Published: April 19th 2006April 19th 2006
Getting Ready For A Rough Ride
At Gilgil, Kenya where the road turns to rough dirt
Road To Samburu: Archer's Post
(Please read the previous blog for Part One)
I want to preface this blog with this very little known fact:
From a BBC News Excerpt: "Kenya's government has spent more than $12m on new cars since 2002 - enough to send 25,000 children to school for eight years, their report said." Read full story here.
The next morning our journey would take us through some of the roughest terrain of our trip. Our new friend and armed guide, Lempei, has informed us of the dangers of passing through this region. There are bandits that litter the countryside and lie in wait for vehicles that are carrying foreigners. Their intent is to rob you, and if needed, they will kill to get what they want. Lempei had instructed us to keep a vigil eye in the bush on both sides of the rocky and trecherous trail. The Land Cruiser was built for the most difficult of situations, but that did not detour my thoughts of a broken axle in the middle of a gauntlet of bandits. I was to proceed with as much speed, even though it shook our skeletons beyond human
Getting Ready For A Rough Ride
Travis Mitchell thinks he's a zebra crossing the road
comfort. As we set off from Maralal to our destination of Archer's Post, Lempei donned a red-white-and-blue bandana and locked and loaded his weapon. His rifle was aged but there was no doubt it could take an elephant down and would do much damage to a bandit should he be in its sights. Lempei is a gentle, intelligent and jovial man. But when he donned his bandana he bacame the true SAmburu warrior he has been all his life. His demeanor was very serious and daunting. After a short distance he ordered me to stop the LC and then ordered Travis out of the front seat. Lempei positioned himself next to me, rolled down the window and propped his weapon on the sill, barrel pointing outside so that any bandits would be aware that we would return fire if a battle insued. And he then ordered me to proceed...with speed.
The area in which we were to be vigilant lasted for nearly 40km over washout gullies and four-wheel-drive trails. We would have taken photos to show you, but we had no time or the forethought to get the cameras out as our focus was to get through this area
Lempei Shows His Skill
Lempei demostrates how the bandits stake out prey in the bush with an elephant gun
and continue onto the next 100km to Archer's Post. Had we encountered bandits, they would have positioned themselves in an area where we would be forced to slow down due to the rough terrain, point their rifles at us and order us out of the vehicle. They would have then taken everything we had, including our clothing (underwear no exception) and left us stranded in no-man's land. When we heard the words "we're safe now" I let a sigh of releif and asked for a nearby place that was okay to relieve myself.
We arrived in Archer's Post, a small community near the Samburu National Reserve. This area is in a more desolated area than Maralal, but no less impoverished. Lempei negotiated a good rate to camp in the reserve and we set up camp. John and Bob (they take on Christian names in lieu of their tribal names because most are Christians) are are our cook and reserve guide, respectively. From here we would exit the park the next day and deliver more food to the hungry in nearby villages. But in the meantime, we opened a fresh bottle of wine and cracked open a few warm Tusker
Arrival in Archer's Post, Kenya
After 6 hours of grueling spinal tapping, we finally arrive in Archer's Post, Kenya
Beers. John cooked a small meal and we sat and talked into the night about everything from politics, America, lost loves, culture differences and even Samburu jokes for which I laughed at but was not sure I really got the punch lines. After a good night of interaction we all decided to call it a night.
I got up the next morning not feeling very refreshed as the accomodations in the tents were no more comfortable than the ride from Maralal. I had taken a liking to Edie (I nicknamed her Edie for no reason except she is from Ethiopia) and she and I enjoyed each other's company. Worlds apart in culture, language (she spoke some English) and personal history, it didn't deter us from trying to get to know each other. I found her somewhat exotic far from anyone I had any interest in. I think she likely felt the same way. And our mutual behavior was testament that we enjoyed each other regardless of such differences.
John, our cook, had coffee on the fire and Kenyan pancakes on the skillet. The camp was flooded with monkeys, baboons and exotic birds, all staking us out to
Camp in Lion Country
Armed guards keep us safe in the bush camp near Samburu National Reserve
get what food was left on the tables. At one point, an adult baboon weighing nearly 50 pounds ran through the camp and up onto the cooks table stealing whatever he could grab and then run off into the bush. John kept empty bottles nearby so he could throw them at the intruders, but there was no time in this instance and the baboon made off with the pancake mix. Oh well, welcome to Kenya.
After breakfast; a visit to the squater latrine and a cold shower we arranged what food we had left to deliver and made our way to the village outside the reserve. We were greeted by Gabriel, the village leader and Lempei told him what our intentions were. Gabriel was very pleasant and gracious that we wanted to deliver some food and he knew exactly how to arrange things so that those that need it most would get it. He told us of the disabled villagers and that he would like to introduce them to us. Walking around their fragile compound he lead us first to a man stricken with polio and no longer able to forage, hunt or work to take care of himself
Time For A Warm Beer
Opening our beers with bush knives, we finally get a well-needed rest...but still fighting off wild baboons from stealing our meals
or his family. He provided us with a brief history of each disabled person and then asked us if we would like to give them some of our donations. Of course we obliged and put together the same group of foods we had done in Maralal the day before. The blind, crippled, diseased and weak were to receive the food first, and then we would donate what was left to the rest of the community and let them divide it up among themselves.
