I was staying for two months now in the north of Kenya. This part of the country has its own fascination being dry for many, many months and then right after the first rain showers everything becomes green. People are interesting too with their way of living or more surviving. But there is this other side of Kenya – the more popular one: tourism and game parks…
Right next to Nairobi there is the “Nairobi National Park” – only 25 minutes away from the hotel (without traffic though). Between the two airports there is a xx.xxx square kilometer area where you find all sorts of animals but elephants. So it happened that I got to see my first buffaloes and rhinos – animals I did not see during my prior stays in Africa.
The scenery was amazing: right after some rain showers we entered and the setting sun shone nicely on the grasslands with the skyline of Nairobi in the back.
It was a great day and a good ending for this stay in Kenya.
It was time to leave Marsabit. We booked again with MAF and were waiting for the plane at the airstrip. Weather conditions seemed to get rainy which could interfere with an airplane getting there. The Odyssey started: the flight was delayed and we returned to town for a tea when I got a phone call that the plane is heading to Segel.
Off we went for the very last trip on the stony road to the low lands. Segel did not receive rain for – again – some years. It happened that the rain was not only on the mountain of Marsabit town but everywhere. From Turbi to Forolle to Loyangalani to Marsabit. Almost the whole county was receiving heavy showers.
Raining for the first time in a long time the soil could not absorb the amounts of water. And half way through we reached a point where the road was heavily flooded for at least 100m in length. Our driver explained that there was a depression ahead where we should not pass. What to do? The plane is waiting for us and some had to get back to Vienna the following day.
Some phone calls with MAF later a crazy driver from another NGO rushed to the scenery, did not stop for consulting with all the other drivers here but put in the second gear, accelerated unnecessarily … and got through the temporary river. Some called him brave, we called him stupid – but still he showed us that is was possible to get through.
After many other puddles we reached the airstrip with the plane waiting for us. Happy to be on board – and that the rain now was everywhere! Finally…
It was my last field visit. Together with my successor and visitors from our headquarter we went to Turbi. This time, the villagers had something special in mind and we came right to the celebration of the milk (I did not remember the Gabbra word; but it is something similar to Thanksgiving – in a more traditional African way!)
It was raining in Turbi a couple of days before we arrived and some of the earth pans already have some substantial amount of water. People seem relieved – after some years without any drop of rain. After a visit here and there we went to a gathering of the villagers where they celebrated their “milk-day”; that’s what we thought.
In the end it was a “thanksgiving”-celebration for us Caritas visitors. In the past years many activities were funded by one or the other Caritas organization and to express their thanks they made us Gabbra elders. Not only we got a traditional necklace but they dressed us as herders including turban etc. It was amazing and fun; and ever since we are Gabbra elders and camel owners.
Being a Gabbra now I had to try camel milk – I was waiting for this quite some time already. It tastes very smoky as the container for the milk is smoked out for conservation purposes.
This was just the perfect way to saying goodbye to this part of the world. There are still so many mysteries and things I have to learn from the pastoralists – hoping to return some day!
It is just incredible how fast the grass grows after some rain showers. Since 10 days there is constant rain in Marsabit and ever since you see the grass growing. It seems so bizarre in this landscape which used to be just brownish red from the dust. No the roofs, trees and bushes are cleaned from the layers of dust from three years.
The other day we went to one of the hills. I’ve been there in my first week here. It looks different. But the real change I figured when I compared the pictures.
The best thing is: there is more rain and more change to come. Just a pity that my time is almost over.
In Kenya, there are usually two rainy seasons. The long rains from March/April to May/June and the short rains from October to November/December. Forecast finally was good for the short rains as they failed over 2 years now. I tried to figure out some indicators (strong winds witch a lot of dust, foggy mornings, sunny days, …) and was asking here and there when to expect some rain. Continue reading
Once a month I have to travel to Nairobi to attend some meetings. I was quite happy for having a short change of scene.
Flying with MAF is always fun. Before taking of there was slight confusion because two passengers were missing. They were supposed to fly to Korr our stopover between Marsabit and Nairobi. So I was the only passenger on board of the 14seater. Anyhow, we stopped in Korr to deliver some letters (that’s why it is called air mail!). The atmosphere was quite private so the pilot excused himself for not seeing Mt. Kenya as it was in clouds.
Returning to Marsabit a few days later was an adventurous experience: first I saw Mt. Kenya and we did another stopover in Korr. The small village is on the edge of the Marsabit plateau and looking towards Marsabit I wondered why the visibility was quite strange. Back in the plane the pilot told us that we might not be able to land in Marsabit because of bad visibility. He was right after all: there was kind of a sandstorm all over the plateau. The flight was a bit bumpy and after a few minutes in the air again I heard some throwing up-noises in the back. We had to head to the alternative airstrip in Segel, 45 minutes by car from Marsabit towards North-West. The poor guy behind me kept on vomiting until we landed.
Once in Segel we had to wait for being picked up – respectively the new passengers for Nairobi had to arrive as well as the fuel for the airplanes (we were flying in convoy from Korr; well – another plane followed us).
In the beginning we stayed in the Pastoral Centre of Marsabit: Tidy but small rooms and no common area whatsoever. We found a house just across the dusty street and enjoy our freedom over here. Of course not everything runs smoothly so we fight with cockroaches, fleas and lack of water from time to time. Taps of the sinks go off whenever they feel like doing so, the sinks seem to crack down if you take a closer look at them – but: it’s our home! And we can see the sunset through some bushes from our veranda to enjoy a classic Gin Tonic!
A colleague from another NGO took me to see one of their projects: a cash-for-result activity to desilt existing dams, where rain water is collected – if there is rain. It was very informative and at the same time nice to see so many people working for their good. Some of them were even singing to keep their motivation high. And many women participated so that the earned money is safely invested for the family’s wellbeing.
Enjoy the colours:
It happened on the way home from the office. We walked (new feeling after Haiti!) over the dusty streets towards the setting sun. Marsabit is quite rural, many pastoralists walk with their animals back and forth for seeking water or some dry haulm. There are goats, sheep, cattle and camels.
Overtaking goats and sheep did not create any problem. But suddenly there were around 15 camels on the street heading in our direction. They are used very much to human beings so I did not hesitate to continue my way. I was already in the middle of the herd and already discovered an opening between the last two camels. Straight forward I made my way when the shepherd drove the camel on. Frightened it continued its way towards me but with a bit of luck I could prevent a fair body check.
Lesson learned! And at least the shepherd had fun seeing me struggle…