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Chapter 32 – South through Tanzania and Malawi

By Nikki and Neil

sunny 25 °C


Oh My God! We’re down to the last part of the trip. The 41 day truck trip from Nairobi to Cape Town! 33 degrees of latitude. About 10,000 km’s. 9 countries.

Whereas we booked one continuous trip from Nairobi to Cape Town with the African overland company Nomad, it is in fact from their perspective actually 3 or 4 tours joined together. This means the people on our tour change at different junctures. The first leg of the trip was from Nairobi to Zanzibar, about 10 days, where 5 of the ten people on our tour left and we picked up another 14! This group stays together until Victoria Falls, when we join a new truck and group heading south to Cape Town.

This chapter covers our trip from Nairobi, through the game parks of Tanzania to Malawi.

A big call out needs to be made to the rather fabulous, should be professional photographers, Amber and Alina, who have provided us with some of their wildlife photos for this part of the trip. It was that, or play “identify the blob” in our iPhone photos!

As I write this, the highlight of the first leg of the overland trip was this:

When a lion is this close to the car, and is as handsome as this Lion, who can resist? This photo was taken in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area where there were so many lions lolling in the sun, mating or just generally waiting for dinner that even the iPhone had a chance!

This is the route we are taking overland through eastern and southern Africa:

The route of the 41 day truck trip from Nairobi to Cape Town. This blog covers the first 16 days; from Nairobi through Tanzania (including Zanzibar) and Malawi.


The Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area

These two wildlife areas in Tanzania are amongst the best in Africa. The Serengeti is 14,763 square kilometres. What makes it particularly special is that, due to the plain having impenetrable volcanic rock under the surface, trees are rare which makes the wildlife viewing fantastic.

The concentration of animals in and around the Ngorongoro and Serengeti are among the highest in Africa. It was a very slow 4WD ride into the park as there were so many animals to stop and photograph. Credit: The Fantabulous Amber.

I’ve been on a few game drives in my time and to see a leopard is rare. To see one with it’s kill in a tree is even more lucky. On our first evening in the Serengeti, we saw two leopards in two different trees, both with a kill from a recent hunt. One was feeding on a warthog and the other an Impala. The one above had had it’s fill of meat and was having a rest….

Not being one for skins or furs, we had never appreciated how stunning the coat of the leopard is. This one lazed on the branch above us in the sunset, showing off her gorgeous colours. Credit: Amber.

This one, however, was in the middle of munching her way through an impala….

It is amazing how a leopard could drag such a heavy carcass into a tree. They are incredibly strong! I hadn’t noticed this before posting this picture, but in the middle of the bottom is the deceased impala’s head. Credit: Amber

We were in the Serengeti for 1 whole day and 2 half days, and so spent many hours out on the plains spotting the animals. There was an absolute overabundance of impalas, antelope, buffalo and wildebeest, but it was the leopards, cheetahs and lions that were the highlight of the Serengeti.

These beautiful cheetahs were sitting under the shade of a tree in the middle of the road. Despite 6 or 7 vehicles sitting around watching them, they were completely unfazed and out lasted our curiosity! Credit - Amber.

Mother and baby elephant sharing a moment as the herd moved across the plains in the afternoon towards their watering hole. Credit: Amber.

I think this is a Marsh Eagle. Credit: Amber.

An appropriately smug looking lizard! If I had his colours, I’d be pretty happy too. Credit: Amber

We saw both solo and packs of hyenas though out the Serengeti, at one stage having a stand off with a herd of zebras over a waterhole. Credit: Amber

As we said though, the lions were the stars of the show. We saw large family groups with lots of young cubs:

The cubs were so playful and the adults so patient! This mother and cub were sitting in a group of around 15 enjoying the sunset near a waterhole. Credit: Amber.

And solo male lions...

A very special sunset moment with this beautiful guy. Credit: Amber.

And this cheeky fellow! Credit: Amber.

This little one was sitting on a rock near a pride basking in the sun, watched over by 2 male lions.

Here is the group of female lions, adolescents and cubs, snuggled up on the rocks.

And this is us, watching the wildlife!

One of Nik’s favourite moments on the trip was when we were heading out of the Serengeti and a herd of giraffes decided at that moment to wander across the road!

On our way from the Serengeti to Ngorongoro Crater a herd of giraffes crossed in front of the car, gracefully wandering into the distance.

