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Some Thoughts, and a Trip to Lake Baringo, Kenya, for My Good Friend, Greg Wright…

April 13, 2012

I write this blog post with a very heavy heart. I have just spoken to a great friend back in the Keweenaw Peninsula of Michigan in the U.S. who has been stricken with colon cancer and whose time in human physical form is waning…I love this man, named Greg Wright, dearly…

The love comes not from having spent our childhoods together, nor from sharing undergraduate experiences on a college campus or in cramped dorm rooms pulling “all nighters” or even “keggers,” nor from working together as union members on an assembly line or as fellow environmentalists engaged in a pressing struggle to halt habitat destruction…no, this love stems from a friendship established during our days of graduate study at Michigan Technological University when we were both 38-yrs-old.

Usually, strong friendships form early in life, often during high school days when shared challenges of athletic competition, teen relationships, or simply trying to find your purpose in life create lasting bonds of mutual respect, admiration, and love for one another.  Of course, a majority of men will never call these strong feelings of deeply caring for each other, “love,” but the love is nevertheless real and understood, even if unspoken.  However, in this case, my love for Greg was forged from a mutual respect for, and love of, the natural world. In logical terms…We both loved the natural world…we are of the natural world…therefore, we share a love for one another…Yes, much too simplistic, but this line of thinking really is at the core of our friendship.

Emotionally, I am in pain, because while my friend faces the biggest of life’s challenges in Michigan, I am half-way around the world in Kenya, giving my time and money to a new life’s venture–forming an ecotourism company and a nonprofit organization.  If I were wealthy, I would hop on a plane tomorrow to spend time with my ailing friend; but, I am not, so I ponder whether the time I had spent with Greg in early October, 2011, will be the last time I see my beautiful friend…

If it is, I’ll always certainly remember those moments in October, 2011, when we drummed first around a fire at Grand Lake, the rhythmic thumping sounds echoing around the lake and reverberating off the smooth still surface waters to the far shores and beyond…we howled as we percussed, and a couple of bands of coyotes–one band nearby, the other across the lake–joined the chorus, exuberantly celebrating life with us; and, then a week or so later in the Keweenaw Peninsula in the backwoods, drinking some red wine and eating some peanuts from the shells, along with a few pieces of deer jerky compliments of my brother, Phil.  I can still see the jumping  flames of our fire, hear the cracking of those shells in my head, and taste the jerky in my mouth before the saltiness of the cured meat was delightfully enhanced by the tannins of  merlot washing over my palate.

I know Greg was feeling as good as I was during these shared moments around a couple of campfires at Grand Lake and in the heart of the Keweenaw Peninsula…I shall never forget these fire-seared memories with my friend, Greg Wright…The experiences were equal parts meditational, metaphysical, spiritual, peaceful and love-filled.  We never spoke of the latter, of course…our love for the natural world, and each other, was understood in the crackling of the fire, the starry night sky and shooting stars, the lapping of water on the shore, the sound of drumbeats amplifying our heartbeats for all the world to hear, and in the shared intervals of calm silence that conveyed universal messages from the Great Spirit to contemplative souls…It all combined to say, “I love you, my brother!”

I also spent a day in August with Greg, his sister, Sally (from New York), and her husband, Lou, at the Eagle River Main Street Bridge Festival in the Keweenaw, where we listened to local musicians and singers–including Greg’s wonderful friend with a great voice, Gail English–near the shores of Lake Superior; and, Greg showed us his musical talents when he played the drums with a band on stage during one of the sessions. Greg is an excellent drummer; and, it was great to see Sally and Lou reveling in the moment of seeing “little brother,” Greg, displaying his musical skills in such a beautiful Michigan setting–a cherished opportunity to be in the presence of someone they dearly loved, while Greg was joyously immersed in the music he loved so much!

By the way, Greg played in several bands, and he was very flexible, happy to bang away on the drums during rock n roll sessions with a younger group, or simply tap lightly and rhythmically to generate the familiar soulful sounds of jazz with a somewhat older ensemble…As I said, Greg was flexible. I suppose the word, “flexible,” is maybe the best word to describe my friend.  “Renaissance Man” comes to mind as well; but, “flexible” seems to more clearly capture the essence of Greg…When he had his heart broken, he was flexible enough to fall in love again…When he needed work, he was flexible enough to do what he loved–play music in a pub; teach a wildlife class; run tours in Yellowstone; join a wolf study project; buy a house cheap, learn carpentry, fix it up and rent it out; start up yoga classes and drum circles; etc…Greg was not one for the mundane, either–he enjoyed outdoor adventures–but, he was flexible enough to allow others into his world, regardless of intellectual ability–Greg was no “snob”–and share his passion for life and nature with them, inspiring others, rather than being an aloof backwoods hermit.

Perhaps most “flexible” of all, though, is Greg’s intellect. Never one to stop learning about the world and discovering the beauty in life, Greg would read, listen to music, watch movies, meditate, practice yoga, turn to the internet when necessary, explore new places and trails previously untrodden, return to familiar places to learn new insights, and engage in respectful conversation as easily with local bar patrons as he does with learned academicians. He was wise enough to steer clear of politics, but never one to shy away from controversial issues near and dear to his heart, especially issues of protection of the natural world that he so cherishes.  But, most of all, Greg learned from quiet reflections in the places he viewed as sacred–places that were his ultimate source of wisdom, strength and comfort…often with only a traditional drum or two, and his dogs (currently “Echo”), by his side…

Additionally, I must confess, Greg has been much wiser than me in his embrace of loving companionship, ever open to the idea of seeing life through a different lens–a life “lens” that can only be crafted by two people in love. Though his relationships with women all-too-often did not have fairy tale endings, Greg seemed content with having shared love for whatever length of time was availed to him; and, he seemed to learn from each loving encounter and embrace the fact that we are here on Earth to just be, ebbing and flowing with the tides and winds, sharing and experiencing life in the waves crashing over and around us, feeling life’s essence in every moment and life experience…and, just being grateful for having had the chance to do so–to love–for as long as possible.

If these are some of the last memories I have of my friend, Greg Wright, then so be it, they will have to suffice; though I will always long to see my friend in physically-animated form, much preferring our stimulating conversations about life while seated around a fire or on bar stools; enjoying his company while canoeing across a lake or snow shoeing in a winter wonderland; camping under stars in the wilderness or hiking a nature trail and picking wild berries along the way; admiring his musical talents at a farmer’s block festival, street fair, art show, or other out-of-the-mainstream location; or, simply walking his dogs and jumping in Lake Superior to top off a hot summer’s day.

I will miss all these moments shared with Greg at various times in my life…The annual reunions with my friend “up north” in the summer after teaching all year will, all-too-soon for my liking, not be possible… So, I wish today to take my friend, Greg, back home in Laurium with beautiful friend, Erika, and trusty dog, Echo, by his side, on a journey of a lifetime…Since Greg cannot make the trip to Africa to go with me on safari, I thought I would take the time to bring a brief safari to Greg…I hope you’ll join us, too, for a glimpse of Africa’s beauty found in it’s wild places.

Buckle up and sit back, Greg; sip a nice glass or two or three of red wine (Alex is driving–Well, in that case, maybe have four or five glasses of wine!); and, enjoy my friend!

We decided to drive to Lake Baringo, about 90 miles from our Kirobon homestead in the Kenya Highlands, on Tuesday afternoon to get in some bird watching (and whatever else we might see) before nightfall at around 7 p.m…

 

Along the route, we stopped a few times–once to take a “roadside break” in the thorny scrub; and, twice to look at some birds, a pair of Northern White-Crowned Shrikes and an African Grey Hornbill.  I’m always telling our driver to “STOP!” and then jumping out of the car to spy some type of bird with binoculars or get a quick photo for the archives…you’ve been warned!

Because of some pot-filled roads, it took us about 3 hours before we arrived at Lake Baringo.  The time was around 4 p.m. (9 a.m. Michigan time), so we had a good two hours to walk around our campground at Robert’s Camp, as well as the adjacent lodge’s, on the shores of Lake Baringo before darkness would begin to creep in.

Lake Baringo

We decided to check in and unload our gear at our tents before exploring the grounds further; but, before doing so, we had a couple of visitors checking out our vehicle–more specifically, checking out their reflected images in our car’s windows and mirrors! It was great seeing them so preoccupied with a couple of perceived intruders, since this presented me with the opportunity to get some nice close up pictures of these Jackson’s Hornbills…

Though we had a nice time watching them landing on the side-view mirror and pecking at their images in the windows, we didn’t think it was a good thing for these hornbills to be slamming their beaks into tempered glass so angrily; but, after observing for awhile, it did not appear that the birds were any worse for the wear, fortunately:

After the hornbill show, we proceeded to our tents to unpack our bags, refill our water bottles (it was about 85 deg. F still), grab binoculars and head out with trusted guide, Willy Tiren, to see some bird life.  Spot any bird, and you can be assured that Willy will identify it for you, and correctly…He truly is a special naturalist!

Friend and co-owner of Tembokanga Tours and Education Ventures, Alex Kotut, along with friend, Eric Baskowy, of neighboring Solian Village in the Kenya Highlands, were part of our “tour group.”  The four of us headed out of Robert’s Camp to go for a stroll along the Lake Baringo shoreline in an adjacent lodge’s compound.

Before arriving at the neighboring lodge, we had to detour outside our camp proper and follow a dirt path to the lodge.  While walking the dusty trail (rain hadn’t fallen for nearly 2 months), Willy spotted some Yellow-winged Bats in overhead tree branches which were clearly visible, with some harboring young beneath folded wings.  This was a treat, as the bats were beautiful and sighting any bats during the day here was not a common occurrence.

