Walking with Warriors
This summer, 11 Withington Sixth Formers, along with Miss Bruce and Mrs Toubanks, spent two weeks in Kenya, traversing the Masai Mara and the spectacular landscapes of the Great Rift Valley. Accompanied by Masai guides and adventure travel experts from STC Expeditions, the itinerary was designed to be a great adventure, but also to allow students to gain an insight into the Masai culture and way of life, particularly from a woman’s perspective.
The group was based at the Sagana River Camp for the first few days of the expedition. Here, the girls took part in a variety of adventure activities, such as mountain biking through tough terrain, paddle boarding and white-water rafting. The next stage of the trip was a 70km trek over three days with wild camping overnight.
Kea recounts: “ We set off with our Masai friends leading the way and we learnt a lot on the journey about how much the Masai are attuned to their surroundings, local plants and animals. The trek was filled with beautiful valleys, waterfalls, steep slopes to climb and rivers and streams to leap over which, at some points, proved to be more than a little challenging. Evenings allowed hours for conversation around the campfire, learning some Masai dance moves and teaching them some ‘traditional’ dancing of our own – for example, the Macarena and flossing!”
Abby continues: “ After saying goodbye to our Masai companions we then hopped on the bus to head to our home for the rest of the trip, Lale’enok Research Centre. Upon arrival, we were greeted warmly by the staff and met with a delicious lunch but the most appreciated things by far were the cold showers and proper toilets, which many of us had been pining after for days!”
During the five days in camp at Lale’enok the group had many opportunities to learn about the role of women in Masai culture.
Miss Bruce said: “ The opportunity for the girls to sit down with the Masai women at the project and have an open Q&A, with all subjects on the table – including FGM, rites of passage and marriage – whilst sharing in activities such as beadmaking and dance, was a complete privilege. It enabled us to understand Masai culture, housing, livestock management and human-animal conflict (the area where the Masai graze their goats and cattle is frequented by lions and leopards). We were also privileged to take a game drive seeing and tracking some of Kenya’s magnificent wildlife. This experience was something that goes beyond the classroom and is one the girls will never forget.
“ This tour was chosen because of its ethical and educational itinerary, directly bringing income to the local people rather than distant external travel companies. What’s more, throughout the duration of the trip, the girls avoided the use of single-use plastic bottles by refilling their own water bottles with purified water, which was – at times – challenging and an achievement in itself.”