Sosian Ranch part 7 2016
When we were ready to return to our cottage last night after dinner it was raining cats and dogs! Rosie gave us each an umbrella to use on the short walk between the main house and the cottage. The heavy rain had turned the cobblestone path into a flowing stream and in one place the water was nearly over the top of my shoes. When we reached the wrought iron, arched gate, (which was there only for aesthetic value), we found that the umbrellas were too wide to fit through the gate. There was only one thing to do, close the umbrellas and run the last few feet to our door! We didn’t get soaked to the skin but our clothes were certainly damp. We listened to the rain drum steadily on the roof as we drifted off to sleep.
This morning our tea-tray is left outside our door around daylight. Paul enjoys his red bush tea while I go for the kid stuff, hot chocolate. We have a couple of small rather hard cookies too. We meet Simon and Misheck at the entrance by the office a half hour later and we are off to watch some cattle work. We drive across the river which has changed dramatically from our arrival yesterday due to the heavy rain last night. The water level has risen several feet and the water is a rushing torrent. Simon informs us that they had two inches which is about what Paul and I had estimated.
We don’t drive far from the lodge to reach the cattle working area. We drive past a large corral to a cement block shed and a small corral. There are some cattle penned in this corral including a few jersey milk cows. Paul and I raise our eyebrows at the Jersey but are told that they actually do quite well in the tough environment. Simon also tells us that this is the ranch’s milk herd. There are several groups of cattle standing around the outside of this wood corral and all that keeps them from mingling with the other herds are a few men. We learn from Simon that every herd has three men who stay with the cattle all day long as they graze. I find it amazing that the cattle show no interest in trying to escape from their own group to mingle or fight with the other herds of cattle, most include bulls that are standing yards away from them. When we climb out of the Cruiser to walk to the small shed the Boran cattle don’t even flinch. Our cows would likely turn tail and run if strangers walked among them.
Upon reaching the simple shed, Simon explains that the handlers will push the cattle single file up the alley that connects to the narrow shed. There are spray nozzles attached to the walls and roof (I think) of the building and the cattle will be doused with an insecticide to kill the pests, particularly ticks. Paul and I notice that the cattle have a lot of ticks on them especially around their tail head and anal area. We are informed that the cattle dipping is done every two weeks! You would think the cattle would eventually fight going up that alley into the stinky spray but the men urging the cattle to do so don’t have too much trouble getting the multi colored bovines to enter the alley.
Simon and Misheck lead Paul and me to the far end of the spray shack so we can watch as the cattle walk through the spray. The soaked cattle then come down another alley and walk by us to join their herd mates. It is rather humorous to watch cows, calves, and bulls as they brave the jets of milky-colored water. Some of the bovines lift their heads high; some of the animals are squinting their eyes, and most of the cattle try to squeeze their nostrils into slits, but all seem to accept their fate.
A flurry of activity is taking place a few yards from us by a couple of the herdsmen. Simon walks over towards one man who has a stout stick and is flailing away at the ground by his feet. We follow Simon who informs us that the target of the man’s blows is, (or was), a small cobra. I can just see a snaky form while peering around Simon and Paul and I didn’t care to get any closer. I do check the ground wherever we walk after this episode however.
As more groups of cattle arrive at the dipping facility again I am astonished at how easily the Boran cattle handle. The men with each herd keep track of their cattle and when the last one emerges from being sprayed they haze them past the untreated cattle. There is no fussing, bellowing, posturing at one another when those that have been treated wander off to graze in the bush past those who continue to stand patiently waiting their turn to be sprayed.