After admiring the bats for several minutes, including a cluster of about a dozen in another tree, we entered the grounds of the neighboring lodge and saw a Lilac-Breasted Roller, a beautiful medium-sized bird with pastel hues of light blue, pink, brown and turquoise, along with a Pearl-Spotted Owlet, a diminutive owl unfazed by the hummingbird-like sunbirds harassing it as it perched in a large tree.  The owlet did not seem interested in making itself the least bit inconspicuous, like most other owls during daylight hours.  I could only surmise that it was a diurnal owl species; but, nonetheless, I was thrilled to see this small owl, since owl sightings have always been considered a “treat” by me, whether in North America or, now, Africa…

In another tree, not far from the “owlet tree,” a Fischer’s Lovebird, a small parrot that has made it’s way to Kenya via Tanzania, was building a nest in a tree cavity.  Personally, I think we need a whole lot more “lovebirds” in this world…Greg, I know you agree with that assessment!

Beyond the lovebird, our birding expert, Willy, found out from a friend working at the lodge that there was a rather rare African Scops Owl hanging out in the scrubby brush near the entrance to the lodge.  I was excited, to say the least, to now be searching for a second owl just minutes after seeing a first!  It was nice to have seasoned workers around the lodge with an interest in bird-watching and keeping an eye out for rare sightings that could be shared with guests.  Of course, the prospect of getting a few hundred shillings for their bird-finding efforts from said guests certainly helps to keep their interest in tracking area wildlife, particularly the birds in this case. No matter, I was happy to help the local economy and see some awesome birds at the same time…Kind of like killing two birds with one sto…oh, sorry, not the best idiom to use here; so, let’s just say, two birds in the bush are better than one in the hand…What say you?

Continuing on…after some intensive searching amongst the thorny brush and withered vines, the African Scops Owl, roughly the size of the Pearl-spotted Owlet, came into view.  Seeing an owl during the day, as alluded to previously, is something akin to a spiritual awakening of sorts–a wonderful encounter with a mythological species, made all-the-more-so because of the fact that it is rather rare, at least for most, including me, to see them so readily!  So, I reveled in the moment, having viewed not one, but two, of these magnificent creatures within ten minutes of one another…I happily kept my gaze fixed on the bird in the brush, that would certainly disappear from sight if I were to avert my gaze in another direction for even a moment.  I could have sat there for hours with this feathered friend, but since nightfall was only an hour or so away, we all thought it best to leave the little fellow be, and saunter off to other parts of the lodge’s compound in search of more birdlife.

So we walked down to the Lake Baringo shoreline, passing some familiar, long-tailed Speckled Mousebirds along the way, as well as a Nubian Woodpecker foraging on the ground, similar to what a Northern Flicker might do back in Michigan. This is the most common species of woodpecker seen in Kenya.

A hybrid Red-Bellied/African Paradise Flycatcher was fluttering amongst the tree branches overhanging the Lake Baringo shoreline, chasing after flying insects as the evening light was fading.  I want to say that the Paradise Flycatchers are beautiful birds, especially the long-tailed white and black African Paradise Flycatcher, but I tend to view all living things in this “beautiful” light, even the mosquitoes I oftentimes squish into oblivion…admiring form and function as much as anything else.

Sorry about the resort to violence in some of my mosquito dealings, but there’s only so much high-pitched “buzzing” around the head I can take–still in need of more spiritual awakening, I suppose…I’ll work on it; but, with some lower-elevation areas, like Lake Baringo, having malaria-carrying mosquitoes, I tend to view my mosquito-whacking as a bit of a necessity to reduce my risk of malaria…But, as I said, I do find even the irritating mosquito beautiful.

After all, the mosquito feeds how many other beautiful species in this world?  True, some mosquitoes have brought untold misery and suffering to millions and millions of human beings; but, what is that saying?  Don’t shoot the messenger (though I suppose swatting a few now and then is okay)!  After all, it is not the mosquito causing the pain and suffering–it is the malarial-causing Plasmodia parasites, using the mosquito as its vector, which are responsible for all the misery.

Besides, humans are not without fault in their own capacity to wreak havoc on the planet and other species–including exacerbating the malarial scourge by warming the planet over the past hundred years or so through the profligate burning of massive amounts of fossil fuels–often acting as “technological vectors” in the spread of invasive species to all parts of the globe, which now imperils normal ecological functioning of a multitude of ecosystems…So, the bottom line…All creatures have their beauty (and perhaps some blemishes); but, like my friend, Greg, I’ll choose to focus on the positive aspects of species, including humans (though that is not always easy), and see them all as beautiful in my eyes, even if compelled to use self-defense on occasion…By the way, did I mention I counted 25 mosquito bites around my ankles one morning in Nairobi?  Fortunately, still no malaria for me, yet, though Nairobi is generally not noted for being an endemic hotspot for malaria anyway…but, let’s keep hoping that Plasmodium doesn’t find me to its liking…or, better yet, let’s get those programs I’ve been reading about to produce vaccines against the malarial parasite into overdrive (and put an end to the million deaths per year caused by this amoeba); then, we’ll all have nothing to dislike about mosquitoes or Plasmodia, except for those annoying sounds and itchy bumps…a nice trade-off, I think, for not getting malaria!

Enough about mosquitoes now…Don’t want to bore Greg with endless mosquito tales when there is so much more to see in Kenya!  Like this beautiful view of Lake Baringo, with the Goliath Heron–the biggest of the world’s herons, hence it’s name–in the middle of the scene…Lake Baringo is a fascinatingly unique freshwater ecosystem, with perhaps the most unique characteristic being its “floating islands” of native vegetation.

Today, along the shore, the water level of Lake Baringo is still well above historic norms, as the heavy rains that fell intermittently in the Kenya Highlands from August through early December flowed over and through the ground into tributaries and rivers that ultimately fed Lake Baringo. Combined with the unusually heavy rains that fell in the Lake Baringo region, flooding struck the area, causing several deaths and displacing thousands of people for a period of time, in addition to washing out a few sections of road leading into Lake Baringo.  To give you an idea of the amount of rain that fell, the following picture is of a structure that was high and dry when we visited Lake Baringo in July, 2011.

My friend, and our guide, Willy, lost a family member during the floods.  Here in Kenya, tragedy is often very close to home, so to speak…When disaster hits somewhere, it is likely that you personally know someone affected.  It is not just something reported on television, and you feel bad for “those people,” because some of those people are often your family, friends, neighbors or relatives…But, the people of Kenya are very resilient, including those in Baringo County, and epitomized in the silent strength of my friend, Willy Tiren, whom, I might add, also lost his cousin recently to an asthmatic episode not long after he had been bitten by a hippo that happened to be foraging on land during the night in an area that no one had expected them to be. The heavy rains, covering their usual terrestrial foraging grounds, had altered the land movements of these massive “river horses.”  I have a lot of respect for Willy and his perseverance in the face of enormous adversity, much like my American compadre, Greg Wright!  These two would have made great friends, indeed…so, Greg, meet Willy; and, Willy, meet Greg!

Continuing our walk along the Lake Baringo shoreline, keeping a sharp eye out for large reptilian carnivores that might have a human for a quick snack, we spotted an African Jacana taking its own stroll along the shore, reminding me of the much shier Sora back home in the U.S.  I never tire of watching these birds picking at food amongst the tangled aquatic vegetation either along the shore or on the mats of floating vegetation extending further out into the lake.  They also have one of the most unique nests I’ve ever seen, consisting of some floating vegetation associated with some emergent plant stalks. Reminded me a bit of the Forster’s Terns’ nests I had visited with the Canadian Wildlife Service on Lake St. Clair in the Great Lakes region of North America during my graduate study days, or the Black Tern nests I had observed at Pt. Pelee National Park in Ontario, Canada; but, the Forster’s and Black Tern nests were much more elaborate and seemed to be sturdier, perhaps an indication of the greater threat from stormy weather in the Great Lakes as compared to the much smaller Lake Baringo, which likely remains much calmer throughout the year because of its size and, more probably, as a result of it being situated in a “calderic bowl” surrounded by mountain ranges and rocky basaltic escarpments that provide clues to the area’s volcanic past.

A good thing we had been treading lightly along the shoreline, because there was a medium-sized Nile crocodile resting at the water’s edge.  In the tropics of Kenya, there is a need for a heightened sense of awareness, and the basking crocodile drives home this point quite well, in my opinion.  Strolling through the woods in Michigan, or along a Great Lakes’ shoreline, there aren’t many things that can ambush you and have you for a snack, or potentially end your life with a venomous bite.

However, having been in Kenya for nearly seven months now, and finding myself in fairly close proximity to poisonous snakes, crocodiles, and the infamous African “killer” bees, along with having to pull my pants down quickly on a few occasions to extract some marauding safari ants from places ants should never be–I’m sure you’ve seen these ants on television at some time or another, traveling in massively-impressive linear colonies overland (or building “body bridges” across water courses) in search of anything that moves, including people, I have now discovered–there is no need for hysterical or phobic behavior while in Africa.

Like the average human being, I have found that animals, in general, like to be left alone; and, respecting the space and homes of other living things results in a reciprocation of respect from those non-human organisms.  The trouble occurs, as I have alluded to, when people stop paying attention to what is going on in the natural world around them…I suppose this is why the national parks prohibit tourists from stepping out of safari vehicles while in the parks, except at designated “picnic areas” constructed for this purpose.  Losing too many unaware guests would not be good for the tourism business!

