Despite the good night's sleep, morning couldn't come too soon! We were finally in prime lion country. I had prayed to God not to let me down in terms of lion sightings. I seemed to have His assurance I would not be!
The African adventure I am on is just a bit past half over this morning, with the best part of the trip yet ahead!
We had breakfast, as usual. One American thing the Africans had discovered was peanut butter! This was a treat that I loved, but rarely enjoyed because it was extremely fattening. I showed the other members of our group how good a bacon-and-peanut butter sandwich was. Larry was hooked, for sure, and I think the others liked this odd combination as well.
Since it was the weekend, the crater ws likely to be a busy place. (It was really easy to lose track of which day it was on a trip like this.) After all, people who live in Tanzania visit their National Parks on weekends for recreation just like we do ours! Somehow, I envy them for having such fascinating places that are easy to visit!
After taking a couple of pictures of the crater (10:36,35), we climbed into the land rover for the 2,000 foot descent to the crater floor. The air was just a bit hazy, and the sun was still low, resulting in areas of deep shadow. (10:32) I got some additional pictures of the land as we continued our descent. (10:30-28)
As we got close to the crater floor, we could begin to see hundreds of animals scattered on the crater floor. Tiny black dots peppered the landscape for as far as the eye could see. Such is the magic of Ngorongoro! (10:27)
We found a Abdim's stork along the road as we neared the crater floor. (10:26)
An ungainly wildebeest posed for a picture along the road. (10:25) The weird build of these animals made one wonder how they ever came to be. I've always joked that they are basically built to be lion food!
We often observed zebra to roll on their back and writhe around. They did this to give themselves a back rub. It was always fun to watch such a large animal assume such a silly position! (10:24,23)
It was now time for the gazelles to pose for pictures. A lone Thomson's was almost perfectly situated in relation to the light as we drove by. The result was a stunning portrait! (10:22) We found few really large herds of animals in Ngorongoro. Instead, we found mainly individuals and small groups scattered almost everywhere.
We also observed Grant's gazelles. I got a couple of pictures showing a number of Thomson's gazelles with the bold black side stripes, and the larger Grant's gazelles with the lighter side stripes. They looked striking against the background of the crater floor in the early morning light. (10:21,20)
Another lone wildebeest posed with the crater wall in the background. This was the place to get individual animal portraits! (10:19)
We were generally making our way towards the Munge River course. A lot of wildlife hung out around this river.
I got a photo of a Thomson's gazelle grazing while a Grant's gazelle rested in the foreground. (10:18)
We observed a mother wildebeest with her calf. The calf watched us with interest as the mother grazed. We must look as strange to them as they do to us! (10:17)
There was no shortage of cape buffalo on the crater floor. These homely- looking (and quite dangerous) animals are among my favorites. I did not get enough photographs of them on this short trip. Some them bore visible scars. Some of these scars were undoubtedly the results of 'power struggles'. Others were likely inflicted in close encounters with their mortal enemies, the lion! (10:16,15,14) The cape buffalo did not intermix as readily as the other plains animals did, and so were only found in scattered groups.
We saw a lone jackal searching for breakfast. (10:13) Jackals were normally seen in pairs, as they mate for life.
I spotted a large, kind of dull-colored bird. This is a kori bustard, the largest flying bird. (10:12,9)(They typically don't fly much, due to their size!) This quickly became one of my favorite birds, and I got many photographs of them. The kori bustard is a member of the crane family. It eats a variety of plant and animal food, but it is best known for eating small critters toasted in brush fires. Unfortunately, this magnificent bird is uncommon outside the parks due to overhunting.
Another common bird in Ngorongoro is the blacksmith lapwing. (10:11,10) This pretty bird has black and white coloration scattered over it's body. In reviewing my field guide to write this account, I learned that it got it's name from it's call; a long series of 'klink' notes. This might have been the mysterious 'beacon bird' that kept me awake the first night in Tarangire.
