Our Travel Writing Competition closes tomorrow, so if you haven’t sent your entries in, todays your very last day to do so. We really enjoyed the piece below and we hope you do too.
With a frown of concentration, a determined glint in his eye Joe rolled the stick in his hand as fast as he could. It was hard work but, eventually, a wisp of smoke rewarded his efforts. Helped by Masha, our Masai guide, Joe blew on the dry grass kindling. There was a spark and then crackling flames. Joe sat back, a very contented ten year old!
In our camp protected by Acacia thorns, we learned about Masai life in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro. The fire ready, a goat freshly slaughtered, we looked forward to dinner – if only we had known!
Cicadas were loud as traffic, the night sky pierced by a thousand stars, occasional rustlings and grunts of wild animals around the camp and curling smoke drifting into the cool night air all added atmosphere to this most magical of feasts. We eagerly awaited our food, not knowing what a Masai style meal would entail.
With a flourish and bright white grins soup arrived. In the dark we could only see a bowl brimming with brownish broth and unidentified bits of meat. Stirring released a strong smell, a farm like smell – not of the pleasant variety. That was enough for Joe, his spoon was returned firmly to the table. Megan, his 13 year old sister was made of sterner stuff. She stirred the broth, raised her spoon, tasted it and, with a whole body grimace, shuddered as she swallowed. Her spoon was pushed back on to the table.
Determined to be the sort of parents who set a polite example, Fiona and I swapped looks briefly and went for it. One spoonful, a second, third – too much. I have to stay this was the most disgusting taste I have ever met!
‘Good?’ asked Masha. ‘It is Masai medicine.’
‘I’d rather be very ill’ quipped Joe quietly.
Masha proudly told us how the soup was prepared. The goat’s entire intestines and stomach, still with all contents, were boiled and mashed.
‘Meat, vegetables and medicine in one’ exclaimed Masha proudly.
Meat and rice followed which was devoured eagerly, if a little suspiciously. Each mouthful inspected carefully before being sniffed, tasted, slowly chewed and then swallowed with relief.
The next morning we walked through mud left from the last rains to a local family. They had dressed for the occasion, deep reds and blues with beads and bangles jingling.
‘Do you go to school?’ asked Megan.
‘Yes, we walk five miles to the school over there,’ came the thickly accented reply.
‘We take milk for our teacher each day. There are fifty in our class. The teacher has a lot of milk.’
‘Where do you live?’ asked a young boy
‘By the sea in England,’ Joe told him
‘Are there Masai in England?’ the boy enquired.
‘I don’t think so’ replied Joe.
‘ I have walked to the sea. It is long way – five days!’ said the boy proudly. ‘How far to England?
A million miles I thought…
– Fiona Haward