I just spoke to the volunteers, all huddled in a mud hut in the village waiting for the rains to stop. Twice a year the rains fall on the Amboseli plains of Kilimanjaro, literally bringing life. Within hours the “Savanna” – the semi-arid landscape made up of grassland, plains, kopjes, and marshes – changes. There are very few trees here but those that survive have adapted well. Just like the maasai, trees have a difficult life. But they’re by no means helpless!
Covered in spines, needles, and hooks, trees have evolved to defend themselves. The “Wait-a-bit Acacia” has opposing hooked thorns, making untangling yourself from them extremely unpleasant. Even thorns have adapted to be able to continue photosynthesis during the dry season.
The Whistling Acacia grows what look like flowers but actually hold nectar and its galls are home to a type of stinging ant which live off the nectar and protect the tree from herbivores. These trees have silver bark, galls and make whistling sounds as the wind blows across the openings to the galls.
“The toothbrush tree is a low bush with characteristic long, arching shoots. When green, the shoots are cut by locals and used as toothbrushes. First, they chew on the end until it resembles a normal toothbrush, and then they brush their teeth with it, spitting out the fragments of wood all the while. It may sound unpleasant, but their smiles tell of a job well done.” – Trees of Kenya. 1989. T.C. Noad and A. Birnie

The maasai too are extremely adapted to this environment but water is increasingly becoming a problem.
For volunteers visiting the only problem that needs solving is how to charge a mobile phone! Solar chargers are advisable, but, if like the hardy crew from AVIF, you can totally immerse yourself in life here, you will gain so much. Leaving behind TV’s, microwave’s, laptops – and electricity – in the Kenyan bush, on the plains of Kilimanjaro, you soon realise not even borders matter. The only power here is fire – but we can share some technology without ruining the culture of the maasai. Solar power. Along with mobile phones – they all make life easier – but none of that matters without sufficient water.
Photo by Emma, volunteering Summer 2010
We’ve researched Thruraya DSL satellite modems and antennas with pre-paid SIMS, but at around £2,000 thankfully we realised that thats exactly what we SHOULDN’T be doing here. Western society has so much to learn from the maasai – travelling here is such a gift – for education – for understanding. Whats so much more important is for money to be spent in sinking a borehole well to sustain the maasai way of life, one of the only tribes in Africa that refuses to move to the city, live in slums and sit in squalor hoping for a better future – because their futures are already better – and brighter (so long as there’s enough water).
I just sent Jackson a text saying its hailing here in North Yorkshire. He has no idea what that means 😉