So it’s been a while since I updated this blog but lets talk about what’s happened recently.
Anyone heard of it? Ghosts and the Darkness? That’s where they have man eating lions. They are maneless and have specialized to hunt buffalo but when injured are known to attack humans. There were two in the 1890’s that attacked and killed over 130 people. So yeah…
We were prepped on what to avoid (Tall grass, lions, lions with injuries) and went on our way.
Did I mention we were camping there?
Not in cabins, but tents, 4 person tents holding 5 of us. No showers. No toilets. I’ll get to that.
So on our way in we had a lecture at the Shetani lava flow. The park itself is gorgeous but when hit with the stark contrast of black volcanic ash interspersed with green fycus tress it’s breathtaking. We were instructed to look for klippspringers, though I didn’t find any. We did see many lizards and a rock hyrax, the closest relative to an elephant (it looks like a guinea pig). Klippspringers are little antelope that have evolved to run on the lava flows easily. Tiny little hooves given allow them to run very quickly on the jagged rocks and gravel.
We had lunch at Mzima springs and went to go look for hippos (I was look for crocodiles). During lunch a monkey tried to steal from us, but on of my classmates, Ben, just picked it up and lobbed it into the bushes. The monkey didn’t try coming back… At the springs we saw many hippos lounging about and with a keen eye I spotted a croc in the distance. As we continued along the path I saw a small croc sunning itself on a rock much closer. We stayed there for maybe half an hour and I saw many more monkeys (Sykes and Vervets,) and was stalked by one very precocious vervet.
Anyways after that we just game drove for the rest of the day. We saw many mammals such as zebra, giraffe, elephant, impala etc.
The next day we had lectures in the Chyulu hills. Two in a row. It was sunshowering and 95 degrees out. It was miserable. Also, I got hit in the face by more than a few branches on the drive over. Luckily no horrific scars from Acacia thorns. Most of those hit my arms and hands. Then we went hiking on a monster of a hill that I barely made it up. I did, without falling significantly and took some fun pictures from the top. We kept teasing our KWS askari about how imposing he was with his AK-47. After that we went back to camp and had a few minutes before a game drive.
So I was very tired but decided at the last minute I wanted to go on the game drive and hang out with my friends. So I had changed into driving clothes (read: already very dirty clothes) and grabbed my camera. I’m walking towards the car when Daniel comes running up shouting at the top of his lungs, “EVERYONE GET IN THE CARS!! NOW!” Having been taught the evacuation procedure for invading elephants or man eating lions I literally jump into the nearest car. Everyone else runs in and the doors slam shut and Daniel peels out of there at probably 60 or 80 km per hour (20-40 over the speed limit). I have my head out the hatch looking for the animal in the camp when I notice an incredibly dangerous acacia branch (2” diameter or so with maybe 3” long spines coming out of it) and I begin yelling, “DOWN HEADS!” as we are supposed to to keep our eyes from being poked out. Well the two people in front of me turn to try and figure out what’s going on so I have to push them down and duck down quickly to avoid the branch. Incredible amounts of fun. Manuel needs to learn what down means. Daniel is just mumbling “oh my god” at this point and we ask him what was in the camp. He says nothing, but if we get to where we’re going fast enough we’re going to be the luckiest SFS students in years. So we careen down the Tsavo roads and finally pull up next to
Wild dogs are very endangered. That we got to see them at all is amazing. We saw two. Two females lounging around, almost posing for the camera. I got around 40 shots of them before they got scared off. Beautiful mottled coats and funny round ears. Google them. You’re online now… Anyways, after the dogs we just drove back to camp (we passed by Daniel’s old house when he did research in Tsavo). I stayed up that night to listen to lions calling in the night. It was amazing. Oh yeah, that night around the fire I was eating my delicious beans when someone asked me to point my flashlight behind me. About a foot behind my chair was a baby black mamba. Now in terms of danger, babies are significantly worse than their parents because they can’t control their venom output, they just unload it all. So needless to say everyone concurrently freaked out and tried to get closer to see. I just sat motionless as Daniel tried to herd it away from the crowd. He ended up grabbing a stick and crushing its skull. Very exciting.
