It seems odd that an entire lake can be only a metre deep. If it were a tiny lake it might make logical sense however, it’s over 18 square kilometers. But still, only a metre in depth, at its deepest. Nature is interesting in that way. What it lacks in depth though, enables it to be so much more. A soda lake, sitting in the middle of the Rift Valley, it is a favored home to Kenya’s lesser and greater flamingoes as well as hundreds of pelicans and herons who on account of the shallow water, enjoy this lake as a preferred nesting ground.
Its name – Elmenteita. Probably the most lyrically named of Kenya’s lakes, but then again Maasai words tend to be like that. Light on the tongue, dreamy, poetic, romantic. Its meaning – the dusty place. Which seems a bit of a misnomer as a name for a lake but then again, perhaps no one really asked the original Maasai settlers what the name of the actual lake was, only the area. Perhaps individual names to functional natural phenomena may be an imported idea. Either way the name remains hauntingly, lazily beautiful – Elmenteita.
It’s a pretty lake. Teeming with birdlife, it shores surrounded by towering cactus and yellow barked acacia. The lake changes color throughout the day so one can never quite describe it as a deep blue or turquoise or jade lake. The sun’s reflection coupled with it shallow nature make for an effervescent and elusive colour. South of the lake lies the Sleeping Warrior, majestic and calm, it’s constant sentinel.
Life by the lake is never quiet. The reality of hundreds of birds congregated in one place, though beautiful, is a less than gentle assault on the ears and nose. But the cackling and cawing of the bird life on the lake soon fades into the background as the shrill individual calls of the startlingly beautiful smaller bird life that flits from one acacia tree to another takes over. Nature’s chorus comes truly alive around this shallow lake. After a few hours the ear acclimatizes to this reality separating sounds into background, crescendo, a tempo, arietta, broken chords and full movements. It never seems to be organized, but after a while it becomes exactly so. At harmony with nature, surroundings, sound and wind all playing a pace.
At night the sounds become louder, crowding into your tent by the lake, reminding one that they are the intruder to this haven, and that anywhere that does not harbour similar sounds is a place that has been beaten down, quelled into submission, stripped of its originality, paved over by human destruction. They are a humble reminder these sounds from the lake.
And one can’t help but wonder, why is it that we yearn for places like this?
Places that are simple, uncomplicated, afire with a design that was drawn by a divine hand. We spend a significant amount of time living, existing in the harsh metal world so that once in a while we have the time and opportunity to reconnect with the world we all destroyed or left behind.
Thank you Elmenteita. You may be shallow, but you cause us to experience and reconnect to true depth.