Published: April 2nd 2007April 2nd 2007
These little primates were EVERYWHERE, their Big eyes glowing in the light.
After our less than successful search for the hunters of Kondoa, we set out yesterday morning from Arusha to Lake Eyasi. And this time we had partners in crime. Our total cast included Chris Piley and Bea (from Bush2Beach
Safaris) and a new addition: Our friend Eliza and her Masai boyfriend Lengolin. (Eliza has just moved to Tanzania to live with Lengolin.)
The road to Eyasi is not nearly as long as the road to Kondoa and, thankfully, significantly better quality. Our arrival at Lake Eyasi was at dusk so we set up camp in the near dark. The full moon - which marked exactly one lunar month since we stood at the top of Kilimanjaro - provided some extra light.
The campsite is situated at the top of a small field that begins where the swamp ends - perfect mosquito breeding country. And the mozzies there are different. They are bigger, more aggressive and don’t seem to care about fabric or repellent. At one point, I felt a slight sting on my leg; I looked down and was shocked to see one of the little bloodsuckers biting me right through my rather thick trouser legs! Two
Making Fire the old fashioned way...
We had seen, a few weeks before, the Masai making a fire. These guys did it in a third of the time by using a much longer stick.
minutes later one bit my hand exactly where I had coated myself in bug juice. (Baz, it was reminiscent of Fort Providence!)
At first it appeared that we were alone in the camp site - the high season is over - but soon it became clear that we were surrounded by primates. Very small primates with very big eyes. The trees (acacia, of course) were crawling with Lesser Bushbabies. They were everywhere - hopping from tree to tree and then, comically, jumping down to the ground and hopping to the next tree. It was nearly enough entertainment to distract us from the bloodletting we were experiencing at the hands of the Lake Eyasi Air force.
A big fire helped. Once started, the heat and smoke kept them away and we were able to enjoy a nice fireside dinner before turning in early and drifting off to sleep to the - now very familiar - sounds of the bush.
In the morning we piled back into our Landrover and set out to meet the clan. We arrived to find a makeshift camp-like village that put all the mud huts we have seen this last month into perspective. The
Hunting meant the loss of many arrows for the gain of very little meat -- so they are good at making more.
shelters in this camp were fashioned from sticks, grass and bits of plastic bag. The shelters are round like a dome tent but completely open on one side.
The people that lived in this camp are unlike any we have seen on this trip. They were lean, tough and somewhat disinterested in us. They sat by the fire, straightened their arrows, smoked pipes and spoke in a language even more foreign to us than Swahili (punctuated with little clicking noises).
And then, without a word, they set off on a hunt and we followed. Birds were the prey this morning. Compared to the slower masai-like pace we had become used to, these guys were sprinters. I am not sure what distance we covered in our two hour hunt, but it was significant.
Our hunting party included two adult hunters and a child of around 14. All three of the hunters from the clan were armed with bows and a compliment of arrows. Some of the arrows ended simply as sharp points of wood and others had metal arrowheads attached to the shaft. Earlier we had seen one soaked in thick poison that they use for baboons and
Elise takes aim...
Elise is a natural athlete... don't make her mad when she is holding a bow and arrow.
vervet monkeys because they are “too smart”. I don’t know what being “too smart” means but I had a quiet thought about how smart they thought we were.
I felt for these hunters. This was their regular morning hunt; what we do at Safeway, they do in the bush. And here we were walking behind them sounding, comparatively, like a herd of elephant. They were quick and quiet. And we, were not.
The youngest hunter scored - he held up his arrow and a small yellowish weaver of some sort hung from the shaft of his arrow. He had shot it straight through the wing. The bird was still alive when the boy took it off the arrow and slipped its head through his belt. He then returned to the hunt with this little bird hanging from, and flapping away at, his side.
The rest of the hunt was less successful. We returned only with this one small 10 calorie bird which the boy plucked as he walked down the path to camp. Feathers streamed out behind him as he prepared his little snack for the fire. Once on the fire the bird did not take long
Eric takes aim...
If you look carefully you can see the arrow in flight. Yes, I did manage to hit the target (once).
to cook. One man took the head and neck (this was a tiny bird --- the head no bigger than a small gumball) and popped it straight from the fire into his mouth. The rest of the bird did not last much longer.
Now, with this small breakfast out of the way, it was time for a little archery lesson. We all took turns shooting arrows at a small log and received excellent coaching from the professionals. I am pleased to say that I managed a direct hit but I want to be clear: if I only get to eat what I can hit with an arrow, I had better aim for elephants.
Our tour of Tanzania - now six weeks on and has included summiting Kili, visiting Ngorongoro, Serengeti and Arusha National Parks - is finally coming to an end. We have two days at the Impala hotel and then we jet off to South Africa to see my parents. We are hoping, while in SA, to visit the De Wildt Cheetah breeding project so stay tuned...
With our tour of Tanzania just about over, I would to say a few words of thanks and make
I suppose, if your survival depends on hunting, rather than Gameboy, you learn the bow and arrow when you are three.
some recommendations: Bush 2 Beach
has handled all of my travel in Tanzania this year and has done an outstanding job. You can find them on the web or on SKYPE. Chris, Ingrid and their whole team are very special people who can take care of any kind of Tanzania adventure you want. They have arranged private two-person tours for me and handled all of the logistics for our 19-strong team of Kili climbers. (It should also be noted that of 19 people, 18 of us reached Gilmans and 14 reached the summit - way over the average success rate. Thanks guys!!)
The Impala Hotel in Arusha is not luxury by Hilton Park Lane standards but it has been luxury to us. Each time we come back to the Impala (between our various adventures) they have remembered us, treated us well and made us feel at home. We will be sad to say good-bye to the Impala and we will certainly be back.
There are more photos below