Honey hunts and painted wolves
Recently we were guests of Anna Trezbinski and her husband Loyaban Lemarti at their magical tented camp known as Lemartis Camp on the banks of the Uaso Nyiro River in Laikipia. We hiked down river beds, had sundowners atop a huge rock, enjoyed great debates at the dinner table, played in the river and went to see the local weekly market that was vibrant with colour and sound and smells and sold everything from plastic buckets to cabbages and cattle.
The food at the camp was fabulous, but one of the finest things we ate was local honey still on the comb harvested by some of the Samburu who worked at the camp. The golden nectar was almost addictive and when Lemarti offered to take us on a honey hunt we leapt at the chance.
He gathered up a beautiful old rope, that was really a very long strap of buffalo hide that was decades old, handed down through generations of honey hunters and off we walked down the river. He chose a hive that had been placed at least 40ft up in a fever tree on the edge of the water. It looked impossible to reach and Jamey and Amelia sat bewitched as Lemarti and his friend Boni started a fire using the traditional method of rubbing sticks together, once they had an ember they placed it in elephant dung and gently blew on it till they had a small flame and then a fire which they wrapped in a bundle of dried euphorbia husk which produced thick smoke. They unravelled the roll of buffalo hide strap and flung it up into the tree where is hung precariously from a thin branch. The two men had far greater faith in both the branch and the rope that we did and its was nerve wracking to watch them climb, Lemarti carrying the smoke, and his friend some large flat pieces of bark to act as a tray for the combs. The bees bombarded them as they scooped the honey onto the bark, and it was relief when they were safely back on the ground. Never has honey tasted so amazing, it was hot and smoky and oozed unctuously from the comb.
We had just driven out of the Ewaso Niyro valley having said farewell to Lemarti’s when we spotted a wild dog tear across the road obviously hunting. What incredible luck! We did our best to try and keep up, the dogs can run at over forty miles an hour and keeping up in a car through thick bush on rough ground is exciting. Jamey and Amelia had white knuckles and enormous grins. We would lose sight of the lead dog only to pick up one of the other pack members as they ran after a Thompson gazelle in a broad front. After about five minutes the gazelle could run no more and the dogs caught it. Wild dogs continue to seem to be on the come back, not just in Kenya but also in Tanzania.