4 : LODWAR – MARSABIT
On my return to Lodwar from Lokitaung, I somehow got the impression that Mr. Whitehouse had no intention of letting me leave the district. If he could have had his way, I am sure he would have liked me to stay on there as long as I wanted to. Things didn’t work out quite that way though, and I soon found that my days at Lodwar were coming to an end. I had served more than the normal eighteen months — in fact I’d been in Turkana for nearly two years now.
A Goan District Clerk at Marsabit (also one of the districts of the Northern Frontier Province) — but climatically, the direct opposite of Lodwar — had requested a move from Marsabit. The Provincial Commissioner at the time, Mr. R. G. Turnbull (now Sir Richard Turnbull), had suggested that we two should exchange places. The DC at Marsabit wanted me urgently and was anxious that the move should be completed before the arrival of the long rains.
Mr. Whitehouse was equally determined that I should stay on for as long as he could ‘hold on’ to me. I did not mind this in the least, but very much hoped that the move would not take place before my girl-friend and her family, who were then on holiday at the coast, had returned to Kitale. Unfortunately for me though, this was not to be and in late 1950, the posting orders had been issued. Although the actual date of the move was left to be negotiated between the two District Commissioners, the PC had made it plain that he wanted the transfers completed well before the rainy season. Because of the infrequency of mails between Lodwar and Marsabit and vice versa, a great deal of correspondence pertaining to my move had to be conducted by telegram, a not uncommon method of communication in the N.F.D.
There were many friends I had made in the Turkana district particularly at Lodwar — not just among the Administration staff but also some of the personnel from the other Government offices, medical staff, P & T operators and the Italian brick foreman, Giovanni Fadi, who had arrived at Lodwar a few months before I was due to leave. In addition to the two Asian traders, there was another veteran Somali trader, Farah Issa, a retired policeman who had served the Government well during his days. He was blind in one eye but managed to run his little duka fairly well. He had ploughed all his service gratuity into this duka, and although I often wondered how he made a living — especially since his turnover was nowhere near that of the two Asians, he seemed quite happy with the small quantities of tobacco, tea, salt and sugar he sold to the local Turkana.He also kept a supply of shukas (a calico wrap round) since this item of clothing was very much in demand. A grand old man Farah Issa really was; whenever there was a ceremonial parade or similar occasion, he would always turn out with all his service medals, and wore these with pride.
An anthropologist (P. H. Gulliver) and his wife had also arrived from England to carry out a study of the Turkana tribe a few months before I left Lodwar. I was often amazed at the fluency with which Gulliver spoke to the Turkana in their local dialect — not an easy language by any means. When news of my transfer was officially out, several farewell parties were organized for me. The DC and DO both had me over for drinks, so also did the two Asian traders, even though one was a Muslim. Religious differences (one of the traders was a Hindu) were conveniently forgotten when it came to eating meat or drinking intoxicating liquor. Perhaps when one lives in areas like Lodwar, under what can best be described as difficult conditions, even the Almighty shows greater mercy!
I was truly sad when the day of my departure from Lodwar finally came. On my outward journey, there was time to wave the occasional kwaheri to some of the familiar faces I had come to know and love during my stay in this isolated corner of Kenya. I was now looking forward to the challenge awaiting me at Marsabit.
On arrival at Kitale, I was sorry not to be able to call on my girl-friend and her parents who, as mentioned earlier, were holidaying at Malindi. I spent a few hours at the offices of Mr. A. M. Kaka who I had got to know quite well. We talked about the good times at Lodwar and he said he was very sorry to see me leave the district. Since the Kitale-Nairobi train was not due to leave until later that evening, I decided to make my way to the town centre and bid farewell to the many friends I’d made at Kitale; I knew quite a few people here, not just members of my own community who I used meet either at Church or at the Goan Institute, but even some of the Asian and Somali traders. My Indian tailor, Mr. Solanki, could hardly conceal his disappointment when I told him I was leaving the area. He was an expert bespoke tailor, whose work was of a very high standard. I assured him that the order for my wedding suit would be his! There were other traders I also called on — Maganlal Anderji) who supplied all our fresh vegetables and a Mr. Patel, a very lively and diminutive employee who was employed by Kitale Bakery. This establishment, which was very popular among the local farmers, was run by a husband and wife team — Willie Woods and his wife. (My girl-friend supervised most of the provision deliveries that came to me each week from Kitale Bakery.)
