I’ve written about the Maasai Mara in other posts. Here’s an excerpt from a piece that was long-listed in the Brandt Travel Guide competition ages ago:
Dances with warriors
Night on the Mara River – darkness wraps round, close as a Maasai’s blanket. It is cold, too, on the river’s bend. We press closer the campfire, our white faces soon roasting red. No one speaks. There’s too much to listen for. A hyena whoops across the water? It sounds close. It sounds unearthly, sending shock waves through vulnerable bones – mine, conjuring packs of predators, out there, circling our ring of light. And even as I think it the Maasai are on us. Six warriors, spears in hand and naked to the waist. Their leader tosses his ostrich-feather head-dress that looks like a lion’s mane. He is fearless. He is lion.
Then the singing starts, a nasal falsetto that resonates through time and space – the winds’ whine through Mara grasses. The Maasai girls trip lightly into the firelight, their wraps like flames – yellow, red; close-cropped heads hung with beads; chins jutting forward as the crescent necklets – tiny beads so patiently strung – rise and fall on skinny chests. The moran start to leap – higher, faster.
Their dance fires the blood as it was once meant to in the days when the young morani proved their courage by killing a lion; but we see the collecting box left discreetly in the grass. These kids are from the nearby settlements, but before I unravel the question of exploitation – theirs or ours – the dancers pounce, dragging us into a conga, pastoralist-style. I let the Maasai girl take my hand. She’s about fourteen years old and she is boss. After all, this is her land – the big skies and the rippling oat grass, and our small camp in the outer reserve remains there only on her clansmen’s say-so. The hand that grips mine is small and hard.
So I follow her, graceless in the rhythms I cannot fathom, wend with the snake of dancers on and round the camp. The dancers know we’re squeamish and should not be put at risk, so we stray no further than the firelight’s edge, never crossing the bounds of the vast out there.
And of course, being on safari, and staying at a luxury, tented camp, we have been taken to visit the vast out there. We went earlier that day and naturally, being tender wazungu, we ventured only in daylight, with the rising sun at our back, and we went, not on foot, but in the Land Rover whose solid sides we were sure would protect us from too much closeness with the wilderness.
copyright 2019 Tish Farrell
46 thoughts on “Maasai Mara Landscape ~ A Warrior’s View”
Wow, this is so beautifully written and photographed, Tish! I was right there with you, wrapped up in all that anxiety and exuberance. It is truly wonderful. 🙂
Thanks so much, Cathy. That’s a very lovely comment 🙂
Getting a bit dusty these days 😉
I know the feeling, Tish
Such evocative writing – out there can be very scary.
Yes, and there’s so much of it 🙂 Thanks, Jude.
What an adventure, Tish! Good to hear you were well protected in the wilderness out there.
I can only imagine their dance fires the blood… Thank you, Tish for sharing your adventure and stories.
Beautiful landscape and wilderness images.
Thank you, Amy, for all those kind words.
Hah! What a scaredy -cat umuntu omhlophe you were!
A touch of artistic licence here and there 🙂
Pith hat included,no doubt?
Did you read to the whole piece?
It should have won he Bradt prize!
Thank you very much, Ian. The judge did write me a nice email.
I lost my comment – hope I’m not repeating myself! Your story transported me. It brought back memories of Hmong girls in Sapa, Northern Vietnam. Over a few days we realised they had definite strategies for getting tourists to part with their cash. I don’t know if they were themselves being managed; I still feel uncomfortable thinking about it. It is odd when cultures collide and there is a difference in wealth.
That’s OK Ali. It’s a serious point that bears repeating.
This drew me in nicely. Great writing, Magnificent setting, Interesting subject matter. Love it!
Cheers, Thom. Thank you.
Africa. Simply cannot be beat for their incredible vast landscapes. Great choice Tish
You are right about the big landscapes. Thanks, Tina.
You really were there during the last of the good days. I think I was in Israel at the end of the good days and the very beginning of the bad ones. A weird time to be someplace. You get to see the changeover.
Yes, being somewhere at a time of great change – it certainly keeps you wide awake – for all kinds of reasons. But then being ever present in ‘the now’ can be quite wearisome too. You were in Israel quite a time. I’m wondering if it changed how you felt about home, i.e. when you returned. I still feel a bit unrooted.
As always, Tish, you words are so evocative and paint a picture. I am excited to be visiting Kenya and Tanzania in March, but doubt I will have a lion dance by the fire.
Now the thing is, Marie, in Africa you just never know what might crop up. But you will have a wonderful time 🙂
I can’t wait.
You’ve got me excited too 🙂
Beautiful memories to remember, Tish. Masaai is always in my heart.. Thanks for sharing and reminding again this beautiful place.
Thank you, Nurul. Once there, I think, you are changed forever 🙂
I love these glimpses into Africa and you do both writing and photos so beautifully. Thanks!
Glad they hit the spot, Janet. Thank you.
A special place in your life Tish. You bring back the warmth 😍💕
Ah yes, Jo. It did seem very special. Tx
Oh I swooned a bit inside from reading this Tish, the sounds and sights this evoked in my mind were incredible…you are a masterful storyteller, on to the next chapter now xx
Many thanks, Athena. And yes, on to the next chapter – you and me both, Athena 🙂
I’ve never been to Africa, thanks for bringing me there.
Glad you enjoyed this quick trip, Fabrizio 🙂
I’m speechless Tish, thank you.
Thanks for reading, Gilly.
Very wonderful, both snaps and the excerpt 🙂
Many thanks, Hammad.
No matter how often I see those pictures again, I can’t get bored. It has to be one of the most beautiful places on earth. And you and I were very fortunate. 🙂
We were, Brian. We truly were Tx
A wonderful and beautifully illustrated account of your amazing experience, Tish.
Many thanks, Sylvia.