Now that I’ve been back from my month long trek through the wilderness with eight camels for a while, it’s high time I sit down and write about my experiences. There is too much to write down in one story but I will try to paint a picture of what I went through on this camel safari/ health mobile clinic.
We left base camp in central Laikipia district on the 10th and then headed in a North-Eastern direction to the border of Baringo district, then peaked at a place called Lonyiek from where we walked back down to base camp via various stunning ranch & farms. We walked a total of about 250 km, set up clinics in thirteen different places, saw to six hundred and forty patient’s, provided 104 clients with contraceptive needs, and did HIV counseling and testing for over nine hundred clients. Considering we were in relatively remote areas this is quite a large amount, but with a hard working team we made it possible.
It went something like this:
I just woke up, it’s still dark but I can hear the first birds. It’s icy cold in my tent and I’m happy for my thick camel mattress and sleeping bag despite their stench. I reluctantly squirm out of my tent to find camel handlers, Alex and Lodya busy reviving our campfire. All the camels are still there – phew – there were lion around last night, apparently they had taken/eaten a cow close to this place just last week. I decide I should really have a wash-it’s been three days since my last shower at the waterhole where all the donkeys were drinking and the Samburu women were doing their laundry… I head to the river before the sun rises and come back feeling fresh as the sun rises and just in time for some hot tea. The tea the team drinks is so sweet it’s ridiculous – but it does give you some energy. After tea I pack up my things and take down my tent as the camels are being saddled up. We all help to load up the camels – two for drugs, two for bags, one for tents, one for food, one for water and one for tables and chairs. The camels are on strike today-they definitely do not feel like walking and are determined to make it as difficult as possible for us to pack them. They truly are the most bizarre creatures with their humps and prickly mouths that look like a pufferfish’s skin. After a lot of ‘TOOOOOOO!!!!” we finally are ready to head to our next station. It’s now eight o’clock so we should arrive either before the hottest time of the day or before the rain starts.
It has been amazing watching the landscape change with the first rains, the grass is coming up in thin bright green squirts all over the place and there’s a feeling of relief everywhere.
Four hours later: We arrive at our next camp and start to unload the camels. Everyone is feeling tired and hungry. Luckily we picked up firewood along the way so we can make a fire for tea straight away. We’re camping in a manyatta today called Lorara. The community is very happy to have us here and all the women and children with their traditional tribal attire flock in to see the camels and the mzungu (white person). We explain to them that we’re here to do HIV testing, family planning and have medicines for those who are sick.
In the evening after having set up camp and having eaten we start our “moonlight HIV/AIDS VCT”. This means we go into the huts in the evenings to counsel and test; we hope to find both husband and wife for couple counseling and testing. (During the day the men are herding their cattle so are not at home – hence doing this in the evening). This is my favorite part of the clinic, because you really get to see how people live and what everyday challenges people face.
We see to a woman today who is really happy that we have come. Her husband is not there but she wants to know her HIV status and desperately wants the three year contraceptive implant. She has six children already and no means to take care of them. The husband works in town and comes home after he spends his entire salary on locally brewed alcohol. He’s penniless, drunk and often beats her. She has no money to buy her children clothes or send them to school. She lives in a tiny mud and cow dung house next to her husband’s second wife’s house who has four children-same situation. We help the woman and tell her to bring her youngest child to the clinic tomorrow. The child has a high fever and really bad cough. After testing several more people we head back to camp and I gratefully snuggle into my smelly tent and fall into a deep deep sleep.
I’ve experienced much more than I can write down right now but hopefully this gives an impression of what I have been up to lately. A month is a long time to be in the field. It was hard at times, it was frustrating at times but all in all it was a fantastic once-in-a-lifetime experience. I’ve met great people seen amazing things and have really gotten to see what it means to live in rural Kenya. I’m super lucky to have been given this opportunity and will treasure it always. Once again thank you for supporting this cause. It’s really a one-of-a-kind organization.