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January 2001

Endulen Diary
Vol. 16, No. 1
January 2001

Lack of indoor plumbing has its downside:

A few days ago my morning trip to the outhouse was memorable. While sitting and contemplating, I became aware of a dark shape in the corner. It was late enough not to need a flashlight, but still early enough for everything to be in shadow. I became more and more alarmed as the minutes went by and it gradually became lighter. The shape slowly resolved itself into a very large black snake not two feet from where I was sitting. I think what saved me was the fact that it was a cool morning and the snake was very lethargic. Anyway I didn’t know what to do except to slowly get up and back into the corner. During that move, the snake didn’t even twitch. It seemed to be sleeping. This gave me the courage to open the door, which let a lot of light in. The snake still didn’t move. The door was only a couple of feet from the snake, but since he hadn’t moved, I screwed up my courage and went out the door like an Olympic champ. My hip replacement of six months ago didn’t seem to slow me down a bit. I called a couple of the older boys, students at our prep school, and they came with sticks. By that time the sun was coming up and it was warming up. The boys opened the door; they found a cobra at least three feet long and very much alive. They killed the snake with their sticks and I vowed never to enter the outhouse again at night without looking around with a flashlight to see if there was anything in the corners or in the rafters.

For a people that are so often hungry, it was a very special day:

Christmas here in Endulen brought together hundreds of Maasai. There was a cow slaughtered, two bags of rice, cooking oil, onions and all kinds of other stuff. People came from miles around to celebrate together. Some had a clear idea of the day being the birthday of Jesus, others came simply because there was a feast. It was great, lots of singing, dancing, and eating. Everyone had a great time and plenty to eat.

A scary meeting at dusk (history repeats itself):

On returning here to Endulen from an Arusha shopping trip three weeks before Christmas, I found myself climbing Ngorongoro Mountain at six thirty in the evening, still some two hours from Endulen. After a week of rain, the track was very muddy and in places deeply rutted, but with four wheel drive and chains on all four of the wheels, I knew that this would present no real problem. We were six in the car, a Maasai family, the father and mother with their three children, neighbors in Endulen, whom I met on the lip of the crater walking along in the twilight; they asked for a ride home. The trip was uneventful until we reached a densely forested area not far from Endulen. Tall trees and dense undergrowth hem the track on both sides, and at night one has the feeling of passing through a tunnel. At the same time the road was a morass of mud with frequent large unavoidable puddles of water. Without warning, as we came curve in the track, we came upon two, what I thought at first were Maasai cattle, bulls fighting, horns locked in the center of the track. They were totally covered with mud, and so intent on each other, they gave no sign of recognizing our presence. On closer inspection I realized that these animals were much taller and much more massive than even the biggest bulls among Maasai cattle, and that their horns were not only huge, but very distinctive bearing no resemblance at all to bull cattle horns. I realized with dawning apprehension that these were two of the largest Cape buffalo bulls I had ever seen, and they were in such a state of frenzied anger focused on each other, they did not even notice the car some twenty feet from them. There was no way around, so we simple sat staring in stunned silence at the combat going on in the headlights of the car. After a time, it became evident that there was a whole herd around us. Here and there out of the underbrush caught in the lights of the car was a head with a gleaming pair of eyes reflected in the headlights. After about ten minutes of watching in silence the back and forth pushing and pulling with locked horns, the bulls somehow freed themselves from each other, one ending up facing us from about five or six yards away seeming to be looking straight at us through the front windshield. Although I’m sure he couldn’t see us because he was looking right into the headlights. He must of thought that another threat to his domination of the herd had suddenly appeared out of the night, or was simply so beside himself with anger he was ready to attack anything that wasn’t clearly a buffalo cow. He charged the car with no warning and at a speed that was totally unexpected given his great bulk. The Toyota is Land is protected by massive bull bars on the front, so when his ton and a half of muscle and bone o by a pair of horns that would demolish a normal car, hit the Land Cruiser, the impact bent the bull bars a little but did no real damage. He did shove my very heavy land cruiser back a couple of yards. As we sat dazed, not believing our senses as to what was happening, he moved back a few yards and charged again hitting us in the same place and moving us some more. At his point, he moved off to the side into the underbrush, and we breathed a sighs of relief thinking it was over. After the two charges, each of which had moved the car a considerable distance, the Toyota was backed hard against a tree. None of us said much the rest of the way into Endulen; it was a very unnerving experience. The bull bars of the Toyota will permanently bear the reminders of that nocturnal meeting. The surprising thing about this incident is that something very similar happened to me about twelve years ago on the same road and it was Christmas time then too.

Till next month…

Ned

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