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Samburu Trails

From the archives in 2007

In memory of Rosalie Faull

Okay – here’s a brain teaser.  What do you get when you cross a donkey with a horse?  Answer:  You get a smart ass!  Actually, you get a mule.

“Mules are very tough animals,” explains Rosalie Faull who runs Samburu Trails, a trekking safari into the wilderness of the northern frontiers on donkeys and mules.  A handsome chestnut coloured mule runs across the garden to join the others grazing with the pack of donkeys.  “They are very sure-footed and with a western-style saddle, very comfortable to ride.  It’s like sitting in a big arm chair.”

Grevy's zebra in northern Kenya. Copyright Rup iMangat

Grevy’s zebra in northern Kenya. Copyright Rupi Mangat

We’ve just driven in from Maralal, which disappears into the valley below as we drive up the high glades of Leroghi Plateau, the air cool and crisp, the rains turning everything a magical lush green, with old man’s beard hanging from the branches of the ancient podo and cedar trees, showing how pure and clean the air is.  We reach Porro, a tiny Samburu hamlet that l’ve never heard of before.

“Is it on the map?” l ask Rosalie who with her late husband Peter built a beautiful house on the slopes of the mountainous countryside and set up a trekking safari with donkeys and mules into the great northern vast land that stretches up to the deserts and the Jade Sea otherwise known as Lake Turkana.

“Yes it is,” she replies as l wonder how anyone can find a place so remote to build a house.

Landscape in norhern Kenya. Copyright Rupi Mangat

Landscape in norhern Kenya. Copyright Rupi Mangat

“Peter was a hunter before the 1977 ban on hunting.  He had walked this area and knew it well,” says Rosalie.  Both being of outdoor stock and born and bred in Kenya, they built the house from local materials while they camped around it.

I’ve been on the camel safari around Kirisia hills lining Maralal riding high above the ground in pristine Samburu countryside.  Donkeys and mules add another dimension.

“Camels just came here not so long ago,” continues Rosalie.  “The Samburu have used donkeys traditionally as pack animals.”

Porro lies not far from the deep ditch that is the Great Rift Valley.  “Peter had read “Elephant hunting in East Africa ….. being an account of three years ivory hunting under Mount Kenya and among the Ndorobo Savages of Lorogi Mountains” by Arthur Henry Neumann (1850-1907), published by Rowland Ward Ltd., London 1898.  In 1893, .H. Neumann met a New Yorker called William Astor Chanler and Lieutenant Ludwig von Hohnel in Mombasa after the Lieutenant’s ill-fated jaunt into the interior where he had been charged and badly injured by a rhino in the Kirisia Hills.   He learnt from the two man of the rich hunting ground around Leroghi Plateau and Mathew’s Range.  Neumann made his way down to where the two men probably might have set camp at the foot of the Leroghi mountains and a small stream called El Bogoi.

Mathews Range. Copyright Rupi Mangat

Mathews Range. Copyright Rupi Mangat

Fueled with the exploits of Neumann a century ago, Peter set off from his home in Porro traversing the hills of Leroghi with donkeys to re-discover the now almost legendary El Bogoi camp.  With him he had the Samburu elder man Lekermogo who remembered his father’s tales of a White man in the area hunting elephants.

On 21 March 1995 Peter set off and after days of trekking down the steep slopes into vistas still little known, Peter found Neumann’s camp by the Bower tree that Neumann wrote about in his journals by the El Bogoi stream.  From Peter’s story published in a Hunter’s book, he saw elephants and found evidence that pointed that Neumann must have set up camp here.

Peter’s donkey expedition over the Leroghi’s was the start of the trekking safaris in the area.  “We do the seven day Leroghi Route or the Molasso Route. It’s great walking country and the bird life is incredible.”

It begins to drizzle and the skies hang heavy with cloud.  Any thought of spending a day out walking with the donkeys over the green glades of Leroghi have to be shelved.  In lieu, l discover Rosalie’s other passion – her garden and her orchard where she grows apples and oranges and so much more – all organic.

En route to Maralal from Samburu - a male impala with the iconic Ol Lolokwe mountain

En route to Maralal from Samburu – a male impala with the iconic Ol Lolokwe mountain

The following morning, with the skies clear we drive over the heights of Leroghi plateau so close to the roof of the earth, catching a glimpse of the escarpment.  Old tin drums mark the boundaries of the hunting blocks that once were.  Although the last rhino disappeared in the 1970s, the elephants, lions and leopards still live in the ancient forests of Maralal.  It’s a perfect walk on the wild side.

Samburu Scenarios

There’s a wonderful campsite on the Faull’s farm complete with a hot water shower set in the grove of trees and a long drop loo.  Camping is Ksh 400 per person per day.  The site is 12 kilometres north of Maralal on the Baragoi road.  You can get water, firewood and the security is good.  Besides that you can also get the fruit that’s in season.

If you’re intrepid, go for the longer seven-day trek in the footsteps of Neumann who in 1894 spent three years hunting elephant in the Leroghi Range for take the seven-day Molasso Route down into the Great Rift Valley.  Rosalie takes care of the cuisine and camp – you just have to be fit enough to walk or ride the mule if you like.

On the other hand, if you just want to do day walks around the high hills of Leroghi from the campsite, that’s possible too.

Contact me for more info.

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