I've written before about the great beauty of driving and taking trains across a landscape, seeing, albeit fleetingly, a culture in fast forward. On our second day in Africa and on the way to our first national park, Lake Manyara, we saw our first glimpses of the Tanzanian transport.
We traveled west from Arusha toward our destination for the day, Lake Manyara National Park with our first safari guide of the trip, Francis.
I don't have a lot to write about the journey because we didn't get a chance to talk to these people, but our guide introduced us to the Maasai tribe and I wanted to share what we learned.
The Maasai people lives mainly in northern Tanzania, so we passed hundreds of Maasai throughout our time in Africa. One of the most fascinating things we learned was that children--some as young as 3-5!--tend the cows, which are the main source of food, walking them dozens of miles a day to get water.
Maasai, from what our guide Francis told us, eat predominantly meat of cows and goats, and drink milk. They eat very few vegetables, if any, and have incredible capacities for running and walking long distances because of their diet. Francis said they can walk 40 miles one way a day to bring their cows to water. Everywhere we drove, there were long strings of skinny cows with a few small children nearby.
They also often wear bright red, often plaid, because it is a color lions can see, and it scares them off. Apparently, the Maasai can kill a lion with their sticks alone! Many of the hotels we stayed at hired Maasai as the security guards to secure guests from animals because they are so attune to where the animals are and what they are doing. Also, there are restrictions on killing the animals now, so the hotels are happy to provide another means of livelihood for the tribe. As the young men are growin up, they go through a ritual of manhood where they wear all black, a stark difference from the bright robes of the tribe.
The land was arid but not terribly hot because of the altitude, so we enjoy cool breezes on the drive to Manyara.
Along the road, we saw 7-8 foot tall termite mounds,
and many trees with hot-red flowers, known as Christmas trees, also known as flamboyant trees, because they blossom in the winter.
The Maasai live in huts and their visage on the plains was so much more beautiful that I expected.
As we approached the village at the entrance to Lake Manyara National Park, known as Mosquito village, we saw women selling so many types of bananas along the road, school children, and so many people standing outside shops talking.
It was such a social culture compared to our isolated car-based society.
And, here's just a quick sneak peek of the animals we saw once we entered the park! We could almost reach out of the car and touch these cute little guys.