Penpont Heritage Centre

Walking with the Maasai in the footsteps of Joseph Thomson


The following is an article written by John Hastings-Thomson, Chairperson of the Joseph Thomson Maasai Trust  after completing the first walk in 2014:

"From childhood I have been aware I had a Great,great uncle who was an African Explorer. He had been the first white man to cross Maasai Teritory and come out alive and had a waterfall and a gazelle named after him. It was an ambition to follow in his footsteps and when three years ago I learnt that a Kenyan wanted to organise a walk following part of Thomson's Maasai Land Expedition, I wanted to take part. 

The man concerned, Ezekiel Katato, turned out to be a Maasai Elder from a village Thomson passed through during his expedition. Ezekiel had learnt about Thomson at school. It became his ambition to organise a walk covering the section of the expedition that passed through his home area, from the edge of Amboseli National Park to his village, Kilonito, a distance of about 75 miles.

At the end of May 2014, I arrived in Nairobi to join a group of Dutch members of Masterpeace, whose support had made the walk possible. It was an amazing experience, Ezekiel is an excellent organiser. A group of around 60 people, from Holland, Japan and Britain guided by young Maasai men and women with a full supported team ensuring smooth passage over the six days of the walk and a game drive in Amboseli.

We visited several schools during the walk and camped in the grounds of four of them. This gave us the opportunity to spend time with the children and it is something I would like to do more in future.

The Maasai proved to be extremely friendly and hospitable and it was a privilege to walk with them through their environment. So far the Maasai have managed to preserve many of their traditions. Many of the young Maasai accompanying the walk are at College or University, but are still actively involved with their villages and their culture.

Ezekiel is Executive Director of "Across Maasai Land Initiative", (now the Olakire le Maa Trust) a non-profit organisation working to promote and support maximum utilization of locally available resources and assets for sustainable livelihoods of the Maasai people in Kenya. One of the main thrusts of their work is Girl's Education to attempt to break the cycle of early arranged marriages and help women become more proactive in their culture.

 Ezekiel aims to develop the Walk as a way of increasing awareness of Maasai Culture and encouraging tourism through the links with Joseph Thomson's travels in Maasai Land. He sees this initiative as Maasai led, but with the encouragement of the Thomson Family and supporters.

Ezekiel's respect for Thomson is demonstrated by this photo John and Ezekiel at Olkesumet of a sign he placed on the walk route. The spelling might not be 100% but that doesn't detract from the sentiment. This is a wonderful example of a local organisation trying the improve their world themselves. It is one I will do my best to support.






 Before John Hastings-Thomson undertook his walk in 2014, the Joseph Thomson Group arranged for him to visit local schools in Penpont and Thornhill.  A link was set up to send reports back to the schools and in September John gave them talks and slide presentations.  During a packed event at the Gladstone Hall, John described his journey. This was followed the next day by a meeting of family descendants with a view to starting the Joseph Thomson Masai Trust.

The 2015 walk saw John Hastings Thomson return to Kenya, accompanied by Maggie Green, Great-grand-niece of Joseph Thomson and Jane Harlow, a friend who is now a trustees of the Joseph Thomson Maasai Trust along with Maggie and John. 

In 2015, John Hastings-Thomson and friends together with the Joseph Thomson Group funded a visit to the UK by Ezekiel Katato, a Maasai elder and he addressed a packed audience at an event organised by the Joseph Thomson Group in Wallace Hall Academy.

Mark Smith of the Herald newspaper did an interesting and indepth article on this walk.




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