at the base of Mt. Kenya (17,058 ft.), is the staging point for the Mountain Section. After a day of orientation and outfitting in preparation for this backpacking section, groups depart for different roadheads on the slopes of the mountain. For the next 26 days, you and your group live and learn while exploring this unique equatorial alpine environment. From the start, the emphasis is on building individual and group skills to allow your group to function as an expedition throughout the entire semester. Building from the basic to the advanced, you will hone camping, cooking, map reading, route finding and first aid skills, progressing on to more advanced topics. Combining skill development with leadership experience allows you and your group to deal safely and sensibly with any set of circumstances encountered in this alpine environment and is transferable to any wilderness situation. You will study the geology, glaciology and unusual flora and fauna found on Mt Kenya; and while in the forests, you may see your first cape buffalo, elephant, bushbuck or colobus monkey. Small Group Expedition At the end of the mountain section, students may divide into small groups without instructors to hike different routes down off the mountain to a predetermined pick-up point. This is called the student small group expedition, lasting three to four days, and allows the student group the independence to practice the skills they learned during their first three weeks on Mt. Kenya. Safari/Nguruman Section Each group will spend about one week on safari traveling in NOLS vehicles visiting game parks to observe the wildlife that make Kenya famous. While in the parks we go on morning and evening game drives at a pace conducive to observation and photography. The hot midday hours are set aside for classes and individual study. Class orientation is towards wildlife conservation concerns, animal identification and behavior, and the geography of the environments we visit. All students prepare and present a short talk on the animal or topic of their choice. This sharpens observational skills and allows everyone to benefit from individual research and reading. A small library is carried for this purpose. Throughout safari we camp and cook in small groups. Food rations during this part of the section will depend on what your cook group purchases at local markets. NOLS provides a food money ration for this and also money for meal stops in Kenyan-style restaurants while "on the road." Ordering meals and bargaining for produce using the Kiswahili you have been learning is a challenging and educational experience. The Nguruman section is a two-week hiking expedition that is organized and executed by you and four to five other students. One instructor will accompany you for most of the hike. Appropriate camping, traveling and safety considerations are stressed, allowing you to adapt to both tropical forest and arid environments.
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As you and your fellow students become proficient in the outdoor living skills of the Nguruman environment, your instructor's role becomes less of a teacher and more of a fellow hiking companion. The final three days are a student small group expedition, and time for your small group to independently use the skills learned during the previous 11 days. Most groups also have a Maasai hike with them from the beginning. These Maasai are long time friends of NOLS Kenya, and provide a unique window for us into the lifestyle of the Maasai. After your second section, whether it be safari/Nguruman or the coast, you will return to Nairobi to reorganize gear and promptly move on to your third section. Coast Section The coast section takes us from the high central plateau of Kenya to the Indian Ocean coast. This section offers the greatest opportunity to immerse ourselves in another culture. The hard work invested in the Kiswahili lessons begun on the mountain will pay off on this section, enhancing not only your ability to communicate but your overall experience. Transport to the coast will be by train or air, depending on the logistics specific to your coast section. Most commonly the course takes the train from Nairobi and flies on a commercial airline from Mombasa to the island of Lamu. We immediately begin our orientation to the coastal culture and environment, and spend at least a day in Lamu for classes and to explore the town. The following day we set sail. During this section we will make use of transportation spanning past to present; from modern planes to wooden dhows. Our areas of emphasis on the coast section revolve around the Islamic history and culture and the ocean environment. Both of these are blended well on the island of Lamu, the southern-most island of the string of coastal islands known as the Lamu Archipelago. From Lamu we travel north sailing on two dhows with five person crews of experienced Swahili sailors. Our activities are regulated by the ocean as we depend on the tides, currents and winds to make our two-day journey to Kiwaiyu Island, the remote northern-most island of the Lamu Archipelago. Opportunities for cultural involvement abound: exploring ancient towns, becoming acquainted with and assisting the crew, playing soccer with local teams and volunteer teaching in a village school. The conclusion of the dhow journey does not signal the end of the Coast Section. After the sailing expedition you will spend time in the village of Matandoni on Lamu Island, home of all the crew. Here you will clean all personal and group gear, have time for evaluations with your instructors, and visit the families of the crew. There will also be time to explore Matandoni, a village very similar to as it was 200 years ago. On the final day of the section you will return to Mombasa by bus, then to Nairobi by train. Final Day On the ending date of the course the groups will arrive in Nairobi. Students will check into the Jacaranda Hotel and deissue any NOLS gear they may have used. There will be an end of course banquet in Nairobi that evening. Students may fly out that evening after 10:00 PM but a better option is to make travel plans for the next day or later.
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Dangers and Risks There are risks and dangers inherent in participation in our Semester in Kenya. Some are found on any NOLS course, others are unique to East Africa. On Mt. Kenya we live for extended periods at high altitude and are subjected to a range of mountain weather which can include prolonged rain and cold damp periods. NOLS packs can be heavy and are carried over very rugged terrain. Hiking in the Nguruman hills or on Mt. Kenya means you will wade rivers, backpack on- and off-trail through dense forests, alpine meadows, thick vegetation and bamboo, walk on teetering boulders, and grunt up high mountain passes. Both on Mt. Kenya and during the Nguruman hike we travel through areas inhabited by large, potentially dangerous and unpredictable animals such as cape buffalo, elephant, lion and rhino. The Nguruman has a full complement of poisonous snakes. Throughout the course we travel in NOLS vehicles, or vehicles hired by NOLS, on roads often in bad condition and shared by drivers of dubious ability. Motor vehicle accidents are a leading hazard in travel outside North America. Students will be driven by NOLS staff or private safari drivers during their semester. At the Indian Ocean coast we share the ocean with creatures better adapted to their environment than we are and capable of causing injury to an unaware trespasser. Tropical environments harbor a wide variety of unusual diseases, such as malaria. We are often in remote environments, and it may take several days to be evacuated to a modern medical facility. Many of the wild areas we travel through are inhabited by people. There is a potential risk of robbery, and in urban areas, muggings. We choose the areas we camp in carefully, but cannot guarantee security. This is not meant to discourage you from attending this course. It is meant to candidly inform and increase student awareness of possible risks, allowing you to make an informed decision about your desire to attend this course. Identifying and managing the hazards of moving water, falling and rolling rock, weather, animals, snakes and insects, and falls on steep terrain (risks which could result in injury or death) will be a constant theme in our instruction. The consistent practice of risk management techniques and assumption of responsibility for yourself and other group members will help make your expedition to Kenya healthy and enjoyable. Student Responsibilities We expect students to come ready to learn new skills, adapt to different group living situations and extend their physical capabilities. We do not ask for previous experience in any of the skills presented and we will assist you at every level. Experiencing a foreign country requires flexibility, open-mindedness, and a maturity to accept responsibility for yourself and others in your group.
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June 5, 1987 - New York Mom drove me to the Kansas City airport this morning. She wanted to sit with me while I waited but I asked her not to. It seemed like a waste of time. So, reluctantly she dropped me off at the curb. We said our good byes and I gave her a hug. While sitting in New York's Kennedy Airport, my hometown ‘international’ airport reminds me more of a country town bus station, small, quiet, and laid back. My vision of New York City has an obsession with BIG, and so does it’s airport. To kill some time I tried to walk to all the airport terminals. After an hour I'd only covered half the way around, so I had to cut across back to British Airways so I wouldn’t be late for my flight. I had switched planes in Pittsburgh, which might not be as big as Kennedy but it sure didn't lack for people. Walking through the Pittsburgh terminal, it was so crowded I thought I had already arrived on a downtown New York sidewalk. My luggage made it and now is booked all the way through to Nairobi. I just hope it gets there. Nothing feels right though! I'm a little nervous about flying. But for someone who has only flown a half a dozen times in a lifetime, I guess it was no more than usual. And unlike my tearful departure moving to Utah several years back, I'm quite unemotional. Shouldn't I be nervous, excited or even scared? I'm traveling halfway around the world to a place most people only see on a National Geographic special.
6 June 1987 - London, UK I arrived bright and early in London this morning after a night flight from New York. Walking out into cool and damp England, is quite a change from hot and muggy New York . During the flight I sat next to a Frenchman from Nice returning home after business in the US and we had a good time. I told him about my trip to Kenya and he told me about his upcoming holiday in Corsica. He also highly recommended a visit to Paris. We had a lot of fun joking about the food on the flight. And being French, he had a lot to say about it. Waiting to board in New York, I was awed by the size of the plane. A man could easily walk into the engines. And inside it was ten seats across, twice as wide as any plane I had ever been on before. Since my bags were checked on through to Nairobi, I was out of the plane and through customs in less than ten minutes. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 19 - Jim Damico
Since I only slept about thirty minutes last night on the plane, I was glad to take a nap at my Uncle Chuck’s. He works at the US Embassy in London. Later I had a good old American meal, barbecued chicken, with his family. I saw a little of London. It would take me a while to have the courage (or insanity) to ride a bike here. It seems very much like a demolition derby, right of way going to who ever had the nerve. The streets barely had enough room for one car, let along cars going in both directions. But my uncle didn’t seem a bit concerned. Now that I’m waiting for the plane taking me to Nairobi, I’m getting a little nervous.
7 June 1987 - Nairobi A trip that started out so well, now is a nightmare. But let’s start in London. Again, I boarded a big 747. While waiting, I also got to see a Concorde SST take off. It seemed so small when compared to the other aircraft, but it did look very fast. The 7½ hour night flight was no worse than the one from New York, mainly because I sat next to a nice fellow. He was about sixty and traveling on to Johannesburg. But unlike me, he wasn’t a tourist. He told me he had only just bought his tickets that day because of an emergency. His father was very ill in Durban, South Africa. But I thought he was handling the news of his father well, saying “I guess we all have to go sometime.” We talked about my trip and I showed him where Kansas City was on the map. He was very interested in the Iran-Contra hearings. The bad thing was that I had the window seat and I couldn’t move about the plane without disturbing the other two gentlemen sleeping next to me during the long flight. And I slept even less on this flight. Even if you don’t consider the eight hours I lost in crossing time zones, I’ve only had two hours sleep in 48 hours. We landed at Kenyatta International Airport just at sunrise. I saw my first African animals from the plane as we taxied to the terminal. Two impala, or something like that, could be seen in the planes lights. After unboarding, passengers went first to passport control. Very cold people, no smiles, suspicious and to me, quite rude. The clerk didn’t seem to believe I’d be a tourist here in Kenya for three months. He didn’t seem to understand that I was to be traveling all over the country. He demanded to know what hotel I was going to be staying at. I think he understood, but was just being difficult. Finally, I told him I’d be staying a NOLS with their headquarters was in Naro Moru. He reluctantly accepted that. My bags seemed to be the last off the plane, making me quite nervous while waiting. Customs was also very suspicious but they were having trouble opening my bag’s zipper, so he waved me past.
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Things lightened up a bit when I changed money. NOLS suggested exchanging about a $100 US dollars into Kenyan shillings to start with. The exchange rate is 16 Kenyan shillings to the dollar. I had to sign for this and that, while the clerk seemed to want to stamp everything, including my receipts. I was just confused enough to walk away without my Kenyan money. The clerk stopped me and we both laughed. The airport was just what I would imagine in a third world country. Bare with only the most needed essentials. Police and soldiers were everywhere. It was instant culture shock for this Midwestern guy and I wasnâ€™t even out of the airport yet. While British Airways was regal and advanced, the Nairobi airport was poor and backward. It reminded me of a run-down bus station in a poor rural town in America instead of an international airport in the capital city of another country. Outside of customs, it was no better. Because I was one of the last passengers from my flight, I was mobbed at the exit by taxi drivers. I picked the first kind face and asked where the Kenya Airways bus loaded at. The literature sent by NOLS said the shuttle bus to Nairobi was cheaper than a taxi. Several other drivers jumped in saying it was shift change and the bus wouldnâ€™t be here for a while. What was I to do? I felt lost and tired. I picked a driver at random asked to be taken to the Pigale Hotel, an inexpensive one frequented by Peace Corps volunteers.
After my long overnight flight from London, this was the view from my room at the Pigale Hotel in downtown Nairobi. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 21 - Jim Damico
I was think I was getting used to the differences between my sheltered existence in Missouri and this African country when I got into the taxi. It didn’t shock me at all when the driver loaded my bags into a trunk with no locks, and that he had to open my door through the window because it had no door handles. The drive outside the city was so peaceful, just after sunrise. But as we approached the city, things started not to look so good. People walked along the highway almost like zombies, no smiles, no life in their steps. The streets began to be covered in mud and dirt. I wasn’t too shocked to see Kenyans drive the same crazy way here as in England. We drove past some high-rise buildings but as we went, the city didn’t get better. As the skies became overcast, Nairobi seemed to me to be a dingy slum. We finally came to the Pigale Hotel. Just a door on a street with a bunch of shops. The clerk was not unfriendly, just indifferent. My room was on the third floor. And to my surprise, it was clean and the bed firm but comfortable. And the bathroom was relatively clean too. I’m not sure what I expected. The view from my window was divided into three parts. You could see other tall buildings several blocks away. In front of those and most striking was a mosque. It was mostly white, thin towers on each side of several onion shaped domes with a large one in the middle. In front of it and directly below me was the alley and the rusted tin roofs of the shops, pigeons everywhere. I began to ask myself the very serious question of why I came to Africa and Nairobi. I tried to catch up on some sleep, but after two hours, I gave up. I thought maybe a walk, some fresh air, some food perhaps would do me a lot of good. I just headed in the direction of the bigger hotels. I thought an American style meal could more easily be found in a hotel that catered to American and European tourists. I was nervous but tried to keep my fear down to a minimum. That took some doing. It was many blocks before I saw another white face on the crowded streets. Because of some of the magazine articles I read before I came to Africa, I wasn’t surprised when a man started to walk with me. He was very friendly and asked a lot of questions about America. He finally made his pitch to be a tour guide. I thanked him but said I was already part of an organized group. He thanked me for my time and said good bye. Almost immediately another man appeared. He identified himself as working for the government and wanted to know what I was talking about to the other man who had just left. A second man appeared, his “supervisor” he said. The both started to talk about bad political elements trying to subvert the Kenyan government. They claimed the gentleman I had been talking to was not a Kenyan, but a Ugandan. They had been following him and he was to be arrested. They wanted to talk to me about what he said. I told them what little I knew and said I was just out for a walk to find something to eat.
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Dear Mom & family, Well, I arrived safely and all my bags made it too. London was cloudy and cool but not unpleasant. Unlike New York which was hot and muggy. It was very hard to sleep on the plane. I've only had about a two hour nap in the last 48 hours. Not a good thing because it left me very little strength mentally. I was totally unprepared for Nairobi. It looked like any other city from the air. First, I went to passport control, very cold people almost rude. Customs was very suspicious. Changing money was cheerful. I almost forgot to get my Kenyan money and the teller and I laughed. Outside I was mobbed by taxi drivers. The taxi's here are in bad shape but my driver was friendly. As we drove through town, I was shocked. A fresh rain really brings out the best or worst in a place. Here it was the worst. Worse than any slum area I've seen. After I closed my eyes for a couple of hours at the hotel, I couldn't sleep so I went for a walk. Most people didn't pay any attention to me. Never mind I was the only foreigner I could see for blocks in any direction. I was hungry but couldn't eat, and sleepy but couldn't sleep. Finally, I couldn't take it anymore. I checked out and went to another hotel farther from downtown Nairobi. Don't worry. I sincerely believe that the rest of my trip can only be better because it's outside of Nairobi. I didn't feel much when I left you in Kansas City but I miss you all a lot right now. Be happy and I'll write a lot. Jim
Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 23 - Jim Damico
I don’t know if I was leading them on or me following but we kept walking. I just wanted the security of other tourists, so I just kept trying to find a big hotel. The stopped me several times to go into dark, dingy local restaurants but I said it wasn’t what I was looking for. Finally, I gave in when we found something that reminded me of Dairy Queen. Then we were joined by a third man. I was tired, weak and very confused. I didn’t really believe that they were from the police but there seemed an outside chance I was wrong. I just didn’t know. As we talked, they began to get sarcastic and belligerent. They told me I had only two chances, pay the bail money so the Ugandan could be released and deported or I could be taken directly to the police and be brought to court with him. I thought I called their bluff, and said I wouldn’t pay. I started to leave the restaurant, but two headed out in front of me, with the other one following behind. I tried to go the opposite direction but they confronted me again. Once outside, I tried to stop the first tourist I saw. He spoke Italian, but not English. I felt trapped! Then another man joined them and I gave up. They wanted 200 shillings, about $125 dollars. I told them I didn’t have that much and opened up my wallet right there on busy sidewalk. That seemed to make them very nervous. They didn’t take all my money just about 80 shillings and $30 dollars I hadn’t exchanged yet. I said I needed money for dinner and a taxi, so they left me the rest. After pocketing my cash, they directed me towards the Hilton where I could get a traveler’s check cashed. I guess they weren’t completely heartless con-men. I walked direct to the hotel to cash a traveler’s check and to be with other tourists. I was badly shaken. I just couldn’t stay at the Pigale Hotel or move around the city like I wanted to. At that hotel, every voice seemed to be foreign. I was probably the only American. I telephoned the Jacaranda Hotel, the meeting place for our NOLS group, and asked for a room. I got a taxi and checked out. So not only did I loose the money to the con men but also the money I had spent for the room. I should have gone to the Jacaranda in the first place but I was trying to save a few bucks. The hotel was in the outskirts of Nairobi and in a much better neighborhood. It had a restaurant, breakfast was part of the room rates, a pool and was only $30 US dollars a night. Great start on my trip, wouldn’t you think?
8 June, 1987 - Nairobi - Jacaranda Hotel You can tell I’m a pretty green tourist because I declared every American dollar I had. After meeting some of the other NOLS students, most were prepared to make a little money on the black market. They have very strict currency laws here. As you enter the country, you are given a currency declaration form. And every time you change money, it must be noted on the form. Because I didn’t want any trouble at the airport when I was leaving Kenya at the end of the summer, I worried about the $30 US dollars I had declared when I arrived. I called the American Embassy and they told me a police report was all I needed . I only went to the police station because I thought I had to. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 24 - Jim Damico
The police station near the Jacaranda told me that I’d have to go to the Central Police Station in downtown because that is where the crime occurred. It was not a very impressive building, one story with a parking lot only big enough for a few cars. Being a tourist, I was very out of place. All I could think of were images form the movie “Midnight Express” about an American jailed in Turkey for smuggling hereon. I was grateful that people speak English here. The inspector I talked to was well dressed. Actually, he was dressed a lot better than some of the Kansas City detectives I’ve seen. While he asked me questions for the report, what struck me as different was his fingernails. The nails on his index fingers were at least two inches long. The police report was written in English. Sitting out by the hotel pool with five or six waiters standing around the bar, a grade school class is getting swimming lessons while a woman is sweeping the walkways with a crude broom. Yesterday afternoon you could hear drums and singing off in the distance. It rained hard in the early evening and it’s still cloudy today. I heard what I thought were geese flying overhead, but as they got nearer I saw that they had long bills that curved downward. I just wish I could describe the city to you. I don’t know if I could take any pictures without feeling embarrassed or ashamed. I met a few of the other NOLS students today, Seth and Frank. They were just on their way to Karen Blixen’s farm. I should have gone with them. I imagine the story of my being robbed will get around the group. You probably get the impression that their couldn’t be a poorer place on earth. That’s not really right. I see a lot of brand new Izuzu vans on the roads, and very clean considering all the mud seen on the streets and roads. I guess it might be amusing that the first building you see on the drive from the airport is a GM factory. But a pedestrian has to be quite careful here. There are no street lights or stop signs. And on several occasions I looked the wrong direction and almost got run over (they drive on the left, like the Europeans). Just as my reading suggested, most shops are run by Indians. I saw a lot of Kenyan street vendors selling whatever they could carry, like several bags of some type of fruit. One surprise though was the prolific business several flower vendors had. Not just the flowers themselves, but flower arrangements bought by Kenyans. I guess in most ways, Kenya, at least Nairobi, is very British-European. You buy drugs at a chemist shop and bread is bought at a bakery. I met about half of the group today. I think I’m the oldest by at least 6 or 7 years. One girl just graduated from high school. For dinner, about 15 of us had Kenyan pizza, similar but different. Back at the hotel, we met one of the instructors named Jim. He’d only been here a month and most of that was in Naro Moru. On the whole, the group are between eighteen and twenty, and equally divided among the sexes. A few of us stayed to talk to Jim but the rest went to the casino. But they could blow the money. Just from the way everyone talked, I imagined that their parents paid for part or all of the trip to Kenya. I wish I was so lucky. My robbery was a good topic for awhile. At the Pizza Palace, the hot topic was AIDS. A bunch went out drinking and dancing the night before. They saw plenty of prostitutes. I’m getting a good feeling finally. Even though the others in the group are all younger, it kind of makes me feel younger. The coarse will be hard but with some of these people, it won’t be boring. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 25 - Jim Damico
After getting robbed, I had to go to the police station to fill out a report. But the station was like something out of 'Midnight Express'. I was almost more frightened in that dark room talking to a detective than out on the street being robbed. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 26 - Jim Damico
9 June, 1987 - Jacaranda Hotel, Nairobi The last of our group arrived this morning from the airport. It’s almost as if we’re taking over the hotel with NOLS students and instructors everywhere. A lot of people are pretty laid back today. We won’t be able to mail any letters for another three or four weeks while climbing Mount Kenya, so everyone is sitting around the pool writing back home. I think those of us that have been here a few days are ready to go. The few that went out on a tour of Karen Blixen’s home yesterday said the drive through the country-side was beautiful. I’ll just be glad to get out of the urban squalor of Nairobi. After all the time I spent studying Swahili in the months leading up to the trip, I have been having a hard time remembering any of it. I can remember a word just not the meaning. One sad thing is that we’ll be divided into two groups before the mountain section and we won’t see each other till the end of the course, but maybe one day in Nairobi between sections. It seems the friends I’ve made in the last few days are all in the other group. After dinner, a lot of people wanted to go to the casino. I knew the odds are against you but I thought “What the hell!” I watched for awhile, then lost 100 shillings playing blackjack. But I had a good time. One of our group, Dave, was up about 1100 shillings but ended the night with 300. I tried to haggle my first taxi driver but she wouldn’t budge. I didn’t mind, where else can you ride a Mercedes taxi. To my surprise, people are really warming up to me. I mean actually seeking me out. I had taken off my ear cuff thinking that they wouldn’t think it was too cool. But most of the girls have really complimented me on it. I guess everyone doesn’t want me to feel out of place. These kids come from wealthy families from the Eastern US, and are attending the most prestigious schools like Yale and Stanford. So, not only am I the oldest in the group, but probably the poorest. The other surprising thing is that quite a few already know of each other. Tomorrow’s the big day! I know everyone will do fine but I think it’s going to be a big adjustment to some. Some of these guys are really party animals, and I others don’t look like they’ve ever roughed it in the outdoors.
