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Pole to Pole

Day 97: The Masai Mara

The Mara River, Kenya 
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Michael Palin - Pole to PoleOur feeding is a little more decorous. We are treated to one of the set-pieces of an A and K safari - the 'Out of Africa' breakfast. While we have been ear-wigging lion couples, the staff from the camp have set up a long table, complete with fresh flowers and cut-glass butter-dishes, on the top of the Olololo escarpment. Eggs, bacon and sausage are sizzling on an open fire and the waiters are in dinner-jackets. The plain stretches away, flat and wide, between the escarpment walls of the Rift Valley, south towards Tanzania. A thousand feet below us the sunless Mara, which we know to be teeming with living things, looks grey and empty, except for a Second World War DC-3, which makes a wide, banking turn before settling down onto the airstrip only a few hundred yards from where we watched the lions.

Later in the day grey clouds have filled the sky and the rain comes in, straight and heavy, putting an end to safari for the day.

Our journey through Africa has been planned to tread a fine line between the rainy seasons, but nature has not played along. The late rains in Sudan and now early rains in Kenya will not make our progress any easier.

The temperature falls to 63 Fahrenheit - the coldest we've experienced since northern Norway. There isn't much to do but sit and watch the water drip off the tents and listen to the blowing, wheezing, gasping, gurgling pleasure of the hippos.

Later some of the local Masai come to the camp to perform a traditional dance which tells the story of a lion hunt. I ask one of them afterwards if this is all now a thing of the past. He shakes his head firmly. Although it is not officially permitted to kill a lion in the Reserve, he and his fellow villagers recently took the law into their own hands after a lion had persistently attacked their goats. They hunted the lion down and killed it, with spears and arrows, not guns. Would he do it again? He nods, equally firmly, but says that the leader of their manyatta has now been recruited by the conservation people. 'This makes life more difficult for us.'
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 97
  • Country/sea: Kenya
  • Place: Mara River
  • Book page no: 213

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