12 February 2017, Day 25, Ngorongoro Highlands, Tanzania
We make a leisurely 8:30 a.m. departure from Karatu Simba. We traverse the dirt road through fields. We pass a woman carrying firewood – pigeon pea stalks. These are much used here because there are few trees. As we near the town of Karatu, we see women, dressed in their best, walking to church. The local market is setting up in a big field.
The variety in dress is interesting. Many women wear wraps in the traditional style. Others have proper dresses, made from African fabrics. Some of those in traditional dress top their outfits with fleece jackets.
We head west on the highway, passing water haulers of all kinds. One oxcart is loaded with two blue barrels, some 260 liters of water. A bicycle with several smaller jugs carries 80 liters. Water is the stuff of life.
At the other end of Keratu, we turn on another dirt road and make our way into the bush. We pass lots of what Witress calls “water point”. Most are government built and maintained, but others may have been built by World Bank or by NGOs. A couple of hoses at each point are used to fill barrels and jugs and buckets. A small charge, a penny a liter, is collected and banked for maintenance of the water point. Elephants often damage water pipes; these funds will pay for the repair.
We arrive at the Iraqw (“ear’-rock”) village and meet our local guide, Pascal. The area is hilly with rich red dirt. Fields are plowed with tractors and then cultivated by hand with large hoes. Most of the houses are brick.
Our first stop is at a moonshine still. Yes, really. We have a sniff and, if we like, a sip. It is hearty stuff, not so smooth as the moonshine of my native state. Women and men sit on a bench near the still. A couple of the fellows down shots to show us how it’s done. Grandma, more dignified, sips her ration slowly.
One of the woman is smoking a cigarette rolled from magazine paper. Wow. Pascal tells us we can get marijuana if we like, as well. No takers. There is a lot of litter, most of it plastic, in this area of the village. One wants to find a bag and trash pickers and get to work!
We stroll past a lodge to a coffee field planted on the sloping hillside, then backtrack to an adjacent house, where they are roasting coffee over charcoal. Pascal talks us through the process – six months of harvest, shelling the beans, drying the beans, aging for one year in sacks. Then comes the final shelling, done with a large mortar and pestle, winnowing out the shell, and roasting the beans for 40-45 minutes.
We stroll through the village to the clinic, talking as we go. The Iraqw custom is arranged marriage. There are traditional rules, and church marriages are common as well. Of these people 85% are Christian, 10% muslim, and 5% practice traditional healing. Pascal is married and has two children, 6 and 4. He says that’s enough
We talk about relations with the Maasai. Until the 1980s the Iraqw and the Maasai were at war. The Maasai believe that all cattle belong to them. They would raid the Iraqw herds, taking cows and killing the bulls. The conflict was resolved through negotiation. The Iraqw gave up herding, except for bullocks or oxen to pull their carts. They trade crops to the Maasai for meat. And the tribes now intermarry, so no more conflict.
The clinic, a tidy building with a nice breezeway, has a treatment area, an area for family planning counseling, and a birthing room. We are invited to walk through the birthing room. Women stay here for 24 hours after giving birth. If there are complications, a woman would take a taxi to see Dr. Frank in Keratu.
We stroll on to the Lutheran church, which is fairly big and filled with congregants, mostly women and children. The circuit pastor, a woman, is here today, with her assistant. The choir sings and dances, led by the choir master. There are at various times guitar music, organ music, and recorded music.
We sit in the pews with the congregation and enjoy the show. We are welcomed, invited to the front, where we introduce ourselves and thank the congregation for their welcome. And we are invited to make a contribution, of course. The service will last, Witress says, several hours.
We wind our way through the village once again, and walk around the edge of the brick-building quarry. Brick-building at this site started 18 years ago. The enormous hole in the ground was dug entirely by hand. The bricks are made from a mixture of the red mud and water, dried, then baked in kilns. A brick costs around 8 cents.
We bid Pascal farewell and drive down the hill to the Bougainvilla Safari Lodge, where we will spend the next two nights. It is 13 km from the Keratu Simba. I fail to understand why we didn’t spend 4 nights at one place or the other? Mysteries.
Lunch at the lodge features polenta, a pumpkin and corn dish, beef stewed with okra, and a baked bean and corn dish that is common here. The wireless signal is good and the bandwidth is also good here, so I hie me to the lobby to post.
The others leave at 4 for a walk to town to the local market. They will return home via tuktuk (pikpik they call them here) or bus. It is hot and I am anxious to get caught up, so I stay behind.
Tomorrow we drive into the Ngorongoro Crater. It will be another long day, and we will take along a boxed lunch.
This lodge is luxurious – well planted grounds, a beautiful swimming pool, a stunning wood ceiling in the lobby. Our rooms are well appointed as well. And the gift shop has some really interesting items.