10 June, 1987 - Naru Moru at the NOLS headquarters This morning we had a meeting at the Jacaranda where we met a few of the instructors, Jim and Lisa from America and another from Kenya. We also got to meet Steve, the NOLS Kenya director. And then after lunch, we loaded up the buses and headed for Naru Moru. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 27 - Jim Damico
Dear Mom, If you got my first letter, it was pretty down. But I wanted to get another letter to you before we leave for Mount Kenya. Yesterday I met about half the group. It seems as if everyone is staying in the same hotel. Most of the others are very young, about 18-20 years old. But they do seem like a fun bunch. I'm making friends pretty well. I just wish there were a few older students. The oldest besides me is only 23 and the youngest is a girl who just graduated from high school. I think we're all very excited. Tomorrow we all meet the instructors and go over the course details. Then its off to Naro Moru in the afternoon. Thursday we get all of our equipment and Friday begins our three weeks on the mountain. After pizza last night, we had a few drinks with one of our instructors. Nice guy. He's from Canada and has only been here a month. He even brought his mountain bike. I admit at first I felt very alone and scared but my confidence builds everyday. I think it will get a lot better once we're out of the urban squaller of Nairobi. I guess it's like any city really. People don't smile and their walking seems lifeless. A few of the group went on a tour of Karen Blixen's farm and said the people were so different in the country, a lot friendlier and happy. I just didn't want you to worry about me having a terrible time. I'm really getting excited. And don't worry, you'll be able to read a more detailed account of what's been happening when I get home. I've only been here two days and already have eight pages written in my journal. So until the next time, be happy. Love, Jim
Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 28 - Jim Damico
Once outside Nairobi, we headed north. You noticed at once, the heavy agriculture of the land. People plant crops, mostly coffee, corn and bananas. Everywhere we saw corn planted down the median strip of the divided highway. The terrain began to get more rugged the farther we got from Nairobi. Crops were planted on the steepest hillsides. Most prevalent color was the deep red earth. It covered everything. Even though this was the major highway north out of Nairobi, with plenty of tourist attractions in this direction, people still stared at our bus full of white faces as if they’d never seen people like us. Besides a few trucks, the only vehicles on the road were small buses called matatus. Other than walking, this is what people use to go farther distances. All they are is a small pickup truck with a hard shell. The benches in back hold fourteen, at least that’s the law. Each matatu is privately owned and rates are decided on the spot. So, more money can be made by packing more people on. This is made worse by the crazy way Kenyans drive. Even our Kenyan driver passed slower traffic on the crest of the hills. Lisa pointed out a police checkpoint that is cracking down on the overcrowding, apparently because of so many bad accidents. The other mode of transport is on foot. The paths along the road were well worn and full of people. The road narrows with the shoulders being grazed by cattle and goats. We passed a few towns along the way. Most buildings were simple one story structures with tin roofs. The higher we got, the fewer crops you see. Towards the mountain, the land is old grazing land because it doesn’t get enough rain. But on the mountain, there is a lot of clouds and rain, so crops are grown there. Finally we pulled into the NOLS compound. What a wonderful place. The main building is an old farm house, pristine white walls with a wood shingle roof. The inside is mainly used for meetings, staff offices, and storage. Outside the lawn is crowded on all sides by the jungle forest. To one side of the house is the outhouse and nearby is the outdoor shower. To bath, you hauled water warmed by fire up to an overhead container. Then, you stepped in and pulled a cord. Our front, between the house and stream, tents were set up for us to sleep in that night. And the heart of the compound was the open air cooking and dinning area out back, a collection of tables under an a roof. Some of the staff lived in other out buildings near the main house. Later we had a great meal of chili, salad and cornbread. Everything is so different. We can hear the river nearby. The moon is out and we got a brief glimpse of Mount Kenya through a break in the clouds.
11 June, 1987 - Naru Moru at the NOLS headquarters Last night we had our first lesson, lighting a lantern safely. We all knew how but it was the first lesson taught by Kagambi, one of the Kenyan instructors. Today, we spent going over personal gear for the mountain section of our semester course. Besides the items we brought from home, we were also issued gear like backpacks, tents, and stoves. Then Lisa gave us a lesson on packing a backpack out on the lawn. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 29 - Jim Damico
After lunch, we were issued our food for the next nine days, about thirteen pounds per person. Our group of fifteen was divided into tent/cooking groups. Mine includes Maria and Peter, a Kenyan scholarship student. We’ll be tent-mates, probably till the next food drop. Our food rations are mostly powders, beans, and a lot of spices. Not very appetizing but in eight days, who knows? The group has quieted down a lot, no doubt because our minds are on Mount Kenya. Really the most talked about topic is getting one last shower before the mountain section which will last three weeks. The weather here today was very sunny and warm but the mountain was shrouded in the clouds.
The “House” is an old colonial farm house in the Kenyan Highlands near the town of Naro Moru. While the house was used as offices and storage, all the students and instructors camped on the front lawn
12 June 1987 - near Mount Kenya access road Last night we had a slide show of Mount Kenya. I just can’t describe the pictures. The whole group was awed. We just sat there in silence and drank in the majesty of the mountain. I never imagined scenes such as these. Later we all sat around a campfire and sang. It was the last time the two groups will be together. This morning, the first group left for the mountain. It was kind of sad because a lot of us had been together almost a week. Frank and Seth were the first NOLS students I met once I arrived in Nairobi, and they were in that group. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 30 - Jim Damico
Meals at the House were served cafeteria-style outdoors. The kitchen area was a grill at the far right. The store room in the back is the staff-run store where they sold items such as t-shirts & postcards.
Lisa gives us one of our first lessons on how to pack a backpack. We needed to learn some basics at the House before the mountain section began. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 31 - Jim Damico
NOLS Summer 1987 Semester-in-Kenya Group Charlie, Annie, Marshall, Margaret, Angus, Dave, Brian, Jim, Liz, Bo & Katy Harvard, Jack, Kigambi, Maria, Amy, Mbugwa, Becky & Mike (not shown) Duritu, Steve, Merl, Lisa
We left Naro Moru about 2pm in the land rovers. I must tell you that our land rover had no suspension. So the first two or three kilometers to the main highway was a bone crushing, teeth mashing ride, especially since I sat at the very back. We took the highway north to travel around to the eastern side of Mount Kenya. At first, the terrain was rolling fields, very green with wheat and sugar cane. Like the roads around Nairobi, the shoulder was covered with a mixture of maize (corn), beans and potatoes. Plus a lot of the fields between us and the mountain were used for grazing. Our drive had two breaks. First we had to stop because of a bad wheel and then we were stopped by the police at one of their checkpoints. It turned out the land roverâ€™s registration had expired a week before and a mirror was busted. We thought there would be a big hassle, but the policeman let us go if we promised to get everything fixed. As we neared Meru, the terrain began to get very mountainous and steep. But that didnâ€™t seem to stop people from growing coffee and bananas in this area. From there, we soon started moving directly toward the mountain. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 32 - Jim Damico
The road, unfortunately, was dirt and mud. The road out of the NOLS headquarters was smooth compared to this one. Steve, the NOLS director, was our driver and he was very aggressive on this road. We moved along way, maybe ten or fifteen kilometers before the vehicle began to get stuck. As it started to get dark, we turned back about a kilometer to camp in a meadow.
13 June 1987 - near Urumandi Hut Last night, after a quick lesson on setting up the tents and building latrines, we went to bed. We had traveled over five hours. Peter, whose Kikuyu name was Mbugwa, talked with me about the differences between the people living near the mountain. Mbugwa said you could tell a lot by how the women carried their loads. Kikuyu women used a sling over the forehead to carry a heavy load, but that Moro women used a crossing pattern across their chest. We also talked about traditions, especially what it takes to get married in Kenya. In the Kikuyu, to buy a bride used to cost about five cows, thirty sheep and another thirty goats. But now costs about 80,000 shillings ($5000). Mbugwa said that many men just get the girls pregnant and then it only costs about 750 shillings because the parents want the child to have a father. After a good nights sleep, we broke camp early to make another assault on the mountain access road. Our first meal for breakfast was macaroni and cheese, a tradition Lisa tells us. We loaded up the land rovers and set off. We did make another five or six kilometers before the truck with our gear got stuck again. After unloading it, we started to hike the last three or four kilometers on foot. I was a Boy Scout for a long time but I don’t remember ever carrying a sixty pound pack. We split up into three groups and while the others started up, we did some exploring of the surrounding bamboo forest. The meadow we had camped in last night was in a dense forest that surrounds the mountain. But as you move up in elevation, the trees thin out and the bamboo begins to dominate. We just walked a ways into the bamboo, following paths made in the thick growth by elephants. You could find their scat (shit) everywhere. We sat down and just listened to the sound of the forest. It took us about an hour and a half to make it to our second campsite. The forest here only has large trees covered with moss and lichen. The walk was very steep. To give you an idea, Nairobi is at 5000’, Naro Moru is at 7000’, and our present camp is about at 9000’. We had lessons on minimum impact camp site selection and again another on latrines. Quiz: How many times does the average elephant shit and how much does it weigh? It’s the same number: 17 times and 17 pounds. We also talked about the importance of staying dry and how to dry things out that did get wet. The weather here has been very misty with rain off and on throughout the day. I don’t like the thought of getting wet but I’m pretty dry right now and the group is a lot of fun. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 33 - Jim Damico
We rode around the far side of Mount Kenya for the mountain section of our course. In the background is tropical forest, which might explain the muddy access road. We couldnâ€™t get any traction for our supply truck so we literally lifted the back-end up and back onto the road.
Our first camp was an old lake bed, that was now nothing more than a bog. But it was the only place flat enough for our tents. Lisa said it was tradition to have macaroni and cheese as a first meal of a camping trip because it would bring us luck. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 34 - Jim Damico
We split into three smaller groups, a practice we would do every leg of our hike on Mount Kenya. As the other two groups went on ahead, we explored the thick bamboo forest on either side of the road. We sat in silence with the sun barely seeping through the forest canopy above.
As would happen occasionally, our hiking groups would meet-up and walk together. Even following the access road, the mist makes it hard to get our bearings. At one fork in the road, several people went ahead to see if it was the right direction. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 35 - Jim Damico
The first leg of the course was by far the hardest hike of the summer, probably because of the heavy packs which held all our gear & food for 8 days on the mountain. I really donâ€™t think anyone truly appreciated the quiet sounds of the mountain shrouded in that white mist.
Dave Watson and I became friends instantly, but neither of us know exactly why. By the time we started the hike up Mount Kenya, you would have thought Dave and I had been friends for years. Our first hike was Âž kilometer through the mountain tropical zone, a lot of mist, bamboo and moss-covered trees. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 36 - Jim Damico
14 June, 1987 - near “The Gates” We broke camp about 9am and again we split up into three groups for the hike. Our packs were a little heavier because we were carrying Liz’s gear after she got sick. Today, our group hit the trial first. But after a while, another one of the girls were getting sick. Amy felt dizzy and needed to go head off into the bushes a lot . Then she began to throw up the water she was drinking. Soon we were overtaken by the other two groups. We decided to split up some of Amy’s gear too. During one of our many rest breaks, Mike gave us our beginning map reading lesson. As Lisa later told me, you can only train for altitude at altitude. So that even if you’re in great physical shape down below, it has little bearing on how well you will do on the mountain. I was very impressed by the girls though. They also carried some of Liz and Amy’s gear and hiked as good as any of the big guys in the group. We hiked about four or five kilometers, but just before reaching our campsite, Amy fainted. One of the guys that had already arrived at camp came out to meet us and carried Amy’s pack. She made it to camp being helped. Our campsite was at 10,800 feet. We had woke up this morning to our first day of clear skies and it continued throughout the day. A fog moved towards us from below but receded just as fast as it came. I think some of us were even sunburned. The view was incredible. We thought we could even see one of the peaks in the distance. After making camp, we explored. We are camped right along side a good sized stream with a lot of boulders. A little farther downstream was a magnificent waterfall, about a forty foot drop. Everything was so beautiful.
At the end of the access road, our backpacking would follow streams up the mountain to the glaciers that were their source. Mike, one of our instructors, looks down upon a small waterfall. Marshall even supplied us with a fishy snack out of this stream using a safety-pin and string.
Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 37 - Jim Damico
Because we stayed at this camp a few days to acclimate to the altitude, some of has a chance to explore the waterfalls. Believe me, that water is as cold as it looks.
We were given a talk on the dangers on the trail due to elephants and water buffalo. Kagambi told us to make lots of noise while we hiked to tell the animals we were coming. The dangerous animal is a surprised one. Next Kagambi gave us another kiswahili lesson on greetings. But my favorite class came next, baking class. Lisa showed us how to make a pizza and Mike showed us how to make cinnamon rolls. Our cooking group was inspired so we attempted a pizza with a whole wheat crust, cheese, tomato sauce, onions and mushrooms. Mmmmm, heavenly! I could have eaten a lot more. After dinner, we sat around the campfire talking about why we came to Kenya and what kind of goals we had. Iâ€™m not sure exactly why I came but reading my journal and looking at my pictures will give you an idea why Iâ€™m glad I did, whatever the reason. Camp had been covered by mist and fog since sunset. But before going to bed, clear skies above showed me more stars than I had ever seen before. The sight was awe inspiring. Later in our tent, Maria, Mbugwa and I were asked to make a poem for Marshal for his birthday tomorrow. Lisa is planning to make a birthday cake and each group will give presents. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 38 - Jim Damico
Imagine waking up at dawn, while everyone else is still sleeping. A short walk in the morning air, just outside of camp, you look up and behold - a sea of white clouds! You alone see the sun rise while the people down the mountain still sleep in darkness.
15 June, 1987 - staying near â€œThe Gatesâ€? Today I awoke at sunrise. The valley below was covered by a blanket of clouds. It was very cold but sitting in the sun was wonderful. I got real cocky and decided to make coffee cake, not a simple task. We just finished baking it just as kiswahili class started. We let it cool and then let everyone sample it. Just wonderful, especially considering I cooked it on a kerosene stove in the middle of nowhere.
We learned to make pizza over a camp stove, & chef Damico made an attempt at coffee cake for breakfast. We celebrated our first birthday, Marshall's,complete with a birthday cake. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 39 - Jim Damico
We spent three days in one camp to give everyone a chance to acclimate to the altitude. During breaks between classes we had some time to explore the surrounding country-side. About the only vegetation up this high is tussock grass.
16 June 1987 - campsite in Gorges Valley I was the first one up this morning at the crack of dawn. It was light but the sun hadn’t yet come over the ridge. But what I saw was so magnificent. The whole valley, as far as the eye could see, was a blanket of clouds. It felt as if I was at the edge of the world. Yesterday we celebrated Marshal’s 22nd birthday. After dinner, we gathered around the campfire and read the poems each group had been working on as a gift to Marshal. We played charades till 9pm and then Lisa brought out the birthday cake she had been working on all day. It was great. We ended the evening doing some singing. Last night has probably been the best nights sleep I’ve had since I arrived in Kenya. Mbugwa cooked uji, a corn meal porridge this morning for breakfast. It was so good, so I had two big bowls full. Maria, Mbugwa and I have made a pretty good team. We were the first ones ready to break camp, even before our instructors. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 40 - Jim Damico
At first glance Gorges Valley looks like an easy hike but the valley floor had bogs of marsh everywhere. With tussock grass reaching 3 feet, you felt as if you were hiking for miles in the bushes.
Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 41 - Jim Damico
Our first look a Vivanne Falls. A few days after we set up camp here, Mbugwa and I went on a scouting trip to look for a good hike up out of the valley. Even with no backpacks, we struggled just to get halfway up.
Dave ponders our coming trek up and out of the valley. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 42 - Jim Damico
One of the things we are learning on this course is minimum impact camping and that includes latrines. Out here in this fragile environment, that means “no toilet paper.” I have to admit when Dave told me “no toilet paper” back in Naro Moru, I was very skeptical. I’d never heard of such a thing. But everyday it seems more normal just to grab some grass or a few leaves and head out to find a good spot with a view. We left camp about 9am, following the ridge north of Gorges Valley. At about 11,700 feet, we started to traverse the mountainside. During the traverse, the shrubs were about five feet high amongst plenty of rocks and tusic grass. But once deep onto the valley floor, a smaller shrub was our key to a good trail because the tusic grass was almost impossible to hike through. We dropped our packs at a good campsite and scouted out ahead. We got our first glimpse of Vivienne Falls, over 1500 feet high. Bo and I went climbing up the valley walls where we found a good size waterfall just opposite our camp. I loved it, just enough rock climbing to make it challenging. I could look over the entire valley. While we sat looking down on the campsite far below, we couldn’t help but notice the wind was very strong through the valley. Below we could see Angus was setting up his tent. All of a sudden the wind took it up the valley with Angus in close pursuit. I don’t think it would have stopped except it finally fell into the Nithie River. I haven’t laughed that hard in awhile. The weather has been great, even a little hot. I think a lot of people will be sunburnt today. Two groups got to the campsite early in the afternoon. The last group that has the two sick girls, Liz and Amy, took their a little more time getting here.
Because the valley had little in the way of large vegetation or rough terrain, winds built up to gale force (or so it seemed). A close look at this picture you find a tent on the left rolling downwind with Angus in close pursuit. The depression made by the small stream in the valley was the only thing that stopped the tent from traveling all the way to Viviane Falls. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 43 - Jim Damico
17 June 1987 – staying in Gorges Valley Nothing much happened yesterday until after dinner. A lot of us had headaches. Maria had one too, so she went to get some aspirin. She took two Tylenol but began to think she shouldn’t have. She told us she had taken Tylenol once before and fainted. After telling us this, she almost immediately began to get very cold. She put on more clothes and started to walk around camp to get warmer. She told me she felt very sick. I sent someone for Mike and Lisa while I had to help her walk. Suddenly she fainted. We tried to get her up and into the tent but she passed out again. By this time she started to vomit. After yelling for more help, Mike and Lisa got there almost immediately from the far side of camp. We lifted her into the tent and began to cover her with more sleeping bags. Her teeth were chattering badly but she felt warm. Because she didn’t have any consistent symptoms of malaria, altitude sickness or allergic reaction to the Tylenol, it was decided to watch her and ride it out. I stayed with her and kept talking to her while Mike and Lisa planned there next course of action. We kept taking her vital signs and discussing our options. I just wanted her to stay conscious. When I ran out of things to talk about, I just started to make things up. At one point when Mike was taking her temperature (don’t ask), I might have mentioned the crush she had on our instructor. She blushed and laughed at the same time, a good sign. While we waited, we discussed the possibility of how to evacuate Maria and what each person’s role should be. Occasionally, they would ask my opinion, but while listening to Mike and Lisa, I became very confident in their professional skills. About midnight, Maria was sound asleep and I decided to get some sleep myself. This morning she was feeling tired and weak, but a lot better. While it was decided to take a day off from hiking to let Maria recover, along with allowing Liz and Amy get used to the altitude, Mbugwa and I decided to scout ahead toward Vivienne Falls.
18 June 1987 - in Gorges Valley, near Vivianne Falls Yesterday, Mbugwa and I went on a scouting trip to look for an animal trail up out of the valley near Vivienne Falls. We only had a couple of hours so we moved quickly. Even though I had my day pack, I’d forgotten to put in my gaiters. To my demise, by the time we got near the falls, my legs were covered with cuts and scratches. The tusic grass gave way to a lot of dead underbrush around the bend from our camp. We cut across the Nithi River and started to climb. All I could imagine was how impossible this climb would be with a 60 pound backpack. We went about three quarters of the way up the south side of the falls. Then we headed up along the cliff face and back to camp. Maria was feeling a lot better but was still unable to eat. Liz was having a lot of trouble too, throwing up her dinner. Amy was a little better. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 44 - Jim Damico
Because of all the excitement last night, we didn’t get to celebrate Lisa’s birthday. So we decided to do it today after class. A tradition with NOLS is that the person having the birthday has to take the first bite of cake, face first. Lisa’s cake was even more special because it had icing. Almost her entire face was covered with it. Don’t think for a moment she did it on purpose because she was helped, a lot. This morning, we divided up Maria and Liz’s gear. My group was the first to leave. We made good time, making the rise out of the valley in about an hour and had even moved up about 500’. When the second group met up with us, three of the guys dropped their gear and left running back to camp. It turned out that Maria was having leg trouble and having difficulty walking. They yelled at us to come back down. We ended up at a campsite a little farther upstream form yesterdays camp. During the day we had more classes on first aid and our first classes on belaying and bouldering. Tonight, because some people are short on variety in their food bags, we’re all having a banquet.
Because the valley walls were almost vertical, it wasn’t hard to find a waterfall. Bo and I decided to try some climbing up along one. If not for a large overhang near the top, we almost were able to climb out of the valley.
19 June, 1987 - back at the campsite near "The Gates" The banquet was a great success last night. Maria whipped up a magnificent pasta-vegetable soup. It was so good, it was the first thing gone. The other great delight was a chocolate cake with a nut-chocolate icing, some of the best cake I’ve ever had. Later that evening, Mike and Lisa announced Maria was going to be evacuated in the morning back down the mountain. All of us were divided into three groups. Lisa, Mbugwa and Becky were to be runners. Their job was to travel light and fast, trying to find transportation for Maria once we made it to the road. Then eight of us were to be the litter team which included Mike, Charley, Harvard, Dave, Margaret, Bo, Angus and me. Our job would be to carry Maria in an improvised stretcher if needed and to carry gear to support the litter crew. All of the rest of the group took any leftover gear and headed up to Lake Michaelson to pick up our next food drop at Hanging Tarn. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 45 - Jim Damico
We woke up at 5am, cooked breakfast, broke camp and were on the trial by 8am. The litter group and Maria made straight up and out of the valley to the trail on the ridge. Maria was one stubborn girl. She walked the whole way down the mountain and refused to let us carry all her gear. We dropped off some gear at the cave we explored at our second campsite. We reached the road head and proceeded on. After about two or three kilometers, Becky met us on the road telling us just to wait for the vehicle. A few of the guys went fishing while the rest of us learned how to play pinochle. Maria was in pretty good spirits. Finally, Mbugwa and Lisa arrived. Mike and Maria would join them and head for the lodge farther down the road to wait for Mariaâ€™s transportation. They were to spend the night at the lodge and go on to Nairobi tomorrow. Mike and Lisa told us that they were afraid she had a blood clot in her leg and that if it got lodged in her lungs, it would be very bad. That evening, the whole litter crew had a feast. One reason was that the food drop was the next day and second, we didnâ€™t want to carry what we could eat.