Also, pooping in a hole the size of an envelope sucks. I don’t care if it’s rugged and how they do it in the wild, toilets were man’s greatest invention. Screw fire and the wheel. People miss. ‘nuff said.
Next day we had lectures at camp about Tsavo and made groups where we proposed possible solutions to the problems facing the ecosystem around us. Snore. I hate policy. Lets talk about some fun ecology. Yeah I’m a nerd… After that we got Ice cream. Woohoo! I haven’t had that in a while. It was very low quality but at this point I’ll eat anything. It was like sweet ambrosia.
Anyways, next day we did animal habitat transects. We identified animals and the habitat they were located in and will be statistically assessing whether the distribution was significant. Love X2…
On our transect we saw dik-dik. And Klippspringer. And warthog, baboon, giraffe etc. Other people saw an epic battle between lions and elephants. We tried to decide what to name a half dik-dik half klippspringer (Klippdik or Dikspringer your choice). Others saw a leopard carrying a kill into a tree. We almost saw a monitor lizard. He ran into a bush before anyone could get a good luck. Needless to say I was a little bitter, as were the other people in my car. We went the Chaimu lava cone and I hike up the gravel mountain. It was beautiful, I have pictures. I ran down the hill and because the hill was made of gravel, I more like skated down it. No pictures of that. I did get rocks in my shoes though. Go figure.
That night my wallet went missing. Couldn’t find it anywhere. This became a problem when I tried to pay for my lunch the next day in advance (buffets at lodges).
We went to Ngulia rhino sanctuary where we saw neither rhinos nor our guest lecturer. So that was cool. After that we went to a lodge where I had a buffet and we celebrated a friend’s birthday. We did see a rhino as it came up to the manmade water hole, but I didn’t have my camera with me. But that’s ok, I’m told we’ll see more in NPS. The lodge will lure animals for the tourists to look at by putting out salt licks, water holes and even legs of goats in trees to get leopards to come. If the food is stopped, leopards have been known to attack hotel staff. So, don’t make the animals dependent on you. My friend found my wallet in her tent; I had left it there playing cards. Oh and I gave a girl a concussion when I closed the hatch of my car. My elbow slammed down on her head and I felt huge amounts of guilt. She was/is ok though. Sorry Mary.
We got back to KBC the next day where and since then I have been having classes and doing lots of work. I have one more assignment left due this week (2 essays down, both over 4 pages long) and next week I have exams.
Today we went out to isnet where I interviewed farmers according to a questionnaire about human wildlife conflicts. It was really fun. I was really worried because I don’t want to offend people and to them I’m just a rich mzungu. But it wasn’t bad. We talked to 7 people. Beth was this very excitable Kamba woman, she was very excited to see us. Another farmer tried to get his wife to sell us some wickerwork, though none of us had money. Yet another man asked us for a present for the interview he gave. We tried to offer him a pen but I think he wanted money or something more substantial. We didn’t have anything, so we left teasing him that our friendship and gratitude should be gift enough and with that hopefully he will be able to remember us. Our guide Alex, met up with one of his friends on the walk back to the car and we were invited for tea (Chai/Shai) but when we got to his boma his wife wasn’t there so no one was gonna make it. It was a good thing because were supposed to leave then.
Things I’m craving: Barbecue sauce. Ranch Dressing. Red Bell Peppers. Potato chips. Chicken wings.
Alright everybody, that’s been my last few weeks. I hope everyone is safe and will write me soon.
S – I love you and am glad you’re having a good time.
Family – stay safe
Friends (BU and Austin) – don’t work too hard. Remember just because I have to work my ass of doesn’t mean you should. Take it easy. Do something ridiculous. Tell your friends.
oh p.s. I saw the Research assistant daniel do the gallon challenge. 1 gallon in 1 hour. Don’t try it at home. He was arguing a Maasai could do it because they are and I am not making this up “Raised on the dairy.” Yes ger he said we are “raised on the dairy.” He was successful, but unhappy about it. Luckily he made 5000 ksh for it though. Go him