Later that evening, I was driven to the railway station by Mr. Kaka and boarded the train for Nairobi. As my compartment had previously been reserved, there was no real problem of getting to the station early. The journey to Eldoret was quite pleasant, and here we had to wait for a few hours until the mail train from Uganda had arrived. I remained awake until our coaches had been connected to this train and remember leaving Eldoret about midnight. That night, I slept very well, waking up only occasionally when we stopped at some of the stations en route. Late the following morning, we were at Nairobi, and here I spent two days with friends before continuing the journey to Marsabit via Nyeri, Nanyuki and Isiolo.
Since most of my warm clothing had been left behind at Kitale (l had no real need for this in the heat of Lodwar), and with my girl-friend and her family away at the coast, I had arrived in Nairobi with the bare minimum of summer attire. This after all, was my only wardrobe at Lodwar. While the light-weight clothes would be adequate for the journey up to Isiolo, I would certainly be needing something more protective and warm for the onward trip to Marsabit, and also for my first few weeks there — until such time as the bulk of my packages were sent on from Kitale. A friend of mine at Nairobi very kindly lent me his tweed jacket, which not only fitted me perfectly, but also came in very handy.
From Nairobi, I took a train to Nanyuki, a small town some 7,000 feet above sea level, standing near the base of Mount Kenya. Nanyuki, like Kitale, was a farming town where some of the well-known Kenya pioneers had settled — among them, the late Major Robert Foran, who was the original Commandant of Kenya’s Police Force. lt was also here at Nanyuki that the luxurious Mount Kenya Safari Lodge, owned at one time by the actor, the late William Holden, now stands. The journey from Nairobi to Nanyuki was quite pleasant, and we passed through quite a few stations en route, among them being Thika and Nyeri. From Nyeri onwards, the climate changed steadily and I was now beginning to feel the cold — perhaps because of the proximity of this area to Mount Kenya.
At Nanyuki station, I was met by the District Cashier, a smart and well groomed Goan, Mr. J. N. D’Costa. He looked impeccable and made me feel completely at home from the very moment I met him. He later took me home and here I must admit to being very touched by his hospitality. D’Costa entertained me lavishly and I listened with interest to the stories he had to tell of his experiences in some of the more remote districts he had served in. He was a much-travelled man, and knew my in·laws-to-be well. Although his wife and family were away in India at the time, I was impressed at the way in which he kept his home exceptionally neat and tidy. I felt very proud myself and thought that here was a rare breed of those early Goans who were a real credit to our community and who had, in their own way, done much for the country. The next morning, D’Costa took me to his office where I was introduced to some of the other staff. Later the same day, I was collected by a Land Rover from the DC’s office and driven to Isiolo, headquarters of the N.F.D.
The contrast from Nanyuki to Isiolo was quite striking and reminded me so much of being in Lodwar again. In many respects, Isiolo was very much like Lodwar — hot and dusty but with a more civilized outlook than Turkana. As we entered the township, I noticed a rather untidy row of tin-roofed shops sprawled on either side. It looked as though there were more shops than the population needed, but I am sure most of them made quite a decent living. I also observed a great movement of traffic in the town — a euphorbia hedge seemed to provide a sort of one-way traffic system. For me, it all seemed too organized when compared to Lodwar.
I was driven straight to the PC’s office where I met an old friend from Kitale days — Martin Rocha (‘Dick’ to his friends). Since the Provincial clerk, Francis da Lima, was away in Kisumu on leave, I stayed with Dick. I had heard a great deal about Francis da Lima — a shy and unassuming person who was more than a PA to successive Provincial Commissioners. Although his official designation was ‘PC’s clerk’, I was well aware that his skill at stenography and general office efficiency, could well have earned him a far higher salary in a commercial organization in Kenya than the normal civil service emoluments he was receiving at the time.