Unfortunately, Maria became to sick to travel and had to be evacuated down the mountain. While half the group traveled on to Lake Michaelson,the rest of us went on the evacuation. We had four pairs of stretcher bearers and three more to carry extra gear. Maria was able to get down the mountain on her own but we did rest whenever she needed it. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 46 - Jim Damico
20 June 1987 - Lake Michaelson While the litter crew was escorting Maria down the mountain, the other group left Gorges Valley heading for Vivienne Falls. They would set up camp at Lake Michaelson. This morning we hiked to catch up to them, the other group would head to Hanging Tarn to get our next food drop. Weâ€™ve had such good weather. Except for the campsites at the lower elevations which had lots of mist and fog, weâ€™ve had tons sunshine. The litter crew hiked about ten kilometers following the ridgeline above Gorges Valley and had an elevation change of 3000 feet. It seemed as if we just kept going up and up. But once we neared the lake, we finally started to come down. As soon as we were in shouting distance, Lisa was told that Amy was having a lot of altitude problems like white outs and fainting. After telling us to find a safer route down, Lisa headed down quickly. We ended up climbing back up another 300 feet and then followed the cliff wall down to camp. We were so exhausted. Every single camp task was grueling. The whole camp made spaghetti. The higher we go, it gets warm but very windy during the day, and extremely cold once the sun sets. For a special treat, the camp received chocolate bars. Heaven in every bite. Because my tent group included Maria, it was decided that Margaret would be with us until we switched groups again.
Evac crew: (back) Becky, Charlie, Dave and Harvard (front) Mbugwa, me, Margaret, Lisa, and Angus. Bo took the picture Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 47 - Jim Damico
While Maria was headed for Nairobi by bus, the â€œevacâ€? crew had to catch up to the rest of the group which continued to hike to Lake Michaelson. This is a view from the trail that follows the Gorges Valley ridge, looking down on what the non-evacuation group had to hike out of to get to Lake Michaelson. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 48 - Jim Damico
Essentially doubling our hiking distance and altitude gain to catch up with the others had to be one of the hardest hikes we had all summer. By the time we reached Lake Michaelson in the late afternoon, I was totally exhausted.
21 June 1987 - Lake Michaelson This morning after a breakfast of pancakes and hash browns, we were assigned new tent/cook groups. Now it’s Harvard, Liz, and Katy with me. Because today was a rest day, we had plenty of time for classes in geology, weather, and more classes on kiswahili and belaying. Plus a added treat, Liz gave a class on African elephants. Tomorrow we have a climb of 1300 feet and distance of three kilometers but now with full packs after our food drop.
We finally see Lake Michaelson. From here we start to move down to meet up with the other group who should be camped somewhere near the lake.
The land we’re traveling through is incredible. I just can’t describe the cliff walls, the lake or the view down the valley. I hope the pictures give you an idea why I’m speechless.
Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 49 - Jim Damico
A few days rest at Lake Michaelson was greatly appreciated by everyone. Across the lake, high on the cliffs was the wreckage from a plane crash, from the late â€˜60s I think. From this camp onward, our instructors hiked on ahead to the next camp, while we tested our new map reading shills to get there, (sooner or later).
Lake Michaelson fills a glacial bowl with vertical cliffs. But the abundance of rock-fall made this our last camp with some protection from the elements. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 50 - Jim Damico
22 June 1987 - near Hanging Tarn Today’s climb seemed a lot easier than the trip to Lake Michaelson. But I’m afraid I was out of patience with one of our group, Amy. Ever since Gorges Valley, she has had these white-outs and fainting spells. I think at least part of it was mental. Every time she stopped, she just stared at how far we had to climb. The closer we came to the top of the saddle, the harder it was for her. Finally, a few of us ran ahead, dumped our gear and went back to help her. She was able to make it on her own. It made me mad that she always said things were fine and don’t slow down or rest because of her. She really thought it was all right if we just left her. As she realized just how much farther up we had to go, was about when she started to get sick again. She’d run over to a rock or a large plant and throw up. Then she’d jump up and say “let’s go.” She wouldn’t let anyone carry any of her gear. We finally made camp about an hour after the second group.
Finally it was onward and upward. It was a good thing that our legs had gotten stronger because after the food resupply, those packs again were 'heavy'. You can also get a good idea about the difficulty in walking through the tussock grass. Hitting the trail is Amy, Becky and Dave.
Soon after reaching camp, we had more classes on belaying and then climbed up one of the mountain sides to practice repelling. Camp is at 14,300 feet, just below Point Lenana. But from our repelling site, we were at 14,800 feet and could see off an incredible distance, including the summit of Mount Kenya.
Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 51 - Jim Damico
The landscape once we left Lake Michaelson was just like the moon, mostly rock. The only animals we’ve seen are hyraxes and a few small birds. One interesting bird was green and purple, very skinny with a tail almost double it’s body length and a long curved beak (almost like a hummingbird’s beak).
23 June, 1987 staying near Hanging Tarn This morning during kiswahili class, which Lisa was giving instead of Kagambi, Mike strolled into camp. Lisa didn’t expect him till tomorrow so she was very happy to see him join us early. He sat down and told the group what had happened since we last saw him and Maria.
One last look at Lake Michaelson before heading for our next camp near Point Lanana.
Mike and Maria had stayed at the lodge that night we evacuated. They got a ride into Chagoria where they took a matatu to Nairobi. He said the matatu broke down with a cracked wheel rim. But the driver ran off somewhere and very shortly had it fixed. They only had about 20 shillings left. Mike called Tara, someone in Nairobi with an association with NOLS. She took both of them out to dinner. The next day, they saw a female British doctor. Her recommendation was for Maria not to go back onto the mountain. So Maria will spend the rest of the mountain section in Naru Moru but will meet us there for the remainder of our time in Kenya. After Kagambi gave us a lesson on the climbing history of Mount Kenya, we headed back up to our climbing spot for some top roping. The climbs were about 50’, some fairly difficult, at least for me. But everyone in the group successfully climbed to the top. For dinner, we had a “welcome back Mike” slash “pre-Lanana” banquet. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 52 - Jim Damico
This gives a good view looking back to where we came from. The wide split in the mountain is the way to Lake Michaelson. The tarn above the gorge is rumored to have been stocked by early British expatriates almost a half a century ago. Can you imagine the size of the fish now!
24 June 1987 staying near Hanging Tarn This morning, two groups left for Point Lanana. The first group left about 3am so they could reach the top for sunrise. My group left camp about 7am, much more rested for the days climb. We’d only gotten up about 500’ when one of the girls started to exhibit hypothermia symptoms. So we came back down. Lisa decided to her back to camp but Mike could take the rest of the group back up. It was a very long climb, about 2000’. Amy was having great difficulty keeping up with the group. About 500’ from the top, we saw the morning group and Amy decided to go back down with them.
To get us used to our rock climbing equipment, we spent a day repelling. Some students were just terrified of a 20 foot repel, but in less than a couple of days, everyone was trying climbs of 40 feet or more
Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 53 - Jim Damico
The view was incredible! We just sat there in the cool air,warming ourselves in the sun, and looked. That’s Annie in the picture. I wish I’d brought up a golf ball and club so I could tee one up. Just think of the distance I could get!
We reached Point Lanana. It had a metal cross embedded in one of the boulders. The weather couldn’t have been better. We all took pictures and a few of us decided to play the “highest pinochle game in Kenya” (probably the highest in all of Africa). We stayed about an hour. Coming back we came down on the opposite side, between Lanana and Nelion, along the side of one of the glaciers. Mbugwa had never seen snow before. Boy, was he surprised that the snowball that hit him could be so hard when snow was so light. The climb beside the glacier was a little tense because one slip and it was a long way down the ice. We checked out the hut located there and proceeded to go back to camp. I was physically drained by the time we got to camp about 3pm. The early group told us that stayed a minute to watch the sunrise and then immediately started back down because it was so cold on the peak. We later had a short kiswahili lesson and called it a day. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 54 - Jim Damico
Point Lanana 16355'
Shortest Liz standing with tallest Harvard
Highest pinochle game on the African continent
Point Nelion 17022'
Walking down along the edge of Lewis Glacier Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 55 - Jim Damico
Moons Over Lanana
25 June 1987 - near Kami Hut My group, including Bo, Mbugwa and Amy, was the first to leave this morning for Kamu Hut. Our route was to take us west over Simba Col, past Simba Tarn and then past Lower Simba Tarn. The climb up was made worse because Amy threw up about every fifteen minutes. Again she refused to let anyone take any of her gear. But the hard part of the hike was yet to come. We had to come down a dirt trail that cut across a very steep mountain slope following the cliffs of Batian. We had almost made it across when Amy collapsed. I saw it coming, so I was there to grab her and her backpack. Scared the shit out of me because we could have fallen hundreds of feet down the steep mountainside. She was able to make it across with most of her gear. What next looked from high up like a nice smooth, level path through a talus (rock) field was actually nothing like a path at all. We ended up climbing up, over and around boulders the size of a living room couch. As we walked into camp a little farther past Kami Hut, it started to sleet. I had a little talk with Lisa and Mike about the trouble we had, especially my concern over Amyâ€™s health and the safety of the group. I was not a happy man. Because the weather was turning bad, I dropped my gear and headed back out to meet the second group because I didnâ€™t know if they could find us with visibility getting worse. But I was the one that ended up getting lost, way below Kami Hut. I did find the remains of a wrecked helicopter. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 56 - Jim Damico
Mount Kenya - view from Kami Hut Camp, 14700' I missed the second group but did meet up with the last group. I ended up carrying Katie’s pack the rest of the way into camp. Harvard, Becky and Marshal looked real tired. They said it had been was very difficult to get Katie across that boulder field because she was so scared. We met three Austrians climbing down from the mountain on their way to the huts. The had tried to climb Batian (17,058’) but were turned back because of the weather. Tonight, it was announced that because of the technical difficulty, only a group of 10 students and two instructors were going to attempt to climb Point Dutton tomorrow. With three people sick, that meant that three others wouldn’t be able to join the ascent. So instead of pulling names out of a hat to see who would go, three of us volunteered to stay behind. Those leaving for the climb had to prepare to get up about 4am to allow time for the climb and the climb back down.
26 June 1987 - staying near Kami Hut Remember the rule: No good deed goes unpunished! When it came time for the Point Dutton group to get up this morning at 4am, Charlie decided not to go. But instead of waking up one of us that volunteered not to go, he went back to bed. If I had known, I would have jumped at the chance to make the ascent. I watched the climb all morning from camp with a pair of binoculars. It looked so fantastic, I was very envious. Those of us who stayed behind spent most of day practicing more top-rope climbing. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 57 - Jim Damico
Mount Kenya Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 58 - Jim Damico
Sunrise at Kami Hut Camp
27 June, 1987 - Nanyuki Tarn Today we hiked west from Kami Hut and then south to Nanyuki Tarn, always keeping Batian on our left. Unfortunately for my group, I had a little trouble reading the map. We started down a steep incline towards what turned out to be Emerald Tarn. One of our instructors saw us and yelled “Up!” The second group caught the trial above us and follow a ridge. So we headed back up and followed them. Later in the afternoon we had a kiswahili lesson on buying things like food. Mike then gave a lesson on Mount Kenya geology.
28 June - staying near Nanyuki Tarn This morning we got our final food drop for the mountain section. Soon we will divide into three groups and prepare for our walk out. The instructors will stay with us one more day and then we’ll be on our own for three and half days. Yesterday on the trail we ran across two guys from Holland. Then last night three Britians, and older gentleman, a younger guy and girl. They had spent the last twelve days climbing everything they could find on Mount Kenya, including Batian and Nelion. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 59 - Jim Damico
Some of the group did a technical climb of Point Dutton (on the right) while Annie & I had a relaxing day.
Circling the mountain, keeping Point Nelion on our left, we made our way to Nanyuki Tarn
My hands are in sad shape. The dry, cold weather has put many bleeding cracks on my hands. I ended up trading some sweets for someone’s Vaseline to coat my skin. We had a chance to do some more top rope climbing. It was very cold and I didn’t think my fingers could do the work. So a few of us declined but decided to go on a day hike to visit another one of the glaciers. The hike went fine until we came to a fissure in the mountain that we could cross. To bad because we were almost to Tyndell Glacier. We sat on the edge looking out on the mountain, with a 300’ drop at our feet. When I got back to camp, there was a lot of grumbling. Some of the climbs they tried, only one person was able to complete. The rock was cold and there was some ice therefore there were an awful lot of falls. I was glad I didn’t try any climbing today. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 60 - Jim Damico
While Nanyuki Tarn was beautiful in the daylight, it was our most barren camp on the mountain. But we ran into a few guys from Holland and later shared dinner with a group of British climbers.
This was our last campsite with rock climbing. Unfortunately for me, the cold-dry air was hell on my hands which were cracking along most of the joints of my fingers. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 61 - Jim Damico
Those blue and red specks on the cliff are some of the gang.
Liz takes shelter out of the wind with the view far below.
When I went exploring, this trail ended in a 100â€™ drop.
This was our last campsite with rock climbing.
Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 62 - Jim Damico
29 June, 1987 - staying near Nanyuki Tarn Last night we had “Mountain Jeopardy” down at Two Tarn Hut. Final score: us 370 & them 40. We elected walk-out leaders and groups where picked. This morning was busy with dividing group gear and food for the walk-out. My group is Becky, our groups walk-out leader, Dave, Katy, and Mbugwa. We leave tomorrow morning but the other groups and our instructors are leaving this afternoon. Today was our fist real bad day of weather. About noon, it started to hail and the wind was gusty. The other groups were not at all happy about the weather because it was sure to be raining at the lower elevations. We did celebrate Mike’s birthday, just like Lisa’s, but with a lot more icing on the cake. It was dripping off is eye lids. The other groups left about 2pm and our instructors headed off to their pickup point an hour later. That left our lone tent at Nanyuki Tarn. We’ve had a relaxing evening. Dinner was pasta and chipoti and we spent the evening a good game of hearts. Tomorrow we get up early and head for the edge of the bamboo forest.
Dave & Mbugwa head off across the rocky wind-swept landscape to find our trail. Yesterday, the other groups left after a hail storm. We were praying for better weather today. Our small group solo hike to Naro Moro should take about 3 days, if we don't get lost!
30 June, 1987 - camp between Nanyuki and Burguret Rivers Last night the hyraxes came to check us out during dinner. I guess because we were only five of us instead of twenty, they could chance it. One fellow came to within five feet. That night, the wind was gusting very badly. I just hoped it wouldn’t do any more damage to the tent. It didn’t stop even for morning. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 63 - Jim Damico
One final look at Mount Kenya. Mbugwa cooked uzi for breakfast. We were ready to leave camp by 8am. After an hour of hiking, the terrain was fogged in. This made it very hard to find out where we were on the map. We had taken a break when the fog lifted only for a few minutes, just enough to see “Highland Castle”, our chief landmark for the day. It told us we were on course. The weather began to get worse. We put on rainsuits and continued on. By 2pm we decided just to look for a campsite. We found a rock outcropping that gave great shelter for our kitchen. The only problem was water. On the south there was a river two valley’s over and to the north, but the river was bordered by steep cliffs. Because of the rain, we found a little drainage and began to fill our water jugs. It was so slow, it must have taken us almost thirty minutes. I have to admit it was the first time I thanked a stream for water. After dinner, we fired up a good campfire. We all sat around warming our toes and drying out our shoes. Tomorrow we hope to make it to the road. We might even have visitors tonight. On the trail and going to get water, we found a lot of elephant tracks and scat. Other animal evidence said there were water buffalo in the area, and there was the ever present sounds of the hyrax.
Finally, our path opens into a small clearing. The bamboo seemed to take every opportunity to catch on our packs and trip our feet.
Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 64 - Jim Damico
We found a Mau Mau spear head, a rare find. We were fogged in most of the day until late afternoon when it rained until early evening. Then the sun broke through and we just sat there soaking it in.
1 July, 1987 - campsite along the Burguret River, near Gathiuru We had hoped that this morning we would have clear skies but we were wrong. We left about 8am. Dave and Mbugwa were at odds over how to go. I must admit I had a blind faith in Mbugwa because he had been on the Burguret Track (our trail) about a year ago. I knew we were close so I didnâ€™t want to side with either of them. About an hour later we found a trail marker but lost the trail almost immediately. We found a second marker an hour later. Soon after that, we found the track and never lost it again. No one uses the trail anymore except elephants and buffalo. There was elephant sign everywhere. Some of the trail was completely blocked by bamboo destroyed by the elephants. We moved as fast as we could. We had little trail food left and very little water. No matter how tired we felt, how hungry we were or how bad the blisters were on our feet, we were bound and determined to get out of the bamboo forest before the afternoon rains would come for sure. Our starting point this morning near Highland Castle was at the beginning of a giant heath zone. A stark contrast later when we tried to hike through the very dense bamboo forest. The day was hot and always threatening rain. In the late afternoon I could see the bamboo start to thin out and give way to large wood trees. The bamboo grew in clumps here and was shorter. The track got more and more like a dirt road. Finally, we were in planted forest. We got off the road and headed southwest. It had been a tough day of hiking and our patience was at a breaking point. We had been moving fast. We were tired, hungry, sore and to top it off, we kept hiking through stinging nettles. It was a god send when we hit the road. But we couldnâ€™t stop because we still badly needed water. The Burguret River was only a couple of kilometers ahead. As the forest thinned out, we began to see some small farm plots with people working the fields. We made camp about 4pm, eight hours and sixteen kilometers later. In celebration, we decided to have a feast of deep dish pizza and strawberry cake. It rained during dinner but we were content because we had made it to the road and dry under our rain fly.
Our speed and spirits soared after finding the dirt logging road that would lead us out of the park and onto Naro Moro.
Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 65 - Jim Damico
What a great day! At 1pm, Dave yelled "Homeboy!" Howard, Marshal, Annie, Jack & Amy were a little dirty, but overjoyed to see us. They had been lost in the bamboo for two solid days. We exchanged stories, although ours weren't as good as the hardship you could see on their faces.
2 July, 1987 - campsite along the Southern Naru Moru River What a great day! At 1pm, Dave yelled “Homeboy!” The other group were all sitting at the intersection of the Naru Moru Park Road and the Link Road. Harvard, Marshal, Annie, Jack and Amy were a little dirty but overjoyed to see us. The had been lost in the bamboo for two solid days. We exchanged stories, although ours weren’t as good as the hardship you see on their faces. In the morning, we slept in and then fixed up a wonderful batch of pancakes. We finally broke camp about 9am. We passed many farmers today. They were very happy when we greeted them in kiswahili. And their children laughed. It was about then that we saw the other group. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 66 - Jim Damico
We all took off for the Southern Naru Moru River. After we made camp, Harvard and his group took to the river to wash up while the rest of us got food and drinks prepared. After an afternoon rain shower, we went up to the road to greet a family at the river for water. Most of his children had never seen a white person. Mbugwa gave the children pieces of candy and they shook our hands goodbye. The father came back later with a big bag of potatoes. We gave him hot soup and some sugar and rice as thanks. We proceeded to fry up potatoes. Mbugwa told us that the people around the forest farmed their plots of land for about three years and then planted trees. They were then moved or “shifted” to other plots. Most planted potatoes, maize and peas. A farmer could make a lot of money by selling a lorry of potatoes. I feel like an intruder here. Today I kept telling Mbugwa all the great things we could send him from America. I was doing just the thing I swore I’d never do. I must start learning to see what’s around me and learn more about Kenya and it’s people instead of thinking how America can ‘fix’ things here. The great shocker tonight was when the last group strolled into our camp. The whole class together a day early. We cranked up a bunch more stoves and just kept the food coming. The third group had stories about like Harvard’s group - impenetrable bamboo and rain, mud and dung. Dave and I felt out of sorts. Almost like we missed something the others had found, a test of our own personal strength of will power. But we were glad we didn’t get ‘tested.’ We were lucky. Maybe I feel a little cheated. I came here to be pushed to my limits. But the only ‘test’ I had was with my tolerance of others. And I could do that anywhere, even back in Kansas City. I never was pissed at the forest, only people. I think that if my group had taken either of the other groups path, we’d still be out there, not lost but broken because of intolerance and lack of patience. I’d have killed Katy. I just didn’t care if she was pushing herself. It wasn’t fast enough for ME! Not aggressive enough for ME! My ordeal was made easy and I still failed. Can I adapt, adjust to that human tolerance I lack? I need to put myself outside of myself using things like this journal. This is not an assignment but a summer out of my life. It’s not only what I did, but what I saw, what I felt and most important, what I learned. I go to sleep tonight with all my friends together, a little ragged but all well and happy. And, just hopefully, a little seed of self awareness, a beginning of human understanding has started to grow inside of me.
3 July, 1987 - back at NOLS near Naru Moru We slept a little late but by 10am we were all excited to hike the final four kilometers to the house. It wasn’t to long before we passed a school and all the students came out to see us. By the time we reached the NOLS gate, we probably had a hundred teenagers walking with us. The were trying out their English and we were doing a terrible job speaking kiswahili. A few of the girls exchanged addresses. Just before lunch, we all walked into the NOLS compound together, with Maria there to open the gate and greet us. I was so happy to see her and be back at the house. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 67 - Jim Damico
Dear Family, Well, I'm sitting in the dinning area. Foods on in fifteen minutes. My clothes from the mountain are all washed. So now I'm writing letters and drinking "Tusker". We have a three beer limit so I bought all three. We walked with 60-70 pound packs an average of 8 kilometers a day also with an elevation gain of 1500'. We climbed Point Lanana, the 3rd highest point on Mount Kenya. Tell grandma I learned to play pinnocle and had the highest game in all of Africa. One of my best friends is Peter "Mbugwa". He was one of my first tent mates. He's Kikuyu and is always telling me about his culture. Sorry Dad, Boy Scouts never hiked this far, this high or with packs so heavy. We carried all gear, stoves, kerosene and food for eight days. We did a lot of rock climbing, classes in first aid, kiswahili, geology, natural history and map reading. I was group leader one day and we sort of got lost. Cooking was very creative. We had pizza, cake and I baked a great coffee cake. We all lost a lot of weight. We have a big 4th of July party tomorrow, complete with hamburgers and fireworks. A bit more about my fellow students. They're all young and in college. I'm even older than my three instructors. I've made some real good friends, Dave from Atlanta, Harvard and Marshal from Virginia, Bo from Pennsylvania, Becky from Hanover, Annie from Delaware, and Mbugwa from Naro Moru. Yesterday I was greeting a lot of farmers in the fields. Their smiles told me how well they appreciated my speaking kiswahili. I hope everything is going great. Send a telegram when Mike and Barb's baby comes. Be happy. Love, Jim WRITE
Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 68 - Jim Damico
After much needed showers, we had quiche for lunch. Most of the afternoon we read letters from home, turned in gear and washed clothes. Cleaning the clothes seemed to take forever and the rinse water still came out brown. Dinner was sliced beef and gravy. After three weeks of powdered, instant everything, the meat was very welcome. After dinner, it was all beer and dancing. I started out to cut a mean rug dancing but after a while I felt isolated. Not by any of the group, but my friends back home. My peers back in Kansas City just don’t do the things that I do. It makes you feel very alone.
