'Great Migrations' Day Six: 'We have to watch. It could disappear.'
Day Six: Wednesday, Sept. 15
Today was about people. Still it's impossible to be here -- not far from the edge of the Mara River that feeds Lake Victoria, and ultimately the Nile, experience severe weather -- and see nature showing off without comment.
Last night, the elephants were back and though I could feel and hear them, I am yet to see them. That's a strategy that served me well growing up in The Bronx with some sketchy neighbors, and I aim to keep it here. A few minutes ago, I was showering off the dirt from a windstorm and outside the shower, the canvas of the tent moved as the elephants passed. Hey, I still had to condition.
Today started before 6. "Jambo!" is hello and everyone greets you with "Jambo!" A couple of lionesses had just killed a wildebeest and were checking it out. And the usual -- hundreds of wildebeests as far as you can see. Jackals bound by and gazelles really are that graceful. Of course there is nothing usual about a wildebeest, and I am hardly lackadaisical.
We watch the lionesses from about a city block away.
This morning, we drove by nine holes, which hyenas burrow in, and are connected underground. The guides and those who talk with us are devout conservationists. In the Maasai Mara there were 34 cheetahs three years ago. Now there are 20. The news is grim throughout Africa, and this is a protected zone.
Though the animals and vistas are breathtaking, today I met many Kenyans. Some I hope to know forever, and will explain in a later post. Others are part of the travel; I ask questions, they tell me about their incredible land and we keep going.
Joash the guide
"The Maasai Mara is not how it was 10 years ago," guide Joash says, "People are encroaching the area. Humans are coming and coming. The climate used to be rainy and the Maasai Mara used to be green."
Much of the land covered today was brown.
"We have to watch," Joash warns. "It could disappear."
Joash used to be a police officer then went to guide school in Nairobi. He's 48, and became a guide 16 years ago. As animals dart in front of the jeep, I ask him if he's ever lost anyone, this being the wilderness and us trespassing on wild beasts' territory.
"Anything can happen," he says.
I expect a laugh that doesn't come.
"Two years ago, somebody was doing a walk, a tourist was killed by an elephant," Joash says. "Accidents happen. When you come, you don't what the character of the animal is. Sometimes they charge and maybe the mother will protect the baby."
Conservationists worry about a major road coming in Tanzania.
"It will cut short the animals doing the migration circle," he says.
His jeep once got stuck in the mud (the roads are tricky and rutted) and a pride of 30 lions surrounded him.
"That's the time I was so much afraid because my radio could not reach anywhere, he says. He survived because of "God's intervention."
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