The Masai Mara people live in southern Kenya and northern Tanzania. They have been given special dispensation to live in the Ngorongoro Crater Conservation area so as to allow them to continue to live in their traditional nomadic way of life. We visited a Masai village while travelling through the area. It was fascinating to see how little their way of life has changed in hundreds of years. Whereas they now purchase water in the dry season, they do not have electricity or sanitation and their houses are incredibly basic (woven wood and mud, with dirt floors). They are very fiercely proud of their culture and independence. We enjoyed being able to see this culture first hand, but did not really enjoy the experience as it was (as we feared) an exercise aimed more blatantly at extracting money than sharing the culture. I am sure there are much better ways to do this and we would recommend a better planned visit to the Masai should the opportunity arise.

However, we still had fun:

I don’t think I’ll give up the day job! Credit: Amber

The female and male Masai sing and jump for us in front of the village. If you look carefully you will see my hat making a guest appearance on the head of one of the Masai. I think I was lucky to get it back!

We’d noticed a few of the young men with the white painting of their faces. It turns out that they’d recently been circumcised. This happens around the age of 12 or 13. The young men go out into a camp in the bush together for a month for this ceremony and when they return they are considered men. Credit: Amber

Sunset over the Serengeti from our final night. Credit: Amber


Ngorongoro Crater

About 2.5 million years ago a massive volcano cone collapsed and formed what is now the Ngorongoro Crater. The crater is 19 km wide and is one of the biggest unbroken calderas in the world that isn’t a lake. It really is a “Bloody Hell! That’s amazing!” sight. We camped on the lip of the caldera for one night before descending into the crater for a game drive the next morning.

View of the Ngorongoro Crater, created millions of years ago when the volcano collapsed in on its magma chamber, creating this incredible reserve which is fed by natural springs. As it never lacks for water, the crater is also never short of wildlife, who migrate here throughout the year looking to food and water.

And a view of us and the Ngorongoro Crater!

Sometimes on this trip things have happened when we’ve said “Crikey! That was lucky!”. Like when we were in the Toyota Landcruiser going down the very steep dirt road into the Ngorongoro Crater and this happened:

I’m not a car expert but I don’t think this should happen. Witson, who was driving, noticed immediately and managed to steer the car into the drainage gulley and not over the cliff. In his slightly understated way he just said “I think something is wrong….”.

We got out of the car to survey the damage. Other 4WDs stopped and the drivers said in Swahili “Bloody hell Witson! Never seen that happen before!”. While we were standing around watching these discussions we noticed an elephant and buffalo standing on the hill above us. Then we heard the guides all yelling “Get back here! Run! Get back in the car!”. A guy had climbed out of one of the cars stopped behind us a wandered back up the road without telling his driver. What he hadn’t realised was that there were 2 lions also on the hillside above us and one had walked down the hill to look at this tasty morsel! He clearly forgot that we were in the middle of a game park!

Watched over by 3 of the big 5, we waited for another 4WD which came to pick us up and drive us around the crater.

It was as spectacular as we’d been hoping.

We learnt about how lions shag. Did you know they shag for 7 days! Crikey!

Post-coital bliss. Despite a distinct lack of privacy, these two were sharing a personal moment on one of the roads through the crater.

So a lioness gets on heat and picks out a lion as the “shag buddy”. Then about every 20 minutes they get down to business for about 1 minute. Then rest and repeat. For seven days. As I said. Crikey!

Having written about the birds and the bees, this is a bird…

A Superb Starling. Credit: Amber.

And a Blue Starling. Credit: Amber.

There were also hippos, zebras, buffalo, impalas and antelope in abundance:

The hippo pool was such a contrast to the dry plain around it, full of both hippos and birds enjoying the cool water.

This is a juvenile zebra. You can tell by it’s mane which has more brown than the adult zebra.

The Ngorongoro is also the home to 36 rare black rhinos, which are critically endangered. Whereas we technically did see one, it was on the side of hill a few kilometres away and cold only been seen (kind of) through binoculars. So there are no photos and hopefully we will be lucky enough to have a closer sighting as we head south.

Now, I’ve never had the wheel fall of my car before, but if it did happen I reckon it would take a few week to fix back in Australia. But not in Africa. The wheel fell off at 8am due to, we found out, the pins holding the wheel bearing shearing off (did I hear someone say “lack of maintenance”?).

