Strathspey Wildlife  
Africa 2006
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Friday 3rd February 2006

Up early once again - bags all packed and ready to go (There's a song in there somewhere) Before we left we donated a new football to the young chefs who had looked after us for the three days. This ball was one of four I had brought from the UK - and the amount of room they took in our bags seem to increase each time we re-packed, so it made a little difference to rid ourselves of one. We left at 8.20 am and made our way - via Iringa - to the Isimila Stone Age Site. Discovered in the early 1950's the site is though to be the site of an ancient factory site engaged in the manufacture of early stone-age weapons, ranging from axe heads, spears and sling shots. The absence of human remains is thought to indicate that this indeed was a place of work to where workers travelled from their own communities. The site dates back to around 60,000 years, and has given up animal skeletons of ancient giraffes, with shorter necks than those of today, and creatures closely relating  our present-day hippos. We had an excellent guided tour by Damatus one of the museum's guides. Having shown us various exhibits, he guided us through a maze of monolithic pillars, some over 100 feet in height.  I commented on the unsightly line of pylons and power lines running through the site. It was however the installation of the power lines that led to the discovery of the site. The pillars actually lie in a dried river bed, and it is the ferocity of the river in flood and constant drying out and erosion  that has led to the formation of this lunar landscape.

   


Again, the temperature had reached the psychological 38°C/100°F, and after a walk of around an hour and a half, we had a picnic lunch in the welcome shade of one of the site's enclosures. It was soon time to hit the road again,and we were soon on route to our next destination - and hopefully to the cooler mountain climate of the Mufinidi Tea Estate. We were given a tour around the tea factory. Starting with the arrival of the leaves themselves - some 139 tonnes a day are brought here from the surrounding fields - we were guided through the process of making a perfect cuppa. From the air-drying of the leaves, all the processing and grading - and ending up with the finished product being packed into special foil-lined sacks. Interesting to note here - that amongst the sacks of variously grade tea - some were marked "Dust" This was destined for the tea bags of Ty-Phoo we were told This was collected literally by spreading sheets of paper beneath the conveyer belts along which the tea was graded, and collecting the falling fine grains. Not quite the "sweepings off the floor," but not too far removed. We were treated to a tea-tasting demonstration by our guide - the site manager. Similar to the familiar wine-tasting-type slurping and spitting into a bucket - nobody responded to his offer of trying out the process. On completion of the tour, several of us purchased some tea for taking home.

   


Time then  to meet our host for the next two days at the "Foxes Fishing Lodge. " We were welcomed by Geoff Fox, a resident of Tanzania for the last 46 years. Originally he worked here as am employee of Brooke Bond Tea. His family now own several safari camps throughout Tanzania, managed by other members of the Fox Family. We were shown to our log cabins, situated amongst well-cared for gardens and trees. Again, we were treated to a delightful dinner - chicken and ginger, roast pork, olive salad, and lots of fresh vegetables. Within the lodge, conveniently set close to the bar, there was a magnificent open fireplace, with a welcoming log fire. On the walls were "sporting trophies" of skulls of various big game animals. This delightful setting,
 I imagine, would be as close you could get to a post-war colonial outpost. I was half expecting a guy to appear with a clapperboard ..."Take two - Action." We had a little get-together on the balcony of the lodge, overlooking a quite magnificent lush landscape. Nearby there was a sheepdog trials ground,
set out with the familiar layout of gates and pens. Geoff invited us all to view his shepherd in action the following morning. Others had also taken up his offer of joining him for a horse-ride. Geoff was a "full of energy" type of character. He has established a charity here and is developing facilities to house and look after the 150 or so orphans that inhabit  the surrounding villages - a fair proportion of the 3,000 population. Aids of course is still rife in Africa, and 95% of these orphans are as a direct result of the HIV virus. We had hoped to visit the village school whilst at Mufindi. Unfortunately , it was the weekend, but we left it with Geoff saying at the end of the evening, "I'll see what I can do.
"

   

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