On the first day in Tanzania, in a suburb of Arusha, we visited Safewater Ceramics (www.swcea.org) which produces inexpensive clay-pot water filters for the many tribal villages that get their drinking water from the same muddy waterholes as their cattle and goats. We were able to purchase a filter set that they estimate will save up to 10 lives over its five-year life. It was later donated to one of the villages we visited.
After a walking tour through the dirt roads of the “middle-class” suburb we visited a women’s sewing workshop for those impacted by the serious cultural prejudices associated with albinism. Then on to an upscale restaurant for lunch (a sampling of African dishes). Later we did a guided walking tour of a neglected coffee plantation next to our lodge and met a local family living off the land.
Arushu to Tarangire
On our second full day in Tanzania we drove to Tarangire National Park for the first game ride. All along the highway we saw many families herding their cattle, goats and sheep. We also passed several pairs of young teenage boys dressed all in black and with faces painted with striking white patterns. Our guide Lube (pronounced “loo-bay”) explained that they are required to separate from their tribes for a three-month period of Enkipaata culiminating in circumcision, in the Maasai coming-of-age tradition.
We spent the next two nights at Lake Burunge Tented Lodge while touring Tarangire National Park.
Maasai Eunoto Ceremony
On the way back to the lodge from our second day at Tarangire National Park we noticed some kind of ceremony in a Maasai village a few hundred yards away. Our guide Lube went and asked the chief if we could observe. The chief welcomed us with open arms to join in the celebration of a young man becoming a senior warrior. It involved lots of dancing and singing and his mother shaving his head. All the eligible women were dressed in their finest. From all accounts we were incredibly blessed to be able to participate in this – Lube has been guiding for 19 years and it was a first for him.
Carvers and Weavers
Finally, we stopped to see some wood-carvers creating beautiful animal carvings from ebony and acacia wood, one of which now adorns our dining room.
The next day we left Tarangire and drove to the Ngorongoro Highlands. First stop was a road-side basket-weaving business where some of our group tried their hand at weaving the dried palm leaves. Most of their customers are locals, including many Muslims who use the mats for prayers.
Maasai Village Visit
The next day brought us another cultural highlight of the tour, a planned visit to a Maasai village. The villagers dressed us in their traditional colorful cloth outer garb, then taught us their dancing. The women then went off to the waterhole to collect water, while we men tried to herd the cattle and sheep to the same waterhole. While at the waterhole we presented our donated water filters to the women of the village before heading back to the village for roof-thatching and mud-wall patching (with a mix of mud and cow-poo!). Next we were invited inside a small mud hut (all 14 of us plus 3 drivers, the chief and two women) for a Q&A session with the midwife who delivers all the babies here and in surrounding villages. It was a fascinating two-way discussion (via interpreters). Before leaving we were able to see and purchase some of their bead-work and other handcrafts (including gifts for our two grand-daughters).
Then we drove past numerous baboons along the road on the way to our accommodation for the night, the Ngorongoro Valley Farm Lodge. We had a tour of the 600-acre farm and coffee plantation that supplies all the produce for the hundreds of safari tours heading into the Serengeti, our next destination.
The first stop on our next day was a small museum at Oldupai Gorge in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. The NCA protects wildlife but allows nomadic Maasai tribes to live in the area. The museum documents the geology of the area and the discovery of 4 to 5 million-year-old “Lucy” by Louis and Mary Leakey, one of the earliest human ancestors. Then on to the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater (which is actually a Caldera) before descending to the long, straight, very bumpy and very dusty road into and through the Serengeti National Park.
On the last full day of our trip we engaged with the people and culture of the Ngorongoro Highlands, with a visit to a school (grades one to seven) and a home visit in an Iraqw village.
The Njia Panda Primary School is supported financially by the Grand Circle Foundation and Grand Circle and O.A.T. travelers.
We first learned a little about the education system from an assistant principal and a teacher and then spent some time with a seventh-grade class. We had been warned the night before that the children would sing for us and then expect us to sing for them. Five of the 14 members of our tour group are current or retired teachers so after the children sang a local song and their national anthem we were fully prepared to sing “Head, shoulders, knees and toes,” for them. They loved it and insisted we sing it again so they could join in. The children had been learning English for six years and most were fluent and very interested in conversing with us. We then visited a first grade, where many of the children are just learning Swahili (Tanzania’s national language), having grown up with different tribal languages.
Iraqw Village Visit
Back on the road we made a brief stop to converse with a woman working at her roadside sunflower seed business. Next we visited the Iraqw village where the assistant chief (“AC”) led us on a tour of their outdoor mud brick business (each family gets to make and sell bricks) before visiting his home. There we were dressed in their tribal attire, treated to a meal of rice and beans, and entertained by the AC and his wife with song and dance including traditional Iraqw and American music. The AC played a traditional fiddle-like instrument which he made and learned himself. Then back to our lodge for dinner.