Sosian part 9 2016
This afternoon the New Jersey family and Paul and I are going to visit a local village. Sosian has an arrangement with the village King that tourists will pay an admission fee of ten dollars per person but this allows you to take all the photos you want. Being able to take photos is well worth the price since there are places in Africa where people don’t want their photos taken which is perfectly understandable.
We assumed that all of us would share a vehicle but that is not the case. Paul and I crawl into our Cruiser with Misheck and Patrick, while the New Jersians are being taken by their regular driver/guide, Ambrose. Since there is a scheduled time for us to arrive at the village we can’t dawdle along the way although Misheck does stop so I can snap a photo of an African Hoopoe.
It is a forty-five minute drive to the village and once we arrive our attention is drawn to a group of young men singing while some are tapping short wooden rods against long staffs. Beyond them are dome-like huts that are covered with thatch on the roof. The sides of the huts are stick frameworks where mud and manure are blended together to make the walls. Cattle, goats, sheep, and a few donkeys wander rather aimlessly as the overgrazed grass doesn’t offer much grazing opportunity. Little chubby-checked children stare unabashedly at the tourists who have come to take a peek at their life that is so different from ours.
When we step out of our vehicles the young men begin to perform in earnest. The group chants and claps their hands while one or maybe two dancers begin to jump up and down, gaining height with every leap. A couple of the performers are wearing intricate bead work around their necks. Others have fine gold chains that cross under their bottom lip, run across their mahogany cheeks, and then loop over the top of their ears with the chain ends clasped together behind their heads. The dancer’s acrobatic leaps are mesmerizing and the champion jumper in my opinion is the fellow who is wearing a gaudy pair of red and white-striped knee socks. Perhaps if you out jump your fellow performers you are awarded the colorful leg wear as a trophy for your adeptness. Soon the dancers begin circling and swaying while bringing forth a sound from deep within the depths of their gut, almost a growl but more melodious. I love hearing it and yet it tends to make the hair stand up on the back of my neck. I have heard this type of music from past African trips and had the same reaction then.
A group of young girls dressed in their finest are walking towards us and they look absolutely lovely. The colorfully, material of their dresses makes a vivid splash against the brownish huts. The girls wear wide hoops of beads around their necks and the two oldest girls in the group are wearing pretty tiaras made of beads also. I have already made friends with a young boy by taking his photo and then showing him the results. I get two of the youngest girls to pose for me,( unfortunately they want to stand next to our Cruiser so not the best background), and when I let them look at their picture the more round-faced girl places her hands over her mouth and giggles with delight.
The New Jersey folks have joined in on the photo frenzy and we manage to get most of the young girls lined up for a picture. I get one photo taken when an old woman, the elder I would assume, comes up behind the group, slaps one girl hard on the back and sharply speaks to the girls. Yikes! Since all the girls leave and join the singing and dancing men, I guess they were being rebuked for standing around instead of entertaining us.
We are told that we can go inside one of the nearest huts but Paul and I have had this claustrophobic though interesting experience on our first safari and decide to forego it this time. Instead I spy three little kids sitting in the dirt quite some distance from us. The young children seem wary of us so I zoom in on the bare-footed trio for a candid photo. One of the boys has an old but wise face with almost Asian features which I am drawn to. The shy kids sit for one more photo but then jump up and run away.
The villagers, (unfortunately I didn’t write down what tribe these people were), have laid out beaded products they crafted upon a blanket in hopes their visitors might purchase something. Paul and I forgot to bring Kenya shillings but we really weren’t very interested in the jeweler and baskets anyway. I think the villagers had some luck with the New Jersey girls though.
We have been at the village for nearly an hour and if we could see the sun it would be sitting low in the sky:). We wave goodbye to our hosts and it begins to sprinkle as we drive away. As we talk about the village visit with Misheck and Patrick one of them comments that the costumed girls will be married by the end of the year! The youngest of the group surely couldn’t be more than eleven or twelve. That put rather a damper on the village experience for me.
Misheck says we are returning to the swampy area we passed by on our way to the village for sundowners. It occurs to me we haven’t seen a sunrise or a sunset since we have arrived at Sosian due to cloudy skies although the sun has always broken through later in the day. I share a little of Paul’s Tusker beer as Patrick passes around the chips. There are impalas grazing the lush grass to our left. We watch a pair of Crowned Cranes flying by and the two birds land in some slough grass not far from the water’s edge. There are Egyptian geese calling as they strut around the swamp land. As the light dims, Patrick points to the right and tells us there are Eland grazing in that direction. Paul and I squint our eyes trying to find the large antelope but we end up having to use our binoculars to see the creatures. How in the world did Patrick see them?
