Circle of Life in Samburu
For specialist immunisation nurse Gayle Hayes, of Cairns, visiting Kenya allowed her to do more than put a tick on her travel ‘bucket list’. In the final of our series of articles from the doctors and nurses of Travelvax Australia, Gayle relates how Kenya made her realise how precious life is… and how precarious it can be.
by Gayle Hayes
You plan your holiday of a lifetime only to find yourself back home all too soon.
All that remains are hundreds of photographs, a depleted bank balance… and memories.
Armed (literally) with every recommended and required vaccine, my husband Alan and I recently travelled to Dubai, Egypt and Kenya.
I vowed I’d remember every single moment, but memories fade and you’re left with only the most vivid and precious ones.
For me, Kenya was the standout. It’s a land of extremes - wild animals and gentle people, vivid landscapes and grey, grim poverty.
We visit the proud Masai Mara
Our safari covered 1200 kilometres through four national parks over 11 days.
In the Masai Mara Reserve we traversed streams and swamps on ‘roads’ that were, at times, little more than bumpy 4-wheel drive tracks. It took us three hours to travel 70km!
Some people choose to fly in to save time. But, travelling by 4WD gave us the opportunity to see first-hand the life of the proud Masai people: working the fields, the children at play, and washing spread on the prickly acacia corral used to protect their huts and herds from predators.
But, it was in a village in Samburu National Park that I left a little of my heart.
Our guide introduced us to the English-speaking elder who told us of life in his village, home to 10 families. He introduced us to their culture and told us of their hope for a better life for their children.
School education is highly sought, offering an escape from grinding poverty.
Infant mortality is high, while life expectancy is low at 52, and death is an almost-daily occurrence. A ‘mamma’ had died during child birth the night before we arrived.
Deadly malaria is common
We witnessed several people crippled by polio and were told malaria deaths were common, leaving families destitute when it claimed the family breadwinner.
Amoebic dysentery is the sad outcome for many babies. Water is either scarce or contaminated and people trudge many, many kilometres each day to carry it home on their heads or, if they’re lucky, on the back of a donkey.
In the towns, trucks deliver drinking water to be collected at outposts.
I asked to photograph the mothers and their children, explaining through our guide that I was a nurse with a particular interest in childhood immunisation. At first, they were hesitant, but later they opened up and told me they were receiving immunisations courtesy of UNICEF.
Mothers walk for hours for vaccines
I saw mothers who had walked 12miles to take their babies to get vaccinated at an outpost and considered it a privilege.
Our African experience made us feel grateful for our safe, secure lives: To have safe water flow from a tap; for education that was a right rather than a privilege; for life-saving childhood vaccinations available free for our kids.
But, mostly we were grateful for the vaccinations and medication we had taken to protect ourselves.
They enabled us to meet very special people in their wondrous country.
Next time you travel overseas, ask our travel health advisors for advice on what may be recommended for your trip and see one of Travelvax Australia's 32 clinics nationally. Call our travel health advisory line on 1300 360 164 for more details.
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