Thursday, May 2, 2013

onward to Lake Magadi

Matthew and I had a great time exploring the area south of Nairobi today.  We signed up for a trip through a NGO that does work helping pastoralists: PACEF

We met at a mall at the edge of Nairobi and joined up with the group.  The bus was just like the ones Matthew takes to school so he was excited.  Even his computer teacher was on the trip - a nice coincidence.

Went through a couple busy towns and then made our way over the crest of the Ngong Hills - the view going down the southern side was gorgeous.  Due to the rains everything was green savannah doted with acacia trees.

First stop was an archaeology site.  Nothing too interesting there - a couple of ancient hand tools, some skulls and the such. We only stayed about 30 minutes but it was nice to stretch our legs.

We then made our way to a Maasai village (manyatta).  Peter, our host for the trip, has good connections in the community so it did not appear at all this was a commercial visit.  It was nice actually to just hang around the village for 40 minutes or so.  They genuinely seemed as interested in us as we were of them. The chief spoke in the Maasai language with his son translating and the beautifully adorned women sang some songs. 
They also offered us roast goat.  Matthew had to retreat to the bus after about 30 minutes since the flies were intense.  All us mzungu were also bothered by them but the Maasai pay them no mind.  I asked Matthew this evening what he thought of being in the village and what if he were a Maasai. I thought he would have said he didn't like the flies but he mentioned that his teacher read him a book about living as a Maasai and they drink cow blood. That seems to be the reason! I said well they probably think the spaghetti you are eating for dinner is pretty gross too! He just smiled and seemed thankful to be who he is.

Next we ventured through the countryside to Lake Magadi.  In the stark landscape the length and breadth of the lake really stood out. 

When first arriving at the lake you go through a factory town (processes soda ash, raw material for use in making glass, water softener and even pretzels! ) that is very bleak and stark -- all concrete. But what was interesting is all the Maasai who either work there or visit.  The vast majority of them are in their traditional attire so that made the visit unique - there was nothing touristy about it - just a work-a-day town.

We had some lunch and then made our way out of town south along the lake - again watching many Maasai either walking, herding or just waving hello. 
Eventually we got to the lakeshore and the bus rode off-road along the lake (and through at some points!) to the hot springs.  We enjoyed about 30 to 40 minutes at the springs.  Man was the water hot - it felt like taking a bath in boiling tea water. 
Oddly enough it was slightly more bearable to put your whole body in rather than just the feet.  I suspect the water has some healing qualities as the bus driver and other Kenyas took as much as they could into water containers.

On our way back and forth from the lake - we were also graced with zebras running along the bus, wildebeests grazing and looking at us inquisitively, views of Kilimanjaro, hundreds of deep pink colored flamingos
 and the biggest bird in flight I ever saw. Seems it was a kori bustard (nine foot wingspan!) - it was like seeing a flying dinosaur.

It was a long drive back to Nairobi but at least we weren't driving! The night sky was alive with tons of stars and a bright Milky Way.  Seems everyone in the group had a good time and it was nice to do the tour through the NGO and not have the profits go to some random tour company.

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