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Bush Dinner


Silver-service bush dinner, Masai Mara, Kenya safari"Meet in the lodge foyer at 8pm." I heard Pankaj telling the girls as I returned with my third helping of lunch. Tanya turned to me: "Dress warm," she said, "it's the bush dinner tonight!" I was thrilled at the idea. "So what happens at a bush dinner?" I inquired. Nobody had a clue!

I chewed over the information, slowly, along with my lunch and allowed my fertile imagination to run riot. Was this some kind of Maasai ceremony in which we, the guests, would be required to sample the real local cuisine? The thought tantalised my adventurous spirit and yet haunted me at the same time - I was a little wary of tribal delicacies. Indeed, to decline barbecued buffalo bollocks is tantamount to spitting in your host's face in these parts. Nonetheless, I felt a tremor of excitement later that evening as our jeep approached a moonlit throng of revellers.

The chill wind carried Conradian sounds of satanic rituals and delicious aromas. I huddled inside my jacket and resolved that if buffalo bollocks tasted as good as they smelled I'd give them a go.

We headed towards the hub of noise. A shrill cry made me falter in my stride: any suggestion of human sacrifice and I'd be off.

The shriek turned to laughter as we joined a surprisingly, civilised gathering: silverware, tablecloths and flickering candles adorned the tables; elegantly folded napkins protruded from fluted wine glasses - and there was no sign of a sacrificial alter - just a sizzling barbecue yielding familiar cuts of meat! Nothing, to my relief, resembled reproductive organs.

Suddenly, Peter, the Aussie, yelled over from his table: "Have ya seen the dunny?"
"What, here?" I asked with surprise.
"Yeah!" said Peter, grinning from ear to ear. "It beats the hell out of the one on the plane!"
A hole in the ground would have been better than the one on the plane.
"It's an Armitage Shanks!" Peter yelled, laughing, "You know, proper Porcelain!"
We'd arrived on different flights, but shared our stories and, clearly, the toilet facilities were standard on all. Peter's wife had headed for the loo when she felt sick and encountered similar emotions, ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous.

Masai Warriors loom from out of the darkness, Masai Mara, Kenya safari With heightened appetites (and now a toilet, should things turn sour) the four of us filled our plates from the vast array of silver platters and sat down to eat.

In mid chew, I paused to listen to a strange but familiar humming sound that seemed to be coming towards us. I had already noted our vulnerability; out here in the savage wilderness, with neither the metal confines of our jeep nor the deterrent of electrocution from wire boundaries.
Out of the darkness emerged a myriad of red, dancing figures. Was it an ambush? They jumped and chanted, shrieked and hummed and their fierce faces became visible under the lamps hanging on the trees.
It was then that I recognised my friend Fred. I'd got to know him the first day when I went on a 'safari walk'. He was Maasai, but lacked the tall, slender features that typified his graceful, semi-nomadic tribe. Round, gold-rimmed glasses perched studiously on his nose and a gentle nature betrayed his warrior garb. He would have looked more at home with a satchel of books under his arm, than roaming the savannah in search of grass for his cows.

Masai warrior dance, Masai Mara, Kenya safariThe Masai, many of which I now recognised, performed their warrior dance: one by one, they stepped out of line and leaped as high as they could in an attempt to outdo the last and claim the position of chief. To a chorus of low-pitched hums, they soared into the night sky, with gravity-defying agility.
When Fred's turn came, I spied several of them giggling - Fred included - as he attempted to launch himself into the air. It wasn't fair! Fred was about 5ft 7in tall, competing with 6ft plus - they had a head start.
Whatever the excuse, it was a feeble show; Fred would never be chief! After the feast and the dance, we took our bulging bellies and wine glasses to an inviting bonfire, in the middle of a seated enclave, next to the river. Read on for the Great Wildebeest Migration...


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