Bush Warriors Reclaming the Wild…hairy caterpillars, wild flowers, 40C heat and a little treasure……

By Nana Grosse-Woodley


A while ago there was an outbreak of hairy caterpillars in camp. We had just got back from Nairobi and within only minutes of our arrival we were itching all over from what seemed to be an instant skin rash. It took us a while to figure out what the cause for it was. The more the guys in camp saw us scratching and itching, the more stories unfolded and one after the other confessed to suffering from the same. Looking around more closely we discovered the big Acacia tree towering above the mess tent crawling with hairy caterpillars. The only logic explanation therefore had to be that their hair was floating through the air until it latched on to our skin causing an immediate irritation. The few people spared were the ones with hairy arms and legs.

Around that time we also had a heat wave – the heat before a good storm. Water bottles inside the mess tent measured about 40 degrees Celsius, feeling warmer than warm to our touch. Sweat was dripping all day long and it was far more comfortable to constantly move around to get the breeze of mere movement on our sweat covered skins. The heat was intense from 8 am until about 8pm, hardly any drop of temperature noticeable after sun set.  Until, finally, the storm came! It flooded everything and cooled the air and temperatures down, even if only temporarily.

The area is now thick again with vegetation due to the green shoots of the commiphora trees always following a first downpour and the Acacia trees sprouting leaves in anticipation of rains. Flowers appear out of nowhere and everything looks lush and green once again.

At the beginning of the Easter school holidays we went for an early morning walk to take the kids up to Secret Valley. Our usual path was overgrown and lovely little flowers were lining the way. Tatu, a young Maasai working with Amara Conservation, came along and taught us – kids and adults – how to throw little rocks so they fly for miles whilst producing a loud whistling noise. The kids simply blended into the surroundings taking the breathtaking views and natural wonders almost for granted. Watching them stand by the rock edge on Mbulia’s top ridge and enjoying the view whilst practicing the new stone-throw method made me think how lucky these kids are to grow up with so much space and freedom. They seemed to be standing on top of the world after having conquered it. Like monkeys they climbed and mastered every possible rock, ran back and forth along the rock phases and simply enjoyed being active and free.

By the time we got back to camp the thermometer was once again climbing constantly and when we all spent our lunch wiping the sweat off our foreheads, we decided to opt for a cooling down exercise – to go and swim in one of the local natural rock pools near Ghazi town. These pools are fed directly from the Taita Hills with lovely fresh, clear and cold water.

Peter, normally one of the night guards in camp, came along to guide us. We drove for about an hour through lush small scale farms, past lots of herds with livestock and had to avoid several chicken crossing the track, before we arrived at the place. We parked the cars and set off on foot. A steep climb down and we finally got to the cool water. The kids were too impatient to get to the cool and dived in without even taking their clothes off first, closely followed by Pius, the other night guard.

Coming to this place was finding another treasure which will have to be part of the routine circuit in future. A nice picnic lunch by these pools will have to be obligatory with clients on particularly hot days.