12-09-2020 by Giovanna Grampa
After six long and endless months finally back in Kenya, in the land of our dreams, our passions and forgotten wonders. They have been difficult days, meekly locked up at home, gagged with masks even at forty degrees, under forced house arrest, terror as a collective feeling. The coronavirus has changed habits and freedom, putting in crisis our model of life that we believed to be intangible. Thanks to this invisible monster not only the body ended up in a box, but also the mind predisposed to a constant renunciatory attitude, fed by a media exasperation of the pandemic by all the people, always present in the media and social networks. It is really difficult to live in this context without certainties on the critical issues to overcome, in a climate of health terrorism, bombarded by distressing news. Like a prisoner you only wait for the moment to escape, to break that glass that isolates you from the world to breathe again the air of your life. What a nice feeling to get back on a plane running in the blue from cloud to cloud: Aire certificate, negative buffer and a plane ticket allowed me to coin my personal slogan "I don't stay home". The suitcases had been ready for months.
Arrived in Mombasa I wanted to kneel down to kiss the earth: a fragrant and warm air immediately wrapped me in a virtual embrace of welcome, cuddling me. I was far away from everything, from Italy, from its fears, from my anxieties. For those who want to be free there is no chain that holds and the distance from Africa had dried me up: only the return to the savannah would have completely regenerated me.
An air of suspended expectation pervaded me as I drove along the Tsavo road, the road that leads to the entrance to the park: I see the landscape with new eyes, the great horizons, the immense and deep sky, filled with African air. The gentle and intoxicating scent of the savannah is enough for me to appreciate again the sweetness of living. Africa has an extraordinary effect on me.
As the dry season progresses, the colors begin to change and with it the entire morphology of the landscape. The green fades to fade into yellow-beige and the landscape becomes dry and dusty with muted shades, undergoing incredible transformations. I close my eyes and try to relive the sensations of colors, smells, animals simply as I have always experienced them, waiting for the magic to find a new echo. My desire takes shape in front of a group of elephants intent on drinking in a pond now reduced by the lack of rain. Among the paws of the most adult females, puppies of a few months old, waiting for their mothers to finish drinking. I watch them from the car window, pervaded by a sense of peace. They then leave with their sleepwalking pace, in single file, with their slow movements always accompanied by the waving of their ears and their habit of collecting soil with their trunk to take showers of dirt on their head and hips. The little ones take advantage to play with each other and mimic titanic struggles, wrapped in clouds of impalpable red earth. How much I missed them! I almost have the feeling that some of them are looking at me to welcome me after so many months of absence.
The hours go by, the wonder and happiness of being here doesn't fade at all: the passions in Africa don't fade. Curiously enough, giraffes detach fleshy leaves avoiding sharp thorns while herds of zebras graze silently and further away. The animals are all quiet, relaxed and almost amazed to see a machine watching them. There are no tourists, just a few private cars and for months they have lived their lives without noise, without stress, surrounded only by the sounds of the savannah and the wind.
We find a family of lions, lazy and sleepy, who have just finished feasting. The faces are stained with coagulated blood and the roundness of their bellies leaves no doubt. The little lions play with each other: they look like teddy bears, spotted like kittens.
The ostriches run away disturbed by the only engine capable of breaking the enchantment of silence and with their fast and uncoordinated gait we often find them in front of the car, in the middle of the road.
Around us the grass is burnt by the African sun, the wind is light and enveloping while the silence is magical and exciting. The sky is cloudy and seems to threaten a vague promise of rain but the water so long awaited does not come. The light to photograph is certainly not the best but we are not looking for the photo of the year but only for beauty and enchantment.
A generous number of herbivores graze on a carpet of parched earth: hundreds are all peacefully mixed together. Impala, gazelles, eland and kongoni with their cubs born a few months ago trotting festively near their mothers. Among them strikes the lighter color of the coat of an animal similar to the kongoni: a very rare hirola, recognizable also by the characteristic mask on the snout shaped like glasses and with a white tail. It is an endangered animal and there are only a few specimens inside the park. Certainly it feels too much observed: it is admired for a while and then shyly moves away to hide behind a bush perhaps aware of its rarity.
After dinner we retire to the tent of the lodge of Ashnill in Aruba: our little private paradise. The moon shines high in the sky and in front of us some elephants drink in the pool. They roam among themselves, throwing loud greeting barrels and in the background a constant vibrant rumble reinforced by the generous gurgling of water in their trunks. In the air their smell is sharp and pungent and from afar the unmistakable call of a hyena. How far Italy is with its fears: I feel lucky and happy to be able to record that extraordinary life around me.
A new day is born and at the first light of dawn we are again in search of emotions. The savannah seems to have slowed down its rhythms. Maybe the animals are still sleeping: they don't have to hide to stay in peace from the nagging tourists and they can live their lives without frenzy, in harmony with the philosophy of the African polepole. The morning consecrates the triumph of the puppies: each family of elephants is growing at least three to four babies born a few months ago and their mothers show swollen udders of milk. Leoncini well fed are suckled by lionesses in excellent health while giraffes, less affectionate mothers, look at their offspring with suspicion. Along the river also the hippos have their work to do in protecting the inexperienced and undisciplined little ones, despite their size. The coronavirus, with its prohibitions and rules to be respected, has created optimal conditions for all animals to be born, grow and take care of a good number of newborns, fortunate also for not having known the invasive presence of the human race.
To re-approach nature, to desire its scents and spaces was for me like re-appropriating my vital freedom while inside the park everything remains unchanged as if time could not affect the millenary beauty with its therapeutic magic.
(pictures by Adrivanna)
Progress for the tarmac of the road that leads to the entrance hall from Malindi Gate of Tsavo East National Park.
After the stretch from Malindi to the village of Ganda they have been leveled and are now in very good...
The sadness is deep for fans of the savannah that after so many safari, had learned to recognize it.
Satao II, one of the few remaining elephants by the giant tusks in Kenya, the "big tuskers" (estimated there would be no...
The efforts made so far to ensure water to Tsavo National Park and its ecosystem may not be enough.
The closest savannah to the Kenya coast threatens to extinction in 15 years unless seriously created irrigation systems and new dams.
The Friends of Tsavo back in Italian schools to raise awareness among young people about the protection of the animals of the African reserves and to promote the good side of the Black Continent, the least publicized by the media...