We went on another safari, this time in Samburu Nature Preserve. We saw many giraffes, about 20 elephants (including a magnificent lone bull who walked into our camp the morning we left) and 5 male lions among many other animals. We camped beside the river which the Samburu village uses several kilometres downstream. Our camp was raided several times by baboons, sometimes successfully. The baboons seemed pretty sharp and to work together - they would surround us and some would feign an attack while others moved in on the other side and tried to grab what they could. We were armed with sticks and yells and scared most of them off, but two of the braver big males still got away with some bread and a large container of granola! More or less 50% fun, 40% angering, 10% scary shit which got real. Around 6:00 am on the morning we left, we had a visit from a huge bull elephant who came within about 100 feet of our tent. We all just looked at each other for a while before he diverted his route into the river - got a picture of him crossing but not at the camp. It was a nice way to say goodbye to Samburu!
We spent last night in a Samburu village. The Samburu people are a tribe closely related to the Maasai of Kenya. Their children were awesome - some of the happiest, sweetest, warmest AND well-behaved kids I have ever met. They don't have toys, TVs, electronic/handheld devices or a bed time - they run loose and play outside together when they're not in school, and at night they sing together and dance! We all went down to the river to swim and helped bring water back to the village. At night the men sang and we danced with them around the fire. The village is built in a circle and is very much communal.
They are polygamists and can have more than one wife if they can afford it. The husband puts his spear in front of the house of the wife he is currently staying with, and rotates houses every two days or so. Wives cost between 10 and 15 cows, and we were told that therefore the Samburu value girls somewhat more than boys! That being said we were also told that men are in charge of the household, and can discipline their children and wives by whipping them with a thin stick. We saw this in action - when the kids were told to leave the area for adult activities, a man came out with a switch to beat them off if they did not leave. The children obeyed... that being said they were refreshingly well-behaved children even in the absence of a threat.
The Samburu believe that their god lives on a nearby mountain called Ololoque, which is an onomatopaeic description of its shape - a slow rise with a steep cliff descent on one side. Ololoque, which we could see in the distance, is a beautiful landmark where the Samburu sacrifice rams to pray for better weather and other requests.
At night the men of the village sang for us, though we were told that they do so every night. They also danced in a way similar to the Maasai (who I had visited in Kenya in 2005) by jumping up and down among other moves. We were invited to dance with them around the fire and I found that very fun and moving. It felt like reconnecting with ancient tribal roots and rituals which modern people have lost. I found myself sitting around the campfire later, watching the moon rise and reflecting on how happy and connected these people seemed. We talked about how there is a temptation to leave for the city for work, but I was told that most of the young people choose to stay in the villages.