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road to arusha: getting there is half the fun!
By Arlene Batchelder 14 May 2005

It was 9 am on a bright beautiful morning outside of Nairobi. The Toyota Land Cruiser was all packed with luggage on the roof and 4 adults, 2 eleven year olds and 1 baby inside. We were on our way to back to Arusha after spending a week visiting and going to game parks.

Along the way we made several detours. What should have taken 4 hours driving time, took almost 7. The first several stops were small. We stopped to take pictures of a stone quarry. We stopped to take pictures of a house that our driver, Max, called his dream house. We stopped to take pictures of a local watering hole complete with cows, sheep, donkeys and goats. We stopped to take pictures of the market place in a little town and had to drive off fast when someone, who didn't want his picture taken, threw a stone at the car. We stopped to take pictures of an ostrich in someone's backyard while they were out there hanging out clothes. We drove off the road to take pictures of large white flowers that looked like morning glories.

At the Kenya, Tanzania border there are 4 gates to go through. We had to stop and sign the car out of Kenya. Then we had to sign ourselves out of Kenya. This put us in no-mans land. Then we had to stop and sign the car into Tanzania. Then we had to sign ourselves into Tanzania. This all involved, cards to be filled out and passports to be checked and stamped. Finally there was a police officer to open the last gate after checking everything and we were on our way again.

Since we were leaving Kenya and still had some of their local money, it seemed prudent to look at all the souvenirs lined up along the curb. We were in no-mans-land and had just signed out of Kenya. Everyone was peacefully sitting by their wares until we went over to look. I knew what I was looking for and how much it should really cost from my shopping trip to Arusha and from previous purchases at the border on the way to Nairobi.

It was easy this time. I said how much and they said 1000. I said 500 and they said OK. All of a sudden about 20 people descended on us all carrying their stuff to sell, from bracelets to carvings to cloth. So they started competing against one another for a sale. They kept handing me bracelets and wouldn't take them back. I guess they figured I would buy some. They were rewarded, I finally did. More people came and I could hardly move to get back to the car. Hanging on to the stuff I bought and trying to hand back the stuff I didn't want, I finally managed to fight my way into the car. Through the open window I tried to hand back the bracelets and other stuff. Finally Max got in the car and started it up. When it started to move, their hands whipped in the car and snatched the stuff back. So, now I know the secret. Just move the car.

This all was just the beginning of our adventure. A short while after passing a camel by the side of the road, Max announced that we would be visiting a Masai kraal that he had gone to before. We turned off the main road onto a sandy path at the base of Mt. Longuido. What started out as a road very soon turned to dry river beds and then no road at all. I don't know how he found the place and I didn't know if we were ever going to find our way out.

Finally we came to the Adventist church which was being used during the week as a school. The kids all heard the car and came out to meet us. Then they went back into the school where they sat on long benches on dirt floors. They sang songs for us and recited thier English lesson. School was soon dismissed and the teacher wanted to take us to his kraal. So he hung on the outside on the riders side and another teenager hung on the back. Max warned them of all the thornbushes he couldn't avoid but they didn't seem to mind.

Just before this Max's 11 year old twins had asked if the Masai wore underwear under their cloth wraps. Well, we didn't know, but I turned around to see the teenager hanging on the back and told them to check it out for themselves. There he hung, halfway up the back window with his cloths flapping in the breeze. Do they wear underwear? What do you think? They have their own special brand of cloth pouches.

A kraal consists of several huts. One for the husband and one for each of his wives plus several storage huts. All this is surrounded by a fence made of thornbush to keep the wild animals out and the tame animals in at night.

The kids in the kraal all ran out to meet us and of course we started taking pictures. I showed one of the kids a picture I took of the group and he just stared and stared and stared for a long while. Then his face lit up and he started pointing to each kid he knew in the picture. Then I saw him look at his yellow neck beads and then at the picture on the camera and I think he was seeing himself for the first time.

Meanwhile Marty was having fun with the video. He started out by videoing the interior of the kraal and 4 men came over to look through the viewfinder to see what could be seen. Then Marty played back the video of what he had just taken and one of the men, through sign language, indicated he wanted their video taken. When Marty said OK, only 2 men would get in video. He took a video and immediately 4 women, some with babies, and at least 12 other kids came over to see video of the 2 men. Then the man wanted Marty to take a video of the kids. So not only did he video the kids but also the 2 men and all the women. There was a large group and he had to show it back 3 times.

About this time we were invited to go into one of the huts. I was not prepared for the darkness after being out in the bright sunlight. Going through the door you hit a wall and had to go around. This kept all the light out. There was a bed of red hot coals, and two tiny windows, about 4"X4" each. There was no hole in the roof to let the smoke out and it was hot. Now I wanted to take pictures since this was a real Masai hut and not a Disney version. So I just aimed my camera and the flash went off. It was only then that I saw the women with the baby and the older child. I took several more pictures in almost total darkness.

Some time before Max had given them some school supplies in a suitcase. So he asked about them since he didn't see them in the school. Oh yes, they had them and proceeded to bring out an old grain bag with the new suitcase in it and all the material still in it. Heaven forbid if the kids used them and they got dirty or messed up. Better to keep them safe in the suitcase!

Just as we were looking at a women who was ill with a fever and black spots on her tongue a boy came running up and announced that one of their cows had just been killed on the main road and the driver did not stop. Now you have to understand that cows are their livelihood and that is where they have their wealth. Each cow is worth about $150-300. So it is a great loss to them if one is killed.

They were understandably upset and Max volunteered to drive 2 of them back to the main road. So we all piled back in the car and 4 showed up and got in the back and Max said OK. Then all of a sudden there were 5 and the boy. I don't know how they all fit in but I can tell you they don't use deodorant! Meanwhile there are 6 of us and a baby seat crammed into the rest of the car.

We got out to the main road and started looking for the dead cow. Finally we saw headlight glass in the road, but no cow. Masai are very good at tracking animals and soon they found tracks and they were off chasing the cow. We were on our way again and finally got to drive fast enough to get rid of the flies that had filled the car.

Just one more stop in Longuido. We drove one of the Masai men into town and then stopped in to see the pastor of the church and his sick wife who was the regular teacher at the Masai school. She was not sick, just 5 months pregnant.

It was an interesting 7 hours. Geting there was half the fun!.

road to arusha: getting there is half the fun! - tanzania