Friday, 27 June 2014

The South Rift Valley, Bomet, Narok, Masai Mara, more.. and Naivasha (5)

The farm was moderately large with a mixed crop of maize, sorghum and beans. It surprised me that I found what I was seeing and hearing so deeply intriguing, as Bernard showed me around and explained how things worked. There was also some dairy farming going on and we had started out at the paddock where the cows were ambling around, sometimes making that reassuring mooing sound that cows make. I thought it very interesting to hear about the milking of the cows and how and what the cows are fed. I even helped with that morning's feeding.

The cows were of the Friesan breed, a foreign breed of cattle originating from the Netherlands with a black and white coat. They were huge, all seven of the adults were female and there were a few calves too. The zero grazing system being employed meant that the cows were permanently confined in the paddock. It was explained to me how these were prime cattle for milk production and how they differed from the local breeds such as the Buran breed, which we had seen several of on our journey to the homestead and indeed, which I had observed grazing in the fields all along the route from Nairobi the day before.

It was fascinating to see how knowledgeable Bernard was as he talked about the soil, the rains and the harvest of the maize that was due in a few weeks. And as I listened, I wondered how it would be if I was living in this peaceful environment, having the same concerns and worries that Bernard was expressing, and how I would enjoy this so very much. 

At breakfast I had my first taste of mursik, that sour fermented milk beverage of the Kalenjin people, which I had read somewhere is rumoured to be a secret weapon of Kenya's world beating athletes most of who are of Kalenjin extraction. Then we set out to explore the surrounding area and the town of Kaboson.

There was the constant reminder that we were in an area that was full of wildlife. There were the calls and cries of all manner of creatures to be heard and it was not unreasonable that I would find this unsettling. After all the Masai Mara reserve was only a few kilometres from this empty road that Bernard and I were now slowly walking down, surrounded on all sides by farms and bush, walking side by side, speaking in low tones, absorbed in each other; me excitedly telling him of what a wonderful experience it was for me being here, he assuring me in his quiet measured way of speaking that he was more delighted than I was. And of course him seeing that I was uneasy, reassuring me that we were safe from any kind of attack by a wild animal, which he said would prefer to avoid humans altogether and remain within the confines of the game reserve.

The Mara River flows down this way past Kaboson and onward to the nature reserve that bears its name. It is the bridge across the river that welcomes you to Kaboson. We walked towards the river and saw that there were a few people at the riverbank, children frolicking at the water's edge, local women chattering while doing laundry. Bernard said that occasionally hippos would stray from the Mara just a short distance up this river, and that there had been confrontations, even recently, between humans and hippos in which people had been killed.

There is no fence on the Masai Mara in this area and I never really got an explanation when I asked why. But I will assume that the fact that the bordering land is settled and cultivated by humans itself serves as a barrier to the animals within the nature reserve. I had heard of electric fencing in some areas and was pleased that no such fence existed here. We were not in the reserve, but from our position close to the top of the hill, which at Bernard's urging I had struggled to climb, we were rewarded with such a magnificent view of the Masai Mara that words alone are insufficient to describe it.

I learned that the Masai Mara is the same game reserve that is known as the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. The reserve straddles the border of both countries and is even more extensive in Tanzania than it is in Kenya. But the animals of course know of no international borders and wander to and fro across the border as they please. We were at a hillside location outside the reserve overlooking the Olare Orok Conservancy. We could see the tourists who were lounging in one of the camps. There was a herd of about ten giraffe and several wildebeest, gazelle and zebra. The sight was utterly stunning.

Far in the distance close to the horizon, we could just about make out elephants in a fairly large herd. And there had been baboons too, a large troop had scurried across the path in front of us as we made our way to this spot. Bernard said he liked coming here whenever he wanted to be by himself and it felt special to be alone with him here. There was not much to be said, we just sat there close together and stared at the beautiful scene that was before our eyes.

The tourists were foreign, Europeans, Americans, Canadians perhaps, there had been several of those (a Canadian tourist party) on my flight from Amsterdam to Nairobi. They were taking flights in hot air balloons over the savannah to observe the animals and the landscape. It was beautiful to see and I envied them a little, but I still couldn't help thinking how superior to theirs my experience of Kenya was. They had come to Kenya to see wildlife and would be making little or no contact with the people who live here and whose land it is. I, on the other hand, was experiencing Kenya in the way that an ordinary Kenyan would experience it. I was eating local Kenyan meals, spending my nights in a Kenyan home and not in some artificial shelter in the bush created exclusively for tourists. Mine, I thought, was the more authentic Kenyan experience. And I was with Bernard, surely nothing could beat that.

It must have been several hours that we sat there enjoying each other's company, but time has a way of flying by when you're enjoying yourself. We were quite a distance from home, a few kilometres at least. But we strolled all the way back, walking slowly, not only because I'd said I was a bit tired, but, I suspect, because we also wanted to prolong the journey for as long as possible. We loved being alone together. We loved it enough for us to decide that the following day we would leave Kaboson and the family behind and travel to Naivasha, where we could be truly alone. And that is what we did.

To be continued

Ankole cattle
Buran cattle have survived in Africa for more than a thousand years

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