We met up with Witson back in the camp at 6 pm. So the car must have been fixed by 3 pm. 7 hours to fix that problem and it was repaired in situ….

Witson with the repaired car. A true African experience!



We’d been on the road for about 320 days and apart from the San Blas islands off Panama, we hadn’t seen beaches as good as Australia’s. Then we arrived in Zanzibar. My Lord! White powder fine sand. Turquoise water. Great bar/ restaurant on the waters edge. It was sublime!

A much needed beverage to wash away the dust of the Serengeti!

The pearly white beach at Nangwe on the north coast of Zanzibar island. Our haven for 2 days.

It was just what the doctor ordered. Great rooms. Air conditioning. Sleeping in. Restaurant for descent food! Fantastic!

Slavery and the Omani empire

It was the Brits who, having built much wealth and much of the British Empire off the backs of slaves and the slave trade, outlawed it in 1833.

Zanzibar had been the centre of the east African slave trade since the 12th century, as well as an important centre for the trade in ivory, wood, and spices, and was a powerful city state. After a brief interlude of Portuguese control in the early 1500’s, the Omani Arabs took over in the mid 1500’s. Zanzibar was so prosperous that in 1840 this bloke moved his court from Oman to Zanzibar and ruled both Oman and Zanzibar from Stone Town.

Said bin Sultan.

In 1862 Zanzibar became a British protectorate, although it remained under Omani rule. This eventually helped in the banning of slavery. The slavery memorial in Stone Town, the old sector of Zanzibar city, is very powerful.

An evocative sculpture in the Slave Market memorial in Stone Town, Zanzibar. It is estimated that between 1830 and 1863 600,000 slaves were sold in Zanzibar.


Farrokh Bulsara

Another event that happened in Zanzibar that I think is of note was the birth on 5th September 1946 of Farrokh Bulsara.

Photo of Farrokh Bulsara in his school uniform

He was the son of a Parsi family from India, his family having moved from Gujarat to Stone Town, Zanzibar because his father had a job with the British Colonial Office. At age 8, he went to St Peters Boarding School near Bombay, India and was noted to have great skill on the piano, being able to listen to a tune and play it back immediately.

Forward 16 years to 1970 in London when he met up with some blokes Brian May, Roger Taylor, and a little later, John Deacon and formed a rock band. That band has now sold over 150 million records.

Farrokh Bulsara is arguably the greatest rock band leader of all time. He is, of course, better known as Freddie Mercury. The band is Queen. The outfits they wore were very dodgy.

Freddie Mercury in one of his more conservative outfits.


David Livingstone

One of the giants of exploration of Africa by Europeans is this bloke:

Dr David Livingstone, born 19th March 1813 in Blantyre, Scotland.

He was the son of tea salesman and the second of seven children. He went to work in the local cotton mill at the age of 10, working 12 hours a day until he was 25 years old. At the age of 21 he read the appeal for medical missionaries in China and started saving to study Greek and Theology at Andersons College in Glasgow, before going on to Charing Cross Hospital Medical School from 1838 to 1840. At the age of 27, he was ready to go….

In 1840 that Livingstone met London Missionary Society (LMS) missionary Robert Moffat who was on leave from Kurunam, a missionary outpost in South Africa. He was excited by Moffat’s vision of expanding missionary work northwards. Another major influence of Livingstone was T.F Buxtons arguments that the slave trade might be destroyed through the influence of legitimate trade and the spread of Christianity.

After trying missionary work from about 1845 to 1851 in and around Botswana, Livingstone became convinced, after three trips far north of Kolobeng, that the best chance for successful evangelising was to open up Africa to European traders by mapping and navigating its rivers which might then become “Highways” into the interior.

As I sit on the edge of the South Langwe river in Zambia writing this, I find it difficult to comprehend that it was only 160 years ago that this was the map of Africa.

Map of Africa from 1840. Notice the interesting location and expanse of Ethiopia.

It was a deep, dark, unknown entity.

In 1852 Livingstone headed out on the first of his African journey (see the red line on the map below). It was on 16th November 1855 Livingstone became the first European to see what is now called Victoria Falls. On this first trip he was also the first recorded European person to make a trans-African crossing at such a southern latitude.

