February 2013

February 24, 2013

The Northern Circuit – Tarangire National Park – Babati

Filed under: Babati — Tags: , , , , — Tanzania Odyssey @ 5:25 pm

Tarangire National Park – Babati

Meriting the long, hard journey to get there, the Babati region is a place of great natural beauty and interest, much of which is provided by its unusual combination of resident peoples. Three main distinct tribal groups live on these hills and plains in the shadow of MountHanang, most of whom settled here following unfortunate conflicts with the Maasai tribe elsewhere. This is the land of the Barbaig, Nilo-hamitic-speaking pastoralists with similar social structures to their successors, the Maasai, historically reputed for their power as rainmakers. It is also home to the Tatoga people, who are renowned for their skill in developing terraces and in agriculture. It is hard to get either tribe to admit to being the subject of a local story which tells how a certain local tribe became known as ‘Man’gati’, and this region called the Man’gati plains, until they made an eventually successful public appeal against the name, which, tellingly, translates as ‘cattle-stealer and trouble-maker’. This does seem to point to one tribe in particular, as one group consists of nomadic cow-herders, and the other pastoral agriculturists.

The area also extends into the greater territories of the Iraqw tribe, who are thought to have originated from the Arabian Gulf region, and yet are also said to have migrated down  the Nile and on into the Ngorongoro regions, from where some were forced [by what/whom?] further west to settle here. It is thought that the Hadzabe people, now largely settled around the LakeEyasi region, and Sandawe bushmen ranged freely around this region before the advent of the Bantu tribes 2,000 years ago. Nowadays they tend to stay further north, but these descendants of early San-Bushmanoid groups are the most likely people to have created the unusually varied collection of rock paintings around Kolo.

The Northern Circuit – Tarangire National Park

Filed under: Tarangire National Park — Tags: , , , — Tanzania Odyssey @ 5:22 pm

Tarangire National Park

To the south of the large open grass plains of southern Maasailand, Tarangire National Park covers 2,600 sq km of grassland and floodplains, and a large area of tall acacia woodland. It is beautifully unspoilt, and the wide views to distant, variously purpled formations of volcanic mountain ranges along the drive are superb. Tarangire also has regions of quite dense bush, but with high grasses and huge old baobab trees instead of the green forests of Manyara. The land is hilly and dominated by the impressive valley of the Tarangire River, which attracts numbers of migrant animals during the dry months, especially between July and September, when the concentration of animals around the Tarangire river is almost as diverse and as reliable as in the Ngorongoro crater. Again, though, the ecosystem is balanced by a localised migration pattern followed by most animals other than lion, who don’t tend to abandon their territory. The animals mostly disperse during April and May, when widespread greenery and standing water encourages all the grazers further afield. In June the eland and oryxes begin to return, followed by elephant towards the end of the month. Tarangire has quite a reputation for elephant ‘pow-wows’, when different herds congregate in one area around the end of the rainy season, and the dominant males take advantage of the situation to sow seeds for future generations. The following 22-month gestation period is timed so that the birth coincides with the rainy season two years later. Zebra and wildebeest return through July, and by mid-August all the animals are congregating around their last reliable water source, the Tarangire River. The calving season falls in the early months of the year, through January, February and March, and so makes the most of the fresh grass during the rainy season.

But there are always a fantastic number of colourful birds swooping and strutting along the rough paths in front of your vehicle in Tarangire, with likely spots including the Paradise Whyder and endearing Yellow-collared lovebirds. There are a few resident lion, easier to find when the migration arrives to excite their taste buds. In other months they look quite mean and lean and slip easily between the grasses.

The park has become a wildlife conservation area because of its resident tsetse fly population. (Domestic animals do not have the same resistance to trypanosomiasis—sleeping sickness—as wild animals, who have become immune.) They are a pest, with an irritating stinging bite, but tend to hang out in swarms, and a well-planned ‘windows up’ approach seems to be the way to survive. They do not seem prevalent around any of the lodges. Recently the woodland habitat of fever trees, umbrella acacias, along the Tarangire river has been made more open, primarily a result of fire and heavy use of the area by elephant.

February 23, 2013

The Northern Circuit – Tarangire National Park – The Kolo Rock Paintings

Filed under: The Kolo Rock Paintings — Tags: , , , , — Tanzania Odyssey @ 5:26 pm

This extremely rare collection of rock paintings, at Kolo near Kondoa, remains another mystery of Tanzanian history, with no real verification for the date of their conception or the identity of their originators. It seems likely that the images were originally the work of the hunter-gatherer Bushmanoid tribes, who have an ancestral history of rock art, and some Sandawe clans claim that their ancestors were responsible for the paintings. But as the collection varies so greatly in age and style, it might be that later Bantu-speaking peoples added their own handiwork to the older images. It is estimated that many of them are between 200 and 4,000 years old[200,000 years old, or really 200 years?] and the research carried out by Mary Leakey in the 1960s identified nine different styles that may relate to different eras and artists. Some of the work is black and white and some in varying orange- and brown-tinted ochres, and many of the older images have faded and suffered through the course of time, while others have been painted over by successive generations. Many of the images could have inspired Lowry in his famous stick men paintings thousands of years later; while some are simple images, others depict oddly moving scenes, such as a group of two masked men abducting a female, while two other men try to hold her back. Others show local animals, such as giraffe and hunting scenes with antelope racing away. There are also images of people playing musical instruments and those that seem to anticipate some kind of abstract expressionism.

Some of the paintings are quite easily accessible, following a quarter-mile walk across fields, and some a bit harder to get to, requiring a rocky climb. Typically the most interesting and worthwhile paintings in the series are the most difficult to reach, but at least these are slightly better protected from the recent vandalism and graffiti and the weathering that has been the sad fate of many of them. There is a very helpful guide working for the Antiquities Department in Kolo who can lead you to each of the sites, but apart from his invaluable presence little is being done to preserve this ancient artwork. The paintings are described in detail and painstakingly recreated in Vanishing African Art which contains the research materials carried out by Mary Leakey.

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