Anyone looking for a once in a lifetime experience would be well advised to make a run out to the Ngorogoro Crater National Park in Tanzania. We hit the road a few months back to make one of the last episodes of Bizarre Foods and my expectations were high to begin with, but our Tanzania sojourn far exceeded my wildest dreams.
We landed in Tanzania after a crazy airplane journey from halfway around the world that had me sitting on the tarmac for 6 hours in Khartoum in the Sudan. “Please stay away from the windows at all times,” said the voice of the flight attendant over the loudspeaker, a chilling reminder that air carriers based in the USA are not welcome sights on some tarmacs, especially in Northeastern Africa. Anyway, I ended up not getting shot at and spent the rest of the day flying into Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, shooting there for a week, flying to Kampala, Uganda, shooting there for a week and then moving on to Tanzania. We were tired, and we all missed home, and 3-week, 3-show shoots in third world countries are the hardest trips imaginable. There are no days off, no time off and endless days of shooting and living in some very harsh conditions. I love it.
But boy was I psyched to land in the relative peace and quiet of Arusha, and overnight in an actual hotel after crawling out of the Uganda jungle on fumes. There was a lot of great storytelling to be had in Tanzania but we eschewed all of them in favor of spending the majority of our time living in a tent city on the rim of the Ngorogoro Crater, living and hanging with the Massai and watching the great migrations of exotic African animals parade along the crater floor.
The crater itself is steep and impenetrable except for several cut outs through which the animals migrate. The hills around the crater are thousands of feet high, cold and damp and windy up top, warm and humid on the crater floor. Savannah below, forested temperate jungle above. We spent our first few days in the crater, standing next to an endless parade of zebra, warthog, wildebeest, lion, hippo, elephant, orangutan, assorted monkeys, birds, snakes, lizards and every other animal you can imagine.
The rest of the time we spent chilling with Edward Ngobi and his tribe. These are not the Disney version of the Massai, this was the real thing. Up early in the morning, tend the herds, release the herd from the corrals, repair the things in the village that need fixing, hunt, collect wood, corral the animals and eat dinner. We beaded with the womenfolk, weaned goats with the men and got plenty of warrior training in on the side. Remember these are the guys who kill lions with spears and their bare hands and are ritually circumcised at an age when you remember it for the rest of your life. Ouch.
Breakfast was fresh cow’s blood, hot millet porridge and 2-week-old sour milk, curdled. Lunch was a reprise of breakfast and dinner was arguably the best BBQ I have ever taken part in or eaten. You see for as unimaginative as a Massai breakfast cook is, the guys who cook dinner really know how to bring it in the kitchen. The recipe? Butcher one goat, one lamb and one cow. Save the skin for tanning into leather and making their world-famous beds. Save the blood, bones and tendons for other uses. Eat the liver and kidneys raw. Skewer all the primal cuts on green sticks and grill it all over a white hot bed of mountain hardwood coals, squat, slice and serve, charred rare.
So I have spent the last 6 months trying to pitch the idea of an all-you-can-eat, kill your own, Massai-style whole animal BBQ chain. Anyone else but me think this is an idea long overdue? A carnivore’s IHOP for the 21st Century? You betcha!