A hike up to Motigo

I was happy to welcome an uneventful Friday- full of surgery, but not full of death or despair. Funny, how the past few days made a huge thyroid (bigger than we see them in the States) seem like a routine case. After Saturday rounds I gathered some fellow visiting doctors and we headed across the river and up, up, up. Our goal was a rounded hilltop called Motigo that offers 360 degree views of Tenwek, Bomet, and the surrounding areas.  The walk was a slow ramble, Kenyan style, where we stopped all along the way to interact with the locals. Lots of kids - some of whom were afraid, but most delighted in our attention to them. One little girl was so excited to see us she came running to the road's edge with no pants on! Several of the kids asked for "sweets" - an unfortunate side effect of prior white visitors passing out candy. Yes, it makes the kids happy but it also associates white visitors with handouts. Passing out sweets also makes life difficult for the full time missionaries at Tenwek. An evening walk with a spouse can turn into a mob scene as local kids beg incessantly for "sweets."  So, we resisted the urge to play Santa Claus and simply offered friendly handshakes, hellos, and their favorite - "snaps!" The kids don't understand that we want them to smile, so they'll get real serious for a picture, then laugh in delight when we show them the result on the camera screen.

Along the way, we met a furniture builder whose shop floor was 2-3 feet deep in saw dust and shavings. Cypress was his main wood as he was working on a reading desk for one of the Tenwek doctors.  Large tea trucks passed by on their way to tea collecting stations where locals sell fresh picked tea leaves in 40 pound bags to the trucks. Tea is the largest crop, grown in rectangular fields that make the countryside look like a patchwork quilt. The pictures just don't do justice to the beauty of this place. Tea turns into chai - a national obsession made of black tea, milk, and sugar. It's deliciously addicting and unique but not as spicy as the Starbucks version. In English fashion, work days are interrupted for chai breaks, social gatherings are centered around sharing chai - in fact, the girl without pants invited us in for some chai! 

We relaxed for a while at the top and soon found out that behind us about 20 curious kids had gathered out of nowhere to stare at us. They were terribly camera shy, but eventually they loosened up and in the end, delighted at their own images. While the trip up was mainly a wide dirt road, we took some shortcuts through the tea fields on the way down. A chameleon made for a short break near the end of our 4 hour journey. At the bottom we passed a large group of women who stared with wide eyes at us. As we passed, we could hear the clicking of camera phones. When we turned to look, the whole group had stopped and turned to watch us - now I know how the bison in Yellowstone feel! Back at the guest house, our tired legs were welcomed by a chicken curry lunch, finished off with what else? Chai!

Cars, Cats, Kittens, and Kids

Well, I had quite the adventurous weekend. I had no clinical duties Saturday or Sunday so I jumped in with some safari truckThe first of two flat tires!visitors who just arrived and went to Masai Mara for a Saturday evening and a Sunday morning game drive.  In the morning, we arose early to go to a remote area, hoping to see some lion cubs. Before departure the driver had the hood open looking for a sound that he thought was a cat. Sure, enough I soon heard the same meow sound, but we couldn't find a cat anywhere. Perhaps a bird, an engine squeak? We proceeded along without finding the answer.  Half way there it becomes apparent we have a flat tire. giraffes on horizonNo big deal, except when we went to change the tire I noticed a hissing, air leaking sort of sound coming from the rear tire. This was intermixed with more meows that seemed now to becoming from behind the dash board. So, there we sat in the middle of a road, in the middle of nowwhere with two flat tires, one spare, and a hidden cat in or under the vehicle. About 45 minutes later another safari vehicle came and we were able to get two very old tires with little tread to replace the two very old treadless tires that had leaked. Yes, we were now heading further out with no spare and two flats strapped to the back of the Land Rover. roaring lionThis is not the cat that induced fear.

As we get into the area where the lions were known to be, our driver suddenly hears the cat next to his door. The driver radios another driver and the two of them are outside the vehicle, in lion country, looking for a cat. Then, the drivers see a tail - but it turns out these big, burly safari drivers are afrad of cats! No, not the big carnivores we were hoping to see. No, they were afraid of a domestic cat! Wanting to get on with it, I get out and crawl partially under the vehicle, as I am only afraid of the big cats - you know the kind that would feed on a pair of legs hanging out from under a safari vehicle. I see the tail, reach up and grab the rear of the cat and pull - it's a kitten. My size 8 hands cover nearly the entire body of his cute little kitten. 