Being the Provincial headquarters for the Northern Frontier Province, there was a larger concentration of staff at Isiolo, both European and Goan and during my two-day stay there, Dick Rocha made sure that I met all the Goans in the town. Most of the clerical staff in the various Government departments were Goan, including the Postmaster Isiolo at the time. There was also a charming Seychellois family I met that evening — Albert and Rose Lawrence (Albert worked for the Transport division of the Kenya Police). The whole crowd at Isiolo were a very hospitable lot who, despite their petty differences got on well together, especially when there was a visitor about! There is no denying the fact that differences such as where one worked, i.e. Administration or Police departments, did exist. Rightly or wrongly, those of us who worked for Administration were regarded as a sort of élite, a special class people who commanded much respect and authority in the district where they served. Understandably, this was a constant bone of contention among the other staff, and I know that such feelings were not confined to the Goan community alone, but existed among European staff as well.
During the course of the social get-together, these differences were forgotten, even though momentarily, and everyone seemed cheerful and in good spirits. The drinks (Scotch or South African Mellow Wood brandy for those who liked spirits, and beer for the likes of me) were flowing freely, as they always did in the N.F.D.! There was no fear of our running short of booze or food on this occasion. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves, and some of us broke into party songs. If you didn’t already know it Goans are at their best when singing together some of their favourite folk songs — the mandos and other similar nostalgic and sentimental tunes. Music is very much part of a Goan’s life. I had a wonderful evening and wished it had never ended — alas, all good things must come to an end!
After this short stay at Isiolo, I was taken to Marsabit in a truck belonging to a Goan trader — J. B. Fernandes & Son. Fernandes had died some years previously, but the business was still being carried out in his name by his surviving partner, another Goan, by the name of Simoes*. [He died in a Nyeri hospital during my tour at Marsabit.] This gentleman was to be my escort on the long journey to Marsabit. Although he looked old for his age, he was very tough, and I immediately sensed from his rugged complexion that he was no stranger to the N.F.D. His bloodshot eyes confirmed my earlier suspicions that here was a man who loved his liquor. He was one of those Goans who had come out to the frontier in the pioneering and more adventurous days when life itself must have been truly hard. There was no proper transport then; people often travelled on donkeys, camels, or even on foot, and Simoes had experienced all these different modes of travel. He had lived for many years in the Marsabit district, and had even married into the Boran tribe. Although he was about fifty years old when I met him, his Gabbra wife who had borne him a son (whom they called Henry), couldn’t have been more than eighteen or nineteen years old. She was a very young and attractive woman with clear cut features. Simoes, who was well known within the district was affectionately referred to as ‘Simmis’ by the locals.
Throughout the journey, he was very helpful to me, treating me more like his own son. I was beginning to feel quite embarrassed over all the fuss that was being made of me. He would stop at regular intervals to offer me (and himself partake of), a bottle of beer. From the pocket of his half-torn jacket, he would produce, what to me looked like a crumpled sandwich. There was no doubt that he meant well when he kept reassuring me in my native tongue, Konkani, that a drink of beer was a very good tonic for a long and rough journey.
In fact he felt it was vital to keep one’s spirits up. Well, who was I to disagree? We had left Isiolo fairly late that afternoon. As a rule, most frontier travel is undertaken during the late evenings or at nights because of the intolerable daytime heat. Our first stop was briefly at Archer’s Post (where the Buffalo Springs Game Reserve now stands). This post which lies on the Nanyuki-Addis Ababa road, was set up in 1909 by Geoffrey Archer on the northern bank of the Uaso river, whilst on his way to establish a station at Marsabit. I understand it was also intended to serve as a supply and transport depot for Marsabit and Moyale, and a Police Post too. The whole place was quite deserted now, but relics of its past glory were still to be seen. Just off Archer’s Post, our Somali driver, Kassim, stopped briefly to talk to a group of individuals who were walking along our route, and who he must have recognized. When he returned to the cab, he took out some shoots of miraa from his pocket, and mixing them with sugar, began to chew them. There is no suggestion that the friends had given him this illegal plant. It was more than likely that he had obtained it either from Nanyuki or perhaps Isiolo. Possession of miraa was an offence under the Dangerous Drugs Laws of Kenya but Kassim must have known that I was certainly not going to report him. He even tried to offer me some of the ‘drug’, but I politely declined. Miraa, which is often purported to be an aphrodisiac, also has, so at least I was told by Kassim — a calming effect on those who use it, and was intended to keep drivers awake and alert during such tedious journeys. I found it difficult to believe this, especially since on several occasions during the trip, Kassim appeared visibly ‘dopey’ to me.
