Dertu Redux 1: Following the Nomadic Pastorals, Banished Fish Brothers and Ditch Diggers from Nairobi to Dertu, Kenya
Almost a year ago we went to Dertu, Kenya. Jess was going on a follow up visit of sorts this week and I figured I'd go along for the ride. Here's some of what we saw along the way this time around.
A new development since last year is that they are building a ditch from Thika (outside of Nairobi) to Garissa. Almost 500 clicks long and 4 feet deep, all by hand. Supposedly to lay fiber optic cable. It was pretty incredible to see them, an endless line of men, digging with pick and shovel.
As you get into north-eastern Kenya, it gets hotter and drier. The elevation is a lot lower than Nairobi. It becomes predominantly Muslim, and the people mostly of Somali origin. It's really a different world than Nairobi. There's also a big river, the Tana, otherwise there is very little water. Garissa is the main town in this region, right on the Tana river. We stayed at the Nomad Palace, same as last year.
The Banished Fish Brothers
Somali Kenyans have a number of food taboos, which is a challenge for Jess. They basically live solely off their camels, cattle, goats and sheep (the latter two collectively referred to as "shoats"). They have little interest in farming, so don't eat much in the way of vegetables. They also don't hunt. In more recent years, they have started to rely more on food aid to supplement their diet. At least the "pastoral drop-outs" or nomads who have settled into communities like Dertu. The Dertu team leader, who met us at the Nomad Palace for dinner, told us some interesting stories and anecdotes about their food taboos. This is the same guy, an Ethiopian Somali Kenyan, whose father killed three lions, by necessity, with his bare hands. Or rather with poison darts from poison that he concocted. He killed the lions by climbing up into a tree and waiting for them with his poison darts. He took off all his clothes so he wouldn't smell human. It was okay that he smelled like a wild animal or "a baboon," but any article of clothing would give him away. Now that killing lions is illegal, such traditions are no longer being passed down. Anyway, the story Ahmed told us was about two brothers in his community:
The Road to Dertu
The next morning we woke up early to head out to Dertu. This year the road wasn't nearly as bad and it only took us about two hours (instead of five). We saw a lot of animals, besides the usual camels, goats, cattle, etc., we saw lots of birds, ostriches, wart hogs, kudus, geranuks, dik-diks and giraffes.
Somewhere along the way we crossed the equator into the northern hemisphere. Though there was no line or sign telling us so.