4 July, 1987 - staying at NOLS near Naru Moru I have to admit that my first night off the mountain was miserable. They issued us very thin sleeping bags for the next section. As it got colder when we went to bed, my tent-mate Annie suddenly realized she didn’t have a sleeping bag. She’d been so busy with other stuff today that she somehow didn’t one when she picked up her issued gear. I opened up mine and we both used it as a blanket. It was cold and drafty but the only warm clothes I had were still wet and hanging on the line. I really didn’t mind. This morning we had a great breakfast of banana pancakes.
5 July, 1987 - Lake Nakuru The high point of the 4th of July, besides group B coming back from the mountain, was the hamburgers and fireworks. Bena’s children were there and had a lot of fun with the sparklers. I think we all enjoyed the fireworks. We loaded up the vehicles this morning and headed for Nakuru, Kenya’s fourth largest city. We were given money to buy enough food for the next eight days. The market wasn’t very big but it didn’t lack any exotic flavor. We tried out our kiswahili, haggling over prices and generally stuck out like a sore thumb. Our shopping list included onions, cabbage, mangoes, pineapple, potatoes, bananas, carrots, beans, peas and okra.
After getting gas here in Kiganjo, we headed west across Aberdare National Parkt o Nakuru, Kenya's fourth largest city.
Lake Nakuru and our campsite were only ten minutes out of the city. We certainly didn’t have to wait long for our first exposure to wildlife. Baboons came strolling through our campsite shortly after setting up our tents. This evening we set out for our first game drive in which we saw monkeys, water buffalo, water buck, and flamingoes. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 69 - Jim Damico
Even in the smallest towns, some with only dirt streets, store fronts put up Coca Cola and Pepsi signs for the free paint.
The easy camp life of being on photo safari, just like the tourists. Ahh! We were given money for food rations for eight days. The market wasn't very big but it didn't lack for any exotic flavor. We tried out our kiswahili, bickered over prices and generally stuck out like a sore thumb. Our plush camp was inside the Lake Nakuru Game Reserve. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 70 - Jim Damico
Lake Nakuru is a shallow salt lake with an abundance of brine shrimp. Pink & white flamingoes could be seen to almost ring the entire lake.
6 July, 1987 - staying near Lake Nakuru This morning we set out to watch the sunrise from a cliff overlooking the lake. Then came our morning game run. We saw warthog, fish eagle, Rothchild giraffe, Thompson’s gazelle, impala and many more birds. Camp life for me isn’t that great because I’ve been sick the last two days. It’s probably a combination of a change of diet, riding in the back of a bouncing truck and just dumb luck. After going to the market in Nakuru, we went to a Kenyan restaurant inside the Thiriku Hotel. We ate ngombe and chapati for about 16 shillings per person, plus a coke. Then we ordered the ndizi special, which we thought was a dessert. Wrong! It was a banana, potato and meat stew. During the game drives I’ve felt a little down. Partly because I’m not feeling well, but mostly because everything goes by so fast. We drive around in safari vans, stopping just long enough to photograph the animal and quickly move on. I’d just love to stop and watch for a while, maybe draw a picture or two. Maybe I’ll just have to wait until we’re on foot again. This afternoon after a kiswahili lesson given by Duritu, we headed out to the Lake Nakuru Safari Club hostel. There, we were given a slide show and discussed what was being done to make the park an educational tool in the schools, especially in Nakuru. The hostel was an old colonial farm house with a lot of character. Then it was off for another game drive. We saw a bunch of different types of eagles and one eland. The eland is very smart but very shy. I could barely see him off in the distance with my binoculars. I think everyone is ready to move on to other things. But we are adjusting to the comforts of truck camping with it’s fresh food, lanterns, an occasional beer after dinner and some even are trying a little snuff. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 71 - Jim Damico
Becky couldn't get very close before the birds would move away
7 July, 1987 - Masai Mara Game Reserve After some breakfast and last minute shopping in Nakuru, we headed out for the long drive to Masai Mara. All along the highway, we could see giraffe, zebra, gazelle and ostrich. But we also started to see a lot of Maasai herders, distinct with their red clothing, spear and ear decorations. Our new work for the day is “Soba”, kimaa (language of the Maasai) for hello. I couldn’t get over the feeling that every town we passed through reminded me of the American Old West. In Narok, we stopped for lunch of mendazi and samosa. Mendazi is a fried sweet dough and samosa is a deep fried dough wrap covering meat, sausage or potatoes. Narok was a real tourist hangout outside of the Masai Mara. You could buy jewelry, spears, shields and throwing clubs. We saw a herd of elephants as soon as we went in the gate of the Masai Mara Game Reserve. We’re not camped more than a hundred feet from the Mara River in which a group of hippos gave us a noisy welcome. The ranger warned us that elephants and lions had come through this camp in the past and that if we needed to use the choo (toilet) during the night, to stay very close to the tents.
8 July, 1987 - Crocodile Camp in Masai Mara As with the other game drives, we were up and moving before sunrise. We were able to follow a herd of elephants for a long stretch, getting real close a couple of times. After breakfast, we had a few more classes. Maria gave one on the Rift Valley. Steve gave his on the predator-prey relationships and Duritu gave us a history of the political history of Kenya including a little information on the current political situation. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 72 - Jim Damico
The African Elephant (Tembo)
This place is amazing! A baboon tried to join us for breakfast and an elephant walked right in front of me, about a hundred yards, while I was taking a crap.
Our fresh produce tempted a few fearless males from a nearby baboon troop. This baboon got too close to our campsite and is barking back a reply to our driver who is reloading his slingshot with another large ball bearing. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 73 - Jim Damico
The Impala (Swala Pala)
Today’s game drive was the best ever, just incredible! We came upon two female lions about a half a kilometer from camp. One sat high on a termite mound looking out over the savanna. We just sat there a watched for a while. A few Thompson’s gazelle were grazing upwind. One lion started to move out toward them. When she appeared in position, the other started to move in a wide circle around the gazelle. The gazelle suddenly saw the one circling and took off. The two lions were definitely working together it seemed to drive the gazelle into the jaws of the lion that waited upwind. But the circling lion hadn’t moved around far enough and the gazelle took off to the left of the waiting lion. We must have watched them hunt for an hour.
A rare White Rhinoceros (Kifaru) Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 74 - Jim Damico
The Hippopotamus (Kiboko) We then headed out to a more remote area away from our camp. Our driver had seen the rangers truck heading out for their daily check of the few rhinos in the reserve. There we were able to see a lone female white rhino.
9 July, 1987 - campsite near Keekorrok in the Masai Mara Last night we had a couple of hyenas and a lion stroll through camp. Today we headed out for lunch at the Mara Serena Lodge, a posh resort overlooking the savanna. This was where the Europeans definitely went, Germans, French, and English. From camp, we could see small planes arrive and depart the lodge almost hourly. Lunch was a choice of liver or oxtail. My more affluent fellow students seemed right at home.
Lioness taking a rest Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 75 - Jim Damico
During our conversation after dinner last night, I found out that most of these kids had been debutantes or debutante escorts. When I was younger, us ‘poor’ kids would sneak up to the art museum that hosted the “Jewel Ball” every year, and try and get a glimpse of the people that attended the ball. I laughed when I told them that I never thought I’d ever meet those kind of people. Before leaving, we had a little stick-ball game using a tennis ball we bought in Nakuru. A lot of Kenyans sat and watched. Even Duritu and Mbugwa gave it a try. At the lodge I was able to use my first ‘real’ bathroom in three weeks. A real white toilet to sit on and toilet paper to use instead of leaves or grass. On the drive to the next camp, we came across a cobra laying in the road. Mike drove around it but a truck was coming fast. The snake quickly moved to directly behind us and reared up with it’s hood flared looking towards us. Then slithered off into the grass.
The Baboon (Nyani Mdubwa)
The Vervet Monkey
Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 76 - Jim Damico
10 July, 1987 - campsite near Keekorrok in the Masai Mara Today was the last of the game drives, but it was by far the best. Almost immediately this morning we came upon a small group of lions, two males and one female, stalking cape buffalo. Later we drove up on a whole pride of lions. It was hard to count them all, several females and a lot of cubs. The closer our driver tried to get, the deeper in the grass the cubs would go. After a week of game drives, many animals seem as common place as cattle on the range. In a single day you see thousands of zebra and wildebeast, hopi, gazelle and water buffalo. On the evening drive we saw two hyenas trying to get at an injured wildebeast in a group of about a dozen huddled together. Tomorrow we leave the research station near Keekorrok and head east for the Nguruman.
A pride of females hiding their young among the tall grass. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 77 - Jim Damico
Enjoying the hospitality of the Mara Serena Lodge
Giraffe on the run.
A baboon troop passes by camp. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 78 - Jim Damico
Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 79 - Jim Damico
Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 81 - Jim Damico
Old Reliable! This Toyota "cruiser" took us across all types of terrain.
11 July, 1987 - campsite near Entesekera This morning we started the long drive through Maasai country to a place called Entesekera. Once, when we stopped along the road to rest, two Maasai women and two more morani (warriors) came over to talk to us. Duritu speaks kimaa. Some of our guys gave the mother some snuff. All along the way we saw morani herding cattle and small boys with the goats. Our camp puts us within fifteen kilometers of Tanzania. Tomorrow we split up into four groups and the following day we start hiking again. This afternoon while the girls were bathing near the river, a few of the guys went with our host, Danielle, to his home. His wives and children greeted us. Danielle asked us if we would like to go inside. As you entered, you found yourself in a large entry room. From there, you had access to a holding pen for the very young calves, protection from preying animals. Then we proceeded farther inside to the kitchen-dining area. We sat on short benches looking at the two beds that were only covered with cowhide. The stove looked like a homemade hibachi. Daniel told us it wasnâ€™t a Maasai-style boma (home) but one built by Kikuyu. Instead of a flat roof, it had a steep thatched on. When we came back, Steve had a great surprise for us. We had just arrived at the same time as a Maasai celebration called a Eunoto. This is when the morani warriors are elevated to lesser elders. We were being allowed to go to a special place where the event was taking place. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 82 - Jim Damico
A large ring of bomas were built about a month ago, numbering 93, a special number to the Maasai. Most of the dayâ€™s celebrating had already taken place, so we turned out to be the big attraction. I had what seemed like hundreds of morani and children rub my beard, the white skin on my arms, touch my bald forehead and pull at my chest hair sticking out of my shirt. They seemed most interested in the girls with long blond hair. But probably most disturbing to the girls was the grabbing of their breasts by the older women. I asked Steve and Duritu about this and they said the women were just amazed at girls having larger breasts and not have a baby.
Morani dancing Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 83 - Jim Damico
Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 84 - Jim Damico
Total Joy! Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 85 - Jim Damico
Morani with lion mane headdress with his friends. He didn't speak English but his 'educated' friends did. Most of the morani were very thin but still strong. They kept trying to get the guys into tests of strength. Others wanted to use their English, which was very good. When we got back to camp, we were told we might be able to come back tomorrow and take pictures of the eunoto.
Manyatta Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 86 - Jim Damico
Moran heading down to the river for last meal together as warriors.
12 July, 1987 - campsite near Entesekera We left camp early this morning so we wouldn’t miss anything. We arrived as before but this time the girls were left alone. The morani were dressed in short togas, their hair braided and red ochre painted on everything. They all had some beaded jewelry and wooden spears. Everyone was dressed in red except one very energetic little boy dressed in black. It was as if he was the court jester of the tribe. Something about his eyes said he was sick, but the Maasai avoided him as if he was “unclean.” There were a lot of morani dancing. They would jump in pairs or alone while the group chanted and bounced along. Then they would stop for a second and one moran would sing a verse. At first I just didn’t feel right about taking pictures. We were told that some people, especially the old, might be offended. Some thought of cameras as “soul stealers” just like the American Indian. But as others started to take photographs, it was the morani and children who mobbed us. Not to have us take their picture but to take the pictures themselves. After awhile, one of the chiefs started the morani on a procession around the inside of the ceremonial boma circle. In front were about ten morani who had killed lions with spear and sword. You could tell them by their lion mane headdress. Then came about forty morani with shields. These were the most respected and they were their leaders. The procession moved both inside and outside the circle of bomas. The bravest forty-nine had their heads shaved the previous night. The procession of some four hundred warriors began the trek down to the river near our camp. There, they were going to paint chalk on their bodies. Maasai travel from all over the border between Kenya and Tanzania. This event happens only once ever nine or ten years, so we were very lucky to witness it at all. The Maasai have even said that because of pressure from the government, this could be the last big eunoto. Because of the “civilizing” of the Kenya, many of the duties of a warrior would cease to be allowed. Lions were to be protected. Cattle stealing and war on neighboring tribes would be illegal. And no matter what, it will loose some of it’s significance. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 87 - Jim Damico
I just don’t think I can convey the intensity of this evening. The morani spent the afternoon down by the river getting painted with white chalk. A cow was slaughtered and cooked. It was to be their last meal together as morani. In the late afternoon the morani started a procession back up to the celebration. They were impressive! Each had different designs painted all over their bodies. They wore only the smallest toga as to expose all the paint. Atop their wooden spears, they had a piece of red cloth, almost like a flag. In the setting red sun, the four hundred strong, flags waving in the breeze, shouted and screamed as they marched. The procession moved inside the ring of bomas and continued in a circle. They stopped and knelt down. As the kudu horn continued to sound, the morani chanted and bobbed their heads. Then, they stood up in unison, spears held horizontal, as if they were lifting a giant ring. During the procession, I saw one moran with red stripe painted on his chest. Duritu explained that told everyone that the warrior had killed a man as a moran. A few of us had moved toward the center of the circle to get a better view. Then the morani started to run toward a special boma built in the center of the compound. Inside this boma, reserved for the morani who hadn’t broken any of the warrior taboos, were supposed to be gifts, beer, rewards, and even rumored, women. A death curse kept any from entering except the few. They ran around it faster and faster. Then all hell broke loose. The elders started to beat the morani with sticks to chase them away from the boma. Several went into seizures, others walked as if zombies, it was crazy. One moran near me started swinging his spear wildly. Other morani fell to the ground, going into spasms and making wild, scary noises. Somehow my classmates started to regroup and head for the outside of the ceremonial ring of bomas. Elders took all the spears away from the morani. There was a long and intense discussion between our leaders and the elders. The warriors had asked that the death curse be lifted off of the special boma. Many of the morani taboos do not fit well in “modern” Kenya life for a teenager, especially those attending school. The morani felt they were being punished wrongly because they said that the breaking of the taboos were not their fault. That’s when all the chaos started. We were advised by some of the elders to leave and head for our camp before dark. The morani were being sent out to spend the night in the forest as a punishment. Because our truck wouldn’t hold everyone, several of us had to walk the three kilometers back to camp. After the bizarre happenings, our adrenaline and imaginations were at a fever intensity. We weren’t even half way back to camp when it got dark. Even though it was a night of the full moon, it hadn’t risen yet. We walked in pitch dark. Daniel’s brother, Robert, a junior elder, was our guide and some of us felt, our protector. We passed what sounded like a large group of Maasai women and young girls. I kept hearing “wazungu.” They laughed a lot and I had the feeling it was at us. All of a sudden I was walking alongside a moran. It was so dark I couldn’t even see the white shirt of my classmate in front of me. So you could imagine how I felt when the moran appeared. He tried to talk to me but I didn’t understand kimaa. Then he held my hand for a
Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 88 - Jim Damico
few minutes and then let go. I can’t say I was scared, but pretty nervous. Later when I told the story, the classmate that walked behind me said he never saw a thing. The trail splint off the main road and we walked along for awhile. As we neared a boma and Robert directed toward it. We climbed over the brush fence and were invited in for chai. The only light inside was provided by the cooking fire. It was very hot inside a somewhat smoky. The Maasai don’t put chimney’s in the roof. Our hosts were a husband and wife, with several children and an infant. I think because of the culture shock of the celebration, most of the group were apprehensive about accepting our hosts hospitality. Somehow I was one of the few to actually be thankful for a cup of chai. The tea with a little added milk and sugar was hot and sweet. Very relaxing after our exciting evening. Leaving was another jolt of culture shock. It was still pitch black so I didn’t see the cow I stepped on. The cattle are collected at night within the boma fence to protect against lions. They were packed in so tight, we had to climb over several to get to the fence. All I could think about was getting a horn in the groin. Camp wasn’t very far from here. I thought the chai at the boma was a good ending to an already packed day. But once we arrived back at camp, we were asked if any of us would be interested in spending the night at Daniel’s boma. Despite everything that had happened tonight, Maria, Mike and I thought it would be great to spend more time in a boma, icing on the cake of our day.
Lisa serving chai to the visiting warriors. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 89 - Jim Damico
13 July, 1987 - campsite near Entesekera Last night after getting to camp, we set off following Daniel to his boma. I was very comfortable since I’d already been in several bomas. But it was a new experience for Mike and Maria. As with all of our Maasai hosts, we were offered chai. At first it was only Daniel and his wife holding their youngest infant, then the grandmother came in. After she got comfortable and taking a pinch of snuff, she started to talk about the evenings events of the morani with the rest of the family. During the high point, she seemed to indicate that is was the responsibility of the older women and other warriors to protect the “possessed” morani from hurting themselves. She was describing the events in kimaa, but with her gestures and sound effects, it was entrancing. There was a lot of laughter which was in contrast with what we experienced. After her conversation, she left for her boma.
Daniel, one of the village elders, had been friends of NOLS for many years. I ended up sleeping in his boma one night along with Maria and Mike.
Daniel was curious to know how many children I had. I told him I wasn’t married, so I didn’t have any offspring. He suggested I get a Maasai wife and everyone laughed. I admit I wasn’t sure he was joking at first. Several of Daniel’s brothers, including Robert, also came for a little late night small talk. Daniel told us that if we had to get up and pee during the night, to please not step on him. His wife had pulled one of the cowhides off the bed and put it on the floor. He told us that one of his four labonnes, tribal chiefs, had 29 wives and at last count, 110 children. We asked more about his home. He said they had lived in it for five years and would stay another five. The wood was a special wood that could last more than twenty years. It took about a month for a Kikuyu carpenter to build, while a traditional Maasai home would take only about a week.
Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 90 - Jim Damico
The compound of a Maasai chief with huts for all of his 29 wives.
We said our good night’s and piled into bed. Basically it was a raised floor, with wooden slats and a cowhide cover. I slept on the end closest to the calf holding room. I could hear them breathing, and occasionally pissing, all night long. I would swear that I heard a mouse in the walls. They were made about six inches thick with leaves and such used for insulation. Maria said she could hear the baby nursing all night. He was a loud sucker! But besides being a little cramped, I slept very well. Because they don’t have windows, it was well after sunrise before we got up. Again, Daniel’s brothers came by for a few minutes to chat while the cows were being milked by the women. Grandmother came by to watch the baby. The one small opening in the kitchen wall let in a sliver of light. It was mesmerizing, the swirls of smoke in the light and dust appeared like meteors and died just as quickly. Grandmother did just as grandmothers do all over the world, singing to her grandchild and bounced him on her knee. The Maasai don’t use diapers on their infants. And when I heard the infant’s sigh of relief, I knew what the pile on grandmothers lap was. Grandmother calmly asked one of the other children to get her a cloth and waited patiently. We soon said our good bye’s and many thank you’s to our hosts, setting off to join our classmates at the campsite. Daniel laughed when we asked him about the events with the morani. It seemed much more upsetting to the junior elders. Daniel even laughed up a storm when he described how he whacked the morani with a switch stick.
14 July, 1987 - campsite near Oloilokitok River This morning we started on our hike through the Loita Hills, Maasai country. The course divided into four smaller groups, all hiking separate ways. My group is Dave, our leader, Amy, and Maria. Our instructor for the first six days will be Mike and Robert is also coming along. We moved very fast covering eleven kilometers in about three hours. With Robert as a sort of guide, we traveled on trails used by the Maasai. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 91 - Jim Damico
Maasai Robert in his 'modern' clothes
Camp was in a clearing just outside the forest. Our water supply was little more than a trickle. We dug out a few of the rocks so it would be easier to get water. We found ourselves sitting in camp with all this free time. Robert took us all into the woods to cut walking sticks. He told us to char the outside in the fire. Robert took one of the sticks, bent it to crack the bark. It all came off so easy, just peeling off. After that he made Dave and Mike a throwing stick. They’re really psyched about getting a guinea fowl. During dinner, we could see a large group of buffalo from our campsite.
