They live in the open, no house, no clothes. Very few families accept visiting tourists; these families who accept tourists have clothes, most of the time received from tourists, or they can buy them, since the tourists pay the visits. The four of us, Ema - our guide and driver, Mohammad - the translator, my wife and I were on a mission: to find the bush family who accepted our visit according to Mohammad's arrangements; he knew the language of the bush people and he had his connections.
After almost two hours drive from our lodge, we found them. First, we saw the men; Ema did not join us to the group, only Mohammad.
Then, five of them split from the main group, and we followed them; all were very young, teenagers or in their twenties. They had short pants and kind of shirts, some were broken, but they had no way to sew them. The chief was an eighteen-year-old boy because he was the best archer; he was the only one to have arrows with an iron head, all the others had all-wood arrows. They were sitting in a circle on the ground in the shadow of a tree. We could see how they make the arrows; one of them was working on one. He had a branch that he cleaned all the knots with a knife (yes, they had two knives) then he straightened his arrow, chewed it from one end to the other with his teeth, and checked it from time to time if it was straight enough, looking with one eye along the arrow, the other eye closed.
The leader greeted us, rising from his place, coming toward us with slow movements (maybe cautious?) and when he was two-three feet away from me he stretched his right hand; we shook hands. I found later from Ema that most tourist refuse to shake hands with bush people, but that never crossed my mind as an option. The bond was done instantly. We liked each-other. He turned to Mohammad and told him something, then returned to his place. The other four men looked at us a little bit, and then returned to their activities.
“What did he tell you?” I asked Mohammad.
“That they will go soon for a hunt, you and your wife are invited to follow them, I am coming too.”
“How did the leader get his iron arrowhead?”
Mohammad did not have to ask, he knew the answer. “They trade honey for some basic needs (like arrowheads and the knives they have) from settled-down tribes, like Datoga that we visited a day before.”
We were ready for the hunt.
With no introduction or any explanation the bush men started their journey, arches in their hands and arrows on leader bags on their backs; they were moving with an incredible agility and ease, the tough, hard and stony land was not a problem for them. The three of us, Mohammad, my wife and I followed. Soon we lost sight of them, and we were a little bit scared. What will happen if a menacing wild animal will show up? A hyena, a leopard or maybe a lion?
“Look, one of them” said my wife with some excitement but in a very low tone, her hand stretched toward a group of shrubs about forty meters away.
I had a glimpse of a guy running, leaning forward, then a sound of a bird taking off from these shrubs; seconds later, an arrow passed near the bird, it was a failure.
I do not know how those people could run through the shrubs, as for me, only getting closer – and a thorn punched me somewhere. After the episode with the missed bird, it was silent for a while, and we stopped where we were, enjoying the perfect weather, sunny, about 20-25 Celsius degrees. I had a special feeling of accomplishment with all that atmosphere and scenery around us, something we see in movies about Africa safari on Discovery channel; these things are real and around me now.
I remembered the past few days when we were touring with Ema (our guide and driver) in the national parks; we were not allowed to get out of the car, it was too dangerous. Now we were on our own, the car was way back, maybe twenty-thirty minutes’ walk and no protection at all; the bush people that could offer some comfort were nowhere to be seen. But the fear about a wild animal coming around and challenging us diminished, and I cannot explain why; maybe because everything was so calm, or we were kind of stupid.
About forty minutes passed by when two of our bush people showed up with a small dead antelope (maybe 7-8 kg) killed with an arrow. The iron-head arrow that killed the antelope was still in her neck.
The other two bush people showed-up two-three minutes later, coming from a different direction. The eight of us gathered, ready for a party in the shadow of a big shrub.
One of them took out from his leather bag a flat and very dry wooden piece and a long stick. He showed me how to use those 2 pieces of wood to make fire, and invited me to try. I never tried before, but I knew how to use that primitive tool, saw it on TV, Discovery, or one of those survival series. It took me less than one minute to have the fire; my bush guy friend helped me along the way dropping hay-straw on the hot wood at the friction point.
He must have been impressed with my performance because he offered me as a gift the two wooden pieces. I wanted to have the stick signed, and I asked Mohammad to translate my wish to them. The leader-boy came with the knife and made some nice encrustations on the stick, some go-around marks and some straight lines in an interesting combination.
We had the fire now and the biggest guy among them took no time to peel off the skin of the antelope (they called the antelope dick-dick) and then he took out the intestines as well.
I forget to mention that they had two dogs with them. Poor dogs were kicked away (a foot in the belly) few times they got too close to the antelope. But they got the skin and the intestines, thou, and they were very happy.
When the antelope was ready to eat, the big guy cut-off the rear legs of the antelope, for the women and the kids waiting our return. Then he turned to me with an invitation showing the antelope.
Mohammad translated. “He invited you to suck the antelope’s eyes, considered a delicacy.”
I politely refused. The big guy sucked the eyes displaying a rare pleasure. Then he took out the liver and offered it to me, no words. I politely refused again. He gave the liver to another guy that happened to be on his left side.
Understanding that neither of us (Mohammad, my wife or I) will participate to their buffet, they seat in a circle around the fire and taking turns in using the knife to cut some flesh, they helped themselves with antelope meat. They did it without noticing us in any way.
When their lunch was done, one of them packed the remains in his leather bag and we headed back to the place where we started, and the rest of the family waited.
My next blog will be the encounter with the bush ladies.