Kili Initiative 2019 – A Path Into The Plains – # 6

Loitokitok’s Preacher Man launched the morning program right at dawn. I recognized his rant and climbed out of the tent growling off its best lines.

The church across the valley glowed with light. I couldn’t make out a single person on the veranda. The young people at the table shook their heads hearing my speaking in tongues and Jackman said, “Now we have a preacher man stereo.”

“Listen to me, we have a busy morning.” JM scowled at my blasphemy. “Pack your bags, put everything you don’t need in storage and Give in all your phones. Not, you M’zoongoo. Old men have families. Commander Tim said, “Many families everywhere,” joked Ma’we, “Maybe even here in Africa.”

We ate a last meal at the Kibo Lodge prepared by the young team. The food was very good and filling.

Stewed chicken, eggs, bacon, rice, boiled beans, veggies, and the ever-present Ugali.

The Kenyans cut the cornstarch and dipped slabs into the sauce bowls. We ate with our left hands.

The savory bean gravy gave the bland Kenyan favorite some taste. Jubah pointed at my partially eaten meal. I nodded and Jubah pulled the plate across the table. He shared the left-overs with Jackmaan. That was his name. Not western Jackman.


“I come from a big family. Six of us,” I said mentioning my baby brother’s death. AIDS had scythed millions across the continent and the scourge ran wild in the streets of Nairobi and New York. I tried to change the subject, however the team were young. They had friends get sick. None of them had money for the medicines.

“It’s like they want to kill us.”

“Corruption,” chorused the Africans.

Free Speech was dangerous in the modern world and Ma’we exhorted the team.

“Eat, eat, eat. We will be walking twenty-miles or thirty kilometers a day. We need food in our stomach, because out on the plains there is nothing, but dust. No beer too.”

“No Kingali too,” laughed the young members of the team. After four days they knew some of my strengths as well as my weaknesses.

“You just jealous, because I’m the designated drinker for you all, but I promise I will beat every one everywhere on the trail from point A to point B.”

“Enough talk. It’s time to go,” said JM.

We were taking our first steps away from civilizations; cars, baths, sheets, beer, TV, and all other global merchandise.

We were free from any conspicuous consumption other than the three liters of H2O in our packs.

Life was impossible without water.

Water in Loitokitok came from Kilimanjaro.

The snowmelt quenched the thirst of millions.

The equatorial sun vanquished the thin ice cap by 9 o’Clock

The team pulled on their backpacks. I estimated the weight of mine as twenty-five pounds. The straps bit into my shoulders. I carried steel in New York. This was a difference weight, because it wasn’t going away until the end of the day’s trek and they would weigh more than twenty pounds very soon.

The main road provided good time. We passed the police checkpoint and continued a mile down the paved asphalt. JM pointed to the right and said, “Now we go to the airport.”


“Yes, if someone on safari wants to fly above Kilimanjaro, they come here for plane. Very safe, but not 100%. Only God is 100%. But tourists arrive at 9am. Still too early.” JM was only speaking to me. He must have thought my redemption was only a few words away from salvation.

“God and the love of a mother for their children. Eternity. In the meanwhile let’s catch up with the team.”

We were twelve. I counted that number twice and said to JM, “Twelve.”

“But not the apostles.”

“Just Kili Initiative Team 2019.”

We slapped high-fives and JM stepped up the pace. I looked into the cloudless sky. It wasn’t hot, but it would be by midday. We caught up with the team. The young people were chatting to each other unlike when they were armed with cell-phones.

I tightened my bootlaces and said, “Let’s go.”

The corn was about eight feet tall. The cobs looked healthy. Goats scavenged the fallen stalks.

“Goat eat everything. Kill everything. Not good.” JM shook his head. We were the same age. The two of us had witnessed the change in the world and I said, It’s bad everywhere.”

The path was known to the guides.

I lagged behind and JM said, “I can’t leave you alone. There are dangerous animals and dangerous people.”

“I understand, but sometimes I want to be alone. Not to hear anyone else.”

“Young people talk a lot,” nodded JM.

“We were young once.”

“Hah. The God in which you do not believe mocks you. We will never be young again, but we can feel young with these people. You will see.”

Sunflowers rose over the path.

I was more concerned about my backpack’s increasing weight and said, “Maybe it weights more because we’re on the equator.”

The team’s face revealed a vote in favor of my theory.

“Only going to get heavier until you get where you want to go.”

I was ready to be planted with the sunflowers.

I drank a half-liter of water.

“The more you carry in your body, the less you carry on your back,” smiled JM, then wagged his finger. “Always have water.”

We strayed across a scrubby slope onto grassy savannah. JM pointed to the distance.

A giraffe.”

“Before many. Good animal. Not same lions or elephants.”

“What about hyenas?”

“Are you scared of ‘fisi’ or hyena?”

“That and a few other things.”


“Sorry, not really. Only hyenas.” Comic books had taught me how to conquer those varmints.

“I haven’t see a sign of a hyena all day. Zebras and elephants. Look up ahead. There a crossing.”

Elephant patty looked the same everywhere.


The few houses in the bush were surrounded by thorns walls.

“The barbed fences might hold off a lion, but nothing stops an elephant.”

We were on our own.

Rock, scrubs, dust.

JM, Ma’we, and I drank hot sweet tea at a military checkpoint. We listened to Kenyan pop. They wondered about the team.

“They should be here soon.” JM pointed up the road.

Safari jeeps appeared from a dust storm to stop at the police roadblock. The locals offered their Chinese-made artifacts to the tourists. The whites remained in their SUVs. I was the only m’zoongoo standing on African dust.

The safari trekkers sat within the AC comfort.

Loners like me scared white people.

We weren’t scared of anything.

Except for the blade of a lawn mower coming loose.

Exploding lawn mowers.

And of course hyenas and those long fanged omnivores weren’t getting hold of me. I conjured up the old comic cover. Killing them a second time was even better than the first.

The team gathered around a map. The young people had to find the next community using a compass. I glanced at the map and saw that the village lay below a low hill.

“Time to go,” announced Ma’we. “The tents are waiting for you and dinner needs to be prepared. This will be your first night under the stars of Africa, so hurry it up.”

We tramped away more or less in the right direction.

It was the only way to go.

Deeper into the plains.

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