Sunrise over Sarara

The sun also rises over Sarara. Photos by David Lansing.

Shortly before six this morning I heard a slight shuffling of feet on the sandy path leading up the hill to the tent Hardy and I are sharing and then a light rap on the door.

A small man dressed in a white kanzu, carrying a wooden tray, said in a voice barely above a whisper, “Tea, sir.”

The overcast sky was just starting to pick up the first light of day. Through the mosquito netting, I watched him  arrange a thermos of tea with two cups, sugar and milk on a short table made from a cedar burl on the veranda and then heard him shuffle back down the hill.

I threw on some shorts, unzipped the mosquito netting, and sat on the veranda, pouring myself a cup of tea from the thermos. The Mathews Range, still cloaked in purple shadows, sat before me.

The Hyrax Family beneath my tent.

We’d gotten in so late last night that we really hadn’t seen any of the country, but here it was coming to light all around us. The camp was situated on a hill covered with acacias, gnarled cedars, and thickets of commiphora. Directly in front of us, about half a mile away, was a kopje—a good spot for a leopard. Other kopjes rose up out of the valley between us and what the Samburu call Ol Doinyo Lengiyu (or Lenkiyio) which wistfully means “the mountain where the child got lost.”

I was sitting there drinking my tea and watching the sun slowly rise in the saddle between two hills when I heard a rustle and little chittering noises below the deck. I leaned over and there were three or four rodent-like animals scurrying outside a den in the rocks—hyraxes.

Damn, here I’d been in Sarara for less than 12 hours and I’d already seen two of the Small Five: African porcupines and rock hyraxes. Surely I’d spot an aardvark before lunch.

These hyraxes were obviously used to humans. They didn’t seem the least disturbed by the fact that I was leaning over the deck with my camera trying to take their picture. In fact, they seemed to rather pose for me. They’d stop what they were doing, look up at me with what looked like little smiles on their face, and wait for me to snap off two or three photos before getting on with their business. Quite thoughtful.

I say the hyrax resembled a rodent, but actually they say that their closest living relative is the elephant. Frankly, I just don’t see the family resemblance. But I’ll tell you what: If I was a hyrax I’d certainly claim to be related to elephants instead of rats as well. Makes you seem more upper-crust, don’t you think?