I got a nice picture of some wildebeest grazing against the backdrop of the crater walls. I also noticed a kori bustard managed to get into the picture, too.(10:8)
We were lucky to be able to get quite close to a mother wildebeest and her young calf. This calf ws probably only a few days old. In any case, I got two excellent photographs. (10:7,6) I also got a picture of a wildebeest resting. (10:5)
We next saw a pair of jackals, a more typical find. (10:4)They were traveling together, no doubt in search of some grub. Animals that mate for life like jackals develop really deep bonds. These bonds are so deep that if one of the pair dies, chances are the other one will die soon after.
We saw more vultures on the ground. (10:3) We saw this all the time. They were usually just resting, waiting for something to happen. However, in looking carefully at this picture, it appears that we may have interrupted a meal. (We did not notice this in the field.) There is something that resembles part of an animal in front of the middle vulture in the group of three, perhaps a wildebeest. Just to the right of the rightmost vulture is what appears to be part of a horn. This might be as close as we got to seeing vultures feed on a large animal.
I got another nice picture of a almost all-blue bird. It looks like a lilac-breasted roller, but it's coloration doesn't match. Two out-of-focus cape buffalo loom in the background. (10:2)
We next saw two Egyptian geese wandering about on the ground. The light was just right to reveal their coloration and features. They share the pictures with a zebra. (10:1,0)
As we got closer and closer to the Munge River, the amount of wildlife increased, both in number and type. No tight herds, but a lot of animals spread out over a considerable area.
A hyena was sighted, working it's way along the rivercourse. We saw just two hyena in the crater, I feel an untypically low number. (11:36)
Large animals, such as wildebeest stir up insects in the grass for other animals. Yellow billed storks or cattle egrets will flock around these animals to harvest these insect disturbances. (11:35)
The animals sometimes sought out shelter from the hot sun under a tree. The sun was out in full strength now, and the morning haze had burned off. I got a picture of wildebeest and a couple of zebra enjoying a cooler spot. (11:34)
I took a couple of pictures to show the widespread scattering of animals along the Munge River. (11:33,32)
We came across another hyena that was just wandering among the herds. It must have somehow signaled that it is not hunting, as the numerous nearby wildebeest do not seem concerned. (11:31)
I took yet another picture of a single wildebeest. Although the light was nice, the pose was not striking. (11:30)
There were many zebra among the wildebeest. The zebra and wildebeest like to hang out together because they feed at different height. When one animal is done grazing (I forget which one is first, but I think it is the wildebeest.), the grass is set up for the other to graze. I got a nice picture of a zebra nursing a foal (11:29) and an even nicer picture of a single zebra. (11:28)
Ngorongoro has water year round, and the animals depend on it. I photographed these wildebeest in a waterhole, quenching their thirst. (11:27) Any animal venturing into such a waterhole needs to watch what they are doing, as this is a perfect setup for an ambushing lion!
High up on the crater wall (Which is really more like a moderately steep hill) was an antelope that one cannot usually get close to: the common (or Patterson's) eland. (11:26) This is the largest of the African antelope. It is also quite shy, and tends to stay away from people. If you look closely, there is a very young calf among this group of eland.
The common eland wasn't recognized as a species until around the turn of the century. It was 'discovered' by Colonel J.H. Patterson of Tsavo Maneater fame. It's retiring nature is probably why it took so long to be discovered. It has few natural enemies, and even lions don't hunt them if there is other game available. There is good eating on an eland (I've tried it.), and they are now raised as cattle in some parts of Africa.
We saw a tawny eagle in a tree, scanning the crater floor for an easy meal. I got this picture through some sort of obstruction. (11:25)
A large flock of birds, most likely yellow billed storks, were out among the large grazers looking for insects disrupted by the large animal's movements. (11:24)
We finally ran into what looked like a real herd of wildebeest. They were blocking the road in front of us. The picture that resulted was one of the finest herd shots I got the entire time I was in Africa! (11:23)
Further ahead of us, we spied a bunch of safari vehicles that had come together. Whenever you saw this, there was something interesting going on. So, we made our way over towards them. Before we even got there, we found out what was going on. Not only were the vehicles crowded together. They couldn't move because a group of lions had decided to take a nap underneath them. Girdlock, African style!