By the time our guides have packed up the sundowner leftovers it is getting dark. Misheck says we will take some side roads on the way back to the lodge in hopes that we might find some nocturnal creatures. We are driving down a narrow track that is lined with thick trees and bushes when it begins to rain lightly. Bringing the Cruiser to a halt, Patrick and Misheck quickly unroll the canvas across the top of the truck and they finish just in time as the rain becomes heavier. Soon the heavens just open up and it is pouring down rain. Paul and I sit huddled in the middle of the bench seats to escape the rain coming through the open sides, as poor Misheck tries to navigate a road that has turned into a stream of water. Misheck is worried that we may not get across some of the creek crossings that we have to fjord to return to the lodge but assures us there is a house on this side of the waterway where we can stay if necessary.
The rain slackens and as we near Sosian it is obvious the cloud burst did not reach this far, in fact the roads are hardly muddy. The stream crossings are fine and we make it back to the lodge in time for a shower before dinner.
We enjoy another wonderful meal and conversation with our dinner companions. We discuss the visit to the village and Rosie confirms that indeed the girls in the village may marry as young as twelve. Sean and his wife are joining us for dinner tonight and when cattlemen are together it is inevitable that cattle are going to be discussed. Last night Paul and I had told the story of the two horses we owned many years ago that were struck and killed by lightning. We also say that we had two cows killed this year from lightning strikes and we usually lose a cow or two every year to lightning bolts. This story was met with surprise last night and I believe it is Rosie who relates the lightning deaths of our livestock to Sean. Rosie then asks Sean if there have been livestock killed by lightning at Sosian. The surprising answer for us is that they have never had livestock killed by lightning. They have had lightning knock out things in their house however. None of us can figure it out and Sean seems to consider for the first time why lightning has not killed any livestock. It makes no sense to Paul and me whatsoever! After dinner we had hoped to go back out for a night drive but it began to rain and it is chilly too, so that plan didn’t work out.
I wake up in the night to sounds that I am sure are a leopard and I whisper to Paul “do you hear that”. The coughing noise also woke Paul up and answers me in the affirmative that he does and that it is a leopard. The spotted cat must be close by for us to hear it through the walls of our cottage. We also know that a lot of rain fell last night due to the pounding of raindrops on our roof!
This morning after we enjoy our tea and cocoa, Simon and Patrick accompany Paul and me on a walk. Unfortunately it is so muddy that we will have to walk on the roads while Ambrose, another Sosian guide, will shadow us in a Cruiser. With Ambrose nearby when we come to a water crossing we will load up in the truck and be driven across. O.k., it will not be the bush walk we had hoped for but at least we can stretch our legs.
The four of us walk across the lawn onto the road that runs in front of the Lodge. We cross the road and walk through a wooden gate onto a less traveled track. As we hike Simon stops and talks about various plants and bushes including the invasive and introduced cactus that is becoming a huge problem. A beetle that likes to dine on the cactus has been turned loose and we see several of the cacti that look sick. However, there are thousands of the unwanted cacti that we can see just around the lodge so they have a big problem to solve here.
Simon also points out all kinds of animal tracks in the muddy road from impalas to bat-eared fox, and yes, leopard tracks which we see before we have walked very far from the lodge. So the cat that made these tracks is undoubtedly the leopard we heard last night. As for live animals this morning we don’t see anything. Even the bird life is sparse although we do see an African Hoopoe perching on a limb.
Our hike takes us to a stream crossing and the Cruiser is waiting there for us. Simon takes the wheel and as we approach the swollen waterway I ask in all sincerity if we are really going to cross this more than bank full stream. Simon looks back at me with a fearful look on his face that makes Paul and I bust out laughing. I say that I wish I had a photo of that look and Simon tells me to get ready and then reenacts his expression for me which makes us and Ambrose laugh heartily once more. Simon then assures us that the truck can make it through the flooded creek. The Cruiser did wallow through the high water but water seeped in through the bottom of the doors getting the floor of the truck wet. Luckily Paul and I were smart enough to have placed the daypack and camera on the seat with us.
Once we have made it across the creek we crawl out of the Cruiser and continue our soppy walk. Simon and Patrick take us to the fast-flowing river to a place where hippos can usually be found. There are no hippos today and our guides admit the current is probably too fast here for the blubbery mammals. Simon tells us to stay with Patrick and he runs to another spot in the river where the hippos might be hanging out but soon returns and says the water horses aren’t there either.
