Africa Part 2: Safari, Seregeti and the Complete Absence of Showers

17 07 2008

This post is part of a series:

The Aftermath

Quad-Biking in Jinja: The Aftermath

I smell. My clothes are covered in dirt. I haven’t shaved in over a month and my beard is caked in grime and dust. Life in Africa is a dirty business. Tony, Wendy, Michael and I, have been on tour with Absolute Africa for the past 25 days, the last week of which we spent on safari in the Masai Mara in Kenya and the Serengeti in Tanzania.

In the day we’ve been cruising around in an open top 4×4, the boys hanging out the roof with cameras and binoculars, the humid wind whipping past our faces, while the girls sit politely below talking about whatever it is that girls talk about. At night we’ve been camping miles from civilization, our tents pitched deep inside the park, a few thin sheets of canvas the only thing protecting us from the creatures lurking in the darkness.

Elephants, lions, rhinos and scores of other animals roam freely over hundreds of square kilometres of open terrain, our guide warning us severely against leaving our tents in the night in case we encounter a hungry predator lurking amongst the tents – this message compounded by the scuffling and grunting we heard outside while curled up warm in our sleeping bags.

African Buffalo

African Buffalo

We’ve just arrived in Arusha, Tanzania this morning and it’s here that Tony, Wendy, Michael and I leave our overland tour with Absolute Africa and resume independent travel for the remainder of the African leg of this trip. Our tour with Absolute was terrific, our yellow monster of a truck handled the jarring, potholed roads with ease – although not always to the comfort of its passengers clinging on for dear life inside. The food was delicious; curries, meat and stews – a far cry from the baked beans on toast I was expecting and the guides were knowledgeable, helpful and everything else you would want in a guide. The other people on the truck were great and we spent many happy days and drunken nights exploring and enjoying the continent together. It was with some definite sadness we said our farewells this morning, although not quite ready to say goodbye for good we’ve arranged to rendezvous with the group a few more times over the next few weeks.

It’s been fascinating meeting the people of Africa. I think one of my fellow travellers summed it up best when she said “It’s arrogant to come here and pity their way of life”, which made me realize that’s exactly what I was expecting to do. It’s true that the Africans largely live a basic existence – there are still many tribes that live in their traditional ways and in the cities the public infrastructure definitely isn’t at the same standard as us in the West but this doesn’t seem to affect their quality of life much. All the people I have talked with are friendly, happy and seem optimistic about their future.

In Kenya we visited with a Masai tribe who still live in the same way they have for centuries, their homes are small, dark primitive huts made from sticks, animal dung and reeds. The huts take the whole tribe two months to build and last six years in the harsh desert sun, the dung and reeds fusing together to make a basic waterproof ceiling for the wet season.

Masai Warriors - Masai Mara, Kenya

Masai Warriors

A Masai chief can take up to seven wives, (which they normally do), and single families swell to up to 70 people and fill an entire settlement which is surrounded by a rudimentary fence to keep lions and hyenas from attacking them and their livestock at night. To find a bride, a young Masai warrior must leave his tribe and walk huge distances to other communities in search of a suitable girl. Upon finding a potential wife the young warrior must offer her family a dowry, traditionally a lion which he has killed, but in modern times with the rise of tourism the government have outlawed the hunting of big cats so the Masai trade goats or cows instead. If I was a young Masai warrior I think I’d be quite pleased with this development, I’m not sure I would fare so well against an angry lion with nothing but a spear to protect me.

Interestingly, Masai children don’t belong to their parents, but to the community as a whole so everyone in the tribe actively participates in raising the young. To enter adulthood the Masai must complete a rite of passage, for the young men this involves being held down and circumcised by the elders of the group, if they move or make a single sound during the ceremony they are deemed unworthy of being Masai men and are cast from the tribe. As delightful as this sounds, I have to confess to being pretty pleased not to be a Masai myself.

Lioness With Her Kill

Lioness With Her Kill

Tomorrow night we will be leaving Arusha en route to the island of Zanzibar via Dar Es Salaam. Zanzibar is renowned for some of the best scuba diving in the world, so I see a lot days underwater ahead and mojitos on the beach front in the evening.

Anyway, I’m back in the city now so I have no excuse for being so gross. Time to find a shower and put on some clean clothes.





2 responses

24 07 2008

Sounds like something else mate. Europe ain’t got nothing on it! Keep the news coming, will check in occasionally. Sell the idea to me when you’re back here.

6 07 2009
2008 Round-the-World Trip |

[…] Part 2: Safari, Serengeti and the Complete Absence of Showers ( 17 Jul ‘08 ) […]

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