However, with Tembokanga Tours and Education Ventures, our guests will have a chance to not simply sit in a vehicle and take in some magnificent scenery and wildlife from a safe viewing location, but you will be able to do some hiking, if so inclined and fitness level allows, in many parts of Kenya (and elsewhere) under the watchful eye of not only myself (believe it or not, this American is getting pretty good at hiking in the bush and keeping an eye out for potential dangers well before any untoward incident might occur), but seasoned safari drivers/guides with years of experience hiking the wild and scenic places of East Africa.  Not only that, but since foot travel is done exclusively during daylight hours and on well-worn trails, it is rather easy to spot potential trouble well ahead of time and avoid close encounters with potentially deadly animals, or even plants that can inflict a bit of pain, too, like stinging nettle.

So far, the only “bites” I’ve had to contend with, aside from the mosquitoes, have been those of safari ants (as mentioned above), usually occurring when I would be so fixated on seeing a bird that I wouldn’t notice I was standing on top of their path until they let me know; and, one sting when I leaned on a stool that also happened to be the resting place of a small wasp, which didn’t take kindly to nearly being crushed to death!  After some quick retrospection, I felt the sting was warranted…Interestingly, the sting felt just like the pain inflicted from a stinging nettle prick (which I had experienced back in my Michigan days), all of which gets me to thinking about evolution and the incredible survival adaptations of life forms.  So many wonderful, albeit often painful, things to contemplate, which I shall never fully have the answers for–a sort of biological meditation on the mysteries of life, which I find rather enjoyable and mentally invigorating, keeping me more aware of the fellow creatures sharing this beautiful planet with me and how our actions are linked, for better or worse, until death do us part…

Okay, enough philosophizing, let’s keep walking along the shore and looking at the sights with Greg…What kind of sandpiper do we have here, Willy? “That’s a Common Sandpiper.” Thanks, Willy!

What’s that small bird flitting about in the treetops, Willy? “That’s an Upcher’s Warbler.” Great–that’s about my 310th new species of bird in Kenya for me!  We then heard a territorial call of an African Mourning Dove, sounding nothing like what I had been used to hearing each morning up in Kirobon. Funny how birds that are quite common and make such familiar and distinctive calls, can all-of-a-sudden make some call that I would never have guessed as coming from that same bird…I suppose one simply needs to get out much more often than the average human to make more extended observations of the world around us…

I’m a big fan of outdoor education, by the way, and learning from nature’s examples.  All subjects can be taught outdoors, in some way, shape or form; and, students’ brains can’t help but be stimulated and moved in some way by the vibrant world around them.  What’s the alternative?  Lock students in concrete cells all day and tell them what they need to know…Boring!  The following is a phrase I’ve heard and seen in Kenya being promoted by the Kenya Wildlife Service: “Twende Tujivinjari!”  This refers to getting outdoors and visiting wild places, and translates into something like, “Let’s go have fun (or enjoy)!”  I say all educational institutions should adopt this slogan, and paint it in big, bright letters at all entrances (and exits) to their facilities: “TWENDE TUJIVINJARI!”  More on this a bit later…

Let’s go see what this elderly gentleman with the big camera lens–not nearly as big as the huge, and I mean HUGE, telephoto lenses some of the Chinese tourists were lugging around–is up to…”Jambo! How are you, sir?”  “I’m just fine, thank you…”  We had happened upon an Italian touring Kenya, whose love is insects, particularly being fond of butterflies, and birds–Gianfranco Colombo, like the explorer (he explained), was an entomological and ornithological researcher, to put it in more academic terms.

Gianfranco could speak fluent English, and he had a penchant for humor–two pluses in my book!  We walked for a bit with Gianfranco, talking birds and insects and trees and flowers, and just about anything else that caught our fancy…He was an engaging personality, about 60-years-old, but very healthy looking–I’m guessing a lot of olive oil in the diet…and, he seemed to have a passion for nature, just like Greg, Willy, Alex, Eric, and I.  After about a half hour of sharing good company, Alex and I took Gianfranco’s business card, invited him to come back and tour more of Kenya with Tembokanga Tours and Education Ventures in the future (which he seemed quite open to the possibility), and then we parted ways with a mutual “Ciao!”  Part of the fun of starting up your own tour company and checking out all the parks and tour locations is meeting new people, many from different parts of the world, and it was great meeting Mr. Gianfranco Colombo, like the explorer, whom we hope to cross paths with again…

Darkness was beginning to set in about 6:45 p.m., so we headed back over to Robert’s Camp to put any final touches on our sleeping quarters–we’d have only flashlights later in the night, as the tents had no electrical hook-ups–and get ready for dinner.  We washed up a bit, then proceeded to the dining area, which did have electricity for lighting, so we didn’t have to eat by lamp or flashlight.  Some tiki torches were lit to ward off mosquitoes, perhaps more important here than in Kirobon or Nairobi as Lake Baringo is known to have malaria-carrying Anopheles mosquitoes.  As I have not been taking any prophylaxis in the event of being injected with the malarial parasite, the torches were at least a psychological confidence booster.  By the way, I do carry anti-malarial drugs in the event I do come down with malaria, which I feel is bound to happen as I stay longer and longer in Kenya and visit places where risk of malaria is prevalent…

The meal was nice, consisting of tilapia, fresh from Lake Baringo, rice, and some vegetables. There’s not much in the way of desserts at these tented camps, but most places have a cash bar, so you can enjoy a beer or glass of wine, or other drink of choice, before, during and/or after your meal.  I enjoyed a glass of red wine, thinking a bit of alcohol in the blood would stymie any malarial assault should it occur under the cover of darkness…Cheers!

Following the night-cap, it was off to the tent to download some of the days pictures onto my Mac, reliving the day’s events and sightings in my head as I scrolled through the pictures.  I find that it is one of the things I have really become fond of doing at the end of a day’s outdoor travels.  Compare that to sitting inside the house all day and reliving the events of the day–often brutal and spiced with violence du jour–fed to you by others on the television…Seems like there’s a difference to me; but, to each his own, as the saying goes…

After finishing the day’s pictorial recap, with about fifteen new species of birds recorded in my “Birds of Kenya” field guide, I settled in for some sleep–the night was comfortably warm, about 70 degrees F–and pondered what tomorrow might bring…However, about 9 p.m. as darkness fell over the camp, there was some loud grunting coming from water’s edge.  About fifteen minutes later, there was some loud “munching” sounds not more than thirty feet from the tent Willy and I were sharing for the night.

One of Willy’s friends, who worked at the camp as a security guard–more so to keep human-wildlife close encounters to a minimum, rather than fending off human intruders–had made his way to our tent and told us we should come with him if we wanted to get a “snap” (Kenyan for “photo”) of the enormous beast outside our tent.  With our escort armed with a “pop gun” for making noise, which was often all that was needed to send the hippopotami scurrying back to the safety of the water, we carefully crept around some trees to get a better view of the large herbivore in our midst….no, not quite a Dian Fossey “gorillas in the midst” type of moment, but plenty good enough for me at that particular moment!

Not having much luck in the dark with getting good pictures, especially while trying to always keep tree between me and the hippos, I was able to snap a picture of one of the “river horses”–hippopotamus, fyi, comes from Greek roots, meaning “river horse,” in case you’ve been wondering why the heck I’ve been mentioning “river horses”–before we decided that tempting fate any further just might not be worth it, especially after remembering the story of Willy’s unfortunate cousin…so, we went back to the tent and settled in for a night of listening to hippos grunting and munching all around us–quite wonderful really!  I know you see and hear them, too, Greg…

What’s in store for Day 2?  Greg, I hope you packed your binoculars, because you’re in for a day of some great birding, buddy!  Join me as we go first overland, then over water, to view some unique habitat and spectacular bird life…

Waking early the next day around 6 a.m. to prepare for an early morning 5-km stroll through some dry, thorny scrub-brush habitat smattered with invasive prickly pear stands, I was a bit groggy, but happily content, after watching and listening to hippos for the better part of the night. Every now and then I would hear the loud pops produced by the night watchmen followed by the thundering gallop of hippo hooves over the ground, culminating in a big splash as they entered Lake Baringo…yes, quite an entertaining night!

With binoculars in place and camera at the ready, along with broad-rimmed hat and bottle of water in anticipation of the day’s 90+ degree (F) heat and intense sunlight, Willy and I–Alex and Eric needed more sleep after dreaming all night of hippos and crocodiles dancing around their tent–trekked out of camp for our four hour bird watching tour.  First up, a female Pygmy Batis (the female has orange breast stripe, while male has dark breast stripe), which looked very similar to the Chin-Spot Batis I had seen around New Year’s Day, 2012, at a restaurant/lodge complex–about an hour from Kirobon–where Alex, Eric and several other local residents from the Kirobon-Solian-Sabatia area had planned a dinner meet-and-greet with the new forester (while bidding adieu to the old forester).  Nevertheless, this was another new species for me, so I was thrilled to see it…Just stepped out of the campground and onto the nature trail, and up pops a bird I had never before laid eyes upon in my 49 years on planet Earth…cool!

We continued down the trail and came across a few birds I had seen before, including the Crested Francolin, a grouse-like bird; Yellow Apalis, an African warbler; and, the Brubru, a bird I particularly appreciate, not simply because of its beauty (like all birds, I suppose), but its name is close to my heart, sounding a lot like “Brucebruce!”  You just need to say it like a French person speaking English might, and then it comes out practically the same…Take a look at the picture here–kind of even looks like me, in my younger days, of course…handsome fellow!

Before long, though, we were sighting birds previously unknown to, and unseen by, me…and unheard…Singing away with a high-pitched call from the top of a tree, we heard, and saw, a Pink-Breasted Lark; and, not too far from the singing lark was a White-Bellied Canary.  With the sun rising, many of the early morning birds were cast in shadows, making pink look rather orange on the Pink-Breasted Lark, but it also seemed to give the lark and canary a dignified luster, colors not shouting to the viewer, just saying, “Take me as I am, because I’m beautiful enough, even in shadowy form!”  So, that’s exactly what we did…

After admiring our newfound friends for a few more minutes, we moved on, spotting a couple more species I have become familiar with, one much more familiar than the other.  I believe you will soon concur…First, the rather stunning White-Headed Buffalo-Weaver, which often comes just close enough for a pretty good picture, but just far enough for a pretty good picture.  Of course, for those of you who can afford more powerful lenses than I, such quandaries are not an issue…Today, though, the White-Headed Buffalo-Weavers seemed a bit more sociable, offering themselves up for some nicer closeups. Asante!

