One afternoon in downtown Nairobi while getting my dusty shoes shined, I started talking with Gathaku Bernard Gachuiri (Ben, pictured below) who was standing at an adjacent SIM card sales booth. He somehow reminded me very much of my good friend Cleo in New York and being, as he revealed to me, 'an exceptional entreprenuer and skillful networker,' he eagerly took to the idea of befriending me. Ben effuses a nervous energy, animatedly gesticulating and bursting with ideas and stories in his rapid-fire Kenyan English.
In the presence of danger, the leaders of these animals defiantly stand facing the “enemy”, in a kind of stare down, nostrils in the air. Our guide pointed his rifle at the buffalo, in case they charged, and I took a couple of pictures. Ben, for his part, picked up a large stick, pointed it at the animals, and made shaking movements like he was shooting. The largest bull, closest to us, in reaction to Ben’s provocation kicked its huge hind legs into the air (apparently well acquainted with guns), and thankfully retreated into the bush instead of charging, which would not have been unexpected. Ben, unchastened by the near-death experience he’d brought upon us, continued to admire the forbidden fruit of the guide’s rifle. After some time had passed, his pleading paid off, and the guide agreed to let Ben hold the fire arm. He grasped the rifle, and before he could be stopped, pointed it at my head (and at the second trekking guide), pretending to fire.
Being in the park on bicycle or on foot put us very close to the animals and didn’t frighten them away as cars or trucks would. Hell’s Gate has no lions or cape buffalo, so it’s reasonably safe to be riding on the main gravel road.
Ben is now working part time in Nairobi, and looking for his big break – which no doubt he will find. The quote he puts under his profile on Facebook is: “A successful person is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks that others throw at him or her.”