15 July, 1987 - campsite on Orkerii River Last night we had a hard rain, the worst of the summer. It didn’t take long for us to realize that this old tent just wasn’t going to work. We had leaks everywhere, especially on the sides where I was sleeping. But to our surprise, we were all pretty dry in the morning. After a quick breakfast, we hit the trail. Today was going to be real tough as we were entering the forest. Because of the trees, it was very difficult to see enough terrain to figure out where we were on the map. After a short time, Robert took us off the trail to see where he had lived as a morani. That was over four years ago and part of the lean-to was still standing. There was a sleeping area and a place to store meat. Even after the heavy rainfall the night before, that meat area was still dry. Robert told us he lived there for two months with seven other morani and two girls. The hunted elephant, buffalo and lion. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 92 - Jim Damico
Back on the trail, we had what was thought to be our toughest section, up and over a ridge to get to a trail on the next ridge. It was incredible what we had to go through, thick dense underbrush, mostly stinging nettles and what they called a ngoja plant (from the word “wait!”). We were grateful we had walking sticks to hack through the brush and try to knock any nettles or ngoja down. The girls were at a disadvantage because they were hiking in skirts, this being Maasai country. I had nettle stings and thorn cuts on my arms while they also had them on their legs. The cuts only sting for a minute but from the nettles it can last an hour or longer. We were greatly relieved when we found the trail on the next ridge. The trails we use in Africa are all made by animals and used by humans once in a great while. Sometimes they can be as wide as a car and then suddenly vanish. They branch off constantly, creating a maze in the forest. At one point, Maria and I were following closely just behind Robert when he stopped. He started to take off his backpack, I thought he might be stuck on a branch. Then he quickly got into a crouch, ran down the trail a few yards and heaved his spear. It was amazing watching it arc through the air. The only thing we heard next was an incredible pounding on the ground. What ever it was, it was very heavy and running extremely fast. Robert came back to get his pack and we all set out to look for his spear. “A buffalo” he said. You could see the deep hoof marks in the ground as it made it’s getaway. The whole incident gave everyone a buzz. All day on the trail, we had seen troops of baboons on the ground and more columbus monkeys in the trees. The black and white coloring makes them hard to see when they don’t move, but very easy to spot when flying through the treetops. It doesn’t seem that they favor their arms like other monkeys. The almost move through the branches like a dog running on all fours. From the ridge we could see the river we were supposed to camp by. It just didn’t look easy to get to. The valley sides were very steep, some places The path or "drop off" pretty damn vertical. The problem was that we needed water and it was getting dark. Frustration levels peaked as we mostly slid down into the valley. A closer look at the map showed this hillside was a cliff. The grade was so steep, the contour lines couldn’t all be shown because they were to close together. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 93 - Jim Damico
We made the river just at sunset, very tired and sore. The flat spot we found was barely big enough for two tents side-by-side. That didn’t leave much space to make a fire and cook. You had to very careful. Not two feet straight out from the tent was a drop-off into the river. Not ideal but the only way to put the tents. I think we were all glad to leave that campsite as early as possible in the morning.
16 July, 1987 - campsite on Entosapia River We did finally get out of the forest today. A few nettles but not as bad as the previous day. The walking was just as bad. We had better trails but more rocky terrain and a lot of it downhill. But you could see that the valley opened up onto a flat plain when looking through the trees. We were a bunch of happy campers when we stumbled out onto the grass. Just kilometers of knee-high grass dotted with acacia trees. In the forest our biggest fear was buffalo. Now, here in the grass it was the cobra and black mamba, two very deadly snakes. The only wildlife we saw was a harem of impala that trotted off behind us. Our campsite couldn’t have been better. The river was large enough that we could have a bath, which we all needed badly. We had plenty of firewood and a clearing for the tents. Yesterday we had been short of our destination by a kilometer or two. Our route wasn’t really wasn’t supposed to be down a cliff but down a gradual descent farther west. We were happy because today we camped just about where we had planned.
17 July, 1987 - camp near Ol Keju Lenjutoto River Today’s hike was pretty uneventful. We more or less followed the river north, passing a lot of high grass or thick brush closer to the river. Half of the time, you could feel the trail more than see it. We found leopard and lion tracks near some of the streams. Camp again was in a pretty good spot although the water was a little dirtier. While Amy stayed in camp, the rest of us went to buy a goat for dinner. Earlier in the day, Robert had said he saw some bomas but none of us could find them with our binoculars. We must have walked up an incline for about an hour, maybe three kilometers, before we finally camp upon the bomas. We approached a group of elders and as custom, entered into small talk. The seemed curious about Maria’s blond hair, and about me. They called me “mzee” which is a sort of title for an elder. Sort of made me feel old. “I was only 29” I said. Guess my bald head elevated me in their minds. We finally set off to find the goat herd. NOLS had provided us with some money if we wanted to buy a goat from the Maasai. In this kind of transaction, the seller picks the goat and gives a price. It must have taken them another 20 minutes of walking to find where the younger boys had taken the herd. We kept stopping and listening. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 94 - Jim Damico
The afternoon walk was very hot. Even without our packs, we were all sweating profusely. The herd numbered at least a hundred with three boys in attendance. One of the older boys had a metal spear while the others only had wood. The smallest boy with only a small cloth draped over his shoulders and only one sandal handed Maria a very young lamb. The noisy little bugger had only been born today the elders had told her. Robert was our spokesman. He said a medium size goat should only cost about 300 shillings. The goat they wanted to sell us was small and the elders wanted 430 shillings. Mike was short 10 shillings, but they held firm their price. No haggling. Finally, I came up with the other 10 shillings when they refused to lower the price. We used Dave’s belt as a lease and started walking the reluctant goat back towards camp. Two of the Maasai came with us. Maria decided that the goat’s name should be Sammy. While hiking, we saw a group of a dozen giraffe. The amazing thing was that the Maasai led us straight back to our camp using different trails than we had used to get to the bomas. At camp, Robert took the brown and white goat across the stream. He laid it on its side and clamped a hand around its mouth. I was surprised at how fast the goad died, a couple of minutes at the most. The other Maasai jumped in to help with the butchering while Robert prepared a roasting fire. They made a cut along the length of the neck and pulled the hide away to make a sort of bowl shape. Then they punctured the jugular and filled the bowl shaped hide with blood. The Maasai then proceeded to drink the blood. I think that he would have loved to drink it all except Mike stopped him. As the say, “when in Rome...” We all ended up drinking some out of the neck except Amy. Then they continued to prepare the goad for cooking. The used just about everything. I was somewhat disappointed in my own reaction to butchering a goat that had lived just minutes before, which was none at all. I felt nothing, just a distance. One of the first things the Maasai ate were it’s testicals.I must tell you that I didn’t find the meat all that appetizing, very chewy. During the meal in which we shared with the two Maasai, they sang just as they had done on the way to camp. One would sing a verse and then they both sang the chorus. One of the Maasai started to sing a song to Maria. When Robert laughed, Maria wanted to know what the song was about. He said it was a song for a Maasai lady. Finally, before bed, Robert made a few of us goat hair bracelets. Our two friends left our camp and walked into the night without a good bye. They just seemed to disappear.
Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 95 - Jim Damico
18 July, 1987 - campsite near Lenkototo River We got an early start for the hike today. About two hours into the hike, we came across some more bomas. The people were a little unfriendly because we wouldn’t buy anything. The later part of the hike was entirely on trails worn smooth by the Maasai and their cattle. We could see a lot of sandal foot prints. When I was leading, I almost stepped on a huge jack rabbit. At the spring near the bomas, we came upon a blue monkey. We finally decided to look for a camp by the river. It seemed like Grand Central Station. Maasai elders coming by every few minutes, wanting to sell things like Maasai arrows or another goat. To our surprise, the price for the goat was only 250 shillings. Two elders greatly admired Robert’s spear. Its the best looking spear I’ve seen in Kenya, but Robert says it was made in Tanzania. They were comparing its weight and balance. They grabbed it at the very end and tried to see how long they could hold it out horizontal. It became a contest they wanted us all to try. Their next game of strength was to hold it extended by the end straight armed and lift it off the ground. Dave tried and could raise it about four times before his arm got tired. Robert did it about ten times without effort and then stopped. He looked like he could have done a lot more. The spear was very heavy. I wasn’t that strong, so I tried to balance it straight up on my hand. They all cleared our as if I might drop it. I then balanced it on my finger. They seemed impressed because they couldn’t even do it for more than a second or two. Mike even tried to teach them to juggle. After dinner, we made a birthday cake. Robert didn’t know when he was born so we decided to celebrate it today (any excuse to make a cake). We had him blow out a candle and make a wish. He tried teaching us a Maasai song but all we could get was the chorus. We asked him to teach us to dance tomorrow. Robert told us a story of how he killed a lion as a warrior. A German came and asked to see Maasai morani kill a lion. Robert and about twenty other morani went with him to hunt. The found two lions. The German shot one and the other ran up into a tree. All the morani circled the tree. The lion was angry he thought. It kept jumping out of the tree, circle around it and then climb back up. Finally it attacked. It clawed the arms and chest of one morani and bit his shoulder. As the lion went for another morani, two others hit him with spears. Robert then cut off its hind legs with his sword. Then all the morani hacked it with their swords. It took two minutes to die. The German took pictures and paid each of the morani 1000 shillings. My goat hair bracelet is drying nicely. No clouds tonight, so the stars are great. Most of the morning was cloudy but by afternoon it was very hot and dry.
Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 96 - Jim Damico
19 July , 1987 - resupply camp near Lenkototo River Today we slept in late. We didn’t leave camp at least until noon. All morning we just sat around while Mike made a coffee cake. A local Maasai came to visit and this time he brought his spear. It was exactly like Robert’s but smaller. He wanted us to try and throw it. Dave, Mike and I gave both spears a try. Because Robert is used to throwing his heavy spear, he smiled when he threw the lighter one. My first throw was by far the best of any of the wazungu. Our hike today probably only lasted an hour and a half. We made camp at our food drop point. I was surprised to see Steve’s (Mrefu) group walking down the road. I thought we were way ahead of the other groups. I later found out that all the groups had arrived and were camping near by. Before dinner, we used our walking sticks and a tennis ball to play a little game of golf. A few young Maasai boys stopped to watch. I think they were amused. As I write, I am at the beginning of a four day fast. The school used to incorporate it in their Jim, Dave, Robert, Marie, Amy programs to give it’s students the experience of hiking longer distances and time with no food. A scenario might be what would happen in an evacuation out of a remote area and food supplies ran out. Steve doesn’t even recommend it, but he says he can’t stop us from trying it. Looks like everyone except two people are going to try the fast. We will take soup and fruit crystals for those who will be on a liquid fast. Plus, we’re taking an emergency ration of food in case anyone gets sick or can’t continue the fast. I’m sort of looking forward to the challenge. I know I can do it, just for the satisfaction of stretching my limits. Maybe I can transfer some physical self-control to more mental and emotional aspects when dealing with other people.
Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 97 - Jim Damico
Jim & Robert
20 July, 1987 - campsite near the Ewaso Nigro River This morning we had a discussion with a local missionary named Phil. He tried to explain to us the governments position with regards to the Maasai. Kenyan government services completely ignore the area of the country where the Maasai live. Officials in Nairobi refuse to meet with any Maasai who is in traditional dress. “Sheets!” they say. The government is also interfering with their social structure by dictating that there can not be any more morani. The Eunoto we saw was performed about five years early because of government pressure to reduce the number of warriors. He also shed a little more light on the violent ending of the graduation. Phil said because so many Maasai boys are going to school while they are also morani, many of the traditional taboos are being ignored. Out of about 500 morani at the ceremony, only about a dozen could say they didn’t break any of the morani taboos. But those outside the special boma had decided that the taboos are meaningless now and that all of the morani should be allowed in. That’s when the elders stepped up and refused. The battle between the old and traditional and the new and modern. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 98 - Jim Damico
After thanking Phil for talking to us, we prepared to leave. We had hiked about an hour when we came out onto an open field. Just to our right were about ten giraffe. They watched us but never ran. About this time, we saw two of the other groups come out into the open. We decided to all hike together but camp a little separated. Because we found well used footpaths, we ended up going to far north instead of north-east.
The cliff top view of Ewaso Ngiro River.
We stopped at a few manyatas and asked them how to get to the river. They walked with us a while until the trail became obvious. They laughed and smiled, talking a lot between themselves. We came to the edge of the escarpment and had a great view. You could see for miles a hot dry plain with our river making its way down. The climb down was rocky and steep. But apparently, Tricky river crossing the women of the boma that gave us directions, must come down this same path to get water. About four older Maasai women passed us carrying water jugs as we started down. Our camp was in a good spot. We could hear some very vocal hippos close to where we crossed the river. The fast is OK. I did have Tang in my water but I think Iâ€™ll try to keep it down to a minimum. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 99 - Jim Damico
21 July, 1987 - second camp on the Ewaso Nigro River Today’s hike was pretty uneventful except for the beginning. We had to climb up and over two ridges. It was a pretty steep incline with a lot of thorns. Several people got puncture wounds from a large plant that looked like a mother-in-law tongue. They were about two inches in diameter and a very sharp point. Once we reached the top, we had plenty of good trails the whole way. My fast is so-so. I’ve broken down and added fruit crystals to some of my water, chewing gum and even having hard candy and cocoa. I was a little upset today because as a hiking group, we were very lethargic. We’d hike for an hour, and then rest for an hour. One group decided to go ahead. They arrived at camp over an hour before us. I just wanted to get to camp. I’d much rather rest with my boots off, maybe on my sleeping bag, writing in my journal or studying kiswahili. We had planned on camping at a spring about a half a kilometer from here but some local Maasai said a lion had been attacking cattle and they thought it had moved up around the spring. Fording the stream was a little difficult. Instead of like yesterday, we all took off our boots. Almost in the middle I thought I was going in. Today it was about two feet deep A lean – hiking machine. while yesterday it probably was closer to twelve inches. Well only 36 hours and we’re as good as on the coast.
22 July, 1987 - campsite near the Ntuka River Today was another normal hiking day. When we got to the river, we asked a Maasai and his two boys if there was a spring near by. So at least we had clean water. The heat wasn’t too bad, but the flies were terrible. We were all pretty bored. Food was the hot topic of the day. I read, I studied kiswahili but I just couldn’t keep busy. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 100 - Jim Damico
23 July, 1987 - end of the Nguruman Section The Nguruman section is over. We all strolled into camp singing our group song. Last night, my sleep was pretty restless. That was the consensus of the whole group. We broke camp early and were on our way by 7am. We were greeted by cinnamon rolls as we walked into camp, but the first thing on my mind was pasta. Some of the people who fasted even had trouble keeping down their dinner. I bathed, put on a fresh pair of clothes, washed all my others and generally hung out. All week I’ve been wondering if my sister-in-law Barb had her baby. I keep hoping there’s a telegram or letter waiting for me in Nairobi with the news. The fast wasn’t that bad. We did have fruit crystals which did have sugar. Lisa said it probably helped but it couldn’t supply all of our calorie needs. I was hungry but not like I’d expect after three days. I have lost a lot of weight though. I made my watch smaller on my wrist, and I’ve dropped down two notches on my belt. I tried to measure my waist, somewhere around 26”, a drastic reduction from 31”. As far as the next section, I’m both excited and scared. This was the main reason I came to Kenya. I want so bad to learn more about the Arab or Muslim culture. I’m scared because I have such high hopes for the next couple of weeks. From now on we’re a group of tourists. I would love to travel a little bit on my own. I know I won’t fit in with the group as a whole. Individually, most of them are great people. But in a large group, the Jim & Dave at our pickup point. return to a group mentality. Just a bunch of college kid’s who don’t want to do anything but party.
24 July, 1987 - Nairobi Youth Hostel We left for the long trip back to Nairobi through Narok. There we checked into the Nairobi Youth Hostel. After a very satisfying meal of pizza, we head out to the casino with plans to sample some of Nairobi’s night life. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 101 - Jim Damico
25 July, 1987 - on the “night train” to Mombassa Well I lost another 280 shillings at the blackjack table at the casino. After that, we were off to dancing and “pombe baridi sana!” (very cold beer!). We were an out of control group on the dance floor. Arriving so late, they had to unlock the gate to let us in. The only trouble for me was starting to get sick again. I woke up early this morning with diarrhea so bad and no toilet paper to be found. The night watchman gave me a page of his newspaper. We had the whole day to ourselves before we left on the night train. Besides last minute shopping, we went to the cinema where a James Bond film was playing. It was really scratched and at one point, got stuck and went up in flames. It was spliced every few minutes during the action. At intermission, we decided to catch a cab for the train station. We loaded up in the very first train car behind the engine. It was great. The car was very old, the only one on the train, with really old woodwork. I really enjoyed it even though I was sick. While most of my cabin drank and played cards, I slept. Hopefully when we return on the train, I can do some exploring.
All aboard the 'Night Train' from Nairobi to Mombasa! We rode in two very old cars at the front of the train. Unfortunately for me, I was sick and trying to sleep while everyone else drank beer provided by the porters.
26 July, 1987 - at the Castle Inn in Lamu We arrived in Mombassa around 8am with another four hours to kill before our flight left for Lamu. I ended up just writing letters. The town was in a great uproar because there were three or four US Navy ships in the port including a helicopter carrier. We got a good look from our small plane. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 102 - Jim Damico
We saw a few US warships in the Mombasa harbour on our way to Lamu.
The town open-air food market just outside our hotel. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 103 - Jim Damico
Lamu is on an island with no cars. The plane even lands on another island and it’s a five minute boat ride across to Lamu. We were met by Merle and a friend of NOLS, “Crazy Bob.” After checking in we did some exploring. We all got together for a grilled lobster dinner for 60 shillings, about $4 at the Mzuri Kabisa. Bob is from Malindi, but offered to help me shop for a hat the Muslims all wear called a kofia. The weather here is great. During the day, it’s like Kansas City in summer and the same at night except very windy. The streets are very narrow. Kids playing with hoops and a stick, or donkeys and chickens run loose. Men usually dress in kikoi, a wrap-around skirt, and kofia. The women wear a konga, a tube-skirt, but you can also see some women in fullbody black purdas. The town grows on you.
The view from our rooftop rooms.
27 July, 1987 - at the Castle Inn in Lamu What can I say about Lamu? I did a lot of shopping and went to the beach this afternoon. Took pictures of the elaborate carved doors to the shops. Life here was on a very different time schedule. Breakfast was anytime after six. Some shops opened around eight but all were open by ten. But open hours were never posted. The people were active all morning until noon, then the shops closed for lunch and the hot part of the day. Around three, they all opened again and stayed open till about 10pm. Some shop keepers had fixed prices but a few would bargain. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 104 - Jim Damico
One of my new Kenyan friends, Bob, took me out to buy a kofia, a hat worn by the Muslim men. The teenage boys and younger wear western clothes, long pants and a T-shirts. All the other men were the full-length kikoi. Lamu has a lot of tourists so there is no wrong way to dress. But in all other places we go, it’s the only thing acceptable. The kikoi feels great, very liberating and cool as I’ve been wearing it for a couple of days.
The doors in Lamu were fantastic examples of unique woodworking skills on these islands. Unfortunately, tourists are buying up these treasures literally off the hinges, with the homes and shops replacing them with plain wood as seen in the right photo.
28, July, 1987 - at the Castle Inn in Lamu This section is very different from the others at NOLS Kenya. We were given money for hotel and meals at restaurants. I was in the Castle Inn. My room was on the roof with a huge covered patio. The hotel was next door to the old fort. There was always a lot of activity there during the day. The fort is being renovated to house the Lamu Museum and provide educational resources to the local community. Lamu is also building a new hospital. I bought a few kongas for my mom and sister-in-law Barb, some leather sandals for me and a gold earring. Besides great hotels, the food is incredible. Last night we ate at the Equator, run by an old salty Englishman. It was very elegant by Lamu standards. Some of the group had huge crab while I had the best peppered steak I’ve ever eaten.
29 July, 1987 - Castle Inn in Lamu I spent time just walking around town, writing letters or a little reading. The people are so friendly, some just wanting to use their English. One young man stopped me on the street. He asked where I was from and welcomed me to Lamu. He said “don’t worry about the people here, they are all kind and no one steals.” A few of us spent the morning at the museum. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 105 - Jim Damico
This was a very Muslim town. All the women and older girls wore the full-length black purdas, most covering their faces in town. Every morning we were woken up by loud speakers calling â€œthe faithfulâ€? to prayers, about 4:30am.
The harbor road was always a busy place.
Mosque under construction
The Lamu waterfront at low tide.
Malindi, home of our dhow crews Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 106 - Jim Damico
Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 107 - Jim Damico
Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 108 - Jim Damico
The crew of the "Bishara" polling our way through island channels while we relax.
30 July, 1987 - tenting in Matindoni Yesterday we said a sad farewell to Lamu and headed to Matindoni, the home of our dhow crews. Matindoni looked more like the poorer parts of Lamu but the people were very friendly. We are staying at Baba Chakula (father food) farm. His real name is Bousi. After settling in, we had a soccer game with the local boys. The field was nothing like I had ever played on, what with no less than seven coconut trees growing scattered about. Our team was helped a lot by the crew, but we didnâ€™t have a bad team at all. We got the first goal and they got a penalty kick in the second half. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 109 - Jim Damico
31 July, 1987 - beach on Pate Island Last night, Bousi feed us a real Swahili meal, no dishes or utensils. The meal was beans and potatoes in a sauce with chipatis and bread served on a large serving dish. A group of six or seven surrounded the dish sitting on woven mats, using only your right hand to eat. Young girls kept our cups filled with chai. Before and after the meal, a dish was brought around to wash our hands. Dessert was Arabian dates. This morning after breakfast of fresh, hot mendazis, we set sail for Pate Island. The dhow is great! The crews are a bunch of cards, especially since only two speak English. So far I’ve met Sa’ad, one of the younger crew members and a great soccer player. Then there is Abdula. He’s the one with Fred Flintstone feet. And who could miss Captain Athman. The Fosa is a 35 foot dhow and the Bishara is 37 feet, with crews of about six each. We camped on the beach near the village of Mtongawanga. We walked inland this afternoon to see the ruins in Pate Town. The people were real different than those in Lamu or Matindoni, the children especially. If we tried to take a picture of them, the scattered like mad. The men never smiled. The women were a little more friendly but the looked a lot different than we were used to. The older women had nose rings and seven or eight earring hoops starting at the top of the ear.
Ruins on Pate Island, burial house with attached Mosque, date 1120 AD. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 110 - Jim Damico
The children did seem mean. While we were touring the ruins, they threw rocks at us. We didn’t stay very long. One burial house had a stone plaque with 1120 AD written in Arabic. We walked to the local primary school to play another soccer game. It was a rough game and the referee had no idea of rules. But we came out with a victory, 2-1. Today I got my first earring. Three of us bought single gold hoops in Lamu. Because of the very real danger of infection in this environment, our instructors would only allow us to get our ears pierced if we cleaned them with alcohol several times a day. Margaret offered to do the piercing. Of the three of us, Dave volunteered me to go first as I was the oldest. So I sat down on the beach, and with a big sewing needle, Margaret just punched a hole through. Dave immediately said “No Way! My girlfriend can have the earring.” It took Margaret about twenty minutes to finally get the hoop through the new holes. Harvard was next. Only they had more difficulty getting the curved earring through both the entry and exit holes. Several girls tried and finally after about an hour success.