The other group of birds we came across had some little ones tagging along, which usually doesn’t present a personal safety issue when dealing with birds; but, this was a big exception!  Say, “Jambo,” to the Common Ostrich family…We kept at a safe distance (I think, because this was the very first time I had ever happened upon a pair of adult ostriches with young)…I deferred to Willy on this one and followed his lead, with the male ostrich following our lead intently as well, which made me just a tad bit nervous.  The adult female gazed up at us on occasion while feeding, but seemed to know that Papa Ostrich had her back and those of the young…Through binoculars, I was quite amazed at how well camouflaged the young were, whose spiky feathers blended in with the brush almost perfectly!  If danger threatened, no running for these little ones, just stop, tuck head low and stay still, and you’re likely to be overlooked; but, if that fails, Big Daddy has you covered, as we soon learned when an approaching dog got more than it bargained for in the form of an enraged male ostrich high-stepping it through the brush intent on stomping the dog if it didn’t head quickly for the hills…Impressive to watch the black-feathered male pursuing that dog, with wings puffed out as if to say, “I’m big and bad and ticked off, so if I were you, I’d run!”  And, yes, the dog did run…

After the impressive male ostrich display, we headed in the opposite direction and spotted another two new species. The Three-Streaked Tchagra, a bird in the shrike family, was skulking in the thick brush, perhaps on the look out for unsuspecting locusts, lizards or other carnivorous fare.

Up in a thorny acacia, a Yellow-Bellied Eremomela–yes, “eremomela,” you heard right–was flitting about, presumably after small insects, or a tasty treat offered up by the acacia, in the early morning hours. I am not sure where the word “eremomela” comes from, or what it means; but, if you find out, please email me at: bruce@tembokangatours.com.  Thanks!  What I can say is, it’s the first time I’ve ever seen one; and, it is another kind of African warbler…and, it has some nice leaping ability, as seen in this photo!

It was getting hotter now with the time approaching 9 a.m., though still comfortable and not needing a drink of water just yet.  We passed a herd of goats moving through the brush and dry, open ground.  I couldn’t help but wonder how much more life would be here in this wonderful gem of a place, indeed all of Kenya (okay, well, the whole world), if not for all the overgrazing from goats (and sheep and cows and donkeys), that are seemingly running roughshod through all manner of habitat throughout Kenya…Domesticated animals are obviously a mainstay here (but may not be in 2040, when the population of Kenya is expected to be double its current 35-40 million), as in many places; but, there doesn’t seem to be any acknowledgement that overgrazing is, or is becoming, a major problem, especially in more arid regions, where ground cover is more vulnerable to the ravages of unrestricted livestock grazing.  Perhaps the vegetation in these parts are used to heavy grazing, having evolved with the likes of all manner of herbivore from zebra to giraffe, impala to gazelle, cape buffalo to wildebeest, and rhino to elephant; but, somehow, without the predators, I can’t imagine things are anywhere close to what they should be…

Moving on…”What’s that?”  A praying mantis nest looking a lot like a well-formed piece of styrofoam molded to a branch on a shrub.  It was the first thing I recognized that Willy was stumped on…I’m feeling more and more like a Kenyan naturalist!

Not far from the mantis nest sighting, a familiar melodious call was coming from a cluster of thorn-covered trees–thorns of a variety that are best avoided, as I’ve been entangled in them on a few occasions and the experience is not at all pleasant…The only thing I can compare it to back home in the U.S. is getting entangled in a brier patch or a tangle of multiflora rose branches, except these are another notch higher on the nasty scale.  We honed in on one of the trees, where a Black-Headed Oriole was moving about in the branches, stopping every now and then to make intermittent calls of “weelka-WEEo!”

Hanging upside down in a nearby tree was another of the Yellow-Winged Bats we had seen near the camp the previous day. Its beautiful yellow color was more brilliant in the ever-brightening morning sunshine than in yesterday’s fading light, and its ears were impressively long.  I still marvel over the bat being the only flying mammal (sure, okay, granted, the “flying” squirrel does some GLIDING, but that’s not sustained flight by flapping of wings)–an anomaly of sorts in an aerospace sector dominated by Class Aves…and, I haven’t even talked about echolocation!

Another species with great hearing that is used to locate prey is the owl…speaking of which, there was a rather big one resting in a large tree under which we were now standing to get a bit of a break from the intensifying rays of the sun as it moved higher in the sky, with temperatures steadily climbing…I am in need of some water now.  So I drink some water, and then slowly and quietly I get closer to this amazing bird.

I looked up at it, and it looked down at me with one partially opened eye, which it then shut akin to the way a creaking door might slowly close, seemingly too tired to keep it open; perhaps having stayed out too late last night…I took some nice pictures, filmed it for about 15 seconds or so, and then I left the Spotted Eagle-Owl to continue its siesta in peace…I’m sure it needed all the rest it could get in preparation for another big night!

The time was now approaching 10 a.m. with the temperature touching 90 degrees (F).  Fortunately, the air was not at all humid, like you might experience in Florida or along the Gulf Coast, or even in Michigan, on hot summer days, so I was still quite comfortable, though needing a few more sips of water as we traveled onward…Willy, on the other hand, brought no water to drink, apparently conditioned to go without water for several hours, even in such a hot, dry climate.

In the distance we heard, “goaWAY! goaWAY!”  Not wanting to go away, I immediately recognized this familiar call of the aptly named White-Bellied Go-Away-Bird.  The White-Bellied Go-Away-Bird is common in lower elevation dry scrub habitat, so it was no surprise seeing this one.  However, I was able to approach this particular individual much more closely than any other I had previously come across.  I really enjoyed this close encounter…Perhaps all the Go-Away-Birds, like all the children in the Kenya Highlands, are simply getting more and more used to seeing this “mzungu” (white guy) tromping around Kenya…it’s a nice thought!

Grateful for a more intimate look at the White-Bellied Go-Away-Bird, a contentment fell over me…I was in the outdoors, in Kenya, in Africa…walking in an ancient caldera…a place where some of the earliest humans evolved…nice!  Could the day get any better?!  I no longer paid any attention to the day’s heat…I just wanted to see more…

We soon came across a bird perched on a rock, much smaller than the Go-Away-Bird, and looking like a species I had seen before in the field or a bird book.  I thought it might be a wheatear, a very rare bird back home in Michigan; and, yes, indeed, my trusty field guide, “Birds of Kenya,” informed me that it was the Northern Wheatear, preparing for migration back to its Arctic breeding grounds.  Of course, my human bird encyclopedia, Willy, could have told me the same, but I’m trying to become somewhat of an independent Kenyan bird expert myself; so, I figured, I had better do some intensive studying and id’ing of birds on my own once in awhile…

It is appropriate that many of these long-distance migrants spend their non-breeding months in Kenya, home to the greatest distance runners on Earth…The Northern Wheatear has been recorded traveling over 18,000 miles during incredible journeys between subSaharan Africa and their Arctic ranges!  I’ve heard of the “Yellowstone to Yukon” migratory route before, but “Africa to Alaska” beats that by many thousands of miles…And here is a small bird, right in front of me, that may end up in the U.S. in Alaska…now that’s really cool!  I feel a close connection with this incredible migratory songbird species…

Though much of the ground was sparse, dry and covered in scrawny-looking vegetation, there was an amazing diversity of bird life around Lake Baringo.  Wherever we looked, we saw another species or two…Foraging for seeds on the dusty ground was a Speckled-Fronted Weaver, about the size of a house sparrow; up in a tree, an even smaller Northern Crombec, whose stubby tail looks about half the size it should be, feeding on tiny caterpillars; and, nesting on the ground among rocky terrain, yet another life bird species for me, a Lichtenstein’s Sandgrouse, blending in beautifully with its surroundings, only noticed by me because Willy’s sharp eye and knowledge of the terrain made its presence known.

After watching a brilliantly-colored Violet-Backed Sunbird probing a long, tubular flower (similar to, but much smaller than, flowers blooming on a trumpet vine) with its long, slender, curved and pointy bill (I guess I could have added “dark” as yet another bill descriptor, but I guess four adjectives will suffice), Willy and I had something else more provocative to see and show Greg…

Now I hope all the ladies out there reading this don’t get offended; but, in a bush that was more limbs than leaves, I spied my very first Kenyan tit!  Man, was I ever excited!  I had been waiting for a long time–since my teen years, I think–to see one…I remember a teacher back in high school biology class mentioning something about tits and feeding behaviors while reading through some National Geographic magazines; and, I had read an article awhile back that there were some Great Tits in Britain that were doing, well, great, by changing foraging patterns in lock step with seasonal changes brought about by climate change.  And, believe you me, if I had my druthers, I’d have loved to have seen some Great Britain Tits–er, I mean, Great Tits in Britain–if I hadn’t been so busy teaching over the years, and now I’m too preoccupied working in Kenya on an ecotourism venture and starting up a nonprofit organization to get over there.  So, the next best thing was seeing this Kenyan tit…More precisely, it was a Northern Grey Tit–not exactly my favorite colored tit, but it would have to do for the time being.  Plus, it reminded me of a nice-looking Chickadee I used to see back home, if you know what I mean…Trust me, I’ll be on the lookout for better colored tits in Kenya; and, I know my good friend, Greg Wright, would be right here with me if he could!

