In my 3rd year of University I spent a semester in Kenya. Since I was majoring in Archaeology, traveling to Kenya granted me the fabulous opportunity to observe, first hand, much of what I had only been able to see thus far in textbooks and photographic journals.
I traveled through Kenya along with 35 or so students and faculty from various Canadian Universities. We visited a variety of archaeological sites, spent 3 weeks on the coast, camped at Lakes Nakuru, Bogoria and Turkana and explored the Samburu National Reserve. These are just a few examples of the many places we visited. Perhaps one of the most exhilarating stops was the five days we spent on the Massai Mara Game Reserve.
Now you have to understand, while we did go on Safari and long nature hikes, we also spent a great deal of time sitting in make-shift classrooms (literally a tarp canopy held up by 4 poles – which did NOT keep out the flies!). I am active by nature – it's who I am. I cannot spend the majority of the day sitting in classes or working for that matter without getting at least an hour of exercise in.
We had a Massai guide with us whose name was Kasoi. Kasoi epitomized what a Massai man should be – tall, lean, fit and very aware of his surroundings. Considering that Massai Land is inhabited by such wild animals as zebra, giraffes, gazelles, warthogs and, of course, lions, it is understandable that we students were not allowed to take off alone for an hour-long jog. If we wanted to venture off anywhere, we had to have a guide with us. And this is where the excitement begins...
I asked Kasoi if he would mind going for a jog with me – he was more than happy to come for the 'ride'. We were quite the pair – me in my running shorts, tank top and Nikes – him in sandals made of I don’t know what, no socks, draped in his bright red and blue sheath and carrying his walking stick.
What a feeling to be among the zebra and giraffes – literally to be running beside them. I was reveling in all the surrounding beauty when Kasoi grabbed me by the arm and stopped. Confused, I came to a halt and stared in the direction to which he was pointing his stick. I looked at him with a "what's up" expression on my face. His response was, "Look, lion... run!". I couldn’t believe it – in the distance, about 80 meters ahead of us, sat a lion. He was too far away for me to see if he was looking at us but to be honest, all I could think of was to... RUN!
Let's just say these size 9 feet of mine have never run as fast as they did that day. I was in no mood to become a lion's afternoon snack!
So, the moral of this story – if you find yourself in Massai country and feel the urge to go for a little jog, don't go alone. Make sure you are with someone (preferably a local Massai) who knows the terrain and what to watch out for. Even better yet, convince yourself NOT to go for a jog and instead, rent a nice, safe and enclosed 4x4 – for exercise, do stomach crunches in the back seat!