The last days of February were marked by a heat wave and Kenyans finally had a feel of the stuff they have been hearing from foreign news. Then, rain…lots of rain! Thank you, Climate Change!
I packed my bags for Olorgesailie. Yes, that place that we all read about in history books. The place where they dug out things old, bones of departed beings – what my people call “aturu irmeneng’a.”
Scientists refer to it as the world’s largest factory of stone-age tools that dates up to 990,000 years. It is the place that has excellently preserved biological and cultural evidence about the evolution of man and National Museums of Kenya is helping to move this forward to the future generations.
Shame, that I have never visited it even though it is just 65km from Nairobi and right in the middle of my home county along Magadi Road.
I drove in the evening and set up camp – it is a nice place surrounded by acacia trees. It is quiet too with only one family camping. There are a few bandas and they looked good…well maintained. It seems like it will rain tonight so I pitched the tent at an elevated area.
An elderly Maasai lady sold me firewood for Sh700…she is about my mother’s age – had a little chit-chat about that and her family.
“God knows how to feed his people,” she remarked as the M-Pesa payment message reached her phone. I guessed she had a long day and I might be her only customer today. Another one tried to sell beads but I was not interested.
The night did not go well as I expected – the rain started at around 9pm and the cheap Weekender tent that I bought at Carrefour Supermarket in Nairobi did not handle it well. It started leaking from the joints. In order to make it cheaper (Sh2400) the manufacture excluded the canopy that wards off rainwater and also failed to inform its customers that it is basically a summer tent – not waterproof.
It will be a long wet night with water dripping at the corners and me in the middle. I sent a text to the mountain guide to cancel tomorrow’s hike to Mt. Olorgesalie. It stopped raining at about 3:00AM and I slept.
I went to the museum at about 10:00AM. It is a small room with specimens of our ancestors and extinct animals neatly displayed.
The Excavation Site is right behind the museum and it takes about an hour to walk through it. It is a basically a little safari walk of tools that were used by extinct species. The tools are kept under sheds with iron roofing – it kind of reminds me of a dairy cowshed.
I stood at every shed and observed the tools in different sizes and shapes. They are crude and one would need a lot of effort to cut anything with them but again that was another era and they were considered cutting-edge technology.
The place made feel like something was here – a community once thrived here. I could feel their spirits and existence through their work.
I also wondered about the white dude, British Geologist John Walter Gregory who in his craziness and wander stumbled upon the first tools in 1919. I read more about him later – he was a freaking racist. This is also the place where Mary and Loius Leakey discovered more human remains and tools in 1943. Many scientists later found more stuff and I am sure more will be found in the future.
This area was once a lake with fish, lots of human and wildlife activity around it. But it dried up as a result of volcanic eruption and deposits from Mounts Suswa and Longonot. Subsequent sedimentation covering the site has preserved the fossils.
You can see and feel how this place was formed by observing the soils – the various layers sometimes in beautiful colours of alkaline deposits.
And the birds of Olorgesalie sung in their numbers and sounds. Dark giraffes fed on trees from a distance as I walked away to another destination. I will return to climb this mountain when good weather returns.
** John Kisimir is a Kenyan journalist and wildlife enthusiast. He is the current board chair of Friends of Maasai Mara. You can read more about his travels at www.naloolo.wordpress.com
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