Because it’s there.

A tree apparently growing out of a rock, just above the tree line.

Today I climbed up the biggest hill readily visible from Maseno with Aryan, a San Dieagan who’s living at the hospital.  Basic strategy: Pick the largest hill visible from Maseno.  Climb it.  Repeat.  (Well, the repeat will be for another day, but we have some candidates picked out.)  We didn’t really know what to expect in terms of paths; essentially, there’s beautiful hills all around with these giant granite boulders sticking out of them, but we have little idea what the local interaction with them is.  The one we climbed today had farms situated on it, probably to about half way up, including some really steep little plots that we passed through on the way back down. There are cows wandering around everywhere, occasionally exactly where you want to pass by, but that was the most ferocious animal we met.

At the road side we were approached by a guy who was intent on being our guide up the hill; he tried to scare us into taking him on by telling us that the hill was full of vipers and panthers.  This wasn’t terribly persuasive, though: I think we would have been in just as terrible a position if he’d been with us as not.  He didn’t look quite sturdy enough to take on a panther in a fist fight.

Indeed, we saw some really big holes at the top of the hill which we affectionately called ‘panther holes’ and stayed right clear of.  But beyond a few lizards and the aforementioned cows, there wasn’t a whole lot of wild life on display.  Oh, some vervet monkeys, but they’re kind of everywhere in Maseno.  And on the way down we met the cutest kitten ever.

People here are super friendly, though!  On the way up, a family at a house we passed invited us to come back for lunch on the way down.  (We ended up coming down a different way than we went up – not entirely intentionally – or we might have taken them up on it.)  And on the way down we had a chat with a guy named Christopher, who recognized us from around Maseno.  He works at farms in town during the week, while also doing work on the family farm on the hillside.  He told us that, indeed, there had been a panther living on the hill, but that it had been killed a couple months ago.  He said it was sixteen feet long, which was likely a bit exaggerated, but I’m pretty confident that any panther I met would seem like it was that huge.

But hey, any day without an up-close meeting with a panther is a good day, I say.  I’m reminded of an Australian I once met.  I asked how one could possibly be an outdoors-type in Australia, where there are massive populations of the most venomous spiders and snakes on the planet.  He said that the snakes and spiders weren’t that aggressive, but hell, in North America we’ve got BEARS.  And the point was well taken.