Elie family groups congregate together. Thirty seven in total! What grand sight to see so many massive animals that can weigh up to 15,000 pounds! Looking out, their bulky, wrinkled bodies cover the horizon. And even in the distance, you can see the depth of their feeling. The wisdom of their souls. They trumpet and stomp around, their red earthen-stained backs lumbering around water holes--walking together, in a line away from us. The contrast of their thick and tough skin stark against the crimson soil, and then again striking against the golden waves of grass and black stone outcrop of Satau Rock.
Hundreds of buffalo drink and saunter around Kibuko water hole. Their horns show different stages of growth-young ones with small, straight horns. The old bulls, solid and staunch staring with Zeus' glare.
Grevy's zebras, an endangered species, and rare in Tsavo, wander slowly about the plains. And a single giraffe, front legs spread wide in anticipation for a drink. He waits, frozen in this position, hoping we'll leave so he can drink in peace. But we don't leave. We watch him intently--this young soul, clumsy and vulnerable to us as we intrude. Finally, after much patience, he bends his long, long neck down tot he water, and we all sigh and laugh at this beautiful, heart warming creature.
We visit the old camp, Camp ya Neki, near Satau Rock. The rocks at Satau are breathtaking, and give us another glimpse into the diversity of the Tsavo landscape. Bruce and Andy take down a GPS weather station that records weather and climate while we explore and take photos of those amazing elephants! Nicola takes aim and we cast shadows on thatched huts. Shadows that make us feel permanently etched in this place.
Another gerenuk, swala twiga, its long, slender neck. Obsidian eyes, propeller tail. A tiny bee-eater, a beautiful green and yellow bird, and a lilac crested roller, both remnants of a rainbow in a world of earthen-red clay and soft, bushy browns of the scrubland.
It was hard at first standing in a vehicle for a total of 8 hours a day, bumping, slamming against the sides as your traverse the uneven ground (a waistband of bruises as initiation!) Our camp, tightly secured, made it impossible to hike or walk, and it was tough at first. But Seth and I made a habit of walking the perimeter before or after the lunch. And the camp staff watched us circle, again and again and again without cracking one joke! A great time to reflect on the drives, the group dynamics, and our building love for Kenya. Walking through camp staff quarters gave us a chance to interact, in a small way, with the normal lives of Kenyans.
I remember the kitchen where our chakula was prepared-- and the taste of the bread made in the wood burning stove. A simple small, stone building, with Chef Jimmy-produced the most incredible food (more later.) I remember the laundry, our towels, sheets, and clothes, washed for us in a basin, and hung to dry on a line, flapping in the breeze- a constant reminder of how hard the staff worked for us. I remember one of the askaris (guards) reading the Koran quietly under a tree. The lizard (or was it a scorpian?) that darted down from his hole everytime we passed by. The Go away (and all kinds of others) flutter out from the compost/trash cement bins. The sun warming my skin. The red earth in my sandals. Joyous walks, even if we didn't go far!
My body not allowed beyond the borders of camp, or the vehicle. But my mind and eyes as free as the endless Tsavo sky.
(Thank you Nicola for the first photo of our drinking giraffe!)