Last Days of Field Work

10 04 2013
Little Makui celebrating that field work was complete

Little Makui celebrating the completion of field work…..okay, okay, he was just showing off for the camera

I finished up the field campaign in the Nairobi National Park area last week.  This has been a long and exhausting few months out in the field, but we’ve managed what I hope to be a very good dataset.  I’m currently analyzing the samples in the lab, but to give you an idea of the last week, I’ve written down some details:

Day 1, Wednesday:  Woke up early in Karen (suburb of Nairobi where I live) to pick up Sauna and head out to the field.  Sauna was, unfortunately, no where to be found.  Instead, I met his younger brother Sitiol (pronounced “City Hall”….Yes, you are correct on how he got the name) and found out that Sauna had to go to the hospital to be treated for Malaria.  Not to worry, he ended up being fine and met us on Friday night.  Anyway, Sitiol ended up going out to the field with me in place of his brother.  We arrived in Kitengela (the town just southeast of the Nairobi National Park border) mid-morning and collected 4 samples.  Two from lone males and two from small herds.  We also traveled to the west side of the park, where there is a huge amount of development going on.  No wildebeest in this part of the study area, that’s for sure.

Day 2, Thursday: The plan was to head south to the town of Isinya, collect a few samples and then head to Naserian Primary School where I had a meeting scheduled with a few teachers at 1 pm.  The morning went well.  Sitiol and I went to a few areas where we hadn’t been before and collected a few samples.  But then, the rains started.  We ended up making it to the school, but were about 30 minutes late as we traveled through muck, mud, and water.  The meeting with the teachers went well and they were happy to receive the books from Cache La Poudre Middle School in Colorado.  Then, two teachers asked for a ride back to Kitengela and the entire day changed.

They told me that it was faster to go another way back to town and assured me that the road was good.  Well, the road was not good.  It dead ended at someone’s boma and as I lost momentum driving through the mud, the car got stuck and myself and Sitiol had to dig it out.  We freed the car and the mzee (old “wise” man) instructed us that we should push on.  I told him that he had to be out of his mind and that we were returning to the school to follow the track that we came in on.  This, however, was not well received and finally I had to tell him that if he wanted to walk, no one would stop him.

Long story short, the drive that took a couple hours on the way in, took over 5 hours on the way out.  I was sweating bullets as night fell, but we made it, exhausted and annoyed.

My two new friends, grabbing some Zzzzz's after a long night of rain.

My two new friends, grabbing some Zzzzz’s after a long night of rain.

Day 3, Friday: The rains continued throughout the night, and I had two little visitors that were trying to make use of my tent.  Woke up in the morning and these two little fellas were keeping warm in my vestibule.  Sitiol and I headed back up to Kitengela to collect a few more samples and stuck to the main roads. You cannot believe what happens to the roads out here when it rains.  Sauna took the bus down and joined us for the last few days.  Fortunately, all the gear from Sierra Trading Post has held up really, really well.  My two tents, the Mountain Hardware Lightwedge 2 and the ALPS Mountaineering Zenith 2, didn’t have a drop of water inside, even after a night of nearly 4 inches of rain.

The other little boy in camp that was expressing how I felt after another day in the mud.

The other little boy in camp that was expressing how I felt after another day in the mud.

Day 4, Saturday: The three of us (Sauna, Sitiol, and myself) tried to see if we get all the way out to Konza on the eastern boundary of the study area and collect a few more samples.  We made it part way, but then the roads just turned to absolute muck.  Then, we started to have problems with the vehicle, as the car would not start.  So, we push started the car….not the situation I wanted to be in in bad weather, but we made it out and returned to camp.  Not exactly a big night of celebrations, but happy nonetheless to be done.

Day 5, Sunday: We returned to Nairobi early, taking the back road through Ngong town, and start the clean up.

Mission Complete.


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5 responses

11 04 2013
gstabach

Wow….that sounds like a roller coaster of a week! Love the photos of the boys and dogs too….(especially the tequila! ha!)…I rarely have seen you frustrated, so can’t even imagine if that had been me out there! Great job!

16 04 2013
Jon Stabach

Oh my. Sounds like a muddy mess. Did they know where they were leading you or….just wonder what was down that road?

16 04 2013
jstabach

This old man new what he was doing, which was one of the things that made it infuriating. He wanted me to drive as close to his house as possible and didn’t care if we got stuck along the way. I should have given him the boot hours earlier.

20 04 2013
Elsa

It sure seems that you are destined to be in the mud when you visit the school. Glad to hear the books made it to the school.

9 07 2013
Gav

How did Sauna get his name? 🙂

Great stories buddy and so well written too!

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