The Serengeti, when it’s wet

Here’s what the Serengeti’s rain cycle looks like:

Usually, it’s wet in April. This year, however, it’s wetter in the Serengeti than anyone can remember. Our friends’ measurements show more rain so far this year than fell in all of either 2017 or 2016. It rained every day, but usually at night or late afternoon when we were in the tent napping after a full day of bouncing around on the rutted trails.

Wet or dry, the movie-star animals are everywhere in the Serengeti:

Yaeda Valley and the Hadzabe

From https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hadza_people:

The Hadza, or Hadzabe, are an indigenous ethnic group in north-central Tanzania, living around Lake Eyasi in the central Rift Valley and in the neighboring Serengeti Plateau. There are, as of 2015, between 1,200 and 1,300 Hadza people living in Tanzania, although the increasing impact of tourism and encroaching pastoralists pose serious threats to the continuation of their traditional way of life

Genetically, the Hadza are not closely related to any other people.[2] While traditionally classified with the Khoisan languages, primarily because it has clicks, the Hadza language appears to be an isolate, unrelated to any other. As descendants of Tanzania’s aboriginal hunter-gatherer population, they have probably occupied their current territory for thousands of years, with relatively little modification to their basic way of life until the past hundred years. (Internal citations omitted)

The family that organized our safari has a many-year long relationship with the Hadzabe. Their goal is to maintain cultural integrity while responding to the tribe’s desire to engage in tourism–at arm’s length. Money from our payment goes to a Hadza health provider fund and to a fund that helps maintain land rights. Nothing changes hands — no gifts, no money. So, a few times a year, mzungu like us spend an afternoon with the Hadzabe. They just showed us how they spend their time. And we exchanged curious questions. Did our interactions cause some cross-cultural pollution? Yes, probably. But it felt like a genuine exchange, one with integrity, not anything like the “happy native dance” kind of thing that makes us cringe.

Here’s our base camp:

The Hadza are hunter-gatherers. They eat what they gather right away. Chop off a tree limb to find some honey, then consume the honey right away.

Here’s a tuber whose location is indicated by the presence of a vine. Digging out the tuber is a task of the tribe’s women. Heated up in a fire and then peeled, it produces little chunks of what taste to me like buttery baked potato. The tough part is that the buttery chunks are contained deep within much-less-edible fibers of what appear to be steamed yellow rope. Lots of chewing on the rope is needed to release the potato bits.

A Hadza hut is made of curved sticks covered with grass and cloth.

There is a game of chance that’s used to fairly apportion limited resources.

Hippos in Heaven

Despite their rubbery look and placid demeanor, hippos are mighty nasty beasts. Don’t let their chubby, lardy bottoms fool you. They can run like jaguars with the momentum of a freight train. If you must choose between being chased by a rhino (pictures coming soon!) or a hippo, you’re better off with the rhino.