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  • Theresa Vernetti

Grunting Hippos and “Go Away” Bird.


August 25, 2005   Lake Baringo, Kenya

Must have been tired.  I slept like a rock for nine hours…with short interruptions by dogs sniffing around the tent and an episode of aggressive grunting by nearby hippos.  Not a good time for a trek to the bathroom..  Breakfast was a mixed veggie omelet- Good job Akio (our cook)- then off to board boats for  a two hour ride around Lake Baringo.  The hippos were really amusing, taking turns to surface, snort and eyeball us.  A fisherman stuffed a fish belly with wood  (to improve its buoyancy)  and once we’d spotted the fish eagle perched on top of a far away tree, our guide James whistled loudly and tossed the fish up into the air.  Within a few seconds, the bird made a big splash next to our boat as he scooped up his easy prey.   Well trained wildlife.  What a treat.   Many kingfisher were in the area as well as yellow headed weaver birds who took no rest while furiously building nests on the reeds near shore.   The “Go Away Bird” is appropriately named.  It sounds like a whining housewife “Wa wa wa” and is despised by hunters because it squaks when they approach their intended targets.

A midday bath is a good opportunity to practice the simultaneous shower and laundry ritual which I’d learned about from a travel novel before departure.  You wear the dirty oufit into the shower, get all wet, wash your hair, soap up the outfit, paying extra attention to the dirty and smelly areas, then peel the clothing off, stomp on it on the floor while completing the rest of the body washing, rinse it out, wring, and hang…has worked wonderfully  these first couple of times—best with quick drying clothing I’d guess.  It puts the fun back into household chores.

Wow! Highlight of the day.  My leader hooked me up with some Spanish honeymooners from a neighboring  campsite who had plans to visit a village out in the bush- a tribe similar to the Samburu in that they live in mud huts, enjoy a diet of blood, milk and meat, are nomadic and practice polygamy. Womens’ skirts are made of leather with shells and beads sewn on in patterns and large, stiff necklaces using the same materials along with anything shiny the woman happened to find—including bottlecaps, wristwatch parts and cell phone circuit boards.  A bracelet is worn rather than earrings to indicate marital status.  Our visit was slightly unexpected so the driver spent some time negotiating and catching up with the tribal chief, a man happily married to 5 women.  He ordered a group of villagers to get dressed in all traditional clothing and adornments and prepare to provide some entertainment.  I think both the tribal folks and the visitors enjoyed the experience equally.  I held hands with two men and did the jumping dance, impressing the village with my vertical leap—probably aided by my lock-on Teva sandals and belted pants…(as opposed to the flip flops and wrap-around sarongs the local men were wearing.)  Good times….the best of times, really.  My leader, Steve, knows I really dig this sort of thing and will hopefully connect me with more such experiences as opportunity presents.  On the way out, one of the tribal men offered to sell me his tiny stool for the extremely inflated price of $7.  I declined for two reasons.  First, because he carried that stool everywhere- held with the same hand as his staff.  He needed that stool.  Also, we’d been informed during our visit that women were not allowed to sit on those stools.  I’ll get one later and sit on it at home.  Ha !

Hanging out here at the “Thirsty Goat” campground bar is a great way to relax at the end of a satisfying day out.  A group of travelers from various countries sits  nearby and pontificates on the usual topics of the vagabond life and the advantages of being single.  I feel so typical for the first time in my life.

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