Sean, one of the owners of the ranch and the manager of the cattle operation, has joined us as we watch the cattle being sprayed. Sean, (who is very tall, 6’8”), explains that the Boran cattle are known for being docile, (except when they calve), resistance to disease, (which is good because they have no veterinarians here!), and the ability to grow and thrive in a hot environment. He informs us that the beef is grass-fed and the animals are ready for market when the steers are two and a half years old. The bulls run with the cows all year round so that means they have calves at any time of the year. Sean talks about the portable, steel bomas that the cattle are penned up in at night and how successful the bomas are in keeping lions from attacking the bovines. The bomas are just large enough that the cattle have room to stand up and lie down but there is not enough room for them to walk around. The point to this is that when lions come around the bomas the cattle do not have room to stampede and thus cannot break out of the boma. The death loss in the cattle herd is remarkably low considering the cattle live in such a tough environment and exit alongside the wild life. I admire the heck out of these ranchers that have made the decision to not only live with but conserve and protect the wild animals and they are doing so quite successfully.
Sean invites us back after breakfast because a buyer is actually coming to purchase forty grass fat steers. They will also be weighing every steer in this group that the man will be choosing the cattle from. Excellent. Sean had hoped to brand cattle today but because of the heavy rain last night it is just too wet and muddy.
We return to the lodge and have breakfast on the veranda while watching the silly donkeys graze on the lawn. In the days to come we never know where we might see the donkeys. On the veranda hiding from the heat of the day, outside our bathroom window, or actually inside the main house! For breakfast there is cereal, fruit juice, fruit, toast, eggs and what they call pancakes but they are more like crepes. Paul and I both are hungry and eat heartily. Simon and Rosie join us for breakfast and they make suggestions for our day which includes a game drive after we are finished watching the cattle weighing. For our afternoon game drive they suggest we try to find the lions and young cubs. Great.
Misheck is our guide for the rest of the day as more clients are arriving later this morning and Simon will be meeting them at the airstrip. Misheck drives us back to the large working pens where several men are busy sorting cattle from one pen into another. Once this is finished they fill a curved alley with various sizes of steers. The buyer, a young man, studies the steers intently as the critters wait their turn to step on the scales. Occasionally the buyer will indicate he wants a steer marked with the red paint before it is weighed but generally he will wait to see how much the animal weighs before accepting or rejecting the steer. One of the cattle herders splashes a line of paint on the steers back that the buyer has selected while the steer is standing on the scales.
Sean, who is busy taking down the steer weights in a notebook, still takes time to explain to us what is taking place. Sean tells us that the buyer will pay him today using the weights that are being recorded. At one point there obviously is some kind of negotiating taking place between Sean and the buyer as they converse in Swahili. When the two are done conferring, Sean tells us that the cattle buyer wants to take ten steers at a time for four days in a row, and we gather that Sean would prefer all forty steers go at once. I’m not sure who won that go round.
Paul and I thank Sean for letting us observe the cattle work and marketing today and then we take our leave to go in search of the wild side of the ranch. Misheck asks us what we are interested in seeing. Paul and I tell our guide that we like everything and Paul adds that “we are easy”. Misheck exclaims “I am easier than you” which strikes Paul and I as hilarious and we laugh out loud. I don’t think Misheck had a clue what we were laughing at.
The roads Misheck takes us down are fairly solid for all the rain that fell last night but occasionally there is a soft spot that finds the truck sliding around a bit. There are lots of birds to look at but one of my favorites today is the trio of Heuglins Coursers that stand frozen convinced that we don’t notice them. The Coursers have such a pretty pattern on their face. We see elephants, giraffe and Hartebeest but they are all in the distance so we have to observe them through our binoculars. We find a mixed group of zebra and impalas and we sit and watch them for a while.
Misheck drives to a large pond where hippo and water birds can usually be found but the pond is so full and the water is so muddy that nothing is around this morning. The track leading to the pond is very soft and for a minute it appears we might be stuck but Misheck maneuvers the Cruiser out of the muck and onto more solid ground.
It is nearing lunch time so Misheck turns the Cruiser towards the lodge. A beautiful Defassa Waterbuck crosses the road just in front of us and is in no hurry to run away and hide. Misheck stops to look for the leopards among the rocks but we are out of luck as no spotted cats are in sight. We do take time to look at some weaver nests, particularly the one that is a double-decker. What a task it must have been to build that nest!