It was on his second trip (in green on the map below) from 1858 to 1863 he was the first European to see Lake Malawi.

A map taken from the information at Victoria Falls showing Livingstone’s extensive journeys across Africa.

In 1866 Livingstone headed out another trip to try to ascertain the source of the Nile.

On this trip there has been wi-fi virtually everywhere and we’ve been skyping with our families roughly once per week. It seems virtually incomprehensible, therefore, that Livingstone was “lost” for 6 years! The last that was heard from him was in 1867, and then it all went quiet.

In 1870 the New York Herald engaged Henry Stanley to go and look for Livingstone.

It was on the 10th November 1871 that Henry Stanley, in Ujiji, on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, after a journey of almost a year, uttered the immortal words “Dr Livingstone, I presume?”. By the way, Livingstone replied “Yes. And I feel thankful that I am here to welcome you”.

The meeting on 10th November 1871 between David Livingstone and Henry Stanley.


Livingstone and slavery

One of Livingstone’s great passions was the abolition of slavery. His efforts raised the profile of the slave trade and helped the world move towards ending slavery.

After all of his work, he unfortunately died on 1st May 1873 in Chief Chitomba Village, close to Ilala, Lake Bangweulu, in what is now Zambia, a month before slavery was abolished in Zanzibar. His heart was buried under a tree:


And a wooden cross placed above it. The cross is now in the cathedral in Stone Town, Zanzibar.


His body was preserved and carried the 1,600 km to Zanzibar, and then transferred to London. He is buried in Westminster Abbey.


Travelling to Lake Malawi

It’s long way from Zanzibar to Lake Malawi. The ferry rider from Zanzibar to Dar es Salam (a thoroughly unnoteworthy city) takes about 2 hours and was pretty uneventful apart from absolutely torrential rain. We then had an overland drive to reach the Mikumi Game Park, where we stayed for 1 night, through the highland town of Iringa, and then over the border into Malawi.

Mikumi was a completely different park to the Serengeti. Full of trees and wallowing ponds, it was harder to spot the animals, but they seemed more concentrated in a small area.

Our safari truck, ready to start looking for animals in the Mikumi National Park.

We had an amazing encounter with a herd of elephants that crossed the road in front of our car…

That’ll be an elephant then!

An unexpected encounter as a herd of elephants crossed in front of the car and walked past. We all held our breath and didn’t make a noise!

As well as Zebras.

The zebras in the south are a different type, with clearer markings and colours. They were incredibly striking. Credit: Alina (another wonderful Nomad traveller!)

And naughty monkeys! Don’t leave a ketchup bottle on the table!

Caught in the act! This sneaky monkey had managed to steal a bottle of sauce and made his way to the bar for a drink! The monkeys were a real issue everywhere we went. It was important to keep tents, the truck and rooms closed at all times as they would sneak in to steal anything they could get their hands on. Credit: The Splendiferous Alina


Lake Malawi, Livingstone, and the great rivers of southern Africa

Livingstone spent much of his life searching for the source of the Nile and, whilst he found the primary source in 1855 and named it Lake Victoria, after Queen Victoria, there was still conjecture about what fed Lake Victoria. When he found Lake Malawi it took some time to discover that it drained into the Zambezi River system. As I was a little foggy about which lake drained into which river system, I thought I’d include this:


Lake Malawi is one of the major fresh water lakes of southern Africa, but also of the world. It is 576 Km long and about 70 km wide at its widest point.

On the way to Lake Malawi we visited a Baobab tree forest:



Then onto Lake Malawi…

The inevitable toe shot….

This is the view from the Ngala Lodge, Lake Malawi.

A great place to hang out and relax……


Malawi, Tanzania, PJ O’Rourke, and Corruption

The Gross Domestic Product per person in Malawi is US$ 295/ person per year. There is one country that has a lower GDP/ person, South Sudan. Malawi is, by that measure, the second poorest country in the world.

It was about 15 to 20 years ago that I read this book:

Why PJ O’Rourke called the book “Eat The Rich”, I don’t know. The premise of the book? “Why are rich countries rich and poor countries poor?”.

Of course, money doesn’t buy happiness, but it does buy health care. And roads. Etc.

