When we were first presented with the opportunity to spend time with the Ogiek tribe, we were ecstatic (this after-all would be tribal living in it’s purest form). I also have to admit, that we were a bit apprehensive. We knew that the tribe lived in a very inaccessible area called the Mau Forest. The forest started about 2.5 hours west of Nairobi, but from there it could take another 4-6 hours just to get to the start of the village. Despite having motorbikes suitable for the “off road,” we were not prepared mentally or physically to endure the challenge. But, as with most things, despite the lack of knowledge, preparation, common-sense, etc, we just went for it. What followed was the most intense, challenging “riding” that we had ever partaken in. It had just rained, so at times there was mud up to the top of our rain boots. Gripping the front brake with white knuckle intensity was met with dramatic slides, falls and one embarrassing moment of exposure for Eric (his pants ripped in half after a large fall). After hours of this, we made it to the village.
We were welcomed with open arms and bright smiles. What followed was a whirlwind of new interesting experiences for us and a realization that the true stars here, were indeed the Ogiek’s. We learned to live off of the forest; recognize delicious fruits in the trees high above, hunt for animals we had never seen before and in a dramatic twist, attempted to learn to collect honey (something the Ogiek’s had perfected). The idea of collecting honey sounds romantic, perhaps even comedic, but after 20+ bee stings we came under the harsh realization that this was no fucking joke (you’ll get more on this subject in the upcoming series).
For many, the Ogiek’s are an unknown. Even after explaining to several Kenyans that we were going to visit them, they had no idea who they were exactly. The ones that did, knew we would be in for an adventure. In reality, the Ogiek’s are very similar to most in the country, but because of their remoteness they have been able to retain a large chunk of their culture. They do want to become more modern in the most basic sense (roads, shops, schools, hospitals, etc), and I have no doubt that this will soon become a reality. However, I hope that despite this shift, they will still venture into the forest and continue to celebrate their beautiful traditions.
Photos are by the talented Mr. Adam Feuerman.