It’s Friday and we’re departing Masai Mara to make our cross-country trek to Achungo. But it seems that the entire park has come out to the road to either wish us farewell or block our escape. Seemingly endless parades of wildebeest and zebra frequently block the road before us. The gazelle, the elephants, water buffalo, even giraffe, are right alongside the road — maybe 30 – 50 feet away from us. How did they know that we’d be driving out, and with our top lowered so we can’t stand to view them and with our cameras all put away?
Just one of the “big 5” yet to see. We stop at the Mara River (after a brief detour into Tanzania — where the Masai Mara extends into the Seregeti) and there’s a large bloat of hippos! (Not kidding — I looked it up. Their herds can be called pods, dales or bloats and I think the latter is most appropriate). All are mostly underwater with just tops of heads and backs showing. A large group is huddled, mostly inert, but then the big fight begins! 2 are facing off (likely males competing — like in every culture) and there’s a lot of snorting. Others seem to slide over near the fight (taking bets?) but it’s hard to tell just how the fight is engaged. Didn’t see the biting (like on the Nature Channel) but maybe we didn’t stay long enough. Just looked like they were trying to sit on each other!
And then we’re back on the road for 6 endless hours of bad road to Kisii (lunch and some shopping) and finally (after a few wrong turns), Achungo’s town of Rodi Kopany. After we check into our rooms (comfortable but spartan compared to the Sarova), a group of us head over to see Market Day in Rodi.
After we navigate some alleyways between buildings that aren’t much more than tin sheds, we emerge into a large open area. At first it looks like total chaos, but as our eyes adjust to this farmers’ market on steroids, we see a somewhat orderly collection of small stands of wares and a ton of vendors with their goods spread atop tarps on the ground. It’s Friday — the weekly Market Day for Rodi Kopany and it seems like everyone from many miles around have gathered with their wares. Europe circa 1300?
Dried fish, beans of all sorts, bananas, pineapples, other fruits, greens (kale), tomatoes, and other veggies, millet, cassava, maize and more maize, clothes, metal goods, sisal ropes…it’s all here. Although it’s a mass of people in a tight space, there is none of the frenzy or hard sell that we remember from the Masai village and no trinkets, no tchotchkes, no nick-nacks for the tourists. Everything here is highly utilitarian and we may be the only tourists these folks have seen for a long time. This is a real market with real goods meant for the real people — we’re in real Africa now and I feel at home.
And although we’re the only white faces and we do get a little special attention, we also feel accepted — no special sales pressure, no change of behavior to play to the tourists. And no haggling. Suney buys a woven bag and a huge wooden spoon at the asked prices (about $1.50 and 50 cents, respectively!!).