PJ O’Rourke was a writer for the music magazine ‘The Rolling Stone’ before moving onto ‘The Economist’. Each chapter in the book was on a particular country. For example, one chapter was called ‘Tanzania – How to make nothing from everything’. Another was called ‘Hong Kong – How to make everything from nothing’.

It was in 1969, under the rule of the President Julius Nyerere, a policy of the ujamaa (or familyhood) village was set up. An agricultural collective whereby tools were commonly owned and everyone worked on the land. Virtually communism. O’Rourke’s view was that Tanzania, a country with everything, lots of fertile and well-watered land, minerals, a significant workforce, was impossibly poor.

Hong Kong, on the other hand, had nothing; no land, no minerals, but also had a significant workforce, and was rich. Why the difference?

He put it down to a number of factors (which I have added to and maybe altered….):

1. The rule of law. There needs to be an incorrupt police force and judiciary. This wasn’t (and isn’t) the case in Tanzania and was, and is, the case in Hong Kong.
2. Education has to have a high priority in the country and be good.
3. The government needs incorrupt and focussed on building the living standards of the citizens
4. A country shouldn’t destroy stuff in internal conflict or external wars.
5. Capitalism, whilst it has its faults, is better than communism (although a slightly middle ground like there is in Scandinavian countries is, in my view, the ideal).


There is on our trip, a lady of the Baha’I faith and, when you’re on a 41 day trip from Nairobi to Cape Town by land, you get a bit of time to converse about life, the universe, and everything. She explained that one of the basic principles of the Baha’i fiath is that humankind has moved from the Judeo-Christian view of the Time of Prophecy to the Time of Fulfillment. i.e we’re in the time when humankind will/ has started to work together for the common good. And, if you know me, you’ll know that I am, to the core of my soul, an optimist. I’ve had a look at the improvements in the lot of humankind over the past 700 years and we have made giant strides. Some of them are in the graphs below:

Life expectancy is getting better!

Colours are good! Look at this! There are now NO countries with a life expectancy below 40. And VIRTUALLY no countries with a life expectancy under 50. And VERY FEW countries with a life expectancy below 60 years!

And kids that die under the age of 5 years. Africa is the red line! This also has the effect, over time, of lowering the birth rate.

Even armed conflicts are killing as lower a percentage of humankind as at any time in the past 700 years:

Now look at this! So on the left hand axis is the rate of deaths from conflicts per 100,000 people between 1400 and now. It is now as low as at any point in the past 700 years.

But after armed conflict, Corruption is the biggest scourge in the world today. I’m a numbers person (in case you hadn’t guessed!). As we’ve been going through Africa, I’ve had the lists of GDP by country, GDP/ capita by country, and the Transparency International corruption ranking open on my computer. Then I thought “I wonder if there’s a correlation between GDP/ capita and the level of corruption?”. And do you know what? Someone else has thought the same question before and put the result on-line.

So, as expected, there is a strong correlation between the level of corruption (on the horizontal axis with 1 being very corrupt and 10 being not corrupt at all) in a country and the GDP/ capita (on the vertical axis).

Hmmmm….. Then I thought “Why?”. Some of it is intuitive. If someone is stealing a countries wealth, then the virtuous circle of wealth creation (more wealth = better education = better educated people = more productive people = more wealth), is broken, or at least, diminished.

Once again, I mention that this is not about money or wealth per se. It’s that, as our Bhutanese friends with their focus on ‘Gross National Happiness (GNH)’ have known for many decades, two of the four pillars of GNH are education and healthcare, and they both need dough. So does money/ wealth buy happiness? Well, No. And Yes.

I mentioned earlier, investment confidence, whether it be from a shop keeper or a multinational is immensely important to an economy. If the factors mentioned by O’Rourke (and added to by me) are not there, investors will either not invest, or will take their money (and jobs, and wealth) elsewhere.

Fortunately, my thoughts about corruption is not unique or new. And, in a similar way to the strides taken to improve infant mortality, the world has been taking well, maybe not strides but certainly steps to address the corruption issue.

In 1977 The US senate passed the Foreign Corrupt Practises Act that made it an offence in America for an American to bribe someone overseas. This was a massive step and one for which the US lawmakers and citizens should be proud. This was followed by the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention in 1997. My best mate was involved in rolling out the anti-corruption message across a humongous multi-national company and now that company doesn’t pay bribes. So this is a massive step.

