|AFRICA DAY 16 - BUSHMEN ENCAMPMENT|
Sunday, July 10
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We got up just after 5:00am for a 5:30am departure. There's not really a way to contact the Bushmen so you really just have to get there before they leave for their hunt. The trucks were picking up the others from the tent camp first as we were located on the way to the where the Bushmen were camped.
The Bushmen still live today as they have for centuries - as a traditional hunter-gatherer society who moves every few weeks to new camps. The trucks picked us up around 5:45am with the German manager and the other guy (who we learned was the night watchman, and, armed with his spear and sword, kept watch on the grounds all night for wild animals) outside as well. It turned out only four people came from the other camp - Yoko, Nikki, Kim, and Ryan - the rest were either not feeling well or decided to sleep in. After a relatively short drive down an even worse "road" (making the previously designated really bad road look good) that was more like a narrow hiking trail we came to a small clearing along a dry river bed. Following a short trail we came to the Bushmen camp.
There were a half-dozen or so of them sitting around a small fire warming up, all wearing what we were told were baboon skins. There were also many dogs walking and lying around - they're used to help guard the camp and assist during the hunts. The bows and arrows were ready to go, and our guide showed us the different types of arrows used depending on their target (there were different arrows for birds, small game, and large game). They did appear to be the same arrowheads we saw created by the Datoga blacksmith. The arrows are dipped in a poison for hunting, but we didn't find out what that poison was or how it was made.
The Bushmen get ready for their hunt by starting a small side fire (rubbing a stick on another) to light a pipe to smoke some marijuana - something they do every morning before leaving camp. It seems they have been doing this for a very long time (perhaps passed down by traders several centuries years ago), but tracking down an exact history is very difficult. They all smoked, coughing violently in the process, then grabbed all of their gear and took off.
They moved very quickly through some pretty rough terrain - hilly and rocky and covered with a lot of bushes and trees with thorns and other sharp protrusions. I kept up pretty well (with difficulty) for a while, though ducking through and under branches was difficult with my pack on. We had taken off from their camp a bit before sunrise, and as the sun came up it became much warmer very quickly, but I kept my jacket on for some additional protection from the bushes and trees. We were surrounded by Baobab trees - the gnarly, wide trees that look like they're upside down, especially during the dry season when the trees have no leaves (they only have leaves for a few months each year during the wet season). The ground did appear to be covered with Baobab fruit - so it couldn't have been too long since the leaves all fell off.
We continued on (more like they continued on while we struggled to keep up) when a couple of them stopped and started chopping at a tree with an axe. Apparently, one had spotted a bee and followed it back to the tree where he chopped open a branch and pulled out handfuls of honey. This was a good reason to celebrate (so it seemed) so one rolled a joint, another started a small fire, and most of them smoked a little more pot. Short break (complete with snacks this time) now over, the hunt continued.
There was practically nothing there to hunt. We only saw a handful of small birds; one did try to shoot at the bird, collecting his arrow after missing. A bit later the dogs chased a hyrax or two from the rocks, but nothing was killed. Only one other shot was fired - another miss of a small bird. Another smoke break and almost three hours later, we all headed back to the trucks empty-handed. It's still not determined how much success they would have had if they weren't high the entire time.
While hunting they seemed to communicate their positions to one other by whistling, and would often stop to listen for animal sounds. I saw the chief throw rocks into the bushes (presumably to chase something out) and stop to look closely at the trees.
The Bushmen returned to their camp and we went back to the tent camp for some breakfast and to collect the rest of the group. While the eight of us who went on the trip that morning ate (toast, fruit, eggs, and pancakes) the trucks were loaded and we were able to leave by 11:00am.
We were heading back to the AMEG lodge in preparation for leaving back to the states the next day. We hit a main highway after an hour or so (no more bumpy roads) and stopped for lunch and some shopping at a souvenir shop. The boxed lunch this time was actually pretty decent - it was a spiced ground meat (similar to a taco seasoning) with veggies over pasta, some peanuts, juice, bananas, and cookies. After eating we collected our uneaten food in a few boxes to later give away to some kids or families we would see along the road.
We took off and soon hit Arusha where Amani stopped for a while to take care of some paperwork regarding Jeff and Gail's missing luggage (still missing, over a week after they arrived). They haven't had their luggage for the entire trip, but have handled it quite well. Another quick stop at another souvenir shop and we pulled into the AMEG sometime around 5:30 in the evening.
We got checked in and headed to our rooms - complete with electricity this time. I took a quick shower while Randy grabbed our bags the hotel was holding for us during the safari, and then headed up to the restaurant for dinner. I had another ham and chicken pizza with a Kilimanjaro beer, but as usual it took over an hour for the food to be delivered to the table. After dinner Randy, Nikki, and I hung out for a bit and tried a few of the local drinks. These included Kuyagi (a cheap vodka), Afrokoko (a chocolate/coconut liqueur), and Amarula (a fruity kind of cream liqueur). We then headed back to the room where I got packed and ready to leave the next day, did some writing, and went to bed.
Warming Up (Bushmen Camp)
Arrows (Bushmen Camp)
Drying Skins (Bushmen Camp)
Smoking (Bushmen Camp)
Difficult Terrain (near Bushmen Camp)
Beehive and Honey (near Bushmen Camp)
The Chief Hunting
(near Bushmen Camp)
More pictures from today:
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