A shower and bath with smelly ellies

Hardy at Sarara's natural rock pool. Photos by David Lansing.

The water for the tent showers at Sarara are solar heated and they take a bit of adjusting. At first the water is just tepid and you convince yourself that’s as hot as it’s going to get and start to soap up and then the scald comes. The whole process takes about three and a half minutes. I could tell because I timed it from when Hardy first turned on the shower next door to our tent cabin to when I heard him scream. Just about exactly three and a half minutes.

It was quiet down in the dining pavilion. Pete and Fletcher weren’t up yet. Neither was the family whose dinner we’d interrupted when we first came in. The dining pavilion was open on three sides. The back was a smooth mud wall above mortared rocks and the whole thing was covered by a thatched roof in a cone shape, almost like a Mexican palapa. There was a comfortable sitting area with several large couches and some old black and white photos on the wall, including one of Osa and Martin Johnson from when they passed through this area in 1924.

A Samburu wearing a green and blue plaid kikoi around his waist, like a skirt, and bright necklaces, bracelets, and anklets, brought me a cup of coffee. The wooden floor extended out onto a large deck with wide steps that led down to a natural pool built into the rocks. The water was turquoise and reflected the dark gray clouds in the sky. I thought about going back up to my tent and putting on a swim suit but I knew the plan was to have a quick breakfast and then go out game viewing so unless Pete and Fletcher failed to get up soon, there wouldn’t be time for a swim.

Hardy was sitting on an outcropping just beyond the pool, looking through some binoculars. I asked him what he was looking at.

“A family of elephants just came out of the bush to this water hole,” he said.

I thought he was kidding but I took my tea down to the outcropping where he was huddled and sure enough, not forty feet away were two cows and a calf squirting water over themselves as they took their morning bath.

Hardy and I sat there, drinking our tea and watching the elephants, not talking, just looking at these huge gray beasts, so close we could smell them, and the green valley spreading out behind them and the peaks, like chinamen hats, of the Lengiyu Hills poking through the clouds.

A young girl and her dad at the elephant water hole. Photo by David Lansing.

After awhile a young girl, about ten, came out. Hardy told her there was a family of elephants at the water hole taking a bath. She said, very blasé, “I know. We’ve seen them before.”

I asked her how long her family had been at Sarara and she said two days and they were leaving tomorrow. “We’ve already seen everything,” she said.

I asked her if she’d seen any African porcupines, thinking that might impress her.

“Several,” she said. “There’s one that lives under this deck. I found one of his quills yesterday and my dad said I could take it home with me.”

Then her father came down for breakfast and she ran over to him and before the Samburu could even pour him a cup of coffee, she’d dragged him over to the pool. “Look, dad, more elephants!” she said excitedly. “I love elephants.”

Obviously her worldliness was reserved for complete strangers and not her father.

The dad acted appropriately impressed at the sight of the elephants and told the little girl to hurry and go get her camera. Meanwhile, Hardy and I got up from our prime viewing spot and headed back up the rocks to the dining pavilion.

“Isn’t this amazing,” said the dad as he passed us, his daughter skipping down the rocks swinging an instant camera around in her hand.

“Absolutely the best,” said Hardy. “Particularly when your daughter gets to see it with you.”

And then we went up and had our breakfast while the father and daughter sat on the rocks looking at the elephants.



  1. Fred Harwood’s avatar

    I take it that the girl and her dad were sitting just a bit further along the rock, past the vanishing-edge pool?

  2. david’s avatar

    Hey, Fred, where have you been? Yes, if you look at the top photo, where Hardy is walking up with his coffee in hand, if you keep going down those rocks, you come to the granite outcropping, shown in the second photo, that looks over the elephant watering hole.

  3. david’s avatar

    From Greg Grinnell: Well I finally got around to starting the Osa and Martin Johnson book, “I Married Adventure” two days ago, just in time I see, although I have not gotten to the part where they visit Sarara yet. The odd part was inside the 1940′s book was a hand written note from the daughter, Andrea “I recently got this book while cleaning out my mother’s (also Andrea) attic. She probably bought it here, I remember as a child liking the neat cover. I hope you enjoy.” She also included a copy of a New York times obituary of her father, Donald Knutson dated 7/14/2009 who was born 1941. Maybe it was one of her grand parents that actually bought the book. Don’s 1968 doctoral thesis, “Algebraic Spaces”, is still widely read today by those pursuing algebraic stacks. Not the type I would imagine being attracted to “I Married Adventure”, but who am I to say. This book seems to have a life of it’s own, what it’s intention is in my hands is yet to be discovered. Greg

  4. Fred Harwood’s avatar

    Having fun, David. Ireland, Switzerland, Austria, California since mid-May. As you know, it’s a beautiful world.

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