We have lunch by the pool again and meet the family of four from New Jersey that arrived mid-morning. The couple has a preteen and teenage girl and I believe this is their second stop on their Kenya trip. They excitedly tell us about the family of lions they saw on their way to the lodge and how cute the cubs were. However, the lioness growled at them which gave them all a start. I believe it was dad that added he would never forget that sound of the growling lioness. I believe that!
Paul and I spend a leisurely afternoon going through photos and reading. I borrowed a book from the generous library in the ranch house called “A woman alone” although I don’t recall the author, I am so terrible with names. Anyway it is an autobiography about a woman who came to Africa in the early 1900’s by herself to experience the continent and I am already captured with her story a few pages into the book.
When the time for our game drive arrives Paul and I walk to the office and find Misheck waiting for us along with another young man who introduces himself as Patrick. Patrick will be manning the device that tracks the lions. Yes, we knew that some of the predators here are collared for research purposes. The ranchers are also allowed to track the animals for their clients. I had mixed feelings about this to begin with but with the heavy cover of the landscape the odds of finding lion or wild dog would be a crap shoot.
Since Simon and his clients found the lions this morning and the pride contains young cubs the odds are the pride is still in the same area. The clouds are building up just like they did yesterday so the light is not going to be good and it feels and smells like rain is on the way. Misheck drives at a good pace since the lions are a ways from the lodge and just because some of the pride members wear collars it doesn’t mean the lions will be easy to find. We see a few impalas and dik-diks along the way but not much else.
When we reach the place where the lions were this morning, Patrick sits on the roof frame or stands on the seat and holds the antenna over his head. Patrick reads the signal on the phone-like device and tells Misheck to turn this way or go that way. That isn’t as easy as it sounds because there is no road. Misheck is driving through the bush and trying to dodge rocks and maneuver around trees and bushes. Eventually the two men seem to be stumped, they know the lions are here but they can’t pin point them.
Patrick directs Misheck back to a spot that we have driven around before and as we are creeping along staring into the cover, I see movement which turns out to be the flicker of a cub’s ear. Patrick has seen the little cub too and we both call out at the same time. No wonder we couldn’t find them. The little cub blends in perfectly with the grass it is hiding in plus there are lots of thorn bushes that help obscure their hiding place. Patrick points out two more young cubs farther behind the braver one and again only their heads can be seen. There should be one more cub but we don’t find it. There has to be adults here as they are the ones wearing the collars but for the life of us we cannot detect any adult lions. They must be hunkered down in some bushes out of sight.
Misheck starts to drive into the lion’s enclave but I ask him not to. He points out that this isn’t the Mara where lots of vehicles would be following us. That is true but I tell him that I am satisfied, we have caught a glimpse of the cubs and have some vague photos to prove it and that is enough for me. I ask Paul if he agrees and he shrugs his shoulders and nods. Misheck must drive a zigzag path to return to the road and once we reach the dirt track it begins to lightly rain. Misheck asks if we want to continue on the game drive or go home. Paul and I both agree we may as well return to the lodge as seeing the cute cubs was a great way to end the day.
After a long hot shower, no bucket showers here to hurry through, we walk to the main house. The New Jersey family is already seated around the fire-place enjoying beverages. Drinks are offered to us, I have water and Paul orders his Amarulla, and snacks are brought for us to nibble on before dinner. For dinner we have beef, I assumed it is the ranches, and it is delicious. When Simon asks how the beef is, Paul and I answer in unison that it is delicious. Simon dramatically grabs his chest and pretends he is going to fall out of his chair in relief, making us all laugh. Simon knows we raise Angus cattle so he probably was a little concerned we wouldn’t find the Boran beef up to par. That sure wasn’t the case!
After dinner we walk back to our cottage in a light rain. We haven’t been in the room for long though when the rain begins to pound down so again we drift off to sleep with the sound of rain drumming on the roof. Nancy