If you have never heard about the Maasai tribe, please get to know them. People travel from all over the world to see the Maasai people, but luckily for us in Keumbu, it is only a short drive away. They live in the savanah of Kenya next to lions, leopards, hyenas, warthogs, zebras, gazelle, giraffes, wild cats, cows, chickens, goats, sheep, and many more animals. Picture safari in your head…that is where the Maasai reside.
The Maasai culture is so rich that it would be hard for me to explain it here. However, they remain as one of the most traditional tribes in all of Kenya. Their entire culture is based on age groups and men becoming warriors. In fact, most of the men we met with had killed a lion with only a spear (this is the right of passage to become a warrior). They sleep in small huts called manyatas and typically have hundreds (if not thousands) of livestock. This weekend, volunteer Kevin Vu and myself traveled to Maasailand to live the authentic Maasai life (for two days). We started by chasing wild girraffes and zebras. Then we relaxed before setting out on a night expedition to hunt for gazzelle in the bush. We went with three Maasai warriors and carried no more than a flashlight and spear. We slept under the stars next to a large bonfire and as I fell asleep, I could hear hyenas howling in the distance. While most people go on safari and see the life of the Maasai, we lived it.
The next morning we awoke with the sun and took a small ride (in the bed of a large pick up truck) to Hell’s Gate National Park. Hell’s Gate National Park is the inspiration for the movie The Lion King and is home to Pride Rock (yes, it is real) and many other Lion King landscapes (for example, the gorge where Mufasa is killed). We rented bicycles and cycled across the vast savanah (passing every type of wildlife you can imagine) until we reached the gorge. Dropping down many feet, it was a scary climb/hike but once we entered the gorge it was beautiful. Natural hotsprings made soothing hot water fall from the walls (Kevin even took a shower).
We walked through the gorge until we could see Pride Rock, and then climbed out back onto flat land. The bike ride back to the park entrance was exhausting and we were very grateful for the cold soda that awaited us there. Exploring Kenya is something that every volunteer (and myself) wants to do. The Maasai people live a very different lifestyle than anyone else in the world and we are lucky to be living so close to them. While Hell’s Gate National Park was an epic adventure, my favorite part of the two day trip may surprise you.
Late on the first night, we were enjoying a few Tuskers (a local Kenyan beer) with the elders of the Maasai tribe. One elder, who was very very drunk (and yes, he had killed a lion when he was younger), turned to me and said “If you have nothing worth dying for, what is the point of living?”
For anyone interested, Arrive does offer volunteer opportunities in Maasailand with the Maasai tribe.