Some of the Laikipia settlers would have dearly liked to set themselves up around the cool, conifer-draped highlands of Maralal. But even before British administrators made this the district capital, Maralal had been a spiritual focus for the Samburu people and, despite some dithering; the colonial administrators didn't accede to the settlers' demands.

Maralal is a peculiar town, spread with exaggerated spaciousness around a depression in the hills. Samburu people crowd its dusty streets, with a brilliant collage of skins, blankets, beads, brass, and iron, and a special smell, too - of sour milk, fat, and cattle. The place sets itself up for Wild West comparisons and the climate is appropriate unbelievably dusty, almost always windy and, at 2220m, sharp enough at night for log fires and braziers. All it needs is wolves, there hyenas fill this role.