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Monday, August 27, 2012

Raccoon rhymes with Baboon

In the states, our concern with trash storage and removal usually revolved around raccoons.  Many times, if we forgot to completely secure the lid on our trash bin in PA, we would wake the next morning to discover our friendly neighborhood scavengers had done their best to remove, scatter, and scrape out the last bit of whatever edible morsels they could find, leaving a wonderful, stinky mess to recollect and try to put back into the shredded plastic bag from which it came.

Fast forward to Africa.  Kenya is completely devoid of raccoons (to my knowledge) but that doesn’t mean another member of the animal kingdom hasn’t stepped in to fill their role.  Here at RVA, as any veteran can share, it’s the baboons you need to worry about.  As the newbies on the block, the thought of seeing baboons around campus is kind of exciting – our boys especially, although scared to death of them and sure that these storied creatures are more foe than friend, are very anxious to spot their first baboon.  To date, we’ve only experienced one instance of nighttime-baboon-trash-removal, and it consisted mostly of Evie’s dirty diapers being strewn about our yard.  Not pleasant, but thankfully there were only a few in the trash barrel that night! 

Guard trail
 
There are other types of monkeys around too, and so one sunny Saturday morning the kids and I set off on a “monkey hunt”.  Most of the sightings we’d heard about were near the perimeter fence, so our trek consisted of a good 2-hour hike around the guard trail.  I guess it’s about 4km long, and it completely encircles the campus.  They call it the guard trail because it is mostly used by the 6 or 7 security guards that are stationed 24 hours at the three gates into campus and who patrol on a nightly basis along this path.  It turns out it’s a great hiking trail too, so this is where we chose to seek out our primate neighbors.

DSCN4677
 
Unfortunately, we came back empty-handed (or sighted).  No monkey sightings of any kind were had that day.  The one instance of excitement that quickly turned into not-so-exciting was our discovery of a pair of large tortoises along the trail.  Very cool to stumble upon if they had been legitimately wild, but we soon found out (mostly clued in by the fading painted name, “Tilly”, on their shells) that they were in fact pets of the Tilly family on campus!  


DSCN4678
 
The other success story that resulted from our adventure was discovering a few great look-out spots.  The view from pretty much anywhere on campus can be awe-inspiring, but one that we found along the bottom portion of the trail was stop-you-in-your-tracks cool.  It’s hard to see in the picture (our cameras have yet to get a photo that does the views here any justice), but it’s a great look at Mount Longonot (the highest point around and a great hike from what we hear) and the valley below.  Ethan’s inquisitive thoughts came out as two questions:  “Is all of that Africa?” shortly followed by, “Can we see Beaver Camp from here?”
Not quite, Ethan :)

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