Safari: Tanzania – Karatu, Thursday 2022 November 10

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Published: November 17th 2023

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Lake Manyara Lake Manyara Lake Manyara


Resource for economy and tourism

We had a late start at 8:30. Our route took us through Karatu, a busy market town that draws people from as far away as Ngorongoro, a forty-minute drive. The streets were busy, shops open, and customers bustling amongst the outdoor vendors. I was happy to see a lot of Flame trees with their canopy of red flowers.

As we came down from the Ngorongoro hills, we could see Lake Manyara in the distance, and we were in the Rift Valley again. A baboon family ignored us as we passed the entrance to the Lake Manyara National Park . We drove through through the town of Mto Wa Mbu (River for Mosquitos), which is filled with guest houses and lodges for visitors to the Park.

However, our destination was Losirwa Primary School . To start the visit, we met in the office of the head teacher, Mary. Since she didn’t speak English fluently, Lucas did a briefing about the school and its inception. Originally, it was established by the local Maasai on what had been vacant land, because the government school was too far away. The government eventually gave it official status and built two classrooms. Partly through Lucas, who does charitable work in

Mary, headteacher, Losirwa Primary School Mary, headteacher, Losirwa Primary School Mary, headteacher, Losirwa Primary School


Statistics on the poster board

the field of education, interest grew and now there are several classrooms and a kitchen.

A chart on the wall showed there were 866 students in 6 standards, almost even numbers of girls and boys – a remarkable change in the last several years. Only sixteen teachers care for so many pupils; two of the teachers are funded by charities. One big difficulty is that most children don’t come to school unless there is lunch, and the drought has made lunch supplies scarce. Later we did see the lunch being cooked in a big boiler. Corn with beans is the only diet at the school. Since most of the students are Maasai, they have had to get used to food that does not come from a cow or goat.

The class we visited was Grade One. Being a rural school, most of the children were 7 to 9 years old; in the cities, they might start as young as 2 or 3. The almost forty children in the class sang a greeting song about butterflies, led by one of their classmates. The room was invitingly decorated with large, brightly-coloured letters of the English alphabet. A poster of the

Grade1 at Losirwa Primary School Grade1 at Losirwa Primary School Grade1 at Losirwa Primary School


Girl chose to lead the Butterfly song.

human figure showed the parts of the body, named in Swahili, a language the children don’t necessarily speak. They study reading, writing, science, math and a variety of sports. All the books stay at the school, because there is no appropriate place to study in their homes. They walk to school, from the nearby village or from homes up to an hour’s walking distance away. A copying exercise was on the board, and as the adults talked, some children resumed their copying.

I complimented one of the teachers on her attractive dress, designed to suit the bold pattern of the cloth. At the end of the visit, I asked if I could take her photo, and we struck up a bit of conversation. Her name was Greta. She had learned English in school and was quite fluent, speaking quietly and confidently. I teased Lucas that he had told me there were no fabrics in Tanzania, and he surprised me by saying there was a store with fabrics where we would stop on the way back.

Our next visit was to a Maasai compound, close to the school. As we approached, about a dozen women and children came out

Maasai headman, wives and children Maasai headman, wives and children Maasai headman, wives and children

of their enclosed compound, some dressed in the beaded flat necklace we have seen before. As they sang a welcome song, they shrugged their shoulders to make the beaded necklace wave and the dangling necklaces twinkle, as we had seen in the demonstration at Ngorongoro Lodge. After the welcome, the chief of the family came out to greet us, or at least to greet Lucas.

As we walked through the external wall of the compound, our attention was drawn to the 2 – 3-foot-thick massing of thorn plants that could deter any invader, whether animal or human. Each night, the first wife draws more thorn branches across the gate. A second fenced area inside is used to corral the cattle at night. The chief’s house is to the right-hand side of the gate, and the houses are allocated, in order, to his wives. If he wants, he invites one to spend the night. All the food prepared is for him; however, he is expected to leave enough for all the inhabitants, particularly his children. On this day, the younger men were away taking care of the livestock, and some of the women were fetching water or going to town.

 Traditional house  Traditional house Traditional house


Each belongs to a wife.

The building of the compound walls is the responsibility of the men, and the building of the houses is the work of the women, although they are given help with the bigger tree limbs. One house was under construction, so we could see how upright sticks were secured with bundles of smaller sticks held together by twisted wire. Cow dung and ash is used to chink the walls and then to plaster them. Any leaks are patched, and the houses are re-plastered annually. Some of us went in one house, which had a narrow, deflected entrance into the dark interior, a design to keep away as many flies as possible when the livestock were in their corral. Our eyes adjusted slightly to the dark, but this showed me why children could not study at home.

Two gourds were brought out. They were about a foot-long, although some in use are bigger. Each had beaded decoration. The larger one was used to store blood or milk for up to a week, made possible by a traditional formula that coated the inside. The stopper was the cut narrow end of the gourd which was attached to a leather collar that

Gourd for blood, baby bottle for milk, baby peeking Gourd for blood, baby bottle for milk, baby peeking Gourd for blood, baby bottle for milk, baby peeking

tightly held the two together. A leather strap around the middle enables the milker to hold the bottle firmly while squeezing the cow’s teat. The Maasai encourage milk production by timing the access by a calf, milking at the same time as the calf is on another teat. The smaller bottle was for feeding their own babies and had a gourd nipple instead of a stopper.

The first wife’s name was Judy, so we made a bit of a thing of our coincidental names. We took pictures together, and most of the other women crowded in. As we walked out, Judy told me her sister’s name was Mildred. She also pointed to three houses on the other side of the compound and proudly said they were hers. Not sure how this can be reconciled with the introductory remarks, but it didn’t matter.

On the way back, we stopped at African Galleries, a gigantic warehouse of art and souvenirs in Mto wa Mbu. (The washrooms were excellent!) The fabric was at the farthest end. A lot of Maasai blankets were stacked on shelves. My goal was the display of folded 6 metre lengths that were familiar to me from

Fabric purchased Fabric purchased Fabric purchased

Nigeria. When I checked one of them, it had its Nigerian origin printed on the edge. The young salesman was astonished to see that printing, and even more astonished when he learned I had lived there. He insisted that some of them were Tanzanian but were hopelessly mixed in with the others. The styles and quality indicated to me that they were all from Nigeria. In fact, these seemed to be the same expensive fabrics I had seen on the internet when doing some research a few years ago. The cost was indeed high, perhaps higher than on the internet. But it was exciting to bargain and buy again, and this will be my souvenir of being in Tanzania. I bargained until he wouldn’t change the price, from US$30 per metre or US$100 for the whole 6 metre piece. The cotton was high quality and the pattern attractive. Rather than a dress that will be rarely worn, I will make six dinner napkins, several place mats, and a runner for my coffee table. Over the years as I mix and match them with what I have, I will remember this day.

We had a quiet afternoon off, for swimming

Footpath, rain gutter, road - KaratuFootpath, rain gutter, road - KaratuFootpath, rain gutter, road – Karatu


When it rains, it pours.

and resting. And, dinner was unexpectedly good. The buffet was as usual, but our waiter came over to say that he had ordered us a special dinner of local dishes, since this was our third night. His menu: flavoured rice with bits of beef, beef barbeque cut into small pieces, local chicken in a sauce, grilled Tilapia pieces meant to be eaten by hand, and red beans in a sauce. I added the cooked (julienned) greens from the buffet, which have a tasty sharp flavour, and a Safari beer.

Our Elevation: 1558 metres



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