Lakes Baringo and Bogoria w/ Leadbelly & Logo: Species Diversification, Kenya Cowboys (A.K.A S.O.M.F are like so K.C.), Hyena Sweetness and Furlion, R.I.P.

The only way to stay sane in Nairobi is to get out of Dodge given the chance. So when Leadbelly and Logo invited us to go up to Lake Baringo last weekend, how could we refuse? Especially since Lake Baringo has 470 different species of birds, and I'm all about species diversification. Not that I'm a bird lover or anything, I just like the spectrum they encompass. More on that later. We left Friday morning (Jamhuri day—Kenya's independence day), winding down the escarpment into the Rift Valley, the same way we went last weekend, only this time we kept going past Lake Naivasha. Things get drier and more open as you get further north. The landscape reminded me a lot of Arizona or Mexico, especially when we entered this corridor of agave fields.

Tequila in Kenya?

Unfortunately though, the agave is not for tequila nor mezcal but for textiles or fabric. Kenyans need to get their priorities straight. We had veered off the main road (if you could even call it that) at this juncture onto some random dirt road that seemed more for herding cows and goats than driving. Fortunately Logo was at the wheel and knew where he was going, having been born and raised in nearby Nakuru. Though we still managed to get lost somehow.

Logo the Kenya Cowboy

Being that he's from Kenya and speaks fluent Swahili as well as Kalenjin and other local dialects, I suspect Logo is of the Kenya Cowboy species, though he denies it. To be honest, the only thing I know about these slippery Kenya Cowboys is the gospel Binyavanga Wainaina preaches in My Clan KC (that I blogged about before):

Kenya Cowboy (n): a term to be used with great discretion and only if qualified to do so. The politically correct way of saying it is Kenya Cowpeople, except that political correctness is the first skin shed when you become a bona fide Kenya Cowboy...

This perhaps explains the awkward silence when I asked Logo if he was a Kenya Cowboy. Binyavanga goes on to break KCs down into 4 different categories: Bona Fide KC, Wannabe KC, 'Not Our Type, Dear' KC, and Will Never Be KC. It's all very complex, and Binyavanga lays down further convoluted conditionals and qualifiers in regards to the taxonomy of these Kenya Cowboys, with the disclaimer of his own that "This is not an anthropological exegesis. It is merely a reflective diary," and that "Some of My Friends (SOMF) are ... er.. whites, Kenyan Cowboys...," both of which apply here.

According to Urban Dictionary, a Kenya Cowboy is "a hot kenyan guy who rides horses and is ripped beyond belief," but who is Urban Dictionary to speak of the stereotypes of rural Kenya? According to the Guardian, which is more reputable, though they seem to merely reference or paraphrase Binyavanga: a Kenya Cowboy is "a breed of rebellious white male who speaks fluent Swahili, reveres African wildlife and feels a kinship with hunting warrior tribes such as the Maasai," all of which apply to Logo. Some other traits/cliches the Guardian lays down:

KC Attribute Attributable to Logo?
...only ever works as pilot, mechanic or safari guide Logo is some sort of coffee farmer/expert
... punctuates every sentence with the interjection "eh" Didn't hear Logo utter "eh". That sounds more like a Canadian thing.
... it is vital to have a "good strong man" name such as David or John Logo's real name is John.
A bona fide Kenya cowboy drinks Tusker Logo drinks White Cap Lager, which I tried (to earn his respect) but you may as well call it White Castle Lager
... proclaims to all that 'Kenya is my country, Land Rover is my car'. We were driving in some sort of Honda or Japanese car and he made no such proclamations
The Kenya cowboy may criticise Kenya, but will tear out the throat of expatriates and other wannabes who attempt to do the same. All Jess and I do is criticize Kenya and are throats are still intact.

So maybe Logo isn't a Kenya Cowboy after all, or only 5/10ths KC. Besides, he wears a skirt in the evening hours, a pink one at that, which probably disqualifies him. I think I have sighted bona fide Kenya Cowboys before, at Village Market or Java House. You can tell because they look like tourists with their khaki shorts, Bata boots, and holstered cell phones, but when they open their mouths Swahilian obscenities issue forth (typically directed at their servants or ranch hands).


Leadbelly is not a Kenyan Cowgirl (she's far too stylish for that, and she wears the pants), though as the name I have given her implies (her real handle is CJ), the AK47 lead in her belly alone gives her bragging rights to be whoever the fuck she wants to be. If there were streets here, she'd have more street cred than 50 Cent, but instead she has village cred. She did "have a farm in Africa" once (in Zimbabwe), before Mugabe's thugs shot her and took it away. The other thing about Leadbelly is that she's got a book or two in her that she needs to give me.

Anyway, cliched terminology aside, Logo and Leadbelly were wonderful company to spend the weekend with.

Logo and Leadbelly

logo and leadbelly

The Pink Flamingos and Green Waters of Lake Bogoria

When we finally got ourselves unlost, we bumbled down this narrow valley to Lake Bogoria, passing through some park entrance whose logbook had about two visitors a day on average. Then we spilled down onto the shores of the lake, with it's green caustic water and flocks of lesser flamingos (one of the highest concentrations of in the world).

green alkaline waters (cyanobacteria) and beach of bleached flamingo bones and feathers

green alkaline water

When Leadbelly said "look at the Geezer," I said which one, as there were at least two in the car. Sure as the sun, water was issuing forth from the earth. Nothing on the order of Ol' Faithful, but still, enough to boil an egg (which plenty of people were doing).

one of the "geezers"


I didn't even attempt to take pictures of the flamingos with my crappy camera, but Jess got some, including this one of me being a complete Redneck (wannabe Kenyan Cowboy). After my zebra-chasing stunt, I have a reputation to keep. I did get some video though when I wasn't busy exercising the flamingos.

