Seasons in Kenya
The months of Summer are Kenyas coldest, 23 degrees in the Highlands of Masai Mara. It is usually 28 degrees on the coastal plains
During our Summer months in Kenya it’s often 10 degrees
as dawn breaks. Tourists are advised to pack warm clothing
for the morning game hunt cameras at the ready. The long rains in in Kenya mirror the Spring and are unpredictable unsettling jacket-on-jacket off weather. Cloudy downpours send everyone running for shelter
We come into camp feeling tired and dusty from our day out on safari Cafe and I go to our separate tents. The wash area is already full as the other waggon had arrived first. I lie on my camp bed and scroll through to choose the days best picks. In the tent next to mine I can hear muted sobbing.
‘Cafe?’ I called softly, ‘Are you Ok?’
‘I’m fine’ she calls softly back.
‘Shall I come to your tent?’
There was a pause there were sounds of people and activity all around us
‘No. Not now I want to rest some. I’m Ok. It’s been a long day’
‘OK. Tell me about it later. Dinners in an hour. I’m heading to the showers.’ I undo the flap of my tent feeling rather concerned.
‘Sure I can’t help?’
“No. I’ll be fine.’
The smoke from the BBQ wafts through the camp.
An intense burning heat is causing a water like mirage that ripples the trees in the distant Savannah.
I feel I as if I am walking through a sauna
‘Is it always like this?’ I ask a passing warden wiping his brow with his forearm.
‘Nah this is the worst heat I’ve known and I’m used to the heat. The thermometer’s popping 38 degrees right now. It will be a hot night.’
A women walks towards me with a towel and wash bag. Her face has a strange green tinge in the changing light.
A sudden squall sends several swirling dust devils up around the outside of the camp. They look like ghostly dancers.
The air shivers, for a few seconds I feel cold and feel a sense of disorientation as if I am running a fever.
A huge billowing storm cloud suddenly rises from the north like a dark monster,. The camp suddenly grows dim as it blots out the sun. I shiver as feel a sudden chill. A ball of lightening suddenly explodes and simultaneous thunder clap right above the camp makes me duck as if I’ve been hit.
A deluge descends like a great bucket of water over the camp. I am soaked to the skin in seconds.
Suddenly everyone is running for shelter but fierce gusts of wind throw several tents up in the air as we run towards them. It is as if the encampment is suddenly under attack. The dust dry earth was awash as if we had camped in a river bed. In the gloom a jeep begins to float away with several wardens attempting to pull it to a piece of higher ground.
‘Cafe’ I shout running back to our tents through the sudden half light.
Cafe’s tent is nowhere to be seen
Suddenly I feel very alone and very far from civilisation.
The scene before me is complete chaos people cowering against bushes and scrubby trees.Tents fly about but mostly there was dust choking dust. Cafe I called today where are you?
It was hopeless. the wind whipped my voice to nothing.
I clung on to an overturned table the cook – gusts of wind move it and lift it but it is the only thing that seems to be relatively stable. Every now again the table would float along and eventually I am stuck in a small gully. Gradually the wind dies.
‘Cafe where are you? I get up unsteadily drenching the skin. ‘Cafe’ I called. God where is the camp? I come across a wet rolled tent on the ground. I pull at a guy rope. I stumble over the muddy remains of the white food tent.
‘Anyone in there?’ I called gently kicking the fattest part of the scrupled muddy canvas.
I get on my knees to feel if there was a body. There is nothing
I get up I look around in the distance I see a truck. Several other people are walking towards it.
I do a 360° turn. Slowly scanning new distance middle-distance far distant. I must find Cafe. Finally I see something in the distance that looks like another tent wrapped around an uprooted fever tree. Walking in the same direction is a lion and its mate.
I look over to the stranded jeep. People are gathering around it from all over the campsite. I can’t see anyone that looks like Cafe. A red headed young man runs past me towards the safari jeep. He tries rub the dirt from his eyes.
‘My glasses. I’ve lost my glasses’.
A warden is running in my direction. I point desperately towards the lions and shout.
‘Lions – Lions’
The moment would be comic if it wasn’t so terrifying.
The wind has died and he hears my shout. He looks in the direction I am pointing.
‘My friend!’ I shout. ‘She was in her tent when the storm hit. I think she could be over there.’
‘She is not with us at the jeep, Sah.’ He shouts as he runs up heaving for breath.’ ‘The lady from Nairobi is not with us, Sah.’
I start running towards the distant tent wrapped tree. I can feel pin pricks of danger across my neck and shoulders. The lions and I have the same destination in mind. The dust in the air is making me wheeze and fight for breath.
‘No Sah!’ I hear the fading shouts the warden but I take no notice. Cafe may be over there trapped in her tent. She is not with the rest of the group. I must see if she is there. I must try to protect her.
There is a moment when the lions trajectory and mine intersect.
The male lion and I are only a few yards from each other we both momentarily stop in our tracks.
Even in this highly charged moment the beauty of the lions rich golden mane is not lost on me, neither are his bright fierce eyes. His mate paces behind him. My heart is thumping in my chest. Suddenly I feel strangely calm. I know I am looking death in the eye. I stare into his eyes and take as deep a breath as I am able. I lift my arms, stamp my foot and let out an enormous bellowing shout that contains all my courage fear and desperation.
He looks startled and jumps back seemingly to protect his mate.
A shot rings out and I see a spurt of earth lift the ground between us. I see one of our game wardens with a rifle at his shoulder. He shoots again nearer the lion this time. The lions flinch away aware of their danger. I begin to move towards the tree facing the lions as I do so in an awkward sideways run.
‘Cafe I shout. There is no reply. ‘Cafe?’
Forgetting the lions now I break into as fast a run as I can muster with wobbly legs that feel as if they made of jelly.
I get to to the uprooted tree and pull at the twisted guy ropes. I see her leg fall limply out of a tent flap. My hunch was correct. ‘Cafe ‘ I breathe softly as I climb up to where her leg is dangling . then I feel her body under the canvas. For a moment I am confused. Her head is below her leg facing inward toward the tree. I unwrap more damp canvas.I can feel her lovely springy hair, her beads.
‘Cafe’ I call softly in her ear aware of the limp almost lifeless form beneath the canvas. The game warden climbs up beside me and puts two fingers on Cafe’s neck.
‘She is alive. Sah’. Let’s get her out of this mess.’
Slowly we extricate her from the tangle of tent and tree and bring her gently to the ground. Two of the cook boys arrive with a stretcher. We make a strange procession across the savannah until one of the safari trucks roars into life and comes bouncing over the rough ground to meet us.
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