After the excitement over the tit sighting, I needed a drink–it was getting much, much hotter now!  One local that apparently didn’t seem to mind the heat was a slow-moving Leopard Tortoise, which quickly went into its shell at our approach.  I examined it up close, which I always do if any living thing (or dead thing, for that matter) offers itself up for closer inspection, and noted its spike-covered legs for added defense against potential predators. I figured they must not be very good to eat, since I have seen many of these tortoises in Kenya since my arrival.  If it were, with so many destitute people with children to feed, I think that these tortoises would be much less numerous…That this herbivore still thrives in the midst of so many goats, sheep and cows is quite impressive.  I sometimes wonder if humans and their domesticated animals are “weeding out” all the good sources of food and leaving behind the less nutritious and unpalatable plants to take over, like so many of the Jimsonweed- and evening nightshade-type plants I see in the Kenya Highlands after so many decades of grazing pressure from domesticated animals.

About 11 a.m…I’m reaching for water a lot more often now as the temperature rises into the 90s…but, enjoying myself too much, we continue our bird watching venture.  An elegant Blue-Naped Mousebird was spotted nibbling a seed pod in a barren tree.  All the trees here seem to have either thorns or spines on them.  Again, not sure if this is solely due to natural selection, or unnatural domesticated animal selection…

We next crossed an open expanse of ground utilized by the locals as a football (that’s “soccer” for those back in U.S.) field.  In the barren sand around the perimeter of the football field are numerous small “craters” I immediately recognize as the lairs of the voracious antlion larvae.  A kind of soulful warmth runs through me every time I see something familiar that links me to home…this antlion den is no exception.  I can’t resist agitating the inner rim of the funnel-like structure with a tiny twig, attempting to mimic an insect trying to climb out after having stumbled into the death trap.  Sure enough, the antlion larva starts catapulting sand grains upward with its impressive ice pick-like mandibles, causing mini-landslides, which normally would cause a struggling insect to slip ever downward toward its doomed ending in the jaws of the antlion.  I think for a moment about tossing an ant nearby into the lair for a more real-life demonstration of the antlion’s predatory behavior, but I don’t have the heart, thinking like a true Star Trek voyager not wanting to mess up the karma of this “alien world” I am exploring for the first time!

In a thorny thicket, a Red-Fronted Tinkerbird lurked, well-protected by thorns, never offering itself up for a clear photo op; but, I felt a need to share it with my friend, Greg, because it was but one example in a family consisting of several kinds of these tiny, interestingly-patterned birds inhabiting Kenya.  Plus, its name is pretty cool, and, though I’d seen a Yellow-Rumped Tinkerbird in the Highlands already, this was the first red-fronted one I’d ever seen!  That’s about my 30th life bird so far during this brief tour around Lake Baringo…

It was now just about time for a rendezvous with our sleepier friends, Alex and Eric, who were instructed, by cell phone, to meet us along an asphalt road (or “tarmac” in Kenyan lingo) at around 11:30 a.m.  After checking out the impressive iron-red, basaltic face of a nearby escarpment formed long ago by volcanic activity in the area, and after watching and listening to a female Jackson’s Hornbill in a distant tree making an interesting call that echoed off the face of the escarpment, we saw our familiar Nissan X-Trail in the distance, with just enough time to hear the “cawing” of some Fan-Tailed Ravens flying above the rim of the escarpment high above us.

Greeting our friends with a “Jambo, Jambo!” we got into the car and, following Willy’s instructions, Eric took a dirt road to a place where Willy had seen a rare Star-Spotted Nightjar hanging out for the past month or so; but, as luck would have it, the bird had flown the coop…Undeterred, we proceeded to follow Willy to a nearby site where we might find a Slender-Tailed Nightjar.

Along the way, a group of seven Bristle-Crowned Starlings flew past–another first for me…the starlings had a distinct elongated form with impressively long tails and, sure enough, raised crowns that were still quite noticeable even in flight with a decent pair of binoculars.  We also saw a couple of Hildebrandt’s Starlings in some low-growing brush, flying down to the ground to pick at something edible and then back up into the brush.  They looked almost identical to the Superb Starling with a beautiful iridescent blue sheen above and orange belly below; but, it lacked the white “necklace” separating its blue chest from its orange belly like the Superb Starling, and its eye was a darkened orange-brown, while the Superb Starling has a whitish-yellow eye.  Just a final word about the starlings in Kenya–they are quite beautiful, and they come in a variety of forms and colors, unlike the rather dull, albeit vocally-talented, European Starling familiar to North Americans and Europeans.

Not long after stopping and searching the area intensively, we not only found the well camouflaged Slender-Tailed Nightjar, but we found a male and a female about fifteen feet apart.  I’ve seen a few of the Montane Nightjars flying around at night in the Kirobon Highlands after being illuminated by headlights while pursuing insects with beaks agape, but this was a treat to see some nightjars so close, being able to appreciate their plumage while nearly reaching out and touching them. Awesome!

Happy as a Pink-Breasted Lark, we exited the dry scrub and headed for lunch at Robert’s Camp, where our order of omelets and sides of potatoes and fruit salad awaited us (as we had placed our order the previous day, knowing we would be preoccupied in the early morning hours…well, at least Willy and I).  During lunch, we saw a high school class on a field trip with their instructors.  They were from the privately-run British Greensteds School in Nakuru.  I found out that they were team-teaching geography, geology and biology in an outdoor classroom that students in poorer school districts could only dream about.  It was the type of learning that I used to love engaging students in as a teacher back at Anderson High School in Southgate, Michigan, and before that, at Mt. Carmel High School in Wyandotte, Michigan.

Kenya is trying to change its instructional ways, just like most other nations around the world, in order to develop more engaged learners and independent thinkers capable of using the scientific method (including experimentation) to logically gather, analyze and evaluate data; formulate hypotheses about real-world phenomena; and, synthesize conclusions, as well as more questions for further study and evaluation, based on experimental findings and observations.  This is commonly referred to as “inquiry learning,” and is much more hands-on and student-driven–often occurring in group settings with students collaborating to problem solve and trouble-shoot solutions–rather than the way in which too many learn in today’s traditional classrooms, including most classrooms in Kenya, where learning is mostly teacher-centered and rote in character.

I was, on the one hand, elated to see students learning in the beautiful outdoor classroom setting of Lake Baringo about plate tectonics and volcanism, along with geothermal energy, climate, and other worldly-relevant topics, while also improving their ability to formulate coherent thoughts, think and express themselves creatively, and advance communication skills through journal writing and group discussions; and, as I learned from their instructors, there was much more of this type of travel and outdoor learning embedded in much of these students’ curricula throughout the year.  On the other hand, I’ve already seen too many schools in Kenya, and to a lesser extent back in the U.S., that restrain student learning and stymie creativity by teaching them in rigidly disciplined settings, students being fed fact after fact by teachers more concerned with feeling in control and looking good in front of “superiors,” rather than formulating strategies to make learning for their students more meaningful, challenging and fun, including a heavy dose of inquiry learning in outdoor classroom settings.  If outdoor education is good enough for the elite of Kenya (and elsewhere in the world) and their children, then it should be good enough for the less privileged and poor children of Kenya (and elsewhere in the world)…

Finished with lunch and my take on the state of educational instruction, we grabbed some paw paw fruit for the walk down to the Lake Baringo shoreline where we would catch a motorized boat for an afternoon tour of the lake.  Along the way, I saw my first White-Billed Buffalo-Weaver, the largest of the weaver birds I had seen in Kenya so far; some Common Drongos, dark purple-black birds with forked tails about the size of nightjars, whose behavior reminded me of flycatchers; a Beautiful Sunbird, which was quite literally, beautiful, as it sipped nectar from a pink flower; and, a Jackson’s Golden-Backed Weaver, another first for me, in molting-phase plumage.

Making our way to water’s edge, we boarded the fiber-glass reinforced boat, put on some life preservers, and Willy shoved off with a forceful push and quick hop into the moving boat.  We initially puttered near shore close to our campsite, looking for more bird life.  Beneath trees that were partially submerged in water due to the unusually heavy August-December rains, we eagerily took in some vibrant bird activity and sounds, viewing a White-Browed Coucal, a fairly common bird but rather large and intimidating, particularly to the smaller birds around it that were none-too-pleased by its presence.  We watched as the smaller birds incessantly scolded the Coucal, which sauntered in and out of thick cover, not too disturbed by all the ruckus…

Motoring further along the shore, we observed an intra-African migrant, the African Golden Oriole, up in the treetops, pursuing insect prey.  The oriole was all yellow (or golden) with black wings and upper tail feathers. This was the 32nd life-bird for me during this trip, but the African Golden Oriole never quite availed itself for a decent photo, so we appreciated its color pattern and form through binoculars for several minutes.  However, the Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl (life-bird #33), sitting on a large limb near the tree’s even larger trunk, did!  It’s rather stunning pink eyelids were quite conspicuous as it gazed down at people in the boat below. This was the fourth owl we’d seen now during this trip and I was becoming fonder and fonder of Lake Baringo and its bird offerings by the minute…

The owl clambered higher to a more secluded perch in the big tree, apparently not liking to be ogled by a boatload of strangers–maybe the white-skinned guy was giving off too much of a glare; so, we backed out from beneath the tree and set course for a colony of nesting waterbirds consisting of cattle egrets, cormorants, darters and herons.  I was very interested in seeing this colony of birds as I had traveled with the Canadian Wildlife Service during my graduate school days at Michigan Technological University in the summers of 2002-03 to observe several rather impressive nesting colonies of Great Lakes waterbirds.  To witness a similar phenomenon in Kenya, I thought, would be rather fascinating…But, first, say “hello,” to the African Fish Eagle perched in another tree along the shoreline, before we put the boat into overdrive and head for deeper water.