We got there just in time. We saw an enormous paw extending from underneath one of the vehicles (11:22,21. Contrast reduced in 11:22 to help bring out the lion under the vehicle.) Just as we were settled down to watch what would happen, the lions got up. (I will always wonder if they were waiting for me. Only God knows, and Glory to Him!!) I snapped three really nice pictures (11:20,19,18) as four lions, two females and two young adult males walked around our vehicle! One was so close, I could have reached out the window and touched it!!
The lions proceeded to plod down the road, not hurrying. We followed them. (11:17)
One of the lionesses decided that a small dirt pile along the road was a good spot to relieve herself! The two males watched with interest. (11:16)
The four lions continued to walk slowly down the road, not being hurried by the presence of all the safari vehicles. (11:15) Suddenly, and without warning, one of the pairs decided to mate right in the middle of the road! (No shame!) The two photos I got of this are among the most spectacular I got on the whole trip!! (11:14,13)
The lions finally got bored of us, and wandered off the road. (11:12) There was another mating soon after. (I suspect it was the other pair, as lions mate about every 20 minutes. These matings were less than 5 minutes apart.) (11:11 Notice all the 'lion food' in the background!) Then, one of the lions involved rolled on it's back (Probably the female) and the other fell promptly asleep! (11:10) Thus ended our first really close encounter with the king of beasts. Glory to God!
Not far beyond the lions, we ran across a nice group of ostriches, who were standing in a circle, as if holding a conference! (11:9)
We had all hoped to see a wildebeest give birth. This was the right time of the year, and earlier in the day was the right time. (Wildebeest usually give birth between dawn and early afternoon, so the newborns will have developed enough strength to run with their mother by nightfall.) We never did, but we did come within a few minutes of a birth. We found a wildebeest calf so young that it was still wet with amniotic fluid! It had a piece of umbilical cord hanging from it's abdomen. Although still shaky on it's feet, this little calf had no trouble moving around and savoring those first few hours of life! (11:8,7) It brought to mind words inspired by the opening lines of the main title of 'The Lion King':
'From the day we arrive on the planet, and squinting step into the sun, There is more to be seen than can ever be seen, more to do than can ever be done.'
It was a long ways off, without anything else around, but we had no trouble spotting it. A rhino. In fact, two rhinos; a mother and her young one. We stopped and observed them for a long time, hoping they would move closer. At this distance, it was tough to get a good photograph; I am quite pleased with the results. (11:6,5,4; 11:4 was scanned at 600 d.p.i.) You can't tell from this distance what species of rhino they are, but they should be the much more rare black rhino. Ngorongoro Crater is famous for being one of the last places you could find them. Park rules prohibited us from leaving the road to get a better look, so we had to be content with what we saw. (I wouldn't want to drive too close to an undisturbed rhino, anyway. Their charge can be nasty!)
However, one other group of safariers weren't content. They drove off the road and got much closer. (Their land rover is visible in 11:5) Before very long, a ranger vehicle arrived and we watched the driver of that vehicle get a thorough scolding. There is a observation center on the crater rim that carefully monitors what is going on below. You can bet they know where each and every rhino is, and they are watched VERY carefully!
Although nobody was really keeping track, we had seen 4 of the 'big 5' in the space of 3 hours! (Rhino, elephant, lion and buffalo. Only leopard had not been seen.)
It didn't take much longer to again encounter one of the 'big 5' again, and another animal that ought to have been included. We were headed for the hippo pool!
When we reached the hippo pool, we found an unusually big crowd of safari vehicles there, and for good reason. Besides the numerous hippo keeping cool in the pool, a mother lion and quite a number of cubs were feasting on a kill nearby in the grass! (11:3,2,1, 12:36,32. These were all scanned at 600 d.p.i.) We couldn't tell what the kill was. We could only occasionally see flashes of red above the grass. What was even more difficult to discern was exactly how many cubs there were. We never did get a consensus count, but it was between 5 and 6. (5 or 6 is unusual for a litter. Perhaps a couple of the cubs weren't her own.) They were quite young cubs. They were also quite dark in color, making them hard to spot in the grass.
