Name ID 2440

See also

Ondaatje, Christopher Journey to the Source of the Nile
Page Number: 121
Extract Date: 1996

Rubeho foothills

We left camp at 8:45 a.m. By then the sun was well up. We heard on the radio that there was fighting in Zaire near the border of Rwanda and Burundi, near Lake Kivu and the large town of Bukavu a little north of where we were heading. We drew in Burton's route on the modern Tanzanian map, and decided not to follow it exactly, but to go north to Dodoma (the land of Ugogo) and then west.

As we moved into the Rubeho foothills we noticed more baobabs. When he encountered it, Burton described the Baobab, or calabash-tree, of the interior: "The mbuyu � the Baobab, Adansonia digitata, monkey-bread, or calabash,... is of more markedly bulbous form than on the coast, where the trunk is columnar; its heavy extremities, depressed by the wind, give it the shape of a lumpy umbrella shading the other wild growths."

When summarizing village life in East Africa he mentioned the scarcity and poor quality of the pottery he had seen before describing what was used instead:

Extract ID: 5746

See also

Norton, Boyd The African Elephant: Last Days of Eden


The landscape of Tarangire National Park in the Northeast part of Tanzania is right out of the Jurassic Age. It could well have served as a model for one of those paintings in National Geographic magazine depicting the age of dinosaurs. You expect at any moment, to see a Stegosaurus or Triceratops or perhaps even a Tyrannosaurus rex wandering amid those eerily prehistoric Baobab trees. It is thick with giant Baobab trees, probably the greatest concentration of them left in East Africa. And there are expansive grasslands, graceful acacias, and duom palms that rise tall on slender trunks to branch into several arcs of fluttering palm trees. However, it is the mbuyu, or Baobab, that dominates this land.

The Baobab is the tree of life, and the tree of mystery and legend. It is said, backed by some scientific evidence, to be among the oldest of living things, more than two thousand years old in some cases. It is, according to African lore, the tree where man was born. With squat trunk and stubby branches, it looks like a tree that has been uprooted and stuck back into the ground upside down.

Extract ID: 3688

See also

Ondaatje, Christopher Journey to the Source of the Nile
Page Number: 118
Extract Date: 1996


At Kilosa � quite a big town � there was a definite Arab influence. In this area, Burton reports seeing a ruined village � possibly Kilosa � from which Arab slavers had kidnapped most of the inhabitants and laid waste to their homes. The experience deeply disturbed Burton: "A pitiable scene here presented itself. The huts were torn and half-burnt, and the ground was strewed with nets and drums, pestels, mortars, cots and fragments of rude furniture�. Two of the wretched villagers were seen lurking in the jungle, not daring to revisit the wreck of their homes."

When we realized that there was no road from Kilosa through the Rubeho Mountains to Dodoma, we backtracked to Miyombo to pick up the Miyombo-Dodoma road. I was now convinced that Burton and Speke had to have taken this route. A twisting, red-earth track took us westward into the Rubeho foothills, through occasional banana plantations in the valleys, sisal, tall elephant grass, and dry scrub. It was a hot trip on a rough road, undulating and full of potholes. Occasional villages with thatch-roofed mud houses broke the monotony of the journey.

At noon, after a quick lunch of rice pancakes, and local "cheddar" cheese, tomatoes, and samosa (a triangular patty with a meat or vegetable filling), we continued through torturous, rock-strewn terrain. I was deeply thankful we had four-wheel drive. The going was very slow. We made sure we were always within sight of a river tributary � something all the early explorers seemed to do. As the afternoon wore on, we made our way over the foothills and down to Rumuma, grateful to guzzle some pomoni, locally brewed from cornflour. After some questioning we learned that the river running through Rumuma is a tributary of the Mkondoa. We moved on, through an avenue of cassia trees (whose bark is harvested for a rough kind of cinnamon), next to a Catholic mission, then headed north. Here on the leeward side of the foothills and mountains the climate is dry and perfect for the Baobab trees we saw everywhere. By 5:00 p.m., still some distance from the Dodoma road, we decided to give up for the day and camp on a bluff overlooking the plains.

We set up camp under a Baobab tree, first unloading the Land Rovers, unpacking the cooking utensils, making the fire, and constructing a lean-to under which we put the provisions and a rudimentary table in case of rain. So we had the three tents around a sort of bivouac in the middle. We tried to lay the supper out with a little bit of style. We got our plates from Ali, and squatted down on a stone or a log to eat. Ali always worked his magic. We only got sick once, when he bought some ghastly-looking meat from the side of the road. That experience reminded me of a complaint Burton had about the kind of food he bought at the side of the road: "the milk falls like water off the finger, the honey is in the red stage of fermentation, of the eggs there are few without the rude beginnings of a chicken, and the ghee [clarified butter], from long keeping, is sweet above and bitter below."

By the time we sat down to supper each night, we were usually ravenous. The evening meal was the substantial one. We would have a small breakfast, a small lunch, and keep our energy up between meals by snacking on ugali, a mash made out of millet � like a solid piece of soft dough or porridge. It is very filling, eaten instead of bread. You can have it hot or cold, and I invented lots of things with it. I ate ugali for breakfast with scrambled eggs, with tinned sardines or salmon for lunch, with chicken stew or wildebeest curry for dinner. Sometimes I would slice off a piece of cold ugali and put it on a plate and pour some golden syrup on it � and that was ugali for pudding as well. We always had ugali. No one ever went hungry, because, if worse came to worst, you could have some ugali and gravy, or ugali and meat, or ugali and fish, or ugali and jam. Burton's remark applied as strongly to us as to the peoples he met: "Their food is mostly ugali, the thick porridge of boiled millet or maize flour, which represents the 'staff of life' in East Africa."

At this campsite, a cool wind blew all night. Nothing else disturbed the silence except the occasional call of a nightjar. The next morning we woke to see the full moon setting as the sun rose. The dawn was windy and cool; it had been a pleasant sleep and we were ready to get on with the crossing of the Rubeho Mountains. In this area, Burton's experiences were quite like ours, as he had camped in the Rubeho foothills near where we camped.

Unlike us, however, he seemed compelled to make an impression on the natives in the area: "We left M�reng� Mk'hali at 1 p.m. on the 3rd of September, and in order to impressionize a large and well-armed band of the country people that had gathered to stare at, to criticize, and to deride us, we indulged in a little harmless sword-play, with a vast show of ferocity and readiness for fight."

Extract ID: 5745

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See also

Millett, Katherine The Hadza Tribe of Tanzania
Page Number: 4
Extract Date: 2001

Gambling Game

To while away the afternoon in the manner of many Hadza men, follow these simple instructions:

1. Find one to three other players.

2. Make one large disc from the bark of a Baobab tree.

3. Each player makes a smaller disc from bark or wood. (Tops and bottoms of discs must appear different.)

4. Choose one person, usually the loser of the last game or a newcomer to the group, and give all the discs to him or her.

5. This person piles the little discs on top of the big one and throws the whole stack at a tree. The discs fall on the ground and roll about.

6. The winner is the player whose disc is the only one to land the same way "up" as the large disc. (Keep throwing until only one player's disc matches the master disc.)

7. Bet any valuable thing you own on winning this game. Hadza men lose their bows, arrows and food this way all the time, according to James Woodburn.

Extract ID: 3117