Tuesday, 17 June 2014

The South Rift Valley, Bomet, Narok, Masai Mara, more.. and Naivasha (4)

The sun rising from behind the hill in the distance still shrouded in grey in the dull light of the dawn was the view that greeted me early the following morning when I partly pulled open the curtains of the window in the room at the guest house. Bernard's slow, long steady breaths from under the covers in the bed that we had shared indicated that he was still fast asleep, curled up in the foetal position. Neither of us had had much sleep the night before - there had been so many things to be said to each other, to be done together; so many things to laugh at and be joyful about; things to express sadness about that the entire night had been barely enough to get through all of it. So not wanting to disturb him, I pulled the curtains close and stepped out on to the balcony gently shutting the door behind me.

Birdsong together with the fresh, still, cool, highland morning air came as an absolute delight. From my vantage point on the upper floor of the building we were in, the views were stunning. I caught a glimpse of the Nyangores River glistening in the early morning light, tumbling across the rocky terrain as it made its way towards the Mara River of which the Nyangores is a tributary. The Mara is the major river in the region hence the famous Masai Mara Reserve. I had read somewhere that "mara" is the Maasai word for "spotted" or "mottled", a reference to the patchy covering of trees and shrubs that cover the landscape.

I was in the Rift Valley and Bernard was only a few feet away. The feeling was one of sheer contentment and I couldn't help thinking how far away from the frustrations of job searching in London all of this seemed. If heaven exists, I thought, it must feel something like this. It was a moment in time that will remain with me for a long time.

Breakfast at the guest house was full-English. Toast, bacon, sausage, eggs, baked beans, cereal, coffee, tea, the works. It was the second time I was seated across a table from Bernard over a meal, but this time, unlike the excited chatter over our late lunch the previous afternoon, we sat and ate in silent contemplation, staring at each other as we did so.

Perhaps he too was like me, marvelling at just how fortunate we were to be physically present with each other on this day, given that our association had begun when we were each located on different continents, separated by seas and deserts, by forests and mountains and plains and by thousands and thousands of miles. It was at this moment that I realised just how special this was; as if everything that had happened in my life prior to this time was in preparation for this very special relationship. This was the person whom I had yearned to be with. It was as if I had arrived at last at the place that I had always wanted to be. I was sure of this in a way that I had never known before.

The journey from Bomet to Kaboson was done by each of us riding pillion on two separate motorcycle taxis known locally as boda boda, my rucksack strapped to Bernard's back as we rode along. The riders manoeuvred the motorbikes down this dirt road that meandered through brushland, farmland, villages composed of traditional homesteads made up of those uniquely beautiful Kalenjin huts, more brushland, up and down and around hills, with a hint of the odour of donkey dung always faintly present in the background. And then there were the cattle, everywhere. Cattle, I was told are a very important aspect of the lives of the Kalenjin people, the native people of this place. Every man, including Bernard, owns cattle.

As we climbed off the motorbikes upon our arrival at the family homestead, there was a sense of homecoming that I found hard to explain, even though I was quite certain that no person born in Nigeria, as I was, had ever set  foot in this place that I was arriving at for the first time. The surroundings were unfamiliar, the language was one that I did not know, but I felt at home nonetheless. Perhaps it was because I had been born and raised in Africa myself, (even if not in a rural setting such as this), but I was easily able to identify with everything that I saw. It was unfamiliar, but it was not strange. I must admit also that the fact that it was Bernard's home made it that much easier.

As is typical anywhere in Africa, I was warmly greeted  by those whom we met. I was welcomed and treated with the great respect that is customarilly accorded to visiting strangers. I too am African and the showing of respect and consideration for others, which is customary among Africans, came naturally to me also. I was pleased to see that all those decades of living in Europe had not robbed me of, nor eroded that respectful nature, which is intrinsic to all who have been raised in Africa and in an African setting. True, I did not know their language, but they themselves were aware of this, acknowledged it, and spoke only in English whenever they spoke to me or addressed me.

It was easy to fall into the welcoming embrace of these gentle people and enjoy their warm hospitality. I felt almost as if I was one of them, a new member of their family. And in a sense, even though they did not know the full extent of it, I was indeed one of them.

We were in one of the several scattered homesteads that surround the small town of Kaboson. We had driven straight to the homestead so I had not seen Kaboson itself. Tomorrow, Bernard said, he would show me around his farm (he insisted on calling it a shamba) and we would go and see Kaboson. And of course the Masai Mara  too. The evening  meal was ugali and vegetables with roasted goat meat.

Bernard and I settled in for the evening, his room illuminated only by the solar powered lamp standing on a small table in the corner. Outside, the evening air had become quite cool, but in here it was warm. And it was very cosy. And it was peaceful. And then we slept. And in his room I felt truly at home.

To be continued 

Tea crop
Nyangores River

Kalenjin hut

Author's note: Although some of the photos in this section are not mine, they are in fact a true depiction of the scenes that I have attempted to describe and are indeed photos of the very same places that I was describing. I experienced some difficulty in keeping my phone/camera well charged while I was in that area, and was unable to take as many photos of my own as I would have wished to do. My sincere apologies to those whose photos these are. I did not know how to go about seeking permission to use the photos. But I've only used them to help me tell my story.

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