Moru Kopjes

Name ID 813

See also

Turner, Myles My Serengeti Years
Page Number: 042
Extract Date: 1954

In the Moru Kopjes

In the Moru Kopjes in the Western Serengeti there were also nearly 100 families of Ndorobo with 10,000 head of cattle and 8,000 head of small stock. Unlike the Masai, who used this area seasonably, the Ndorobo had established permanent bomas, from which they took a steady toll of game with poisoned arrows. As a result of pressure from the Park authorities, the Administration and the Masai elders, the Ndorobo were forced to leave the Park in March 1955 and settle elsewhere.

Extract ID: 647

See also

Allan, Tor Ndutu memories
Page Number: c
Extract Date: 1960s

Removal of the Maasai

One day my father said, Were going down to remove the Masai from Moru Kopjes with Miles Turner and Gordon Pullman. The villagers had been given notice to leave but were still there when the deadline date arrived. Serengeti had already become a National Park and was being extended to include more of the migration routes. If you look carefully at some of the big rocks at Moru, youll see where the manyattas were. On the leeward side of most big kopjes in the Moru area, there are remains of rather large circular stones and rocks which I believe are remains of the villages, unless theyre the remains of the Stone Bowl people before, or both.

I remember that day as hell and bloody fury flames and smoke and dust, confusion, animals and people, shouting and shooting. The smoke and the burning the horror of it all. The villages were torched and the dogs were shot. One dog was breathing through a great bleeding hole in its neck. The women and children were rounded up into trucks. Hundreds of cattle and other livestock were herded away by the young warriors and middle-aged men towards the east into part of Hidden Valley, past the springs at the eastern end and from there south east to the top end of Ndutu/Olduvai gorge, and down across the Lake Lagarja beaches. I know it was Lagarja because I remember seeing the flamingos. I think after that they were resettled in the Crater Highlands.

Extract ID: 5389

See also

Matthiessen, Peter The Tree Where Man Was Born
Page Number: 161
Extract Date: 1972

Cave paintings

In a similar cave [he is in the Gol Mountains] in the Moru Kopjes, shields, elephants and abstract lines are painted on the walls in the colours that are seen on Maasai shields; the white and yellow come from the clays, the black from ash of a wild caper, and the red ochre is clay mixed with juice from the wild nightshade. Presumably the artists were a band of young warriors, il-moran, who wander for several years as lovers, cattle thieves, and meat-eaters before settling down to a wife, responsibilities, and a diet based on milk and cattle blood. ...

Until 1959, when their herds were banished from the Serengeti, they [the Maasai] lived intermittently at Moru Kopjes and elsewhere in the park, and signs of their long stay include mints and peas that thrive in the wake of overgrazing by domestic herds.

Extract ID: 918

See also

Norton, Boyd The African Elephant: Last Days of Eden
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

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See also

Claytor, Tom Bushpilot
Extract Author: Tom Claytor
Page Number: 18j
Extract Date: 1996 July 03

Rajabu the rhino

Rian tells me about Rajabu the rhino who decided one day to climb up the steep crater rim and walk to Lake Ndutu and then on to Moru kopjies. There are some wonderful names here: mto-wa-mbu means place of the mosquitoes, and koitoktok is a spring which means bubbling water. I get a brief tour of Rian's workshop behind his house. This is where Octa works. Octa is an Mbulu from the Ngorongoro plateau, and he is a mechanic who has never had any mechanical training. Rian shakes his head as he tells me how one day Octa can have a gearbox on the floor in hundreds of pieces, and a few days later it will be back together in one piece; and it will work. Rian writes me a letter to present to a conservation officer in Ndutu who can sometimes be difficult. Rian smiles and tells me that he and Octa keep his land rover running, so he shouldn't give me any trouble.

Extract ID: 3654

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See also

Symington, Martin Game for anything
Extract Author: Martin Symington
Extract Date: 1997 November

Game for anything

On an unusual safari in Tanzania, Martin Symington finds the cultural sites of ancient Africa as thrilling as the wild animals

'THESE are the Pneumatic Rocks of Moru. Billions of years ago, as the Earth's surface cooled, bubbles of air got trapped inside. The Maasai people believe this air has mystical, magical properties.' Dr Cornelius Mollel tapped a boulder with his acacia staff, to demonstrate the point. A strange, hollow sound rang out. My companions and I were soon tapping and listening, in wonder.

