I was dumped in a remote area in northern Kenya back in 1989 and had four weeks to set up a run a water purification site to produce drinking water for a troop column that would be arriving after three weeks. My water source was a river that was brown with mud and was going to be a big task.
The local Masai in the area knew that the British Army were going to be in the area but were wary and suspicious of me. No white man had been in this area for over 20 years.
I had set up my camp with a barbed wire
boundary and set up the water pumps and filtration system. After a few hours on my first day this young Masai warrior appeared on the opposite bank and sat down watching me.
After about 5-6 hours he had not moved and was watching me intensely, which as the light started to fall unnerved me a bit as I had no idea of his intentions and did not want to lose sight of him through darkness.
I decided to approach him to “make friends”, although my armalite rifle was loaded and cocked. I carried it casually but was still ready to put 30 rounds into him quickly if I needed to !
I walked across the old river bridge with my camera in hand and a big smile on my face, gesturing in sign language that I wished to take a photo of him.
Image the shock I was in when he stood up and in perfect English said “oh you wish to take my photograph, certainly”! This was the photo I took !
I was so shocked that he could speak English, and he explained that he had been brought up and attended an English school in Nairobi but that at age 10 his parents were killed in a car crash and he became homeless with nobody to support him, so he decided that he would walk the 350 km North to his father’s tribe.
We chatted for a while and I asked him why he had sat watching me for so long, when he explained that the village chiefs had sent him to watch me to make sure I was not poisoning the river water. I took him to my side of the river and showed him that I was making the water cleaner for drinking.
This satisfied him and he said he was pleased as he would have had to kill me if I was poisoning the river !
He came the next morning and joined me for a cup of tea which he had not drank since living Nairobi, and enjoyed it.
He left and I never saw him again ! I am sure that he grew into a stong and good man !
Photographer: Glyn Davies