Unfurling the sail. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 111 - Jim Damico
Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 112 - Jim Damico
Village on Kiwaiyu
1 August, 1987 - on Kiwaiyu Island Last night after we had a crab dinner, a bunch of us slept out on the beach. It was great until it started to rain. We got an early start this morning. As before, the dhow ride was great, even a little exciting. We hit some choppy waves when we reached a spot where the channel opened out to the Indian Ocean. The dhows just made the tide because the channel is very shallow in places. I couldn’t have imagined a better place. Looking down from camp as the group and crew unloaded the dhows, it almost had a Robinson Caruso feel to it. The sun is intense but the water is nice and cool, especially the ocean side. Before dinner, I took one of the sailboards out. I didn’t forget much of my lessons but I simply don’t have any sailing sense. After a while, I gave up and paddled back to shore. Dinner was the usual rice and vegetables plus an added treat of fried sea bass. Evening entertainment included a bunch of attempts at limbo. Abdula was the best but the crew pestered you until everyone tried it. I really want to get to know the crews better. I’m going to try and teach a class to the group on Islam. And I might get a chance to teach a math class at the local school.
2 August, 1987 - still on Kiwaiyu Island Life here on Kiwaiyu is pretty laid back. A normal day begins anytime from 6am to 8am. The crew cooks menadazis. We all over eat but there’s always leftovers. Class comes about 9am, anything from sailboarding to tides to fish. About 11am we take one of the dhows out for snorkeling. Lunch is usually boiled eggs and cookies. After snorkeling, we head back down to the beach for some sailboarding. Then we might play a soccer game until dark. On Kiwaiyu, we’ve played two games, 2-1 and 0-3. Then it’s rice and vegetable stew, carrots, potatoes and cabbage. Some people play cards or read after dinner. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 113 - Jim Damico
A small dhow sailing by Kiwaiyu Island. It has funny weather here. A storm can speed in, rain a couple of minutes and then it’s gone. Even so I’ve tried to sleep outside every night. I get up about 6am and go for a run along the ocean beach. It’s all I can do to keep from gaining weight. Those mendazis are so good! Most mornings while some people go sailboarding, I’ve been writing letters, catching up in my journal or preparing for my class on Islam. After a few morning classes, we take one of the dhows out for snorkeling. We head back towards Kiwaiyu Bay and to the Boteler Islands to dive. Snorkeling is a blast. Even though the water is a little murky, you can see a lot. One thing I’ve noticed was that most of the fish are yellow and green, with a few smaller ones neon. I the tide pools, we found anemone and sea urchins. I fed an anemone a snail and a starfish but it let each go. Little hermit crabs are everywhere. I found one that was smaller than a fingernail. Other shore wildlife were skinks and large six inch, green and yellow striped crabs. They all seemed to move sideways. These are a drastic difference from the pink crabs found by the thousands along the beach near camp. As we head back, the crew throw over inner tubes to drag behind the dhows. Something only for the strong as the dhow moves pretty The "Fosa" at Boteler Island fast through the water. Omari Bob is the #1 lunatic on this trip. His favorite sayings are “attention, attention”, “eny eny eny eny moo eny moo” and “unapenda?” Because the Kenyan coast is visited by so many Europeans, Bob can speak English, German, Italian, French and of course, Swahili and Arabic. He can mimic almost anyone’s voice or accent. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 114 - Jim Damico
A little sport fishing using Angus as bait
Yesterday I watched the crew make mendazi. Mix four parts flour, one part sugar, a third part yeast, a half part oil, and add water. Knead dough until it opens up when cut. Some bubbles should appear inside the dough. Roll out into 6”-8” rounds, about ½” thick and cut into fourths. Sit out overnight. Deep fry in boiling corn oil.
3 August, 1987 - camping on Kiwaiyu Island The soccer players on Kiwaiyu are a lot better than on the other islands. I’ve been playing goalie, not because I love the position or that I’m good at it, but because I get too worked and agitated out on the field. Bo is our best player. He plays soccer, lacrosse and wrestling at Amherst. All the crew, Mbugwa and Duritu are good. Some of the group have some skill but no team work. Most of the other team and our crew play in bare feet. And it doesn’t seem to hinder them at all. Our second game was pretty bad. It poured for about five minutes at the very beginning of the game. The first goal came when they stole a soft pass back to me. The second two goals were kicked in by my own players. Even so we have the best record of any NOLS group to come to the coast since they started coming here. The people seem real friendly. Our camping are was prepared for us, a choo (outhouse) put in and a large shade tree was propped up to provide a huge awning. They even have plans to add more shade trees. The only thing I don’t like about the place is not much fresh water. We can’t wash anything except in salt water. Your skin and clothes have a sticky feeling because of the salt. And I gave up long ago to keep sand out of my things. Impossible!
Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 115 - Jim Damico
Seven kilometers of white beach all to ourselves on Kiwaiyu Island. On our dives, Dave is the except marine biologist. He showed us a sea cucumber that looks like a rock. Last night I pointed the binoculars at the half moon. You could see some nice craters on the edge. I let Mbugwa try the binoculars out and he was astonished. I told him that the craters were made by meteors hitting the surface. And that for us to see them, they had to be hundreds of miles across. He had never seen the craters before.
4 August, 1987 - another day on Kiwaiyu Island Another day of snorkeling yesterday. I was having a bad day. Every time I tasted salt water in my snorkel. I panicked and gulped air. All I really did was swallow all the salt water. After about ten minutes I gave up and went back to camp. Later Dave told me they saw a large octopus and a clam about a foot and a half wide. It tried to close on their fingers. Today we sailed to the coastal town of Ndau. They had several beautiful mosques. Last night Omari Bob gave us a talk on Islam. We all sat in this vacant building near camp. Bob opened with some chanting prayers in Arabic. It was beautiful. Bob, using Duritu as an interpreter, told us several stories, one about Ishmal and Abraham, the second about Mohammed and one of his wives. Then along with the crew, Bob closed the talk with more prayers. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 116 - Jim Damico
Dhows. Same design, just different sizes.
5 August, 1987 - at the Kiwaiyu Olympics Today was the Kiwaiyu Olympics. The group divided into two groups, and we included the crews. Events were: the crabwalk-wheelbarrow medley, tallest sand castle building, threelegged relay holding an egg on a spoon using your teeth, and a change clothes relay. A close contest decided by the final event, the ever popular tug-of-war. The two teams were called “Visua Wadudu” (insect heads) and my team, “Attention, Attention. Please Try Again.” I think our highlight of the games was the crews attempts at the wheelbarrow race. Even after showing them how to do it, the just didn’t get the concept. Normally our crews make their living hauling sand in their boats, so I should think they know what a wheelbarrow is. They laughed with us as much as at us. “Those crazy wazungus.” We were leading coming into the tug-of-war, but just didn’t have enough pull power. After the Olympics were complete, we promptly tossed our judges, Maria and Margaret, into the ocean. We all then cooled off with some body surfing. Today I had a good time sailboarding. I was able to control the board going out and coming back. I even ran with the wind. I think today was our last soccer game on Kiwaiyu, another tie 1-1. That brings our island record to 2-1-3. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 117 - Jim Damico
On the island of Ndau, the mosque didn't seem to fit in with the thatched roof's of the village homes.
Tonight several of us went to a localâ€™s home for tea. Very different from my experience with the Maasai. We were politely ushered into the common room of the house, and we sat on woven benches. House light was a taa. The construction on the inside was very similar to the outside. Mangrove poles lashed to uprights about three inches apart, forming a tight network. Then itâ€™s filled with mud and rock is pushed in. The roof is thatched with palm tree leaves.
Mosque in Ndau. The drain pipes are to collect fresh water for the village. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 118 - Jim Damico
Boabob tree in Ndau had to be at 10 feet in diameter at least. You can see a group of villagers underneath.
Mzee Jim on the beach. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 119 - Jim Damico
Inside of a dhow.
A living canapy. Our entire group including the crews of both dhows made camp under this tree. The crew would cook for us while we spent time on the beach, sailboarding, or just exploring. Besides checking out a failed resort nearby, we also spent some lazy days under the tree learning more about this part of Kenya. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 120 - Jim Damico
Looking down to the village on Kiwaiyu, just behind the grass airstrip.
The fierce competition in the 'Kiwaiyu Olympics'. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 121 - Jim Damico
We were invited to tea. After politely ushering us into the common room, we sat on wooden benches. House light was provided by a taa, an oil lamp.
Captain Athman & Omari Bob at their best.
Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 122 - Jim Damico
Dave sailboarding, & Becky washing her hair near our beach on Kiwaiyu.
When our host was ready, we proceeded out into the courtyard, took our shoes off and sat on mats prepared for us. First, a small bowl of water was passed around to wash our right hand (the left hand is used for toilet hygiene, so is always â€œuncleanâ€?). On a serving tray in the center of the mats were cups for chai and a plate full of sweet fried dough covered with sugar. Our host served us but kept out of the way and his wife was almost never seen. After we had finished our cup of tea, we said thank you and said good bye.
6 August, 1987 - last day on Kiwaiyu Island For the last several nights, we could hear a lot of music, drums and singing in the village. They had been celebrating a marriage. Last night several of us were invited to join the festivities. I was completely mesmerized. With Captain Athman as our guide, we made our way through the village to an open square among many of the houses. Benches were provided for us to sit. It looked to be about five drums of varying sizes and something which made a cymbal like sound. There was no need for a light or a fire because of the moon was so bright. The palm trees were making their own sound in the gusty winds. And Venus could be seen over the trees in the night sky. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 123 - Jim Damico
The song begins with drums and lyrics. One person sings, then the rest sing the chorus and all clap. It starts with only five or six around the musicians, and the tempo is a slow but steady beat. When the lyrics are done, the music tempo increases and more men join in the clapping. A circle develops as more and more people join in. The women who have been sitting separated from the men add their own section to the circle. The cymbal is added with a rapid beat. The sound now is almost deafening, and then suddenly a man jumps into the circle trying to dance to the incredible tempo. After what could only be seconds, he then points his head to someone in the circle surrounding him. The dancer is then quickly replaced by the one who was pointed at. Sometimes several people move into the circle spinning and gyrating at a break-neck speed. Women, covered with veils, seem excited to be chosen to dance. This frenzy continues till some are almost collapsing from the dancing. Then the music stops abruptly. A man comes around with a glass and a pitcher of cold water. Some dancers are sweating profusely. After ten or twenty minutes, the whole process is repeated. I couldn’t figure out if the lyrics were the same for each song but the chants during the dance were. I knew it was going to happen, someone pointing to me to dance. I ended up spinning so fast I crashed into the women’s section of the circle. For a second I thought I had broken some social taboo by touching the women, but then they all started laughing so hysterically. In all I’d say there were fifty people in the circle and just as many spectators. By 1am, I was tired and left very pleased that I had come. I awoke about 4am to hear them still going strong. Most of the day was spent just passing the time. It was a special day for our crew celebrating an Islam holiday. They bought and slaughtered a goat for their feast. I spent most of the day just sitting on the beach. Most reluctantly I agreed to play in the last soccer game on Kiwaiyu. Because of injuries to some of our players and others had doubts because the game had gotten serious, we barely had enough to start the game. I didn’t really like how the games with the locals had grown in importance. I guess I really wasn’t surprised when we showed up at the field to find the entire Kiwaiyu team dressed in full team uniforms and a very good soccer ball. They won the coin toss, where they took the wind in the second half. We really didn’t have a chance. There were no easy shots on goal. All of the goals scored on me showed the depth and skill of the other team. They were miss-directed shots, quick shots, and shots up in the corner. When it was all Jim & Ndogo after a hard fought soccer game. over, we had lost 0-4.
Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 124 - Jim Damico
Ibex take flight from
an old air field.
Watched boat builders for a while.
Matindoni, home of our dhow crews.
Jogo poling in the shallows
Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 125 - Jim Damico
Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 126 - Jim Damico
The game did have it’s moments. The best was when Lisa, playing on the front line, took a hard shot and barely missed. I think they were surprised that a girl almost scored. I think I took it all in stride. Basically, we were out-classed and I knew it. We all just tried our best under the circumstances. Some complained at how rough the game had become, but I know soccer is a contact sport, no matter what anyone says. Plus, whether it was deliberate dirty playing or recklessness, some of our players were just as rough.
7 August, 1987 - the beach near Mtongawanda on Pate Island Because of the tide, our departure of 8am was pushed to 11am. After taking the kayaks and sailboards back to storage we just sat around. The heat made it seem like an endless wait. Finally, we said good bye and headed out. Not only were we heading into the wind, but against the current too. The crews poled the boats all the way to the Boteler Islands. With the high winds, comes naturally high waves. The sailing was a roller coaster ride. After soaking several pages of a book I was trying to read, I gave up and put it up. At first, a wave would crash over the bow every couple of minutes. But as we entered the wide open area of the channel, they came more frequently. Before, in the lighter winds, the sail was allowed to push against the mast. But now the crew would have to untie the sail, bring it around in front of the mast and then tie it back down when coming about. It only took a couple of seconds but it was impressive. Our crew was full of experience, almost all of them in their forties. The Biashara crew included Captain Omar Usafu, Muhammud, Ali Sa’ad, Ali Sha and Jogo. It got very cloudy, combined with the wind and the wetness to make for some cold passengers. We finally landed at Mtongawanda on Pate Island in the late afternoon. Dave and I, remembering the thorny tent spot we had the last time we were here, decided to pitch our tent on the beach. The rain started to fall about 8pm and besides a few brief lapses, lasted well into the next day.
8 August, 1987 - back in Matindoni Morning didn’t look promising at all. A rainy haze covered the horizon in all directions. As soon as we got under way the crew put up a tarp for us to stay under. It kept us dryer and out of most of the wind but dry we weren’t. But the crew had it worse. They stood out in the rain the entire seven hour trip. Poor Ali Sha forgot his poncho. But he still kept his sense of humor and smile, even while he shivered. Their passengers did our best to keep occupied, playing word games and the like. Slowly, we all became drenched to the bone and shriveled like prunes. It was great how Jogo kept clowning for us the whole trip. As we neared Matindoni, the crew’s spirits showed even more improvement. The weather was breaking, at least the rain was stopping. And I know they were anxious to get some dry clothes, warm food and to see their families. A lot of their children came out to help us unload the dhows. The trip had taken a lot out of us. We were fed again at Baba Bousi’s and headed back to the shamba for an early night. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 127 - Jim Damico
9 August, 1987 - last night in Matindoni What can I say, more rain. Captain Athman decided he could take us into Lamu for the day if we wanted, which everyone did. It looked like it was clearing up. But no such luck. I’m glad I brought my umbrella even though only my head stayed dry. Just as we got close to Lamu, the wind picked up and it started to flood down. Captain Athman beached the dhow and we walked the rest of the way to Lamu. The water was real warm but waist deep. By the time we all made it ashore, it stopped raining. Our luck. In Lamu, a lot of the shops were closed because it was Sunday and because it was around lunch time. I couldn’t find a wood shop that had chairs like I had seen before. Finally, I stopped back in the shop where I had bought my sarong and sandals. The woman there was so nice to me before. She recognized me right away and asked how my trip was. She saw me looking at her chair and asked if I wanted to buy it. There was no way I could lug the whole thing back to the US on a plane, so I asked her if I could take measurements in case I wanted to build one myself. She told me to go ahead and even supplied me with a tape measure. The open spaces were woven with cotton string. The seat and back made a little more than a ninety degree angle. Around the opening in the back was a carved border. We met up with the rest of Fosa’s crew, Sa’ad Kidogo, Sa’ad Kubwa, Arimani, Bacari and Abdula. The dhow trip back to Matindoni was just as wet. After awhile, you just gave up being dry and just tried to enjoy the rain. Felt like a summer rain back in Kansas City. As soon as we got back to the shamba, it was clean up time to get ready for the big farewell banquet. We covered the common room with mats. Slowly, one by one, the crew began arriving. They were dressed as we’d never seen them, all clean with their best kofia and whitest robes. They were a sight. We all sat down together, students, instructors and crew. The food served was beans, rice and beef, and spiced tomatoes, all eaten Swahili style. We gathered around large serving plates and ate with our right hands. Ali Sha showed us one eating technique. Take a handfull of rice, squeeze making a more solid piece, then pop it in your mouth using your thumb. It looked just as messy as any other way.
Omari Bob stealing the show again!
Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 128 - Jim Damico
Sa'ad Kidogo looking his best, along with his sisters after the celebration. After a very relaxing meal in which everyone was stuffed with food and chai, Lisa brought in some desserts than Captain Athman’s daughters had shown her how to make. One was a custard, and the other was cake. Merle gave a “thank you” speech to the crew and added a farewell because this was his last course at NOLS Kenya and the coast. Charlie gave a small speech on behalf of the students. And Captain Athman spoke for the crew. They were paid with much ceremony and then the musicians were brought in. Two drummers, a tambourine and a handpumped organ, who sang and played an assortment of Kenyan, Swahili and Indian songs into the wee hours of the night. Best dancing must go to Abdula and his belly dancing routine, receiving a little cash from a happy patron. That night it rained some of the hardest it had in the past several days. I was glad Dave and I opted to sleep inside the shamba instead of setting up the tent.
10 August, 1987 - beach-front bandas in Malindi After rising early, we took a quick dhow ride to the jetty going to Makowe. When the bus arrived, we said all our good byes to the crew with some bear hugs and firm handshakes. Our bus was one of the large matatus. It had about sixty very narrow seats, plus they added another fifteen to stand in the isle for the trip to Malindi.
Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 129 - Jim Damico
The dirt road had been turned into mud because of the heavy rains. Every time the bus moved to the side to pass oncoming traffic, we slide precariously close to the ditch on the side of the road. Unfortunately for me, I had an isle seat. A short fat Indian was practically sitting on my lap the three hours to the Tana River. There we got off the bus and as they drove it onto the river barge. We ended up helping to pull the barge across the river. After a break to fill up with gas, visit the banana and corn vendors and buy a few cookies at the dukas, we set out again. This time I took a window seat but it wasn’t much better. The road was a little dryer and we made good time. Just outside of Malindi, we were stopped by a police road block. They were checking for overloaded buses, which ours was. All the people without a seat were told to get off and the driver was given a ticket. The bus later caught up with our thrown out passengers about a quarter mile down the road and they climbed back on the bus. So much for the law. Malindi looks like a cross between Lamu and Mombassa. Our bandas are right on the ocean beach. For a shower and the use of the bar, we headed down the beach to the “Driftwood Club,” very posh. After an expensive pizza dinner, we all finished with a few beers at the club.
11 August, 1987 - another night at the Silversands in Malindi Snorkeling is always done with the tide out, or at low tide. This morning after the usual breakfast of mendazis and samosas, we had a long walk along the beach. After so many days of rain, it was refreshing to have the sun on you. Along the way you pass a lot of the high-price resorts and some very expensive beach-front villas. At the Malindi Marine Park, we loaded up on a glass-bottom dive boat. It used to be owned by Omari Bob but now owned by a friend of his. The boat headed out to the ocean side of the reef and slide through a gap that put us in a protected cove. Even before we got off the boat, I knew it was going to be incredible. The boat driver was tossing pieces of bread over the side, creating a feeding frenzy of color. Fish of every color and size could be seen everywhere. Outside the boat you could hold a piece of bread Sunrise up to your mask and have several fish go for it. So many bright colors, greens, blues, and reds. It was the best diving we’d had on the whole coast. Lots of variety of corals too. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 130 - Jim Damico
Lisa, Bo, Maria, Annie and Angus chow down.
After that, we walked to the snake farm, a little private reptile zoo. They had crocodile, lizards, turtles and a wide assortment of poisonous snakes. Heading back to town, we decided to have some ice cream. Yes, real ice cream. A few had banana splits, while I had scoops of lime, vanilla and chocolate. Just easing ourselves back into civilization. Bob was kind enough to invite us all over to his house for dinner. He greeted us in his best attire, white Muslim robe, a nice suit, a colorful shawl and a kofia. Bob was a gracious host, but he served us too much food. We could choose from mendazis, chipotis with potato-beef stew, fresh bananas, coconut biscuits, rice cake and endless amounts of chai. After meeting all his family, we headed down the street to see his father. He’d been to ill to come to dinner. He was happy that we’d come and I’m sure Bob was glad too. It was then time for more ice cream. While some people took a taxi, Bo, Becky, Mbugwa and I decided to walk. Big mistake! I guess we walked down a street we shouldn’t have. One guy in the shadows asked us where we were going. We ignored him thinking he was just another taxi driver. He yelled again so we stopped. Coming out of the shadows you could tell he wasn’t a taxi driver, what with his uniform and rifle. He grabbed Mbugwa by the shirt and pushed him around while he was yelling at him. We all stuck with Mbugwa because it was clear he didn’t want any trouble with us, just Mbugwa. After about fifteen minutes of questioning Mbugwa about his origins and what we were doing, the policeman let us go. We were all very relieved. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 131 - Jim Damico
We stopped off at a place on the way to the bandas for a beer and laughed about it. Mbugwa told us that if we weren’t with him, they would have slapped him around a little, and then ask him for fifty shillings. If he wouldn’t pay, he could get up to a month in jail charged with “aimless wandering” and a 300 shilling fine. Mbugwa said it really wasn’t the policeman’s fault. He said it’s a shitty job and is very low paying. Plus he said its only in small towns that they hassle a lot of Kenyans. Just as we arrived at the Silver Sands, we were stopped again. This time, a full jeep with about eight policemen jumped out as we were cutting between two of our bandas. They gave Mbugwa a quick search. After we explained that these were our rooms and that Mbugwa was a fellow student, they left us alone. They began to search the beach. One came back and told us to be very careful, “lots of rapes and robberies on the beach at night.” What a way to end our day.
Omari Bob invited us to his home
Harvard, Jim and Amy having a good laugh. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 132 - Jim Damico
12 August, 1987 - on the 'night train' to Mombassa Today was a quick bus ride to Mombassa. The whole day I kept thinking that tomorrow, I’ll be saying good bye to all my friends. We took in a quick tour of Fort Jesus. But the museum in Lamu was much better than this one. We just stopped at a hotel sidewalk cafe to have a few beers and maybe something to eat. A funny thing happened. A Kenyan woman in her twenties was walking sort of crazy down the street stark naked. It was obvious she was not of sound mind. We asked Mbugwa about it and he said it was unusual but not rare. And unless she was destroying something, the police wouldn’t even look at her. At the train station, I said my good byes to Omari Bob. On the return trip to Nairobi on the night train, we were booked in a modern car. Very nice, slept four instead of six, and lots of shinny gadgets. I was very up for the Our final sunrise in Malindi. trip but unfortunately not everyone else was. Most people crashed early. I splurged and got bedding for the night from the coachman. I must admit it was one of the best nights of sleep I’ve had here in Kenya.