We had just scrambled up a kopje - one of the majestic granite outcrops which rise like rugged islands out of the sunbaked savannah of the Serengeti Plain in northern Tanzania. Our guides had gone ahead to check for lurking leopards but the creature we should have been looking for was the Cornelius Leg-Pull. It had put in one or two appearances already on our safari; 'pneumatic rocks' was a classic.

The night before we had camped out in the Serengeti, kept awake by the low, growling roars of a pride of lions just a few hundred yards away. At daybreak we were driving across grasslands dancing with antelope, heading for the western corridor where wildebeest and zebra in staggering numbers were drifting northwards in their ceaseless migration in search of pasture. We had stopped at Moru Kopje for a picnic, and to explore some Maasai cave paintings which, joke now over and in serious mode, Cornelius was interpreting for us.

'The shields, elephants and abstract lines were drawn in clay, ash and ochre during the 18th and 19th centuries, when nomadic Maasai tribesmen roamed the plain. Young warriors would periodically retreat from the world and live on the kopje in a semi-meditative state, eating meat and observing and painting the world in its raw state,' explained Cornelius. The last Maasai from this area were 'resettled' in the 1950s, when the Serengeti National Park, a game reserve not far off the size of Wales, was established.

Cornelius is a Maasai himself. Born in an adobe homestead near Arusha, he was destined for the life of a herdsman and warrior. At the onset of manhood, he had been ritually circumcised, scarred and taught to wield a spear. However, exceptional intellectual gifts earned him scholarships to mission schools and eventually a doctorate from University College London. Now he has returned to Arusha where he has a veterinary practice and a guest-house. As a sideline, he also leads specialised safaris, like the one I was on, which blend traditional game viewing, with exploring the cultural sites of ancient Africa.

'Safari' in Swahili means a journey and ours began at Arusha, the tourist town in the shadow of mist-shrouded Mount Kilimanjaro, from where herds of Land Rovers disperse for the game parks and lodges. We took a more obscure route, heading south across plains flushed with green from recent rains, and dotted with thorn trees and the occasional fat baobab. Against a jagged backdrop of exploded and collapsed crater cones, lone Maasai tribesmen draped in red broadcloth shukas were grazing cattle.

Eventually scrub gave way to patches of swaying millet. The bumpy, beaten-earth road led us through the tin-roofed villages of Magugu and Babati where traders sat patiently on palm mats, trying to sell their piles of mangoes, grain, dried tilapia fish or flip-flops cut from car tyres. All the while, Cornelius answered our questions about life in modern Tanzania, the years under ex-President Nyerere, corruption, poaching, conservation, justice, attitudes to sex and different tribal practice. Sometimes he referred in Swahili to Mtili, our cheerful young Manchester United-supporting driver, before giving an answer.

We drove along the floor of the Great Rift Valley, the fissure which slices through the Earth's crust from Asia Minor to southern Africa, and eventually turned off the main road at Kolo village. Engaging four-wheel drive, we lurched along a track to strike camp on a glade next to the dried-up Kolo river. This was the site where Mary Leakey (wife of anthropologist Louis and mother of Kenyan politician Richard) set up camp at various times in the 1950s. She was studying some Stone Age rock paintings she had chanced upon, and which we had come to explore.

Next morning we were joined by a grave-looking, elderly gentleman called Juma Mpore. He clutched a weathered copy of Mrs Leakey's coffee-table book, Visiting Africa's Vanishing Art - The Rock Paintings of Tanzania, autographed with a message of thanks to himself, as one of her most trusted assistants. With Cornelius translating from Swahili, Mr Mpore was to be our guide to the Kondoa Irangi rock paintings.

We found the paintings four miles further up the valley wall just as they have been for more than 30,000 years, unrestored and protected by nothing more than an overhang of rock.

And yet they are extraordinarily well preserved. The elongated pin-figures, graceful as Giacometti sculptures, depict hunting scenes, merry-making, beautifully fluid dancing and swimming, and even a bit of frolicsome soft porn cunningly disguised as a fertility rite.

Mary Leakey meticulously recorded and photographed all these paintings and many more in the area. She discovered that the paint, mainly red but also some white and yellow, was made from ochre pigments, latex from trees and animal fat. For brushes, the artists used the tail-hair of giraffes.

It was then that everything began to fit in with other theories of the Leakeys: that man evolved in the Rift Valley, and that the Rift itself was a funnel for early human migration into Europe, Asia and the rest of the world. Cornelius proved to be a walking encyclopaedia of every theory and counter-theory of evolution and pre-history going.

