Few things can be as boring as lying in hospital. Laila stayed with Munir Virani a fellow raptor fanatic, and with Sandy and Sandy, friends of ours at Athi. She managed to get in well before visiting hours. I was lucky. Lucky to not have the water tank fall a few inches closer and lucky that Laila coordinated such a cool-headed rescue and stayed and helped me through the following days. We had only just begun a few tentative excursions to the Aberdares, and were trying to be as productive as we could given that we still cannot leave Kenya because there is still the Lammergeyer (the most valuable of all the birds) left for release. We were testing out the vehicle and getting the hang of the cameras and procedure. We were doing quite well under these circumstances and had already got the best photograph I have seen of a Mountain Buzzard. It wasn’t great, but if we dally weeks to get the perfect shot of each of more than 100 species, we will be on the road for years. We cannot afford this. Laila has to get back and continue her life at the end of the year and time can run out quickly. We cannot let this accident slow us down.
I am known among friends and family as being able to bounce back very quickly after an accident. I have had quite a few. But I am older now, and the body just doesn’t do what it used to, nor recover as fast. But the head is the same and I have no intention of drawing this injury out any longer than it should. Laila is very strict that I should do as the doctor orders. I must now behave and listen because this trip is a joint effort. Laila is as much a part of the expedition as I and has as much to lose. We are partners in this work and I cannot let her and the many others down who have an interest in this expedition.
We went by taxi to the outskirts of Nairobi to stay four nights with David Gulden at Hog Ranch. This small sanctuary of indigenous forest and bush is the home of Peter Beard and shares it border with African Fund for Endangered Wildlife giraffe centre. It is a remnant of Karen Blixen’s old farm, unchanged from the original bush she first found there “under the foot of the Ngong Hills.” We stayed in spacious tents, surrounded by a busy family of Warthogs and a herd of Rothschild’s Giraffe. It looked and felt as though you were in the bush, but for the hum of humanity near its borders.
The days passed slowly with little to do but paint. Laila befriended “Becket” a black Lab, and videoed enough Warthog footage to make a documentary. When we arrived there were six babies, one dragging a back leg but in good spirits. Later that day, there were five. Laila thought to go find it to feed it up and make it strong. We went to go look for it, I on crutches. We found he had died in peace under a bush. His siblings thrived and continued to entertain us by pirouetting around in tight circles and having mock fights. Laila got to scratch a huge fat female warthog, while I filmed.
We saw a mewing Steppe Buzzard. It cries like a thin cat mew, high overhead. Odd that it should do so in its wintering grounds. There were distant vultures framed by the impressive Ngong Hills. We saw and filmed the Little Sparrowhawk, who sat bold and perky in a tree. We were desperate to photograph but the cameras were at home in Athi. A video camera was all we had. High overhead one morning, we heard the Crowned Eagle. Beneath in the thick foliage its cry was taken up by Robin Chats that mimic the call of many birds.
We were sorry to leave when Sandy and Sandy picked us up and took us to their home at Athi but it’s good to be back and we now have the cameras again.