And, what about the young fellow wading in the water among overgrown brush and aquatic plants?  “Hey, aren’t there crocodiles in there?!”  “Yes, but he’s fishing for tilipia…” “Great, he’s catching fish that will then attract crocodiles during their struggle to get free!”  That was definitely something I would never be doing…  However, looking at it from the young man’s perspective, having grown up around the water, learning about all things aquatic, including habits of crocodiles and where the really big ones might like to hang out…I suppose in my more dare-devilish days of yore, I just might be fishing for tilapia in croc-infested waters (and hippos, too–don’t forget about the hippos)…

The fishing pole, by the way, was a type of cane pole; but, I never did get a good look at the hook and line…while the tilapia bait consisted of a mishmash of adult dragonflies, of which there were many, many varieties at Lake Baringo. In fact, Lake Baringo would be a wonderland for anyone with a sole interest in studying or researching dragonfly biodiversity or other topics related to these wonderful insects…I often found myself being pulled in the direction of these aerial marvels while working our way through some dense mats of floating vegetation…

Shortly after our brief chat with the young, very brave fisherman, our boat operator shifted the motor into higher gear and we headed to the breeding colony situated in some trees that were nestled in the middle of a vast network of interconnected floating islands of aquatic vegetation, which extended out into the lake from the shoreline along one side of Lake Baringo.  We motored past several African Jacanas and Squacco Herons, which took flight at our approach, as well as an African Darter emerging from the water after, what else, darting after some fish in the depths of Lake Baringo.

We slowed briefly along the way to check out one particular floating island where Willy had noted the rare Purple Swamphen in years past, informing me that visitors would come to Lake Baringo just to see this unique bird in order to add it to their life lists; so, even Willy got excited when he caught a glimpse of this bird, head rising just above the swamp grasses, sedges and other aquatic plants growing within the floating vegetation mat.  It then gave us all a special treat as it flew from its more reclusive location and flapped its way to a new locale…Needless-to-say, this was another new species for me!  Was I excited? Yes! But, then again, I get excited every time I don binoculars and camera and explore this great beautiful world we live in!

After our good fortune with the Purple Swamphen, we picked up the pace again and, within ten minutes we were beneath a mixed colony of several hundred pairs of Cattle Egrets, Long-Tailed Cormorants, African Darters, Purple Herons, and a few Great Cormorants thrown in for good measure…It was a magnificent sight to behold–well, mostly magnificent, except for several dead young birds that had apparently lost their step in the thorny branches above and fell to their deaths in one of three ways (disclaimer–the following is NOT nice!): First, some were impaled on the sharp tree spines; second, some were strangled to death after their necks became wedged between a “v-shaped” limb after slipping from their perch; and, third, those that fell and had the good fortune of avoiding the spines and strangulating branches often became a quick meal for the wily crocodiles we saw waiting patiently beneath the colony of nesting birds.  It reminded me of the nature programs I saw about seals giving birth on some remote Pacific island with great white sharks patrolling the waters for inattentive or inexperienced young pups…the sharks knew when and where to be for an easy meal; and, the crocs of Lake Baringo were no different!

We lingered around the mixed nesting colony for about fifteen minutes, observing the young birds moving around in the spine-covered branches above us, most moving quite deftly among branches now that many were near fledge stage (i.e. nearly ready to fly).  We also caught sight of a couple of fairly large crocodiles in the water below the tree branches, biding their time until a feathered meal plopped into the water from above…We watched as one lucky young cattle egret that had fallen into the water quickly swam to a cluster of thick swamp grass, and then scaled over the grass and up into a small shrubby tree around which the swamp grass had grown.  Hopefully, this young fellow in its new “home” would still be dutifully tended to by its parents, just like many of the other young birds in the larger colony were being tended to by their respective parents, which were seen arriving with meals of fish, frogs and other fare for delivery to hungry mouths; and, then the parents quickly launched themselves back out into the lake to find more food for their ravenous, fast-growing youngsters…all-in-all, a fascinating scene that definitely brought back memories of the Great Lakes!  After some more gular fluttering from young birds trying to keep their cool under an intensely hot midday sun and in a place where shade was hard to come by, we turned away from the colony and set our sights on one of Lake Baringos many protruding islands…

First, though, we had to negotiate some more of the thick mats of vegetation before reaching open water; but, this slower-going only gave us more time to admire the scenery, marvel at how high the lake waters had risen since a July visit last year, and check off a few more species of birds as we went.  There were Chestnut, Lesser Masked, and Northern Masked Weavers, as well as more African Jacanas, Squacco Herons, African Darters, and Long-Tailed Cormorants.  In addition, we noted several Whiskered Terns flying smoothly and effortlessly over the waters, like all terns seem to do; and, we saw new species number 35, an Allen’s Gallinule, flapping and running over the water away from us upon our approach through more floating vegetation…I enjoyed the dragonfly show along the way as well!

We finally reached the open water after about twenty minutes, during which time we had to stop and reverse on several occasions to free our prop from the entangled vegetation that had engulfed it…No problem…this simply gave me more time to dragonfly watch at close range…

Out on the open water, we made good time to one of the islands.  The “desert rose” trees with pretty pink flowers, looking much like miniature baobab trees, beautifully accented the island, which was otherwise sparsely vegetated and rocky.  Getting close to the shore, a Monitor Lizard emerged from the water and climbed onto the island.  Monitor Lizards are fairly common, as I’ve now seen at least five of these rather large reptiles, with one encounter scaring the “bejeebers” out of my business partner, Alex, after it had played dead for several minutes before suddenly springing to life in an all out sprint for better cover.  We still have a good laugh thinking about that one!  By the way, Monitor Lizards are not poisonous, but can give a rather painful bite…so, handle with care!

We also watched several black-and-white African Pied Kingfishers–quite common at all the Rift Valley lakes–catch and eat a few tilapia.  Some would cackle in the small trees along the shoreline for a bit, then fly up and hover above the water for several seconds before diving headlong into the water after a tilapia.  There appeared to be a 50-50 chance of catching a fish or not…We enjoyed watching this foraging display, as well as a couple of kingfishers slapping their catches hard against a tree branch before deftly flipping them around with their large bills and swallowing the fish headfirst.  It was quite apparent that humans weren’t the only ones who liked eating tilapia in these parts…

Approaching our island port, where we would disembark for lunch–or so we thought–a very familiar bird appeared, actually several of them…the regal-looking Black-Crowned Night-Heron.  This cosmopolitan species is one which is fairly common in the Great Lakes, having made a comeback in population size after being adversely impacted by industrial contaminants during the height of pollution in the 1960s and ’70s.  But, today, it is doing much better in the U.S. and, in fact, a few of the birds, prior to coming over to Kenya, were predating many of the Common Tern chicks in Detroit River colonies I had helped restore through habitat restorations.  The Great Lakes Common Terns were also the focal point of my master’s thesis that involved measurements of historical pollutants in their eggs around the Great Lakes.  So, seeing the Black-Crowned Night-Herons in Kenya brought on a mix of nostalgic euphoria and mild contempt; but, hey, no hard feelings…at least while in Kenya!  Besides, with my good friend and fellow wildlife researcher, Greg Norwood of the USFWS, looking after the terns now, I know they are in great hands back home…

After tying up our boat at the dock on “Baringo Island,” we went ashore and greeted the clerk behind the counter at the traditional hut-styled check-in facility for the island resort.  Looking forward to having lunch after a few hours of being in the sunshine on Lake Baringo in 90+ degree heat, we were informed that lunch was not being served that day to island visitors, due to a lack of guests currently staying at the island resort.

A bit frazzled by that revelation, as we would now have to go a couple more hours without lunch and the blood sugar level was running low, we nevertheless inquired if we could take a tour of the resort–after all, we were already there, so we might as well check out the accommodations for future guests of Tembokanga Tours and Education Ventures.  After paying an annoying (remember, I was hungry!) “tour fee” –it seems everyone in Kenya wants some sort of fee for any service provided–we were escorted around the lodge premises.

The walk up a spiraling gravel-covered incline past guest rooms, resort lounge and restaurant, and several scenic overlooks of Lake Baringo, along with the bird life en route to the main island lodge situated at the highest elevation, caused the distaste still lingering in my mouth over a “touring fee” to slowly dissipate.  Perhaps the sweet calls of Common Bulbuls feeding on figs from a tree rife with the small, circular fruits–or maybe it was simply my vicarious consumption of dozens of figs as I watched the birds eagerly dining on them above–was responsible for my attitude change; but, simply immersing myself back into the machinations of nature, and forgetting about human annoyances, seemed to be enough to refocus my mind on more beautiful encounters ahead, rather than food and stupid f$#@ing fees…After all, I mean, weren’t we doing them a favor by coming all the way to their resort just to see what they might have to offer to our future guests, including cuisine?!

So, what is one of the first things we get to see when reaching the main lodge with built in swimming pool?  The owners eating lunch at the bar!  Fortunately, the owner, his wife, their son and his wife were quite hospitable, engaging and humorous.  They were originally from Australia and, perhaps fittingly, the owner had a dry sense of humor which fit him well…I wasn’t enamored with their penchant for smoking lots of cigarettes, but we were outdoors in a beautiful setting and we were going to have something to drink while seated under a canopy next to a swimming pool, where a nice-looking brown-skinned young lady was sunbathing in a two-piece bikini…I felt much more relaxed and comfortable!  At that moment, I thought of you, Greg Wright, and another great friend of my mine from back home in the U.S., John Nasarzewski…Cheers fellas!

