British Empire Article

Contributed by Elsie Maciel

by Elsie Maciel
Honeymoon in the Wilds
Wedding Day
I'd dreamed about getting married on the roadside of the Great Rift Valley escarpment in the beautiful little chapel the Italian prisoners of war had built to mark the end of their work on the building of the Nakuru-Nairobi highway. But my parents wanted the wedding to be in their newly-built home in Kitale. So we had a wonderful wedding day at my family's Kitale home.

At dawn one of the ltalian war prisoners came carrying in his hand a shallow basket of real orange blossoms.What bride could not hold her breath at such a sight? Trust an Italian to bring that romantic touch.

After the wedding I left with my newly-wed husband Mervyn on the evening of our wedding day. We left our guests still celebrating.

Our honeymoon in the wilds began as we left Kitale by the sleek weekend train, joining the romantic Uganda to Mombasa Mail at Eldoret, and then on to Nairobi for a short stay. The dinner on the train was a perfect wedding celebration. The next day we boarded the Nanyuki-bound train from Nairobi. Two friends picked us up at Nyeri and we drove on to Isiolo via Nanyuki. At Isiolo, our friends had organised a royal reception, which gave us an opportunity to meet many of the townsfolk.

At sunset the next day, we boarded a heavily- loaded truck in Isiolo for the onward road journey to Marsabit. We drove through part of the dark night before pitching camp at Laisamis, amidst roaring campfires. I sat on a log absorbing the atmosphere and looking out for a roaring lion. As we settled down, I saw, through the haze, a hysterical Rendille woman holding a child and making a dash for Mervyn. In what appeared like a begging posture, she pleaded for a lift to Marsabit to take her sick child to hospital. She turned to me and said, 'Watoto wengi,' wishing me many children in Swahili.

I watched Mervyn as chiefs and important tribesmen arrived to greet him and shake his hand warmly as though he'd been away for a long time. He handled the situation with authority and good grace.

I looked towards the sick child, about 11 years old, and as I shook his hand I felt his fevered skin. I offered the Rendille mum half an aspirin tablet, which she promptly gave her child. I thought no more of it.

The sky filled up with more and more stars I'd never really noticed stars as I' d never camped out in the open before. The breath-taking scene made me feel I could touch the sky! Ever since, the night sky, rare shooting stars and stardust remained my grace before bedtime.

They set up two camp beds for us, and with my hand in the hand of my hero, I fell asleep, safe and secure. We entered Marsabit early the next morning in an unusual almost magical cold mist. A group of very happy women waited around a U-bend to surprise us with presents of sheep and lambs, the best of their flock. I was lost for words and did not know how to cope with such kindness and generosity. By the time we arrived in the government boma, we had six animals, with more people waiting along the route to surprise and greet us.

Honeymoon in the Wilds
With Dubas (Frontier Tribal Police)
We ate breakfast with our neighbours, yet another celebration spread! Our host and hostess, who had also recently married, knew the feeling. After breakfast - came the most spectacular moment. Mervyn walked me down the garden path, his eyes beaming with pride and laughter, to the door of our home. We made a fairy-tale entrance. From the moment I set eyes on the lovely stone cottage with its tin roof, I couldn't stop making plans for it.

By the afternoon, the township Chief and Elders had a tea party for us. The women turned out in bright-coloured clothes of satin and silk and the men wore their traditional attire. They welcomed us warmly to the festive occasion. Beautifully dyed, hand-woven circular and square straw mats, almost in geometric design, decked the walls of the reception room. Our hosts sang, danced and ululated after which we drank very sweet, hot and strong spicy tea and soft drinks. The Chief 's wife presented me with twelve large walnut sized amber beads.

One afternoon soon after we arrived in Marsabit, there was a knock at the door. I opened it to find the most magnificent Dubas (Tribal Policeman), in his special white uniform, gleaming in the bright sunlight with his post-office red turban, the ammunition in his bandolier all polished, his rifle strapped on to his left shoulder, and in his right arm a great big bunch of fireball lilies, which matched his turban. I stood spellbound and speechless. What could I say that would thank him enough? He seemed to sense how I felt. He laughed, handed me the flowers and bade me farewell. There shall never be such a gift of flowers for me again!

A couple of weeks into our stay at Marsabit our cook, Sheunda, came to announce a visitor. Reluctant to leave my sewing of new curtains, I stood up slowly and followed him. I found at the kitchen door the very same Rendille mum who had appeared at our honeymoon camp site. Beside her stood her now fit and healthy-looking son. Having tracked me down, she had come to thank me for the dawa (half an aspirin), which she said had made her little boy well again. She bowed low in an obvious gesture of gratitude, wishing me once again many children. I offered her a mug of tea. The whole experience left me so humble I wanted to hide!

And so continued our unforgettable honeymoon in the wilds, an experience I shall treasure for the rest of my life.

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1956 Map of Marsabit Region
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