Friday, July 28, 2006

Back from one of the most remote places on earth

It would be friggin' impossible to sum up everything that has happened over the past 6 weeks so I'll just start from the beginning and try to give you an idea of what has happened.

We left for Sosian Ranch the day after I last wrote. The drive wasn't too long....maybe 8 hours or so and most of it was on paved roads. But I was in a land rover behind our big lorry (large green truck that carried 95% of our supplies...bags, cooking stuff, food, tables, water, etc.). The lorry has horrible diesel exhaust and I had a cold so it wasn't a fun ride. However, the view of the rift valley just north of Nairobi is one of the most breathtaking things I've seen...especially because it was a clear day. On the way back it was a big foggy and cold, so the view wasn't as awesome.

Sosian is a 25,000 acre ranch in the Laikipia region of Kenya. It's hilly, and at a fairly high altitude....not sure exactly how high, but it was noticable when hiking uphill. Our camp was on the Waso Narok (Narok river)...a perennial river that at the time was pretty much a trickle (we were there at the end of the long rains).
Our stay at Sosian consisted mostly of daily exercises in things like the local vegetation, taphonomy (study of what happens to bones postmortem, essentially), and geology.
We also had game drives almost every day. I saw so many elephants that it almost became ordinary. But the most memorable elephant was the one that tried to charge the land rover that I was in one day. One of the girls and I were standing up through the sun roof taking pics of this young bull (big guy) and suddenly his ears started flapping (not a good sign). Next thing we knew we were jumping back down into our seats and everyone was screaming frantically to Emmanuel (our driv er) toback the car up. Unfortunately another land rover was behind us and they didn't back up fast enough so we hit them and then the bull walk around to our left and was roaring at us. Finally Emmanuel floored it forward and the elephant chased us about 50 meters or so. It was pretty about an adrenaline rush. One of the ladies in our group, a woman named Millen (she's Kenyan and probably in her 40s) was from that point on terrified of the elephants. There's something funny there, but I don't think it will transfer well because I don't know if I can convey Millen's personality. Let's just say that she was always grinning when she was expressing her elephant fears. Needless to say we all teased her (lovingly).

The food at Sosian and the whole field school was decent, but nothing exciting. Not as good as Ghanaian cuisine, but at Koobi Fora we did get fish now and then (Nile perch, Tilapia, cat fish...usually in a curry stew...yummy). At Sosian it was mostly beans of various types. I ate just about everything I was given except for the mutton and goat. I just couldn't bear to eat it. I kept thinking about the critters at Prospect Park Zoo.

There were virtually no cockroaches for most of this field school, something that I greatly appreciated. Instead we had large spiders, but since they don't scare me or even creep me out this was not a problem. On the contrary I thought they were awesome and took several spider pics.

At Sosian we also saw a lot of ungulates (zebras, impala, dikdik, waterbuck, even a kudu and a tamed eland named Amelia...she was so cool!) and some primates (vervets across the river from us and we saw olive baboons at a small waterfall...several of us jumped off of the waterfall into the pool below...I did the "low" dive...about 15-18 feet I'd say).
We also got to see a lioness and her cubs from a distance.
We saw more lions after leaving Sosian. We stopped at another ranch called Mugi and saw lions very close up...about 5-6 meters away. Beautiful.

Camping at Sosian was an adventure...we were at a prime drinking spot for the elephants so after a couple of nights some of us had to move our tents so that we wouldn't be trampled on. There was a lion that came around early in the morning a couple of times (before daylight). There were also hyaenas, jackals and (my fave) a leopard in the camp at various points over the week or so that we were there. Sadly, we didn't see most of them, we just heard them. But then again when you have to pee in the middle of the night and there are hyaenas prowling around you don't exactly want to run into them. :-)

And on that note, I need to go meet up with my cohort and get some indian food (it rocks here by the way). We're then going to go to the museum to see some hominin arm bones that they found last year. Probably belong to Homo erectus/ergaster. Pretty cool.

Tutaonana (see you again soon in Swahili),Pam

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