Etherial Experence In Darkest Africa
In the blackness of night I feel hard clay of a dry riverbed under
my bare feet. I am surrounded by a sea of, glistening black, sweating
bodies, male & female.We are dancing, it’s one of the most
exhilarating moments of my life. This the classic jumping dance of
Africa. No music, they create their own . The sound of feet on hard
clay is tantamount to wonderful, primitive music. They jump
vertically into the air, the men so much higher than the women, the
highest jumper obviously the dominant sire. Mine being pathetic,
didn’t stop the older women desperately trying to mate me with an
attractive nubile maiden. I guess my obvious western wealth was high
enough for them
got me into this fascinating, if awkward situation? Around 1988 I was
working, learning, & just plain travelling in Egypt, Kenya,
Ethiopia, & Sudan. On my way up The Rift Valley in Kenya, after
spending time with a Fuel & Fodder Program, around the exotic
Lake Beringo, which heaves with hippos, & the sky pink with
flamingos, I travelled North through the little towns of Lakchar,
Ladwar, on to the larger town Lukitaung, the last before the
Ethiopian border, where the Turkanan people eke out a living in the
dry desert lands .
is wild, cattle stealing country, as it has the unique distinction
of being the crossroads where Kenya meets Ethiopia, Sudan, &
Uganda, with a big Somalian influence not far to the East. As you
would imagine, warlike tribal place .
men, & some women, adorn themselves with an innocent looking
bracelet, which when aroused, they whip off the rawhide cover ,
exposeing a lethal razor sharp blade, which can slit your throat in a
second.,. I have one, but don’t use it.
I am getting to know the culture!, but still, my adventurous ( if a
bit crazy) nature, would have me get to the last little village of
Baku fifty miles out on the shores of Lake Turkana. There was no
transport going there for several days, so it was walk or wait. The
few people who live amongst the boulders of this inhospitable land,
looked in awe seeing a white man walking alone. Was he mad?! But I
always know, someone above,, or perhaps below! will look after me,
sure enough, a truck with fishery officers aboard, the only vehicle
all day I was later told, came by & picked me up .
built on pure sand, had just several tin huts for travellers, toilets
being just a slit in the ground, entirely public. This was princely
compared to visions of having had to sleep on the rocks beside the
road. The one café owned by a sharp looking Somali family, leaned
drunkenly into the sand that was main street.
The only industry
here is fishing, & having
been a fisherman my self, I was in my element. The fish were dried in
the sun, & stored in great mountains, fifty feet high, in two
sided tin sheds, often with no roof. What a sight, oh the smell. I
happen to like the acrid, slightly decayed smell of dried fish, so
basic, real, & am often reminded of this in my travels around
the world, even here in Woolston . Due to the intervention of man,
eg. dams upstream in Ethiopia, the lake had receded about ten miles
from the village, & the fish with it, threatening this
industry. Oh, when will we learn. There is very little food , but
if I was lucky for dinner I would buy a tilapia This plus the grand
nile perch, is the main fish there.
, a flat fish , slashed on top,with a knife & grilled to a
beautiful, with ugali (ground maize) eaten with the fingers. The
locals could not afford the fish, & mostly lived on ugali, the
staple diet in that part of Africa.
a meal, in the evening the fishery officers & I would find each
other, ( not hard as there is only one main café, ) to sit, yarn,
and have a few beers, our bare feet in the sand on a bench outside
in the road. These were indescribable magical moments, with the hot
sand through toes, warm ambiance of an African twilight, birds
carking overhead gliding towards the lake, & the comradiare of
the men. They would head off to their beds early & I would be
left alone with not a soul in sight, meditateing in a spiritual haze
. “But where are the village people, they must socialise
somewhere.” I start walking along the deep sand of the main street.
& gradually imagined I could hear the beat of music, &
yes, there it was, dance music, which I am drawn to anywhere. I follow
ears, down thru little streets, which turned into tracks, feeling
venerable as am way out of my safety zone. But my star was still with
me, & as the noise crescendoed I emerged onto a dry riverbed
flooded in moonlight, where hundreds of villagers are dancing
about “down at the hall on a Saturday nite”, & there was no
music, just the wonderful rhythmic beat , of all those feet. They
insisted I join them. What a nite!
suddenly noticed dawns soft fingures creeping opon us &
discretely retreated to my tin hut, escapeing feminine charms . At
breakfast next morning I was duly harassed by a young tout, who
insisted, “as I had danced with the young lady, she had been
promised to me. I had to marry her”.Well! needless to say, not
being that brave, I got a ride back to Lokitaung, with the fishery
boys, (who got no end of mirthful enjoyment from my plight ) &
wended my way back down The Rift, eventually to Nairobi, carrying
with me great memories of Baku .
guess I could have stayed & danced again the next nite,, But,,
would I have ended up with two wives ? At least !.