Elephant Cave and the Maasai Market

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This Saturday, we had our first “non-program day,” which is our one-day weekend to explore the nearby towns and do non-academic activities.  We were lucky enough that our first NPD was on the seventh, the same day as the bi-monthly Maasai Market in the nearby town of Karatu.  In the morning, we went on a guided hike to Mapongo ya Tembo (Elephant Cave) at the edge of Ngorongoro Conservation Area.

Just after getting out of the land rover, I looked down the trail and saw a brown creature moving down the trail towards me.  After a moment of wordless panic, I realized what I was looking at: a baboon.  We had seen some moving down the side of the road on the day we first arrived, but we were moving thirty miles an hour in a giant jeep.  It was a very different experience to be on level ground with one.  Eventually he turned off the path, and the rest of the troop followed slowly behind him.  Our guide, Emmanuel, said we would get tired of nyaniI (baboons), but they were the only ones we saw on the hike.

 

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The view from the trail was absolutely remarkable; we were in a more tropical environment than our camp at Moyo Hill, and it was unbelievably green. The “elephant cave” itself is a place with nutrient-rich soil where elephants and Cape buffalo use their tusks to scrape up soil and eat it. We didn’t see any elephants or buffalo (they only visit at dawn and dusk), but we saw a lot of what they left behind.

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After the hike, we drove into Karatu and visited the Maasai Market. Set up in a huge red dirt field, and full of local people, it was far from welcoming from the outside, and I decided to leave my camera behind in the car- I didn’t need to make myself look like more of a tourist! We all charged into the fray in little packs of wazungu (white people), and the traveling tourist merchants were on us in half a second, trying to sell necklaces, bracelets, and salad spoons. They would have seemed hand-made, if every merchant didn’t have the exact same ones.

The market had everything from used clothes and shoes to cattle and goats, dried fish and chicken skins. I was set on purchasing fabric to have a skirt made, but both my bartering skills and Swahili skills were lacking. I managed to get a kanga (a type of Tanzanian fabric) for only 7000TSH, which was a pretty fair price.

Though the long rains are due to start quite soon, it was extremely hot, dry, and dusty down in the valley. When we were finished shopping and admiring the market, we went to a pub called “Happy Days,” and my friend Becca and I split our first legal beer! It was little different from American beers aside from the brand name and the fact that it had a slight corny flavor.

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Now we return to the grindstone, but our long hours in the classroom this week are minced with two days of wildlife observation at Lake Manyara National Park!  I can hardly believe that we only arrived in Tanzania a week ago today.  Rhotia, and Tanzania, already feel like home, as if I had known this place my whole life and had just forgotten.

Until next time,

Heather

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