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  • Chris Swift

Diary Update: Hell’s Gate to Maasai land - Soysambu to Coast

I had a good night reading the adventures of Joseph Thompson and listening to the hyenas, which have been on form every night of the safari. The closest they got was in the thick forest vegetation on top of the Eburu mountains, which always keeps one sharp. Last night’s performance was quite far away, with an obvious junior member of the clan practising his eerie howl after the big girls and boys had retreated into their burrows. The young hyenas obviously started well but just could not raise the anti and hit the high note at the end of his screech. Unlucky, but obviously, there is plenty of time to practice.

We have seen or smelt buffalo every day apart from today's walk, where we have descended down into the Maasai homelands. There is too much competition with the Maasai livestock and cultivation.

When Thompson became the first European to travel through these parts 140 years ago in 1883, he reported rolling dry plains of grassland and mixed acacia bush. In this landscape lived the ferocious pastoral tribe, the Maasai, tending their cattle and surrounded by antelope buffalo, elephants and all their predators.

Views down to Mt Suswa

Unfortunately, today, the wildlife has nearly all gone, and the tribe have become major cultivation farmers to help feed the rapidly increasing Kenya population. It is estimated at around a million in 1900, around 70 million today and forecast to be 100 million by 2050.

The result is much of the bush and acacia has been cleared, and plots of land have been designated to each family. Fences of every description abound, and everyone is frantically planting their maize with the onset of these traditionally short rains.

We are now camped under a remaining block of yellow fever trees that have some how escaped the chop which is delightful fodder for the camels.

They are skillfully stripping the leaves off the lower branches not in the least bit concerned by the array of 2inch thorns along each branch.

The distant thunderclaps are getting closer to camp as Barabara our lead camel man adds to the din with some melodious song about his latest bush lady.

Afternoon activity was to climb the “funny little cone” hill

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