The day behind the frame

Life is made out of a collection of moments that for some unapparent reason our brains choose to retain as a very vivid highlight.

One morning I was scheduled to travel by myself, with a company camera to try and film the activity at the hyena den. I had received a crash course about how to use this fancy equipment and armed with a flask and packet of chocolate digestive cookies (which are perhaps the most sought after item in the kitchen after food delivery day) I set out on the long escarpment road that about 40min later would take me to my tyre-chewing friends.

That morning I was the only one of our camp out and about, the boys had come home in the early hours of the morning after following other spots through the night in their hunting quest.

As most mornings I was admiring and enjoying seeing the hot air balloons set off and glide through the morning skies. The whole scene was made so intensively beautiful, sometimes I had to pinch myself to remember to take it all in, to take the raw beauty of everything around me and memorize it so that as the sight became a memory, I wouldn’t forget one single detail.

This particular morning the blue hues of the Mara were made more intense by the mist that still lingered after the previous’ night storm. Everything around us was in different shades of blue and purple that are so unique to Kenya and that I came to truly appreciate.

Mara morning glory

As I drove, coffee cup in hand (it’s a skill I’ve been perfecting through the years), I saw the car in front of me swerve to the left, confirming my suspicions: there were lions walking down the road. For an unknown reason, the truck in front of me decided to bypass the lions and drove away leaving me all alone with the intensity of the colours, the Masai Mara and 3 girls firmly walking towards me. I parked off the road and allowed them to get ahead of me, the scene that unfolded was pretty special

When they stopped, I scrambled inside the car to try and immortalize a moment that we shared.

It’s almost as they could also appreciate the uniqueness of the morning sky and the floating colours of the balloons.

All of us sharing the stunning view

Truth is they were probably looking at the herd of buffalo in the distance, which was sitting just below the balloons.

After this, slowly but surely cars started accumulating and drivers were asking me what I could see (that yellow square sticker does get people to try and figure out what you’re looking at).

“Lions. Walking there”

After they went onto the long grass, Titus came driving and stopped next to me.

“What is there?”
“See down there, close to that mound to the right? The lions are there, stalking the topi I think. They were looking at the buffalo earlier”
“Oh, there. Did you see there is a cow giving birth in the herd?”
“Oh really?! No, I missed it. I’ll go check it out”

We sat in silence for a few more minutes, the lionesses kept approaching the topi and we could only see a black tip of the tail every so often.

“There’s a lonely bull there”
“Oh I see. Seems like they’re after the him now”

With baited breath we waited for some action to unfold, patiently waiting for the lions to approach their prey, hidden by the long grass. It wasn’t long before we saw the bull dash off in a full speed run. Horns held high, impossibly quick pace, the bull left the pride of lions as he found them: hungry, thus returning alive to the safety of the herd.

I decided to leave and head off to the hyenas who that day were hiding in the safety of the den. When returning upon where I had left the lions I got stopped by one of the guides:

“Why did you leave? The lions hunted”
“Oh no, did they go for the herd?”
“They got a newborn”
“Oh, where did they go?”
“They’re by that tree that they like to climb”

I eventually managed to find the adults that lead me to the tree they liked to climb, and at the base of that tree I could see the flicking tails of anger and growls that accompany a lion meal.

I didn’t get any more photos or worthy pictures of the lions that morning, even though I smashed the small screen of my camera swapping between my DSLR and the video camera in the attempt. Perhaps it was a blessing in disguise (… maybe not as now I have to pay to get it fixed), but the one photo I managed to take before everything happened is a great way of triggering a succession of events in my head, the epitome of how a short moment that is captured and remembered so vividly, is only really a small part of a bigger picture in this unique way of life.

These little things that makes us remember this, these are the ones that make it all worth it.

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