The children were busy running around all over the place, many interested in the cameras and the strange white faces that had ventured into their village. Never once did we feel uneasy or threatened by our presence and Gabriel made us feel very welcomed. Travis had brought many small toys from his hometown, donated by the children and their families in his mother's kindergarten class back in Colorado. The local teacher, John, lined them up to receive the toys and candy and what started out orderly turned frantic as the children feared they would not get something. We left all the delegation of authority to the elders and leaders of the community and simply followed their
Love of my life...for four days, anyway. John and Edie.
lead. In the end, all the children got something even if nothing more than a small piece of candy.
After all had been given and smiles abounded among us all, the women of the village wanted to sing and dance for us in their traditional ways. I've only seen this on TV in my life, but to be there and also be asked to dance with them was an experience that will fill my heart forever. Even as I write this I feel emotion about a people that think I only touched their lives when in fact they have touched mine equally as much. When the song and dance concluded I walked across the dusty village towards the vehicle and found myself overcome with emotion. I had not yet cried during all this time in Kenya but my heart must have felt it was time to let myself go. I walked with Lempei and Gabriel and had a hard time keeping my tears back. Gabriel stopped my gate and stood in front of me using the top of his hand to tap under my chin to keep me from crying. He told me that we had done a beautiful
After breaking camp, we organize our mission to feed the hungry in nearby villages
thing here and that "God has blessed you and has blessed us with your presence and He will not forget you". Encouraging words for a man, namely me, that does not find organized religion to be enlightening but the spirit he gave me was what kept me at bay. I 'sucked it up' and moved on. I did not feel guilt about their plight but felt good about their warmth and acceptance for two men from a strange land that came to help in a small way.
Our day ended with an evening safari in the National Reserve. It was enjoyable and we saw many of the animals we had seen last week in Maasai Mara. But the terrain here is more "Kenyan" and more of what you expect Kenya to look like. The animals are well protected and are abundant. From time to time we would have a herd of giraffes, gazelle or zebras cross our path. We even were able to get close and observe a chitah that had taken down a small gazelle. As long as we did not show our whole bodies and let the animals know we were more than just a truck, they
Greeting the Village Chief
Gabriel, the village chief, greets us and assists us in selecting the most needy.
ignore your presence and act as though they don't see you. More safari stuff in another blog yet to be written.
It was time to head back to Nairobi. The next day will find us on a plane to Cairo.
An Excerpt From Travis
And then suddenly everything changes.....
At this point in our journey John and I were both extremely exhausted, dirty, and dehydrated from the desert sun. My face and eyes so tired it was difficult to smile, but inside I felt warmth from these people that I will never forget. Gabriel, the village cheif, wanted me to give a speech to his people about why I had come so far to help them. I told them I had come because I feel my life has been blessed and it was only right to share this blessing. Then I told them that after being there I realized that they are the blessed ones as they still have family ties and friendship that is supperior to any to my home in the U.S. As Gabriel translated this to them in their native tongue, I saw a tear come to one women's eye. I then realized
"Its all about the children..."
Travis, the local 'Candyman' gets a warm welcome from village children. He gives them toys and candy donated by his mother's kindergarten class from Parker, Colorado.
more then ever that these people are just like you and I in every way. No matter how primitive they may appear, they do not deserve the hardship and torture of their everyday life at the hands of their corrupt government.....we are lucky. -- Thanks to John and thanks to the readers. NOTE: I'd also like to thank Francis and Joyce Njuguna, owners of Savuka Tours & Safaris Ltd. Both of you were most helpful, not as tour operators, but as dear friends in helping us with the logistics of our mission to Maasai Mara and Samburu. You have been an inspiration and have given us faith in the people of Kenya by instilling a helping nature to your countrymen regardless of tribal affiliation and to your generous assitance in driving us all around Kenya to run our errands. You will be missed until we meet again in the future. I urge anyone going to Kenya to contact Francis and Joyce to plan your travel, tours or to make good friends. You can find them at: Pan African House
4th Floor Kenyatta Avenue
PO Box 20433
Tel: 225108 / 214904 / 214923
Direct Tel: 226136
Giving to the Disabled
Gabriel introduces us to the disabled, this woman and a man striken with polio.
Savuka Tours & Travel
http:www.africasafaripackages.com If you are reading this blog and wish to help the people of Archer's Post, Kenya, please send me an email. I can direct your donations via a US NGO so your money is well accountable. I am also the director of Operation Playground (www.operationplayground.org) and have built a playground for orphans in Wangige, Kenya outside of Nairobi. I do plan, someday, to return to Archer's Post and if I can raise enough funds would like to deliver more food and school supplies. All your donation will go to product, not vehicle rentals, flights and accomodations. Thanks for visiting my blog site. -- John Moretti
There are more photos below