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Thieves in the Cabbage Fields



We love Will’s amusing escapade with thieves in the cabbage fields at Mount Kenya Farm!

“Njogu! Njogu!” At first I thought I was dreaming, so I turned in my bed to find the sleep that comes so easily, somehow in the tranquil high valleys of Mount Kenya .  “Njogu! Twende! Sasa!”  I heard it again this time louder - and through the closed curtains of my eyes I was aware of something glowing, an ember light brighter than the ochre soil of Kenya.

Then a louder cry from outside my bedroom door.  It was Phoebe who looks after the guests at Mount Kenya Farm.  “Peter - come - we must help, Njogu!  Elephant!”  I leapt out of bed and into my jeans and safari boots in one wild movement and as I did so I could hear the commotion getting louder.  I took time to glance out of the window before joining Phoebe and her family outside.  All around and right into the distance were small fires on neighbouring farms and now people were banging pots and pans and crying with more urgency…”Njogu….Waee…Waee.  Mount Kenya was anything but tranquil tonight!

The rural landscape was alive with the cries of women and children and as I stepped outside I could see that Francis, the friendly Maasai who guards the farm was lighting a big fire in the corner of our plot.  On adjacent farms I could make out the shapes of men and boys running behind old car tires they had filled set alight with paraffin to scare the elephant away from their precious crops.  The tires pounced and spun chaotically like giant Catharine Wheels out of control.

Purity, the owner of the Mount Kenya Farm speaks perfect English and she was able to explain to me that every so often the elephant come down from the forest to forage for food. “One adult elephant can eat a field of cabbages a quick as you eat my cooked breakfast,” she said, “when they come down to the farms, we all get together and scare them back to the forest”.

Within minutes I was being set up with elephant chasing equipment - in my case an old Ovaltine tin half full of paraffin attached to a long hoop of stiff wire.  I felt a bit nervous as she lit a rag doused in the paraffin and put it in the tin, but I soon found my stride and I was swirling it around my head in a great flaming arc.  I ran off through the field next to the farm and joined others with their whirring, flaming tins and frying pan drums.  The noise and colour was amazing. But there was no sign of a 'Njogu'.

Suddenly, I saw the most amazing sight - silhouetted against the bonfires two or three fields away was a whole family of elephant careering back across the illuminated bush.  They were flapping their ears and 'hollering' in deep, bass cries.  I suddenly felt very alone.  What if there was a big bull elephant behind me now - between me and the house.  I moved on cautiously looking around me, keeping close to the others for safety.

As quickly as it had all begun, the urgency seemed to die away…the crashing of pots became less frequent and tires rolled and fell to a flaming standstill.  The fires were no longer being piled with brushwood, and someone I didn't know said to me, “Well done, Mzungu (white man), we sent them back to the forest.  We can all go back to bed now.”

Back at the farm someone had made a different kind of fire, and it was good to sit with my feet up on the hearth with a cup of hot chocolate and a glass of whiskey.  They were all laughing at me, because they had sensed my fear and caution.  For the rest of my holiday I enjoyed friendly taunts of “Njogu”, usually from behind when I was least expecting it!
What a wonderful night at Mount Kenya farm.  And to cap it all it was New Year's Eve. I enjoyed emailing my friends the next day to tell them that I'd seen the New Year in - elephant hunting.

Spend your next holiday at Mount Kenya Farm!

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