As is typical for lion cubs, these cubs were also as interested in, if not more interested in adventure than in a good meal. They would eat for a while, then wander off, or watch us, or otherwise get distracted! The mother was frequently distracted from her own meal to round up the cubs! At one point, she raised her tail , giving the 'follow me' signal to the mischievous cubs. (12:36)
All one had to do at this point was turn their head to see hippo. There were quite a number of them in the pool, in two groups. (12:35,34) They would occasionally splash water on their backs to keep the exposed portion of the skin moist. Sometimes, they rested their massive heads on each other's back.
These massive members of the pig family are responsible for more human deaths than any other large African animal. Blocking a hippo's escape route to water is a fatal mistake. So is threatening their young. They have large tusks inside their mouths, like domestic swine. With these, they can easily cut a person in half, even though they are pure herbivores.
Hippos also enrich the environment of the pools they hang out in with their excrement. The nitrogen-rich waste enables a whole chain of life that otherwise wouldn't be possible. In the end, this chain of life also provides the hippo with food.
In any case, we stayed in this spot a good while, observing both the lioness and her cubs, and the hippo. You would turn your head and watch one of these for a while. Then, turn your head and observe the other! But, lions and hippos weren't all there was to observe here. There were numerous birds about, such as cattle egrets, sacred ibises, and a stray blacksmith lapwing. (12:33 and the others from this group. Most birds in these pictures are sacred ibises)
We now turned away from the water, and headed for the picnic spot. On the way, we saw a nice mixed herd of buffalo, zebra and wildebeest. This made for a really nice picture. (12:31)
Lunch was on the shore of a small pond. Even though there were a few hippo in the pond, they kept their distance and didn't bother anybody. What was bothersome, however, was the kite birds. I had read about them in the travel guides, and in fact AAC originally told us we would return to camp for lunch to avoid this problem. (My personal feeling on this matter is I would rather experience the kites!) These large birds were flying everywhere, eyes open for an unguarded morsel of food in someone's hand! Although we ate outside the vehicle, we stayed right next to it, and kept our food as hidden as possible. We did not have any problems.
One unwary couple ventured a short distance from the main body of visitors to enjoy a peaceful lunch. No sooner than they had sat down on a rock, the kites moved in with force! They were so quickly and heavily barraged that they almost ran back to their vehicle!
Others were baiting the kites, just to watch their 'grab and go' tactics. Although this was fascinating to watch, this is not an encouraged practice!
We had gotten to the lunch place a little later than most people. It was interesting to observe that the kites quickly left as soon as the main body of visitors had moved on. By the time we left, maybe only 10-20 percent of the people originally there were left, and the kites were completely gone! It is obvious in any case that the kites have built a visit to the picnic site into the daily routines of their lives. Us humans had become part of their ecosystem!
One last interesting note. The bathroom facilities at the picnic site were in a concrete block building on top of a small hill overlooking the pond. It was the highest point for at least a quarter of a mile. The facilities had ample running water; you could hear it constantly running. There was no electric power, yet they were able to get water to freely run under pressure with no pumps or water tower! I never did figure out how this facility works. In any case, there was some sort of equipment in a couple of underground rooms next to the bathrooms.
After lunch, we made plans for the rest of the afternoon. Since there was only one vehicle and driver, we had to all agree to do the same thing, or else stay behind in camp. On this particular occasion, there was an opportunity later in the day to visit a Masai village. It was the last good opportunity of the trip. I wanted to continue exploring the crater. After all, there had already been two really excellent lion sightings. How many more would there be in the afternoon? The rest of the group wanted to return to camp and take a nap before visiting the Masai village. The vote? 4 to 1 to return to camp. Although I had to agree, I was deeply disappointed. Originally, we were to have spent an entire day in the crater, with the possibility of an additional half day. Instead, our total time in this magnificent place would amount to about 2/3's day! I was very quiet on the drive back to camp. At least, we didn't hurry and took our time to look around. I had all but put my camera and binoculars away because I was disappointed.