After a brief stop not far from Archer’s Post, we continued our journey. I must say I was enjoying every moment of the trip; the landscape kept changing all the time. From the built-up and sun-baked township of Isiolo, we were entering a semi-desert region. The vegetation consisted of thorn bush and scrub. Now and then, we ran into a whole brood of guinea fowl. They looked so majestic and elegant in their polka-dotted plumage. At times, they appeared tame and seemed quite oblivious of our truck which was heading in their direction. The area also had its complement of other game. There was the almost bashful gerenuk — balancing on its hind legs to reach the few available twigs — gazelle and the nervous-looking dik-dik. The whole scene was so wonderful, and as if to add a touch of colour to the whole spectacle, a lone tribesman would appear, almost from nowhere, spear in hand — trekking along this harsh and desolate terrain. He had no fear of man or beast so long as he had his spear about him. The African sky was at its best, beautifully lit up by million starry lights. It is only in places like these that one gets, or rather makes, the time to stop and admire the marvels of God’s creation.
We were now heading in the direction of Wamba, a small trading post in the Samburu country, which lies on the western edge of the deserts of Northern Kenya. We decided to stop here for a brew up and rest. I could see that this was a regular stopping over point, and there was ample evidence to show that passing travellers had pitched camp here; half cleared fire places, the odd empty tin of corned beef or peas — all these were a clear indication that the site was a popular camping spot among travellers who used this route.
As we prepared to settle down, a group of Samburu warriors walked up and greeted us with cries of “Soba, soba” (this was the local greeting similar to the Ki-Swahili “Jambo”). The Samburu are a very colourful tribe, akin in many respects to their cousins, the Masai. The warriors, standing heron-like, spear in hand, are just the sort of material an artist would be looking for. (Alas, I am no artist else I would have drawn some very interesting people in very interesting poses too!)
Not far from here was the Matthews range, so named after Sir Lloyd Matthews, Commander-in-Chief of the Sultan of Zanzibar’s army, I was told. Refreshed by the cup of ‘chai’ we now continued our journey to Marsabit passing at first, Lololokwe, a towering rock which rises from the very foot of the road and juts over the road junction itself. The air all along was still warm and sticky, and there was little or no change in the vegetation. Quite often, as our truck raced through the dry and desolate wilderness, small gangs of tribesmen would appear and wave to us. I was told that these men sometimes walked several miles in a day, often without any food or drink; they seemed none the worse for it. Most of the tribes along this route were Rendille who, like their neighbours, the Samburu, are a nomadic and pastoral tribe. The road between Wamba and Marsabit consists of many dried river beds called luggas. The tribes who inhabit this region can sometimes be seen digging up these dry beds in a desperate search for water during the dry season. Incredible though this may sound, these very luggas can prove quite dangerous during the rainy season; they can often become fierce torrents, several feet in depth, capable of washing away lorries and even bridges. The floods can rise in minutes and disappear almost as quickly! On the road between the Lololokwe rock and Marsabit lies Laisamis, a small post where I was told we would be stopping and calling on the local Chief. It did not take us long to reach Laisamis, and here again, as was the case at Wamba, we were surrounded by the local tribesmen. The Rendille are very akin to other nomadic tribes of the frontier; they are pastoralists, and it is sad to see some of their old culture disappearing these days — all in the name of progress. While the Samburu greeting soba is also understood among the Rendille, I could hear a new greeting which ran more like … “aye dho, napa heite?” Translated literally, this probably means ‘heIlo, how are you?’
