Wednesday, January 23, 2002--Rainy during long 6 hour drive. Cleared up on arrival at camp.
Gibbs Farm--Hadza in Kidero Region of the Rift Valley
WHAT A DAY! After another incredible breakfast we set off for our
true adventure--visiting the Hadza Tribe. The drive to this very remote
Kidero region of the Rift Valley was quite an experience! It rained the
entire time. When we were lucky we were on ungraded dirt roads, the
rest of the time there were no roads--just off road, savannah driving.
Everything was muddy and slippery. We had to cross three rivers
whose banks were totally muddy. The Land Rovers, as well equipped
and prepared as they are, had significant difficulty going up and down
the banks and across the water filled riverbeds. It was exciting as we
fishtailed, slid back, tilted, and skidded around. Some of the group got
out of the vehicles and walked but I elected to stay in. I am not certain
which was most exciting.
Two other Land Rovers joined us today so we were a caravan of four. Because for the next two days we
will be camping in the middle of stark isolation, a camp crew has joined us--James, Wolfgang, and John.
They are all Tanzanians in spite of their names. They will be cooking our meals and generally tending the
campsite. They brought tents, sleeping bags, pillows, food and everything else we will need for this true
Our first mission on arriving in the region was to locate the Hadza people so that we could set up camp in
reasonable proximity. This involved a considerable amount of time driving around the savannah, over
bushes and around trees. As they are semi-nomadic, Robert and Samson never know exactly where to
find them. Twice we stopped to ask wandering Datoga women if they knew where the Hadzas were. They
would just sort of point in a general direction and say that they last had seen them over that way. Where
the Datogas came from was a mystery as there were no huts or structures to be seen.
Eventually, Robert found a good place to establish camp even
though we still hadn't found the Hadza. While we set up the tents,
latrine, etc., Samson, who speaks the Hadza's clicking tongue language,
took his Land Rover and went out looking. Within a half-hour he
returned with two of the men. This was the beginning of our incredible
interaction with these amazing people. They arrived in their tattered
clothing, bows and arrows, knives and spears, greeting us with big
smiles. It was going to be the job of these two plus a couple others to
guard our camp during the nights.
Setting camp was fun. We all pitched in at putting up the little pup tents
unrolled our sleeping bags, and ensconced our duffel bags in the
crevices of the tent. Some of the men dug the latrine and then the
camp crew erected a tent over it--they even had a little stand with a
toilet seat to place over the hole in the ground. Each time we use this
wonderful facility we need to shovel in a little dirt. Surprisingly, it never
becomes smelly or fetid.
The crew also set up a cooking tent and a dining tent with tables and chairs. With butane stoves and
campfires, this crew created fantastic meals, including an anniversary cake for one of the couples. We ate
by candlelight, using real dishes, silverware, cloth napkins and glassware. Amazing!
After camp was complete, we hiked to the Hadza location about 2 km away.
What an amazing sight that was. It was as if we had entered into the Stone
Age. The people do no farming, raise or keep no animals, store no food.
They simply live from day to day, gathering roots and shooting game.
When they can't find any, they move on.
There were about 25 people in this group--Hadza number around 300
but they break off into smaller groups. Their small huts are so, so
primitive, just small pieces of brush loosely bound together
somehow--the sides are not solid; you can see through them. Just as
we arrived, Snake (one of the young men) arrived carrying a bat-eared
fox, which he had just shot with his bow and arrow. Since there is no
structure to this tribe's life and they simply eat when they have food,
they immediately started a fire. This was done by rubbing sticks and
then blowing the sparks. It takes just a couple of minutes to do this.
The fox was thrown on the fire without any preparation--just as it was
shot down. The men left it on long enough to singe the fur off and
then cut it up and, squatting around the fire, ate it in its entirety--
entrails, blood, everything. The head with its bloody neck was given to
a baby to chew on. Women did not participate in this meal but were
given the meager remains.
While this was going on, I walked up to where the women and children
were sitting and tried some interactions. The icebreaker was my digital
camera. After I had taken one picture and showed it to the woman,
they were all like little children--giggling, pointing, wanting their pictures
taken. I was able to get some really special shots. The camera served
this purpose every time we spent time with native people--Hadza,
Datoga and Maasai. I was able to hold one of the babies which
seemed to please the women. Many of the women are bare-breasted
while others have loose covers on top; however, even then, tops are
often removed or pushed down.