After some more friendly banter between Australians, Kenyans and American (though now with a registered Kenyan Green Card, I might add), we were offered a tour of the lodge’s tilapia fish farming operations.  Fish farming at a resort?!  Yep!  I thought the same thing, but was quite interested in seeing the operation. So, we traipsed down to the nearby fish farming facility with a dozen or so large rectangular cement fish tanks housing tilapia in different stages of development.  We were informed by those in charge of the fish farming operations that they had gotten the fish from Lake Baringo and bred them.  The only food required was algae!  And, I love the taste of tilapia (maybe the vegetarian diet of tilapia makes them taste so great), so this appears to be an excellent food industry for people in many parts of Kenya.  Sadly, start up costs to build the tanks is too much for most individuals or groups to afford; so, people like our wealthy Australian friends, have come in to fill this fish farming niche, albeit while employing and benefiting many of the local people.  This is a venture I have filed away in my memory banks, perhaps for future reference when America-Kenya Connections might be able to help some Kenyans build and run their own sustainable fish farming facility…

The whole resort was actually quite ecofriendly, excluding the goats, with guest quarters and other structures built with local materials and architectural styles; and, the luxurious interiors of the guest quarters did not detract at all from the feeling that you were in a more or less native setting with great open views of the surrounding natural landscape and Lake Baringo.  In other words, no four-story hotel here, just many beautiful guest houses and an atmosphere of relaxation, with houses and guest facilities connected by gravel paths and stony stairways…A really nice job of blending the facility’s architecture and layout with the surrounding natural environment, which includes a lava rock-strewn landscape providing more evidence of the region’s volcanically-active past.

We returned to the pool/outdoor lounge area to chat a bit more with the resort owners, have another drink, and watch Willy save a young Beautiful Sunbird from the swimming pool it had somehow managed to fly into.  Not sure if it was this particular birds “maiden flight” from a close by nesting perch, but nevertheless, it needed Willy’s help if it was going to live to make another attempt…After scooping the distraught bird from the pool, it attempted to fly away, only to belly flop from Willy’s palm down to the ground below.  No, it wasn’t nice to see, but the bird seemed fine, and Willy scooped it back up and deposited it onto a branch in a nearby bush to let it to dry off in peace.  Not far away, a male adult Beautiful Sunbird was taking a break from the heat.  Perhaps it was the young one’s dad…

Following the sunbird rescue, we finished up our drinks, exchanged business cards with Perry, the owner, and bid his family, “Kwaheri” (good-bye).  We then proceeded to descend the spiraling walkway to the boat dock.  Along the way, though, we were treated to some more bird life, spotting a Red-Fronted Barbet, a Rose-Breasted Grosbeak-sized bird (for you North American bird watchers) with a beak about the same size. But this bird’s red was painted on its forehead, not breast, and was a mix of black and yellow (not white) plumage, for the most part.

We stopped briefly to check out another guest house; and, near the overlook of Lake Baringo in a patch of woody shrubs sat an African Pygmy Kingfisher, a bird I had really wanted to see all day long.  I had observed the small Malachite Kingfisher on several occasions, but never the Pygmy Kingfisher, an even tinier specimen.  Unlike the water-hunting Malachite Kingfisher, the African Pygmy Kingfisher was a landlubber, preferring to pick off insects on land, rather than fish and aquatic fare.  I found the Pygmy Kingfisher to be just as spectacularly colored as the Malachite, if not even more so!  That’s the great thing about bird watching–the diversity available for viewing, with all the different color patterns, songs, flights, sizes, habits…I can’t think of anything else that offers such varied opportunities for experiencing something wonderful and beautiful every time one ventures out into the world; and, I haven’t even mentioned the added mental and psychological benefits of simply being out of doors and all that has to offer…As they say in the Kenya Wildlife Services’ campaign to advertise parks and wild places in Kenya, “Twende Tujivinjari!” (Let’s go enjoy!)…Amen to that!

Though I could have spent much more time hanging out with the African Pygmy Kingfisher in order to get to know this new life bird a bit better, we had a schedule to keep, so we continued on…until we came to a thrush eating some berries on the walkway.  It was a Spotted Morning Thrush.  I had seen all manner of thrushes in Kenya already–White-Browed Scrub-Robin; Cape Robin-Chat; White-Browed Robin-Chat; Cliff Chat; Olive Thrush; Grey-Winged Robin; and, a few other chats; but, this was a new one, and giving me a real closeup view, for which I was extremely grateful…

At the island shoreline, we watched as a juvenile Long-Tailed Cormorant flew past.  There are no “cormorant controversies” here in Kenya that I’ve heard about yet, like those back home in the Great Lakes, where the double-crested cormorant population has exploded during the past 35 years or so with the full impact of their presence on fish populations and island vegetation not fully known, though there is ample evidence in many locales of the birds’ negative effects on more established native flora and fauna.  The problem, though, as I see it, with coming down hard on a particular species for a peculiar set of environmental problems or ecological disturbances is that we too often fail to prescribe solutions to our own heavy hand in contributing to these problems and disturbances, or laying the groundwork for other species to thrive in the altered habitats we’ve created through overdevelopment, persecution of predators, and introduction of invasive species, to name a few of our untoward effects on the world around us…But, I digress…back to the boat and Kenya!

I had long forgotten about the “tour fee” by this time, having thoroughly enjoyed my island visit.  And, if anyone out there is looking for a honeymoon get-away, well I think I have the place for you!  You know where to find us to inquire…

We boarded our boat and headed back to the mainland, speeding past pieces of driftwood along the way, with each piece seemingly having its own resident dragonfly as a sole companion.  The water was calm, as usual–this was my fourth trip on the lake in the past 6 months–and I appreciated this “lake calm” as I do not do well on larger vessels in rolling waters…a thing called “sea sickness” rears its ugly head, unfortunately.  I’m really liking Lake Baringo more and more with every trip I take here…

Nearing 5 p.m., we dropped anchor and went ashore…actually, we just motored aground and hopped out onto soggy, muddy turf back on the mainland, but “dropping anchor” sounded cool, so even though we didn’t have an anchor, I went with it…Anyway, we made our way to our supply of drinking water to rehydrate after a long, wonderful day on the lake and island, which followed the four-hour morning walk.  Never one to pass up a birding or photo opportunity, I took in a few of the more common residents of Kenya, the flycatcher-like immature Common Drongo with long, forked tail I had seen earlier in the day; and, a bird, whose high-pitched squeal is often heard as much as it is seen, the White-Browed Sparrow-Weaver, one of the many varieties of generally small weaver birds, famous for their hanging nests in all manner of vegetation, with some being single-family homes, while others are often huge condominiums housing many residents.  The White-Browed Sparrow-Weaver was one of the former; though, like all weavers that I’ve encountered, they built nests in close proximity to each other, so that there’s always a community of fellowship in the land of the weavers!

Almost ready to leave, but not quite yet, we had heard that the African Scops Owl was still in the area; and, our friendly bird-spotter from the next-door resort was happy to show us its whereabouts…I’m willing to bet, though, that I was more happy than him!  We followed a flat stone-slab walkway around the resort cottages and slipped between a couple of them, passing a groundskeeper sweeping the walkway with a very creative, locally-made broom consisting of a long stick handle and a bundle of  plants secured to one end for sweeping, which I found to be quite fascinating…Now, where in the world could you possibly be fascinated by “broom fashion?!”  Answer: Kenya!

Around and in back of the guest rooms near the workers’ sleeping quarters, there was a large tree with brush surrounding it.  We slipped through some barbed wire, of which there is plenty in Kenya, by the way, and tried various viewing angles of the tree and brush to see if we could locate the owl, which our friend had sighted earlier in the day; and, knowing the sleeping habits of most owls, it was likely still in the immediate vicinity…Success!  The stunning African Scops Owl was biding its daytime, waiting for night to fall so it could go about its nocturnal business of snatching even smaller critters than itself for a quick meal, including lizards, large insects and the like…If this was going to be my last impression at Lake Baringo, then I was a happy camper!

Quite satisfied, and car loaded up and ready to go, we thanked our owl-finding friend (and gave him a “tip,” of course) and began the journey homeward.  However, feeling a bit hungry, though happy, we drove into Lake Baringo’s community town center before beginning our longer trip back to Kirobon.  The “town center” was a cross between a dilapidated downtown and neglected mini strip mall, with peeling paint and missing sections of concrete on some buildings and dwellings, the road rocky and pock-marked, and garbage scattered about the area.   We parked the car on the side of the road and checked out some mud-and-stone fish smoke houses.  A few skinny dogs with ribs showing then followed us as we headed over to a “street vendor” frying and selling freshly caught tilapia.

“Chef Granny” (reminded me of “Granny” on the Beverly Hillbillies whipping up some ‘possum stew) had a slew of seasoned tilapia boiling in oil in a large stir fry cast iron pan.  I imagined that those large pans were quite a prized possession, as most pans in Kenya that I’ve seen the local people using are of the cheaper aluminum variety (though major stores are now carrying stainless steel pots and pans).

Never one to pass up a fish fry, we ordered a few fish and eagerly consumed the offering of tasty white flesh served on yesterday’s newspaper (well, I didn’t check the date, so I can’t really be certain of that last factoid)…Suffice it to say that this wasn’t the most hygienic of “restaurant settings” in which I had eaten, but the fish sure tasted great!  With a bit of flesh left on the bony fish skeleton, along with the head, I tossed the remains to the skinny pregnant, lactating dog, which hastily accepted the offering…I had made another friend!

With something in the belly for the three hour drive back to Kirobon, we thanked Willy for his services, compensating him for his usual terrific efforts, and dropped him near his very modest, to say the least, traditional thatched-roof circular home located in the dry scrub around Lake Baringo.  We assured him we would be back to visit and that he was in the future plans of Tembokanga Tours and Education Ventures as one of our trusted wildlife/bird guides…I sincerely hope you travel to Kenya and get to meet this humble, unassuming, extremely talented wildlife/bird guide, with whom we have become very good friends…until next time, “Asante Sana, Willy!”

