A Community Based, and Non-Profit Organization

Monday, November 15, 2010

"Nge kutoka kwenye kasiki fungu?!" (The scorpion came from the wood pile?!)

Oh my. These last 10 days have gone by faster than a dream moves through several hours of sleep. The longer I spend in E. Africa, the faster the pace of everyday accelerates. Before I know it I will be back in Washington, day dreaming of my time in Africa, only to awake to the stern look of a frustrated professor. I need to remember to cherish everyday here, because soon it will be gone, and I will be missing all the late nights of analyzing soil and vegetation data......I think.

November 7-11, 2010   

I woke up early on Sunday morning, blurry eyed and tired, but ready to start our journey towards Tsavo. On our way, we stopped, hiked a small hill, and had a lecture in Wildlife Management about various protected areas in the S. Kenya area, as defined by the IUCN (Int. Union on Conservation of Nature). A few local kids joined us, watching from a tree, and we gave them a few oranges after the lecture in exchange of using their bathrooms. Hiking down the hill, one of the bravest boys said to me "Give me my money", as if I had stolen it from him and he was demanding it back. I have been surprised to find how much more often I am asked for things in Kenya than in TZ......I'll continue to keep my eyes on this.

Down the dusty road we arrived about 15 km from the park gate at a security checkpoint. When entering Tsavo W., all tourists (especially if they are white) must hav a security convoy to the park entrance. A few years ago there was a small bout of robbings and hijackings of tourists approaching Tsavo W., but now there is not danger. The security is simply in place to ensure that tourists feel safe enough to visit the region, and it employs a few people along the way; not bad thing at all. Entering Tsavo W- unlike any other NP we have visited so far. Very very dense bushes and trees, you can barely see 30 feet past the roads on either side. Furthermore, the Tsavo NP system is the second largest NP in all of Africa (behind Kruger NP in S. Africa), so all of the animals are much more dispersed. Sadly, we did not see nearly as many animals overall during this safari as others in the part. However, the scenery in the Tsavo region is to die for. It lies on a plate riddled with geothermic activity. Sleeping volcanos and calderas protrude from the landscape almost as dramatically as if they were actually erupting, and cooled lava crusts the landscape like dry bread. Our first stop in Tsavo W. was at the Shetani Lava flows, which are over 500 years old. Amazingly, plant life still flourishes amidst the barrenness of the scraggly rock.

Shetani Lava Flows
Our final stop on Sunday was at Mzima Springs, locally known as "Mtu Mzima" (the River of Life). The water in these springs play host to a great varity of fish, alge, and plant species, as well as crocodile, and is famous for the Hippo. The water in the springs are also important as they make their way to Mombasa, on the coast of Kenya. After walking around the springs for a few hours, we made our way to our camp site. The rest of the day was spent setting up camp, and settling in. Aaron, Daniel (local worker), and I spent an hour trying to assemble a complicated mess of metal pilings and tarp into a suitable shade structure for 35+ people......of course leave it to three young and capable men, we got it done eventually. The remainder of the day was spent resting.

6 A.M. on Monday morning I am mounted on the roof of a car, sweeping dead bugs off the roof. A lantern had occupied the space the night before, and exterminated over 500 insects (poor biodiversity). The lay strewn across the roof and hatches, wreaking of dead bugs, which actually smells like dead fish. I find that my shoe is the most useful excavation tool.....I still should wash it. Not too many animals spotted on the morning game drive, like I said they are well dispersed. We did however run accross many elephants who, like the soils of Tsavo, have a very dark red hue. After returning to camp and having a lecture on the Tsavo ecosystem from a KWS (kenya wildlife service) ranger, we spent the afternoon in groups, preparing presentaions for the faculty on the differences between conservation issues and solutions in Kenya and Tanzania. A very hot day turned into a tiring day, but after the excercise we were rewarded with a trip just outside of the park, to the nearby town of Mitito Andei which lies on the Nairobi/Mombassa highway, squarely in the middle. A little time to walk around turned into persuading some local drunkards that I didn't have enough money to put down against them in a game of checkars.......the longer I stay here the more and more confusing and random it gets. I like it. That night spelled out as ghost stories told around the campfire, and the neccecity to squash a few too adventures scorpions.

Solitary Bull Elephant- Very Aggressive

Tuesday we loaded up the Land Cruisers and set off to the SE, toward the Chyulu Hills. An hour and a half of dirt, rocks, and branches laterm one of our cruisers had high-centered over a rock and the battery died. It took a while but we were eventually able to pull it out and continue upwards. The Chyulu Hills are a 60km long, North/South running plateau of beauty. They provide a perfect persective on the entire S. Kenya region. After a lecture in land use in the Chyulu Hills, we hiked the largest bluff in our vicinity (took about 30 minutes), and were rewarded with an astounding view to the NW of lava flows, volcanos, Kimana, and the foothills of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Were were escorted by a few male rangers which worked for KWS in the Tsavo area. One of them (I can't remeber his name, only that he had a pencil thin mustache) and I "dirt skiied" down the hill and walked back to the cars together. He told me a story about when he was in a gun-fight with a poacher who he witnessed killing 3 elephants, and ended up actually shooting the poacher......crazy, crazy, crazy.

Climbing to the TOP

On top of Chyulu Hills.

