Olduvai Gorge is situated just
off the road from Ngorongoro to Serengeti, that is if you don't mind calling
less series of potholes as a road. If you start your journey to Serengeti
from Manyara sometime early in the morning, Olduvai would be the perfect
stopover to have your packed lunch. The name is actually a corrupted version
of the Masaai word for a type of shrub which grows abundantly in this area
: Oldpai. It is here that the famed footprints of the 3-4 million year
old hominids were found. The footprints have now been carefully covered,
but one can still see their casts in a few museums (Nairobi national museum
and the Oldpai museum itself, to name a couple) One Ms. Mary Leaky has
done commendable work to unearth many secrets of our (human, that is) history.
The oldpai museum, located close to the site, houses most of her works
including skulls and stone tools from five different periods of human evolution.
Visiting this museum is a must if you are interested to know more about
Australopithecus, Homo Habilis, Homo Erectus and ourselves, the Sapiens.
route from the crater to the plains also presents a good opportunity to
Masaai and to get a first hand insight into their lives. The entry fee
to any of the Masaai 'village' is 10US and this is the only place where
you are allowed to capture the images of these colourful people on film.
A typical village, the one that I visited that is, has about four score
people living in about a dozen houses. The 80 people had only 4 families
between them. The houses, made of cow dung, are very poorly lighted and
ventilated. But still don't miss a chance to see these things from the
inside. Only women are employed in building the houses, while the men,
the warriors as they like to call themselves, take care of the livestock.
A masaai boy becomes a warrior after enduring the circumcision ceremony
with a smiling face and spending a few years in the wild. This typically
happens around the age of 8 and seeing these young lads fending for themselves
in the harsh conditions makes you realise how kind life has been towards you.
boy is also expected to prove his worth by either killing a lion or hunting
a set of exotic birds. The lions, especially the old or injured ones, are
a constant threat to their cattle and hence a Masaai, in these days, constantly
gets into a lot of trouble with the government authorities for killing
the protected species. Cattle is the source of nourishment and wealth for
the Masaai. An average male drinks about a litre of cow's milk and a litre
of cow's blood a day. Beef is the most common meat and the cow is also
a unit of money.
A Masaai Hut
thing that strikes you most in a Masaai village is the poor sanitation
and medical facilities. Due to the kind of weapons these people use and
the kind of lives that they lead, one normally ends up seeing a few really
bad wounds among the villagers. Lack of infrastructure and know-how would
be the bigger reasons than lack of money for the poor medical facilities,
especially when you consider the number of visitors that these people have
per day all round the year. In fact these villages are so used to hosting
people from all parts of the world that communication with any of the villagers
is never a problem - most of them speak wonderful English.
for more photos from the masaai vilage and Oldpai Gorge