The teeming metropolis of Mombasa. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 133 - Jim Damico
Begun in 1593 by the Portuguese, Fort Jesus changed hands nine times between 1631 and 1875. Now a museum, the fort is a fascinating mixture of Italian, Portuguese and Arabic design.
The inside walls of Fort Jesus. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 134 - Jim Damico
The “Mombasa tusks” were built in 1952 to commemorate the visit of Queen Elizabeth.
13 August 1987 - Nairobi My last day in Kenya. I was up by 6am to watch the dawn light up the Kenyan landscape. By the time the train stopped in Nairobi, I really was feeling the sadness of leaving my friends. Today was really a blur. We had a large farewell banquet with a lot of people in attendance. The whole semester was ending so fast. Unfortunately for me, my flight was scheduled to leave tonight. I barely had time to say a few tearful good-byes after dinner, before some of the NOLS staff drove me to the airport. My whole departure is only a foggy memory now. I still can’t believe it’s time to head back home. I have made such good friends. And the semester has been nothing I thought it would be, but it was worth so much more. I saw and experienced Kenya like most people don’t. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 135 - Jim Damico
Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 136 - Jim Damico
Suggested Reading Insight Guides Kenya by (editors) Amin, Eames, & Appleton The Tree Where Man was Born by P. Matthieson Africa's Rift Valley by C. Willock North of South by S. Naipaul Facing Mount Kenya by Jomo Kenyatta History & Archaeology Mau Mau: An African Crucible by Robert Edgerton Africa: Dispatches from a Fragile Continent by Blaine Hardin The Kenyatta Succession by Karimi & Ochieng The Lunatic Express by Charles Miller Kenyatta by Jeremy Murry-Brown Facing Mount Kenya by Jomo Kenyatta Zamani: A Survey of East African History by BA Ogot The Myth of Mau Mau Nationalism in Kenya by Rosenberg & Nothingham Squandering Eden: Africa at the Edge by Rosenblum & Williamson White Highlands No More by ? The Barrel of My Pen by Ngugi Wa Thiong'o The Africans by David Lamb The Making of Mankind by Richard Leakey Lucy by Johanson & Edey Swahili Swahili (Teach Yourself) by Joan Russell & D. V. Perrott Lonely Planet Swahili Phrasebook by Benjamin, Biersteker, Mironko... Simplified Swahili by PM Wilson Swahili by DV Perrott Maasai The Worlds of a Maasai Warrior - An Autobiography by Tepilit Ole Saitoti Maasai by Ove Saitoti & Carol Beckwith Culture & Kenyan Fiction African Traditional Architecture by Kaj Blegvad Anderson Flame Trees of Thika by Elspeth Huxley Out of Africa by Karen Blixen Devil on the Cross by Ngugi Wa Thiong'o Peoples and Cultures of Kenya by Fedders & Salvadon Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe Arrow of God by Chinua Achebe Anthills of the Savannah by Chinua Achebe
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Wildlife The Land and Wildlife of Africa by Archie Carr Among the Elephants by Ian & Oria Douglas-Hamilton Battle for the Elephants by Ian & Oria Douglas-Hamilton Island Africa by Jonathan Kingdon Portraits in the Wild by Cynthia Moss Elephant Memories by Cynthia Moss Guide to Mount Kenya and Kilimanjaro by Iain Allen Serengeti Shall Not Die by B Grzimek The Safari Companion: A Guide to Watching African Mammals by Estes... Photographing on Safari: Field Guide to Wildlife Photography in East Africa National Audubon Society Field Guide to African Wildlife by Alden, Estes... A Photographic Guide to Birds of East Africa by Richards & Sinclair Insight Guides East African Wildlife by Geoffrey Eu (Editor) A Field Guide to the Larger Mammals of Africa by Dorst & Dundelot A Field Guide to the Birds of East Africa by Arlott & Williams Wilderness Ethics A Sand County Almanac by A. Leopold Deep Ecology by B. Devall and G. Sessions On Nature by D. Halpern The Rights of Nature by R. Nash Wilderness and the American Mind</a> by R. Nash<br> NOLS Publications NOLS Wilderness Mountaineering by P. Powers NOLS Wilderness First Aid by T. Schimelfenig and L. Lindsey Soft Paths by B. Hampton and D. Cole The NOLS Cookery by C. Pearson Miscellaneous Leave No Trace by Annette McGivney The Complete Walker III by Colin Fletcher How to Make a Journal of Your Life, Dan Price A Hikerâ€™s Companion by Cindy Ross & Todd Gladfelter
Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 138 - Jim Damico
Kenya Geography Location: Eastern Africa, bordering the Indian Ocean, between Somalia and Tanzania Map references: Africa Area: total area: 582,650 sq km land area: 569,250 sq km comparative area: slightly more than twice the size of Nevada Land boundaries: total 3,446 km Ethiopia 830 km Somalia 682 km Sudan 232 km Tanzania 769 km Uganda 933 km Coastline: 536 km Maritime claims: continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation International disputes: administrative boundary with Sudan does not coincide with international boundary; possible claim by Somalia based on unification of ethnic Somalis Climate: varies from tropical along coast to arid in interior Terrain: low plains rise to central highlands bisected by Great Rift Valley; fertile plateau in west Natural resources: gold, limestone, soda ash, salt barytes, rubies, fluorspar, garnets, wildlife Land use: arable land: 3% permanent crops: 1% meadows and pastures: 7% forest and woodland: 4% other: 85% Irrigated land: 520 sq km (1989)
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Environment: current issues: water pollution from urban and industrial wastes; degradation of water quality from increased use of pesticides and fertilizers; deforestation; soil erosion; desertification; poaching Note: the Kenyan Highlands comprise one of the most successful agricultural production regions in Africa; glaciers on Mt. Kenya; unique physiography supports abundant and varied wildlife of scientific and economic value People Population: 28,817,227 (July 1995 est.) Age structure: 0-14 years: 48% (female 6,841,235; male 6,957,908) 15-64 years: 50% (female 7,277,061; male 7,085,925) 65 years and over: 2% (female 359,659; male 295,439) (July 1995 est.) Population growth rate: 0.99% (1995 est.) Birth rate: 41.66 births/1,000 population (1995 est.) Death rate: 12.04 deaths/1,000 population (1995 est.) Net migration rate: -19.69 migrant(s)/1,000 population (1995 est.) Infant mortality rate: 73.5 deaths/1,000 live births (1995 est.) Life expectancy at birth: total population: 52.41 years male: 50.72 years female: 54.16 years (1995 est.) Total fertility rate: 5.76 children born/woman (1995 est.) Ethnic divisions: Kikuyu 22% Luhya 14% Luo 13% Kalenjin 12% Kamba 11% Kisii 6% Meru 6% Asian, European, and Arab 1% other 15%
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Religions: Protestant (including Anglican) 38% Roman Catholic 28% indigenous beliefs 26% other 8% Languages: English (official), Swahili (official), numerous indigenous languages Literacy: age 15 and over can read and write (1989) total population: 71% male: 81% female: 62% Labor force: by occupation: agriculture 75%-80% (1993 est.), non-agriculture 20%-25% (1993 est.) Government Capital: Nairobi Administrative divisions: 7 provinces and 1 area*; Central, Coast, Eastern, Nairobi Area*, North Eastern, Nyanza, Rift Valley, Western Independence: 12 December 1963 (from UK) National holiday: Independence Day, 12 December (1963) Constitution: 12 December 1963, amended as a republic 1964; reissued with amendments 1979, 1983, 1986, 1988, 1991, and 1992 Legal system: based on English common law, tribal law, and Islamic law; judicial review in High Court; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations; constitutional amendment of 1982 making Kenya a de jure one-party state repealed in 1991 Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal Executive branch: chief of state and head of government: President Daniel Toroitich arap MOI (since 14 October 1978); Vice President George SAITOTI (since 10 May 1989); election last held on 29 December 1992 (next to be held NA 1997); results - President Daniel T. arap MOI was reelected with 37% of the vote; Kenneth Matiba (FORD-ASILI) 26%; Mwai Kibaki (SP) 19%, Oginga Odinga (FORD-Kenya) 17% cabinet: Cabinet; appointed by the president Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 141 - Jim Damico
Legislative branch: unicameral National Assembly (Bunge): elections last held on 29 December 1992 (next to be held NA); results - percent of vote by party NA; seats - (188 total) KANU 100, FORD-Kenya 31, FORD-Asili 31, DP 23, smaller parties 3; president nominates 12 additional members note: first multiparty election since repeal of one-party state law in 1991 Judicial branch: Court of Appeal, High Court Political parties and leaders: ruling party is Kenya African National Union (KANU), President Daniel Toroitich arap MOI; opposition parties include Forum for the Restoration of Democracy (FORD-Kenya), Michael WAMALWA; Forum for the Restoration of Democracy (FORD-Asili), Kenneth MATIBA; Democratic Party of Kenya (DP), Mwai KIBAKI Other political or pressure groups: labor unions; Roman Catholic Church Diplomatic representation in US: chief of mission: Benjamin Edgar KIPKORIR chancery: 2249 R Street NW, Washington, DC 20008 telephone:  (202) 387-6101 FAX:  (202) 462-3829 consulate(s) general: Los Angeles and New York US diplomatic representation: chief of mission: Ambassador Aurelia BRAZEAL embassy: corner of Moi Avenue and Haile Selassie Avenue, Nairobi mailing address: P. O. Box 30137, Unit 64100, Nairobi; APO AE 09831 telephone:  (2) 334141 FAX:  (2) 340838 Flag: three equal horizontal bands of black (top), red, and green; the red band is edged in white; a large warrior's shield covering crossed spears is superimposed at the center Economy Overview: Kenya in recent years has had one of the highest natural rates of growth in population, but the statistics have been complicated by the large-scale movement of nomadic groups and of Somalis back and forth across the border. Population growth has been accompanied by deforestation, deterioration in the road system, the water supply, and other parts of the infrastructure. In industry and services, Nairobi's reluctance to embrace IMFsupported reforms had held back investment and growth in 1991-93. Nairobi's push on economic reform in 1994, however, helped support a 3.3% increase in output. National product: GDP - purchasing power parity - $33.1 billion (1994 est.) National product real growth rate: 3.3% (1994 est.) National product per capita: $1,170 (1994 est.) Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 142 - Jim Damico
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 30% (1994 est.) Unemployment rate: 35% urban (1994 est.) Exports: $1.45 billion (f.o.b., 1994 est.) commodities: tea 25%, coffee 18%, petroleum products 11% (1990) partners: EC 47%, Africa 23%, Asia 11%, US 4%, Middle East 3% (1991) Imports: $1.85 billion (f.o.b., 1994 est.) commodities: machinery and transportation equipment 29%, petroleum and petroleum products 15%, iron and steel 7%, raw materials, food and consumer goods (1989) partners: EC 46%, Asia 23%, Middle East 20%, US 5% (1991) External debt: $7 billion (1994 est.) Industrial production: growth rate 3.9% (1991 est.); accounts for 14% of GDP Electricity: capacity: 810,000 kW production: 3.3 billion kWh consumption per capita: 117 kWh (1993) Industries: small-scale consumer goods (plastic, furniture, batteries, textiles, soap, cigarettes, flour), processing agricultural products, oil refining, cement, tourism Agriculture: most important sector, accounting for 27% of GDP and 65% of exports; cash crops - coffee, tea; food products - corn, wheat, sugarcane, fruit, vegetables, dairy products, beef, pork, poultry, eggs Illicit drugs: widespread harvesting of small, wild plots of marijuana and qat; most locally consumed; transit country for Southwest Asian heroin moving to West Africa and onward to Europe and North America; Indian methaqualone also transits on way to South Africa Currency: 1 Kenyan shilling (KSh) = 100 cents Transportation Railroads: total: 2,650 km narrow gauge: 2,650 km 1.000-m gauge Highways: total: 64,590 km paved: 7,000 km unpaved: gravel 4,150 km; improved earth 53,440 km Inland waterways: part of Lake Victoria system is within boundaries of Kenya Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 143 - Jim Damico
Pipelines: petroleum products 483 km Ports: Kisumu, Lamu, Mombasa Airports: total: 246 with paved runways over 3,047 m: 3 with paved runways 2,438 to 3,047 m: 2 with paved runways 1,524 to 2,437 m: 2 with paved runways 914 to 1,523 m: 22 with paved runways under 914 m: 83 with unpaved runways 2,438 to 3,047 m: 1 with unpaved runways 1,524 to 2,438 m: 14 with unpaved runways 914 to 1,523 m: 119 Communications Telephone system: over 260,000 telephones; in top group of African systems intercity: consists primarily of microwave radio relay links international: 2 INTELSAT (1 Atlantic Ocean and 1 Indian Ocean) earth stations Radio: broadcast stations: AM 16, FM 4, shortwave 0 Television: broadcast stations: 6 Defense Forces Branches: Army, Navy, Air Force, paramilitary General Service Unit of the Police Manpower availability: males age 15-49 6,358,344; males fit for military service 3,932,506 (1995 est.) Defense expenditures: exchange rate conversion - $136 million, 1.9% of GDP (FY93/94)
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Wild Africa Animals, Birds and Plants Savanna Baboon (Nyani) Papio anubis Habitat is savannas and wooded areas where water and secure sleeping places occur. Troops typically include 30 to 40 baboons, with strict female rank order. Males compete for dominance. Predators: Lion, leopard, large carnivores. Mating occurs year round, but conceptions peak during rains. Gestation period is 6 months with a birth interval of 2 years. Births take place mainly at night and are rarely witnessed. Life Span: 10 years African or Cape Buffalo (Nyati) Syncerus caffer Found in well-watered savannas, swamps, floodplains, montain forests. Nonterritorial and very sociable; live in large, mixed herds that inhabit traditional home ranges. Predators: Lion; hyena prey on young. Mating is mainly seasonal. Gestation period of almost a full year means that birth peaks fall at the beginning of the rainy season and mating peaks toward the end of the rains. Cows calve every 15 months. Life Span: 20 years Cheetah (Duma) Acinonyx jubatus Found in open and semi-arid savannas, wherever suitable prey occurs. Females avoid contact with all other cheetahs except to mate. Breeding males are territorial. Predators: Lion; some carnivores kill cubs. Mating year round with peak after the rainy season. Litters average 3 to 4 cubs after 3-month gestation period. Predators such as eagles kill over half of cheetah offspring in first 3 months. Life Span: 10 years Nile Crocodile (Mamba) Crocodilus niloticus Habitat: Fresh water in lakes and rivers. Prefers running water and swampy areas. Solitary and territorial in some areas, semi-social and non-territorial in others, depending on density. Predators: None. 20 to 60 eggs are laid in a well-prepared sand nest on the bank of a lake or river. Fertilization is internal and the incubation period is 90 days. There is no parental care for the young. Life Span: 60 years Dik-dik (Digidigi) Madoqua kirkii Habitat: Rocky ground, thickets, bush country where there is suitable cover. Exclusively monogamous and closely associated. Sometimes in trios, the third a full-grown offspring. Predators: Leopard, jackal, hyena, eagle. Mating is usually twice a year. Gestation lasts 6 months and females come into heat 2 weeks after calving. Offspring disperse between 6 and 9 months, males earlier than females due to paternal intolerance. Life Span: 10 years Eland (Pofu) Taurotragus oryx Habitat: Very adaptable, avoiding only swamps, forests and desert habitats. Forms very large, mixed herds that are open and changeable. Young associate in tight-knit subgroups. Predators: Lion, spotted hyena. Mating occurs mainly during the rains, in large herds. Gestation lasts 8 or 9 months. Calves keep in close contact with one another, forming subgroups that often separate from the herd. Life Span: 20-25 years
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African Elephant (Tembo) Loxodonta africana Habitat: Rain and montane forests, forested savanna, subdesert country. A matriarchal clan society. Basic units consist of mother, grown daughters, and dependent offspring. Predators: None. Mating and births occur mainly during the rains. Gestation lasts 22 months and the interval between calves is 4 to 9 years. The bond between a mother and her offspring can last up to 50 years. Life Span: 60-70 years Bat-eared Fox (Mbweha masikio) Otocycon megalotis Habitat: Light woodland and plains, short grassland with bare ground. Social Structure: Normally occurs in pairs or small family groups. Couples groom, play, forage and rest together. Predators: Jackals, hyenas, eagles Reproduction: Mating happens once a year at the beginning of the rainy season. Gestation period lasts 2 months. Litters average 3 to 6 cubs, but 1 or 2 usually die before the litter emerges from the den at 3 weeks. Life Span: 20 years Grant’s Gazelle (Swala granti) Gazella granti Habitat: Thick bush, open plains, savanna woodland, subdesert areas. Conventional 1-male herds averaging 10 females, and separate bachelor herds. Predators: Leopard, hyena, cheetah. Mating occurs all year round. Gestation period is 6 months, and females come into heat within a few weeks after giving birth. Fawns lie out for 4 to 6 weeks before accompanying their mothers in the herd. Life Span: 12 years Thomson’s Gazelle (Swala tomi) Gazella thomsonii Habitat: Inhabits short-grass plains during rains and savanna in dry season. Females and young live in open herds. Territorial males shepherd females into segregated groups. Predators: Lion, jackal, cheetah, wild dog. Healthy females produce 2 young per year. Gestation period lasts 51/2 to 6 months, with females conceiving again within 3 weeks of calving. Fawns hide in tall vegetation. Life Span: 12 years Giraffe (Twiga) Giraffa camelopardalis Habitat: Arid and dry savanna zones wherever trees occur. Nonterritorial, living in loose, open herds of both sexes and all ages. There is no leader or rank hierarchy. Predators: Lion and hyena prey on young. Mating is year round with a peak in the rainy season. Gestation lasts 14 months and the minimum interval between calves is 16 months. Senior males do most of the mating, due to their weight and height advantage. Life Span: 20-30 years Coke’s Hartebeest (Kongoni) Alcelaphus buselaphus Habitat: Prefers woodland and high grass toward the edges of open plains. Social Structure: Female herds number 6-15. Prime bulls compete intensely for territories; others live in bachelor herds. Predators: Lion, leopard, hyena, jackal Mating occurs year-round with 1 or 2 peaks in the dry season. Gestation lasts 8 months and the minimum interval between births is 10 months. Mothers are accompanied by up to 3 offspring. Life Span: 15 years
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Hippo (Kiboko) Hippopotamus amphibius Habitat: Aquatic; prefers swamps, lakes and ponds bordered by pastures. Hippo pools are divided into numerous mating territories, each defended by one bull. Predators: Lions, hyenas and crocodiles. Most mating occurs in the dry season and calves are born during the rains after 8-month gestation period. Cows and newborns stay isolated from the herd for the first 2-6 weeks. Life Span: 30-50 years Spotted Hyena (Fisi) Crocuta crocuta Habitat: All habitats except dense forest and desert. Lives in large, mixed herds. Females are larger than males and dominate them in all situations. Predators: None. Mating occurs all year round. Gestation period is 4 months and litters contain 1 to 4 cubs. Siblings of same sex battle for dominance, and the weaker one usually starves. About 25% of young die in first month. Life Span: 25 years Rock Hyrax (Pimbi) Procavia capensis Habitat: Rocky outcrops in savanna country, arid zones. Colonies consist of a territorial male and a clan of related females and their offspring. Predators: Eagle, leopard, snake, jackal. Mating occurs annually with births during the main rainy season. Mating peaks are times of intense calling and fighting. Litters range from 1 to 4 young. Life Span: 6 years Impala (Swala Pala) Aepyceros melampus Habitat: Acacia savanna, open bush, and light woodland. Females live in large herds, up to 100, with one dominant male. Other males in bachelor herds. Predators: Leopard, cheetah, wild dog. Sexual competition among males is very intense during mating season, usually during the rains. Fawns and juveniles associate mainly with each other, seeking their mothers only to nurse or for protection. Life Span: 14-15 years Black-blacked Jackal (Bweha) Canis mesomelas Habitat: Usually prefers woodland while the golden jackal dominates the plains. Social Structure: Monogamous, territorial pairs live with young; occasionally older offspring remain with parents as helpers. Predators: Leopards, eagles prey on pups Reproduction: Mating occurs annually during dry season. Litters contain up to 6 pups. Helpers are essential for pup survival and spend most of their time at the den. Rank order of pups is set by 6 months. Life Span: 8-10 years Lion (Simba) Panthera Leo Habitat: Open and lightly wooded grasslands; subdesert country. Females grouped in prides, residing in a traditional home range; males are single or in coalitions. Predators: None. Mating occurs year-round but is often synchronized within prides. Gestation period is 15 weeks and the normal interval between births is about 2 years. Litters average 3 cubs. Life Span: 20-30 years Agama Lizard (Mjusi kafiri) Agama planiceps Habitat: Rocky outcrops, kopjes, and savanna. Solitary, dominant male's range usually overlaps with several females. Predators: Lion, cheetah, wild dog, hyena. Reproduction: Female lays up to 20 eggs twice a year, which hatch in 2-3 months. No parental care, young lizards must fend for themselves. Lion Tracks Outside My Tent - 147 - Jim Damico
Banded Mongoose (Nkuchirio) Mungos mungo Habitat: Prefers savanna habitat where termite mounds provide refuge. Social Structure: Large, mixed packs with up to 35 adults, including 3-4 breeding females and as many breeding males. Predators: Jackal, serval, wild dog, eagle Reproduction: Mating is synchronized within packs, but not between packs. Females mate with several males during estrus. Most births occur during the rains, with up to 4 litters per year and 4 pups per litter. Life Span: 10-12 years Beisa Oryx (Choroa) Oryx beisa Habitat: Dry, open bush, short-grass savanna, waterless areas. Social Structure: Forms mixed herds with semiexclusive membership. Each sex is ranked in a strict dominance hierarchy. Predators: Lion, wild dog, hyena, leopard Reproduction: Mating occurs yearround, but associated cows often calve within the same few months. Gestation lasts 8 months and females re-enter estrus a few weeks after calving. Calves hide up to 6 weeks. Life Span: 18 years Black Rhinoceros (Kifaru) Diceros bicornis Habitat: Ranges from semidesert thornbrush to forest and wetlands. Social Structure: Solitary and territorial in some areas, semi-social and non-territorial in others, depending on density. Predators: Lion and hyena prey on calves. Reproduction: Females first conceive at 4 or 5 years and calve at 2 to 4 year intervals. Newborns are able to stand within 10 minutes of birth and stick closely by their mothers, who drive their other offspring away when calf is born. Life Span: 30-50 yrs. Steenbok (Taya) Raphicerus campestris Habitat: Dry savanna where woody vegetation provides shelter and forage. Social Structure: Live singly or in monogamous pairs. Couples may share a territory without staying close together. Predators: Lion, cheetah, wild dog, hyena Reproduction: Mating goes on yearround with a peak early in the rains. Gestation lasts 6 months and females reproduce at 8month intervals. Calves develop quickly but donâ€™t begin to accompany mothers until wellgrown. Life Span: 10 years Topi (Nyamera) Damaliscus korrigum Habitat: Favors short to medium-length grasslands in a variety of settings. Almost every type of territorial and social pattern is seen among topi, depending on environment. Predators: Large carnivores, jackals. Mating is annual in most regions, with calving at the end of the dry season. Gestation period is 8 months. After about 3 weeks of hiding, calves associate in crĂ¨ches. Calves in aggregations only hide at night. Life Span: 15 years Vervet Monkey (Tumbili) Cercopithecus aethiops Habitat: Open and woodland savannas, high bush, fringing forests. Family troops of females and young share and defend home range with group of attached males. Predators: Leopard, hawk, eagle, snakes. Mating is seasonal, but timing depends on climate. Most females breed yearly and copulate mainly with dominant males. Due to a long gestation period, vervet infants are precocious and develop very quickly. Life Span: 15 years
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Warthog (Ngiri) Phacochoerus aethiopicus Habitat: Open grassland and savanna dweller; avoids dense cover and forest. Social Structure: Sows live in clans of related individuals who share resources. Males associate in bachelor herds. Predators: Lion, cheetah, hyena, wild dog Reproduction: Mating usually takes place at the end of the rains. Gestation lasts 51/2 months, with births at the start of the rainy season. Sows isolate to farrow and remain underground to care for the litter of 2-5 piglets. Life Span: 17 years Waterbuck (Kuro) Kobus ellipsiprymnus Habitat: Grassland and areas adjacent to woodland. Must be near water source. Territorial, but dominant males will tolerate bachelor males near and even in female herds. Predators: Lion, leopard, cheetah, hyena. Mating occurs year-round near the equator, once a year in higher latitudes, with calving during the rainy season. Gestation period is 8-81/2 months and cows may calve at 10-month intervals. Life Span: 15 years Wildebeest (Nyumbu) Connochaetes taurinus Habitat: Short-grass plains and open bush savanna. Typically alternate between resident and migratory social patterns, depending on the season. Predators: Lion, spotted hyena. Almost all yearly offspring are born during a 3-week period early in the rains. Within 2 days of birth, calves can keep pace with a running herd, staying close to their mothers for protection from predators. Life Span: 15-20 years Burchellâ€™s Zebra (Punda Milia) Equus burchelli Habitat: Adapted to a broad range of grassland habitats and wooded areas. Female herds of 2 to 6 accompanied by one harem master who has exclusive mating rights. Predators: Lion, spotted hyena, wild dog. Mating occurs year round with a peak early in the rains. Foals weigh about 70 pounds and are able to stand only 15 minutes after birth. Mothers keep all other zebras away until the foal is imprinted on her. Life Span: 20 years Birds Helmeted Guineafowl - Numida meleagris A slate-gray colored bird, covered in round, white spots. Its head and neck are sparsely feathered with a bony horn protruding from the crown. It has blue and red or sometimes all blue folds of skin which hang from the base of the bill. Sexes are colored the same. A commonly seen game bird in East African bush country, arid thornbrush, open park areas and savanna woodlands. These guineafowl live in groups except during breeding season. They have a loud, cackling call. Egyptian Goose - Alopochen aegyptiaca Brown or grayish-brown plumage with contrasting white shoulders which are conspicuous in flight. It has emerald green wing feathers and dark brown tail feathers. The chestnut patches in the center of the belly and around the eye are distinguishing features. Resident throughout Eastern Africa in suitable habitats. They frequent inland waters, favoring the edges of lakes, swamps and larger rivers. They are usually seen in pairs or small flocks and often alight in trees.
