5:15 am my alarm rudely wakes me. We pack a few things and meet up with Momoya. He is taking us to the Hadzabe for a hunt. We drive deeper into the bush now feeling, incredibly, even more remote. After a 30-minute drive down a rough road, we park and begin to walk. The approach to camp is quick and I soon see leaf and branch thatched shelters, standing about 4 or 5 feet tall. To my right are hunters sitting around a fire. They are dressed as primitively as I could imagine; baboon fur clothing complete with tails still attached. However, some have adapted modern clothing, wearing a t-shirt or shorts. Before I know it, they are grabbing their bows and are off for the hunt. We quickly make chase and do our best to keep up through the bush.
During the hunt, the Hadzabe manage to shoot a few small game animals and after an hour or two, we head back to the village. Amazed by their accuracy with the bow, Peter and I must have a try. They take us to their practice area and let us have at it. Having a background with traditional bow hunting, Peter and I both nail the stump we are aiming at and the Hadzabe explode with disbelief and uncontained excitement. Having won over the hunters, we headed back to camp for a day of teaching satisfied that we have gained some rapport with the locals.
Our plan is to teach a wilderness Basic First Aid course. By doing so we hope to help empower the local tribes to become directors of the ecotourism in their area. The tribes reside in such a remote area, that the nearest medical facility is about an hour away and the nearest airstrip is 2 hours away, so the course will provide them with the skills and knowledge to provide basic medical care for their families and neighbors as well.
When the students arrived, I am impressed. I expect to see everyone in traditional outfits, but they are all dressed up in modern wear, their best, most professional. I also learn quickly that the Lake Eyasi Cultural Program has sent some of their most educated members, so all the students speak English well – the course is taught in Swahili, but their English is a nice treat for Peter and I. We have a nice mixture of students primarily Datoga with a few Hadza and other tribes. They are thirsty for knowledge and attentively grasp everything Shikuku and John are sharing. Fortunately, we have the opportunity to learn from them as well – the tribes have survived in this landscape for thousands of years and have discovered their own remedies – which we happily discuss. After two days of training, the students absorbed a plethora of knowledge, but are hungry for more. They leave with the skills necessary to provide medical attention for their community and clients in such a remote location. Just as exciting, they invited us back to share more in the future.
Funding for the course was raised by Sentinel Outdoor Institute through To Return – www.toreturn.org.