Hadzabe Tribe - Tanzania

Trip Start Jan 27, 2012
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Trip End Feb 27, 2012


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Sunday, January 6, 2013

I'm in my tent and its 3:00 in the morning. I'm semi-awake, semi-dreaming, imagining a scene from a movie. The movie is called "The Naked Prey" which premiered in the 60s starring Cornell Wilde. Cornell Wilde's character is in Africa, and is stripped naked, running through the African bush trying to escape his native pursuers as well as survive in the wilds. He was quite literally stripped down to Man’s bare essentials. Would that be me in several hours running naked in the bush with my bow and arrow chased by the Hadzabe tribe?! "Hakuna matata" I thought, at least that’s easier than looking for a bathroom with lions and Cape buffalo roaming around!

In reality, the highlight of our safari would be waiting for us that morning for we would be attending a morning hunt with the Hadzabe tribe. Some sources say the Hadzabe are related to the pygmies, and have similar physical characteristics and cultural traditional ties to the Bushmen of South Africa’s Kalahari region. The Hadzabes are the last traditional hunter-gatherer African tribe in existence. Over the last 150 years, efforts by missionaries and the Tanzania government to introduce them to farming and Christianity have largely failed, and many Hadzabe still pursue virtually the same way of life as their ancestors.

Our pre-dawn morning hunt with the Hadzabe tribe began for our group at 5AM. Still half-asleep we crawled into the safari truck and drove the backcountry dirt/ boulder track that led to the Hadzabe village located on the remote outskirts of Lake Eyasi. A gigantic baobab tree marked the entrance; the baobab representing spiritual strength.

A bonfire illuminated the rock outcropping where the hunters were gathered. Young men, most in their teens, greeted us at the bonfire. After brief salutations that mostly involved head nodding and hand shaking, the hunters, with their dogs, bows, and arrows were suddenly afoot, swiftly running through the brush out of our sight. The hunt apparently was on!

We quickly followed suit. Scrambling through the thorn trees was a challenge for our larger clumsier frames while the more nimble smaller Hadzabe navigated the thorn trees with ease. The adrenaline rush I felt from the fast-paced hunt was invigorating! The Hadzabe hunter’s accuracy was also impressive; their arrows landing lethal strikes on a dik dik, a squirrel and a small owl.

Next, still out in the bush, our young hunters quickly proceeded to start a fire, utilizing the old-fashion rubbing the stick between two hands method. Some local plant leaves were picked and rolled to form stimulating cigarettes which they smoked. The young men’s chatter was fun and animated as they made the necessary preparations for cooking the dik dik over their roaring fire.

Our group members were all quite moved by the innate success and basic survival skills that they so adeptly performed. We felt that basic primitive man instinct to self-provide well up within us; a basic skill long lost now rekindled.

As a gesture for male bonding among tribes (Hadzabe and white guys), one of the Hadzabe young men offered Craig, the Aussie , and myself a piece of the dik dik’s liver to eat. We looked at each other tentatively then in unison gratefully accepted. Chew, gulp, don’t grimace and make yummy smile… bonding complete.

After the hunt our safari gang was able to practice making a fire by rubbing two sticks together as well as conduct archery practice with the Hadzabe’s bow and arrows, using a dead antelope carcass as our target.

The Hadzabe were very congenial people who tended to laugh and smile easily. We were so taken by their hospitality that we felt we should offer them something in return so the young Dutch fellow taught the guys how to juggle with stones. He was an instant hit with the Hadzabe guys whom I sure if we return in a year will have become the juggling masters of East Africa!

Without our suggestion, the men and women began a lively circular dance, assumingly for their own pleasure, to celebrate the hunt.

Finally, with some sadness, we waved goodbye to our new friends. Our return journey to modern civilization would have to begin. Our journey back passed along the perimeter of Lake Eyasi. Due in part to the current mini dry season and the ongoing drought, Lake Eyasi was a long shallow lake, its alkaline flats shimmering under the afternoon baking sun. The Rift Valley Mountains guarded the lake to the south and east, while the lush rim of the Ngorongoro Crater shown in the distance. We watched fishermen manually pull in their catch from their large nets and carry the fish several miles back across the alkaline flats to the distant village.

That evening good fun was had by all at the Panoramic View Camp site. The campsite outdoor patio offered great views of Lake Manyara. While I played the guitar, our group and accompanying fellow travelers enjoying good conversation and a few boxes of wine as the African sun slowly faded over Lake Manyara.

Before the evening’s festivities, a young boy walked up the cliff from his village to our panoramic camp site, hoping to find someone who could give him a pen or pencil so he could finish his school lesson.  Craig gave him a pen and a Swahili / English translation book.  The boy was very appreciative. He quietly sat in the brush finishing his school lesson. Finished, he said "thank you" and returned back down the steep cliff to his village.

A distinct difference between the Kenyan government and the Tanzanian government was their education systems. Kenyans are offered free education through the Kenya government while the Tanzanian government does not offer free education. Parents must pay for their children’s basic school materials if they want their children to go to school.

Tanzania does seem to have obstacles ahead hindering their progress. Here is a sample tale of progress frustration in Tanzania. A European entrepreneur tries to start a pig farm. He is initially successful however when he leaves for a brief period he comes back to an empty farm. The workers had eaten or sold the pigs for short-term need or profit instead of long term needs. Another example, Tanzanians, for some unknown reason, are bad farmers.

Today fortunately we had witnessed two shining Tanzanian examples for hope; one in the form of the traditional Africa represented by the noble Hadzabe tribe, and the other this young boy hungry for education willing to climb a steep cliff to help obtain his goal.


Jambo everyone!

More writings on my wonderful African experience coming soon!

Hakuna matata!

To see more of my photography, please visit www.michaelmcguerty.com

To read more of my writings, please visit www.pecoskid.com

To view my Africa video, please visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h7Sb2ncvmzw 

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