The Hadza have a god they call Do Do Ka; however, they don't
have a structured worship practice or incorporate him into their daily
living practices and routines. I believe that he is simply thought of as
the creator and responsible for life. But, this is in a rather general
sense, as the Hadza's do not spend their days pondering abstract thoughts.
After our time with the Hadza, we trekked back to our camp. We sat around, drank some wine, washed
up and then feasted on the amazing dinner the camp crew had prepared. We gathered around the campfire
for a while and talked about our experiences that day, trying to absorb what we had seen. By then we
were tired, so hit the sack around 10 pm
Thursday, January 14, 2002--warm but breezy
I slept well in the tent last night. It is so quiet and serene here that sleep is easy. This morning the camp
crew set 2 bowls of warm water outside of our tent so that we could wash the sleep away. These little
touches are unbelievable. They then prepared an extensive breakfast for us--eggs cooked to order, fruit,
cereal, sausage, bacon, juices, toast and sweet rolls, coffee--whatever we wanted.
After breakfast we drove to the Hadza encampment. The primitiveness of their lives is indescribable.
Children have eyes swollen shut due to infection caused by the constant flies swarming their faces and eyes.
They do not take baths or wash-ever. Nor do they wash their clothes. They each own what they currently
wear and no more. They make their fires with sticks and eat roots and berries, raw and cooked.
Two women allowed us to go with them as they dug and gathered roots for the day. They carry their
babies on their backs as they do this. They look for certain signs not apparent to us and know they have
found a good place to dig. Today they found three roots.
Following this, we accompanied Galfani and Snake to the poison tree which has been a
source of poison for Hadza arrows for generation upon generation. They dug pulp from the
trunk of the tree, strained it over a pot, which other than their weapons is their only
possession and is used exclusively for the boiling of this poison. After straining the pulp,
they lit a fire and cooked the potion until it became a gooey mass about the size of a ping-
pong ball. We were required to stand upwind of the smoke as inhaling it would have been
dangerous. The poison is potent enough to kill large game animals--including elephants and
giraffes. The men wash the poison from their hands with embers and ash from the fire. If
the poison gets into an open wound or even a scratch, it is deadly.
We continued our walk through the hills until we arrived back at our campsite where the
camp crew was waiting for us with another sumptuous meal. We then just relaxed, worked
on journals, and enjoyed the vista for a couple of hours until several Hadza men joined us to
demonstrate their skill with the bow and arrow.
While we were relaxing, several children from the Datoga tribe stood outside our camp
watching us, fascinated by us and everything they saw. Before too long, their shyness was
overcome by our simple overtures and offers of water. Again, the digital camera became a
major force in crumpling barriers. After checking with Robert for permission, I offered each
of the boys a bag of airplane peanuts. Clearly, this was a major event and treat for them as
they sat together, giggling and feasting. They were beautiful children--dressed in red robes
us from the developed world. By any standard they are quite primitive until compared with the Hadzabe.
Datoga do grow crops, raise animals and erect permenate huts and corrals; however, these are always in
isolation from other enclaves. Single families live within a compound--a husband, his wifes, children and
their animals. Further distinguishing themselves from the Hadza, they collect and use water for cooking and
washing, have a variety of possessions and cordon themselves off from wild life by building fences from the
thorn acacia. They also use their animals--cows and donkeys--for tilling the soil.
At one point the Datoga lived throughout much of Tanzania and were a significant power group but the
more warring, aggressive Maasai dominated,took the lands and forced the Datoga to retreat to small,
isolated areas. The Maasai continue with this domination while the Datoga live in the background. The
Maasai people are feared by almost all of the other tribes of Tanzania as they steal cattle, can be violent
and believe that their God, Engai, favors them and designates to them the right of dominion.
Watching the Hadza boys, young men and older men pull back on 100
pound bowstrings and effortless let the arrows glide through the air
was fascinating. As the bow and arrow is their means of survival in
terms of both food and defense, this is serious business to them--one
of the few things which causes them to focus and specifically value.
They were having a good time showing off for us and competing
among themselves. These are simple people who enjoy laughter and
momentary pleasures. When they gave us our turns with the bows,
they loosened the string considerably and then laughed uproarishly at
our feeble attempts which included my shooting myself in my foot on
the first try. Of course, Samson and Robert needed to take a turn to
show off for us. During this entire time, a Datoga man silently, almost
mutinously stood behind a tree taking in all of this--but--his composure
broke and even he laughed at me! Eventuallly he just quietly melted
away as if he had never been there.