Crisis averted, I'm anxious to get back into the safety of the vehicle and not become some lion's breakfast. The driver wants me to set the cat in back of vehicle while we drive off!zebras in river Leave, a poor helpless kitten to become snack food! Now, I'm no cat lover, but even I can't do that! So, I casually walk around the vehicle and set the kitten in the back of the vehicle for safekeeping until the safari is over. Crisis strikes again! One of our traveling companions sets a land speed record for evacuation from the third row of a safari vehicle. Before I was even to my door, she had bolted through the middle of the seats and jumped out of the window! Now, she's wide eyed, petrified, and standing 15 feet from the vehicle! Who knew so many people were afraid of kittens! Now, there's a driver and a passanger standing in the savannaugh, refusing to reenter the vehicle because of the kitten! So, I have to retrieve the now frightened kitten from under a seat. So, a brief standoff occured where I decided it was better to leave a kitten for lion food than a pediatrician and safari driver. So, I tossed the kitten out of the car and it retreated behind a bush. Before we could reload, the kitten was back into the undercarriage of the truck and the meows continued.  So, the rest of the morning was spent looking at wild animals, including lions while the kitten purred in fright under our vehicle.  

safari group pictureBack safely at camp! Unharmed by the fierce kitten!

We arrived safely back to the camp and later departed for Tenwek. Our vehicle troubles were not over! About a third of the way back our vehicle begins to smoke - mostly out of the exhaust. smoking truck window viewFirst signs of trouble! It would get worse!

We stop and the driver says that the engine had just been serviced and that too much oil was put in. No problem, it will burn off and we reloaded for the remainder of the trip. So, we thought. The optimist in the bunch pointed out that at least it wasn't raining nor was it dark.

Not 10 minutes later the driver tries to shift to a lower gear and the engine suddenly revs to it's maximum rpm's. The vehicle begins to smoke and one of my companions starts yelling "turn it off, turn it off!"l 

smoking truck frontal viewBut, the engine is not interested in shutting down and continues to roar at maximum rpm like a child throwing a temper tantrum. The next yell was "everybody out!"Naturally, I can't leave my camera gear behind in an emergency so as soon as my friends and I are out of the jeep, I snapped this picture! The driver finally gets the car to shut down by popping the clutch. Our vehicle is officially dead! 

Kenyan children surrounding the truckOur entertainment arrives!We debated walking to the main road with our luggage - one of the locals said it was "not far", only about 10 km. Luckily, we had cell phone service and made a call to Tenwek for help. Word was we'd have help in only 5 minutes! Wow! we must be closer than I thought. We decided not to walk, and just wait it out. Then, it started to rain! Well, turns out time and distance estimation are not Kenyan strong suits. The rain let up and we got back out of the burnt smelling vehicle to find several spectators. Several local men began offering opinions on the problem with the jeep. A motorcyle appeared with some tools. We all agreed we were not risking another ride in the big green smoke bomb, even if they fixed it - which they did not!

Kenyan men of GodKenyan men of GodSo, five minutes was now twenty and we decided to have some fun with the local kids. We started with pictures, moved to videos of them dancing, then to games. We taught them duck, duck, cow because no one here knows what a goose is. A group from a church walked by and we talked with the men and the pastor for a while. We then got back to the kids and traded songs.

We sang Our God is an Awesome God, and they sang the hip bone connected to the thigh bone song - about 5 times. We sang Jesus loves the little children, they sang some Kipsigi song whose title translated to God is a Lion. Literally, two hours passed and we were still playing with the kids when a Tenwek vehicle showed up! 

Kenyan Kipsigi girlsKipsigi girls were happy to see us!crowd of Kenyansthe crowd steadily grew as our wait approached 2 hours!

So, it turned out that our vehicle breakdown was the best part of our trip. Our misfortune turned into a true blessing from God. We shared what we could with the locals, and they in turn blessed up with smiles, laughter and lifelong memories. The six of us and our luggage then crammed ourselves into a Honda CRV - yes, seven adults of in a small passenger car.  

sunset at TenwekThe sunset as we were nearing Tenwek


But we were happy to be moving as darkness was setting in. Turns out we were 31 km from the main road. That's over 18 miles we would have hiked with luggage and darkness setting in! Not to mention, there were two forks in the road and I would have definitely taken the wrong road at the first divergence point.

Our friend from Tenwek, upon hearing of our vehicle troubles throughout the day, asked which one of us was the Jonah? I love a man who knows his bible! So, in the end, we were all happy to have broken down and partaken in God's clever plans!