But God wasn't going to let this be a total loss. As we began our drive up the descent-ascent road, we spied a lone male lion on top of a hill, 'looking regal'! (12:30)We watched him for nearly 10 minutes, until he turned his head towards us, and I got the perfect picture! (12:28,27) At the last moment, the sun peeked out from behind a cloud, and lit up his mane! (12:26. Scanned at 600 d.p.i.) The result was an incredibly dramatic picture of a big male lion with the vertical-looking wall of the crater as a backdrop! This sighting made the difference between an afternoon that was a total loss and one that was just disappointing. 'Give thanks to the Lord for He is Good, His mercies endure forever!' (Psa. 136:1)
Just short of our camp, we were stopped on the descent-ascent road by a herd of elephant. I carefully counted. Exactly nine elephant! (A tenth eventually appeared.) This was significant for me. My amateur radio call is NS9E. Many hams try to come up with cute words to remember their call by. My call was particularly resistant to this treatment. One person once suggested 'Never Seen 9 Elephants', and it stuck. Well, I can't use that one anymore! Luckily, 'North South 9 East' had been suggested by someone else, and that is what I now use!
We got back to camp. I took two more pictures looking down into a now-less-hazy crater. (12:25,24) After servicing my optics, and making log entries, I took a long, restless nap. After what seemed like forever, it was time to visit the Masai village.
Joe and Joyce decided they had seen enough that day, so they stayed behind. So, it was Larry, Teri, Njau and myself who ventured forth.
I had always been fascinated by the Masai. They had such an interesting culture, and sought to protect it. I have some acquaintances in Kenya who run a Christian mission to the Masai, and I pray for them frequently. We have aired several documentaries about their unique lifestyle at the TV station where I work. The Masai featured prominently in the movie 'The Ghost and the Darkness'. They believe they own all the world's cattle! Their fondness for drinking blood is known worldwide!
The Masai village turned out to be on the way to Olmoti Crater, just short of Nainokanoka. This village was one of a number of 'cultural bomas' that the Masai had set up in the area. There was a plaque proclaiming this in the village entrance. This particular one was a bit off the beaten path, and had fewer visitors. At this particular moment, we were the only ones. The result was an encounter of unusually high quality.
The cultural boma program was designed to help break down some of the barriers to tourism that normally existed with the Masai. You paid a fee (Which was built into the cost of the tour.), and then were free to look around as much as you wanted, and take as many pictures as you wanted. (Normally, you had to negotiate a price to take a picture of a person in Africa, especially a Masai. Therefore, this is almost the only spot where I photographed people.) (12:23) Thus, the villagers made a somewhat predictable income off of the visitors, in return for less privacy.
The tour started out in a Masai house. It was a round affair on the outside, and was of wattle-and-daub construction. (The big difference being the daub was dried cow manure! It was so dry that there was absolutely no smell.) Even the roof was made of this construction, yet it remained dry inside even during the rainy seasons!
The inside of the house (12:22 L to R: The Masai wife who owned the house, Teri (Just visible), Njau, Larry (Only his shirtsleeve is visible.); 12:21) was supported by large sticks. A number of small windows were present in the wall; there was no opening in the roof. A small, hot fire was burning in the middle of the floor, in a small pit. (Just off the bottom left of 12:21) This fire was never allowed to go out. It was fueled with a hot-burning wood that gave off little smoke. And although it was hot and smoky in the house, it was tolerable.
The central area of the house was more or less round. There were three bed chambers off the center. One for the man of the house. (Which I was sitting in the mouth of.)The other two were for his two wives and their children. The Masai woman and Teri were sitting in one of these, and Njau was sitting in the other. The floors of these chambers were lined with cowhide that had been polished smooth by constant use. Although the leather was fairly hard, it was warm, and probably quite comfortable to sleep on.