During this demonstration, some of the men played a gambling game--one which I never understood. Each
participant carefully selects a rock from the ground and then the rocks are thrown, along with a marker
rock, at a tree. Winning has something to do with how the rocks land. According to one piece of literature
the men can spend as much as 80% of their days playing this. Although boisterous during play with much
interaction among themselves, this is a very serious occupation. They wager their only possessions--knives,
spears, bows and arrows--on a throw. In the course of playing, these possessions can switch ownership
many times. Once we saw one man become so involved and upset at loosing, he threw in all that he had
left. Fortunately, he won that round, as if he had not, he would have left the tribe until he had made
replacements. The men become very vocal during play, shouting obscene words and expressions at their
rocks when they are loosing. According to Robert, women are not allowed to be around the game because
of the language that is used.
During all of this activity--the shooting exhibition and game playing--other men were sitting on the ground
playing instruments made of gourds while others were making new arrow shafts and arrowheads. The
shafts are made by cleaning a small branch, softening it over a fire and then using their teeth to bite it until it
is absolutely straight with no imperfections which would interfere with hitting a target. These arrows are
used to kill large game, including giraffes. The Hadza people are the only people in Tanzania allowed to
hunt and kill giraffes, which are the national animal.
A little later, we had another surprise treat.. Robert
had located a Datoga family compound and had made
arrangements with the two wives for us to visit. When
we got there, the women were just finishing tilling the
soil in their small cultivated field. They gathered up
their children, including two small babies who had been
lying under a bush, and came to greet us. Amazing
Robert and Samson both speak the Datoga language so
communication was possible. The women were warm
and welcoming, but clearly shy. They enjoyed showing
off their children and even let us hold the babies. One
of th women demonstrated for us how they grind the
maize with a grinding stone on the rocks. Both women
were weighed down with beaded jewelry including
long, heavy earrings. Like the Hadza, they rotated
between being bare-breasted and being covered.
While we were talking with the women, the husband
came home--surprised to find these strange people in his compound. He had just walked 50km home from
a village where he had purchased or traded for some seed He was very tall and attractive and was quite
cordial and warm towards us. They all loved having their pictures taken. As with other people, the animals
sleep inside with them at night. There is one hut which houses all of the family and a small structure for the
animals during the day, all surrounded by a fencing made from the thorn acacia which is a natural barbed
wire. We had a nice visit with this family and again feel enriched by the experience. I continually have
impressed on me that these people live this hard, barren, isolated, almost possessionless, primitve life style
while a world away I am surrounded by what seems obscene material luxury. It is difficult to reconcile. This
is not the same as being overwhelmed by the presence of abject poverty. Here it is as if centuries separate
As we returned to camp, the family lined up and waved good-bye. The man wants copies of the pictures
we took and I will be certain to do that. Of course, there is no such thing as mail for them but if I send
them to Robert and Samson, they will deliver them sometime when they are there again. (Post script: I did
send the pictures and Robert did deliver them. He said the family was thrilled and excited to receive them.
Robert and I communicate via e-mail.)
While we were gone today, the camp crew set up a shower tent--complete with running, hot
water--absolutely astounding. After cleaning up, we sat around the fire, sipping wine until our banquet was
set before us. Tomorrow we break camp and leave this incredible, amazing, awesome, time-warped
place. We will never be the same again after the knowledge gained here.
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|When Robert and Samson visit this tribe,they always bring
three things--coarse tobacco, salt and nails. We watched as a
boy used a primitve tool to hammer a thick,heavy nail into a flat,
deadly arrowhead. It took him maybe 10-15 minutes to do this.
Later, they made arrowheads for each of us. Robert said this
was an unusual thing for them to do. One of the rules of visiting
is that there is no trading and no attempt to interfere with their
ancient way of life. The Tanzanian government monitors this
very closely--only allowing special agencies to bring visitors to
the tribe. They are treated much like an endangered species. It
is certain that not too much more time can elapse before they
are either extinct or assimilated.
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and carrying their sticks. Off on the
plain were a Datoga man and woman
who stood totally motionless just
peering at us for a very long time. It is
very strange to see people standing
absolutely still observing you. They
are always dressed in red and the
men carry wooden spears. The
women have huge holes in their
earlobes which sometimes are
decorated with pieces of bone or
large hanging beadwork rings. They
wear an abundance of very colorful
necklaces and bracelets. Their faces
are scarred with designs.
The mystery in all of this is where the people come from. There are no signs of habitation, no huts, no
animals, no anything and yet solitary people can be seen walking the savannah-they materialize from
nowhere and disappear to nowhere. As with the Hadza, they live in a place and time unknown to those of
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