“Olchore ngo, take this, I finished it, it is yours now,” he said and handed me the smooth white stick. “It is from the East African Cherry Orange tree – Teclea nobilis, they call it in Latin. I found a tree that was broken by elephants while I was looking after my cows and carved it from the straight stem. You need to rub it with cooking fat now and it will stay nice for many years.”
I gently slid my fingers over the smooth finishing. It was flawless, straight as an arrow and solid like the weight of true hardwood. I softly pronounced the Latin name to myself – “Te-cle-a no-bi-lis.” “Thank you Kashu,” I said. “I will always think of you when I walk with this stick.” I quietly wondered how it came that this young Maasai man out here in the middle of the African wilderness would go through all the trouble of learning each tree by its scientific name. ” He must have a very deep passion for this forest,” I thought – “What enormous potential lie within him… ”
It is now ten years later and yesterday when I got my gear ready for the Whale Trail hike, I pondered for a minute as memories came flooding through when I picked up my Cherry Orange walking stick. “What a journey it has been!” I thought.
So the thing about walking sticks is that there are many kinds – those plastic ones you buy in the outdoor shop, those you borrow, those you carved yourself and then there are those that someone took the time to make for you. I have many walking sticks that my Maasai friends have made me over the years. I cherish them all because they tell me long stories when I hike of the person who carved them. They remind me of where things began with Walking with Maasai and the camp and they help me to think about the people I care about.
I am just about to leave and join the rest of the Whale Trail team for the hike. I must remember to rub my walking stick in with some cooking fat first…