There is reason to be hopeful. China is carrying out massive ant-corruption purges and it is only a question of time before that ethical stance is rolled out overseas.

Overall, I’m very optimistic about Africa as a whole. Massive steps have been taken in the past 100 years and, in my view, the rate of improvement is increasing!


We’re nearly there!

Blimey we’re getting close. It’s onto Zambia now before Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, and on to South Africa! Down to the last 38 days of the trip!


Posted by capetocape2017 07:41 Archived in Tanzania Tagged zanzibar malawi slavery livignstone Comments (1)

Chapter 8 - Meat, History, and Carnaval!

By Neil

sunny 30 °C
View Cape to Cape on capetocape2017's travel map.

“Four and half cows” said Valentin to Nikki at the start of the walking tour around Montevideo.

“For each of the 3.4 million people in Uruguay, there are four and a half cows. And one and a half sheep. So you need to eat four and half cows while you are here. This is the mission of all Uruguans”, he continued.

“What happens if you’re a vegetarian?”, asked Nikki.

“It’s easier to be gay than a vegetarian in Uruguay” he said. “But you eat fish right? Not that Uruguayans know much about fish. It’s either tuna or fish. Don’t ask a Uruguayan what type of fish is being served. If it's not tuna, it's fish. That's all we know....”

Talking of meat, in Spanish red meat is “carne”. Chicken is not “carne”, Chicken is “pollo”. So it’s not real meat. Nor is tuna.

From my point of view, the best thing about Montevideo is the Mercado del Puerto, the port market. In South America, the roasting of meat is extremely popular on a “Parilla”. The Mercado del Puerto is centre of that culture in Montevideo, where everyone from port workers to office workers come for lunch. So, of course, we had to have some lunch too….


A Parilla at the Mercado del Puerto (Port Market) at Montevideo. I don’t know where Winnie the Pooh is, but there is Piglet…..


Another Parilla. Don't say there is no vegetarian!


I love the “Jamon” in “Latin” countries. The conical cups are to catch fat dripping from of the legs of ham.


Er, “Where is Uruguay ?”, I hear you ask. Aha! It’s here. Sandwiched between Argentina and Brazil.


Location of Uruguay.

The Spanish first tried to settle (aka “invade”) what is now called Uruguay in 1516, but the Charrua Indians thought this wasn’t a good idea and kicked ‘em back into the ocean. Or killed them. Spanish influence in the area increased through the 18th Century as the Spanish tried to limit Portuguese influence.

By the way, it was Pope Alexander VI who in 1493 proclaimed that the new world would be carved up between the Spanish and the Portuguese along a line 100 leagues west and south of the Cape Verde islands off West Africa which explains why Brazil speaks Portuguese and virtually all the rest of South and Central America, and Mexico, speak Spanish.


Carving up the New World in 1493

Montevideo was founded as a military stronghold in the early 18th century by the Spanish in competition with Buenos Aires. It changed hands frequently between the Spanish and Portuguese during the 19th century until, partly due to British intervention, it became the capital of independent Uruguay in 1828.


Slavery. I still can’t quite my head around the fact that up until just over 150 years ago it was deemed acceptable to go to Africa, capture men, women, and children, put them in chains and onto a boat, bring them to the Americas, put them up for sale, sell them, and then keep them as slaves. But that was the case.

Montevideo was a required stop for the slave ships on their way to Buenos Aires and 20,000 slaves were sold into Uruguay.
Freed and slave Africans and Afro-Uruguayans fought in the various wars of independence during the 1810’s and 1820’s, and were rewarded with the Free Womb Law of 1825. Under this law the children of slave mothers were born free, although obligated to serve their mothers’ master until they reached the age of majority.

Slavery was not outlawed in Uruguay until 1842. Slavery was made illegal in the UK in 1805 and 1865 in the US.


And we got to experience a little bit of Uruguan Carnaval in Montevideo! Nikki managed to get us the best seats in the house, or on the road, to be more precise, for the Las Llamadas (“The Calls”) parade. The name comes from when, in the past, the different carnival groups (“Comparsas”) would use their drums (“tambors”) to “call” to each other.

On the Thursday night that we attended there were 19 different Comparsas parading. The make up of each Comparsas is the same and is shown on the diagram below.