Greetings were exchanged all round amidst scenes of great jubilation. There was one man who really stood out among these very primitive tribesmen — he was an imposing figure of a man, very tall and ‘beefy’, who resembled the one-eyed Cyclops. He wore an ochre-coloured blanket which was thrown rather untidily around his whole body. “Jambo Bwana,” he said in a thundering and authoritative. voice. ‘“Jambo Chief,” I replied. I had been previously told that this was Chief Ejerre of the Rendille tribe. I shook his hand — a truly massive hand, and felt so much like a Lilliputian in front of this mighty ‘Gulliver’. “Karibu Bwana,” he continued, “manyatta yangu ni karibu sana, angalia huko, ” (welcome Bwana, my manyatta is very close by, look there), inviting me over to his homestead. I was warned about the milk I would be offered from a gourd (possibly camel or goat milk) — and told that drunk by anyone not used to it, the milk could well act as laxative! Not only this; it was quite possible that the gourd may contain a few flies (the tribesmen don’t seem to worry unduly about them). As it so happened, I was offered the milk and, not wishing to appear unmannerly, I took a small sip and then politely refused any more. I was nevertheless touched by the Chief’s hospitality. Obviously sensing that I had not enjoyed the fly-infested drink, my Goan escort Simoes, quickly got our driver to organize another brew up. This was a welcome relief, and the peculiar taste which the smoke-smelling and fly-infested milk had left in my mouth disappeared — but not before giving me an awfully ‘sickish’ feeling.
Chief Ejerre also joined us for a cup of tea; we later shook hands, and while I was busy talking and thanking him for his hospitality, several tribesmen kept milling around me, and with broad smiles on their faces, shook hands with me in turn. It was certainly a memorable and moving occasion for me. Amidst shouts of “asante sana Bwana” (Thank you Sir), and “Kwaheri” (Goodbye), we left Laisamis and all these good folk behind.
Between Laisamis and Marsabit lay the Milgis lugga where during the rainy season, many a traveller was delayed on his safari because of the sudden floods which made the whole road impassable. I was told that we were very fortunate to be crossing this particular section when it was relatively dry. The road, was now getting more and more bumpy, and my heart went out to the turn-boy, Ali, and others who were perched atop several sacks of maize meal and other stores which were stacked at the back of the lorry. It was a rough enough ride sitting in the driver’s cab. Large rocks, strewn unevenly over our path, made our truck bounce up and down as we drove along. Our driver Kassim knew this area well, and carefully manoeuvred the lorry so as to avoid some of the rocks and loose stones hitting the petrol tank. To any driver unaccustomed to these roads, I felt sure a lot of damage could be caused to the petrol tank; as for someone using a smaller vehicle, the sump would be the first to go!
We had hardly covered a few miles when we noticed a truck approaching us from the Marsabit direction. Whispers of “gari ya DC” (the DC’s lorry) could be heard. The driver of our truck and some of the occupants who knew the DC’s truck and driver (Abdalla) well, had guessed rightly. The vehicle was in fact that of the DC Marsabit. In a gesture obviously intended to convey respect for authority, Kassim stopped as we approached the DC’s vehicle, and we all got out. This also proved a wonderful opportunity for me to stretch my legs. I felt too cramped sitting in the one position for so long. From the other truck emerged a stocky figure of a man who walked up to me, hand outstretched and said, “So you must be Mr. Maciel from Lodwar. ”“Yes,” I replied politely.
“My name is Bebb, and I am the DC Marsabit,” he continued. All very official! After we had spoken for a few moments, he apologized for not being in the boma to welcome me but added that he had made temporary arrangements for my accommodation. I thanked him and we then left — heading for Marsabit, while the DC and his party were on their way to Laisamis where, I was told, a stock sale had been arranged in conjunction with the Kenya Meat Commission representative and the Veterinary Officer for the Province. As was the practice in other N.F.D. stations as well, such stock sales coincided with a tax collection drive.
It was interesting to note the variation in temperatures as we continued our journey. Whereas only a few hours ago we were still feeling a near-desert type of heat, we now felt a distinct and sudden drop in temperature as we headed towards Marsabit. We were entering what is now the Marsabit National Reserve. This is an area which abounds in game of varied species — lion, buffalo, leopard and another great creature which seems created solely for this environment — the mighty elephant. This was the area where the legendary elephant Ahmed roamed and where he and his herd reigned supreme. (Although I did not see Ahmed on this particular occasion, I was fortunate to see this stately looking elephant at close quarters, on several other occasions during my stay at Marsabit.)
