Chapter extract from the first draft
On the morning Sharrif – my guide and I left Loiyangalani, in Northern Kenya for Sibiloi National Park and 'the first foot steps of man' all the Somali guests from Cold Drink Hotel had gathered to see us off. It really did feel like we were about to embark on an adventure into the unknown. If only I had known.
When I had first asked about a guide, Sharrif also from Somalia had sounded too good to be true. He confidently told me, how he had used the back tracks to reach Ethiopia to avoid the trouble spots during the civil war. He had an uncle in Addis Ababa and did ‘business’ for him. He knew the area well; the tribes and where to find water.
Three years ago Sharrif said he had driven to a place not too far from the Allia Bay turn off. To a place where some tribesman had told him they had found sapphires. He told me how he had found many and taken them to Nairobi. Most had been poor specimens, but some were saleable and he had received about US$700 for these. Now he had an opportunity to have another look. If I took this small detour he would not expect a fee for being my guide to Sibiloi National Park where I wanted to see the fossils of the ‘first foot steps of man’. I asked why he had not gone back to search for more sapphires. Sharrif did not trust any of his friends and with no vehicle he could not return alone. My spirit of adventure over ruled my sense of caution. I reasoned I had nothing to lose. Foolishly, I put my trust in him.
... On the second day, we came across a group of Gabbra bandits who all carried AK47 assault rifles. These I was told, were to protect themselves and their goats from other bandits. They also go on raids themselves, to steal goats and take over another tribe's grazing areas, especially at times of drought – like now. They rarely kill their own goats to eat. For meat they shoot gazelles and ostriches that were common in the area.
The bandits had just shot a gazelle. They had already carved it up and each man carried sections of it. Blood dripped down their backs onto threadbare clothing. They offered me a section of hind quarter which I accepted readily as game meat was one of my favourite foods. Sharrif told me he would not be able to eat the meat as the gazelle had not been killed by a Muslim, and therefore had not been blessed.
‘Too bad, Sharrif’, I said, and then asked if I could take some photos. ‘No it is illegal for them to carry guns. They can not be identified. The Kenyan government does not understand that having guns is their only way to survive,’ he said.
‘Can you ask if you can take a photo of me with a gun’, I said unable to resist doing the ‘big white hunter in Africa’ thing. I was handed the AK47 and we all had a good laugh at my poses.
The Gabbra bandits soon left and I cooked a small potion of the gazelle saving the rest to roast that night. Sharrif, despite his hunger, again refused to eat the meat.
‘Would you rather starve?’ I said.
‘Yes, I am true Muslim’, he said.
‘Sharrif, surely in times of starvation Allah will forgive?’ I said through mouthfuls of juicy tender gazelle. ‘What kind of religion would allow a person to starve’?
‘I not starve yet’. he yelled at me, annoyed that I was questioning the rules of the Islamic faith.
‘I tell Gabbra to come to next Well. They will shoot animal only in leg. It will still live and I will bless it and then kill it’, he continued, sounding gruesomely enthusiastic.
‘It does not worry you in the least, does it?’ I asked, an animal is going to suffer terrible pain when it should be killed quickly, put out of its misery, and all because of you and in the name of Allah’.
‘Stop this talk. You are not Muslim, you not understand’, he yelled at me.
‘Me or the wounded gazelle or ostrich or whatever the Gabbra return with’, I said.
I later told Sharrif how I had not felt in anyway threatened by the bandits, but if they had wanted to, they could have killed us, taken whatever they liked and nobody would ever have known. He looked at me smiling.
‘I told them you are here to look for new water, to make more Wells for their people. That you have a radio. That every day you call in and if you don't the Kenyan Army would come look for you. That you are a very important person and doing great things to help their people’, he said.
‘No wonder they gave us the gazelle meat’, was all I could reply.
one woman’s motorcycle journey of discovery available in the next year or two.