Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Karatu Adventures

Arriving in Karatu (Oct. 15th) to see Ngorongoro Crater, we started searching for a place to call home for a night before going out to find a guide. (It seems every major game park in Africa requires one certified guide and a 4WD vehicle). Ngorongoro Crater was once a super-volcano that erupted, allowing for multiple ecosystems to flourish. Inside the crater resides lakes, a miniature jungle, and plains, which creates a diverse and long-standing population of animals (like elephants, rhinos, hyenas, gazelles, wildebeest, lions, zebras, giraffe, flamingos, hippos, and monkeys).

Looking into the crater from the rim

At night fall, we had one lead – a guide who charged more than we were willing to spend. By sheer luck, we ran into a German woman (volunteering in the area to set up an orphanage) who knew of two others (also German volunteers, but at the local hospital) wanting to go. On top of this, they were all connected to Mama Pelangio, the town’s most loved and well-respected citizen. Through her connections she got all of us a car and guide for the following day.

We woke up early to get to the Crater before the animals disappeared into the shade (the afternoons are hot). The weather today was cloudy, so we could see nothing going up and over the Crater ridge. Once inside the crater, though, the weather started to clear. The ride in was crucial off-roading on the rim ledge. Our driver was 23, but he’d been driving these tours for some time.

A few of the animals we saw

When we got back from the Crater, our German friends told us of a burger joint in town to try, which even served Heinz Ketchup (a rare treat) with their burgers and fries…we had them drop us off there (since we hadn’t eaten anything all day). We met the owner (an English woman) and her man-friend from South Africa. We exchanged some pleasantries and learned more about South Africa.

Our next destination was Lake Eyasi, which we were determined to get to that day (Oct. 16th). They let us know the buses had stopped running. No problem, we found a dirt bike at the mechanic shop next door. It was a bit late, but we headed out anyway…

The road to Lake Eyasi was ridiculous – rocky at times, dusty at others, a total lack of road signs, and then it got dark. Mad props to Cesar’s driving skills. We made it to the campsite, where we met a local to take us out to the Hizabe tribe the next morning.

The Hizabe family we stayed with

The Hizabe tribe live in the bush, hunt by bow and arrow, and smoke a lot of weed (they are the only ones sanctioned by the government to do this).

One of many dances with Mary Jane

Over the years, they have become a little more modern, but do resist it for the most part. They take clothes (old shorts), rubber sandals and food (if there are shortages)…but the men wear animal skins for their tops. A multi-generation family usually lives closely together, sharing duties and food with one another. These folks spoke only in native tongue-the “clicking” dialogue…the most interesting language thus far.

They live very simply, sleeping under the stars with only a piece of animal fur between them and the ground.

Matress Discounters got nothing on this

The water supply comes from a Baobab tree; it acts much like a sponge. The tribe will cut a hole in the center, which is filled in the rain season and provides water for many months. In dryer seasons they rely on a root that looks similar to a potato. The tribe’s menu consist of a fruit, which is also found on the Baobab tree and tastes similar to a dehydrated orange and whatever meat that is brought back from hunting.

When we arrived, the men were making arrows, and women were producing crafts that they sell to make extra cash. During the day the two genders seem to live separately.

The women sit under a huge tree and tend to the two small children while crafting. They make mostly necklaces and bracelets. The string is made up of shredded strands of a plastic bag. They ball up the strands, which they chew to make more pliable before twisting them together.

Working Women

The men congregate under a rock ledge and spend most of the daylight perfecting their arrows, making bows (the bow string is animal tendon), or gathering fruits and water.

Making the quiver for an arrow

Before dusk we joined the chief and his son for a hunting expedition through the bush. We returned only with a lousy bird - maybe enough to make a chicken nugget. Rajib and I survived off crackers and bottled water for two days.

Rajib should have stayed in Boy Scouts for the archery merit badge

Even with some luck and patience they rarely bring back larger game, such as, impala and hyenas. When they strike it big, they celebrate with a traditional dance and singing, and likely even more smoking

They also explained to us that when they lost a member of the tribe the body would be wrapped in animal skin and left in the bush to be eaten by hyenas. They would then leave the area. Because of this tradition, they do not eat the meat of the hyena – for them it would be like eating their own kind…that being said, they do sometimes hunt the hyena for the skin.

At night the men and women smoked enough to make that animal-skin-bed seem like a posturepedic mattress. Rajib and I chilled and enjoyed the serenity of the remote African night, and did not partake in the weed-fest.

When the men and women feel the urge to make sweet, passionate love, or need an intense “make-out” session they take a few short steps to a simple, half-opened grass hut that reveals the romantic African sky.

The grass hut with multiple skylights

What was that? Oh yes, they are swingers…

The next morning we woke up around 6:15 and headed out for a second round of man versus nature. The tribe hunts before sun down and sun up, but if they kill large game they will take a few days off. They said the favorite and most common meat was that of the baboon. That morning the son killed another weak bird, but the chief scored a bush baby - (a kind of monkey).

Even being from Tennessee and all, I still felt a bit saddened to see the little fellow with an arrow through it…and to make things worse it had a little baby. I asked what they would do with the baby, and the chief said eat it. I was thinking, man, this thing is only the size of a Snicker bar (like the bite-size one you get for Halloween).

Sillouette of the bush baby kill...sorry little guy

It’s interesting to see how different our outlook is on this subject. They see it all as food and we look at it as a defenseless little creature. We’re brought up to treat animals with some kindness and taught to be compassionate to all living things…but if it’s just food, it becomes a matter of survival of the fittest, and the bushmen just have to man-up. But wait, don’t think we are not tough…..I can a shotgun a beer in only a few seconds and Rajib probably kills at least 50 mosquitoes a day…sometimes he go’s on a mad spree to hunt down the innocent ones, and then I have to calm him down.

On our way back to town the dirt bike broke down (remember how we got it at the mechanic shop...probably not the best thing to do). After spending a couple of hours waiting for the local mechanic, and then waiting for him to try to fix the bike, I found a Coke delivery truck willing to transport us and the bike back to Karatu. This was a nice ride…and we weren’t the only hitchers – there were 5 others with us sitting on crates of empty coke bottles. When we got into town, we gave the bike back and headed for Arusha by station wagon “express” (we just had to wait an hour for the car to fill up with passengers).


jasoncurry94@hotmail.com said...

Dude, you seriously HAVE GOT TO WRITE A BOOK when you are done!!!!! (just let me be the first one to buy, and i want it autographed)---Jason Curry

crucialsmiles said...

You guys are so amazing and inspiring. Keep it up!

crucialsmiles said...

Let me try that again... GOOD GRAVY - you guys are amazing and inspiring :)