The Masai

There are several tribes in Kenya. Kijabe is home to the Kikuyu tribe. Probably the most famous tribe is the Massai tribe. As we visited the Masai Mara for our Safari, we had the opportunity to learn more about the Masai.

We hired a driver to take us to the Masai Mara which is southwest of Kijabe near Tanzania. It is around a four hour drive. We heard the roads were bad so were told to prepare for that. With my Dramamine swallowed, we set out. We headed down Kijabe road which I described previously when we went to the Beat the Drum orphanage. It is a half mile down where only one car can pass at times and it is a very rough dirt road. Once we reached the bottom, we traveled on a paved, two-lane road most of the way to the Mara. It was a nice drive with green rolling hills, small mountains, fields of corn and wheat. We stopped for some shopping. I didn't like the high pressure sales tactics, but we bought a few souvenirs. I think I'm going to avoid these places in the future.

With 35 kilometers to go (about 21 miles), we had to turn off this paved road. We began traveling on what could be called a dirt road if I'm generous. The last stretch took us a good hour to get to our destination. Think of the worst road you've ever been on. This was worse. I laughed to myself thinking this is the worst road I've ever been on! Then moments later I'd say, "I can't believe it, but it's worse now!" Then, I'd repeat that again later down the road. At times, there was a stretch of 3-6 inch rocks covering the road. I guess they figure we'd pack them in. We got a running start and slid out way through. The road was so bumpy, the kids joked that if you pushed your back into the seat, you would get a great massage! It was comical. It was hard to believe that the Mara, this beautiful, national treasure was so difficult to get to. In face, driving across the plains of the Mara was easier since they didn't have those crazy rocks sticking out of the ground!

We stopped to visit a Masai village about a half mile from the Safari club. The village contained a couple dozen homes. The entire village was circled by sticks to keep the wildlife out. They live a very primitive life. They wear the traditional Masai blankets. These are colorful, plaid blankets. The men all carry sticks. They are tall and thin.

We got to dance, chant, and sing with them.

Then, they showed us how high they could jump and invited us to try to out-jump them. Here I am just taking off on the other side of Luke. I must have jumped much higher than this. I think I jumped three or four feet into the air. :)

The Masai warriors taught the boys how to build a fire by hand by spinning a stick. I always that that was nearly impossible to do until they did it. The, they had the boys do it! Bear Grylls, watch out!

We went into their small houses built out of cow dung and mud.

We all went into one and visited for a bit discussing some of the Masai rituals.

While on our safari, we were driving across the plains of Africa looking at lions, leopards, cheetahs, elephants, and giraffes when we would come across a Masai man herding his cows. They were not usually in their traditional Masai dress, but would often still have the blanket around their shoulders. They would have their spear and sticks, though!

After our weekend, we headed back to Kijabe. Through the 21 miles of terrible roads to the paved roads. About half way home, some vehicles flagged us and told us our rear tire was going flat. It looks like one of the rocks did it in. We stopped in a town called Suswa at the base of Mount Suswa. This is a Masai town. We pulled over right along the side of the road and some local Masai helped us replace the tire. Our driver is a local Kenyan so could communicate in Swahili. The rest of us Mzungu (white people) stayed in the car. We were stared at a lot. One man came up to the van and told Ally she was Masai Gold, whatever that means.

The Masai here did not wear the traditional dress, but I noticed most of the men had the Masai blankets on a shoulder, carried a 3-4 foot long stick, and had a large knife on their hips. Our driver said only the Masai are allowed to carry sticks and knives around. Any other Kenyan would get in trouble with the police. This is the view out of the van.

After about 20 minutes, we were back on the road to Kijabe. This weekend was a wonderful experience. I don't think I'll miss the roads in the Mara, though.

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