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  • Kathy Moore & Bev Hooper

Black Cotton Soil, Chiefs and Politics - Travel Diary

This morning, our camp had a certain urgency about it as the drovers loaded up the camels at a rapid pace. The evening before, after we had gone to bed, a motorbike had arrived. We assumed it was another villager who had heard that three mzungu were in the area, as there were many who had come by earlier for that same reason. We had first thought they were there to see the camels, but all eyes were on us and our funny-shaped domes that we were setting up to sleep in. When our air mattresses were being inflated, all we heard was laughter.

However, this visit was for another reason. We had already completed the customary process of negotiating a rate for our camping fees with the local officials and, in addition, the area's assistant. Chief offered to walk us out in the morning to help us with our safe travel - so what could go wrong?? Well, the late-night visitor was there to tell us that the area’s Chairman did not want us to travel through this section, which was under the jurisdiction of a Conservancy, but rather go back to a village that we had passed through earlier that day and choose an alternate route. This of course, made no sense to us, but after a quick breakfast and pack up, off we went! Krasha (our Maasai guide) had several elevated conversations on our travels today; however, the key conversation that he had was with the Chief of another area who offered us shelter at his boma. Surely this would calm the Chairman of the Conservancy….we hoped. We gratefully accepted but decided to stop and make camp after walking 17 km to a location on the way (let’s face it - it’s hard to hide 17 camels anywhere!). Tomorrow, we have a short walk to the Chief’s boma and will then enjoy a day and a half rest.

Today, when speed was a necessity, we ended up walking the entire day in black cotton soil. We know now if anyone were to ask us what our least favourite soil is (we know… nobody will ask!), but for the record, it’s black cotton soil! Inches of dust, making it feel like we were going nowhere quickly, giving us the most intense leg workout imaginable. 17km felt like 34! Most of our drovers wear “firestones” for walking. You guessed it, shoes made from tires! Remarkably, though, they are able to walk through these areas with what looks like relative ease. Here we are in our hiking boots with grippy soles and extra built-in “comfort” going nowhere in the dust! Once again, as we see so often in Kenya, simplicity wins!!

Firestones light and great for travel

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