Posted by: Suzan | February 26, 2011

My Cup of Simplici-Tea


Part 5 Kericho, Kenya and the Maasai Mara Wilderness Reserve, Kenya

 En route to the Maasai Mara Wilderness Reserve we passed endless arrays of shanty towns. Villagers crowded the roadsides peddling wares including live chickens and tea. Since we slowed down often to maneuver around giant pothole, these items were often shoved into our car windows. 

We learned that 2/3 of the world’s tea production comes from the Kericho, Kenya area. Many people hand pick the leaves which are then dried to become tea. Some use machines which save a tremendous amount of ‘people power’ as one machine can do the work of 500 individuals. Each plantation houses all of its workers, often thousands of people, and has a school on site for the children.

 We pulled over to a gas station to fill-up, and I got out to stretch. A woman standing next to her truck walked over, grabbed my hand, and shook it numerous times. She told me that she transported tea leaves for Unilever which owns Lipton. Next we were invited to a factory tour and the young woman plopped into our vehicle to navigate the way. Our cook joined her mother in the truck behind us. In most cases, workers grow up on a tea plantation and remain for life. So the next time you’re sipping tea, reflect on the long process and journey your tea ventured to arrive in your cup!

 Unfortunately, when we arrived, her operations manager would not allow us in so the Lipton tea factory will remain a mystery. Yet driving through the grounds and viewing hand-pickers, machines, lakes with multi-colored flowers in bloom on lily pads, verdant rolling hills, and a sighting of the deadly green mamba snake slithering across the road in front of us, made our expedition worthwhile.

 In the late afternoon we arrived in the heart of the Maasai Mara wildlife reserve to set-up camp. Two Maasai warriors equipped with spears and machetes stood guard at our tent. They escorted us to our meals and to the bathroom since we were sleeping in the ‘guest room’ of the wild animals, and at any time one or more could emerge. During the night we heard a hippo in the river below us bellowing. Lions roared off in the distance. The hippo actually grazed on the grass around us during the night. We learn they can stay about 2-3 days in the water and then they pull an all-nighter grazing on about 230 kilograms of grass. No wonder they waddle when they walk.

 The Maasai warriors intrigued me the most, with bright red, plaid patterned blankets wrapped around them. Their ability to defend us against any wild animal which could wander through our campground astounded me. Also the idea that they could stay up all night without the help of caffeine, since they never drink tea or coffee, even though tea and coffee plantations are abundant in the area, surprised me.

 When I learned they do not they have any devices like ipods to pass the time away – well, this blew my mind. In fact, their villages have no electricity or running water, so diversions are not familiar to them at all. Though I have no interest in living this simply; they did make me think about how much I divert to my ‘attraction to distraction.’ I’ve begun an inquiry to simplify my life and release what is unnecessary. So next time you’re sipping your tea (or coffee), ponder this: What might you do less of to have more of what really matters?




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