Okay – here’s a brain teaser. What do you get when you cross a donkey with a horse? Answer: You get a smart ass! Actually, you get a mule.
“Mules are very tough animals,” explains Rosalie Faull who runs Samburu Trails, a trekking safari into the wilderness of the northern frontiers on donkeys and mules. A handsome chestnut coloured mule runs across the garden to join the others grazing with the pack of donkeys. “They are very sure-footed and with a western-style saddle, very comfortable to ride. It’s like sitting in a big arm chair.”
We’ve just driven in from Maralal, which disappears into the valley below as we drive up the high glades of Leroghi Plateau, the air cool and crisp, the rains turning everything a magical lush green, with old man’s beard hanging from the branches of the ancient podo and cedar trees, showing how pure and clean the air is. We reach Porro, a tiny Samburu hamlet that l’ve never heard of before.
Maralal’s one of those really interesting towns in the outback, a frontier perched in a valley near a great fault line that happens to be the Great Rift Valley with a stunning view of the deep gorge that on a windy day can sweep a skinny person off the edge and into the deep sink. It’s also a town that’s the headquarters of the Samburu, cousins of the Maasai and in modern history, where Mzee Jomo Kenyatta was under restriction order after his compulsory confinement in Lodwar where he had been for two years short of elevan days. Maralal became known as the half way house between Lodwar and Nairobi, where Kenyatta and his young family stayed from 4 April to August 14 1961 before they were flown to Nairobi. The house is a museum, aptly called the Jomo Kenyatta House.