Category Archives: Tales From The Road

Tales From The Road – I Did Not Kill The Rhino


Morani is the Swahili word for “Little Warrior”.

“No! I did not kill the rhino!” I cannot tell you how many times I have said that since 2006.

My friend Pat and I had a free day in Nairobi and asked Fred, our driver for our visit to take us to see some animals. There are not many zoos in Kenya but there are many game preserves and conservancies that are dedicated to keeping animals in the open and protecting them from poachers.

Fred took us to the Ol Pejeta Conservancy. In 2006 it was known as “Sweetwaters Game Preserve.” Located on the equator west of Nanyuki, the conservancy leads up to the foothills of majestic Mt. Kenya.


After driving around for a while in the sweltering heat, no air conditioning in Kenyan cars, we saw a few gazelles and such, we came across a sign that said “Rhino” with an arrow pointing left. We were also hoping to find some bottled water. My mouth, after driving for hours, in 90 degree heat with the windows down felt like I been licking the rear end of an elephant!

Driving for about a half mile, we came upon two huts. One was selling souvenirs and of course, no water. The other hut was the ranger office. Two tall, thin black as the night, rangers dressed in dusty khaki uniforms came out of the hut. One was carrying a rifle on his back. The unarmed ranger, asked “Do you want to see the rhino?” Hmmm. This was certainly a smart ass moment. but I let it go. I learned from a previous trip that being a smart ass to a guy with a gun is not a good idea. After giving him a hearty “Yes Sir,” we followed him down a bush lined, dirt path kicking up dirt as we went. It wasn’t long until we were all covered in dirt.

I was expecting find ourselves on a raised platform looking through binoculars, with the ranger pointing to some distant object saying “There’s the Rhino.”

That is not what happened.

We walked for about 10 minutes and stopped when we came to a clearing. Thirty yards away, there was a beautiful black rhino. My brain started screaming at me. WTF!!! Find a tree! Be the first one up the tree. We had just invaded the space of a Black Rhino.

The unarmed ranger began talking baby talk to the rhino like you would do to your dog. The ranger then walked over and started petting the rhino behind its right ear. What the hell is this? I thought.

Morani, the black rhino standing proudly before us was orphaned at 6 months old in 1981. His mother was poached for her horns. Morani has been raised by humans since then and I do think, Morani thought he was a dog. Morani was referred to as tame. Let’s face it, no wild animal is ever tame. I could see Morani getting up on the wrong side of the bushes one morning and ramming that beautiful horn into the first human he saw. Fortunately that didn’t happen to us, but I had a tree picked out just in case.

The unarmed Ranger took my photos holding the great horn of Morani. As I held his horn, the great beast slowly moved his head left and right. I could feel his raw natural power. After a few minutes Morani had had enough and gently moved his head to the left letting me know it was time to let go of his horn.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMorani backed up and then walked around a bit and then laid on his stomach in the shade. The unarmed ranger said, “Sit on his shoulder and I will take your photo.” I said to him, “You go first, and if you live, I will do it.” The Ranger showed me how to lean on Morani. I moved slowly toward Morani from the front as I did not want to startle him. I then gently leaned on the shoulder of the smelly, dried leather skinned rhino and slowly scratched him behind his ear. I spoke to him in a quiet soothing voice “Don’t kill Morani. Don’t kill me Morani.” The Ranger took our photo. It is that photo that has had me repeating to everyone who has seen it “No! I did not kill the rhino!”

Sadly, on August 13, 2008, Morani died of old age at the Conservancy

Morani spend his last 19 years at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy. As a true ambassador for the plight of the Black Rhino.

The Black Rhino are specific to Africa. At the turn of the 20th century there were several hundred thousand in existence, by midcentury about 70,000 and today around 4000. Poaching the Black Rhino for its horn, which is ground up into a powder, and touted as an aphrodisiac, is the number one killer among Black Rhinos. They remain on the world’s endangered species list.

For further information see the links below. The video is cool!

Video of Morani and additional information.


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Tales From The Road – When Machetes Ruled The Day

I spent New Year’s Eve, 2008, at 36,000 feet somewhere between New York and Dubai. I was on my way to Kenya for the third time in 6 years. My friend Pat and I decided to break up our long travel itinerary of about 24 straight hours from San Francisco to Nairobi by stopping for a few days in a place where neither of us had been before, Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

After three nights at the Dubai Sheridan, we were sitting in the bar watching the television in disbelief. In Kenya members of the Lao tribe were in the process of slicing up Kikuyu tribesmen. The weapon of choice was a three foot machete.

The week before, in a hotly contested national election between the incumbent Mwai Kibaki (Kikuyu) and his chief rival, Raila Odinga (Lao). Kibaki was the clear winner but the election was a joke. It was proven that both sides were guilty of cheating and election fraud.

The rift between the Kikuyu and the Lao began many years ago during British rule. The hate was cemented when, in 1962, the British left Kenya and installed Jomo Kenyatta, a Kikuyu as president. Political nepotism became the order of the day and Kenyatta installed his Kikuyu tribesmen in key government positions. The Lao were pushed to the fringe. Their lives for years were ruled by the Kikuyu.

The Lao thought that 2008 was their year. Their chance to rule. Their chance to get even. They felt cheated. Actually the Kikuyu were just better cheaters than the Lao. The Lao were determined to even the score and hack to death as many Kikuyu as they could find. We watched all this on CNN.

Pat and I watched with great concern as we saw the ruins of a church were 12 Kikuyu ran to hide. The Lao burned the church to the ground killing all inside.