A schematic showing the different people making up a “Comparsa”

Starting at around 9 pm, the 4 hour parade of Comparsas starts. The role of the different figures in the Comparsa is:

Banderas” – the flag wavers. These, and there are about 6 to 10 of them, have the colours of the group and wave the flags at the front of the Comparsas. One of these will be the “Estandarte”, the standard bearer.


Flag waver – Uruguayan carnival

The “Gramillero” who is the eldest member of the group and “tries to seduce the “Mama Viejo””, the Old Mamma who “despite her age moves her hips sensually and in a very feminine way”.


The Mama Viejo (the Old Mama) and the Gramillero (elder man)

Behind them are the typical characters of the “El Escobero”, the Broom Man, “la Vedette”, the Female Star, “El Bailarin or Bailarina”, the male or female dancer, then,


La Vedette – The female star.

The Dancers


The dancers. Nikki has said that one of the most striking aspects of South America is the complete lack of concern about body shape, particularly for women. Women of all shapes, ages, body shapes wear bikinis. There is not a one piece bathing suit in South America - apart from in the bottom of Nikki's pack! Similarly, with the dancers in the Carnaval, the women are of all ages, shapes, and sizes, and have such a joy in being there! It is so refreshing to see a lack of body image issues!

And finally, and loudly “Los Tamberileros”, the drummers.large_Drummers.jpg

The colour, the noise, the glitter is amazing and for Alex was the highlight of his trip to South America (Mike’s was the Iguazu Falls). Here is a link to a Youtube link for a video of the parade (https://youtu.be/VyMkfMIxqOA). The “Candombe” is the drum based musical form of Uruguay and originated in the Afro-Uruguayan population of Montevideo and is based on the Bantu African drumming (Bantu’s are an ethnic group from West Africa and South Africa, primarily in the Niger – Congo region), with European influences and touches of Tango.

The origins of the Carnival is that when slavery was abolished in Uruguay in 1842, these Uruguayan citizens began to form new groups (“Comparsas”) of which the neighbourhoods of Sur and Palermo stand out. The slaves were given time off to take part in the parade. It gradually evolved into today’s celebrations to include all the diverse people of Uruguay, including the large number of immigrants from Italy and Spain.

The Carnival in its present form has been running from 1956 and, with so many Comparsas wanting to take part, the Llamadas parade has been increase from one day to two days.


Impressions from today ?

Uruguay is ranked first in South America for democracy, peace, and lack of corruption, and it shows (although, similarly to Argentina, Paraguay, and Chile it was ruled by a military Junta from 1973 to 1985, with all of the associated atrocities).

For example, abortion is legal in Uruguay and not elsewhere in South America. And Gay marriage. And drugs. And eduacation if free. As are computers in school. For every student.

And, very importantly, income equality. There is a little doubt that income equality is a significant factor in social disharmony. Uruguay has worked hard to reduce the gap between the rich and poor, and you can tell.


Myself and the boys had a week in Uruguay. Nikki was there for almost two weeks and visited Colonia, Punta Del Diablo and Punta Del Este as well as Montevideo. You may have sent the photos she posted on line. For her the highlights were Colonia (a small city which still retains its colonial past, including wall, drawbridge and brightly coloured adobe buildings) and Punta Del Diablo (a hippy commune town out on the Far East coast of Uruguay with beaches that stretch for miles, night markets and probably just a little bit of hash...)

Then I went back to Buenos Aires to wave goodbye to the boys at the airport when they were due to catch their flight back to Australia. Then back to Montevideo to meet up with Nik and head on to Brazil.


Whilst Uruguay was first on the list of South American countries for democracy, peace, and lack of corruption, Brazil must be at or close to the bottom. Nik and I are keeping a very close eye on the electronic media, the press and onlline forums since the police in Espiritu Santo state north of Rio de Janiero stopped work around 4th February because they hadn’t been paid since December. In one week there were 137 murders in the state. 27 of the 100 police areas in Rio also stopped work on 11th February 2017 in solidarity . If it gets too hairy, we’ll just get to an airport and fly off….

(Post Blog note from Brazil. The police in Espiritu Santo went back to work after eight days. The authorities paid the police in Rio half of the amount owed, and they are still on strike, but it’s ok, the marines are on the streets with very large guns. It’s all good. No stress…..)


Posted by capetocape2017 06:16 Archived in Uruguay Tagged carnaval meat slavery Comments (0)

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