May 25, 2014
Village walk and Lake Manyara
Today represents a pivot point in our trip. So far, our sights have been almost entirely biological – viewing the landscape and the wildlife. Our interactions with the “real” Tanzania, it’s people and it’s villages, have been minimal. We have been in what I refer to as the “Western bubble,” a protective cocoon of service that has kept us safe and comfortable to the standards that Americans would expect while traveling.
But for the last two days of our visit, we will step outside the bubble and engage the culture of Tanzania more directly. To start, we were met by our local guide Stephen, wearing the traditional wrap/blanket of his tribe, the Iraqu (a name that is unpronounceable for us, with a final sound that is a guttural click/pop).
This tribe is the predominant one in the town of Karatu, where we had spent the night. Stephen led us on a walking tour of the “downtown” area. We walked along dirt roads past many active churches holding Sunday morning prayers:
We walked to the main road and through the town market, a combination farmers’ market, food court, and shopping bazaar filled with (mostly used) goods. Much of the wares for sale were items that, in American towns, would be recycled or donated (shoes, cooking pots, hardware, bicycles, etc.).
I think we all felt a bit uncomfortable (holding on to our wallets, etc.) although I could detect no real reason to be, other than the outside-our-experience foreignness of the place. Some locals were very friendly and stopped to chat or pose for photos with us, while others glowered (at least that’s how I read it) and waved off our attempts to engage them.
We continued our walk to the edge of town (during which we had a fascinating conversation about American pets – our local guides could not believe that we spent so much money to obtain, pamper, and care for our dogs/cats, because in Tanzania such animals are only for protection/hunting and are not usually even fed). Luckily for us, it was the last Sunday of the month in Karatu, which meant the large market was taking place. We ventured within and were struck by the variety of goods for sale, including large animals (both living and butchered) and many food items.
This woman showed us her cooking area and explained how strong Tanzanian women were for all the work they had to do:
It felt like a combination of a flea market and a county fair, with many strange sights and, especially, smells.
From there, we boarded our trucks for our last game drive through Lake Manyara, a large park surrounding a very big lake. This area is provided with water year round by streams that bubble up from underground between rocks. We drove through the park and admired the wildlife, including the numerous monkeys (of two species) and baboons:
The baboons were particularly interesting to watch. They travel in groups of 30-40, with dominant males, females, and many young ones and babies (who often clung to the underside of their mothers if very young, and rode atop their mothers if a bit older):
We also watched a family of elephants taking a mud bath:
We enjoyed lunch in the park and a night picnic spot:
Just before we left the park, we posed for one final group shot on the plains of Tanzania:
After a short drive we arrived at our final hotel. As we ate dinner that night, we were visited by a local group of Maasai warriors (as well as two young females and two older females). They sang and danced for us:
They also pulled several of us up to join them. Stay tuned for a video in the near future! It was a wonderful introduction to the Maasai culture, which would be the focus of our next (and final) day.
Greetings from Tanzania to all of you! Asante sana for reading.