Tanzania; safari fun and a Maasai market

Well, let’s go back to East Africa, along the northern Tanzania safari route. This won’t be your usual animal parade, it will be a bit more earthy than that. It will show a few safari moments and then the same for a Maasai market which occurs weekly near Tarangire National Park; at the corner where you turn from the Arusha road toward Ngorongoro Crater. The safari highlights will be those things that just happen… and you just roll with them. The market is a cultural highlight in that we have nothing quite as entertaining; although some of our fresh food open air farmer’s markets are a bit similar. Here you could barter for cattle or goats or buy tethers for either. In addition there were sandals cut from old motorcycle tires (or tyres as they say), various food items, previously worn clothing in bales imported from the US or Europe, and a chance to buy herbs or get a tooth pulled.

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The section of the market dealing with cattle was much as you might imagine; a bit odoriferous, a bit dusty, and a bit noisy. We couldn’t understand the discussion but assume that it was an intersection between what was needed to sell a cow and the reason that it was worth much less than that. There seemed to be a lot of standing around but I figured that was like when guys go to an old car show and just hang around talking cars – maybe they just like the energy of the market and the sense of being a cow-guy.

A safari vehicle, mostly Toyota Land Cruiser modified for the job, has to be well maintained and yet be ready for anything that goes wrong. Black roads, hot sunny weather, tires with tubes, and lots of driving often cause a brief delay in the trip. Flat tires are not uncommon. The driver-guides are trained to deal with the mishaps but hot lug nuts and cumbersome jacks make every tire-change a bit of a challenge.

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When one vehicle has a problem others gather to help. Thus we have one driver with two others from other vehicles helping. We were soon being carefully and quietly observed by Maasai kids who were watching their goats and cattle nearby and were drawn to the distraction. Many of the roads in Tanzania are in good shape. They have been built over the past twenty years by Japan and Canada for the most part. China is a big player in Africa at the moment. These countries actually design and complete projects like roads and bridges rather than sending aid money. Thus there is little to point to from American aid as much of it never gets to the target. By the way; the Chinese are very good at this and are building bridges and soccer stadiums and everything in between throughout the African continent.
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Safari vehicles are safe havens for the most part. In areas where lions need shade they often wander over and lie next to or under a vehicle. This means that other vehicles come to look and the shade-provider has to stay put until the lions move off. These two lions, a male and a female, were not seeking shade however. They were mating and just happened to use the shade in between amorous moments. It is very rare that a lion will seem to notice what is inside a vehicle; but if you stepped out it is likely that you would regret it in matter of seconds.
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Meanwhile back at the market There was a shoe sale going on. The majority of the shoes above are merely section of motorcycle tire fitted with rubber straps. They last nearly forever and are replaced only when the straps fail.
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Pots and pans are an essential item even if your kitchen is a small wood fire against a few stones near the entrance to your house. The fire is often near the entrance to keep both vermin and hyenas outside. Many of the items are previously used but others are new.
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Both bananas and plantain are available at the market or most any roadside vendors table. They are bought in small bunches at very low prices.
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The same with onions or tomatoes. The Maasai are not farmers and many of the crops are grown by neighboring tribes and sold at the markets. That being said, I would add that cultures are blending more and more all the time.
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The goats and cattle are the men’s business. They demean those they might need to buy and laud the ones they are selling. It is busy, noisy, and hard to decipher.
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A scene more and more common each year is portrayed by this woman, selling potatoes and keeping track via cell phone. Much of East Africa was without landline telephone. Thus the cell phone and cell towers arrived and made life much easier. There are few lines, either electrical or telephone, away from the cities. 
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I don’t think CVS, Rite-Aid, or Walgreen’s have much to worry about from the Maasai Market apothecary shops. These are local herbs and minerals that are meant to cure something or other. Shop at your own risk – or buy whatever you want and do the research to what active ingredient may actually do the job.

 

 

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