There was a supply of firewood, and the few odds and ends that the Masai needed for their daily routine. Larry sat on a rather small stool that provided additional seating for visitors. (12:21)
Njau was our interpreter, since he spoke both Swahili and Masai. We learned that the houses were built by the women. On average, nomadic Masai would move about once every six months to follow good pasture. However, the first house for a family was built by the man. (Who was at least a warrior.) He would then marry a wife, and she would move in. Eventually, the man would want another wife. The first wife would then select the second wife. The third wife was selected by the first two, and so on. After the marriage, the wives would build the houses, collect firewood, prepare food, raise children, and make crafts for the tribe and market. There was rarely any idle time in the life of a Masai woman.
Young children would help the man of the house watch the cattle as they grew older. Eventually, the boys would start the training they would need to become warriors. Even as youngsters, they would wear the traditional red cloth. But, when it came time for circumcision, they would switch to a black cloth for a period of time. During circumcision, it was a dishonor to show any reaction to the considerable pain caused by this procedure. After circumcision, they would continue to wear the black cloth for a while, and paint their faces white. Eventually, they would switch back to the red cloth, as they had achieved manhood.
Young women went through a similar 'circumcision' ceremony to bring them to womanhood.
To prove you were ready to be a warrior, you used to have to kill a lion single-handed. Now, lion killing is highly discouraged among the Masai (Unless the cattle are in danger!), as they understand the importance of conservation. Instead of killing a lion, you need to steal someone else's cattle and present them to the village Elders. When you have done this, you are inducted to be a 'Moran' (Warrior). These are permitted to marry. The warriors are the main tenders of the cattle, and will fight to either acquire more cattle, or defend them from being taken. Cattle equal wealth in the Masai world, and owning many cattle is far more important than owning anything else!
When sufficient time had passed, and other tests were successfully passed, a Moran was raised to the status of Elder. These men no longer had to tend cattle. They stayed around the village, and managed it's affairs. They also carried shorter sticks that had bands on them that indicated their high status.
A word is in order about Masai dress. In order to be considered a Masai, you must at all times 1.)Wear a red cloth, usually with a pattern that indicated your social status, 2.) carry a stick for herding cattle, and 3.)A long knife or sword for fighting off the thief or lion. Failure to have any of these items on your person was cause for major dishonor!
As mentioned before, polygamy is normal among the Masai. It also works in reverse. If your warrior friend comes over to visit your wife he will plant his spear in the doorway of your house. He is then permitted to have sex with your wife, and this is perfectly OK as long as the spear is in the doorway. When he is done, he removes his spear and leaves. This is not entirely risk-free; there are major complications if these relations result in a child!
Both the men and women will travel great distances to fulfill the tasks at hand. The men will often walk for several days to take some cattle to a market, or get some from the same. When they travel, they take a long, oval wooden flask filled with a mixture of ground maize and milk. They can eat for a number of days from such a vessel, which is about 2 feet long and five or so inches in diameter.
Despite the reputation of eating just milk and meat and blood, the Masai eat a considerable quantity of maize meal in their food. Meat is often from non-bovine animals, such as goat. (Remember, cattle equal wealth!) They rarely will hunt wild animals for food. (This is one reason why the Masai live in many wildlife reserves; they don't really harm the wild animals by their presence.) Blood is tapped from a neck vein of a cow. A certain amount is drained out, and the wound closed. A cow can have this done periodically with no ill effects. This is drank as is, or mixed with other foods, such as milk. The Masai also make a strong alcoholic beverage from Maize meal.
Masai jewelry is all meaningful. For instance, just looking at the neck ring of a Masai woman can indicate her marital status, the number and age of her children, and her status in the tribe. The same holds true for the bracelets the men wear. There is one particular bracelet given for active participation in government affairs, another for killing a lion, etc. Even the length of the cattle-herding stick means something.
Masai religion is based on at least one god. They practice animal sacrifice. Their place of pilgrimage is the mountain Oldoinyo Lengai. This mountain is holy to the Masai. It is the only currently active volcano in East Africa. It is located on the rift valley floor, just Northeast of the Ngorongoro Massif, and just South of lake Natron. They also believe in magic amulets, etc. One of these, for instance, is supposed to make predators, especially lions, stupid and lethargic when close to the wearer. Thus the Masai warrior can walk safely in lion country!