As we continued on our trail, I was filled with excitement as our driver announced that we would soon be seeing some ndofu (elephants). For a moment I wondered how he knew the ‘homes’ of these mighty creatures so well. Kassim was right however, and spoke with some knowledge when he mentioned the elephants to me.
The excitement within me grew, and when I heard cries of “angali ndofu kuIe” (look, elephant there!) I could hardly believe my eyes. There, a few hundred yards in front of us, a herd of elephants was crossing the road and seemed in no hurry at all. Why should they be — this was, after all, their domain which we, humans, were invading and their majestic strides seemed to convey to man that in this area THEY were the masters!
Scarcely could I have wished for a better sight — elephants at such close quarters and in their natural surroundings; but, they were not to be provoked. How I wished I had a camera with me at the time. We allowed them to cross the road (as though we had any choice!); trumpeting almost angrily at seeing us, they disappeared into the dense forest that surrounds Marsabit Mountain. Their trumpeting kept echoing all the way as they slowly disappeared into the thick bush. Parts of the road along which we were now travelling were strewn with large mounds of elephant droppings, which was further proof that this was an area much used by them.
We were now within a few miles of Marsabit and I was beginning to feel the cold even more; this was only natural since I had been used to the hot and dry climate of Lodwar. As we drove along, we passed a few villagers standing by the roadside, their bodies shielded from the cold Marsabit air with a long piece of fabric resembling a shawl. Most of them waved welcomingly to us. The vegetation here was greener — lush green in fact, which gave one the impression that some kind miraculous transformation must have taken place. As we moved on, the mist, which now seemed to envelop the whole area, began getting denser and denser; visibility was reduced to almost nil in some places, and I wondered how our driver would negotiate his way along this route even though I was aware that the vehicle’s front lights were switched on. In the distance, hidden partly by increasing clouds of mist which cover one section of Marsabit Mountain, we could see the forests. The temperature was dropping steadily and I was beginning to get colder — so much so that I reached out for my pullover and tweed jacket (this is the one I had borrowed in Nairobi). Simoes and Kassim meanwhile kept assuring me that despite the cold and misty atmosphere, I would get to like Marsabit. They tried to ‘console’ me by saying that the weather in this district was ‘always like this’, especially in the mornings.
Before we had even arrived in the boma, , they lost no time in wishing me well, and hoped I would be kept in Marsabit for many years — “InshaIlah” (God willing) they kept saying, and “InshaIlah” I replied enthusiastically.
The last snaking section into Marsabit boma was the slowest part of the trip. With thick mist wrapped tightly round the entire area like a blanket of smoke, our truck struggled almost helplessly over this final stretch, at times looking as though she wouldn’t quite make the steep bend.· We were travelling in first gear and I could sense the strain on the truck from the sheer sound of the engine. We negotiated this part of the road fairly successfully, and as though wishing to give the impression that it had come to life again, the truck continued proudly along the last few hundred yards, parking outside the DC’s office.
Here to meet me were the staff of the Provincial Administration — the Cashier, Tom Lobo, District Clerk, Joe Aguiar (who I was to replace) and David Dabasso, a local Gabbra from the Marsabit area who was the Asst. District clerk. David was a young man, handsome, very smartly dressed and well spoken. We walked into the office — a rather unimpressive and modest building which none the less blended with the surrounding area.
