Our journey to Samburu take us to the place in Kenya that is closest to my heart. After passing through the reckless town of Isiolo, the rugged dramatic scenery of Northern Kenya stretches out before us. I imagine that our travelers see harsh and remote. But as we cross the bridge over the Ewaso Nyiro River bridge, I see beauty and drama.
We check into our lodge and Kura Omar, BOMA’s Operations Director, and Sarah Ellis, Program Development and Evaluation, join us for the evening with the Dining for Women group. The next day we visit the Save the Elephants (STE) research center. We are hosted by David Daballen, a good friend who grew up in one of the villages where BOMA works.
As David lifts a tarp that covers an old battered vehicle, he tells us the story of STE researchers who were following two bull elephants in must – all horny and strung out on testosterone. As they watched, the researchers observed an incredible fight and unexpectedly found themselves too close to the raging bulls. As they moved away from the fight, the losing bull, Rommel, saw them and decided to take his loss out on the vehicle. He proceeded to ram it with his tusks, his head and his feet. The vehicle flipped three times before it rested against a tree.
The only thing that saved the researchers was the return of the challenging bull, who distracted Rommel, giving them time to escape. Looking at the vehicle now, it is hard to imagine that anyone could survive such an onslaught. Eventually, STE contacted Toyota to brag about the hardy and durable nature of their pick-up truck. A few more well-placed phone calls resulted in the donation of a brand-new Toyota truck to the Save the Elephant team.
Kura and I looked at each other and smiled. Our Land Cruiser, affectionately called the Gumpsmobile, was bought used from the British High Commission. After four years of rough roads, river crossings and tough terrain, it is falling apart. Each month, the maintenance and repair costs strain our budget and we are hesitant to embark on journeys to more remote villages, where the need is so great, because we cannot risk breaking down. A new vehicle is tops on our wish list, but in this hyper-inflated vehicle market,a new Land Cruiser will cost us a minimum of $60,000 in precious donor funds.
It’s still a priority for 2013. But in the meantime, Kura is out looking for a mean bull named Rommel.