Lake Baringo

We continued on to Lake Baringo after that, arriving just in time for sunset over the lake and a Tusker, er White Cap Lager.

Lake Baringo at dusk


moonrise over lake Baringo, with crocodiles that I almost stumbled over

crocodile on lake Baringo

The next morning we went hiking up to some basalt cliffs overlooking the lake. Here's some of what we saw along the way.

view of the lake from the cliffs

basalt cliffs


denizens of the basalt cliffs (rock hyraxes)


hut and tree

hut and tree


looking down into ant hill

ant hill


nearby village we passed through

Baringo village



in the village


another butchery (note meat being put on display behind the plexiglass)

meat window


calico goat

calico goat


skeptical dog



more goats and dogs


girls fetching water

water girls


mother fetching water with umbrella

umbrella woman


Hyenas and Sweetness

After the hike we lounged around some. I finished this book on Kikuyu Folktales, which were uh, interesting I guess, if not head-scratchingly random. They typically involved hyenas and other animals (cool by me) or ogres (not cool). Like the one about "The Egg that Hatched a Beautiful Girl" where a man took an egg from a sleeping ostrich and put it in a pot with some oil and nurtured it until it bore a baby girl. He put more oil from slaughtered rams and changed the pot to a bigger one. He loved the girl like his own daughter and took her to be circumcised. His wife was jealous of the girl though, especially when the man insisted that the girl not help her fetch water. When the wife called the girl an egg, she ran away. The man caught up to her and the girl jumped into a river, where she turned into an ostrich that joined the other ostriches. The story ends by saying (presumably the moral): "The man went home angry and disappointed. He beat his wife and sent her home to her own people. He never married again after that."

Here's another one, verbatim, about a dove:

A long time ago there was a man and his wife. They had a girl. This girl fell sick many times. She died. When she died, she was thrown away and a dove came and put her together again. The dove took the girl to a cave where she lived. But after a short while the girl said that she wanted to go back to her mother. The dove told the girl that she must stay in the cave, but still the girl went. Now when she went home she fell sick again. She died and she was thrown away again. The dove came, put her together and took her away. But the girl went home again intending never to return to the cave. Now when the dove came to fetch her, she stood outside and sang:    

     'U u ai uai! Give me my ornament give me back
     Then I can go back home where the rain comes down
     With ta, ta, ta.'

The parents closed the door but they forgot to close the window and so the dove slipped in through the window and went straight to where the girl was sleeping. She took away what she had given to the girl and the girl was all bones again. These bones were thrown away and as usual the dove found them and put them together. She took the girl to a very far place and they lived there forever.

There was another one about an old man that bore three children from the puss in his swollen knee. Or the one where a hare kept messing up a spider's courtships by telling his fiancees that they would have to fetch a lot of water for him (one pot for each leg). The best one though, was the one about the hare who enticed the hyena with some sweet meat, "something sweeter than sweetness itself," then tells hyena that "once you eat this sweetness, you should never piss or shit because then the sweetness gets lost," and convinces hyena he needed to have his butthole sewn shut. Then the hyena gets a bird to unstitch his butt and he explodes sweetness all over the bird. Here's Leadbelly and Logo's version of the tale after I bestowed it upon them:

Later in the afternoon we went for a boatride, as you can probably tell by the above video. It was good to be out on the water (fresh, not caustic, though muddy with crocs and hippos). We went to some island and saw some cool things on the way, like fish eagles swooping from the sky to snag balsa-infused (artificially inseminated) fish from the surface.

fish eagle

fish eagle


Baringo boat ride (crocs, hippos and fish eagles fishing)

Jess got more stills with her camera of hippos and such. Next morning we drove back. We listened to music and stared out the window a lot. We saw this tortoise (leopard tortoise?) that made these funny hissing sounds like Darth Vader.

Darth Vader Leopard Tortoise


leopard tortoise


Natural Histories and Mogli R.I.P.

As you can probably tell, I like animals. Not so much animals, but what they say about us. This is not a new thing with me, they visit me often in my dreams, and I've blogged about them before, but Kenya seems like a good place to pick this back up. Not that I plan to write the next Lion King or anything. Here's a paragraph from something I started writing last week:

Furlion’s face was wrapped in a gauze lampshade when I got back to the rafters. Ape Vet’s instructions—not to lick his own mane. Furlion’s eyes were circling just above the conical horizon describing his face. Auroral mouth goo gyroscoped in unison, triggering a resonant frequency tornado, until I held the sun-bleached garden hose up to his mouth and he had sense enough to drink. It was raining hard now but it didn’t matter—we were all leaking everywhere. Rainwater issued from the nailed bottlecaps, laminating the undersides of the corrugated tin, then peeling off in sheets. Germ Moth had found the one dry spot until one of the Hyenas snuck in and fucked her when we weren’t watching, making a mess of it. There was nothing we could do except inspect her for seed. Furlion kept collapsing all over the tile in his efforts. He got enough traction on the camelhair rug to sling his way outside, and then once moving and free of the lampshade, his momentum propelled him deep into the yard. He made it to the Dark Corner Too Tight To Turn and got himself all wedged in it head first.

Furlion was inspired by Mogli, the dog that we lived with until last week, but now, after 101 years on this Earth, is no longer with us.

The Last Day of Mogli, a.k.a. Furlion


R.I.P. Mogli

Mogli the Furlion




(c) 2008 Derek White