I was more than content to spend a week or so in Dubai and then go home, skipping Kenya all together. Dubai is a place where there is clearly too much money. I had a great time. Except for the evening Pat and I ventured out to the local market place (Think Indiana Jones and The Raiders of The Lost Ark marketplace) and walking through the crowd, a man grabbed my crown jewels and gave them a gentle squeeze. He disappeared into the crowd. After I made a few phone calls to friends in Nairobi and were assured that all was well in the city, it of course was not, we knew it and still left Dubai as scheduled and completed our travels to Nairobi.

As a side note in 2003, Pat and I were inducted into the Kikuyu tribe in the small Kenyan town of Kiambo. In previous visits to Kenya we told everyone we met that we were Kikuyu. This time I told Pat to tell everyone we were CHEROKEE!

The second week of our visit Nairobi was locked down under martial law. Our movements were being tracked and limited. Pat decided to head to the island of Zanzibar for a few days and I headed to Karen, a town outside of Nairobi to visit our school.

Upon arrival at the school, Sister Catherine told me that there were only a few girls there. The rest would arrive tomorrow. So I spent the afternoon playing soccer and talking with the girls. Later I cleaned up and headed across the compound to have dinner with Sister Catherine and Sister Mary. The house smelled wonderful as Sister Mary was baking chicken and boiling potatoes and veggies grown in the compound.

About half way through dinner, Sister Catherine received a frantic phone call from one of the girls, she had made it out of Kibera, the largest slum in Africa with about 1 million inhabitants. Because of all the violence, theft and rape, all bus service was suspended. She had no way to get out of there. Sister Mary literally flew out of her seat like Superwoman and said she would go and get her. Well, I couldn’t let her go alone, so I jumped out of my seat, grabbed a chicken leg went with Sister Mary.

Sister Mary handled that older model blue Toyota Rav4 like an expert as she flew down the pot holed and rock covered road. I held on for dear life while I ate my chicken leg.

Accelerating around a sharp right hand turn, she hit the brakes and slowed to a crawl. There were 5 men running in front of us. Sister carefully stayed behind the men. In the orange, brown and pink African twilight, all 5 men looked the same. All shirtless running like gazelles. The difference was the man in front was running for his life as the four men behind him were carrying thee foot machetes. Sister kept her distance.

The man in front, was losing ground and tried to put a Jerry Rice type move on the other four men. As he cut to the right, machete man on the right swung his machete and caught the runner across the outside of his right knee. He went down like a gazelle who was clipped by a cheetah. He tumbled and laid in the dirt in the middle of the road on his stomach. One machete man raised his machete high in the air and slammed it into the fallen man’s back. The blade was dull, he only bled a little. The other three men finished him off. With a fury like I have never witnessed before, the four men repeatedly slammed their machetes into the man’s back and head until, I assume he was dead. While the murder was taking place Sister drove slowly around the men so we would not be noticed.

About 80 yards down the road, we found our girl. She had been joined by seven other girls. We loaded them and their personal items in the Rav and drove to safety. Not before we witnessed 4 Kenyan military beat the life out of another man with their riot clubs.

We made it back to the school safety and made sure the girls were settled in and fed. I went back to my room, collected my bottle of Johnnie Walker Black and headed for the Sisters home. There was to be no alcohol in the compound, but Sister Mary and Sister Catherine were grateful for a shot or two after that evening’s adventure. I must admit, it was fun watching Nuns drink.



Raila Odinga


Mwai Kibaki


Railia Odinga - Mwai Kibaki, - Daily Nation Front Page, Kenya

Railia Odinga – Mwai Kibaki, – Daily Nation Front Page, Kenya




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Tales From the Road – Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi, Kenya

Kenyatta International Airport – Nairobi, Kenya – January, 2004.

Two long weeks were finally at an end. My friend Pat and I had spent two weeks in and around Nairobi, Kenya visiting the slums, rundown hospitals and people dying of AIDS. The third world is not for the faint of heart and I was wondering if it was for me. (From this trip Pat and I started a school for girls from the slums, but that is a story for another day.)

We arrived at the airport early hoping to have a couple of adult beverages before we faced the next 24 hours. 20 of which we would spend in a silver metal tube 36,000 feet above the ground and traveling at 600 miles per hour.

Tired, dusty and thirsty we walked into the airport. After checking our bags and receiving our boarding passes we were anxious to clear passport control, find a barstool and…well… drink!

Heading to passport control, I heard a click and felt cold metal against the side of my head. Peaking out of the corner of my eye there was a Kenyan army sergeant pointing a .9mm Glock at my right temple. I froze, stopped breathing and hoped that I didn’t pee my pants.

“What do you have in the package?” Mr. Sergeant said in an interesting Swahili English mix of languages.

“Sir, please take it.” I said in what seemed like slow motion then I meekly handed the package to him.

Earlier in the week, I had visited a wood carving shop in the city of Machakos, about 20 miles southwest from Nairobi and purchased a beautiful hand crafted walking cane. The cane featured and elephant, lion and giraffe beautifully carved just below the handle. The shopkeeper neatly wrapped it in butcher paper so it would not be scratched on the way back to the States.

After handing it to the Sergeant, I realized what the fuss was about. As he kept the Glock pointed at my head (Actually this was a relief because he could have pulled the AK-47 slung over his shoulder.) The cane wrapped up had the profile of a rifle. The sergeant opened the butcher paper with his free hand and started laughing. As he placed his Glock back into its holster he anded the cane back to me. I immediately removed it from the wrapper.

At the gate, the airline person said I had to check the cane in as luggage. She would not let me take it onboard. I’m sure you guessed it. That was the last time I saw my cane.


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