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Pole to Pole

Day 87: Moyale to Marsabit

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleAfter an incongruous picnic of Brie cheese, frankfurters and fresh pineapple, we rattle and roll on towards our goal for the day - the town of Marsabit, 155 miles south of Moyale.

Scrub gives way to desert. We cross a desolate coverless landscape of black basalt rocks called the Dida Galgalu - the 'Plains of Darkness' - and then, as we begin to climb out of the plains and up on to the 6000-foot plateau of Marsabit, the 'Place of Cold', the scenery changes dramatically. We begin, at last, to see wild animals - such as dik-dik, the tiniest of the antelope family, gerenuk, which stand on their hind legs to nibble thorn bush branches and apparently never need to drink, and the ubiquitous Grant's gazelle, poised and graceful. Higher up, at the rim of a magnificent volcanic crater, we are watched closely by a greater kudu, a fine, tall antelope with lofty spiralling horns.

Our resting-place for the night is the Marsabit Lodge, set in rich green woodland beside a crater lake within the National Park.

No sooner have we arrived than a slow procession of elephants - three adults and three young - emerge from the trees and make their stately way round the lake towards us. They are the descendants of the magnificent Ahmed, the only elephant to be protected by presidential decree. He used to live in this park, constantly attended by his own personal rangers. To sit with a beer at sunset watching a young descendant of his being taught how to flick earth onto its back is well worth the price of the ticket. On the tree beside me hangs a sign, 'Animals are requested to be silent when people are drinking, and vice versa'.

By a stroke of luck there is a complete power failure in the hotel. We eat by candlelight and sit afterwards beside a log fire. Sprawled out in front of us is an unkempt and indolent hotel cat. Now and then we can hear from out of the darkness a tearing of undergrowth as the elephants plod slowly about, feeding voraciously. The combination of cats at the hearth and elephants in the garden outside is quite surreal, and oddly comforting.
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  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 87
  • Country/sea: Kenya
  • Place: Marsabit
  • Book page no: 196

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