Boring Friday afternoon. I’m at my desk wondering why every hour feels like 3 hours. No emails in the last 2 hours despite refreshing my inbox for the 19th time in 10 minutes. I’m randomly typing on my computer to get my supervisor thinking I am doing something important (which I was….in case the boss reads this). I can’t get valid excuses to get off early… but then a notification pops up. My first instinct is to ignore it for the normal 30 minutes. Normal because the constitution mentions somewhere that you should reply to corporate mail after 30 minutes just to give the impression you are busy. However, it’s from my boss. He hates being kept waiting, plus I’m so attached to my cheque. So I respond immediately, then follow up with a call to make sure he has seen it. The Great Grevy Rally needs us in Isiolo for the annual census. Do we want to do this? Of course, yes! I rope in a couple of colleagues from the other departments just to make sure everyone is represented. We have a team. Well, the upside is that when my colleagues get invited on cool trips, they remember who got them out of the office in the middle of January.
So, what’s the Great Grevy Rally? This is a national icon, just below our national anthem and above mutura, the national treasures. If you ever see the Great Grevy Zebra, as a patriotic Kenyan you stand up, hand over heart and salute it. The Great Grevy is a Zebra species that is on the brink of extinction and that is why the Great Grevy Trust runs an annual rally where citizens are brought on board to help in a national census of the Zebra. There are about 2,500 of the animals still in the wild. It is of fundamental importance to conserve the species.
We leave Nairobi at about 6 am heading to Nanyuki where we have a short briefing by the organizers at the Nanyuki sports club. The organizers are very professional particularly Kasmira who got us the most beautiful campsite at the Meibae Conservancy (pronounced “my bae”, for you Nairobians). After the briefing, we head off to Archer’s post to pick up our ranger. He happily introduces himself as Karduma. I bite my tongue several times before I can correctly pronounce it. Noting the challenges I’m having, he happily asks us to call him Duma, meaning Cheetah. We gladly oblige.
After the introductions, we bid goodbye to the Grevy Rally team and head off. We drive 3 hours off road before getting to the camp. I have not been this tired in my life. Thoughts of the pleasures back in Nairobi run through my head like a song I can’t get rid of, over and over in the same order: a cold shower, cooked food, and a 6x6ft bed. But we have to survive on what we carried. I’m a bit depressed just thinking about it until we get to the campsite.
The sunset is so magical at this time. I’m transfixed by the beauty of my nation. Hiding of half its body behind some grey clouds, the other half gently peeping. Some splotches of clouds coloring the visible half. It reminds me of mum’s chapatis, round and cooked with so much love that when you break one in half and it crumbles, you feel guilty for destroying such a masterpiece. The splotches remind me of a chapo that has been slightly burnt to give it a nice crispy flavor. I digress.
We take part in the census for 2 days. This involves getting as close as possible to the animals without stressing them to photograph them. The pictures would later be analyzed by scientists to determine sex, age and unique identity of the animal. I assure you, it is not as easy as it sounds considering the animals do not exactly want to be found. My eyesight, used to spotting funny jokes on the internet, is almost useless in the wild. Our trustworthy ranger can, however, be depended on to differentiate between a dik-dik and a Grevy over a kilometer away. If I try looking at anything that far my eyes will pop out. We spotted over 20 Grevys in the 2 days which is something considering a global population of less than 3000.