Heading toward the fairly bustling town of Maragat, while dodging missing sections of asphalt, we were on our way back to Kirobon and I was hoping that the mosquitoes that bit me at Lake Baringo didn’t carry the malarial parasite that had struck Willy a few times and so many others around the lake.  I would just have to wait and see what happened over the next few weeks.

If there’s one drawback to visiting Lake Baringo, then that’s it…Having camped in a tent, we were more vulnerable to mosquito bites during the night, as they mainly sought shelter from the intense heat of the sun during daylight hours.  Normally, visitors who tour Kenya are on anti-malarial medications as a prophylactic measure, just in case; but, since I’m staying for a long time, I have a prescription for an anti-malarial drug which I would take in the event of malaria onset.  So far, so good…

At the present moment, however, the only thing we had to be concerned with was the herd of camels crossing the road in front of us…Seeing sheep, goats and cattle crossing, or feeding along, the road, or even donkeys, for that matter, was a rather common occurrence; but, camels crossing the road was not something regularly seen, though it did happen on occasion…and, this was one of them.

Plowing into livestock, or camels, is hard to do in Kenya, because they always travel in fairly big herds or flocks, they are tended to by a human “shepherd,” and drivers generally have plenty of time to see them in the road ahead in order to adjust their speed to accommodate such animal crossings.  Seeing wild animals crossing the road was not out of the question, as we had seen some zebras and baboons do so, but their crossings were much more unpredictable, hasty and frenzied than the domesticated animals.  The camels fell into the “domesticated crossing” category, and soon we were on our way home after a minor camel delay…

On the trip home, I thought about the roughly 110 species of birds I had seen–40 completely new to me–which got me to thinking about my “ornithology road trip” with Greg and other Michigan Technological University students.  That three-day “mad dash” across Michigan’s Upper Peninsula was great fun, being led by talented ornithology professor, David Flashpohler, during Spring of  2003.  I recall having seen nearly the same number of species on that memorable trip as I did on this day trip to Lake Baringo.  Some wonderful memories, Greg!

Well, that just about concludes our journey to and from Lake Baringo, my friend…I hope you enjoyed the tour, Greg!  If you couldn’t make it to Kenya, then the least I could do was bring a bit of Kenya and Africa to you…I hope I accomplished that in some small way…You’re an awesome human being, Greg; and, I wish I had the opportunity to be with you during a time when friends and family are needed the most…Please be assured that you are thought of each and every day by me during my time in Kenya.  I love you dearly, Greg, as I know so many others do…Alex and the whole Tembokanga Tours and Education Ventures’ family send their love your way, too.

Alex and I have prepared a heartfelt message for you in the video that follows…There is an expression in Kiswahili, Greg, which seems appropriate for whatever lies ahead in your next life’s journey: “Safiri Salama, my friend!”  “Safe travels!”   I’ll be thinking of you often, my brother in the days and years ahead…Peace always, Greg!  Love, Bruce

 

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19 Comments leave one →
  1. Connie Lee permalink
    April 13, 2012 2:21 pm

    Bruce, it is so obvious you are such a dear friend to Greg- your beautiful “safari” with Greg left me weeping. Not with tears of saddness, but tears of gratitude that Greg has had the opportunity to have in his life the friendship of someone who knows and appreciates him so well. You summed up everything Greg is in your tribute, which has resulted not only in a gift he will treasure, but as his sister, a gift for me as well. There are some things that physical distance cannot seperate- your spirit and Greg’s have never been closer. Thank you, Bruce
    Connie Lee

    • April 13, 2012 5:17 pm

      So good to hear from you, Connie…I am very grateful that you and others have found this tribute to be a source of comfort and, in some way, joy. Greg is, indeed, a kindred spirit to me; but, mostly, he is such a beautiful human being and I wish so many more could be like him (including myself)…I’ve been trying to keep the waves of sadness from washing over my heart, so that I can concentrate on the happiness Greg has brought to me and so many others as brother, friend, mentor, naturalist, musician and free spirit. I hope Greg is as comfortable as possible; and, I know he is getting every ounce of worldly pleasure and peace he can for as long as possible…I just wanted to add something from my heart to hopefully give him some joy, too, during such difficult times…Though thinking about Greg’s situation makes me so very sad, he will always be a source of happiness in my mind whenever I think of him, no matter where in the world, or “otherly world” he is! Thanks again, Connie, for sharing your feelings with me…it really means a lot and helps with the sadness I feel not being able to see Greg…Love and best wishes to you and your family, Connie! Bruce

  2. Keren permalink
    April 13, 2012 8:08 pm

    this is beautiful Bruce. wishing you well in Kenya.

    • April 13, 2012 8:13 pm

      I really appreciate your comment, Keren…it means a lot to me…I hope you are doing well…I will always have fond memories of you, Joe, Greg, Marcel, Audra, etc…Keep in touch. Bruce

  3. ome day we will go to Africa and look you up and beat the drums with by the fire in Gre permalink
    April 13, 2012 11:38 pm

    Bruce what a wonderful tribute to my brother in law Greg.There is a lesson to be learned from Gregs life.I too love the outdoors,but do not take time enough to fullly understand the pleasures and beauties that mother nature provides. Thanks for letting us share your lifes adventure with Greg.Someday we will travel to Africa and look you up,and if you will let us,beat the drums in gregs honor by the fire also.Yes and i know Greg ,beat them lightly and let my hands bounce. take care Pete Lee

    • April 14, 2012 5:31 am

      It would be a privilege to host you in Kenya and pay tribute to Greg with those who loved him…Your kind words are yet another blessing bestowed upon me through knowing Greg. Asante Sana (Thank you very much)!

  4. Lori Lee permalink
    April 14, 2012 1:00 pm

    What a beautiful tribute to your dear friend Greg Wright. You have given him a most wonderful gift through this virtual tour. Incredibly beautiful and so heartfelt just an amazing gift for Greg and all of us as well. Thank you, Lori Lee

    • April 14, 2012 1:55 pm

      I really appreciate your kind words, Lori…While I wanted to bring something special to Greg, I was hoping that others close to him would also find some comfort and joy in this tribute to such a wonderful man who has graced so many lives with his presence and talents. I’m very glad you enjoyed it, Lori…Asante Sana!

  5. Karie A. Frisiras permalink
    April 14, 2012 3:22 pm

    Bruce-most people search a lifetime to find a friend like you and many times-never succeed. The time that you spent to share this with Greg and his family is a gift that could never be purchased. Thank you so much for loving my Uncle so much and for sharing yourself, your feelings and this amazing journey with all of us. It is an amazing tribute and you are very obviously a very special man! Thank you!

    • April 14, 2012 5:16 pm

      You’re very welcome, Karie…Much thanks to you, too…You and others have given me “gifts” as well with all your encouraging and loving comments…As I’ve stated to others, the tribute is the least I could do for such a beautiful person! The warm reception to this tribute is simply another way Greg’s life has enriched mine…Best wishes to you, Karie!

  6. Joanne Schachtler Miller permalink
    April 15, 2012 3:11 am

    Bruce Hello! I am Greg’s cousin Joanne and I would just like to send a very special thank you for such a beautiful tribute to Greg and such love and concern for him. What you put together was truly remarkable and definitely leaves me with such admiration for all that you and your team does and also the times you spent with Greg. Thank you so much and perhaps one day we will come across one another. God Bless and Thank You!!

    • April 15, 2012 2:14 pm

      Joanne, thank you for getting in touch and sending such kind words my way! Greg’s spirit connects so many, and that is another gift he has brought our way…I hope our paths cross someday, too, Joanne…God bless you and best wishes always!

  7. Abby Morton permalink
    April 16, 2012 1:38 pm

    What an outstanding tribute. Greg and his family are blessed to have you as a dear friend. Thank you for sharing this.

    • April 16, 2012 3:00 pm

      You’re very welcome, Abby…Glad you, and others, have found some enjoyment reading this. Thanks for your kind words…Best wishes to you! Bruce

  8. Kristin Platt permalink
    April 20, 2012 2:34 am

    Bruce – after viewing this I know you gave my uncle one of the most special gifts he can have in this last phase of his journey. Thank you for sending him a glimpse of what he loves most and thank you for caring so deeply for him. And if I may say, it’s perfectly acceptable to have a balance of happiness and sadness. Fighting the presence of those feelings will not lead you to the ultimate resolution you are looking for. Your words gave me happiness to feel and think of when thinking of my uncle. Thank you.

    • April 20, 2012 8:12 am

      Karibu Sana (“You’re most welcome), Kristin! It brings me great happiness just knowing that you and others so close to Greg have also gotten some measure of comfort and joy in reading this, as well as something to reflect upon in the future…Thank you for sharing, Kristin–your kind words are a big help to me here as well, since I cannot be back home at this time in Greg’s life…Best wishes always! Bruce

  9. June 27, 2012 2:29 am

    Good friends are hard to find. It is obvious that the two of you are BFF’s 4ever. God Bless Greg

    • June 27, 2012 12:00 pm

      Thanks, I really appreciate the kind words…It is hard to imagine that I will not be able to see Greg here on Earth again; but, I know many of his family and friends will carry on the wonderful works he started and extend them, as well as his enlightening ways, to others throughout their own lifetimes…Best wishes to you! Bruce

  10. Lynne Kraskouskas MTU '02 permalink
    September 24, 2012 9:11 pm

    How incredibly sad to lose someone like Greg in the world. Peace to him and all those he left on Earth. I am saddened and shocked to learn of his passing.

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