29-Nov-2003 -- What better way to follow up successful trips to 3S 35E and 2S 35E than a visit to 3S 36E? This Confluence was by far the easiest to get to as it was only 150 meters off the road, however, in terms of a fun adventure and a great cultural experience 3S 36E was tops.
We started the weekend at E Unoto Resort which is just a few kilometers north of Mtu wa Mbu town, about an hours drive from Arusha. E Unoto was hosting a big Thanksgiving weekend and this served as a great jumping off point for the visit.
Checking the maps I could see that the CP was somewhere in the vicinity of Engaruka town which is about 50 kilometers north of Mtu wa Mbu along one of the escarpments of the Eastern Rift of the Great Rift Valley.
On Saturday morning Sara and I headed out along with Marias Olepello Chief who, as far as we knew at the time, was just someone who needed a ride up Engaruka. As we chatted with "Chief" we ended up explaining to him that, as well as wanting to visit the Engaruka Ruins, we wanted to try and find the CP. After about 10 minutes of explanation Chief was quite taken with the idea and enthusiastically "joined" our team!
As we headed north along the road, I kept an eye on the GPS and I was a bit worried that the CP might actually end up being somewhere along the top of the escarpment, which we were not at all prepared to climb. As it happened, just as we were coming into Engaruka town, I checked the GPS and was surprised to see that we were within a kilometer of the CP and the point was somewhere off to the right of the road in an area of some small farms! We continued into town on the road and came as close as 150 meters to the CP. I stopped and asked Chief if we could jump out to bag the point, but he said we should carry on and that we could park the car at his house in town and then walk back to the point. It turns out that his "house" is really the Engaruka Shop & Garden – a small store and soda shop.
Just at the edge of town, the District Council has put in a "road" tollgate to collect funds for the District. Chief chatted with the fellows at the gate and explained to them what we were about and we were waived through without having to pay fees. We parked under some shade in front of Chief's store and were suddenly beset with a host of curious folks and, at this point, it was quite clear that Chief was very well connected. Chief explained to a number of people what we were doing and I was asked to give one of many impromptu lessons about maps and the GPS system.
After a while Chief indicated that we should go, and we headed off with me in the lead of our small party, which had now grown to 6 people including Sara and I. We started to follow a small trail through a number of intervening farms and the trail was dead on course for the CP. As we crossed into another farm I indicated to our group that the point was 20 meters off our left into the plowed field itself and Chief told us that it was actually his plot of land that the CP was in!
We snapped our pics and had a jolly laugh about our luck and headed back to Chief's shop for a celebratory soda and more lessons in GPS, mapping, and the DCP. After sodas we headed up to the Engaruka Ruins for a look around and then started our trip back to E Unoto where we found out more about our mysterious guide.
It turns out that Chief is a Lekwannani, which is a special kind of Maasai leader. Maasai culture separates groups of people into "age sets" and each age set has its own leaders and activities, which help define it within the larger context of Maasai culture. As it happens, Chief is a leader for the Landese age set of which I happened to fall within. So, whenever we met with other Maasai who were Landese on the trip, there was an extra enthusiasm in the greetings which really added to our experience.
While 3S 36E was pretty easy to get to, it was defiantly very rewarding for the great cross-cultural experience we had!