Day 11 – August 8
We pack up, have breakfast and say our goodbyes to Robin and Jessica. We probably won’t see them again on this trip. They are really fun people. As we are preparing to leave, Robin notices he has a flat tire, probably from an acacia thorn - the same type that went into Phil’s foot. This camp site was filled with thorns.
We are out of camp a little after 6:00, hiking at a good clip to try and again cover as much ground as possible before the heat sets in. We are leaving the over grazed area and heading up towards a plateau. We see many small Samburu villages. Their colors are so vivid especially contrasted against this arid land with its gray trees and shrubs. They wear bright red, blue, and gold kikoys and kangas. We see some rare Grevy’s zebra, a rare jarrett, which is like a weasel in body dimensions but is a cat with black stripes on his tail and black spots on his body. Very cool looking animal.
We enter Kalanda Nature Conservancy for the last half of the walk. It costs 20,000 shillings ($250) to cross through this protected area. There are some nice buildings at the entrance to the park. This area is set up to save the ecosystem from human encroachment and you can instantly see the difference from the land we crossed the last two days. We stay on a dirt road and soon see three zebras grazing in the open. They show no fear as they watch us watch them.
It is starting to get very hot and we have covered a lot of ground. Two rangers appear out of nowhere and introduce themselves to me. One carries a shotgun and the other has a clipboard and walkie-talkie. One ranger is very friendly and explains his job is to track and report on the animals in his part of the conservancy. He points to where we are going for a short break at a man-made watering hole. As we arrive for our break, he shows me a chart that he maintains on the different species. He has a GPS for monitoring and recording sightings. He explains that there are three families of elephants that primarily live in the conservancy but they cover a very large area and often leave the park. They are a considerable distance south of us now.
All the camel handlers and walkers sit down around the watering hole. Some of the handlers drink right from the watering hole which would just about kill us mazungus. After a rest, a water break and watermelon snack, we head back to the road with our ranger guides by our side. I introduce them to other walkers who haven’t met them and the talkative one tells them about his work. One is Samburu; the other with the shot gun is Turkana. I’m still getting used to their military fatigues and the weapons some of them carry. Obviously, it is to deal with poachers but it is disconcerting. Soon they stop, thank us and take off quickly into the trees. I wish I had tipped them for all the time and information they shared but didn’t think about it quickly enough. I understand they are not paid much.
We hike a little over an hour more before coming to the conservancy’s designated camping area. It is at the top of a knoll looking out over a wide open area with gray hills in the distance. Clouds have set in and the wind is really whipping our open camping area. It turns out we covered just over 23 miles today making it 50 miles in the past two days. We are now caught up with where we need to be to keep on schedule. I feel tired but kind of excited by the idea of how far we’ve traveled the past two days. We have hiked over 70 miles for Proper Walk ’06.
Now that the support vehicles are gone, Amanda and Roger and one or two of the handlers set up the kitchen, get a fire going and serve tea and a snack shortly after getting to camp. They are amazing as they have to feel about as tired as we do but they just keep on going and get us taken care of. I grab a cup of tea and sit in one of the camp chairs. Soon I fall asleep for a quick cat nap.
After getting a bit rejuvenated, I get my tent set up. Our tents are quite a distance from each other tonight, which in lion country doesn’t seem like such a good idea. Each night the handlers strategically set out three lamps that are supposed to keep the lions out.
After some time around the kitchen area someone figures out that the wind is completely blocked on the other side of the rocks. We move to that side and it is like being in a different climate. It was actually quite cold before and we had all put on multiple layers. I actually put on the poly long john shirt I use when skiing. When I packed it I thought I would never use it but I was glad I had it tonight.
After dinner we all crashed early. Long walks have a way of making bedtime very appealing.