Like Lodwar, the DC’s office at Marsabit was also the local Post Office, and as the sacks of mail were off loaded from the truck and brought in to the office, I noticed the anxious and excited looks on the faces of some of the officials who had all now crowded into the tiny office. Mail sorting time was always an anxious period for everyone — it was a time when we received news from Kenya (those of us who lived in the N.F.D. always referred to places beyond Isiolo as ‘Kenya’ as though we lived in a different country!) While all the excitement was going on at the office, an
elderly looking member of the staff, smart in his khaki uniform, which bore the letters “D . C. MBT” (in red) across his breast pocket, hobbled up to me, and stretching out his hand greeted me with a very warm “Jambo Bwana” handshake. He was smiling broadly while at the same time chewing some tobacco. I gathered this was Shalle Hirbo, the office boy. He had lost a leg in a train accident in Nairobi some years ago, and though crippled and now fitted with an artificial leg, walked without the aid of crutches or a walking stick. He was a Burji by tribe and came from the Moyale area. A very efficient and dependable worker, I was told Shalle had given many years of faithful service to the Administration at Marsabit. He remembered many of the old DCs, notably Major H. B. Sharpe, Sir Vincent Glenday and Sir Walter Coutts (who later became Governor of Uganda). I was greatly impressed by this simple man from the very
first moment I met him. Here was a man who made little of his disability and instead radiated a great amount of joy and happiness among others both inside and outside the office.
After spending some time in the office — during which I met several more local staff and townsfolk — I was taken to the house of my hosts, Mr. and Mrs. Tom Lobo. This in itself was a breakaway from tradition which always required the outgoing officer to entertain his successor. It so happened that Joe Aguiar was staying with a police clerk and his wife (a Mr. and Mrs. Raymond D’Souza) and rather than enter into the politics of it all, I gladly accepted the invitation to stay with the Lobo family. However, the subtle differences that existed between the Administration and police staff were now beginning to come to the surface. The Lobos had three young children — all girls; in many respects, I felt more at home with this family. Here, I also met a young and handsome police clerk by the name of John D’Souza. Although John had his own Burji cook, he had, in view of his imminent departure on vacation leave to Goa, decided to spend the last few days with the Lobos — an arrangement that was mutually convenient.
When I enquired about my own housing, I was told that I was not, under any circumstances, to accept the temporary accommodation that had very hurriedly been prepared for me. The tiny and dark mud and wattle hut had been previously used by one of the local Boran labourers who also kept his sheep in the same room! While efforts had undoubtedly been made to give the hut a good spring cleaning, in anticipation of my arrival, I found the place quite uninhabitable; animal droppings could still be seen on the floor and the stench from the urine soaked mud floor was quite overpowering. The Lobos very kindly agreed that I could have my meals with them; as for my sleeping accommodation, two police clerks (Messrs.’ Falcao and Moraes), both bachelors, agreed that I could temporarily lodge with them. This seemed a very practical arrangement, and when I met the DC the following day, I informed him of my plans. He raised no objection.
In readiness for his home leave, John D’Souza had packed most of his luggage and stored it in the police store. Being the handsome bachelor he was, I knew he would have no difficulty in finding a suitable bride once he had landed in Goa. I was fairly certain that he intended to get married while on holiday; this was, after all, a pattern followed by most Goans whenever they went on home leave as bachelors. (Normally, once news of the impending arrival of the ‘eligible’ bachelor reached his village in Goa, several ‘likely’ brides would be vetted by his mother and close relatives.) The final choice would be made when the young bachelor arrived home!
Within a few weeks of my arrival, I found I had settled in quite well at Marsabit — the damp and misty weather made no difference. I hoped I would be kept here for a long time, and realized then why this district had been one of the popular choices of most officers when it came to transferring within the N.F.D. The Lobo family looked after me very well. It was customary in those days for the bachelors to meet on Saturday afternoons at the Lobo household. Here, while we were all entertained with glasses of fine Kenya ale by Tom, Mrs. Lobo would treat us to some of her tasty potato chops — a savoury potato and mince rissole which went down very well with drinks! After this initial entertainment, we would all retire to our individual quarters, where our mpishis (cooks) were eagerly waiting to serve lunch (or as they say in Ki-Swahili — “ku pakua chakula”). This entertainment pattern was repeated each Saturday in rotation, each of us being given the opportunity of playing host. In this way, no one felt they were being taken advantage of, and the whole arrangement worked very well and seemed very popular. The European officials followed a routine very similar to ours.
As I have already said in these pages, Marsabit was a place I was fascinated with from the very first moment I set foot there, and because of the very special place it occupies in my heart, I am devoting the next chapter to the period I spent there.