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Published: March 30th 2007
The road the Kondoa is one of the worst roads I have ever experienced. I read, in another travel blog, about a couple trying to reach Kondoa and only getting as far as Babati. I don’t blame them.
Years ago I lived in Vancouver, Canada and had a regular practice of taking my Jeep deep into the mountains around BC. The road to Kondoa reminded me of the very worst logging roads I ever had ever experienced.
We were travelling to Kondoa in search of Tanzanian ‘Bushman’ who should not be confused with the Bushman of Southern Africa (See the movie THE GODS MUST BE CRAZY
). We were looking for these traditional hunter-gatherers as part of research for a book I have been working on and a seminar we run.
As bad as the road was, it soon faded away entirely. Now we were driving in the bush. Local farmers moved makeshift thorny fences to allow us to pass by and we pushed on until we came to camp - we would continue the hunt in the morning.
When I say camp, I should explain because the word ‘camp’ implies a place to put your tent,
Boy Fishing I
Fishing has been banned in this lake. As you can see from this young man's behavior, the ban does not appear to be working.
perhaps some public toilets and a fire pit. No, this was a spot in the middle of the bush. We cleared spaces for tents, dug a hole for the loo and collected wood for our fire. The bird and frog symphony played all through dinner and was then punctuated by the eerie call of hyenas in the not enough distance.
At dinner we would have our first hunter gatherer experience - our appetisers included what appeared to be the smallest Cornish hens I had ever seen. These were truly bite-sized birds freshly trapped, plucked and cooked on the fire. And they were tasty. I don’t recall now what species these little birdie-bites were, but I do understand that they fly in large cloud-like flocks, descend on local rice fields and eat the crops. So the locals eat them instead.
In the morning, it was time to resume our search. We then learned that our trusty Landy probably couldn’t make the river crossing because the bank on the far side was too steep. So we would continue.... on bikes!
All over Tanzania you see locals riding non-descript one-gear bikes (most of which seem to have been made
Boy Fishing II
We came across this lake on our way to Kondoa -- the sunset, birds and local kids made it a real magic moment.
in China). Now we would get our chance to try them out. The first thing I noticed was that my loaner bike weighed about 10 times what my mountain bike at home weights! I also soon discovered why local bikers look so panicky when you drive by them on the road and why they seem to jump of their bikes rather than simply slow down or stop - THEY HAVE NO BREAKS!!
Early I mentioned that the jeep could not make the river crossing. It soon dawned on us that we still had to make the river crossing, but on foot and carrying one-tonne bikes. The water was fast moving, waste deep in spots and thick with crocodiles (in my imagination.) I am sure the river has not seen a crocodile for 20 years, but after all the time I have spent in the bush, this just looked like a haven for them.
We then biked down narrow trails that passed through thorn trees and corn fields. Our arms were cut and scratched, our legs bruised and every so often we would hit the sand causing our bikes to simply stop. This scene - thorns, corn
Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he will fish out this lake, the next lake and soon the ocean. (These boys were keeping even the small fish you see here and, shockingly, they simply killed the even smaller ones instead of taking the time to remove the hooks and releasing them.)
and sand - repeated itself each kilometre. And then we found them. Or found what they have become.
Traditional hunter-gatherers are few and far between. This way of life, which is much closer to the way humans have lived for most of our five-plus million year history, is fading fast. The group we had just found, while in possession of a few bows, arrows and slingshots (catapults) have, in the last few years, become agriculturists. They grow corn, rice and other crops.
I found it sad to see these people in the middle of transition - having traded their traditional clothes for Arsenal football jerseys and shirts that glorify gun-toting rappers from America.
The local guide told us how even when he was a child these people lived a nomadic hunter-gatherer way of life. The ever-encroaching ‘civilized’ population combined with the rather more predictable life of farming is forcing the end to this very human way of life.
In a few days we will make a new attempt. There is a tribe of bushman near Lake Eyasi. We will, as always, keep you posted.
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