Wednesday, October 15, 2008
THE "BUSHMEN" OF THE HADZABE TRIBE
On the second half of the fourth day of our safari (a “cultural day”), we set out to visit the “bushmen” of the Hadzabe tribe. We left the Ngorongoro Crater Conversation area taking the “Japan” road, a wonderful stretch of asphalt between Arusha and the wildlife parks. The money for the road was donated by the nation of Japan, probably in response to most cars on the road in TZ being Toyotas.
We left the sweet tarmac to follow a dirt road filled with large stones and ruts. Sometimes we had to slow down to traverse a dried up creek bed. You couldn't open the windows of the Land Cruiser because the cabin would fill with dust. Leaving them closed left you sweating. You wouldn't expect bushmen to live right off the main round now would you?
Our local guide, Michael, teamed with Mosses, safari guide extraordinaire, to drive and locate a small group of bushmen (and bushwomen) from the Hadzabe tribe. When we arrived, only the “women” were present. Women is a premature term. These three ladies were really older girls with babies in sacks close to their chests. Later I heard they have babies almost as soon as they are able to have them. They had teeth that were brown and their bodies were very thin. I felt uncomfortable just sitting there with them. They went back to giggling with each other when we joined the men who just arrived.
The men were more communicative. The older ones knew Swahili so said Jambo (hello) to us. They were well muscled and thin, like athletic animals. These guys hunted for their food. One was carving his arrows as we talked and Avocet noticed that he was sharpening it with a Swiss Army knife. Go figure. They showed the arrow tips: sharpened wood for birds, metal tips with barbs for small animals, and poisoned tips for larger game. The poison would kill you in less than five minutes. They told us to be careful to not touch it and showed us the wood that it came from and how they made the poison. I wonder if this is from the same tree mentioned in “The Poisonwood Bible”, by Barbara Kingsolver.
One bushman shot his arrow at a log about thirty meters away and hit it dead center. I asked to try. Needless to say, the “Oneworldonetrip” team would go hungry for a long time based on our initial results. Thank goodness Marty has a couple weeks of great white whale blubber to use as reserves. Siena wouldn't last long.
Our guide, Michael, kept talking about what the tribe needed to continue to exist. Apparently they were offered schooling but that "improvement" lasted only a few months before they reverted back to their hunting and gathering methods. They seemed happy. Even if their life expectancy is only about thirty years plus, I feel they should make the choices in their life and not be meddled with. Better minds than mine would probably disagree.