The African Elephant: Last Days of Eden

Norton, Boyd

1991

Book ID 198

See also

Norton, Boyd The African Elephant: Last Days of Eden, 1991
Extract Date: 1991

Night pees

We camped that night at Naabi Hill in the eastern part of the 6000 square-mile Serengeti National Park. From the tent I heard hyenas giggling nearby and the scream of tree hyraxes. As usual I drank too much beer at supper and had to relieve a full bladder at 3:00 a.m. Unzipping the tent quietly, so as not to disturb others, I stumbled out into the darkness and walked thirty or forty feet away, whereupon I peed long and hard, shivering in the cold while looking up sleepily into a star-filled sky. Then back to the tent, almost missing it in the blackness of the moonless night. The next morning my guide informed me that he heard a tent unzip at 3:00 a.m. and he opened his own tent flap to peer outside. Shining his flashlight into the darkness, he spotted two large lions walking by. I did not drink any more beer at supper for the duration of our stay in the Serengeti. It's easy to forget that there are still things here that will make a meal out of frail humans. On the other hand it's nice to know that, in some respects, this wilderness has remained the same since the Pleistocene began.

Or, as Edward Abbey once said, "it ain't really wilderness unless there's something out there that can eat you."

In a total of three trips to the Serengeti I feel as though I've barely scratched the surface of this vast land. Most of my wanderings have been confined to the eastern and central portions of the park, from Naabi Hill and Ndutu to the Simba Kopjes and the lovely Seronera Region, and to the Moru Kopjes with their colourful and mysterious Maasai cave paintings.

Extract ID: 3692

See also

Norton, Boyd The African Elephant: Last Days of Eden, 1991


From Tarangire you can drive west to Kwa Kuahinia and the new Arusha-to-Dodoma Highway that seems perennially under construction, then north to Makuyuni, then west on the incredibly dusty road that leads to Mto wa Mbu, one of my favourite villages in East Africa (the Swahili name means River of Mosquitoes). Here it's a mandatory stop to buy a not-so-cold beer from a little duka on the main street, necessary to wash down the dust in your throat, and to visit the stalls of the craftsmen selling carvings and Maasai spears and trinkets to the increasing number of tourists passing through. The greying woodcarver, whose tin-covered stall is way in the back, is a nearly blind old mzee, but his ebony wood carvings are still the best. From Mto wa Mbu, it's a short distance to the entrance to Lake Manyara National Park.

Extract ID: 3689

See also

Norton, Boyd The African Elephant: Last Days of Eden, 1991

the model for the Garden of Eden

Ngorongoro Crater served as the model for the Garden of Eden. I'm convinced of it. ... The whole effect is to create a natural barrier that inhibits human activity, particularly poaching, for reaching the rich game that inhabits the caldera requires a terrifying drive down one of the roughest roads I've seen in Africa - and back out again. (On a white-knuckle scale of one to ten, this road rates a good solid twelve in places!)

Extract ID: 3691

See also

Norton, Boyd The African Elephant: Last Days of Eden, 1991

450 elephants

[in Lake Manyara] there were 450 elephants four to five years ago. Today 150. [1990]

Extract ID: 3690

See also

Norton, Boyd The African Elephant: Last Days of Eden, 1991

Tarangire

The landscape of Tarangire National Park in the Northeast part of Tanzania is right out of the Jurassic Age. It could well have served as a model for one of those paintings in National Geographic magazine depicting the age of dinosaurs. You expect at any moment, to see a Stegosaurus or Triceratops or perhaps even a Tyrannosaurus rex wandering amid those eerily prehistoric Baobab trees. It is thick with giant Baobab trees, probably the greatest concentration of them left in East Africa. And there are expansive grasslands, graceful acacias, and duom palms that rise tall on slender trunks to branch into several arcs of fluttering palm trees. However, it is the mbuyu, or Baobab, that dominates this land.

The Baobab is the tree of life, and the tree of mystery and legend. It is said, backed by some scientific evidence, to be among the oldest of living things, more than two thousand years old in some cases. It is, according to African lore, the tree where man was born. With squat trunk and stubby branches, it looks like a tree that has been uprooted and stuck back into the ground upside down.

Extract ID: 3688
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