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Bare-faced Go-away Bird - Corythaixoides personata The Bare-faced Go-away Bird is part of a forest species that is known for loud, harsh calls and long tails. The Bare-faced Go-away Bird has a bare black face, a pale grey back, and a white chest marked with a greenish patch. Its head is crested. This Go-away Bird can be found in savanna woodlands, park-like country, and open bush, particularly where there are euphorbia and fig trees. It makes a series of deep, bleating calls and wild ringing chuckles. Shelley’s Francolin - Francolinus shelleyi A thickset bird with a white throat. Its chest is patterned with chesnut blotches and its belly mottled black and white. Brown upperparts are streaked with creamy-white. Its gray flight feathers are paler at the base, and its outer tail feathers are black. Shelley’s Francolin lives in grasslands, light woodlands, and in mixed areas of bush and grass. Little Egret - Egretta garzetta The Little Egret has entirely white plumage with a black bill, blending to blue-gray towards the base. Its legs are black with bright yellow toes, often the only feature that distinguishes the Little Egret from other egrets. The Little Egret is a common resident of swamps, marshes, shallow lakes, flood plains, mangrove swamps and the sea shore. Cattle Egret - Ardeola ibis A relatively short-legged, thickset white heron, often seen with big game, elephants and cattle. It has flesh-colored legs and a yellowish bill. Non-breeding and immature Cattle Egrets have pure white plumage, while breeding birds are white with an orange crown, chest and back. Cattle Egrets are gregarious and frequent swamps, marshes, pastures, and lake and river margins. These egrets often feed on insects that are disturbed and swatted by the large animals with whom they associate. Tawny Eagle - Aquila rapax This eagle and its raucous cry can be found in savanna bush, mountain zones, and on open plains in big game reserves. Tawnies associate with other carrion feeders at lion kills, but they also hunt and kill on their own. Yellow-billed Egret - Egretta intermedia The yellow-billed egret has entirely white feathers, a stumpy yellow bill, and black legs. It is often confused with the larger, and longer-billed great white egret. It also resembles the little egret, in its white color, but the little egret has a black bill. The yellow-billed egret is a common resident of swamps, marshes, shallow lakes, flood plains, and the sea shore. Red-billed Duck - Anas erythrorhynchos Best identified by the combination of its red bill and dark brown crown, both of which contrast with the duck’s pale cheeks and large pinkish section at the rear of its wings. Brownish feathers with white tips give the duck a speckled pattern on its back, chest and belly. Red-billed Ducks are widespread and common in East and Central Africa, frequenting almost any sort of surface water, alkaline and freshwater alike. They often occur in flooded areas after heavy rains.
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Namaqua Dove Males have a black face, throat and chest, a white belly, and brownish-gray upper parts. Females have no black patch on the head or chest and are mainly gray. In flight, cinnamon patches are visible on the femaleâ€™s wings. Both sexes have a long, graduated tail. Namaqua Doves are the smallest African dove. They are common in arid and semi-desert bush country, acacia stands, sandy areas and open, dry woodlands. Crowned Crane - Balearica regulorum Easily identified by the tuft of gold-colored feathers on the top of its head. This large bird has gray upper parts and a black forehead. Bright red and white folds of skin, called wattles, hang from its neck and below its eyes. Wings appear mainly white in flight. Little Bee-eater - Merops pusillus The Little Bee-eater has a square tail instead of the elongated tail feathers of many of its relatives. It is mostly green, with a yellow throat, a blue-black neck patch and a conspicuous black eye-stripe. It has a long bill that curves slightly downward. Favors a variety of habitats including coastal bush, wood-land, open plains with scattered small bushes, waterside vegetation, and the edges of swamps. It often perches near to the ground, on bushes, or even grass stems. Trachyphonus erythocephalus A thickset, brightly colored bird. Its upperparts, wings and tail are black and covered with round white spots. The underparts are a bright, pale yellow, the chest washed with orange. Both sexes have a narrow, white-spotted black band across the upper breast. These barbets inhabit semi-arid bush country and thorn-bush zones. They favor areas that include termite hills in which they breed. Barbets are mainly fruit eaters and are often numerous in fruit trees and bushes. White-backed vulture - Gyps bengalensis The white-backed vulture is common throughout East Africa and is frequently encountered in parks. They tend to fly above and feed in open game country, but nest in forests and riverside trees. Glossy Ibis - Plegadis falcinellus Ibises are generally recognized by their thin bills which curve downward. The Glossy Ibis is distinguished from other ibises by its mostly dark plumage with a green and metallic sheen. Its head and neck are a paler, uniform chestnut. The Glossy Ibis is widespread in east Africa, but mainly inhabits inland lakes, swamps, and marshes. Lesser Flamingo - Phoenicopterus minor The Lesser Flamingo has deep pink plumage, much darker and brighter than the Greater Flamingo. Its dark carmine-red bill with a black tip is a good field characteristic. They average 40 inches in height. These flamingos are often seen in vast numbers on favored lakes, but are very uncommon in coastal areas. They stay inshore in shallower water where thay feed on microscopic blue-green algae and diatoms.
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Greater Flamingo - Phoenicopterus ruber This flamingo has mostly white plumage with a light pink wash. Its wing coverts and axillaries are bright coral-red, its flight feathers are black and its bill is light pink with a black tip. It reaches up to 56 inches in height. These flamingos are often seen on favored lakes, but are very uncommon in coastal areas. They are bottom feeders who tend to stay in deeper water, straining larvae from the mud at the bottom of the lake. Kori Bustard - Ardeotis kori Best identified by its large size, crested head, and lax neck feathers. It lacks the chestnut patch on the back of the neck that is characteristic of other bustards. The kori bustard’s upper parts and neck are black and gray. The kori bustard is quite common in Tanzania, where it occurs in open plains country, open dry bush and semi-desert areas. It is a powerful flight bird with slow, deliberate wing-beats. Jackson’s Widowbird - Euplectes jacksoni Males are entirely black with olive-brown shoulders and a long, thick tail. Females, nonbreeding males and young have tawny plumage, streaked with dark brown. During nesting, males arrange in dancing rings and display by repeatedly springing two feet in the air or higher. Jackson’s Widowbirds are gregarious and can be found in grasslands over 5,000 feet during the breeding season. After the breeding season, these widow-birds form flocks and migrate to more cultivated areas. Pin-tailed Whydah - Vidua macroura A red-billed, black and white bird with an exceptionally long black tail. Females and immature are streaked and have a yellowish stripe down the center of the crown and a pink bill. Non-breeding males look similar to females but are larger and have more white in the wings. Pin-tailed Whydahs inhabit all types of grasslands, light bush and scrub zones, and are also found in cultivated areas. They are usually organized in small groups in which the males are greatly outnumbered by females and young. Speke’s Weaver - Ploceus spekei A heavyset weaver with a mottled black, yellow and brown back and a yellow crown. Its pale eyes are set in a jet black face and chin. Females and young have olive-brown upperparts, only slightly mottled, with yellowish-tan patches on the throat and breast. The Speke’s Weaver prefers lightly wooded areas and cultivation, often settling in the vicinity of buildings or houses. These weavers are gregarious, breeding in colonies located in acacia trees and swamps. Cape Teal - Anas capensis The Cape Teal is a light brown and white duck with a bright pink bill and a pale crown. In flight, emerald green feathers are visible towards the base of the wings, bordered by a white stripe. The Cape Teal is most often associated with alkaline and brackish lakes. Though typically a silent bird, it has been recorded making the quacking sound ducks are known for and will sometimes utter a short, soft whistle.
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Yellow-billed Stork - Ibis Ibis A pinkish-white stork with black wings, a bare red face and a orange-yellow bill that has a slight downward curve. Breeding adults undergo changes in the color of their plumage and can be identified by the vivid-red tips on their back and wing coverts. Yellow-billed Storks frequent marshes, swamps, river banks, pasture, ploughed land and flood plains. These storks are usually silent but will sometimes utter various guttural calls when they are in nesting colonies. Marabou Stork - Leptoptilos crumeniferus A very large bird with gray wings and upperparts and a white chest and belly. It has a fluffy white ruff at the base of its flesh-pink neck. Adults develop a long, air-filled pouch which hangs from the front of the neck. When the pouch inflates it is very conspicuous. Marabou Storks are social and associate in groups. They are mainly scavengers, but will feed on frogs and locusts when they occur in habitats near open water. Stonechat - Saxicola torquata Male Stonechats have a distinctive black head and throat, with white patches on either side of the neck. Females look very different; they are a tawny-brown color with cinnamon brown underparts and the same white wing patches seen on the males. An adaptable species, inhabiting mountain moorlands, cultivated areas, grassland with scattered bush and lush marshy areas. In flight, they appear jerky as they dart from bushtop to fence to telephone wire in search of a perch. Superb Starling - Spreo superbus A plump, short-tailed bird with brilliant, metallic plumage. It is blue and green with a blackish head and a bright chesnut breast and belly. A narrow white band across the breast separates the blue neck from the chesnut belly. Adults have pale, cream-colored eyes. Superb Starlings generally frequent thorn bush, acacia country, and areas in the vicinity of human dwellings. Like other starlings, they are gregarious and noisy, often imitating the calls of other birds. White-crowned Shrike - Eurocephalus ruppelli The White-crowned Shrike has a masked look, with a white head and neck broken up by a black stripe across and behind the eyes. Its back, or mantle, is a dusky brown color, as are the tail feathers. Rump and underparts are white, with a brown patch on each side of the breast. White-crowned Shrikes are almost always found in small groups, usually in acacia or other dry thorn bush areas. They are known for their stiff, gliding flight between trees and their harsh call. Rosy-patched Shrike - Rhodophoneus cruentus A slim, long tailed shrike with a red patch covering its front from throat to breast. A conspicuous red patch on its rump contrasts its overall pinkish-brown color. Tail feathers have broad white tips. Females have a black crescent across the chest. This shrike prefers acacia bushes and often settles on the ground instead of in trees. It inhabits open bush and arid scrub areas and is relatively uncommon. Its song is melodious, with four, five or six notes frequently repeated.
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Secretary Bird - Sagittarius serpentarius A large and leggy gray bird with black flight feathers and upper legs. Its long, black-tipped central tail feathers and conspicuous crest make it easy to identify. The crest is often raised like a halo when the bird is hunting for prey. Secretary Birds are generally encountered singly or in pairs on open plains, bush country and farmlands. They feed on reptiles, rodents and large insects. Yellow-throated Sandgrouse - Pterocles gutturalis The Yellow-throated Sandgrouse has short legs, feathered to the base of the toes, and long, pointed wings. Both sexes of the Yellow-throated Sandgrouse have yellowish-tan patches on their throats and are relatively large in size. Members of this species are residents of open grassy plains or, less frequently, open acacia country. Flocks of sandgrouse fly to water in the early morning hours. Lilac-breasted Roller - Coracias caudata A thickset, brightly-colored bird with the outer pair of tail feathers lengthened, forming long streamers. Its upper parts are tawny or greenish-brown, surrounded by the ultramarine blue of the rump and wings and the greenish-blue belly. A rich lilac patch covers its throat. Lilacbreasted Rollers occur in a variety of habitats from woodlands to open bush to open plains areas, as long as there are isolated trees, poles,fences or termite mounds where it can perch. Blacksmith Plover - Vanellus armatus The Blacksmith Plover is a conspicuous species with its contrasting white, black and gray plumage. The crown is white, the back of the head, throat and chest are black, and the wings are black and gray. Young are duller with yellowish-tan edgings on some feathers. Blacksmith Plovers occur on the shores of both fresh water and alkaline lakes, swamps, rivers, and on cultivated land. Adults make a distinctive noise that sounds like two pieces of metal being knocked together. White Pelican - Pelecanus onocrotalus The White Pelican is the larger of the two species which occur in East Africa. It is completely white except for black and gray flight feathers. During breeding season its plumage is imbued with a salmon-pink color. Immature White Pelicans are a pale, yellowishbrown color. White Pelicans are most common on large areas of inland water. They are unusually gregarious and will fish together in tightly packed groups, rest on shore in large groups, and take to flight in flocks. Yellow-billed Oxpecker - Buphagus africanus An ash-brown bird with a pale rump patch, a yellow bill with a red tip, and red eyes. Oxpeckers are associated with domestic stock and large game animals with the exception of elephants. Oxpeckers are most abundant in areas with large populations of game animals. They climb and perch on the backs of these animals in search of food such as ticks and flies. Many birds may be tolerated on a single animal at once.
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Ostrich - Struthio camelus Males are black and white with bare parts, such as their necks, a reddish or pink color. Females are usually brownish, with bare parts colored gray or brown. A territorial or breeding male can be identified by his bright pink thighs, which turn this color only during courtship. Groups of Ostriches consist of a single male and as many as 20 females. Ostriches are often associated with wildebeest and zebra, inhabiting open thorn bush country, plains and semi-desert zones. Long-toed Lapwing - Vanellus crassirostris The Long-toed Lapwing’s face and the front half of its crown are white, surrounded by black markings on the breast, belly and remainder of the crown. Its abdomen, under-tail coverts and wings are also white. It has a vivid-red, black-tipped beak and long, dark red legs. Typically the Long-toed Lapwing frequents lakes and swamps where there is an abundance of floating aquatic vegetation. In some localities it can be seen on the shores of lakes or rivers. Sacred Ibis - Threskiormis aethiopicus The Sacred Ibis is easily distinguished from other ibis by its mostly white plumage. Its head and neck are bare and black, and its rump is covered with long, dark purple plumes. Young Sacred Ibis lack these plumes and have mottled white and black feathers on the head and neck. The Sacred Ibis favors marshes, swamps, river banks, pasture and ploughed land, and flood plains. Von der Decken’s Hornbill - Tockus deckeni A white-breasted species that has black wings similar to the Red-billed Hornbill, but lacks the white spots. Male Von der Decken’s have bright red bills with an ivory white tip; female’s bills are smaller than males and are entirely black. Like other hornbills, Von der Decken’s prefer dry bush country and open acacia woodland areas. Their call is a monotonous piping whistle, very similar to the Red-billed Hornbill. Red-billed Hornbill - Tockus erythrochynchus Brownish-black upper-parts with a white line down the back. Its wings are spotted white and the underparts are all white, while the tail and central feathers are black. Its dull red bill is slender and curves downward, becoming darker at the base of the jaw. The Red-billed Hornbill is one of the characteristic birds of the dry districts of Kenya and its call is a common sound in the dry bush country, open acacia or woodland zones it inhabits. Ground Hornbill - Bucorvus leadbeateri Mostly black with some white feathers that can only be seen when the bird is in flight. The skin of the face and throat is bare and unfeathered with a bright red eye and throat wattles. In females this throat skin is either red or bluish-gray. Ground Hornbills are one of the largest African hornbills. They are very terrestrial and can usually be encountered in pairs or family groups. They frequent open country and sparse woodland zones.
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African Hoopoe - Upupa epops africana Bright pinkish plumage with black and white bars on the upper parts, tail and wings. They have a long, black-tipped crest of feathers and their bills are long and point slightly downward. It has a butterfly-like flight pattern, slow and undulating. Live in bush country, savannah woodland and in stands of acacia. Ant-lion larvae are a staple in the hoopoe’s diet, as they feed largely on the ground. They make a low, penetrating sound that is similar to a dove’s call. Squacco Heron - Ardeola ralloides A short-legged heron with yellowish-tan upper parts and white wings. Its crown is also yellowish, but is covered by long black and white plumes. Non-breeding herons have darker plumage, typically olive-brown on the back with heavy streaking on the neck and breast. Squacco Herons prefer swamps, marshes and lakes, especially those that have a thick covering of water plants. Black-headed Heron - Ardea melanocephala A gray and white heron with a distinctive black crown and neck, dark legs, and a dark bill. In flight, it carries its head drawn back on the shoulders with its neck curved. This is different from the flight posture of cranes, storks and spoonbills, who fly with their necks extended. Black-headed Herons are common throughout Africa, frequenting pasture land in addition to inland and coastal waters. It preys on rodents and large insects. Plants Yellow-barked Acacia Tree - Acacia xanthophloea Identification: Elephants are known to strip bark from acacia trees for food—which can eventually kill the tree. However, the bark usually grows back in a gnarled fashion. The acacias in the Ngorongoro Crater's Lerai forest are a good example of this wear and tear. Yellow-barked acacias are common in many African forests. They are also known as fever trees due to their association with water, mosquitoes, and malarial fever. Wild Sisal - Sanseveria ehrenbergiana Identification: Sisal is characterized by yellow-green spearlike leaves which grow in clumps and bind the loose soil of arid areas. Like sisal, many desert plants have thorns, spikes, or toxic compounds to protect themselves and their water against animals. Wild sisal grows in abundance around Olduvai gorge, but can also be found at the base of kopjes and other rocky areas. A mis-translation of the local word for sisal, "oldupai," is responsible for Olduvai gorge's name. Wait-a-bit Thorn - Acacia mellifera Identification: The name "wait-a-bit thorn" will be beautifully illustrated if one happens to brush against its thorny branches. The recurved thorns, shaped like a cat's claws, are quite "catchy." The Wait-a-bit Thorn is often seen growing above clumps of sisal in spreading bushes.
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Umbrella Acacia - Acacia tortilis Identification: Umbrella acacias are emblematic of the Serengeti plains, but are also common throughout areas of East Africa. Acacia tortilis is easily recognized by its umbrella-shaped top, thorny leaves, and gnarled limbs. Acacia woodland hosts a variety of wildlife, due to the shelter and food the trees provide. Especially common are birds, for whom the thorny branches both deter predators and provide good nesting platforms. Red Oat-grass - Themeda triandra Identification: Identification of individual species is difficult as over 45 genera and 140 species occur in Tanzania. The most abundant grass in East Africa. It makes nutritious pasture and hay. Along with sugar cane and maize, it is a member of the Andropogonae family of grasses, which grow only in tropical regions. Finger Grass - Digitaria macroblephara Identification: These grasses are easily recognized when flowering because the heads are arranged like spreading fingers. The finger grasses are common on the Serengeti plain and throughout Africa. Drop-seed Grass - Sporobolus marginatus Identification: The platable and nutritious drop seed grasses are in an active state of evolution and the vast number of hybrid, mutant, and sub-species can make cataloging them a baffling experience. Likely, there are more than 150 species in the group. The drop-seed grasses are common throughout East Africa. Baobab Tree - Adansonia digitata Identification: Baobab trees look as if they've been stuck in the ground upside downâ€”with their roots pointed to the sky. Typically very old, baobabs are said to be haunts for ghosts and spirits. They have spindly branches, a silvery trunk, and produce a gourd-like fruit. The young leaves of baobab trees are edible by humans, and elephants eat their bark, which is long and fibrous and can be used in weaving and rope making. The trunks are often hollow and contain a cache of rainwater.
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