Chyulu Hills- Looking NW. Kili just to the West,

Wednesday was our final full day spent in Tsavo W. That morning (again after cleaning away a healthy residue of dead bugs), we sped toward Ngulia Rhino Sanctuary which is within Tsavo W. National Park. On our way we were exposed to a very speical treat- a pack of 30+  wild dogs. They are a very rare species, and are becoming more and more endangered due to habitat degredation and retalitory killing from local farmers (the farmers usually poision them). This particular pack was doing very welll, as it had young pups, immatures, and full grown adult dogs. We chased them down the road for about 15 minutes before they disappeared again into the bush. All of our drivers/professors were equally excited; most said they had not seen any wild dogs in Kenya for over 6-8 years. After arriving at the sanctaury, we were met by the local rangers who gave us a lecture on Rhino Conservation in Ngulia. They have fenced in 90 square kilometers of land which is now home to over 70 Black Rhinos, and apparently the populations are recovering slowly, but healthily. Unfortunately, we were not lucky enough to see any Rhinos, but we did find their tracks and scat at one of the 3 watering holes in Ngulia (which was almost as exciting). We left the sanctuary and proceeded to one of the local tourist lodges where we spent the rest of our day relaxing and resting. My highlight was talking to Daniel (a local Maasai) about the universal nature of women and men. I told him (jokingly) that women will pay more attention to you if you have money, so lots of men in America drive fancy cars to gain the attention of women. I then said, for him "A Maasai women will not pay attention to you if you just walk by, but if you walk by with 50 cows following you, then you are in buisness." Together we laughed, and our laugher carried us back to camp.

Wild Dog Pack

That night a storm pulled us in close, and didn't let go. Within minutes of the sun setting, I saw lighning in the distance, and thunder persistently approached. Finally the heavens opened and drenched our camp within minutes. Our debrief meeting was cut short as we all retreated into our tents. I stayed up next to the fire, and eventually found Askari Olikenny, sitting solemly. He told me that in his rush to feed the fire with dry wood, a scorpion had popped up and stung him in the hand. He refused to go to bed however, because he said he needed to keep guard that night- there was no other option. Locals here, like Olikenny, are pretty intense; not even a scorpion sting can stop you from doing your work.......Beat that Chuck Norris.

November 12-15, 2010
Back Home and Back to Work
Thursday morning we packed up (a very soggy) camp and hit the road back toward Kimana. It was an exceptionaly clear day and Mt. Kilimanjaro stood strongly amidst a few wisps of clouds, illuminated by the rising sun. It was overall a rather normal day travelling; crazy roads, swarms of locals trying to sell us jewelrey and wood carvings at the park gates, children chasing to keep up with as our cars pass by their front yards. Arriving back at KBC (our camp) everyone was tired, and took the afternoon to rest and decompress from our latest adventures.
Friday morning I awoke to the painful truth- we had a culminative final exam in oly two days. Oh well, no class today, lets go play. Instead of studying, most of the students went with some staff members past Kimana and Loitokitok Town to a path extending from the side of a muddy road. We walked down, through a large cornfield where about 30 farmers were tilling the land, appearing like bobbing polkadots in their respective rows. Past the field and down into a ravine, better known as "the Gorge". The sound of running water slowly gets closer and closer, and soon we are greeted by a roaring 30ft. waterfall pouring out of a hillside of vines, leaves, and trees. The stream actually formed the Kenya/TZ border- it was nice crossing the stream and for a few miniutes returing to TZ and remembering my friends left behind in Rhotia and Karatu. After eating my lunch streamside, I went into Loitokitok, specifically to the Voluntary Testing Center (VTC), which does free HIV/AIDS testing in this region. We spoke three women named Mary, JoAnn, and Monica who all had been diagnosed with HIV in recent years, and were members of a womens support group operating in the VTC. Their stories were heartbraking of course, but their outlooks on life were optimistic and more than refreshing. They viewed everyday as a gift, and intended to make the most of their time on this planet- just as anyone should. They almost saw it as a gift to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS, and do so much that "our next generation can be HIV free" -Monica. As we left they invited us back to meet with them on Dec 1- World AIDS Day, to help raise awareness of the issure and the VTC in this region. Returning to camp with the slap in the face that I have an important test to study for.....so I began.

Fastforward past a day of studying and review sessions- nothing really worth writing about. Let's just say I studied hard, did well on my exams, and now it is over. But out of these ashes does not rise a pheonix like a break or vacation, etc, but a monstor called DIRECTED RESEARCH. For the next month I will be doing intensive research with our professor of Wildlife Ecology Dr. Kiringe, specifically in the changes and trends of rangelands in the Amboseli ecosystem. We will be assesing the overall quality of vegetation and soils in this region, and how they have been impacted by locals. Furthermore, we will be going into communities to investigate how locals view their rangelands- specifically whether or not they think the rangelands are healthy or ecologically threatened. So from here on out this is what I will be doing. First I will write a project proposal, followed by 8 days of reserach/data collection, 4 days of data analysis, then 7 days of writing my paper. Finally followed by a presentation of our findings to the local communities............Here we go baby!

Until I have more to share, keep it classy.
Missing you all

Seth Norell Bader- a voice of adventure

No comments:

Post a Comment