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Pole to Pole

Day 88: Marsabit to Shaba

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleAt first light we are on our way up the bumpy tortuous track and out of this mountain-top forest, passing by some extraordinary trees with sinewy roots twisting down the outside of the trunk. Wendy tells me these are strangler figs. They are seeded by birds and grow around an existing tree, becoming stronger and stronger until they kill off the host.

The road south - still no more than a dusty track - descends from Mount Marsabit to the hot and rocky plain. We pass a group of Rendille tribesmen, tall and very straight, wearing head-dresses, bare-chested apart from coloured beads around the neck, taking their cattle to water. One carries a gun, another a stick tipped with a plume of ostrich feathers, a sign that they come in peace - unless you're an elephant. One looms closely and the men fling stones at it to keep it away from their herd. A little while later a group of Rendille women pass. These nomadic people walking barefoot along the dusty rutted tracks of Africa look as effortlessly graceful and immaculate as anyone on a Vogue cover. From a band around their heads hang discs of what looks like gold or silver, their long necks are held erect by a stack of beads, and they wear loose flowing garments of red and white striped cotton. They lead donkeys hung about with every kind of plastic container. They're looking for water.

Weaver birds nest in the low, flat-topped acacias. Those with tidy nests are the sociable weavers and those with the scruffier nests, constantly having to rebuild, are known as the sparrow weavers. Two white-bellied turacos, known, because of their cry, as the 'go-away' birds, shriek at us from a high branch.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 88
  • Country/sea: Kenya
  • Place: Marsabit
  • Book page no: 197

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