As our safari continued through the relatively small Tarangire National Park, our pondering on these subjects continued. We observed pairs of giraffes, necking rhythmically as if to music. In a reedy pool shaded by fever trees, hippo were sinking, rising, yawning and blowing like tubas. Trails of ugly warthogs stopped to gawp at us, as we did at them. A shy, gaunt cheetah slipped across the path in front of us.

Northwards, by Lake Manyara, the Rift narrows drastically and its walls become precipitous. High above, on the very escarpment lip is Kirurumu, a luxurious safari lodge where we broke our journey to unwind for a day. The lodge has just four bungalows of explorer-style tents raised on stilts under thatched roofs, and a restaurant and bar with awesome views over Lake Manyara National Park in the valley far below.

I breakfasted on papaya, pork sausages and rich, strong local coffee as a silver sun dispersed the morning mist to reveal the white soda flats of the lake a few miles up the valley. Then the horizon began to shimmer as thousands and thousands of flamingos took to the air. The day's main activity was a walk through a nearby, plant-rich gorge with Temindia Milunga, a tall, aristocratic-featured Maasai in a tartan shuka. Milunga is a botanist and expert in tribal medicine, retained by the lodge as a part-time guide.

In a few leisurely hours with us, he picked and crushed numerous leaves, barks and berries, explaining how the Maasai Oloiboni - medicine men - use these to counter diseases such as malaria and sleeping sickness. He found a Sodom Apple, a natural anaesthetic used to treat toothache, and taught us the traditional etiquette surrounding the Tirimu Engiti or 'wait a bit' bush, strands of which crossed our trail. The shrub bristles with razor-sharp spines, and failure to shout its name in warning when someone is close behind you is likely to elicit the traditional Maasai insult: 'May the hyenas kiss you!'

The final leg of our safari took us east to the Serengeti, crossing the undulating hills of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area where Maasai homesteads of adobe and thatch are huddled within protective wooden stockades. Their herds of cattle were grazing alongside nonchalant wildebeest and zebras.

We skirted the Ngorongoro Crater rim to gaze down into the collapsed volcano floor, 12 miles across and teeming with wildlife. Next we paused at the Olduvai Gorge, where Louis and Mary spent years excavating fossils, animal remains and primitive tools from different eras, preserved in stratified layers of ash from the periodic eruptions of the (now extinct) Sadiman volcano. In 1959 Mary found the skull of a early hominid, posing evolutionary puzzles about which debate still rages. Fascinating though all this is, the gorge and excavation sites are out of bounds to tourists, and there is little to see, bar a small museum.

We rounded off the safari with some serious wildlife viewing in the Olduvai Gorge, on the edge of the Serengeti, before flying out from the Seronera airstrip at the park's heart. It was a glorious end to the journey. The endless, flat savannah under huge skies conjured up all the romance of Africa as gazelles fled to the horizons and big-bearded wildebeest bucked and stamped up clouds of dust. But our safari had been so much richer than simply a game-viewing journey. So thanks, Cornelius. And as for your pneumatic rocks - may the hyenas kiss you!

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Factfile

Martin Symington travelled with Tanzania-based tour operator Hoopoe Adventure Tours, which puts together tailor-made itineraries. For example, a week's journey split between Kirurumu Lodge, the Mary Leakey camp-site at Kolo and camping in the Serengeti, costs in the region of 1,200 per person based on four people sharing. The price includes all meals (drinks extra), transport, park fees, staff and the services of a local guide, but not flights.

Book through Hoopoe's London office (0181 428 8221), or through the following UK tour operators: Art of Travel (0171 738 2038), Casenove & Lloyd (0181 875 9666), Okavango Tours and Safaris (0181 343 3283), Wild Africa Safaris (0171 259 9909), World Archipelago (0181 780 5838), or Worldwide Journeys and Expeditions (0171 381 8638), all of whom offer Hoopoe's safaris as part of flight-inclusive packages.

Martin Symington flew with Alliance Air (0181 944 5012), which flies from Heathrow to Dar es Salaam twice a week, and to Kilimanjaro (near Arusha) once a week; return fare from 507.

When to go: There are two rainy seasons : Nov-Dec and Mar-May - best times for seeing migrating herds. The cooler, dry months are better for walking.

Reading: Tanzania by Philip Briggs (Bradt, 11.95), East Africa handbook by Michael Hodd (Footprint, 14.99) and Lonely Planet's East Africa (13.99). The 'must read' travel book is The Tree Where Man was Born by Peter Matthiessen (Harvill, 7.99).

Extract ID: 1489
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