Early this morning, I started out for Oltepesi, a Maasai village some twenty miles away. We visit this particular place once a week and have a prayer meeting with the fifty or so people that gather on the appearance of my Land Cruiser coming in their direction across the plains. It is very dry place, although a single heavy rain can make it inaccessible because the ground is so hard under the dust, causing the rain water to stay on the surface for days.
A few miles from the house here at Olbalbal, we came upon a huge herd of giraffe. There must have been sixty or seventy in the herd. The distinctive way that they lean forward walking or running makes them visible for miles across the savanah.
It is interesting to note that more that half of giraffe calves die in the first few months of life. Hyenas and lions kill them. The mothers will stab these predators with their sharp hooves and this will often critically injure or kill a lion or hyena. Also, the kick of an adult giraffe is strong and is capable of crushing a lion’s skull or shattering its spine.
Even here on the edge of the Serengeti, where there are usually plenty of animals to be seen, the sight of such a great number of giraffes at the same time was arresting. We stopped the car and watched their slow progress across the landscape.
Our progress to Oltepesi village was marked by large herds of sheep and goats. Given that the desert is such a harsh place to live with the long dry season, it has always surprised me that the Maasai gravitate here with their herds of sheep and goats. The women must carry water and firewood many miles and the dust filled winds are unrelenting. It turns out that, together with all the difficulties of living here, it is the healthiest place possible for sheep and goats. The tick population is almost nonexistent and tics are the big source of various animal diseases in the highlands.
After our meeting with the people, we brought back an old man with a very high fever to the small clinic here at Olbalbal village.