Mzungu Down! – Part 3 of 3 – I promise.

After our great night in the camp, it was up bright and early for our early morning game drive.  We left camp at half 6, absolutely bent on seeing the leopard.  We cruised around the Mara, and saw plenty more lions and cheetahs.  But then came the call on King James’ radio that we had all been waiting for:  leopard sighting.  
So James went completely rambo, and decided he’d rather kill us with his driving before letting us miss the leopard.  So after a rally drive through the bush like no other, James aimed at the tree with the leopard on it and came crashing through the shrubbery almost colliding with the tree.  Alarmed, the leopard of course ran away.  So we got a fleeting view of a leopard climbing down a tree and running away into the thick shrubbery.
This caused us to be hated by the other safari goers, who had a perfect sighting before we came crashing through the trees.  But what happened next really turned our weekend into a comic sketch.  James tried to reverse out of the trees, but of course, we had gotten stuck in the boggy mud.  Wheels spinning in the mud, we had to put out another call on the radio to ask for rescue.  And who should turn up, but the van of doctors?
At this point Tom and I were cringing, for the second time in two days, we were being saved by these poor doctors, whose safari weekend we were absolutely wrecking.  Also for the second time in two days, all the drivers had to pile out of the van- this time into dense shrubbery/trees.  Where there was a leopard hiding.  This time, even the drivers looked jumpy.  But within a short time, the doctors had saved us again, by towing us to safe ground.  We drove off, shouting promises that we would not need rescuing by them again.
After a quick lunch back at camp, we walked out to a Masai village.  The Masai are an incredible people, whose lifestyle has changed very little over centuries I would guess.  They are herdsmen, and shepards, and place the highest financial and social value on the herd of cows each man owns.  Masai do not count their cows, for traditionally they believe counting cows will cause them to get lost.  They also do not like to kill their cows, but take very good care of them.  Apparently each herdsman can recognise the face of each of his cows, and thus has no need to count them anyway.  To clarify:  many Masai have hundreds or even thousands of cows in their herd.
We were met at the entrance of the village by the Chief’s son, and the rest of the village men.  The village is surrounded by a thick fence of sticks, and visitors must make an offering in order to enter.  The men performed a welcome dance – with a display of some absolutely excellent jumping 🙂  Some of them really can jump to ridiculous heights.  The boys from our group were asked to join in, so there was also a ridiculous display of mzungus trying to jump and grunt in a Masai manner.
Inside the village we were shown the mud huts:  tiny places, perhaps 2-3 meters by 2-3 metres.  A fire is lit in the middle of the hut, so on entering the hut everyone’s eyes start crying due to the thick smoke.  It was barely possible to see the other people inside the house.  In Masai culture, it is the women who build the houses – a frame of sticks, with mud/dung caked onto it to form walls.  Sticks and grass form the roof.  Masai men are polygamous, and must be able to provide such a hut  for each wife they take.
Within a Masai village, everyone is related.  When men reach around12-14, they undergo a circumcision ceremony.  Following which, at the age of 15-16, they are sent out into the wild to kill a lion.  Only after having killed a lion are they deemed “warriors”.  Warriors are then found a wife by their parents – the wife will be taken from another village, to avoid incest.  In return for a dowry of cows, the wife will come to live in the husband’s village.
Next, the women also performed a dance/song for us.  The girls were also expected to join in.  Although this was not too possible – as the ladies were singing a complex lyrical Masai song, and the dance moves were negligible (arm swinging).  To add some more facts:  female circumcision is still common practice among the Masai.  Indeed, the day before we visited, a 12 year old girl was circumcised.  This is a happy occasion for the Masai, and comes with big celebrations.  Married women wear bronze rings around their ankles.
We were taken to the village market, where we bargained hard for assorted Masai ornaments.  However I won’t elaborate on these, because probably most of you will be receiving them for Christmas 🙂
We set off back to Nairobi, to encounter yet another adventure.  The main route had had its bridge washed away by rain during the  night, so we had to take a detour off-road.  However, the river had been flooded, and knee-deep mood surrounded the river.  So all the safari vans trying to get out of the Mara were stranded.
We all had to pile back out of the vans, and the drivers had to make attempts to bomb down the mud slide slope, and through the river, and get out the other side.  All of this to much applause and whistling by the safari-goers united who had all collected on the banks.  (Our group included, and we also bumped into the doctors, again).  Everybody then had to whip off shoes, roll up trousers, and wade through the ankle-deep mud, and wade through the river.  TIA, everyone, TIA.

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