Once a year, the warriors get together for training. The practice fighting, give and hear pep talks, and eat a lot of meat. This makes them strong for war. The Masai warrior is to show no fear!
The Masai are relative newcomers. They migrated to East Africa from the North about 200 years ago. They were stronger, and displaced the local tribes. Nobody has ever been able to reclaim land back from them. Nowadays, the Masai are less concerned about takeovers, and more concerned about keeping what they have. The government of Tanzania has been trying to settle the Masai down and give them land. They generally don't want this. They have also built schools for the Masai, but many families won't send their children to these schools. Yet, the Masai are on good terms with the government. As the second largest tribe in Tanzania, they hold two seats in parliament. They are highly respected for their traditions and tenacity.
Some Masai have chosen to abandon their traditional ways and live more modern lives. Many have gone to foreign colleges and come back with high degrees. This is generally acceptable. What has been problematic has been when one of these falls in love and marries outside the tribe. This causes no end of problems!
Many other details of Masai life were discussed at length while we sat in the house. Finally, the man of the house came in, and joined the discussion. We were probably in there a good hour or more.
Teri had a special surprise. She had shared the narrow bedchamber opening with the wife. When we were done, she conferred honorary sisterhood on Teri for being willing to share such a small space! It was clear that she and Teri were getting along splendidly!
We then went outside, and we were shown the wares the women and children were making for market. These were displayed on racks and chicken-wire panels when finished. There was an area like this outside of each home. We were taken around to the display areas of several of the homes. The use and significance of many implements were demonstrated to us at each of these areas. We watched some of these wares being made as we wandered around.
In any case, we quickly learned that these items were for sale, and it was wished that we would consider a purchase! A beautiful belt was tried on me, but alas, it wouldn't fit my wide girth. This was too bad, as the belt was full-cut leather and of superior workmanship!
Larry seemed to be the most interested in making purchases and was negotiating a deal at length. Teri tried to trade a watch she had brought for some merchandise. The Masai woman instantly knew where the watch was made and how much it was really worth! Nevertheless, she was eventually able to swing a deal. I just stood around and looked at all the items for sale. Finally, the Masai man fitted me with a multicolored bead bracelet. I very much liked the color scheme. It had a number of rows of clear and opaque colored beads. These were strung on some wire that may be stainless steel, as it hasn't rusted. The wires were held together by flexible bands that are either plastic or animal cartilage. After finding out through Njau that it was expected to negotiate a price, I negotiated a price of $10. I ended up paying this in $1 bills. Now, I know why I needed to bring a lot of these! (12:20)
Eventually, Larry was able to close a deal for the items he wanted. Our business transactions were all complete. We were then taken to the center of the village, which is a large communal pen where the cattle are kept at night. As we walked over there, I caught a picture of a older Masai child carrying a younger one on his back. The outside structures of the houses are also clearly visible. (12:19)
There were already a few cattle in the pen. (12:18) The rest were on their way. While the cattle were being brought in, some of the people sang some traditional Masai songs, and did a jumping routine they are known for. The young children of the village participated. They all had their little sticks. It was all pretty rough, but everyone was having a good time! (12:17,16,15)
Now, as the singers sang, the cattle were brought in, and promptly milked. (12:14,13) The first bit of milk was sprinkled over the rest of the herd, perhaps as some sort of productivity-increasing ritual. After everyone was busy milking the cattle, we said goodbye (Jambo in Swahili) and thus ended our most pleasant visit. (Although the Masai visit was immensely enjoyable, interesting and educational, I still would have much rather chased lions in Ngorongoro Crater!)
We drove back to the camp. After a shower, we sat around the fire like we did the night before. Suddenly, I found myself being bitten again! Apparently, the 'ants' were under the one chair I tended to sit in! I had to go to the tent and meticulously pick them off of me again! This made me late for dinner the second night in a row!
It was early to bed that night, but we could sleep in late, as we didn't have to travel too far the next day to reach the Serengeti. There would be a stop at Olduvai Gorge to visit the Hominid Fossil Interpretive Center.