04.09.08

Day 4: View from Above

Posted in africa 2008, personal, photos, travel at 12:15 am by wingerz

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maasai
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dagger, cell phone
(saadiq)

We wake up at 7am, excited to be traveling on foot for the day. After breakfast we hike to the top of a nearby mountain. The walk offers the possibility of elephant, giraffe, and buffalo sightings (but all we encounter are their droppings). The views are astounding and a family of elephants is spotted in the grasslands below. It takes me a few minutes to locate them, even with a decent pair of binoculars. Lots of buffalo, looking like small black bugs, are huddled near a watering hole in the faraway distance. The steppe stretches in all directions, a broad expanse of green at the beginning of the rainy season. Normally it is quite dry and the large mammals head to Tarangire, where a permanent river provides a more dependable source of life-supporting water.

We are accompanied by several of our Maasai guides, who have joined us for our time on the steppe. Their clothing is predominantly red. The most conspicuous part of the typical male outfit is a thin blanket-like piece of vibrant red cloth wrapped around the shoulders. Their earlobes have been stretched out and they have large holes in them. Maasai sandals are made from motorcycle tires, and apparently once you get used to them there’s no going back to sneakers. Our Maasai guides carry intimidating spears. Abhinav interviews one of them with his video camera, and he says that he has killed a male lion. This seems to have been a more common rite of passage in the past but now it’s done mainly out of necessity to protect cattle herds. Nowadays lion-hunting is done in groups to maximize the number of young men who get to participate.

We notice that one of the Maasai carries a cell phone and constantly marvel that the cell phone reception is better on the steppe than it is on the Sloan campus.

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heading back down

The early clouds give way to an intense, beating sun. The ascent is moderately difficult, and most of the group chooses a route straight up some rocky terrain while the rest of us take a more straightforward route. Our Maasai guide helps Joanna up. At the top all 20 of us share a very small bit of space and learn that we’ve become quite adept at spotting faraway elephants with the naked eye.

Towards the end of the hike, we end up talking to Douglas, one of our four safari guides. He has gone through 1 1/2 years of general safari tour training and an additional 1 1/2 years to specialize in wildlife ecology. His two sisters and fiancee are also tour guides. He carries a large rifle with a scope (which he used at least once to look at animals). He is very knowledgeable and is constantly smiling. Later I learn that he enjoys playing tricks on sleeping passengers (“Cheetah!”) in his jeep; this doesn’t surprise me at all.

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