Visiting the First Boma in Ensukero

May 10, 2010

We drove south to Loitokitok in Maasailand, a sprawling district of about 40,000 people at the foot of Mount Kilamanjaro.

We passed through Emali, which Paul referred to as the onion town because the road is lined with vendors with wooden carts hung with red bags of onions.

We stopped at a restaurant that Paul knew from growing up nearby. The waiter came out to our outdoor table and basically asked us how many guinea fowl or chickens we wanted. He said it would take “35 minutes tops” this included catching the guinea fowl and the chicken. I was looking out at the vista of brown and reds and greens, levels of construction and wooden terracing when I realized a pink stick poking above a crimped aluminum wall was actually an ostrich head. He must have been on the menu too.

The Chinese have a deal with the Kabaki government to pave the main roads. Apparently the road we were on was a series of dirt potholes just last year. We didn’t see any elephants this time but there were several clumps of giraffes. The urban clutter turned to grassland with the occasional Maasai boma. After several hours it seemed to me that we were in the middle of nowhere. Just as that thought scraped the exhaust-worn edge of my consciousness, two women appeared loaded down with sacks of something probably in the middle of a long journey. Then there was a group of children playing in the middle of a field waving wildly at the van, or a Maasai in his red shupa with his stick walking walking walking.

Just outside of Loitokitok the road disappeared. Someone had placed rocks and acacia branches in the road to force cars onto the detour which was like a series of dirt craters running along side. At this point it had gotten dark and it turned out our hotel hadn’t reserved the reservation so we had to find a place in town. We drove through the dirt road in the dark. People were milling around the dim-lit shops on either side of the road. The cement storefronts were all painted with representative pictures of their business; for example, the bright green butcher shop had a giant slab of meat painted next to the window that also proudly displayed giant hanging slabs of meat.

Lots of people were coming in and out of the shops, backlit by the dim rectangles of light. I was getting anxious because the town did not present its best face at night. We stopped at an Inn and drove around the back alley to park the van in the locked area. Kathleen negotiated the rooms and we dragged our luggage to our respective rooms which turned out to be really well appointed. We had dinner in the adjoining restaurant. I tried not to stare, but it was amazing to see a table with 5 businessmen in dark suits sitting with a Maasai in full beaded regalia. Kathleen told me this was just as formal as a suit.

I’m sure there are millions of photos out there of Maasai talking on cell phones, but I couldn’t resist.

We drove to Kibo Slopes hotel which is like a spa resort with a view of both peaks of Kilamanjaro, Kibo and Mwenzi.

We then made the two hour journey to the boma run by the younger of Kathleen’s co-wives. This trek gave new meaning to the term off-roading. At one point, I think the van might have been tilted at 90 degrees, defying all laws of gravity. (Although I think gravity only has one law, but we defied that law real good.)

The first boma where Ole Koringo’s youngest wife lives is in an area called Enkusero. We were driving along what was essentially a foot path where four wheeled vehicles seldom tread when a young man on a bicycle caught up with us to tell us that the family had abandoned the old boma and moved it to about a kilometer away. We followed him and parked where we could. We were greeted at the boma by Kathleen’s co-wife and several other women and girls with three babies and a few young children. Kathleen showed them the issue of Expedition Magazine that featured pictures of them. They had a pretty good laugh about their photos in print. Jen and I also showed them the pictures and video we’d just taken.

Ole Koringo’s wife went to her hut and brought back a beautifully beaded necklace that she had made for Kathleen. She put it on her in the fashion of a beauty queen. Mrs. Maasai Universe.