Off The Beat Path


There are some things that happen to you in life that are one of kind moments. They usually happen when you’re not expecting it and maybe because you are not expecting anything that’s how the moment becomes special. This was the case one day in Kenya. We had just gotten back from our morning safari. The van was pulling up to the lodge. On the way out of the vehicle I casually mentioned to my parents that it would be neat to see a tribal village. The driver overheard me, and asked if I was serious. I nodded and he said I’ll see what I can do. I said really? He smiled and said maybe after lunch if a group of you want to go I can arrange for you to see a Samburu village.

Of course during lunch I worked the crowd and by the time dessert hit the table I had score eight bodies. Off we went but at first we didn’t get very far, having to wait for a male elephant to move from the iron gates that lead out of the lodge. After three weeks I had become used to seeing all sorts of wildlife freely roaming around and while I admired him, I couldn’t wait for him to continue on so we could leave. Of course when you’re trying to get somewhere obstacles start appearing out of nowhere. We were on a little bit of a schedule because our driver had called the village and asked them if we could come (this wasn’t on the tourist trail mind you). We needed to be there at a certain time so a) we could see the village and b) after we saw the village all the villagers could get back to doing their villager stuff like cooking etc. Three desert camels ran across in front of us and we had to go around them, then a family of about a hundred or so of baboons decided they needed to move and cross the road. After about 30 minutes we finally made it.

We were greeted by the whole tribe and the chief introduced himself. He lead us around the village with his son who was getting ready to graduate high school and go to college in Durban South Africa and yes everybody was in costume. Samburu women wear these necklaces that go from their shoulders all the way up to their chin and start acquiring them from the time of infancy. As a result there necks are longer than most people and the muscles do not develop. So if these women were to take them off they wouldn’t be able to hold their head up very easily. So the necklaces stay on forever. The women also make the huts which are made out of elephant dun and mud and one woman took me by the hand and led me inside hers. I met her children and she showed me around the tiny space covered in hides on the floor.

The men tend goats and make the meals which consist of goat’s milk and blood and make the bread. Every week the men sit in what’s called a corral which is a circle fenced in by a thorny thick bush and discuss the business of other tribes in the area and catch up on the local and international news of the week. From these gatherings they make decisions if they are going to move the tribe or not. Samburu’s are nomads. We were lucky this tribe was in such a short distance from our lodge.  We were then treated to a jumping contest pictured above. Where the men (who are quite handsome) try to out jump each other by seeing who can jump the highest. I swear I saw one of them jump upwards of four feet. 

All in all it was a great afternoon and I learned a lot about the Samburu people, their culture and how they live. It was too bad I couldn’t spend more time with them because everyone spoke English and I had so many questions. But they took precious time out of their day to meet with us and they did have to get back to life. This side trip, which happened on the spur of the moment, was precious indeed. I will never forget it and I will always be grateful to our driver for going that extra mile to make such a special memory for me.


2 Responses to “Off The Beat Path”

  1. I would have tipped handsomely to have an experience like that!

    What a great account of one of your special moments!!

    There are some cable “Tribal” shows that come on every week starting at 7pm. Each week is a different tribe and the shows can be of those in Africa, New Guinea, Mongolia, or elsewhere. Have you seen this series? I don’t know if it is the same tribe as the one you described but one of the recent shows was about a tribe that put great emphasis of physical perfection and all the women from a very young age had those rings around their necks. If you’re not aware of this cable series I’ll try to find it for you. Let me know!


  2. What a wonderful story from your trip with your parents. The description of your outing also paints a picture for me of a land busy with many different animals. So different from our home. 🙂

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