Monday 6 August

Maasai at Nayobi Village

I sleep well, Rachel not so well. Wake about an hour before it is time to actually get up; the dawn light is just appearing at the edge of the tent.

After breakfast, we bump along the track in the Land Cruiser to Nayobi Village, where we expect to load the donkeys and set out. It is cloudy and a chilly wind is whistling across the hillside. A lot of Maasai are standing around, but nothing much seems to be happening. Nothing much continues to happen for about the next two hours, and by this time I am feeling thoroughly cold and fed up. It is also slightly annoying that at the Empakai crater we were told that we would not be able to walk down inside because of lack of time.

Nayobi Village

Apart from it being freezing and a strong wind blowing I quite enjoyed the wait. (Ian didn’t – he got very impatient!) It was quite nice to watch the Maasai herders going by although I didn’t like being looked at. I’ve a feeling a fair few jokes and laughs were aimed at us. None the less it was interesting to watch the interactions – the younger males slightly bowing in respect of elders.

Ladies wearing no shoes and men with sandals that look like they are made from a tyre with cow hide for straps. There was one little girl of approximately twelve years old who kept waving at me. She tried to tell me something about eggs but I couldn’t understand!

Finally the Landrover carrying the camping equipment arrives and the loading of the donkeys begins. This in itself is not a quick process since some of the equipment does not appear to fit easily into the donkeys’ packs and the donkeys are in any case somewhat uncooperative, being by all appearances less than keen on the whole idea.

(magnify) Dusty track from Nayobi Village

We do finally get away though, walking down from the village with the volcano, Oldonyo Lengai, to our right. The path is very dusty and it is a good idea to be upwind of the other walkers to avoid the worst of it. We pass Maasai cattle herders and their round thatched roofed huts. Slowly the weather warms up, and when we enter the acacia woods, trees of striking yellow bark and clusters of tiny leaves with sharp thorns, we finally get out of the cold wind. Now it is quite hot and the shade of the trees becomes very welcome.

We eat lunch in a shady spot a short way off the path, sitting on a fallen log on tinder-dry grass and scrub. We’ve each been given a packed lunch consisting of a boiled egg, a chicken drumstick, some cake, fruit and a drink.

(magnify) Acacia Flycamp

After lunch and before we expect it we reach the campsite, a somewhat steeply sloping area of flattened dry grass. The donkeys are nearby and gradually spreading out in their search for the best bits of grass. It is early afternoon. Francis sets up two camp chairs under an acacia tree for us. They won’t let us help erect the tents, so we relax for a bit. It’s not a bad spot, but there is rather a lot of litter around the campsite from previous visitors.

(magnify) Oldonyo Lengai (photo: RS)

To help pass the time, Rachel gets out Pass the Pigs, and we play with Ryan and Samuel, who become quite competitive. We ask if we can walk up the hill opposite the camp, but are told no. But later Ryan takes us up. The sun is just going down and we have a spectacular sunset view of Oldonyo Lengai – the timing could not have been better.

For dinner, our cook has prepared pan-fried steak. It is crispy on the outside and still pink in the middle – probably the best steak I have ever tasted (beating even the Vinh Loi in Hanoi!) After that I am too full to do proper justice to the chocolate crumble that Oben brings us for dessert.