Rolling hills and vast plains lay stretched out like fragments on a canvas before me. Our destination was Mara Land in Western Kenya – the heart of the Maasai people and the home to all of the biggest predators in Africa. Uneven dirt tracks and collapsed bridges provided only small obstacles in light of the great excitement that was flooding the air as we drove.
With the stunning backdrop of the Great Rift Valley to the East, the Maasai people who inhabit this wild land are just as untamed themselves, having mostly escaped the rapid advances of the developing world around them. They remain living in Manyattas; traditional homes made by the women of the tribe, completely out of sticks, mud and cow dung. The men, too, have an important role to play, each adorned in bright red cloth, their silhouettes instill fear into the eyes of their predators. Warriors by necessity but pastoralists by trade, they can be seen dutifully tending to their cattle and goats, while a pack of lions rest peacefully just a few hundred meters away. The two have developed a strange respect for each other, man and beast. Each borne out of fear for the other, the result is an effervescent harmony that extends right across the savannah, so infectious that even the most blundering of onlookers can feel it.
Much like their Maasai counterparts, the animals of Western Kenya appear unchanged, untainted by the modern world. The Wildebeest, in all their millions, continue to plunge forth into the mighty Mara River for their annual migration, despite stepping over thousands of their fallen comrades along the way. Typically, one would associate being on an African savannah with the gentle majesty of a tall giraffe, or the towering might of an elephant protecting her calf. But when you look closer, it is all of that and so much more. So infrequently heard of is the daily routine of a family of hippopotamus, each who have their own territory and religiously trace the same paths daily, falling quickly into depression if displaced from their well traveled paths. Or the life of a warthog, constantly darting around with his tail stuck straight in the air, watching and depending on other animals for any signal of danger. But it’s all there, and each little piece has an essential role to play. As with everything out here, even the Maasai people themselves directly depend on the life of every other creature around.
Travelling to the remote plains of Kenya, you are seemingly a world away from everything else you know, but at the same time you are all too close. What can be found out here is a deep symbolism of our human society, a reflection of the unity we strive for as functioning communities, without any of the added curses of greed and wealth. It is not only a fierce reiteration of the importance of solidarity and perseverance, but also of respect. Dare to look closely and you will see that it all fits together like tiny pieces on a tapestry, each part somehow dependent on the other, but independent all the same. No words can accurately convey the true sublimity of the African wilderness, something so well documented, yet so elusive until truly felt. For me, being on the Mara Reserve was a truly humbling and unifying experience, serving as a gentle reminder of the quintessential elements of life.
About the Author: My name is Veronica Thompson and I am a recently graduated Physiotherapist with a strong passion for both travel and writing, and an interest in photography. Living in Australia, I was first asked to consider travel writing in 2010 when I went abroad to Nepal, and have had the lust to continue ever since. I hope that in my life I can combine my interests of healthcare, cultures, people and writing to spread knowledge and help to open the minds of others to new and challenging experiences.