Eventually, Ambrose picks us up in the Cruiser and we drive back to Sosian lodge. We have entered the driveway and are not far from the office when Patrick draws our attention to a myriad of birds in the distance, some flying and others perching in the tree tops. Simon then points out the reason for the gathering of the various species of birds which are clouds of termites. Paul exclaims that due to the size of the insects he assumed they were butterflies. The termites really are huge and we watch as kestrels, swallows, starlings, flycatchers, any insect-eating bird within the vicinity as they feast on the hapless termites. It is an amazing sight and we sit and watch the feeding frenzy for some time. Well, maybe now we know why we weren’t seeing too many birds on our walk, they were all drawn to the eruption of the termites.
After breakfast Misheck takes Paul and I on a drive to see Sosian’s breeding bulls that are kept at a different part of the ranch. It is warm when we leave the Lodge so Paul and I leave our coats in the room. This turns out to be a mistake because we end up on a high windswept plain and the clouds are growing thicker. Luckily the Cruisers always have heavy blankets on board and Paul and I drape the colorful, plaid blankets over our shoulders. Also, Misheck is fighting gooey black mud in places in the road that threaten to grab hold of the truck and not let go.
There are sightings of wildlife along the way including Waterbuck, Grants gazelle, Oryx, and one big old Elephant that appears on the horizon. The grass is tall and endless up here on the plateau and there is a proud Kori Bustard stalking through this gold/green sea of grass. A huge water tank for dryer times sits along the road for wildlife and livestock to drink out of but with the abundance of rainfall it certainly isn’t being used now.
Misheck drives by a hay shed half full of square bales of hay and we assume that this is where the bulls are kept. A man walks towards us from the barnyard and Misheck asks him where the bulls are being grazed today. The man motions for us to drive on the way we are heading. Before long we see a group of twenty or so bulls with a lone herder. Misheck drives out into the field next to the bedded down bulls. The herder comes over to talk to Misheck who must ask him to rouse the bulls into standing as the herder leaves and makes the big bulls get to their feet. Paul and I are impressed with the thick-topped, heavy muscled bulls although it is hard for me to get used to that huge hump on the bulls necks.
Paul and I are intrigued with a small wooden piece that the herder is holding in his hand. Paul asks Misheck what the herder is carrying and Misheck says it is a small stool for him to sit on so he doesn’t have to sit on the ground. Misheck beckons to the herder who walks over to the truck and then he tells the man that we are interested in his stool. The herder seems happy to let Paul study his hand carved seat and to allow us to photograph it. The wooden stool is really well made and this is something we would love to take home but how would we get that into our carry-on luggage! Paul gives the herder his stool back and as we drive away the big beefy bulls are beginning to drift away as they graze so the man hurries to catch up with his wards.
This afternoon we are going on our last game drive at Sosian. As we wait at the office for our guides to appear, I take photos of a male and two female agama lizards that are clinging to the brick sides of the building. We see that the ticks here aren’t just partial to cattle as the male lizard has several ticks attached to him. Gross.
Patrick and Misheck decide to drive along the river for our last hurrah at this fun and interesting place. The scenery is absolutely stunning. We come across a small herd of waterbuck and see eland too. We finally find a hippo who has found a somewhat sheltered curve in the river so he isn’t fighting the strongest current at least.
Paul is standing and looking out over the landscape as Misheck is driving very close to the edge of the river, and I’m hoping the bank isn’t undercut along here! Suddenly Paul calls out that a Cape buffalo is standing behind a bush which is about 20 yards from our vehicle. The buffalo gives a loud snort and I think all of us fear we are going to be charged by the lone bull as Misheck immediately speeds up. Thank goodness the buffalo turns and runs away from us because if he had charged and hit the Cruiser in the side I don’t know where we would have ended up. We heard enough charging Cape buffalo stories on this trip to make one quake in your boots anytime a buffalo is very near. Whew, that made my heart rate go up.
As we near Baboon Rock, Patrick finds a Von Der Decken Hornbill bashing a big caterpillar against the tree limb he is perched on. The big-billed bird slams the spike covered caterpillar on the limb and then drags the worm back and forth against the tree bark. Misheck explains that the bird is trying to scrape the sharp spikes off his prey so he can swallow the caterpillar. We watch the hornbill for a bit but it appears ridding the worm of its spines may take a while. Since we still have to climb to where we are having sundowners we leave the bird and caterpillar behind.
Misheck drives to the foot of Baboon Rock and we climb part way up the beautiful formation to have our last sundowner in Lakipia. We don’t see any baboons but the sweeping vista that looks out over bush, river and more rock formations is breath-taking. We enjoy this final sundowner at Sosian as we drink in the wilderness around us.
After the guides take photos of Paul and I and we take photos of Misheck and Patrick we carefully make our way back down the rock face to the Cruiser and head back to the Lodge.
Next blog. Leaving Sosian for the Mara. Nancy