Walking with the Maasai – week 1
By Stuart Butler, Photographer & Author
Stuart Butler, photographer and author of the Lonely Planet guide books to Kenya and East Africa, will spend a month from late-May to the end of June, walking with a Maasai friend across the heart of Kenyan Maasai land.
Our First Seven Days
I’m now a week into my Walking with the Maasai project in which myself and a Maasai friend, Josphat Mako, are spending just over a month walking across a part of Kenya’s Maasai lands. The walk started in the high Loita Hills and has now reached the Ol Derikesi conservancy on the eastern edge of the Maasai Mara National Reserve.
Whata Week its Been!
We started by walking to the highest point of the Loita Hills. This was no gentle warm up. A nine hour march over farmland and the increasingly dense forests of the Forest of the Lost Child (which, as the name suggests, gets its name after a young girl got lost when walking in the forest with her families cattle). Nearing the highest point we had to use machetes to hack through the dense undergrowth and follow the often used trails of buffalo. Finally, we reached the summit and were greeted by a puff adder which I first mistook for a small python and tried to catch! There was also amemorable view down into the Rift Valley to the soda lakes of Magadi and Natron.
Meeting a Legendary Maasai
On another day we went to meet Mokombo, one of the most powerful and respected of Maasai Loiban (seer or vision seeker). We sat in his smoky hut drinking tea and talking about Maasai history and culture and he explained howhe was the great-grandson of Senteu, one of the best known of all Maasai Loibon and the one who refused to collaborate with the British in the early 20thCentury. His brother however did work with the British and this caused a split within the Maasai community with Senteu’s followers heading to the remote Loita Hills.
Things Are Not Always as They Seem
Another unusual encounter came elsewhere in a remote part of the Loita Hills when we came upon a small school. Poking my head through a classroom door I was surprised to see a class of local Maasai children sat at desks and, sitting amongst them, a young, blonde haired, blue-eyed Maa and Kiswahili speaking European child who turned out to be more at home with his Maasai class mates than with other English children.
Getting to Know the Maasai Mara
And then there was the walking itself. We’ve hiked through forests of tropical rainforest trees, acacia woodlands, savannah plains and, most memorably, across a high, cold grassland plateau where the drizzle fell incessantly and herds of wildebeest, zebra and antelope scattered at our passing.It’s all been an education for me. I’ve slept in Maasai manyattas and watched the goats being milked in the morning. I’ve been told how a generation of young Maasai children are growing up without hearing the roar of lions and I’ve been inspired to hear average villagers with no connection to tourism talking with pride about the wildlife of Kenya.
Now I’m on the edge of the Maasai Mara and, I hope, further exciting adventures and encounters are waiting up ahead.
For more on the project and to follow the progress of the walk please see the dedicated project website –www.walkingwiththemaasai.com
Please be sure to follow the dedicated Facebook page –Walking with the Maasai
If you would like to spend some time at our camps please get in touch with your trusted travel agent or make an enquiry with us.
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