Day 9 – August 6
I wake up after a good night of sleep; maybe I am finally acclimating. As I get up I notice my left foot is very sore. It seems after soaking in the river my skin softened and when I slipped on a rock in my water sandals a callous had been completely opened up. It is extremely painful and will make today’s hike a challenge to say the least. Today we are supposed to cross the river but we find that the rain from yesterday must have been much harder up river as the easy flowing Ewaso Nyiro is now a raging torrent, much too deep and swift to cross.
After breakfast and discussions we decide to pack and hike about 2 miles to the Shaba Nature Reserve entrance to talk about hiking through the park. The rangers say it will be 20,000 shillings ($250 US) and that we will have to stay on the perimeter road as there are already too many tourists in the area near the river where we want to hike. We ask if we can get permission from a supervisor to go the route we prefer. The ranger agrees to take John to the supervisor. They return about half an hour and we are turned down. We head back to our camp to see if the river has gone down so we can cross. Sticks have been placed in the river bank as a gauge to determine if it is receding. It has not. We have tea and lunch and look at our options.
We have 3 or 4 options; each is considered and at one point every option seems the prudent choice. Then all of a sudden John returns from the river and says that one of the handlers has crossed the river with a camel and reports it is now doable. Everyone scrambles to get repacked, the camels loaded, and we head down to the river to cross. We have now attracted a small group of spectators to watch this event including one ranger who informs Michael that many people have died trying to cross this river and that we should not attempt it. That is comforting to hear.
Tommie hands me the video camera as he will head across with the camels. The crossing of the Ewaso Nyiro has started! 15 camels (one camel is sick and will not be crossing) lined up in single file bellowing and gurgling with the handlers rhythmically chanting to ready the camels to cross the murky river. In they go with John, Tommie and the handlers heading across. What an amazing sight! I put down the video camera and grab my digital camera to snap half a dozen quick shots. Then it is my turn to cross. I use my poles to balance each step as the water is surprisingly quick. The water is about thigh deep with some holes up to the chest. I get across and watch as Roger and Amanda are heading across. Amanda is wearing a denim skirt which catches the water like a sail in the wind and nearly carries her down stream. She gets a hand to steady her as they bring a hot kettle of water and the box that contains the sugar and spices. Now we can have a proper tea in camp; splendid!
As I snap a few more photos, Phil heads back into the water to help get the kettle and box. On his last step out of the water he quickly brings his foot up and there is a huge acacia thorn sticking out of the bottom of his foot. Ouch! That’s got to hurt. I offer to help pull the thorn out but perhaps remembering my pinch at the Kenya Continental he declines. Both Phil and I make an appointment with Dr. Steve (not a real doctor but he plays one on the Proper Walk). He cleans our sore feet and applies anti-biotic cream and bandages us up. We are not good as new but better than we were. We are both going to have a tough day of hiking tomorrow.
The river crossing was one of the truly memorable events in my life. I don’t think I will ever forget the sights and sounds of this day and if I do forget, we will have a video that will remind us. I can’t wait to see that when we get home.
We go about setting up camp, our daily ritual. We set up on a sandy flat spot about 20 yards up the bank from the waters edge, high enough where a night time rain won’t flood our camp. The camels have been untied to graze and they are meandering through our camp. A set of hiking poles are lying in their path. I watch thinking that these poles have bitten the dust but marvel as the camels walk over them making sure to not step on them.
Tonight I get a chance to call home. It is a 10 hour difference so I wait until after sun down. It is nearly 8:30 AM in San Francisco. Allyson answers and I can tell very surprised it is me on the line. She excitedly asks how everything is going and I share a few details with her. She gets Clark on the phone who wants to know if I got his text message. That cell phone is Cathy’s so I had not seen it. He tells me he won the San Francisco summer singles tournament and goes through his matches and the scores. I only have 5 minutes to talk. I hear Allyson in the background telling him to ask me about the Makindu celebration and the bracelets. It is pretty amazing to be out in the northern frontier of Kenya and to be able to call home to say, “I love you”.
We turn in early after eating some snacks. Dinner was served at the other camp across the river but with my foot I decide not to cross the river again. We are getting close to a full moon so it should be pretty bright tonight.