The Costa Calla Chronicle: The more things change the more they stay the same.

Home for a day

It is a long time since I wrote for the chronicle. At the house in Costa Calla I have five bound books of my musings over the years 2000 to 2005, when I used to go up almost every second weekend and take pictures and walk.

The more things change the more they say the same. That is what I thought on the way back, as we drove through a light shower before Pietermaritzburg. I went for a stroll on Sebastian’s Walk on Saturday afternoon. The bush at the start of the path to the sundial that counts only the happy hours has grown over to form an arch now. But the sundial remains; the brass is weathered and moss is growing on the mini Stonehenge rock that supports it. Some people were fishing on Evergreen and a dog jumped in to challenge his master’s trout. The master won.

Later that afternoon thick storm clouds rolled in from the east, black and billowing, ominous with lightning striking ever closer. The ridge from Evergreen to our house is igneous, and our place has been struck three times by lightning in the last few years. So I walked back to safety.

At home Ines was sitting before the fire, reading. Some things do not change. They just stay the same. She made supper and we chatted. After a solid sleep in the quiet, because after the storm the mist descended and enveloped the house in a sponge of silence, we woke and went for a walk. The sun was out and was warm. I worked up a sweat as the road climbed into Holbeck. We saw a pair of bulbuls, loyal to each other, as we entered the mist belt forest. We heard Piet My Vrou’s calling, along with a Narina Trogon. Heard but not seen. The forest allowed you to be a child again, at peace with the spirits of the great old trees reaching through the canopy to the sun. The road has dried out after all the rain, but every spring was burbling water that you could smell so sweet as you walked past. The bigger streams were torrents as they raced down the slope to the Umgeni below.

At the crest of Mbona Mountain we paused and descended into the valley, to the house. We passed a herd of Blesbok and zebra, with a few young of each, their curly clean pelts soft and clean against the obscenely green grass. They were on a slope with the gun blue waters of Amber behind them. After breakfast I took my camera and spent some time photographing them. It was hard not to think back to the Masai Mara, where on my last day I saw a million wildebeest and one hundred thousand zebra on the marsh. Now I was looking at five zebra and twenty Blesbok.

Zebra above Amber

We had lunch outside on the veranda. We had to move the table under the roof as the midday storm unleashed big juicy drops of water. Fortunately there was not much of a squall as we caught up with Bernard and Janet.

It was good to be back, and to know that the changes we saw and heard

My Travels: A visit to a Masai Village –Part 1

The interesting thing about wildlife viewing in East Africa is that the Masai are an integral part of the scenery. These tall and regal cattle herders work in the reserves as guides (like Wilson), askaris and managers. They live in the adjoining conservancies, where cattle still graze.

We visited a small village in the Naboisho Conservancy. It was late in the afternoon and storm clouds had built up, threatened to rain and withdrew as we drove along the almost impassable track, rutted so badly from vehicles crossing it when the clay was wet. The road looked like some piece of modern art, rutted, ridged, wet and dry.

“Wilson”, I said, “We don’t want to go to a tourist village. Show us the real thing.”

“Yes, we are going to a small village like mine. You will like it.” He was very proud that we were visiting. His conservancy was only two years old and they were all super keen to make it work. We arrived at the village which had a brush and thorny barrier encircling it. The diameter was about seventy meters.

The clouds closed in as we arrived. We walked through the narrow entrance that was closed at night using thorn branches. There was an inner stockade which was covered in cow dung, and as the rain came down the wetness cleared the strong animal smell. This stockade was where they kept their cattle at night. The poles were over two and a half metres tall, closely placed and formed an impenetrable barrier. There is a program to facilitate the Masai buying mesh and barbed wire at reduced rates to further reinforce the stockade. If a lion takes an animal from a secure stockade then the government pays out the owner. The Kenyan constitution is being modified at the moment: they are debating the monetary value to be paid out if the lion takes a human life…

The adult women all greeted us with a handshake. The children all lined up, inclined their heads and waiting for a greeting which left me feeling like the Pope blessing the masses: each one had to be touched on the head in greeting. It was quite moving. The men were out, some working at lodges and some just chatting. The older boys were out with the cattle. As we looked around we saw a herd of thousands of wildebeest moving south on the horizon, a reminder of the reason I was in the Mara.

Wildebeest passing on the horison

The village was poor. There was no running water or latrine facility. The mud houses were low, with small doors and tiny ventilations slits as windows.  The buildings were laid out in the outer circle, between the stockade and the outer thorn barrier. We went inside and sat with one of the woman, asking questions through Wilson who acted as an interpreter. There was no natural light coming through the slit in the wall. The slit was smaller than a shoe box on its side, and it was dark and overcast outside anyway. Each house had a solar rechargeable lantern donated by an American benefactor. At least this did not add smoke to the small fire which burnt in the hearth.